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Dropping Acid With Alligators
I have deleted this the first sentence, now five times, each time bringing up the possibility for new subject matter. You can't really let the lack of focus get in your way.
I have found a couple of thrift stores in the area from which I furnish my home, in the fashion of Americana crapola, which is not to say there is a lacking of inimitability hearabouts.
Mediocrity, and how I love it, that was my original theme, even though my sincerity towards the premise might vacillate.
Like with old cars being classified as antiques, there is probably a minimum of years for the idea of a book being first edition to mean anything. But I got this first edition hardback of James Clavell's, King Rat, yesterday, for a buck, and though yellowed somewhat over the 43 years of its life, it is still like pristine, maybe never read, or only once perhaps, and I am happy about it in a way that defies logic.
I'll go stare at the same old tired thrift store book shelves over time, even if they don't appear to restock them but once a year, just in case something has slipped in. When I was a kid I started out to be a bibliomaniac and then when I started vagabonding I off-loaded and became bookless, a frequenter of libraries in whichever town I landed. In New Orleans, the last year or so of my stay, I spent some money on fifty cent paperbacks but when I left I gave them to that nice lady running the crackhouse around the corner.
And so my default for the last many years has been to go bookless, even though lately I've noticed my shelves getting kind of heavy with books ( I did bring a handful of books from New Orleans, the Hemingway and Fitzgerald hardbacks, and the Algren, a Bellow, a Brautigan or two, and a box set of philosophic thought sampling the entirety of man's recording of such) and now it almost seems as if I am heading towards that former addiction I enjoyed which required not just the reading of books but the possessing of them.
In my last two hauls I've done well, from two different thrift stores in the same town, and I'm not blurting out which town, because growth is coming, and with it, the savvy entrepreneurship which causes inexorable sadness and the end of 5 for a dollar paperbacks, and dollar hard backs. I've gotten over twenty books for less than 20 dollars, half of them hardbacks, and off the top my head, authors such as Bellow, Cheever, Barth, Plath, Marquez, Clavell, Oates, Heinlein, Auchincloss, Percy, Doctorow, Stevenson, Parker, Coupland, and that's all there is to happiness--simple tricks, and your willingness to give in to them. I also added to my thrift wardrobe, a two buck shirt, Izod's contribution to the paisley theme, and you know how I love my paisley. Somehow, while my attentions were directed elsewhere, the alligator dropped acid.
When Carl Fell Down
There was this kid named Carl in my junior high school in Dallas and this other kid named Keith. Carl was extremely fat and people made fun of him. Keith was an outsider, from a single parent home (said he had sex with a friend of his mother's), but was popular, as an athlete, and also had popular hair, thin and blond and straight, it hung down in his face when he dribbled the basketball downcourt. After he would cross the mid-court line he would slow down, turn his whole body sideways, raise a finger or two in signal to his teammates, and then he would crack-snap that head on his shoulders like a whip and the hair would fly in centrifugal fashion until it stuck momentarily to his sweaty skull, before coming loose again, one sweat-clumped strand at a time.
Carl went out of his way to be neither nice nor mean and was just there, tall, and slightly dull, with bad skin, and dirty hair, and fatter than you could ignore.
One day out of sheer mean-spiritedness Keith decided to beat up Carl. He said, I'm going to beat up that fat fuck today. I remember being among a group of people to whom he was bragging this and not a one of us asked, why are you going to beat up Carl? It was junior high school in the early seventies and integration had finally made its way to North Dallas and a fight between two white kids was perhaps for us a pleasant break from the occasional small scale race riots occurring in the hallways, outside the viewing range of the security cameras the school system had installed as preparation for racial tension.
It was after lunch and we were all milling around outside the lunchroom on that little patch of grass surrounded by chain link. Keith was amazing us with his ability to jump over the four foot fence without touching it, but when he got tired of amazing us he decided to beat up Carl.
Those were tense moments of unrealized potential those moments between Keith saying he was going to do it, and the doing of it. I liked Keith but I think I was looking forward to him getting his ass whooped by Carl, who was four inches taller, and 170 pounds heavier.
What happened though was that Keith, apparently having thought out the disadvantage of his size, and knowing that he would need to stay away from a potential bear hug, or being sat on, kept his distance and after one very typical school yard shove, just began punching Carl in his face, with all he had, while his thin, straight, blond hair flapped wildly.
What I was thinking of this morning, 32 years and 1,200 miles away, was the look of shock and hurt on Carl's face when he took the first fist to his chubby jowls, and the plaintiveness of his questioning between the blows, when he would ask Keith to explain the reasoning behind the brutality. But Keith was talking with his fists and kept on punching until Carl fell down.
Some of the posts I haven't been making have been letters to the alzheimer flavored curvature of my mother's spine and the other posts have been deposited into the bottomless wastebasket of my intentional disregard for achievement.
