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I started renovating a small house for myself almost two years ago and I'm right towards the end but I will not allow myself to finish which is not an unusual trend for me and is why I feel something akin to worry except there is nothing nagging about it. I mean I nag me a little but then I just tell myself to screw off, and I do, not offended in the least. I read a lot, write very little, sleep on the floor, shower with ice cold water, eschew all appliances (except the hotplate), and telephone devices, and human contact for that matter, and feel, if not contentment, then something like it--which may be comfort.
I don't always know what to do with comfort. I see the homeless person, that androgenous public hermit who sleeps upright, bundled in layers of clothing and head gear on that little half wall on Cleveland Street near the Whitney Bank here in New Orleans. I see him/her every morning about six a.m. on my way to the construction work which is my living and even in the 42 degree rain he/she seems almost comfortable. You might think I'm projecting a wishful thought here and you may be right but when I want your opinion I will say the words "so what do you think?" If you don't hear those words, just keep it to yourself, ok?
But the homeless person for me is like a benchmark. I see him/her and I say to myself, "quit your whining, bitch." And I do. I quit whining, sort of, except for this, which strikes me as whining. The Whiner Therapy, by Dr. James Phelgm.
For Christmas I had considered driving a seventeen-year-old truck, which claims among its various mechanical maladies a questionable head gasket, to Dallas, and back, a distance totaling a thousand miles. I have another seventeen-year-old vehicle but something is wrong with it too. It is not even able to leave the driveway at this point in time and anyway is most coveted for its air-conditioning which will of course not become a priority issue again until May. Although tomorrow is Jan 23 and the New Orleans temp may approach eighty. (81, a new record).
To prepare mentally for the trip to Texas I recalled a mechanical challenge 15 years previous driving from Portland, Oregon to NYC and DC in a '72 Ford Maverick four door which had suffered complete main brake failure in Portland and which I brought to gradual stops by abusing the emergency brake all across America. It was blue with stock tires that were thin enough to create the illusion that the Maverick was actually a big bicycle, but it had that coveted Ford 302 V-8 engine, and really could run like the proverbial scalded dog.
At the moment when gradual break failure became total I was at the bottom of a hill on a dark, unpopulated downtown street and this man apparently addicted to crack I had befriended was in the passenger seat looking with too much interest at all my possessions stuffed in the backseat. By this time in my life I had been naively trusting the untrustworthy for a few years and so intuited that his curiosity was not of the purest nature. I called him on it, saying, "Why you lookin' in my backseat?" He assured me he was innocent of ill intent but because I had read his mind he became leery of me, and this new found respect was I think based partly on the faux talismans I had hanging from the rearview mirror and partly from the chill in the air caused by that brief toggled transformation that had seen me go from diffident and naive to--Dirty Harry. It was all psych like something learned from one of those winning through intimidation manuals, chapter 17--Playing Against Predators--and my companion had played his predator card too early which allowed me to use his new found suspicion of me against him the rest of the night. We had another misunderstanding later on but that was all on me, and I was glad to be quit of this joker at night's end.
In Manhattan I remember the fun of necessarily becoming one of the very aggressive NY drivers and how liberating it felt going easy on the brakes.
One day after parking at a job site in the DC/Northern VA. area the emergency brakes finally froze up for good and the wheels would barely spin. It was an expensive fix firstly because I had done a lot of damage to the system and secondly because my address at the time was in Great Falls, VA., a somewhat affluent area.
But the trip to Dallas involved the consideration of forcasted winter weather and the fact that I hoped to bring a couple of pieces of valued furniture back with me. I was reminded of transmission melt down with fully loaded van (and M trailing in the Maverick) outside Burly, Idaho moving back south after a brief life in Seattle, maybe the '89 labor day weekend. It was a knockdown three day drag, and I wasn't sure I was strong enough for a repeat. I see a length of dry rotted rope tied to Elisabet (that was the Maverick's name) driven by M, connected to the van, with me tying and retying the rope as it broke twenty miles outside of Burly, then 17, then 8, then on the off ramp, at 3 a.m., Burly time, southern Idaho. It was cold at night in early September.
So the memories fueled my anxiety about Texas and at the very last minute, after realizing the level on the truck's dipstick was actually increasing instead of diiminishing over time, I chickened out, called my elderly mother, whom I haven't visited for over a year, and broke it to her.
I imitated her disappointed voice-- "wellllll that'sss all right"-- to a co-worker and we both laughed ourselves to tears, not because it was funny but because the opposite, and this was a co-worker hip to it. Also, it was patently obvious that day that neither one of us had laughed in a good while so we had jumped at the chance. I don't see this co-worker that often because his trade is different from mine and the builder we both work for is dying of cancer and therefore not building so many new homes. But this guy lets me experiment off the cuff; he allows if not encourages my little banters, work riffs, spoken releases. We try to get each other laughing. As often as not it doesn't work and then out of the blue you take it to tears. It's fun at times.
I started acquiring titles and deeds at some point and am owner or co-owner of four properties. Two or them are Closet to Go Mediterranean/Baltic-like properties and the other two might be valued closer to the light blue ones up the board less than ten spaces from Go. (Oriental?...). I'm not a magnate you understand; liquidation would barely afford me a new Lexus and a year of conservative idle living, and I often wonder if the occasional hassles of ownership make that paltry potential payoff worth what is involved. I mean attention to taxes and maintenance and rental income, so forth, and blah deon. It's boring and does not inspire me in any way, but there are a couple of things in life like that so I just manage these affairs in the way that causes me to deal with them as little as possible.
It is only the Bushy Fork, North Carolina property that is rented and so when the rent stopped showing up on the bank statements (deposited directly into an account from which the mortgage is directly withdrawn) I did not immediately leap to action. The renters are the same ones that took over the house when me and the ex left NC seven or eight years ago. They do all their own small repairs and will only call with dire emergencies like a few years ago we had to replace the well pump. They traditionally miss a couple of months a year and that fits in to my grand economic scheme of owning things that while making me absolutely no money, still do not cost me all that much to maintain on a yearly basis, and help me pull off the charade of respectability.
After four months of missed payments I had to alert M that we might have a problem and I stress "we" because with the added responsibility of this here my new but slightly unfinished ("slightly"--relative to its beginning state anyway) renovated residence I could not afford by myself to cover a thousand dollar loss, and the continued dollar drain that was looming. That 250 a month is only a few dollars less than the mortgage payment on the rental house and is also equal, I think, to what you can get for Baltic Ave. with a hotel on it.
