Shenandoah Nat'l Park

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Unless The Electricity Goes Out
I woke up. It was sunny. It was North Carolina. There was snow on the ground. I made coffee. I ate chocolate chip cookies. I put the cat out. I said, go play in the snow. I looked out later and the snow was melted. The cat was under the car. I opened the door. I said, come on in. She did. She bites me. She thinks it means she loves me. I got heat throughout the house finally. It comes through floor vents. I can unplug the space heater. I started sanding the outside of the house yesterday. I like the way it looks. I wore a bandanna over my face. It was really a blue T-shirt. It kept away the lead based paint. Lead causes brain damage. Makes you speak in short clipped sentences. I made that up. I finished a good book. I started a good book. It had too many words and hurt my brain. I haven't given up on it though. In the meantime. In the meantime, so I don't forget how, to read, I bought another book. It is very simple. I am reading it. I have some frozen food. It comes in boxes. On front there are pictures. The food inside looks like the pictures. I am doing ok.
- jimlouis 11-21-2008 4:42 pm [link]
Epic Debris, Not A Narrative Poem
Two days ago in the rain I told the guys who were hauling off the last of 14 years worth of renter's garbage that if it was burnable they could just leave it, and that's what they did. The result being that when they drove off there was still a sizable ugly pile in the yard. It was anti-climatic, this ending to the story of epic debris.

I couldn't stand looking at it so yesterday I went out and started another fire, despite the gusting 25 mph wind and the thick carpet of leaves leading right up to the burn pile. The ground was still wet from three days of light rain. I had some dry wood set aside and I used it to get a good blaze going. Then I fed into the fire all manner of thrown away renter's crap, some of which I had actually excavated from shallow graves on the property. There is always a bit of archaeology involved with thorough clean up jobs and what I learned digging around the property is that my old buddy Randy is a damn pig, or at least he was while living here.

And I guess I am a pig-loving slacker for letting it go on as long as I did.

While I was renovating properties in New Orleans, for fun and profit and with varying degrees of success, and caretaking a property in Virginia, Randy and his wife were here in North Carolina, buying and discarding, buying and discarding. But most of the discard never left the property. I had suspected over all those years of missing so many rent payments that they were having employment problems but I learned a few months ago, in my two brief meetings with them, that they have both been consistently employed for at least the last eight years. I suppose after 14 years of negligence these months of part time renovating are not so harsh a punishment. And perhaps even a valuable learning experience. If the husband says but we are paying rent and the wife says please don't tell hubby I'm missing rent because he beats me, realize at the very least that your idea of acting as your own property manager was a bad one.

As slow as it's going out here in NC at least now the 7 cars are gone, and the two boats (one of them was full of empty beer cans) and the swing set, the three TVs, 5 transistor radios, 2 vacuum cleaners, 21 tires, 100 paint buckets, 2000 cans and 400 bottles, 2 life rafts, the rotted drop cloths, the faded and cracked assortment of fisher price toys, two chicken coops, one sprawling dog pen, various piles of rotting wood, the outdated and stained couches and chairs and foam cushions for twice as many more, the refrigerator/freezer, the broken arc welder, the piles of aluminum gutter, and spare drive shafts, alternators, starters, and rolls of reupholstering fabric, mini-blinds, bed frames, chicken wire, 25 wooden pallets, 3 truck toolboxes, 2 riding lawn mowers, 1 weedeater, 3 lawn mower bags, 1 turbine fan, and the minutiae spread about everywhere, in the basement and in the house and all over the 2 plus acres were bottle caps and spent shotgun shells and scraps of paper and plastic and tiny toys, and rusted and rotting lawn furniture and ice trays, both plastic and old school aluminum half buried out in the woods along with tangled coils of insulated copper wire and metal roofing and more sad neglected toys and rolls of carpet and sheets of vinyl flooring, a dozen dry rotted fishing poles, a camper shell, and a truck bed used for burning garbage. Have I left anything out? Oh for sure, but you get the idea.