I can't go to Kansas for my nephew's wedding happening only a few months before his National Guard commitment sends him for the second time to the land of pissed off, shell-shocked Muslims. Last time was Iraq for a year. This time Afghanistan. Used to be, back in the days of the draft, the National Guard was where you went to escape the draft and crazy military deployments, but not anymore.
I told my brother I can't make it but what did he know about family gatherings in Dallas, back at the old homestead? He said no definite plans were being worked out but that it seemed like there would be a gathering sometime, especially since it was being observed by another Dallas area brother that our mother's "quality was diminishing."
I can't get a handle on that so I'm going to call my mother now and ask her what the hell is diminishing. Perhaps I will be able to hear quality lost.
My brother also said we were waiting for a critical mass. I'm going to have to study up on that, too. There is too much I'm not getting.
Simple Nacho Recipe
I was having a temper tantrum so I ran away for a day to where was the first battle of the Civil War and had Pho for lunch with a Vietnamese beer for dessert. I say that like the Vietnamese beer for dessert was my date and why shouldn't it be?
Like the last time I ran away from home, 35 years ago, the day ran long, in the sense how do you fill up what is pretending to be the first day of the rest of your life? I thought about entering a bookstore (question: when is jimlouis not jimlouis? answer: when he turns into a bookstore) but I got that love/hate thing going on with bookstores and as I could feel my sneer muscles contracting, I ruled out the house of books.
I did not know what to do so I went to a theatre and watched the new Batman movie. Then I exited into the brilliantly sunny outdoors and became momentarily blinded and disillusioned with the reality that tends to exist in suburban movie theatre parking lots. It is for me the sensation of potential realized, and gone awry. The meaning of our lives is at least partly the result of someone else's marketing scheme. You cannot escape that. That uneasiness you feel from time to time is you not escaping that. You can only ignore it with the same success you ignore the pile of poop in a public place.
Sometimes what you see is based on what you sow and sometimes what you see is a blue strap-on dildo in the empty parking slot next to yours.
How long do you stare at a blue strap-on dildo in a public parking lot? How do you turn off the microfiche reels running in your mind? Where did you get all that info stored on those reels? The Internet, probably. Did you even know about strap-ons before the Internet? You did not. I'm not making any judgments about blue strap-ons, I mean, I think pleasure should be enjoyed. That last phrase is dedicated to the president of the United States. You have my permission to use it in your next speech. But whatever pleasure may have been experienced with the strap-on, and by whom, well, this was not a thing evident by its current positioning. The person who imagines happy times after viewing tangled black nylon straps, with frayed ends, attached to a slick penis-shaped cylinder of blue petroleum by-product, laid forlornly against a suburban asphalt background, is indeed an optimistic person.
I unlocked my hotbox of transport and tried to deal maturely with the apparent malfunctioning of its air-conditioner.
I wasn't really hungry but I thought a margarita and nachos would be ok so in the next town (whose name means "overcrowded living space," or, a place where rabbits burrow) I stopped at one of the several mex places I frequent but which don't inspire me yet do make me feel like I could be inspired if I just tried harder. That the mexican place should try harder to inspire is evidently out of the question. The nachos were only average and the margarita was large and I might have been better off sprawled on cardboard behind a dumpster with a pint of rotgut and sweaty, not quite puttrefied, dumpster fare. I'm a little uppity about my mexican food.
Just talking about sub-standard nachos made me crazy so I have paused to make a whole cookie sheet portion. I grew up in Texas making nachos on chalupa shells but its hard to find chalupa shells on the east coast (I could not find them in New Orleans, either) so I buy taco shells and snap them in two. With a fork and only a fork spread on a quantity of refried beans, lay on top the amount of jalapeno pepper you can handle, then a slice of cheese (NY Sharp) approximately one quarter inch thick, seven/eighths inches wide by two and five/eighths inches long. Cook on middle rack at 400 until cheese bubbles but before shells darken. Bon Appetit.
Like on this day I've got to come up with good things about eating alone I say the good thing about eating alone is that you can get around insulting your date by not hanging on her every word and instead stare at people while they eat. The only people who stare back are children because children aren't taught inscrutability until well into the game and even then in most cases it is just a result of curiosity being beat out of them by strict parents or the even stricter punishments of life experience. Let me here add that staring at people while they eat is disheartening and makes you wish for the company of someone to ignore. I blame this obvious lack of compassion for fellow human beings on my part, dates and otherwise, on sub-standard mexican food.
This boy about 11 was being told by his mother that he was playing football this year even if he sat the bench. There was a long pause while the boy--I had made enough casual eye contact with him for him to know that I was hanging on every word (I wished I had brought my Vietnamese beer date)--contemplated this dictate and finally he said, maybe I won't ride the bench. His father stared into the bowl of chips and grunted and his mother no-commented and his newborn baby sister sat simply in her bassinet exemplifying her exceptional coloring. The boy repeatedly called out--Dad, hey dad, dad? throughout the meal, and each time the father would stare into the chips because he was really tired. The boy was happy for this dad and would glance at me after each time he called to his dad in that way that people do when they are a bit of an exhibitionist, or just temporarily very self-conscious, because he wanted me know that this was his dad and he was happy about it. In this case apparently fatherhood carried no more responsibility of quality than did the chef of the mexican restaurant. But the restaurant is always crowded.