I grunted to another co-worker about this missing rent because it is a mundane problem I thought he might relate to and with this co-worker, with whom I spend much time, it has gotten to the point where I have stopped relaying most of the more juicey tidbits of depravation (like being witness to autovehicular blow jobs in my driveway at six am.) to which I am privy because I began to feel like he did not appreciate it. Sometimes we will not talk at all because I can't think of anything to say, because I don't have anything appropriate to say. So I'm going on to this co-worker like a world weary beleaguered landowner, man-of-the-world type, chagrined at the ineptitude of those under my rule, but shrugging it off as men of the world will do. I felt at the time like it was a pretty successful conversation inasmuch as there were words spoken by both me and my co-worker.
As we have reached a little over the midway point of the fifteen year mortgage on that NC property I suggested to M that maybe she would like to take over the managing and possible eviction of its decent, but somewhat hapless tenants. She agreed and after making some phone calls to NC property managers felt like she could if necessary make the moves to evict. Which is an action that takes a good bit of pysching up for.
I myself was once a property manager, in Arlington, TX, and rented apartments to not only members of al Qaida but to college students and let me tell you those Muslims left a lot of water on their bathroom floors but it was those American college students who were making me old before my time so I quit after about eight or ten months and told that pillar of Arlington society, who was offering me a sizeable cash payoff if I hung with him for three years, that I couldn't do it. I took off for NC to hook back up with M who would not do Texas and had told me this before I took the job and had gone to NC at least partly to get away from me. But I never evicted anyone there in Arlington, though many deserved it. It is a hard thing to do.
M, in NC, was not that happy to see me when I arrived, as she had learned in those several months apart that it was easier getting used to my actual absence than to that absence of me when we were together.
When M finally got in touch with the tenants (something I had been unable to do not so much because of being phoneless and primitive but because I am determined at times to be as ineffective as possible), she found that they had been trying to make payments but the bank was rejecting them for some reason. They had put aside the one thousand dollars though (this astounded me) and after I called the NC bank (had to because the account is in my name) and found out what the problem was they were able to make the deposit, on Christmas eve of all days.
Also M found out the tenants have a new baby, the well had run dry, the furnace was kaput, and the septic tank tends to overflow into the yard; so we are slumlords.
The tenants have devised an alternate heat source and the septic tank is just a thing so that leaves us with the well as the only crucial, somewhat expensive maintenance to deal with immediately. I say this while chasing Irish whisky with Dutch beer and find myself contemplating issues of priority, judgement, and hardship. I think what I'm thinking is that you can be hard on others or you can be hard on yourself but why bother with it if it doesn't keep whisky in your glass or put water in your various pipes. But I guess there goes the DSL line I was planning to afford. After canceling AOL over on Dumaine, M hooked up with a no frills ISP for about 12 bucks a month. It seems to work ok. DSL money goes to NC for awhile.
I was standing with my hand on my wallet in the middle of Dumaine the other day while teenager Glynn paused from his fast drive to the basket to remind me of a football bet we had made months ago which had me pipe dreaming and him solidly behind the St. Louis Rams.
I was massaging the wallet now trying to figure out how much I owed him, while gangsters smoking blunts watched from the stoop of the house across the way, and rush hour traffic eased on by to line up at the Broad intersection. Although I was acting all distracted I really enjoyed this time with Glynn on trash strewn Dumaine, a corner defying that grey primer rolling anti-graffiti artist with it's recently black spray painted message that this is the corner of the "Dumaine Nigga." I enjoyed him getting the better of me, or of anything, and I liked the way he dapped me down low without me even realizing I had formed a fist. I was wishing I had more interaction with the kids than I do but I'm the busy, distracted Mr. Jim now and I can't be bothered with all that.
I daydream about being involved more, I think it would be fun to open a library like in Richard Brautigan's, The Abortion, where kids (or anyone) could come and place anywhere on the shelves the books they themselves had written and put together. There are a couple of Brautiganphiles in the US who have done this already. Though probably here in this inner city there might be more a need to attend to the fundamental aspects of literacy than to the high falutin world of vanity publishing. But I don't know. I just feel these kids here are an inadequately tapped treasure. I mean shit, the stories they could tell if they could tell stories! And more than that, I miss hanging out with them, as their lives seem connected to mine; I mean they seem familiar; they remind me of a better, or at least funner me, back when. Of course the comparison weakens me and strengthens them in light of the fact that there was very little, if any, overt drug dealing, murder, prostitution, and deep despair on the streets of my youth. These kids are surviving and having fun under tougher circumstances. But still they seem familiar, literally, like blood relations. I try not to inactively worry about them too much because I think they have everything they need except formal education, and higher echelon connections, and fathers, and guidance, and sometimes food, shelter, and Nikes. But they ain't pussies, none of them, and will get along famously, I keep hoping.
The kids remain for me unforgotten because they will on occasion exude these brilliant bursts of spirit that shows them all lit up and beautiful, against the backdrop of their vibrant but limited playing field, and it tends to--even if you're paying attention only a little bit--break your heart. And there are other times where it seems wrong to imagine that you have anything better to offer these amazing spirits.
The kitten lives. By virtue of cuteness survives famously despite odds against it.
And there is some action in the jungle of Kitten's birth, the Pentecostal vacant lot, which I can no longer refer to it as "weed and tree choked"--for they have cut all that down--but now must come to grips with a renaming which would have it called--"the broken up slabs of concrete and brush piles amidst brick and oyster shell laden mounds of black earth"? That flows. Men from the church come over with the borrowed backhoe and learn the fundamentals of backhoery while I watch in horror/envy through my windows. And then just like with my project here nothing gets done for weeks and weeks until one day for a few hours possibly even the preacher himself shows up and backhoes right up against my house, scratching the property line deep and abrading a limb of the Mulberry tree before retreating back to the church. I can tell watching through my windows it was not as satisfying as he had hoped it would be.
Satisfying backhoing in our age of instant gratification is best done in soft, sandy earth. The mystery is given more easily. This ground around here is archaeologically layered hard scrabble; it defys the hydraulic superiority of the backhoe and is mean and bitter and full of bricks below varying thicknesses of early attempted slab foundations, mixed with just plain mucky clay and oyster shells for flavor.
The backhoe no longer sits in the grass corner of their newly asphalted parking lot at Iberville/Dorgenois so maybe their borrowing time is up, job done. Interesting statement. Is it Pentacostalese for fuck you? The lawyers next door had complained about the tall weeds and trees growing in the lot and contacted the Pentacostals who in turn called Bubba who lent them the backhoe.
It's a new look and will take some getting used to. I will concede it does showcase more favorably than the weeds allowed, my No Exit on plywood up against the dancehall.
In between all this backhoery weekend warrior privy digger archaeologists show up and I give them all the blessing I am capable of and they come back with a bunch of mostly common one hundred year old bottles, the greater number of which they give to me, taking only that really fine looking tall emerald pentagonal container.