I got a good deal on having a 45 foot sprawling maple tree cut down in the front yard, the roots of which are choking the septic system. For 200 dollars a guy dropped it and then my neighbor took most of the wood. I dragged off the branches and made a pile and cut into logs another small truck bed's worth of wood. I burned three quarters of the brush pile yesterday after burning the last of the garbage and before developing minor back cramps. The guy that dropped the tree for me left a rather large stump, one about eight feet tall. Randy had put so many nails in the bottom of the trunk, as part of his property-wide dog hot-wire system, that the guy had not wanted to ruin a good chain on it, and I don't blame him that.

It was warm yesterday and I had the bedroom window open so the cat could come and go. She used to come and go through the floor vent of the still disconnected heating system but she has put on some winter weight and doesn't seem to fit as well. A bunch of flies came in through the window, whether born of maggots from excrement or those squirming in the offal of a nearby butchered deer, I don't know. But a good many came in yesterday and I was amused when the cat would leap in the air and catch one and then eat it. She tired of that though and today she hasn't done a damn thing and really, neither have I, except for trying to finish the Russo novel that's been following me around for a month and later working up the nerve to listen to the Saints just barely beat a one and eight team. But a minute ago I put her outside and closed the window because I don't like to see anyone as lazy as I am when I am intent on being as lazy as I am. When I was feeling more fond of the cat, like yesterday when she was being cute killing flies, I had entertained the notion that I might find for her a little King Kong costume and also that I might make a paper mache Empire State Building for her cling to while she swatted flies. But now, to me anyway, that idea seems patently absurd.
- jimlouis 11-16-2008 10:36 pm [link]
Thunder Is Again Possible
A white cat crossed my path the other day. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to take meaning from the cat's crossing or just see it for what it actually was--a white furry animal moving from one place to another and in the process just so happening to bisect the path I was on. While I remember being grateful, for whatever illogical reason, that it wasn't a black cat, my emotional state was not especially buoyed by the fact of the cat's whiteness.

Like a parrot who has learned the words, "here kitty, kitty," that young deer I saw out in these Fence Post woods a few weeks ago cannot be long for this world. Johnny Woodman told me, "I ran into your deer the other day, it just walked right up on me and the boy." Johnny said he wouldn't kill it because there's not enough meat on it yet but it seems unlikely a deer so attracted to humans will survive the hunting season.

I was this morning checking on the future of local weather and a phrase on a weather web page caught my eye. It was this one--a rumble of thunder is again possible. Which reminds me of those permanent weather reminders I have seen on highway signs out west that say--high winds may exist. As for the first statement I am gladdened and saddened at the same time. Glad because I would enjoy hearing some thunder, glad that there is a chance of some more thunder, but sad because I didn't hear the first round of thunder which is implied in the two words--again possible. As for that second weather alert, that one on signs out west, let me tell you something--high winds DO exist. I mean, is there any serious debate about this? Is there out there some organized group of people who seriously doubt the existence of high winds? And if so I would like to meet them, and find out what other obvious things they are skeptical of.

Okay then, I just ate the last of the Pringles potato chips and am now officially without food, unless you count the expired eggs, the moldy bread, the wilted lettuce, that unrecognizable piece of produce that dates back to Bernadette's last visit out here (in the summer of 1984), or those two slices of pizza from the local joint, which I am now, after three different two slice servings over two days, very disappointed with. There is half a frozen pizza in the freezer but it has freezer burn. This I am deducing because the first half did, and is further discounted as a real food option because that first time around it caused me severe abdominal discomfort. I have some raisin bran cereal and enough uncurdled milk to have a bowl of that but really I am in the mood for something more rib sticking, so it is becoming more obvious with every hunger pang that I am going to have to drive into town, lunch at some less than ideal establishment, and then maybe do some grocery shopping. Sure I could drive the few extra miles into Durham or Chapel Hill, or even Hillsboro, and find a greater selection of food choices but then I would have to meet all those places halfway and shave and shower and change out of these grubby work clothes.

It's not that I don't recognize me in the mirror its just that it is not a me I want to parade around, to the world at large. Which brings me back to the nearer town, in which I don't feel all that out of place appearing at less than my best, such as that ever is. Oh, picture me now hovering over the glass sneeze protectors at the all you can eat buffet.
- jimlouis 11-14-2008 3:51 pm [link]
Yeh, I'm Awake
If you don't lock your door out here in Fence Post it is not unheard of that someone will turn the knob and poke their head in the door at 7:30 in the morning and give a holler.

