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Penultimate does not mean what you think it does. If you think it means top of the heap you got another think coming. If someone told you it means top of the heap that person was at best making a common mistake and at worst telling you a bold-faced or bald-faced lie. You can’t slink around life with bad information. You run the risk of waking up one morning and having your life tossed asunder by one vocabulary word. Committee, referring, occurring, recommend, are words that no word processor will let you misspell so you can skate by comfortably ignorant as a bad speller. But what if someone said you were the penultimate member of a group and for twenty years you had thought they meant you were the best when in fact, whether they meant it or not, what they were saying is that you are, as pertains to your grouping, next to last. Next to last? Is that using a horizontal scale of measuring where next to last would be located almost to the far right and be by implication a better thing than next to last on a vertical scale which would implicate you near the bottom? What kind of word is so careless about its meaning and what are you going to do about this? If you were the suspicious type you might start with any number of bone-headed assumptions and move on from there. For example, perhaps twenty years ago penultimate meant best of best but shortly after that the word was co-opted by a radical group consisting of linguists, librarians and dictionarians, who in numerous acts of cunning malfeasance drugged everyone in America while they went about changing the typeset or digital equivalent of all dictionary publishers in the world while at the same time they gathered up and threw out all volumes of written material which would show the word to be in any way complimentary to me. Is that too farfetched? How many misunderstood words would a person have to have under their belt to be totally wrong about everything?
I was hiking up from the caretaker's cottage to the bighouse on a gimp knee caused by too much hiking and a smidgen of yoga. So clearly I know where I am, which is a qualifying statement meant to juxtapose interestingly with the statement I don't really know where I am. If I had to guess though, and now typing I'm pretty damn sure of it, I am in the South as defined by the Mason-Dixon Line, which is a statement meant to juxtapose interestingly with my assertion that I saw Northern Lights three days ago.
Some people around town, those that saw it anyway, are calling it the Aurora Borealis, and others are calling it a solar flare phenomenon. I'm calling it northern lights. By removing the beginning capital letters I am hedging my bets, because what I saw was an unusual lighting scene taking up most of the horizon between true north and northeast, and therefore, by anyone's definition, it was a humdinger of a thing going on, northerly. Although let me be clear about one thing—this thing in the night was not as spectacular say as a boy riding a bicycle across the sky framed in circular fashion by the full moon.
So I'm walking up the gravel driveway between the two homes on this property. To my right is the northern horizon back dropped by a chunk of the Shenandoah Mountains or perhaps not per se Shenandoah but only a geological relative. What I’m saying is—there are various names for things that are actually the same and what makes it more confusing is occasionally you run up on something that has only one name but is in fact several different things. There is specific truth and general truth and if you came for the specific you may as well just back right on out of here. There is none of that here. Actually, I was limping. That's as specific as I'm likely to get. It was my right knee; I'm ok, thanks for asking. It was near about 7:30 in the evening and the sky overhead was pitch black and dotted profusely with specks of star and planet. I recently climbed up on my roof and corrected the weather vane, which was prior to my ascent all caterwomped, so I knew more or less the points of the compass as they relate to the property landmarks, and something was awry with the sky.
Too much light to the north. Starting at true north and running towards the east for about 50 degrees that whole part of the sky looked like it had sunset afterglow except there weren’t no colors involved—it was just white light or white blue to be true. Bracketing this unusual but in no way spectacular light, about 30 or 40 degrees above the horizon, were two rather large splotches of red. Red that was not pink and was not crimson but could have been a blend of those two or you know it could have been any number of different versions of the red school. Evidently the phenomenon went away for awhile and came back near to midnight and some other people saw it and I believe the colors were different which is not meant to de-emphasize that so too were the people who saw it and very possibly their pharmaceutical content.
The splotches I saw took up an amount of space in the sky that could be represented if you held a basketball three feet in front of you angled up to the wrongly lit night sky. You would have to have very long arms to do this. I don’t mean to imply the shape of the red splotch was like a basketball because it wasn’t. It was the shape you get when you give your 4-year-old son a two-inch chunk of crayon without the paper wrapper and the kid draws a diagonal splotch using the crayon on its side. He does it twice, once on the left side of the paper and once on the right and you remark to anyone who will listen or is skilled at pretending to listen (head bobbers) that isn’t your son remarkable in general and specifically artistically because the two splotches are almost mirror images of each other and if there is anyone listening to your proud prattle they might remark seriously on the well balanced nature of the two sides of your son’s brain.
