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Comparing Mattresses
I drive a route these days from NYC to Virginia and then down to North Carolina, along the eastern edge of that mountain range that runs from upstate New York to Georgia. On I-78 to I-81 to I-66 to 512 to 211 and then from 211 to 231 to 29 to 86 to 49 and back again, stopping in Virginia long enough each way to do a couple of chores at Mt. Pleasant and let my erector spinae rejuvenate from the horror of that cheap mattress on the floor of my N. Carolina house, a mattress so crappy that even the long time renters, who by all appearances loved their junk, eschewed its removal to their new digs.

Bernadette travels with me on some of these trips and while not a complainer by nature she did find justifiable reason to cry out near the end of our most recent one week stay at the NC rental house from hell, oh God I will be glad to sleep on a real mattress. I was in too much pain myself to have much sympathy for her but once on the road back north I did, after musing over proper wording and convincing myself that concession is not weakness, admit, you know, you are right about that mattress.

Arriving back at Mt. Pleasant we picked up Bill Macy, whom we had kidnapped out of NYC and along with a bag of groceries and a six foot extending duster mop, dropped in Virginia, placing him in charge of caretaker duties while we were in NC. We took him to dinner and mentioned hardly at all his 40th birthday spent alone on the hill, with only an overweight kitty and a few suicidal deer to break up the monotony of his solitary confinement.

Before dinner, while driving up through Nelson County, VA. under a dimly lit gray/blue sky, I was feeling while looking beyond the occasional back and forth movement of wiper blades, that winter is perhaps the loveliest time of the year to be driving through these forested mountains. With the leaves fallen are exposed vistas not seen the rest of the year and the relentless green is replaced with shades and shadows more subtle and seductive. And there is a sense of relief from the claustrophobic intensity of life lived in a maze. There is at least the insinuation, by being able to see so much farther in all directions, that the road you are on is not the only one there is, or to my thinking, perhaps even better, that you don't need to be on a road at all.

Before Nelson County, on the edge of Lynchburg, we passed a coffee hut, on the other side of the road, and it promised a product voted best coffee, without reference to who did the voting or how big a region they were claiming. By the time we were able to make the U-turn behind a long line of cars, the little coffee hut had its own line, so while I admit I was a little bit frantic and crazy sounding while ranting to Bernadette, I can't believe we have just made this effort for a latte, at the same time I was hopeful, due to the traffic in front of us, that this might really be some good product. But it wasn't. And a few miles later, while tapping the plastic top on her latte, when Bernadette mused, you know what the problem here is? I was so overwhelmed by the possible responses in existence that I made her pause and give me time to think of a good one and then I asked her to take it from the top, but her brain moves so fast she was already onto politics or something and she repeated something of that vein, and I said, no, no, the other thing, about what the problem is, and so she lobbed me one, and repeated do you know what the problem is? And I said, that I listen to you? I should have choked up on the bat more, I think I could have really hit this one out of the park but instead it was a long fly ball that bounced off the foul pole, back into the field of play, and was caught by the right fielder. About 20 miles up the road, on the edged of Lovington, we stopped at a hippie bookshop and bought a double shot of espresso to add to the lattes but they were still not so good and we drove on, arriving in Charlottesville for rush hour, which we drove through without much aggravation, because we both knew we were nearing the home stretch, and a home with a much better mattress.
- jimlouis 12-18-2008 6:27 pm [link]
Leaf Dealer
I am--after the repair to about 50 square feet of sub floor--finally getting around to the actual laying of the vinyl for the kitchen in the Fence Post, N. Carolina rental property. Bernadette is here with me asking if she can help with final prep and I have just gotten off the phone with the woman from the flooring place, who informed me that the Congoleum is in and that my voicemail doesn't work.

But first I have to go outside and rake those leaf piles--over the one acre I have deemed to be a leaf-free zone--onto a large tarp and drag that tarp however many times to the garden behind the house. Then I can set them on fire, which is my favorite part, except for it reminding me of setting a small part of the woods on fire 14 years ago.

I was yesterday out there with a leaf blower for a few hours before good neighbor Johnny Woodman, taking pity, came over and said--You wanna borrow my Billy Goat? Let it be said now that although up to that moment I had no knowledge of this brand I did know what he was talking about. I have noticed this year that all serious leaf gatherers have a device that rolls along your wide open areas and shoots air from a chute at ground level, with most impressive velocity.