Instead of paying 700 dollars for a dumpster to handle the remaining junk out here, that junk which will not burn or qualify as redeemable metal, I have hired Bruce and Pizza to haul it to the local landfill for me.

I had slept in most of my clothes but I put on a hoodie and my boots before exiting the one heated room in the house and heading out into the frosty morning.

The two of them were roaming around under the carport at 7:30 in the morning not apparently daunted by my ignoring of their phone call last night. I was in the middle of Star Trek, season 1, episode 1, last night when the phone rang. I had left it somewhere in the cold part of the house. And I was in this one little room heated with a 25 dollar space heater with Spock and Jim and Bones and one half of a pain killer and one shot of Herradura and two shots of Glenfiddich and I just didn't see myself going into the cold zone.

Hey guys, I said.

You was passed out in there? Pizza said, whether asking or stating as matter of fact I'm not sure because I was distracted, gulping the cold air like a tropical fish swimming in ice water. I just said yes while pinning on the badge of heroic worker dude implicit in my responding so rapidly to their knocking and hollering.

But down to business I said, so how you guys wanna charge this? By the hour or by the job and Pizza spoke up and said well was you thinking like a hundred dollars? I paused and said, well actually it's worth 2oo to me and Pizza not missing the opportunity to hustle a soft touch said--a piece? I looked at him like the crazy man he was pretending to be because their really isn't that much crap left out here.


I think we were communicating in the same language and that we agreed on 200 for the whole job but now that I think about it I should probably double check that before they start hauling stuff away in the morning. Bruce said they could find someplace for all the paint buckets (50--75 of them) and the tires (15--20 of them). Those two things are really hard to get rid of so I am happy to be in business. They had hauled off the rest of my metal while I was gone and they did a really nice thorough job, including the extraction of a 500 gallon fuel oil tank from the basement. This they did for free in exchange for the value of the metal.

I got some guys hopefully installing central air and heat next week and I think while I got Bruce and Pizza I'm going to hire them to tear down that shed close to the house, the one inside of which the previous owner blew out his brains, some twenty odd years ago.
- jimlouis 11-12-2008 12:34 am [link]
Can I Get A Rim Shot?
The Englishman said to the bartender, that is why you will most likely remain a confirmed bachelor. The bartender had been waxing philosophically about those qualities a woman should possess to be in his eye the perfect mate. He had recently come to the conclusion that a new age grocery in his neighborhood had many of the same qualities he would like for his ideal mate to have. Her goods should be fresh, she should be convenient, she should be politically correct, she should offer a nice selection, and he went on to list a number of other things that arguably a good grocery store and good woman might have in common.

It wasn't until much later, riding in a cab near E.14th St, that passing the store in question I said, hey Bernadette, isn't that the grocery the bartender was talking about? She lifted her head from my shoulder and said yes it is, and went on to describe a few things about the place that might support the bartender's linking together of it with a good woman. It struck me then to ask Bernadette did she know whether or not this grocery offered a service which I do not remember the bartender listing but which I think should fit neatly on a list comparing women and grocery stores. Does the store, or woman, deliver? Can I get a rim shot? Okay, thank you. Thank you, no really, you're too kind, goodnight everybody. And don't forget, I'll be appearing weekdays, by the pool of the Adirondack Motor Lodge, just outside of town on Highway 17.
- jimlouis 11-07-2008 6:15 pm [link]
Into The Empty Space
Johnny Woodman said if I heard any shooting it would be him and his young son, Benny. It wasn't exactly deer season yet, in North Carolina, so I wasn't sure what it was Johnny and Benny would be shooting. I guess they could be hunting the abundant squirrels which populate the area.

We were watching a man named Bruce, and his partner, Pizza, loading my metal junk from Johnny's trailer onto their trailer, for redemption across the state line in Virginia. Johnny has been trying to help get rid of my junk and had loaded his trailer from the pile in my yard a few times several weeks before. He had cashed in on two loads but this third load had been sitting in the yard for awhile now. As he needed the trailer for a Halloween hayride at his church, he hauled his trailer back to the local scrap metal yard but they said they weren't taking scrap anymore. Evidently it is another market out of which the bottom has fallen. On the way there and also on the way back he had seen Bruce and Pizza alongside the road, extracting from the weeds an antique hay rake, and asked if they would be interested in the metal and they said yes.