The next night I was over visiting Lorina when her ex-husband called to ask had she seen the Northern Lights the previous evening and that cinched it for her because I had mentioned it earlier and now she had to see for herself. She started gathering up enough winter clothing for the both of us to live an indefinite period of time in the wilderness but I should be more specific about the indefinite nature of the time period as implied by the quantity of clothing gathered. It would be a period of time longer than I wanted to be outside on an evening that was predicted to bring the season’s first hard frost. I had been gearing up for a little hard boozing, light doping, and relaxed movie watching. Of course one of these activities does not necessarily preclude the other but…it was getting late and was, my brain calculated, the exact time period between the previous night’s two sightings by various people in the community. There was the sense for me, unfairly yes, paranoid yes, that her ex-husband was conspiring to fuck up a relaxing evening for me by spurring on Lorina’s general nature—which is to live life to the fullest. I could see him in my minds eye, smirking, as my skinny ass froze. My feelings towards this imaginary version of Lorina’s ex-husband are not hard ones, I’m just saying.
While we stood there, Lorina and I, and I played with the convertible mittens she had provided for me, wondering was I really a stick in the mud or was I justified in feeling totally tossed asunder in my own little prescribed time-space continuum, a meteor as bright as a halogen lamp lit up the sky right above us and traced itself in 2.5 seconds a distance of what?—ten miles? A hundred? A thousand? If you put a basketball in front of your face tilted up to the night sky it would be about equal to the distance between the two poles of the ball, except you wouldn’t be able to see if the basketball was that close to your face. It wasn’t what we had come to see so it wasn’t but nominally remarked upon. Until the next evening, when it was again mentioned, briefly.
This guy with his teenage son came up to me in the White Oak parking lot yesterday and asked me was he in the Old Rag parking lot and I said no. I was wearing the old style large headphones over a black knit skull cap because the ear buds have been bugging me and I had on wrap around shades. I may have looked a little freaky. And the ponytail and few days worth of grey speckled beard probably added to my "this is the guy we'll ask as last resort" ratio and even without the headgear and shades and throw in a haircut/shave if you want I pretty much don't have some of the more typical hiking gear and so look more like a guy wandered in off the street hiking rather than a guy who really hikes. I like hiking but I'm not all that good at it. I get lost and disoriented (only partly on purpose) and take not asking for directions to such an extreme that someday I may find myself disoriented too far away from help too long after dark and I'll die of exposure and/or get eaten by a bear and by all rights the words on my tombstone will be--"He wouldn't ask directions until it killed him."
The guy and his son were athletic, clean cut, and good looking by the most basic standards--in that they did not have any freakish proportions or unusual growths front and center--, and they appeared to have good teeth. Also, their healthy exemplary attitudes seeped from every healthy fresh scrubbed pore and no doubt advanced them in whatever ventures they attempted. People like them don't suffer after fools so when I went into evasive maneuvers and philosophical hem and hawing in response to their more specific questions, they wrote me off as a nincompoop and without saying by, see ya later, eat shit, or thanks for nothing, they just turned away from me and went to ask for help from the fresh scrubbed young woman who was now getting out of her car across the lot. At least she knew how to dress. I don't have any enmity for the young woman, she was just being herself for godsake and had not even a tiny bit of cognition regarding her role in making me look like a nincompoop. I'm really not the person you should ask for directions. I readily admit this.
But I stewed over it a bit and wanting to limit my exposure to any possible future human contact, I vered left at the first fork and ended up on a trail I thought I knew but turned out was unbeknownst to me until it was named about a mile or two later by a German tourist with a map. He also did not mean to underscore my nincompoopity but he surely did when in response to his question how far is it to White Oak trail I said you mean this isn't it. It hit me all of a sudden that it certainly wasn't the White Oak trail because I hadn't seen a waterslide the last time I hiked and here we were--me, the German, the English dude, and about 20 frat guys doing a polar bear thing by stripping down to skivvies and doing the slide, which is a gradual slippery drop over smooth moss covered rock for about 100 feet. There is a small pool of river water at the bottom. I'm on an "isolated" nature trail and there is over 20 of us congregated. I just kept going up until I hit Skyline Drive (which to get to driving, from where my truck was parked, would have taken about 25 miles and I don't think this could have been more than 4) and then turned around and hiked back to the parking lot, climbing down instead of up. I was hiking for about six hours. I got lost in my mind towards the end and backtracked to the guy looking like Seinfeld's, Newman, who told me I had been going the right direction and so that added another mile and a half to what was easily my longest hike thus far, maybe 6 or 8 miles of moderately steep hiking.
Today was perfect early so Loretta on her way to work (she didn't have anything to wear so she was today going to perform her job naked) showed me another trail, one known to far fewer people, and I hiked again, trespassing a little mostly because of the signs telling me not to. Back on the trail proper and I've always wanted to do yoga so I was doing some on a hill above the trail, with my shirt off, until, the combination of my calm station, and, rib bones prominant enough to imply cadaver, inspired six buzzards to circle in for a very close and somewhat threatening looksee. I stood up and they acted like they couldn't believe I wasn't lunch and even though that could be considered an insult I was pleased to see them fly away from me scared. For awhile, the natural order which implied my superiority over the beasts of the earth seemed somewhat skewed, and I felt small, and insignificant, like one of those MacDonald's cheeseburgers.