But I was saying about the kitten (Kitten)--it now appears it has been successfully adopted by one of the Bienville fronting neighbors and can be seen not often sitting on the back steps over there, just cute as can be, healthy looking, with black and white markings and a symetric black/white facial mask that just underscores cuteness in an environment that does not always reward such wholesome concepts. Over a year old now and still maintaining optimal smallness, it has made it a long way from almost getting chopped up by Pentecostal mowers in it's youth.
Kitten reminds me of one of the Dumaine boys who was seven or eight when I first met him and is now twelve going to thirteen and plays his small/cuteness for all it's worth and I mention that not as rye observation but cringing behind a voluntarily blurred memory which knows this boy living pretty hard, and between those ages traveling the streets, some that are stained with the cumulative danger of almost 200 years, from aunts in the lower Seventh Ward who wanted him out of their hair to safe houses in the Sixth ward to be met at Dumaine sometimes by me telling him to go away, house closed, his cuteness going unrewarded, if not completely unappreciated.
There were days at Dumaine that coming out of the house you had to step over a pouting child huddled up against the front door, a child who understood that they couldn't come in just anytime they wanted but couldn't understand why they couldn't come in when they realllly needed to.
I do a bit of accidental birdwatching, and have counted in flight over Bayou St. John, eleven medium sized solid green parrots. Regularly, four or five of this group visit the trees around here at Rocheblave too, which is nice. And while keeping an eye out for the parrots I will occasionally see a black throated grey warbler which may be a downy woodpecker (Today is like a week later and I saw it again today, its the black cross on the back of its white head that is most distinctive but its definitely a woodpecker of some sort as today, unlike the other day, I saw it pecking at the trunk of a tree, and rather wildly and inexpertly it seemed. Also it was really small). Saw one of the finches awhile back. There's a mockingbird I call Mike, who has this thing going on with Dana, the Dove. There are thirty or forty pigeons who sit on the Rocheblave high wires waiting for Miss Celita to throw out her crumbs; and there are crows, and sparrows, and blue jays, and cardinals, and that pretty much rounds out my limited awareness of birds in my vicinity.
The Pentecostal lot is actually starting to regrow this winter with all the warm rainy days and natural and man assisted re-seeding. Magee planted all sorts of stuff over there during his Thanksgiving visit and maybe Texas bluebonnets or some other flowers and weeds will start showing up soon. The regreening can only increase the value of this 50x150 foot lot, home of Kitten's apparent sibling, whom I call Kitten2, same cat, slightly less cute. K 2 spends its days foraging and frolicking with the newest kitten, whom I have not yet named because of the high feline mortality rate around here but with that in mind could be known as Notyetded.
Notyetded's mother is the small undernourished black sphinx ( I call her Spinks because its easier to say) who has been playing chess with my emotions for the last year, apparently blaming me for certain societal ills which I ignore from the throne of my obvious affluence.
Notyetded had a sibling but that kitten did not make it.
BigHead is the patriarch and comes by once or twice a day mewing in a way most unbecoming a Tom of his influence. But I guess it's sort of a signal because if she is around to hear it, Spinks will come running to let BigHead sniff out that most private of (her) territories. He then walks around the lot spraying his scent on weeds and pieces of broken up concrete. And his spraying seems pretty effective if his goal is to keep out weaker cats, but the wild dogs will infrequently yet viciously come in the night and are not the least bit impressed or repelled by the scent. They of various lineages gone feral threaten, and, sometimes in brutal actuality, kill all accessible felines.
I admit to feeding the strays. I take the food onto their property, over near the plywood "No Exit" sign. I try not to do it too often. When you start interfering, how do you know when to stop? So I'm cautious. I put out three medium sized raw eggs the other day, cracked them on top of an unlevel triangular slab of broken concrete. I understand that presentation is a fair part of finer dining so I tried to make them stand up, like in the Sherwood Anderson story, but with their broken tops revealing the yolks as brilliant orange sunshine in a shell, floating in their own clear ocean of fluid crystal.
The heartening moment is when I leave but sit back by the house to watch Spinks, followed awkwardly by the galloping kitten Notyetded. Spinks did the initial tasting but was quite brief at it before she stood back from the table and let the kitten inhale as much of the gooey mess as it could, which will surely imbue the kitten's coat with a finer sheen, and swell the small belly to a more affluent size, and hopefully increase the somewhat homely Notyetded's chances for an area adoption.
Army-looking security force helicopters fly around the neighborhood at night I imagine as practice for the upcoming football exravaganza known as the Superbowl, or the complete breakdown of society and subsequent insertion of a jack booted militia, the former of which is occurring smack dab in the middle of the two week Carnival season which culminates on a final day known as Mardi Gras (that's "Fat Tuesday" for you xenophobes), a day during which one is encouraged to over indulge, live fully and perhaps recklessly before giving it all up for the next forty days during which you pick something to abstain from, like Snickers. I wonder what would happen if you chose Catholicism. I am suspicious of encouraged lunacy as I feel there is already more than enough spontaneous lunacy. After a few years as a local it begins--for some of us--to become as attractive as a bad joke retold over and over by that loudmouthed nincompoop from Bossier City, or Altoona, who is drunk on a multi-liquored sugary concoction in a trademarked container, and keeps complaining about not seeing more bare boobs, and is forever vexed by the local kids who spend all year long playing street corner sports intercepting footballs and lobbed basketballs on oily asphalt surfaces, kids who have no context for the dry humor of "why don't you go out and play in the middle of the street," because that is where they play basketball and football games, with portable hoops pushed up against curbs and games that pause as necessary for passing cars, and during Carnival have the clear advantage as agile local athletes to fly through the air or dive at your feet for beads or toys that were being thrown right to you, or your precious daughter up on her ladder, "and then that damn racial epithet just took it all from us, ruined everything."
Which is not exactly a chamber of commerce-esque recommendation so I'll soften a bit and admit, truthfully, it can be fun, in doses. And everyone, I mean everyone of the hundreds of thousands who line the streets during the final few days of Carnival, and who make nominal effort, can catch more beads and cups and junk than you would think possible, considering the competition. And if you are willing to leave the somewhat family oriented parade routes and venture on into the decidely not family oriented French Quarter, well, you can see whatever you look for, and then some, (which can mostly be summed up by the Big Two: bare boobs and penises, and live sex acts). You gotta really dig a crowd though. French Quarter crowds on the final long weekend will accept you into their throng much easier than they will let you out. Think, huge bi-sexual frat party, which was then crashed by every independent drunken fool you ever met, and a shortage of bathrooms that might cause you to hope it is just beer that is being sloshed on your shoes. I don't myself do the Quarters during Mardi Gras, or perhaps I'm still looking forward to it which to hear it said, sounds less than likely.