The bird came in through the chimney and despite many opportunities to experience freedom he stood around paralyzed by fear or a damaged spine and would not leave for two days. He frightened me a little because of the manic wildness of his demeanor followed by a catatonic stupor resembling resignation. I wished he would make up his mind. I thought he was gone a couple of times but then there he would be, hiding in the corner by the two hard drives on the floor under the sewing table, or hanging onto the bottom of a curtain right below an open window, and hours would pass. The bird, I should mention, looked a bit like one cast from hell.
The third day J came over wanting to be paid for work done and taking advantage of the eagerness he was feeling due to his proximity to easy money I said take care of this little bird for me while I write the check. I made it sound like a task equal in simplicity to getting a glass of water. And it would be if you weren't afraid. He said I'll shoot it and then put it out? That seemed a little severe but I was curious. How would you shoot it I asked. With a bb gun he said but I didn't want him to do that and told him just do it man, put the bird out, its only two feet from the open window. I asked him if he was scared because it was interesting to me that we were both scared of the bird. He thought I was calling him a pussy but I wasn't. I just wanted to understand why the both of us were scared. He said he didn't want to get pecked. I guess that pretty well summed it up for me, too. But I didn't relent. I wanted that bird out and I wanted J to do if for me. Being a caretaker is not all glamour. Sometimes you have to boss people around.
I got a small bucket for him and he went to it like a man doing something he didn't want to do, like a man afraid, like a man run completely out of metaphors in search of easy money but instead coming face to face with a task which made him feel like the very essence of his manhood was no longer a certain thing. He asked me for something to put over the top when he got the bird scooped up and I got him a blue, wide-ruled notebook. The notebook was not big enough to completely cover the top of the bucket. A very eager bird would probably figure a way to squeeze out. But I told J, J, this bird is not so very eager. If he were eager he would finish climbing up that curtain he has been hanging onto for eight hours and fly out that window right above him. The bird is disoriented, J. He needs the helping hand of a man who may or may not be getting paid today. J thought the bird looked evil. I did not respond to that except to raise an eyebrow.
J had a brainstorm and in one aggressive burst he captured the bird by covering it with the bucket and then scooted the bucket up the wall and out the window and the bird flew away.
J was some shook up but I slid the check across the table to him and he seemed to get some of his color back. I think by the time he backed out of the driveway he was a whole man again. I was standing where the brick pavers meet the gravel driveway. J leaned his head out the car window and pointed to a black speck of tornado-propelled lint or a mini tumbleweed from the charred plains of Armageddon, which was moving unrecognizable across the quaint canvass of my perspective, and said, there go your bird.
I've been reading books lately and they all ok but I'll be damned if I can figure out why people write them. They certainly can't be doing it for my lukewarm appreciation of them and when I say lukewarm you know I'm not talking about Slyvia Plath's, Bell Jar, which I just re-read whenever I lose my faith in whatever could be the reason for people to write books. Some people just have so much to say, I guess, or let's face it, they don't really have but one or two things to say, they just so talented they have no alternative but to keep saying it over and over with the most amazing phrase turning in one tome after another. I read a book about NYC rats and a few E.B. White stories which are very clean and I'm still working on the Samuel Johnson biography, and Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is not his most readable work but whenever you want to consider polygamy and revolution in a lunar setting in a way that doesn't make you feel dirty but may put you to sleep, repeatedly, I would say Heinlein's TM is a HM is your book. I read that bestseller, Blueblood, about a Harvard educated NY cop and it was a good read but approximately 187 pages too long. The Saul Bellow I am reading, Mr. Sammler's Planet, I don't fully understand, but Bellow, what are you gonna say, he's one of the god's, so your criticism can only amount to sour grapes.
Though, that doesn't keep me from wondering why the hell he wrote the book.
Went winding up through the Shenandoah Mountains all the way to Luray. At the Mexican food restaurant we got a table in the long rectangular room which promised to include no smokers. Instead of smokers we got a little girl who hummed prolifically, apparently even while drinking water. At another table a woman every bit as smart looking as Barbie explained to Skipper the difference between vacation bible school and Sunday school. I complained to Lorina that if the waitresses' whole family had been cut down in a drive-by and therefore she was in a state of profound lamentation, I would still require chips and salsa immediately. When the waitress did show up, and apologize, saying it was her first day, and being young enough for it to be like her first, first day, I said oh don't you worry about it sweetie, but not in so many words. When Lorina said did you just cut that waitress some slack I said I sure did the poor thing.
The food will only rate as last or next to last resort even though in some ways it was quite authentic. Once with my grandpappy I was right across the South Texas border and was served a sweaty rectangular cube of orange cheese wrapped in a cold tortilla and it was called an enchilada.