I was marveling at the amount of junk Bruce and Pizza were loading onto their rickety trailer, which to begin with already had the large hay rake and some other heavy looking metal. Their truck was a well dented Ford Ranger, a small truck, and looked to be sagging considerably from the weight, but they just kept piling it on. A heavy, 40 year old riding mower I thought would be the coup de grace but they just kept loading until Johnny's trailer was empty and theirs was what I would consider full. But then they came over to survey the diminishing but still substantial pile of crap in my side yard. As they tossed some lighter material--sheet metal roofing, broken down swing set parts, smashed flat gutters, etc.--onto the trailer, I told them I had a 500 gallon oil tank in the basement, a broken arc welder in one shed, and some metal toolboxes behind another shed, and a side by side refrigerator/freezer in yet another shed that they were welcome to as well.

There was still a flat tongue extending from the back of their trailer that was empty but seemed unsuitable for any of that which I had just mentioned. They took a look at the refrigerator/freezer though and decided it would be a nice final touch to the heavy junk sculpture they had created in barely thirty minutes of work. At first they considered the possibility that the shed had been built around the fridge but I assured them that the shed was there first. They took the door off the shed and while Pizza contemplated the necessity of taking the doors off the fridge itself, Bruce was inside the cramped shed figuring another way. Open the left door, he told Pizza. Pizza did this and Bruce shoved on the heavy unit while Pizza pulled on it. This ain't gonna work Bruce, said Pizza, but Bruce said yeah it is Pizza, twist it this way, and then, no, I mean the other way. And they got it out and shimmied it over to the trailer. It looked like Pizza, who is considerably thinner than Bruce, was going to try to lift that heavy thing from the bottom and place it on the low-lying tongue. I cringed.

But then Bruce said, no Pizza, we just gonna lay it flat like this, and with one swift push it was doing just that, laid longways across the tongue, with the doors facing up. I looked at the bald tires on the sagging trailer attached to the sagging, dented truck, but said nothing. Bruce opened up the refrigerator/freezer doors and said we can fit some more stuff in here, Pizza. Pizza went over to my junk pile and brought back a few little items and dropped them into the empty space.

Johnny and Benny had long ago disappeared into the woods and I waited for the crack of gunfire. I remembered then talking to Johnny the day before about a deer that had almost run into me while I stood daydreaming in a thin ray of sunlight out in my woods two days previous. I told him it had scared me, which prompted him to tell me that he thought there was some kind of large, mischievous, two legged animal roaming the woods surrounding his beehives. I did not know what he meant and wondered if he was talking about Danny Claypool up to no good as payback for Johnny's recent building of a fence. The sole purpose of the fence was to keep Claypool from trespassing. He said no, it wasn't Danny, it was something much heavier and I suggested it could be a large buck. He pretty much ignored that and said, no, this thing was throwing rocks at me, and shaking trees. I didn't want to insult him by again suggesting a big buck, maybe rutting his antlers against the base of a tree, and anyway, that would not explain the throwing of rocks. Johnny, his son Benny, and wife, Ivana, had all heard these strange, heavy-sounding noises on separate occasions.

So it struck me then that maybe this is what Johnny and Benny were out hunting. I never heard any shots though and later that day I left to drive back to Virginia (half expecting to see Bruce and Pizza broke down alongside a road scattered with scrap metal, appliances and heavy machinery).

Johnny is a pretty sober guy and not really much of a kidder so for now I am just taking him at his word. I don't know what to think of this supposed Bigfoot-type creature taking up residence in the woods surrounding my North Carolina home. I guess mostly though it gives me a little thrill. And for little thrills and Bigfoots--I say, the more the merrier.
- jimlouis 10-29-2008 7:47 pm [link]
Long Way From Alaska
Today for the first time in two weeks I checked my Virginia mailbox. I took my mail into the cafe next door and seated myself at a table for four.