There was a forest within the forest, in a deep valley below the trail, and without leaves you could see alot of other birds and especially those bigger, red-headed woodpeckers, there were lots of them, and lots of still standing rotten trees suffering from apparent shotgun blasts which were really just round holes caused by voracious peckering. I'd never seen so many woodpeckers in one area and thought up the name Forest of Woodpeckers but later changed it to Pecker Woods.
I returned a rented movie to an area rental place last Sunday and one of the owners, whom I haven't seen for a year, and was then just where I had seen her last, out on the sidewalk raking leaves in a windstorm, called me by first and last name, which startled me because I think we had met only once. She said she was hoping to run into me today because she wanted my opinion on something. A movie I had rented last year had been checked out next after me by a person who came 25 miles to get it and when that person got it home it was cracked, from the center hole towards the outer edge, about an inches worth. She made me come inside with her so I could see for myself. I didn't really have anywhere to be but I was beginning not to like the direction this was going. First off, to show me the thing she basically proved the culprit of this crime not to be any one individual but instead the overly tenacious gripping ring of the DVD holder's plastic case. In fact her own machinations which resulted finally in getting the disc out of its cover were so severe in nature, so thoroughly was she bending the DVD, that when it did finally come free, and she turned it over to the side without the title, showing more clearly the crack, I was tempted to cry out--hey, did you just bust that? But I said instead, oh yes I see, and just offered to pay for it. This overly simple solution was met with disdain and a not overly convincing assurance that she wasn't trying to get me to pay for it, she just wanted my opinion on how to deal with such a thing. I offered several, most of which required more work, and one which simply wrote such matters off. She did not seem satisfied with any of my rather stellar suggestions and continued to remind me that it was just my opinion she was after. As I had given her the full range of my opinioneering, I was at a loss to discern just what it was she really wanted. So I offered to pay for it again, or make a donation, or accidentally drop a twenty on the floor the next time I came in. When enough time had passed I decided, rather all of a sudden, that I did have other places to be, and said ok, see you later. She said with no little vehemence that she was sure I would. I saw her again just last night at the community theatre but pretended I was someone I am not--that new guy who really doesn't know anybody.
Unrelenting Quality Of Quality
I got an email from one of those friends from that ever lengthening distant past. One of those people whom--you don't realize, at the time you are first meeting them--are setting the benchmark against which future friends will be measured. She sent me one of those comical American maps depicting a not so comical rendering of the religious diversity in America and which suggests that Canada might be a better model. Once I was up near that town in Washington state where Raymond Carver spent his last years and I saw signage for Canada and another time I was in Bonners Ferry, Idaho and saw signage for Canada. I was both times sort of afraid of what kind of illegal matter might drop from the crevices of my being and did not want to bother the border guards with it. I'm sure Canada is a fine place and does not suffer from my lack of attendance. I guess I would be more interested in knowing what Canada does suffer from before I held it up on too high a pedestal. I had already received or viewed this map from several different sources. I did not consider this map the meat of the email, although perhaps my friend would not have sent me a message at all if not for the prop value of the map. So, I am not without some regard for GW Bush and his ability to bring people closer together. Likewise, this same friend checked in with me after the fall of the NY towers, even though I was nowhere near them (in New Orleans) and she was nowhere near them (in Los Angeles) and so I must retain a similar regard for Osama bin Laden. This isn't me making lemonade from lemons because I have relocated to a place on the east coast where if I want lemonade I can walk into a quaint village and buy it for five dollars a pint. I don't drink a lot of lemonade.
I witnessed Fall colors this year, in both Pennsylvania and Virginia, of the type that inspires calendars and coffee table books, and I at times became uncomfortable, resentful even, of the unrelenting quality of the quality. Which probably only proves that you can take the malcontent from the ghetto but you can't take the ghetto from the malcontent. Responding to her email with map attachment I tried to break down the inexplicable nature of my discontent, referring to the coloration experience as a month long acid-trip. I suggested past experience which allowed me to consider such a thing as undesirable. She emailed back and suggested that I get ready for a four year acid trip. She was making a political statement.
There are drugs for dealing with drugs (Thorazine will often cancel that acid trip for you) but I honestly cannot recommend any of them and would be remiss in not mentioning that many drugs on the market today have side effects which include death. Of these you should be very careful. Because life, I think, is very good. Not despite all the shit but because of it. Sometimes, and I mean only sometimes, sobering up is a good thing. Is everyone sober now? Don't you feel good?
Do you ever get confused about what good feels like?
I have stood on streets in America listening to the pop bang of hand guns and the ratatatat of machine guns and I have been discouraged by the sound of it but not so fearful that I ran inside and hid.