I'll never forget that time I went fishing on the King Ranch with Big Pa and somebody, not me, pushed him in his wheelchair all the way to the end of a long pier over bumpy uneven boards and though at the time there was no metaphoric value to the event, we did catch, after waiting several hours for the wind to shift, a large number of fish, using Garcia Ambassador 5000 reels attached to stiff rods.
After the Luraymex we played eighteen holes of golf at the Yogi Bear campground and one of the holes featured a paper mache' tunnel with Yogi's little friend, BooBoo, stuck to the side of it and Lorina said I had to walk through the tunnel, as it appeared to be the premier feature of this course. So I did, but hurriedly, and without touching anything.
At every opportunity, after sinking a putt, I would shoot my arm forward and maybe bend one of my legs awkwardly and exclaim quite seriously--Yeessss!
Ghetto To Boondocks
In Virginia I don't do this but in New Orleans I used to respond to violent crime trends that seemed especially local by propping a loaded shotgun near one of the doors in my house. The illogical nature of that decision was not lost on me. I mean I knew that people killing each other in close proximity to where I lived did not actually mean I was all that more likely to be killed, but the gun, for me, simulated the idea of appropriate response. It made me feel proactive. It made me feel--community-minded. I don't feel the threat of that anymore though, which is not to say that I don't experience fear out here in this affluent and bucolic Virginia boondocks.
There are no stop lights in this town of 200 people. There is a diner next to a post office across the street from a five star restaurant to which some dignitaries fly from surrounding areas by helicopter, or are driven to by limousine.
There are a handful of large 19th century homes and all but the one I look after (and the one other ramshackle mansion I would like to look after, across town) are Bed and Breakfast establishments. The other structures of note are churches, or smaller homes converted into shops which sell--jewelry, knick-knacks, antiques, art. One of the art galleries also rents movies and has a larger VHS than DVD collection.
There is a gas station/grocery but the saltines are stale.
In the middle of town there is a ye olde fashioned grocery where you can get what either are or appear to be, organic products, and wine and beer, and steak for 20 dollars a pound, and candy out of jars just like when I was a...well...just like a hundred years before I was born.
Behind that grocery which simulates the childhood I experienced via TV Westerns there is a newly constructed and never used plaza with beau coup comfortable outdoor chairs and a fountain and a free standing rock fireplace and a wistera covered gazebo-like thing. There is a cute little house with a cushioned wicker love seat glider out front, and it, the house, tried to be a pet supply store for awhile but failed. You can sit on the glider anytime you want and act like you live there. I would live there but Lorina says I wouldn't have the privacy to walk out my front door naked and even though I don't really do that I said, why wouldn't I? and she said, because of the people, and I, like a New Orleans domino player bent to intimidate, slapped my hand down hard onto the table surrounded by comfortable outdoor furniture, and said--What People?
The reason we are sitting in those comfortable outdoor chairs is because they are comfortable, and nearby, and on a good Friday or Saturday night we might be able to see five or six couples walking by on their way to the 5star, while we sip contraband from plastic go-cups. The men wear suits and the women wear what they are told to wear, which this year is a skirt cut like those worn by that sexy dynamic duo--Betty and Wilma, from the Flintstones. And of course, presumably, pink is the new black, unless you live in New York, and then we can safely guess that whatever is happening elsewhere, is already passe' there. You know, that low constant rumble you can sometimes hear on New York streets is actually people mumbling to themselves--been there, done that.
A couple of mornings in a row I would notice on my rounds of the property here a puddle of water on the pool deck right where the stairs lead out so that it appeared someone was pool hopping early in the morning.
The suspects were: a friend, a bear, a groundhog, a homeless person/traveler/itinerant worker, or, somebody I would like to chase around the property with a baseball bat. After the second morning I decided to camp out in the bighouse, which overlooks the pool, and see what I could see, which turned out to be nothing. For now I have decided the culprit to be the pool monster, which is an automated sweeping device set to run from seven to ten in the morning. Sometimes it gets stuck in a corner and will shoot water from a spout.
But with the heightened awareness caused by the real or imagined pool interloper I have set out to keep a closer eye on the bighouse.
And so it was just the other night that instead of watching Witness for the Prosecution down here in the cottage, I suggested to Lorina that we go on up and watch on that little TV in the bighouse study.
Thirty minutes into the movie and slumped we both were on the leather couch as the sun set and I don't know if you've seen that crop circle, extraterrestrial-invasion movie, Signs, but it was really just like that, both of us seeing out of our drowsy, movie-hypnotized eyes, two nearly human silhouettes moving across the front porch, back lit by the dusky night. There had been neither the headlights nor gravel crunching of tires to alert us of human invasion, and the house sits a good three hundred yards up the hill from main street, and it is pretty much hidden by dense foliage except in winter. It is not the type of property to invite casual tresspassing. Intentional tresspassing then. Sub-humans. Freaky stuff happens all the time to other people and apocryphal or not, in New Orleans, ghost stories by many are accepted as matter of fact. I accepted them, and experienced them as such, when living there.