I haven't gotten anywhere near the bottom of this self-made affliction which has me living technically in a state of illegality in an unfinished home in the Fourth Ward of New Orleans. When a passive aggressive personality goes up against himself in all out battle it is a quiet, yet ugly, scene which is played out in a series of moves or lack of moves that defies one's alter ego to do anything about it. Lucky for me there's more than two of us in here otherwise there wouldn't be any spectators at all to appreciate the grandiosity of my mediocrity. There wouldn't be anyone here to write what must be numbering now near five or six pages of unadulterated crap. Ok, ok, maybe some of it is adulterated crap.
I had an instructor at the university, named Winslow, with whom I got off to a bad start, by making fun of badminton (he was right, I later came to see the sport in all its awesome glory), and later learned, from fear of failing what was supposed to be one of my better subjects, just how to manipulate Mr. Winslow (and therefore the world at large) to my advantage.
He liked sports stories with an underdog theme and so to fulfill an assignment to write about an inspirational character I wrote about one of my twin brothers and how he overcame, I don't know, something, I mean we were middle class, comfortable North Dallas folk, with plenty to eat and read, and godforbid, that television, so my brother couldn't have overcome all that much to achieve his goal of a college baseball scholarship, but in my essay he did. I didn't make anything up, to my disadvantage I don't really do that--make stuff up, but I had him overcoming something, maybe it was self-doubt, or an ingrown toenail. The essay was written with a pen dipped in an ink well of sincerity. Mr. Winslow saw the essay as a great improvement over my earlier free form, innuendo-laden, ramblings. I am sure he was as right about that as he was about the badminton thing.
Also my brother would years later sneak through the drawers of that desk in Dallas (the same one I was going to bring back here to NO over Christmas) where I have over the years left some of my stuff for safekeeping--which is a joke because who is not going to curiously go through drawers left unattended for years and years, I would--and found that essay, and commented to me that he never knew I thought so highly of him, and I did not tell him otherwise, because I do think highly of him, and enjoy very much seeing him whenever I do, but the essay was a gag for the grade, and as such lacks what may be an unrealistic and unattainable goal--that is a purity of emotion untainted by regard for self.
I know that some parents achieve that emotional definition with their children (at least up until the children become teenagers), but I have wandered toward the hope there could be something like that without the propagation, and diapers.
How do you end a disconnected structure of essentially boring facts? Anyway you can.
I have found that I miss the therapeutic aspect of speaking and so am back again, however temporarily, yet for no less important a task than to warn you, implore you, even admonish if I must--don't let it happen to you. Neither become like me locked inside my new quarters, medicated as necessary against the inherent dangers of free thinking, nor become the one who takes the freedom too far by trying to inject his own formulas into the will of the turkeys, I mean people.
I listen to fanatics (says me?) on the short wave now and they tell me in all earnestness they welcome the jackbooted New World Order for it is the preface to the Christian payoff of Armageddon. There is one you can hear almost slobbering at the prospect of being in on the biggest "I told you so" in the history of mankind. I would pray for success if I thought it would do any good but the likelihood of me being in on the end of the world as we know it is preposterous. I'm not that lucky, therefore, it can't happen.
Now, a published journal is in some ways just outright conceit to begin with and to suggest in such a journal that something can't happen because the thing happening is too good a thing to have happen to said journalist is just more grandiose conceit, with hints of self deprecation, or, ("he had low self esteem.")
Sure there's the issue of calling the end of the world a good thing but come on, how you going to resist feeling at least a little bit fortunate to be in on such a defining point on the timeline of all creation? The final end would make life seem more important wouldn't it? Instead of "life's a bitch then you die" it could be "life is precious, then you die." Not that life is a bitch of course but at times the tediousness of it is hard to ignore. I mean the shear Bill Murray in Groundhog Day repetition of it can be a little disheartening, I think.
This is probably just so much Blue Christmas jabbering but what the hell, you was looking for a Hallmark moment here?
So Long Dumaine
This is the last transmission from Dumaine. Am moving the computer to the unfinished Rocheblave this afternoon. Will be offline for an undetermined amount of time, possibly into the New Year. Yall be cool. Have put up a mail box at the house N. Rocheblave, NOLA, but it hasn't been tested yet, maybe they will deliver to me, maybe they won't, so send benignly before you stuff an envelope with hundred dollar bills. And uh, hell, Seasons Greetings. jml.
Pork Chops And The Blonde Woman
I am not a repressed personality, exactly, and yet I have these episodes which lead me to believe I'm wrong about that.
I see him out ot the corner of my eye now, whereas before it was just an idea, me being silly, thinking about dancing like PeeWee Herman in public places, to the muzak; in the grocery store, to the theatre chain theme song; in front of the audience, only there I also fly, swooping over their heads like one of those whatchamacallits, you know, the purple martin.
Today at work I saw him, that is me, dancing to a disco song in front of the mirrors in Willie Roaf's excercise room. He doesn't embarrass me, or scare me, even though he maybe should, him being there and all. It doesn't seem like normality, but so much doesn't if I really examine it. I'm not really into the examining all that much so I don't know what to think about some of these things, when they become alive on their own. I guess I should just be polite. Nice to meet you.
Wednesday is Jamaican Jerk Pork Chop day at the Robert's Fresh Food Market. The "e" in Robert has one of those dashes over it, if you get me. It's a grocery store serving plate lunches, but I mostly get them for dinner right before they throw them out. Doesn't look like the Chops are too popular. Probably too spicey.
The server is talking to a stock boy. The server says while I wait patiently that it doesn't seem right if he just have two dimes that they charging him like that and the stock boy says somewhat proudly the same thing happened to him and he was lookin' at five but they had to reduce the charges on account of something I didn't understand because now I was thinking about those pork chops.
"Whatchu need?" the server asked me.
"Pork Chop Dinner," I said.
"Pork Chop Dinner," she lilted, sounding for some reason impressed.
She was putting down a heavy bed of yellow rice, which was a good beginning. And then she laid on top of it two large chops and juiced them good with gravey. "You see I'm giving you two chops instead of one," she said.
"Yes, that look's good, " I said
"Just supposed to give you one," she said.
"Yeah, last time I got two, but..."
"You should try them first, they spicey."
"I know, I like it like that. I know about 'em, I've eaten everything ya'll cook here."
"Must be a bachelor," the woman standing beside me said.
"Yes," I said.
"You telling a story," the server said.
"Why you say that?" I said.
"'Cause I seen you in here with your woman," she said.
The woman standing next to me said to the server, "He sounds guilty."
"I wish I were (sort of) but there is no one now so you must have seen someone else."
"Take off your glasses," the server said.