Last night after a day trying to figure out why the light is all wrong in the sky I drove an open jeep type vehicle onto my back porch and heard on the other side of the hedge the rustling in the leaves of scared up deer. I turned the engine off and sat and listened. The sound of heavy hooves over dry leaves continued. It was pitch black. My fear switch clicked on. I had to think fast, my life depended on it. My first instinct was to jump and run but I gathered my wits about me and in a blink or two prioritized my movements. First, I grabbed the unopened Guinness from the drink holder in the jeep's console, and then I jumped and ran. I nearly tore the screen door off its hinges getting to the breezeway but jumpin' jiminycats, this thing coming towards me wasn't going to be held back by some twig-like wood framing and brittle, dry-rotted screen. My heart was pounding as I reached for the door to the house. Would it be locked? I never locked the door. Why would it be locked? Why would I do such a thing, on this day of all days, with the sun off course and all human endeavor teetering on the brink of uncertainty? I put my hand on the knob, and twisted it. It opened. Of course it opened, why wouldn't it, I never locked it.
However, once inside, I did lock it, which proved, which removed any doubt whatsoever, what it was I was dealing with here. The boogeyman had come to visit me up on this hill in Rappahannock.
I would have never guessed when I replaced the back porch flood lamps yesterday that they would become so essentially handy so soon.
I flicked them on, now ready to see the deer, the deer goddammit, not some hooved half human, half goat. Oh crapshit. Goatman. Goatman was here. After nearly twenty years free of him, now he was back. I had forgotten. Not only that, I couldn't remember. Did I anger Goatman that last time in those Texas woods? I vaguely remember a pact. What had I promised? Had I kept my promise? Was he coming to collect something from me? Was this it, my ending, all creepy, and scary, and alone?
About then, Herman, that displaced Brooklyn street cat, whom I adopted, or whom was thrusted or hoisted upon me, came waddling around the corner of the hedge. I had been pretty sure, all along, that it was him. I hadn't really been afraid.
Later that night I awoke screaming, crying out like a little boy as fingers brushed across his face in a dream.
Four More Days
If you wake up in the middle of a primordial forest with bird calls all around, consider that your screensaver might also have audio.
Damn if it didn't seem like there was a .wav file in my living room last night.
The likelihood of there being hawks, cardinals, morning doves, pheasant and a few other to me unidentifiable winged animals in my house, is small. Still, I wholly believed in the idea of it for many of the hours of this most recent night because I didn't know about all the features of that new screensaver.
I took off the week previous to this one and just let time sluice on by. I didn't hold onto time. Neither did I put a premium on accomplishment. Might it be that one person's accomplishment is another person's waste of time?
What do you think about the idea of living life to the fullest? Is there too much vanity involved with the idea of that? How about all that stuff you are holding on to? Is it heavy? Or do you become so strong, so muscular with the practice of its weight that you don't even know you are carrying it? And if so, is it still really there? Should you carry more weight? Is there good value with the weight? How many mistakes are you considering as accomplishment?
I want to move away from questions today and consider the idea of breakfast while stating something from the rote of my worldly wisdom. It is always darkest before the dawn. I have a friend in California and he is practicing optimism. He has taken up a chant (it's hard to keep a Californian from chanting, they must all give into it eventually) and the chant goes like this--Four more days, four more days, four more days...Do you get it? This same guy likes to refer to the ruling body of the world's number one superpower, collectively, as fucktards. This is me getting the vote out, preaching to the converted, stating the obvious, being optimistic, having hope, seeing the future as I want it to be, while hoping my absentee ballot arrives in the mail soon enough to do any good.
Oh, see, there it is, the first glimmer of dawn, creating white shadows on the pine boughs (no, that's a big leaf magnolia), to imitate the idea of fresh snow on a school day.
I have friends who jog early in the morning.
Light becomes day becomes commerce.
Commerce becomes ambition.
Ambition becomes whatever it can.
It is rainy and cold and this is a test
Kittens And Squirrels
He was reading the comic Russian novel, Oblomov, in bed, while waiting for her to return from a rock and roll sponsored political meeting. He didn't necessarily find anything laugh out loud funny about a guy who doesn't ever get out of bed but he was thoroughly enjoying the phrasing (even if much of what he liked might be attributed to the translator), and he was in that good space that the well written novel will take you.
He could not help the wandering of his mind which had him speculating if she was at that moment interacting with her ex-boyfriend who was heading up the politcal meeting. Everyone should have their fun was a thing he tried to convince himself of and politics can be fun. Not that this wasn't a serious meeting, because it was, very serious, and during a time in history when when politcal meetings should be taken seriously. But still, in between each scenario which had Oblomov turning down one social invitation after another, he wondered if maybe he himself shouldn't try to be more social.
She came back, not at all too late, but with that level of intoxication that results from meaningful social interaction, and he put his book down, knowing he would not be picking it up again this night.
He didn't want to go out for drinks with people from the meeting to the place that had once overcharged him for a cheeseburger but suggested that she feel free and she responded that she did feel free and would stay in with him. He put Oblomov on the nightstand.
He knew that at this particular point in time if he were an item on the drive-thru menu at a fast food restaurant, she would not order him. He could be, and had been in the past, a really juicy item but he didn't feel that way this evening. And he was beginning to worry about the sequential frequency of his less than upbeat demeanor.