So momentarily, for both Lorina and I, it was dreamlike in the worst way. The forces of fear both exciting us and immobilizing us. Neither one of us were able to get up from the couch in one swift movement. That the shadows had seen us inside seemed evident. That they moved off hurriedly like a scared wild animal made them no less threatening. We both ran to the front door and I fumbled with the lock just like a character from a B-movie who is always stupidly moving towards danger rather than away from it. But dammit, to face fear in the course of maintaining and protecting this property is part of my job. Could this tresspass be any worse than the many I experienced in the New Orleans ghetto? Is there something more frightening than a disaffected 15-year-old with a TEK-9 he's not afraid to use?
I finally got the door open and came face to face with my worst fear. Out on the lawn, moving in a retreating fashion from right to left, was that which is the seed of pure terror--it is the thing you least suspect, the thing all your experience has not prepared you for. It was two tourists from Easy Street, probably from a neighboring B& B, a man, who was way out front leading the retreat, and a woman, wearing a dress sort of like Wilma Flintstone. The woman spoke rapidly in profuse apologetic tone. We're sorry, we're sorry, you have a nice house she uttered while squinting to see if a shotgun was pointed at her head. I felt sorry for her. I said simply--you're ok. She apologized again while retreating. I said again, you're ok, and shut the door.
Afterwards, we heard inexplicable noises in the house and were afraid.
The people down the hill got some Adirondack chairs facing up this way which gives me a small sense of grandiosity, on site caretaker and single most occupier of this land that I am. I heard them speak once, at a local public forum, and they expressed their feelings of reverence for this hill and the low rising mountains behind it and I had to wonder were there people who get out less than I do. Not that the scenery is not nice but for mountain scenery in this area there is nicer. Or I may just be used to it. Two years ago after leaving New Orleans and driving 19 hours to get here I was myself somewhat overwhelmed by the scene of this place, and shortly after pulling through the gates and past the hand painted sign which implied this property to be something like that plantation in Gone with the Wind, I burst out laughing. Not in the funny, ha-ha sort of way but in the hysterical no one is stopping me and throwing me up against the police car sort of way. Because people like me don't occupy places like this.
In addition to feeling grandiose I feel annoyed, although you can call it paranoid, or some other common psychological problem, because the chairs make me feel onstage when I move about the place doing my chores. This feeling is much the same as my early-on problem with the 19th century bell tower (of what is now a baptist church) that rises high enough to be not only a very pretty site for me to look at but also gives the person up in there with binoculars full view of me and my rather skeletal morphology while I work or laze about the pool. Even though every time I use my own binoculars to look up into the bell tower, there is no one there with binoculars looking back at me. I think I am at a stage close to having worked through this problem of self- consciousness regarding people in bell towers with binoculars.
Yesterday I was down by the pond shoveling hardwood mulch into the back of a small four-wheel drive vehicle and everybody that passed by on the road waved at me. I have never before been waved at by attractive women in BMW's. And then I looked up and a church lady in a beater Chevy waves and smiles and I can only assume there is occurring some sort of celestial aligning that has people of all different socioeconomic persuasions being nice to each other.
Deer are eating my sunflowers and maybe too my young string bean plants but the deer were here first and I knew that place I put the garden was one of their main hangouts so whatever happens I will just try to be happy about, or, if I can't make lemonade out of lemons perhaps I will make deer sausage.
I am becoming a little smarter about poison ivy but still get regular attacks of it.
One of the women at the local art gallery/video store lets me spew ridiculous and perhaps in her subtle way encourages it and so I was being sort of full of myself and two more locals in the store said "who are you?" and then I told them, so I met two more people and am becoming quite the social butterfly. One woman was getting Meet the Fockers for her husband and I said oh my god that was the worst movie I have seen this year and she put it back and got something else. But then after she left I was shown some of the husband's artwork (sort of Bosch meets the California Raisins), there be beau coup artists hiding out here, and I felt that someone who can create such work as he should be allowed to watch whatever he damn well pleases, so I hope he gets to watch that movie, soon, and bears me no ill will for my temporary preventing of him seeing it when he wanted to. I myself got Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and consider it now my favorite Wes Anderson flick.
By the way, for my ten or twelve regular readers, if you don't want to check the site and be pissed off that I haven't posted for awhile you can thanks to the genius of our webmaster be alerted by email when I post something new. I will leave it to you to figure out how to do that. I'm going to copy this to a small device and take it up to the bighouse and post it now. I had high hopes for those sunflowers but deer gotta eat too.
Burgers And Beer
Lorina and I not having anything thawed and at least pretending budgetary constraints, belabored over what to eat for dinner. We have this 20 dollar for two rule we are trying out but beyond fast food that is a pretty tough constraint and on top of that the nearest fast food is almost twenty miles away, which could easily be considered a good thing, except when you are really hungry and tired and don't want the extra labor of cooking and cleaning up added to your day.