The cafe was busy with out of towners seeking in this Shenandoah Valley the pretty fall foliage. The hills though are not so infused with color this year. That big tree on Main St. in Sperryville is looking good again with its bright yellow leaves but overall the color is not so spectacular around here. It has been raining for 12 hours in this drought-stricken region so that could help and it is possible to have a fall color peak as late as early November. Or it could be another dull year.

I looked both at my mail and at a table of hipsters in black clothing and vintage head gear. In my mail was a new Gempler's catalog and I looked at it briefly before checking the numbers of a dwindling bank account and something in a non-descript envelope that turned out to be a credit card renewal.

I am a registered independent voter which perhaps explains why I received two glossy fold-out pamphlets from the McCain campaign suggesting that I might not know who is the real Barack Obama. According to one pamphlet he was a terrorist sympathizer and the other alerted me to the fact that he was soft on crime and also that he recently spent six hours with Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbara Streisand while only allowing twenty minutes to study the financial crisis. I studied the hipster table while digesting this news. I was hoping they would do or say something provocative but whatever they were saying was drowned out by a man at a table closer to me, explaining to a ten-year-old boy, in excruciating detail, all the features of a zero-turn lawn mower.

I frequently looked out the window to my right to see how it was different individuals heading for the post office handled themselves in the rain. There were two main groups--the cringing tiptoe-ers and the rain-gear-wearing sloggers.

I received an email this morning alerting me that two Democratic friends from California have booked their flights to be here in January for the presidential inauguration. I am guessing they did not receive, as I did, the glossy pamphlets from the McCain people, who judging by their wording are clearly desperate but still expect to be the ones greeting the cheering throngs in front of the Capitol building in January.

And I sincerely hope this is not an omen but waiting to pull into my parking space as I backed out was a car with Alaska plates.
- jimlouis 10-25-2008 4:47 pm [link]
Cantrell Jefferson awoke as he did every morning, with his work clothes on. The bluejeans and socks and t-shirt he wore as pajamas could only be imagined as a fashion statement if one were to consider it a conclusive fact that the unwitnessed tree falling in the woods does indeed make a sound. Cantrell was of the opinion that if no one saw him in bed fully clothed, on those sheets and tangled blankets covered with the previous days’ sawdust and leaves, then they could not assert that he was during the day some eccentric type who walked around in his pajamas. He was comforted somewhat by this lack of judgment from the outside world even though, working and living alone as he did on a construction site at the end of a dead end and sparsely populated road, he felt pretty certain there was very little of the outside world thinking about, one way or the other, his habits.

The previous day he had looked out the kitchen window and seen in the driveway a local sheriff talking to Johhny Woodman’s wife from across the road. It could be seen as a barometer of his maturity that his first thought was not to retreat through the hole in the floor of his bedroom closet and escape via the basement into the woods surrounding the house. Cantrell had done nothing wrong, unless somehow his very appearance was a crime. He had not brushed his long hair in a few days and it lay dirty, matted, and unruly on his head. His face was a picture of unevenness, for while recently shaved, it had been done so with a dull razor and a disregard to detail. While there was a mirror in the unfinished bathroom, he chose not gaze with any length at who he appeared to be. The downside of this solitary, non-reflecting lifestyle was that he sometimes forgot who he was and what it was he should be doing. And some days he felt a lack of urgency to accomplish anything, and instead just gazed out the window of the one heated room in the house, marveling at the leaves of a maple tree and the changing shades of green as the sun moved across the sky. Other days he would berate himself for not being a more productive member of society. He could be hard on himself but his internal dialogue of discontent was usually ended with a self-deprecating shrug and the reminder that since he worked for himself, it was a given that his boss would be a lazy asshole. Don’t let him get to you Cantrell, look how pretty the leaves.

He went outside and Johnny Woodman’s wife called out, he’s not here to arrest you. This was funny but since Cantrell had not spoken out loud for a few days, he was distrustful of his voice and chose instead to just smile inwardly. I hope my hair looks all right he said to himself while approaching the sheriff. The sheriff looked smart in his neatly pressed uniform and his close cropped hair further suggested to Cantrell that there was something to be said for neatness and attention to detail. He’s here to see about cutting down your tree, Mrs. Woodman said.