She suggested they tell each other stories and he suggested she bring the two of them a slug of hard liquor. She told her story while they drank and he hoped providence would allow for him to not to tell his. Her story was whimsical and funny and somewhat postmodern and he rooted her on as one of the squirrels in her story burst into flames. He didn't like squirrels and this she knew.
They laughed together even as he plotted the best way not to tell his story and finally when it came time for him he just threw out a crappy, loosely slung together tale that was derivative of hers, with squirrels that have no sense of family even as they lived together on a country estate but none of that matters because as soon as he could phrase it he had them, the squirrels, each obliterated by meteors. The last sentence of his tale was a fragment and she booed him for it.
They talked about other things, under the covers, and he mentioned a news story from the town in which he used to live. A man had been arrested for killing two kittens, there had been a 500 dollar reward for information leading to his arrest, and that was all he could remember. She did not want to be so predictable as to always root against the kitten killer so she suggested extenuating circumstances that may have accounted for the murdering of two kittens.
She was getting sleepy but he had become wide awake, thinking about kitten killers. He had a true story he wanted to tell (he later lied that he had made it up) about a three-year-old boy in a southern town with hundreds (let's hope its only hundreds) of boys just like him, and how the boy had been sytematically torturing a kitten all day and then how he, the man, and his girlfriend (although she mostly hated him by then), had rescued the kitten and cared for it a couple of days, trying not to look too closely at the left eyeball which practically hung from its socket.
The kitten died at the vet but before it died the girlfriend had seen the little boy on the street and the boy asked after the kitten. She explained very gently, but honestly, to the point, that the kitten was very sick, that he, the boy, had almost killed it and that it might very well die. The three-year-old boy in the southern town with we hope only hundreds like him, said--"can I have him back after he dead?"
He was laughing sort of maniacally, or hysterically, when he delivered that punch line. She had, afterall, asked for a story. He was full of them like that.
In the morning she woke up crying, said she had been haunted in her dreams all night. Could not in fact tell when she was dreaming or when she was awake, just feeling bad. That's when he told her he had made it up, and was sorry for making it up.
The Skull Preceding Winter
These sequential days of cold, damp and drizzling make a person want to cry out in angst about how hopelessly winterlike it is getting as that person--clue, its me--gets ready for his first real winterlike climate in twenty years or so.
I lived for ten years but not anymore in New Orleans--I'm east coast--and in New Orleans you didn't really think about winter except on those two really cold days every year. Sometimes you would think about winter after it was already in the past and think how that wasn't much of a winter, if indeed you could even remember what winter was like in places that have real winters.
People talk about early snow this year and I have pinned one predictor down to--by mid November there will be a first snow.
You ever heard that Gil Scott-Heron tune, Winter in America?
I washed the dishes in my sink yesterday. They were props of domesticity. Some were dirty and some were clean. There was some mold. There was a little sludge-water in the bottom of some glasses. They had been acting as props for what is very possibly three months. But as a baby step towards genuine domestic behavior I went ahead and cleaned them up and put them away, yesterday.
I am still holding on to a few elements of suspect behavior regarding the idea of a man taking care of his business. I suspect the doing of those dishes (and the unpacking of some dishes that were wrapped in paper sitting in 30 gallon trash bags in the garage) was an act of self-prodding, which is different, more constructive, than self-flaggelation, and that other one, self-deprecation.
I'm just sitting here, off the clock, doing nothing really, as a caretaker, which is my current station in life (being a caretaker). Being a caretaker is complicated and takes careful consideration. I consider things on my own time though. I don't charge for it. No one could really afford me if I did.
I was in a used bookstore yesterday that priced its books as things of value themselves. Like first editions, even of common crap, were more expensive than reprintings. I bought a used paperback for five dollars even though that is approximately ten times what I would generally spend on a used book. I had touched the novelty skull on the wall and set it off screeching or laughing for a period of time that would be my best example of an interminable length, and as much as anything that was why I spent five dollars at the bookstore. I was being penitent more than I was being supportive of a local bookseller.
Hem And Haw
I'm driving up into the Poconos in the morning, headed for Jim Thorpe, Pa., for lunch.
Then I'll come back to Bucks County, Pa. to paint some more on the outside of this 1812 renovated farmhouse.
It's coming along pretty well although there are a couple of height issues I haven't dealt with. I'm hoping a four inch roller with the frame bent to 45 degrees instead of 90, attached to an extension pole, operated from the top of a 28 foot ladder, will do the trick , for the litlle bit of wood at the two peaks.
My horoscope has me in the super human range of possibility for the next month, as a Taurus.
I should finish painting the house a week or ten days from now and then I'll go back to Rappahannock, Va., where I look after a property on the hem, or outskirt, of a quaint, picturesque, village.