I raised the black lenses and looked at her brown to brown.
"Yeah, I saw you," she said.
"Now you've hurt my feelings, not being able to tell me from the others."
"You was talking to a blonde woman and I said 'you not having a plate today' and you said, 'no, you was eating at home.'"
"He's guilty," the woman beside me said.
"Not of this, but I do like the way you tell a story, I'm just a little hurt you think I'm someone else. I would recognize you if I saw you again." This young woman had never served me before. She was most decidedly not Drucilla, who is prettier, but would be too timid to serve me an extra illegal pork chop.
The server printed out a bar code tag and after sticking it to the side of the styrofoam container handed the meal over.
"Nice weight," I said.
"Check the tag," she said.
She had under charged me.
"Nice, thanks," I said.
"They gonna have me throw 'em all out in a little while."
I nodded to the woman standing beside me and took my leave.
At the register, checking out, a blonde woman about my age queried my cashier as to the location of the small hand held plastic baskets one might use to shop for small amounts and the cashier did not know what the hell she was talking about, and after the woman had disappeared, said as much to me. I thought about taking up for the blonde woman, she was not crazy afterall, but thought better of it, hell, I did not even know that blonde woman. Maybe she was crazy.
Another Day, Or Two
Well I've made another sustained effort at the completion of Rocheblave with only requisite beer and painkiller breaks to slow me down, and I can say now, finally, after over one and a half years on the job, that, well, I don't think I'll ever finish. I'm not sure if that's a joke or not but what I do know is that the specially designed well ventilated attic--through which run the copper water pipes--is working so well that my pipes are not receiving abundant heat transference and as they are not yet hooked up to a hot water heater, are not, I repeat not, delivering any hot or even warm water for me to bathe under. In my previous seven years here it was still pretty hot this time of year but not this year. It's really beautiful and perfect and cool and dry. I can pretty well cringe through the body bathing but full immersion of this head of hair is unbearable so I may have to come up with a water heating device.
I have a call into the electricians for them to do final trim out; I have my ceiling fans and light fixtures all purchased and ready to go, and have tried unsuccessfully to contact the plumber/heating/AC guy for him to do his final, which would hopefully lead to a water heater, gas meter, and connected kitchen sink which would then lead to me spending the last of the wad on appliances, which I have more or less picked out from the friendly Lowe's Home Improvement Center. At that point I would still have a pretty good handful of finishing details, not the least of which would be, but the least challenging for sure--the exterior finish painting (it is all primed, sanded, caulked and ready to go).
My neighbor the sculptor came over Saturday after a long day of me doing yet another task I've never previously attempted, a fairly major stucco repair (the porch overhang is stucco, the rest of the house is cypress siding), and she said, "are you going to add two more posts?" Meaning porch supports, and I said, "no, uh uh, I ain't doing all that," immediately agitated by her presumption to spend money I do not have even at the same time knowing she is right in her estimation that "the porch is too open," even as I am fond of open. She was wearing a chartreuse velvet beret and was on her way out with husband to do the annual NO arts appreciation gig and I had mortar dust up my nose and would be spending the night laying on top of a blue sleeping bag with Ralph Ellison, whose Invisible Man I read as I read very few--very slowly, hoping it not to end so leaving me with an inconsolable vaccuum. Anyway, guessing from similar style NO houses, my porch should, small as it is, have six posts, three on each side creating a right angle, but what am I, Diamond Slim Brady, post magnate?
The day before Corey's wake I was sort of dead to the world at 5 pm when Phillis from over here at Dumaine came knocking at Rocheblave to rouse me from a nap (stupor?) to tell me that the street repair people were needing Mandy's (who was out of town) car moved so I came over here, parking myself near the corner of Dorgenois and St. Ann, and then walked down Dumaine, stopping briefly to talk to Mr. June, got Mandy's car and moved it just around the corner of Dorgenois and Dumaine. I spent some time over here, fed and talked to the cat, and then after deep darkness had set in, decided to leave out, get my car and head home.
The thing is, after all these years over here, I had never set a walking foot on these blocks of Dorgenois after dark. It can be scary in an all black neighborhood for a white boy when he steps out of context. The 700 block of Dorgenois (at St. Ann) has always seemed a little alien and threatening to me. The 800 block of Dorgenois (at Dumaine) I have always felt a measure of propriety and safeness. The 900 block of Dorgenois (at St. Phillip), while not overtly threatening to a casual passerby has proven to be as deadly as any block in New Orleans and if the local paper still published a dotted end of year murder map, that block's cumulative dotting (say for the last ten years) would not show dots which could be distinguished individually, but would show rather a large black blob of printed ink, representing enough spilled blood to be a proper feast for vampires. So I was thinking about it all and seeing worst case scenarios, those in which I end up dead or wounded, and wishing I didn't have to leave but I most certainly did because I have a home just a few blocks away and there I feel safe and justified. Justified in whatever defensive strategy is necessary.
It's not really that dangerous here but there is often more than enough stimulus to make you imagine that it is very dangerous. The people here are, I think, nicer than any I have ever been around, and yet, I still found myself imagining a man approaching me at the corner, asking for a light or some similar introducing, and then jacking me for little or life.
So when it happened, so when I got to the corner and the man was there exactly where I expected him to be I just felt resigned to it, only a block away from the car. When he said, "I got that fire," I thought first it was as good as any introduction which could eventually lead to ill intended behavior, but then I knew it to be only what it was, an honest solicitation, and although it was a bald faced lie I told him, "no, I'm good," and again as times before, I was suddenly so glad to be alive I let the geek speak, and said, "but thanks for asking, I'm not always good," which on surface was truth but in truth just more of the bald faced lie, and when he said, "for sure," which is the most beautifully sympathetic two words of the local colloquial, that as he rounded the corner, up St. Ann toward the river, and I approached my car parked on the right side of Dorgenois, I wanted to yell after him, maybe even chase him down and hug him, speak to him--"thank you for the offering of marijuana, thank you for being sympathetic, thank you for not killing me."
Corey's wake is happening out in the street of Dumaine, 2600 block right now this afternoon, and his closest pals will be sipping and burning well into the evening I'm sure. I missed the funeral because there was no one to ask about it this week but the occasionally passing "brother," Cadillac Shelton, and he hates me, or I him, I forget which one of us is the chicken and which the egg. Though Ima go out and pay my respects now, drink the offerings.
Lately when I have been leaving out of Rocheblave there is to the right, on the pavement of the weed and tree choked vacant lot next door, a black cat, adolescent, and pregnant. It is sitting, sphinx-like, staring at, waiting for, imploring, me. "Yeah, yeah, I see you," I have taken to saying all grumpy-like, which causes the cat to run off and hide in the weeds. "I didn't cause you, leave me alone, I see you, how can I not see you, I can't save you."