Johhny had weeks ago told Cantrell that he had a friend that would drop the giant maple tree, the roots of which were clogging up his septic field. Johhny would then cut the tree up into logs to feed to his woodburning furnace and water heating system. The sheriff and Cantrell talked about the tree and the longer they talked the more realistic its removal became. It was fifteen years overdue. After a slightly awkward pause in the conversation Cantrell began wondering what it would cost him to lose the tree and the next thing out of the sheriff’s mouth was him saying he had an idea of what he would charge. Cantrell knew that tree removal could be very expensive and that a tree this large, over three feet wide at its base and probably 45 feet tall, could put a serious dent in his meager budget. When the sheriff said 175 dollars Cantrell just nodded and said that would be great. Cantrell said he would leave the cash with Johnny and the sheriff could have at it even if Cantrell were not around.

After the sheriff left, Cantrell went back inside and stared at the gaping hole in the kitchen floor. Certain aspects of its repair confounded him. While it seemed intuitive that tearing something apart would reveal clues about that thing’s repair, Cantrell found that in equal measure he just wanted to stare at the leaves.
- jimlouis 10-21-2008 3:50 pm [link]
One VP On Acid
Carlo Johannsenburgeroflensteinerigltz contemplated bent at the waist the garbage before him. Raybeams from God's bag of tricks flourished diligently crackling leaves like sushi left in a toaster oven. What must the man have been thinking Carlo thought bent. Morosely happy dowel rods and persistent candy wrappers embedded intertwined with rusty cans of paint. Have we no more use for you partially buried? Mosquitoes try to land on Carlo's eyeballs but that bent at the waist or not will make it harder to see, the swelling itchy eyeball not so good. Oh St. Moritz your toaster ovens come home to roost. In dappled light. Leaves like a book of leaves words unwritten. And then some. Probably.
- jimlouis 10-16-2008 10:38 pm [link]
From Frat Boy To Subversive
I proudly told the person who asked me if I was registered to vote that not only was I registered but that I was registered in a swing state and that given the chance I would vote twice. I am just kidding about voting twice. Not just because it is illegal and unethical and probably impossible, but because my candidate already has enough controversy surrounding him. The first two controversies revolve around his name and the color of his skin. His full name at least reminds good Americans of the two people many of them wanted to consider as interchangeable masterminds in the 2001 attack on America. His black skin affords to these same Americans the chance to remind others of their ability to associate with a black person or two and thus redeem themselves from harsh labels, while also using their "black experiences" as a way to support through first hand knowledge their belief that--I just don't think "they're" ready for such an important office. Confronted with the black man's Harvard education these good Americans will stick to their strength for defying reason and fact and cry out against affirmative action and possibly even, among friends, admit that "uppity" is really not such a stretch to describe this guy. And moving right along my candidate is in favor of killing unborn babies and teaching sex to those ones that are born and make it into kindergarten. He is known to associate with American terrorists and some have said harbors a long-held desire to overthrow the country, and despite the fact that some of what is said is pure fiction, and that this country would probably benefit from a comprehensive overhaul, an overthrow is just wrong, subversive, uppity, and just like something a black person would say, so whether or not it is true that he ever said it is besides the point. Did you know that the man who raised my candidate for seven years of his youth was a child molester? Oh and there will be more, be sure of it, with some twenty days to go until the election the masterminds of spin will be hard at work. So you might well ask after my listing all these potentially subversive points about my candidate, why am I voting for him? I have to dumb it down for myself because the promises from any candidate always strike me as having not so much to do with what happens when they take office. Primarily, for whatever faults may lie behind his cool, educated demeanor, I cannot get the impression that he has anything but the best of intentions for this country. As for the possibility that he is paving our road to hell with those good intentions, I just find it inconceivable that he could do as much damage to this country as the previous guy did during his two terms in office. And although I think it is laudable that many fine, misguided Americans have been able to sustain a sense of pride these last eight years, I, and I think many around me, even when we try to ascend from the depths of self/country-loathing brought on by this abysmal, horrendous 8-year leadership, what we most want is just a minute or two to be proud, and feel some hope, just like the rest of you, who voted incorrectly, twice. And we have the candidate to help us achieve that. Obama 08.
- jimlouis 10-14-2008 6:18 pm [link]