It was going to be my birthday soon so I said hey its going to be my birthday soon, we can go to that quaint little place with the outdoor seating and occasional septic overflow and have a hopefully juicy burger and two pints of stout a piece for about 20 dollars for each of us and even though that's twice over the budget, let's just live.
So we agreed on that and Lorina takes the scenic route up Fodderstack Rd. and I collar the first waitress I see in the bar and say, we can sit outside? and she says sure, but it's a little cold. We brought jackets, I say self-assuredly and with some pride, even though my jacket is a wreck, and I'm in dirty work clothes. "It's a little cold" turned out to be a euphemism for there is occasional septic overflow and depending on prevailing winds you might spend part of your meal thinking about dogshit.
It's hard getting me out sometimes because of my questionable feelings about larger congregations of humanity and I know in this tiny area the chances of running into someone we know is large and even though I haven't really met a bucketful of people I enjoy sharing Lorina with I accept the necessity of occasionally relating to people and being personable, which is a thing I am capable of and not all that shitty at, if not exactly drawn towards. So, I know we are going to run into somebody before we even go and I have factored that in to my wholehearted decision to go out and spend money we don't have on burgers that are adequate but not great and draft pints of Guinness (not that goddamned 11.2 ounce bottle) which are great, always great, just great. Where would any of us be without Guinness (although I have started drinking budweiser again as a mainstay of the budget.)
I know budgetary talk is less preferable than walking barefoot on rusty nails. You won't hear another word about it from me.
I was 24 hours recovered from my back pain medication abuse and had a hazy feeling affecting me not so distinctly that you would see a difference, if already you knew me. I hungrily devoured (Guinness qualifies as food) my first pint, only slowing down for the last few sips because I saw that Lorina was barely one sip into hers. She was facing the prevailing breeze and so was for the first few minutes distracted by a smell she thought was dogshit, and that apparently kept her thirst at bay.
We have, her and I, on a few occasions, driven to this town forty miles away, for Mexican food. We like it better than the 16 mile choice or the 22 mile choice, and the six mile choice went belly up, twice, because it sucked, both times. The last time we drove the forty miles, someone Lorina knew from our area was there, used to date the waitress he did, but on that day was content to plop down and regale us with his totally not uninteresting pursuits which nonetheless suffered from the overeagerness of his delivery, and that one unfortunate image seemingly derivative of a very popular yet somewhat shallow Leonardo di Caprio flick. We get plenty plenty of time alone Lorina and I do but still I can't seem to be sated by it and so I was a little put out by the intrusion but not overly so. Afterall, no man is an island, and equally possible is that no two people are a peninsula. We had a nice day together.
Back at the quaint place with occasional septic overflow it's the same guy who shows up and sits himself down summarily without an invite, although of course he was welcome. I mean that sincerely. But he appeared to be a few pints of lager ahead of my stout consumption, and, don't forget my residual drug hangover. And he went on and on and on, with equal or greater enthusiasm than he had showed interrupting our Mexican date. After he left, Lorina said I was dismissive of him, and I agreed with her about that, because that is exactly how I did feel after realizing his intention was not to have an interesting and lively three way discussion but rather to bogart my girlfriend with a version of himself that sounded pleasing, with occasional glances in my direction. The irony of "a version of himself that sounded pleasing..." is not lost on me, selective chronicler that I am.
He did get up and leave though, and so abruptly, that I was momentarily ashamed of my lack of embrace.
But shame, I think, is a thing of questionable value. If it spurs you on to greater performance then let's call it a good thing, but if, for example, you are a person who already helps many people, and you are visiting relatives who are economically less fortunate, and for no reason, let's just say I am with you, a last minute addition to your plans, and you are flying us around on a private jet, changing and arranging flights as your whim dictates, on a Blackberry, while being chauffeured, even if only by me, and you start feeling the weight of a trailer home juxtaposed against that jet meeting us late on a small strip miles from nowhere, rest assured that the reason I'm telling you not to dwell in guilt is not because I am the current benefactor of your graciousness but because I study that on an off day you do more for more people than any of the complainers who would have the leisure of time to suggest that your affluence is somehow wrong, or bad, or unnecessary.
At the outside table the wind blew fortuitously, Lorina's eyes gleamed, the yuppie man talking loudly about his wife's bowel movements was testament to the imperfection just under the surface of even the best moments.
I got another little crappy detail delivered to me by mail and it went a pretty good way towards harshing the mellow I had arrived at by a day of sustained manual labor and three budweisers. Put in its proper perspective it is a harmless detail and I will try to treat it is as such. And even though Lorina warned me of frost I chose to accept Weatherbug’s incorrect version of the morning temp and got light frost on my baby plants and so today am also expecting some disappointed news from Mother Nature in an enveloped marked “attrition,” with the body of the contents beginning—“Dear Sir, due to your abject carelessness with prescience, your flower account is being reduced by twenty percent.” I hope my surviving plants don’t hold against me my occasional ignorance and negligence towards them.