And then there are wild dogs that roam the streets of New Orleans, trotting with purpose and a wary eye out for humans, they are of all makes and models, and for the most part appear healthy. They are easy to scare which is a trick they play to make you feel adequate, but at night when you are not paying attention they will come back and quietly forage through your garbage, and for sport or just by adopted nature kill all weaker animals caught unaware.
Friday, I happened to look out the semi-circular glass in my front door and saw Mandy approaching what at that time was a stairless porch. We are polite and cordial towards each other but social visits are not part of the norm so I intuited bad news and went out and greeted her warily, me up on the tongue and groove of my new front porch, and her down below, amidst my debris, wearing tie dye. She was going out of town and wanted me to feed the cat. I said sure and asked where she was going and she said to meet her friend, Virginia, at the Portland airport and then they were driving off together into eastern Washington to find an underground whorehouse. I said that sounded like fun and hoped it would be because she deserves some fun after weathering the disappointment that was me and the daily grind and noise that is her open door open house policy over here on Dumaine.
I just went looking for the Sunday paper but it is a no-show. I did however get to see a chicken dart out from between two trash cans, wait for a passing car, and then cross the street to join it's two companions on the other side. The three of them then headed off, pecking morsels from the sidewalk in front of Phillis's (Mama D's) before disappearing on the path towards Dorgenois.
There used to be a guy a few years back dealing weed from that house across the street. He was a ladies man, dripped charisma, and drove a bitchin' automobile. His mother would show up from time to time and he would tolerate her presence even while it cramped his style, but eventually would throw her out. The woman possessed a mental orientation perhaps a little different from the norm. Or so he said. He got kicked out for non-payment of rent after a year. The house sits empty now, the people who owned it, and lived on the other side (a shotgun double), couldn't keep up payments. The thing is, the drug dealer's mother is back. She sits on the stoop all day long, sometimes moving across the street to sit in front of Esnard Villa for the shade. She was over there just now watching me watch the chickens.
Last night I was over here feeding the cat, drinking beer, and responding to a response concerning my feelings about this New American Crusade. I guess my bottom line is I think it proper to kill enemies that go out of their way to declare to you that they are your enemy. My comrade had written to encourage a higher evolution of thinking, i.e., a peaceful response, but I just can't get there from here.
I took a break at some point and went out to the porch to harass the children. Glynn McCormick, and Bryan Henry were there. I greeted them cordially and then threatened to take Bryan's last piece of chicken (because I was very hungry). He said the piece in his mouth was the last piece and I said what made him think I wouldn't grab it from his mouth and he just laughed, sort of, and I reached down and grabbed the little cup of rice and beans, challenging Bryan with eyebrows raised. He garbled something like, "hey man," and I said, "oh, who's the crybaby now?" (Bryan belittles me when I lament the slivers of wood in my fingers and calls me "splinter-in-his-finger-crybaby.") But I cannot act childishly indefinitely and soon tired of the game, giving him back those most delicious red beans and rice from Popeyes.
Phillis came across and said, "did you hear about Corey," and I pretended like I was ignoring her but I couldn't and even already knowing the punch line to "did you hear abouts..?" I asked her to tell me and she told me he died of a heart attack that morning. He was 35(?). Back when, in the early Dumaine days of 95 and the young gangsters hung in packs on the sidewalks, talking bravely, loudly, and disrepectfully, there would be Corey (Big C) always quietly, and largely (350 pounds) on the scene. He scared the shit out of me, and sometimes while inside looking out the windows at what was then but is not so much now, a very lively street scene, I would pretend to put Corey in his place. "You fat fck gangster btch, get offa this street before I make you get offa it." I was all comedy, up on my toes poking the air in front of me like it was Corey's chest, and Mandy would be at another window, looking out, and saying, "you tell 'em, honey," or, "I think he heard you," at which point my heart would sink and I would take it all back, even to the imaginary Corey.
But he wasn't all that. He was not a big quiet guy harboring evil, he was a gentle giant, a puppy dog, a nice guy with normal interests, and pretty good judgement. He made earnest attempts at bettering his position. He was on one level a man to be judged harshly but I came to like him a lot and he was on the short list of people I had recently been thinking about, and missing. I couldn't sleep this morning so I got up about five, and then all of a sudden started crying, audibly. I hope I can get all that out before the funeral; there are those who may not care for me showing too much emotion.
The Muslim trim carpenter from Iran asked me in his child-like Engish what the other trim carpenters thought of his work and I could not resist telling him, "they think you suck," and when he said "what?" as if he did not understand, I repeated it slowly for him, "they-think-you-suck." I was smiling when I said it and so he was able to guess I making joke. He is in truth an excellent trim carpenter and I told him everyone that matters thinks the same.
Last Saturday a diagonal city block from here a man in a black Taurus was found dead, shot several times in his chest, and this in the middle of the day, but you wouldn't know it if you didn't know it, unless you were very much in tune with the spirit world, or, maybe that feeling you get at certain times is actually your ownself being in tune with it, the death. I mean deaths, multitudinous, on the these city streets of New Orleans. We carrying on though, better at least than the dead dude.
The mayor in New Orleans is worried about having to get a real job now that his eight years are up, but the Democrats who promised him work in Washington did not win the right to do the hiring so the mayor, Mark Morial, is trying to change the rule which allows a mayor only two terms. He's doing a lot of last minute promising, he'll make the schools, the roads, and the crime rate better, and his biggest boast, the hiring of Richard Pennington as police chief is really a bunch of hot air because even though Pennington promised and delivered on his pledge to cut the murder rate in half, nobody seems to understand that the murder rate in half is still way too many. It is easier and more productive to forget the dead and carry on. So that's what we're all agreeing to do, I guess.
And the local school superintendent, Al Davis, who made the mistake of urging kids back to non airconditioned schools because the "slaves had it rougher" than that is clearly not making enough difference. The schools aren't getting more better. And if Davis weren't himself black he would have undoubtedly been fired. But he's still here, and I honestly believe he means well but but I'm not sure he is up to the task. It is a huge task though--the restructering of a school system-- so his failure is not really a fair reflection of the man's abilities.
The other day I saw two kids standing in the neutral ground at Canal and Broad blowing their horns for the passing traffic.
Terrell just came in and is playing rap music while racing muscle cars on one of the computers.
I started building my front porch this weekend. It rained most of the weekend but I was able to get much of the more difficult aspects of the job out of the way despite the rain.
Some other stuff happened this week but I'll be damned if I can remember what they are, although one of the things had to do with remembering.