The waitress apologized on her third coffee refill trip because she evidently felt she was interrupting me staring intently with furrowed brow into my plate at the mountain of refuse I had piled there. A napkin on top of plastic butter cups on top of a plastic syrup container on top of the silverware and the plastic creamer cups and the sugar packets. I was really thinking hard while the yellow colored sun rays cut a path through the partially shuttered window to heat the back of my head and neck in a warm non-human embrace.
Little Missy was being told if you think I'm going to bend down and pick that up everytime you drop it (and on cue she would drop it and)...
The sun had lit up the old woman's face as she was mis-interpreting my direction towards the diner--thinking I was heading for the post office--while she held the door for me wearing a welcome smile. It was a smile of the class that had me considering total and complete reorientation.
But considering and doing are two different things so focused on my plate I considered the value of company versus isolation as the other diners prattled on in a way that would be perfectly acceptable if I were the one prattling. The waitress was talking baby talk to grown ups.
I'm downstairs at the bighouse avoiding those two bathrooms upstairs, off of which I have stripped the wallpaper prior to at least the idea of painting them. I say the idea of because damn it to hell they are giving me some hellish problems during the prep if your idea of hell is pedestrian and diluted from the full strength of possiblility. What problems you ask? Oh, bore me with your queries why don't you?
Outside is the type of weather (and scenery for that matter) that would tend to make a person happy if happiness were that easily achieved. I could do some outside work but putting those bathrooms off ain't getting it done. Hey boy, you ain't getting paint on those walls just sitting there. Mighty expensive bathroom.
The colder outside air is pushing the smell of fires past down the chimney flue and into the realm of my inclination towards procrastination.
Jimmy came and put the cover on the pool yesterday. I was swimming in it four days ago, in the rain, after a hard day working, although right now I can't imagine I've ever worked or will ever work again. Forget about swimming for now. It might as well be winter.
Honestly, I don't even know what day it is, but it's probably Tuesday.
I'm reading a novel by Murakami in my spare time. It seems as though I will complete it which we ( meaning me me me) hope will signal the beginning of a new passion for reading, a thing dormant for some time now.
Emails From NOLA
Headlines in the metro section of the Washington Post transport me back to my former home city, New Orleans, where the Times Picayune could be counted on to report not every violent crime, god forbid, but a good sampling.
In DC this year the murder rate is down 26% and the District is expecting its lowest total murder count in over 20 years.
Today's Post headline--Four Hit in SE Drive-by Shooting--is testament to at least the pertinent statistic that while perhaps murderous intent is not down by any significant amount, the aiming ability of those now with guns is not what it was in previous years. Those four hit in the SE drive-by shooting, including the 4-year-old boy, can be grateful for this.
I had often complained that a (specially trained, compassionately conservative?) National Guard should have been brought into New Orleans to assist in the curbing of violent crime but it hasn't happened there yet. In DC's tony Dupont Circle neighborhood a waiter was shot dead after a botched robbery recently and the Guard was brought in for a few days after that. That's a NW neighborhood. In the SE (in DC, synonymous with poor urban ethnic neighborhood) the people are still waiting for the Guard to show up.
So, the nerve of that upstart VPresidential wannabe to suggest that there are two Americas, one for the rich and one for everyone else.
Now I would like to share a personal email or two I received yesterday from New Orleans:
i left a message on your cellphone about keys to your house. a kid had them, but they've been returned. so, nothing to worry about. mario is getting better. whoever shot him didn't have much ability to aim. let me know if there's anything you want me to do about your house.
I responded--who shot Mario and why?
mario doesn't know who shot him. he was on his porch in the next block at 3am waiting for kevin (new kid) to bring home popeye's chicken from where they both work. a 4X4 drove up and some guys asked him for cocaine. mario said he didn't use and didn't sell. then somebody in the car started shooting him. he's in ICU about to be moved to a regular room. i've seen him every day. he's grumpy and high on morphine, but he'll live.
Mr. BC's Cartoon Bubble
I've got some music digitally stored on a hard drive and I queued up onto Winamp the jazz folder last night about six, started it playing and this morning it's on song number 46, out of almost 7000 selections, so I don't know who that is playing right now but safe to say, alphabetically, it could not be anyone much beyond (or even up to) Art Blakey.
I have considered putting a couple of small claymore mines outside my bedroom door, which I keep closed as a preventive measure to waking up with a cat wrapped around my face. All the other doors are open, entry door wide open, screenless, come on in, shop around while I sleep. I leave a light on so you can see everything, sparse though it is.
A man who would even consider blowing up to bits a harmless feline is really no man at all, but I don't need an alarm clock, and this is what I would be conveying to Herman in all his puffy grandeur by blowing him to smithereens. Scratching outside my bedroom door every morning to remind me that he likes his breakfast early is not only not cute but damned annoying. I resist yelling at him because that only feeds the awareness of everyone involved. But eventually, every morning, I do say in conversational tone, shut up Herman, and that makes him so happy he flops down on the hardwood hallway and purrs to vibrate the whole house.
A remote control trap door leading down to sharpened bamboo spikes would be effective as well. Although messy. And who would I afterwards play kung-fu warrior with, assuming I'm not into feline-necrophilia?