I still check up on New Orleans crime news and let me tell you people still living there that if you fear your sense of what it really looks like is being dulled by the relentless repetition of bad then I am here to tell you that from afar it looks really bad still and with no hint of cessation. And, as always, I only bring this up, I think, so as to offer a little contrast to the concept of New Orleans as an affected cutout called N’awlins, a happy happy party town. As for the children I used to know in those New Orleans killing fields, I don’t hear of them specifically anymore. I only hear of, through news reports, the continuing murders happening around them while they play in the streets (I feel certain the recent outlawing of street hoops in New Orleans will not be enough to make all the children disappear from those streets). I still aspire to and at the same time suffer from the desire to create in words a moderately accurate portrayal of a New Orleans youth from, for example, the Sixth Ward.
And this while I live as caretaker in relative opulence on 40 acres on the edge of a quaint and historic Virginia village populated by 186 people, where crime is only on TV, and not even there if you got a proper handle on your child rearin’.
Next thing you know I’ll be jumping on private jets to bop down to Texas to visit my mom for a day. How can anyone ever know what’s going to happen? And how do you keep from being perpetually dumbfounded?
I have always cautiously bragged that my back has held up pretty well to the strains put upon it so when recently I made an ordinary maneuver and my back went code red, which means it only hurts when I move, I was not so worried because I figured it would go away in short time. After a day, which is what I consider short time, and the pain was still there, I entered into the fortuitous convergence of my needing meds and actually coming upon them. A big man said, here, take these, only one knocked me out cold, so I took the whole bottle with me and drove back home. It can only be maturity that has me not popping them on the road as a late night driver.
When I got home I waited for a friend to come over but the friend had conflicting interests and so after a reasonable time of waiting I popped one. After more time I figured the friend's interest in coming over was more theoretical than actual so I popped a second one, deciding that consciousness is an overrated state, especially when you are alone and the night is well advanced. The two little pills made my back pain seem like something I had read about but never actually experienced.
In the morning I felt so stupid with pill haze yet still had pain in the lower back so I decided to write the whole day off to pill popping and bed rest. And anyway, it was raining a little so work on a metal roof seemed inadvisable. I dreamed about missles flying over America. I got out of bed in the evening and had a drink or two and that made me feel better than I could have imagined, because the prescription warned against alcohol mixing and the pills were stronger than other prescriptions with the same warning which I have summarily ignored. I then smoked a type of cigarette and arrived at a place that, although pleasant, seemed infused with too much knowledge of the artificiality of my agreeable state. I realized I only felt as good as I should feel, without meds.
So that's where I am now, on the road to wellness without meds. Of course, the road is long and the meds are many and although my back pain seems well removed I have received this morning a crick in my neck that makes me move stiff-looking, like I'm in a brace, so I'm not making comforting promises of abstinence to myself or any other fool.
So the forsythia has stopped blooming that yellow if it were red would be fire engine and the lush greening up the mountains is less shocking to the system and also your body is getting more used to the daylight you yearned for during dark winter but then when it came it made the days seem longer than you knew what to do with.
One person's wanting things to stay the way they are is conflicting with another group of person's wanting things to stay the way they are and so there may be a conflict out here in these parts and it may turn out that my skills of curmudgeon will come into play in the coming months. This morning, not getting what I needed from my dreams, I lay in bed daydreaming about chasing a particular citizen down the driveway while I waved a stick and gurgled gutturally threatening themes.
As a hobby this year I am growing flowers. I don't know if I've mentioned that before but its what I'm doing so if you got something to get off your chest about it then go on ahead with it. What? Oh I got about a thousand little plants in flats right now soaking up the early morning sun and some of them I have never seen outside of pictures, but the usual, you know, marigolds, cosmos, gallardia, rudbeckia, maroon coreopsis, painted tongue, balloon flower, agrostemma, shasta daisy, zulu prince daisy, south african pearl daisies, some moon flowers, petunia, gazanias, dianthus, coleus, a few morning glories for the pool fence and some sunflowers. I got some zinnias and other stuff still in seed packets which I may direct seed out here somewhere but truly I don't have anywhere near enough prepared ground to even take care of those aforementioned already started plants.
I was talking to a big burly man I contracted to dig up and move out of here some rather impressive concrete slabs and he comes and goes at will with his heavy machinery and one day he stopped and said whatchu growing and I said flowers. His wife likes flowers. On another day we were again talking about my flowers and he said are you gonna sell some of them and I said maybe but maybe just give some away and he said his wife said I am a man after her own heart because most men don't like flowers, and I said, oh yeah?, and he waved his hands like he was cleaning the plate glass window which may or may not exist between us and said hey hey hey, I'm not saying nothing.
I got beau coup chores so I'm a get on with some thing, probably up on the roof for a few hours, maybe drive in later, to RFK, for an afternoon game.