Joe told me I could get back on now, "on" being the internet, he just had to make a call, out of deep sleep, sleeping between my old bed and the desk which I have yet to capitulate. I stepped not that easily over Joe to get here. Joe explained he had to call his mother to find out if the dream was true--that she died a horrible death--but I guess it wasn't because when I said "but she's all right?" he nodded and free fell to his pallet on the floor and began snoring almost immediately.
I awoke from a dream this morning assaulted by the glare of a fullish moon situated in the window pane to my left. Its brightness was like a nagging reminder, a post-it that won't come unglued and get lost, or maybe it was just a shiny orb hanging where it had no business hanging, or, its me that has no business.
It very well may have been Crawford, Tx. where I stood alone marveling at nothing and then saw the van rise up into the air floating like (but not) Dorothy and Toto, and I could see their faces, youngsters, too young to drive, and most certainly too young to be floating around unlicensed. For a moment it appeared I would be the Wicked Witch, squashed beneath, but I willed otherwise and when they landed it was actually Elvis who left the van.
Pretty soon I'll have to trick myself back to work on the house, it's not that hard to do, I/he's really gullible, infect him/me with a sense of urgency and we will smoke the antidote until our lungs hurt, convincing ourselves we are in charge of our leisurely ways until the leisure becomes work and we have to work to regain a sense of leisure. I can resist this trick but eventually will forget why I want to.
Yesterday I read some really strong pulp by Jerry Ahern, The Defender, #1, It's like politcal science fiction: Terrorists in America battling outlaw Patriots for the American flag. They killed his whole family, man. And the Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison) is serious business. I'm just reading it bit by bit concurrently with Russel Baker essays and Why We Can't Wait by MLK. And I have this horror novel by someone named Ramsey Black (not Campbell) who the Village Voice purports to be, on the cover, better than King, or Straub, which is the stupidest thing I ever heard. I keep it by my pallet-side just to have something to keep my ire at a steady level. I'll read it eventually I guess, unless the first ten page just suck so bad that I can't convince myself there is any reason to. With 12 or 13 more editions of The Defender series out there waiting a book is going to have to be pretty special to get my read.
Today is Labor Day. I think its against the law to work on Labor Day. I have this Philip Jose Farmer I could read. Another Heinlein would be nice, read Citizen of The Galaxy the other day. I haven't been back to the movies since I panicked over at the Palace Clearview parking lot and couldn't leave the car. That's not true. Shortly after that I attempted an early evening at Canal Place to see Ghost World but I got there thirty minutes too soon and could not safely occupy myself that long so I bought a ticket for The Deep End which began almost immediately. It was good.
It's times like these I wonder if maybe I took off my training wheels to soon, or late?
First Two Talking
Leave me alone.
I was just wondering...?
You better quit dicking with me.
Come on, let's talk, you'll feel better.
Nothing wrong with how I feel.
Want some Midol?
All right, bitch, what do you want?
I was just wondering when you're going to get back to work on the house.
Really? Doing what?
Relaxing, reading, avoiding completion...
That's what I'm talking about, why don't you just complete the damn thing?
There is joy in work avoidance. You have to take what you can get.
But what about that sense of fullfillment you would get from being finished, living legal, instead of being a squatter...?
That fullfillment you talk about is an overrated fairy tale, and I'm more in harmony with my environment the way things lay now.
Deep, but they ain't gonna let you live like that forever.
Too many "theys" out there to be worried about any single one of them.
Hey, maybe you could just pick up some materials today and then maybe if you felt like it, today, or during the week, you might actually accomplish something.
Yeah maybe. But if potentially today is the last day of the rest of my life I don't want to spend it working.
Rather be on the beach?
I ain't so crazy about beaches.
Amazing we have that in common.
Not really so amazing considering we're the same...
Don't even think it, we ain't that, you just the front and little else, so back away from those easy comparisons.
I don't have to let you out, you know?
Don't be so sure about that, Mr. Jim.
I do not use a lot of illegal drugs and that's because such consumption is simply not covenient at this point in time. Not to mention I am more mature than the young man looking like me, but fresher, who was formerly into random abuses. I mean I used to pick up pills off the street, and convinced I was acting in the name of science, eat them. I got a hold of some thorazine once, given to me by this madman with a convincing smile, whom I had met inside a smoking van (it would finally throw a rod south of San Franciso) full of fellow hitchhikers after stepping off that rock in front of the Mercedes dealership in Santa Barbara that says "stand here" after escaping unscathed that strip search at the border of Mexico the previous day. I was making extraordinarily good time for a hitchhiker. I had not even made it to the end of the entrance ramp in El Paso, or even stuck my thumb out, when two young men in a small pick-up determined to drive non-stop had picked me up on their way to Santa Barbara. What I was doing out there in the great american west was being a college dropout, a work avoider, a mundanity suppressor, a scaredy cat. Anyway, I knew precious little about thorazine except I had seen it work wonders at a party in Austin where a fellow was having adverse reactions to one of those hallucinogenic chemicals. Also, I had had brief discussions about it with another fellow who worked at the state hospital there in Austin. I was not completely ignorant on the subject because I was aware of the term "thorazine shuffle," which as it turned out for me was a slightly painful, most embarrassing, contraction of various muscles which caused me to move through the streets of San Francisco looking like a poorly conceived, cheaply imitative, Hollywood Igor. My home in San Francisco was an underpass at Second and Folsom, or thereabouts, and where I ended up that day was at a movie theatre near that chocolate factory by the bay where I hid out in the dark watching the original run of Hollywood's version of Keroac, the one in which I think it was Nick Nolte playing Neal Cassady. It was a painful day the day I learned thorazine is not a recreational drug. And, not to talk down to you, or be overly obvious, but that earlier part about being more mature was a joke.
Yesterday about dinner time I stepped out into the watery blast furnace known as the local climate and saw a young man emerging from the weed and tree choked lot next door to me; the one owned by the Pentecostals. He was bisecting the lot on a self made path that was bringing him more and more to my attention. He kept turning around and looking towards the direction he came from (most likely that skinny alleyway which fronts out to Iberville and runs along the dance hall). The other sneak attack access to the weed and tree choked lot is pretty much impassable what with all that garbage the Pentecostals left there last year, and in that way I should be greatful but I may in fact be less than that.
I was on my way to the grocery up at Canal and Carrollton because they sell plate lunches and if you get there early enough in the evening you can call it dinner, or supper if you wish, before they bag it up for the day. Thursday is Crawfish Etoufee with praline carrots and let me tell you those carrots are some good. Got a kid won't eat vegetables?, sic a plate of those candy coated carrots on him. Turn him into a regular vegetarian in no time.