I told Johnny I sure would like to borrow it and he before departing neatly dressed for a church event, left it in his front yard along with a can filled with that morning's offerings from his hens. He had told me that those back pack leaf blowers like I had been using were good for blowing out flower beds but that was about all. After using his Billy Goat for a few minutes I was very much in agreement with his assessment.

This morning I made the coffee because it has been determined that I am good at it, and Bernadette scrambled up those fresh eggs. I washed the eggs first after reminding her that they came out of a chicken butt. She mentioned the other likely area they came from and as it turns out we were both right, they came from the cloaca, which is a dual purpose orifice. In a separate pan she fried up some pig jowel bacon and we had a proper breakfast. Now I am going outside to deal with those leaves.
- jimlouis 12-15-2008 3:05 pm [link]
Still Working On The English
On the corner pressed up against his work with his back to the street the man with a 4 inch brush stroked aluminum paint from left to right across the galvanized security shutters. A constant flow of humanity passed behind him, every other person pushing a baby carriage and every other carriage containing groceries. Some, those without babies or groceries, stopped to talk. One man told him he had paint in his house and that he used gasoline to clean his brushes. A woman told him he should rub the shutters down with grease so the graffiti wouldn't stick to it. Another man ask him for a job. The owner brought him an espresso. When he moved his drop cloths he covered up a wad of spit. A Puerto Rican man said he should have Mexicans doing his painting for him. The man, himself an American, was unclear about why he should do that. A little banger walking by with a group of shorties said he could do a better job and the man said next time you will. Another banger walked by and said, oh that look nice, and the man turned to briefly glance at this other man who he guessed would be the first one to tag the shiny new surface. And everyone wanted him to know his effort would not stop the vandals. He agreed it would not but mostly he didn't care whether it did or didn't. He just wished the taggers would take a little more pride in their work. He didn't paint over tags that showed heart. But Joey, come on Joey, maybe you can't do better but you should try. The man earlier in the week had removed with lacquer thinner Joey from a blue metal door up in the next block. The Puerto Rican man came by again and pointing said you missed a spot. A deluded man rushing along said come on, you the owner, you should let people from the neighborhood do your work. A fellow heading towards Delancey said he would do it for free and the man said, I'm doing it for free, but he was not being sincere. That great majority that didn't address him, moved along the sidewalk speaking in Spanish or Chinese. Two Chinese men did speak to him though, one asking directions by pointing to an address on a piece of paper and the other asking if restaurant open. No open he said to the one man and looking at the paper held by the other man he did a double arcing motion with his silver splattered hand and pointed west, hoping this elderly man would find the nearby Suffolk St. In the future, in the unlikely event anyone ever ask him if he spoke Chinese, he would say, a little.
- jimlouis 12-05-2008 10:52 pm [link]
Telephone Funeral
I'm on my phone, it's about to die. This I quote of another while waiting one hour inside the vehicle. The clock up above and down the road doesn't have its numbers straight but it works well enough six minutes slow. Convenient and free NYC parking for a four day stretch is worth the wait. What else I got to do, peel potatoes? I will get to the potatoes in due time. I'm reading the newspaper. I see someone I know but I don't call out. What would I say? Some day soon I will kick your limey ass at ping pong? It's ridiculous. I'm not saying it. I will have that trophy back soon enough, one way or another. I'm not stewing in my juices, I'm just saying. How am I supposed to read with all this passing impartation audible through the cracked window? And then a man turns his head sideways so I can well see he's not a junkie or a crackpot and asks me if I'm doing what he thinks I'm doing. He wants to do the same thing and I tell him go ahead. He loiters around for awhile with a dog that won't hunt. He can't wait on that clock though. He wanders off ahead of time. I expect it will all work out for him. His dog however, will not hunt. Didn't Saudi Arabia build the biggest super computer? You know they jumped this nigger yeah. They are, they showing you what you get. My neighbor got a dog, he biting people. You are the one that's swinging that shit like. You have balls. I'm on my phone, it's about to die.
- jimlouis 11-26-2008 11:14 pm [link]
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]