Waiting for a little bit of this fog to burn off before I get on that fence this morning. No really Mr. BC, I'm not milking that fence job beyond all reasonable proportion. It's just that, in case you weren't aware, I was promoted to chief-assistant pool boy, and gardener's apprentice first class this year, so my responsibilities out here are many layered. As to that little cartoon bubble above your head with the innuendo-laden caption inside I would only remind you that it was at your moderately insistent prodding that I began to socially re-engage with other humans this year and so whatever little time that is taking from my duties, I can only imagine is much to your satisfaction.
I had a stomache ache most of last week and considered the possibility that some of the locals might be poisoning me as part of a larger Munchhausen by Proxy scheme. A fair part of last week I was power sanding old paint off partially rotted fence boards and so I also considered that while a few select locals might be poisoning me, I might too be poisoning myself by breathing funky old powderized shit seeping in under the dust mask.
Some locals said there was something going around effecting people similarly, stomache aches all around, so at that point it came to me that either this local Munchhausen conspiracy is bigger than I thought, or, I just got a run of the mill tummy-ache, which as you well know is caused by the conspiracy between the airlines and the drug companies who are splitting the profit created by all the upset stomache medicine that is sold as a result of the airlines dusting the skies with mild poisons.
These ideas are part of my general day to day brainstorming sessions which occur while I'm working in the hot sun with a stomache ache. If you knew what the gentle breeze on my right shoulder felt like right now you would say--hot?! boy you don't know hot...and you would go on with some tale that would exceed any possibility I could ever experience, but you'd have to be in the deep south to be saying it so, god bless you for surviving all that.
I'm letting details overwhelm me again so I'm trying to get in touch with that, you know, work it out, become all that I can be by eliminating ridiculous bullshit from my path. Pretty obviously the most ridiculous shit in my path is me so get out of my way me.
Yeah I got more senseless prattle, like you had to ask?
Hammering nails with a hammer that moves along arcs parallel to the ground is hard if you forget the primary tenet regarding success for any venture--keep your eye on the ball, or in this case the head of the nail which you are intending to smash into the wood with brute strength and only moderate finesse. Focus, smash. Focus, smash. Focus, smash.
If jealous nearly ex-husbands of persons you are only friendly with drive by--try to look menacing and smash some more, don't forget to focus.
A Love Story
I was talking to the chef last night about New Orleans and he's got a bunch of stuff stuck in his head about it too, remembering kids with guns jacking him outside a nightclub and how they all parted cordially when he admitted to spending all his money at the bar and how when he said he was all fucked up the kids said, yeah, that they were too.
He used to lend his football to this kid in his neighborhood and one day the kid came back with a gash on his cheek from fighting off these other kids who wanted the ball.
I was telling the chef about an email I got this week from my friend still in New Orleans. She said these two murderers we know are back from their exile in California, and one of them has three times this week threatened with a gun one of her boarders, a near college graduate, a young man very close to escaping the street that swallows whole so many others.
The chef told me when he left he bought the kid a new leather football and said encouragingly that he hoped to see the kid on TV playing pro football someday and the kid looked at him first like he a damn fool and then took pity on the chef and his naivete and said sure, maybe that would happen. The chef was trying to describe something that you can't even cry away. That something that sticks. That briefest of moments when you really do see in someone's eyes the soul of them, their very essence of being, and it speaks only of despair past and forward.
I told him of this teenage girl I knew who lived around the corner in the projects and how beautiful and confident and smart she was and how I naively suggested to her one day that she would escape the city that care forgot and she said matter of factly that she would never get out of there. She had a baby last year at sixteen and I'm sure the kid will know, among other things, much love.
Did Jesus Recycle?
You toss down into this 200 foot long rectangular pit all your household garbage and when you're not looking some guys with machinery come and scoop it out and take it somewhere else.
Across from the pit is one big container, like a boxcar without wheels, open at the butt end, and into this big container people stack or throw their newspapers and by looking at those newpapers you sometimes feel the whole weight of it, the folly of printed expression multiplied by all the tons of recycled and mostly unread paper.
Next to the container are dumpsters, one each for plastic, green glass, brown glass, clear glass, and aluminum cans.
Once, a long while back, I had a couple sections of newspaper in the floorboard of my truck and I just tossed them into the trash pit. This local guy admonished me and I felt stupid, not only for my ecological lethargy but for not picking the guy up by his ears and tossing him into the refuse pit. At the time I was just relocated from the heart of a mean city and there in that city such an admonition by a well-intended citizen would have resulted in at least a return admonition such as--mind your own f-ing business, b-tch. (The person was a man but lucky for me the lexicon of my era allows me to use the B word for both sexes, and goddamn it, as well it should).