So I turn to the guy because it looks like he is determined to occupy "my" space and he is clearly on the run in some fashion, looking out to the street now, nervous, yet seemingly in good spirits, and so as he crosses my driveway in front of the little Toyota I'm about to escape in I look right at him and raise my eyebrows, which may or may not have arched above my cheap sunglasses, and he expresses in the local colloquial that he means no harm by saying--"I'm straight." To that I said "all right," and began to get into the car. The young man on the run paused, and said, "hey, which way you going?" So it was my turn to pause, briefly, while speed spinning the microfiche of a lifetime of responses, and then I had to smile, and laugh a little before grunting, "uh uh." He took no offense, laughed a little himself, and moved off towards Bienville.
An hour earlier a neighbor with whom I have set bad precedent by loaning (giving) money came over, cigarette in mouth, and said "let me get five dollars, neighbor." Shifting the can of budweiser from one hand to the other I stepped out onto the temporary steps of my nearly finished recycled home and shutting the door to keep in the cool air provided by the temporary window unit, said, "uh, no neighbor, can't do it." She ran by me some of her hardships, a not unfamiliar list, and which did not include any moaning about all the crack heads coming in and out her place all night till sunrise. I have been pretty put out with this woman since the last time she came over, during one of my naps, and banged repeatedly on the side of the house until I woke up groggy and red-eyed, and gave her four dollars. That was when I decided this shit would have to stop. I had a good neighbor on Dumaine who used to hit me that way, expert at waiting a lengthy enough time between hits so that I wouldn't feel he was taking unfair advantage. I like(d) the dude, but it would get so I felt a strong need to avoid him, and I can't see, at this advanced age, making all those same petty mistakes, even if I have to seem petty to accomplish that. So that's the way its gotta be neighbor, and that's at the risk of you unleashing your army of ne'erdowells, and expert petty thieves on me. It's what I was thinking over when the kid on the run ask me where I was going. Onward is what I have decided. The neighbor lady said, "that's ok, Jim, we're still friends." Okeedokey.
I came over to Dumaine tonite because it is Night Out Against Crime and I'm against crime, where's the free food?
The Dumaine boys had helped hand out flyers last week for the Zulu version of a street party but when they showed up over there tonite for the party the Zulu's said no children allowed. I did not know the Dumaine party was not going on. That's why I came over. I was hungry. I was counting on deviled eggs. They call them stuffed eggs around here. Evelyn is here now, cussing, calling her son a bitch, calling me her husband, I tell her I don't like that language, she tells me she can kick my ass too ( that would be in addition to everyone), I don't argue, I'm realistic, Fermin asks me do I think she talks too much trash? I cannot really console the son against the mother.
I'm really hungry.
Shelton's not here in New Orleans. He's in the Bay Area. So any a ya'll out there keep an eye out.
Jermaine, Terrell's daddy, is here playing solitaire on the computer. In the years past, when crime was more palpable, and there was more of a territory question going on, Jermaine had threatened to burn this house down. It was a good natured threat, as threats go, and was made in a context that did not imagine he would ever get to play solitaire on one of the computers.
Evidently, the kids were allowed to partake in the Zulu feeding afterall, I guess they just were not allowed into the inner sanctum, I'm sure that goes for the rest of us too, but they all coming back now declaring the burgers nasty, school burgers, soy bean, and the hotdogs, hotdogs. That ain't no proper Nite Out feeding. The Zulu's going budget on the hoodlings. You can't fight crime with soy bean.
I'm still hungry. I'm only writing because I can't deal with the reality of my choices. It's late (for me), I've already eaten fast food at least once today. I was really counting on a Dumaine feast, barbecue chicken, ribs, jambalaya, meatballs, macaroni, dirty rice, deviled eggs. I'm against crime. I really am. Beer and whisky.
I miss Mama D. I really do.
I have to tell you the truth, I'm not really all that nice to ill-behaved children.
My boss brought his pride and joy eight-year-old-son to work today, which is ok, the kid has some work ethic and sticks close to his dad for the most part and I did not mind, in fact enjoyed, playing stickball with him during break, and his dad did not interrupt or even disapprove, as far as I could tell, of my light badgering--"you hear this ball whizzing by your head? It's saying you can't hit me, you sissy, you can't hit me on your best day."
Later, after lunch, which is very close to quitting time, and is a period in which I will sometimes get lost in reflection, similar to but slightly less hopeful than the place I go in the morning period before break, and the kid snuck up on me while I was crouched low to the floor straightlining a piece of baseboard and said "boo," scaring me out of my dreamworld where human frailty is the shortest distance between two points, and I barked at him, "boy, this ain't no game, get away from me."
And I meant it is the funny thing, and still do, even in retrospect I mean it. Evidently, I take my work seriously.
At lunch his dad kept saying ok that's enough but kept pitching the tape ball to him inside the house and I kept at the ready as catcher, saying things like "come on batter," and "hey batter batter," and, "sissy boy can't hit." He averaged out at about .600 though.
Before lunch the boy's dad had him moving all the paint cans from the master closet into the garage so carpet can be laid next week and I was painting the access panels along side the whirlpool bath and when the kid tried to muscle a full five gallon paint bucket I told him to leave it. He was determined though so I put it this way--"doing what you can't do is not worth the effort. Trying to move that bucket is not heroic, does not make you strong, does not mean you are a man. You will only hurt yourself." He countered that he wasn't hurting himself and I countered that lifting something heavy the way he was lifting it--with his legs wide open and the whole of his upper body hovering over the heavy object--was the most sure way to hurt yourself. "When you get to be twenty and thirty and you won't be able to do heavy work and you'll look back on this day and say 'if only I hadn't been such a knucklehead when I was eight.' Just leave it, I'll get it later." He lost interest and went off to find his dad.
Shortly before quitting time and I was painting the windowsills in the garage and the kid was misinterpreting some request his father had made and was trying to remove the lid from an empty plastic five gallon bucket and I was glancing over seeing him having trouble but was pretty much done with the child care aspect of my job for the day so I let him have his trouble. It was late in the day and the lustre was waning from the shiny chrome of his work ethic and so he gave up, and said, or rather, demanded, of me, of all people--OPEN THIS FOR ME.
Well, I am a busy man, and paid, not overly but adequately, to perform a job which I have previously, long ago, made clear does not include responding favorably to pissy attitudes.
I glanced over at the boy and said, "I'm sorry? What did you say?"
"Open This For Me!!!" He was looking at me like he thought I actually would.
I stopped performing my task and turned to face him fully, and looked at him with what I hoped would pass for disdainful incredulity. "Boy, I don't know who it is in your world that let's you get away talking like that but it ain't me, so you best run along now and let me work." He didn't like that and went to tell his dad, who yelled at him, so he came back and played noisely with an electrician's ladder, right beside me, and I took his punishment as my due.