I'm going to admit now that I cut flowers and put them in vases and then enjoy the way they look and try not to feel too much like a girl because of it even though I'm sure being a girl is a fine thing but if I have to be one I want to be a lesbian. And the truth is I probably could not have picked the guy up by his ears because the guy was not short enough and I'm not sure how strong I am but safe to say I'm stronger than I look, which is to say I don't look all that strong, but the combination of not looking all that strong and picking flowers is a thing I don't want used against me. Or being a sexist pig, I don't want that used against me either.
I'm at this place I eat at a lot and as often as not I'm the only one there, not because the food sucks, but because I eat at off hours, and I'm standing behind this woman who is ordering at the counter but I have left a gap so that people (occasionally there are inexplicable rushes of customers) can pass and look at the prepared sandwiches in the glass counter.
And the guy comes in, only I don't recognize him because it's been months and months since the discarded newspaper incident. He pauses right before the gap, and let me say here I left plenty of room, room enough for a XXL kind of person. I'm up against the chips is what I'm saying, the wire rack is almost piercing my side (if you think I'm coming this far without a Jesus metaphor you are not only wrong for thinking it, you can go straight to hell.)
He pauses in front of me with a querulous look and I back imperceptibly further into the chips. I would have bled if I chose any more of a backward direction.
He speaks to me in a tone both concilliatory and reprimanding and as if he were speaking a foreign tongue I just looked at him, giving him a brief instant in which to consider the possibility that I may be without the sense of hearing, or, an actual foreigner who does not speak a lick of the local dialect, and will soon be pointing at the menu on the wall and hesitantly counting out the funny looking currency in his pocket.
The guy is starting to look--or at least sound--somewhat familiar to me and I finally get what he is saying. I am improperly queued. I should be wrapping towards the glass sandwich case instead of straight behind the one other customer but I'm not sure if this is what he's saying or for that matter why the hell he is talking to me at all.
The only unsolicited words I want to hear from other human beings are these: I love you, would you like another sandwich?, and, save room for dessert.
So I just asked the guy (by now he has occupied my space longer than I like for a guy to), are you asking me if I know what I'm doing, or what? And he says yes more or less and gives me some instructions which I'm simply ignoring and I say yeah mane, I'm just waiting to order, I don't need to look at the sandwiches, I'm having lasagna. He moves on towards the sandwich case finally, looking like a holy roller who has just failed at converting another lost soul (mind your own f-ing soul, bitch) and I say ( Not knowing why I am saying it, I feel like a man who has lost all context) "we can co-exist peacefully,"
But then, and now, I'm not sure if that is true. There's only a few of us living around here. I'll see him again I guess. See how that theorem proves out.
Ok, first, just a reminder--I am not in New Orleans anymore, I have moved to Virginia. As to why I haven't changed my page, made up a new name, or at least changed that damn picture of the feral New Orleans cat, Shorty, I can't say, or maybe I can, but won't.
With this page I can go to what is called a referer
(<World-Wide Web> A misspelling of "referrer" which somehow made it into the HTTP standard. A given web page's
referer (sic) is the URL of whatever web page contains the
link that the user followed to the current page. Most
browsers pass this information as part of a request.) log and see how many people have had this page come up on the list that any given search engine might provide for things the searcher is searching for.
I used to write more about some people in the urban New Orleans ghetto and some of these people referred to themselves by using the N word and this I would report. At the same time I used to work with rednecks that used the N word pretty frequently and this I would also sometimes report. I say "sometimes report" because frankly I think there may have been stretches that lasted for weeks where I heard the word everyday and I just could not report this because it was beginning to hurt my feelings in a way that had some of the elements of hopelessness.
One day I got curious what would happen if I googled the word, the word is "nigger," if you didn't know, and my page came up number one (it was a horrifying moment), and from then on I tried to use the word less because, not in all cases, but in many cases, I don't want to mingle with people who search for the N word.
I was going to write about this anal compulsive Virginia dickhead I ran into for the second time but it seems I've gotten sidetracked.
Anyway, I just checked my referer (sic) log and to whomever searched for "email addresses of New Orleans pushers" I can only tell you I don't have any. I mean, I left my email address with some of the lads on the street but I haven't heard from them. With varying frequency I check the Times Picayune online to see if any of the lads have been murdered. That some of them have been on the other side of the gun, this I already know. Which I report to you as warning because I'm getting ready to give you not email addresses but actual street addresses so that you can meet in person that which you seemingly hoped to meet in cyberspace.
Stand on the southeast corner of Dumaine and Rampart. Lean against that building for a minute. Smoke a cigarette. If you don't smoke, you should start. Look in the windows of that building. It is a fancy restaurant, the last bit of fancy you shall see. Walk north, zig-zag easterly north-easterly through Armstrong Park, exit the east side onto St. Philip, continue north into the Treme neighborhood, cross Claiborne (overpass) and continue north for several more blocks. You should roughly be in the 1800 block of St. Philip. Or you can be on one of parallel streets like Ursulines or Dumaine or St. Ann. From there walk north, east, or west for twenty blocks or more and if you don't find the pusher you're looking for then my condolences to your family and may you RIP.