The Death Of Herman
Everyone is awkward around death. The veterinarians this morning were stalling with the inevitable news which had been implied in yesterday's phone messages. The bad news could only be death. Living patients were dealt with while Lorina and I waited for the attending doctor to doctor up her we don't know what happen he just died speech. Herman's reign at the top of the hill ended with two weeks worth of painful prodding and incising, the removal of a pebble from his bladder, more exploratory prodding and incising, more sickness, death, cold storage, and a sneaky exit out the back door of the veterinarians office, in the parking lot of which he was delivered to my outstretched hands. As a blue paper wrapped frozen package he reminded me of nothing, the lifting and transporting just a task. The shape not at all cat-like.
Herman was the bastard step-child of cats. Hoisted from one almost loving family to the next, leaving a trail of eye spooge and chewed up shoes from Brooklyn to Upstate to the DC suburbs and finally, a palatial 40 acre estate nestled in the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains, Herman was at the same time loveable, and, just a bit of an aggravating son-of-a-bitch. I will nonetheless have fond memories of our almost two years together and can say with the utmost sincerity that he was a good enough pal for that time even though I wouldn't let no human pal of mine wake me up yowling at five in the morning for no good reason.
As a Kung Fu sparring partner he was second to none.
Lorina shed a couple of tears at the office but I think as much as any reason out of politeness to the doctor, who seemed really upset and not sure of how to handle the proceedings. I tried to communicate that I held in my heart no enmity nor blame of wrong-doing and yet we were held captive for an amount of time which seemed longer than optimum, in a room the size of a broom closet. The doctor wielded her sorrow like a blunt object, not sure if she wanted to attack or just remain defensive. I think she was understandably unsure how to phrase the last part and so was dragging out the I'm sorry, we did everything we could, part. The last part was do you want his body and uh I'm sorry but its frozen.
Behind me over there, with its cloth covered foam burnt orange seat, is the last piece of furniture Herman ever shredded, and he did that during his last two day hurrah of feeling over the top perky, between his two nearly back to back multiple day stays at the vet.
When I think back to our first summer together when he jumped up onto my naked back by the pool, with his seventeen pounds of weight behind the claws dug into my flesh, and how he slid a few inches down my back like that, and how I screamed and turned around and shook my fist at him and swatted in his direction with my nearby shirt and how he just stared blankly back with nary a flinch in reaction to my movements, it is that reaction or lack thereof which makes me realize he did have that one essential characteristic of all the cool cats before him. He was inscrutable.
It turned a little cool and drizzly today. A grey day as good as any to bury Herman under that dogwood tree over yonder. Herman RIP.
Poison Ivy Etc.
I have poison ivy blisters the size of lady bugs on my fingers. Some that face each other between the fingers are like lady bug lovers, doing God only knows what all while I sleep trying not to scratch them. Or I try not to scratch them while I don't sleep. I haven't slept through a night in months and that may only be part of getting old(er). Locals tell me they have seen worse but I have never in my life seen something under any name erupt so grotesquely on my or any other body.
The blisters are in the red ripened stage, almost done being themselves and will soon either burst by some casual contact of my work day, and bleed a mixture of blood and viscous poison ivy puss, or just recede, leaving perhaps mild scaring. Those could scar J said looking at my fingers. I looked at my hands and thought I bet you won't be able to tell a difference.
I got these blisters from Morton, Lorina's ex, whom I got to see this week so soon after voicing the desire to kill him that the possibility of it for one tiny second became in my mind real enough in all the inherent unpleasantness of such a deed that I immediately lost the desire to do it. Lorina said she didn't set up the potential train wreck of our meeting but if she didn't it was either God or the Devil so you pick. Morton's act of innocence was sufficiently convincing and I had to at least give him the credit I would give a street hustler or lie n' deny artist with an equally convincing pitch.
I got the dose, on my fingers and both sides of my face, from cleaning vine off the tiller that both Morton and I had borrowed from Lorina. But Morton say hey, he just don't know, which is probably true and either way is fine with me. Live and learn is what I say. And killing is so permanent. I was mad for awhile though, which of course is no reason to kill somebody.
That Lorina is friends with her most immediate ex is something I write off to the occasionally annoying inconvenience of living in a community the size of a small desert island, where every public gathering is guaranteed to have a hodge podge of ex-lovers intermingled in the mix. As for the witnessing of the ex-spat, where former lovers relive the past negative energies that made them so loveable, well, I'd just as soon have a dull needle inserted in one of my testicles.
My mom in Dallas with Alzheimers is getting a little more used to the idea that her children are going to be messing in her affairs and called my sister in California to leave a message on her machine that apologized for being rude to her earlier in the week. My sister handles some of mom's banking. We got somebody in the house with her, coming by a few hours five days a week but while my mom is somewhat polite to the person, the person is just too young to have any experience in common with her, or so she thinks. Another woman has been introduced recently and my mom is apparently taking to her better.
I was starting to panic about the cumulative disarray of my affairs so attempting proactivity I sent a pointed email to my New Orleans property manager and said what up? I expressed the concern that I felt my luck was running out regarding having a house left unoccupied in that neighborhood for this long. I applauded them for the high standards with which they qualified perspective tenants but that maybe now was the time to lower those standards, and maybe the rent too. I received a response telling me, oh sorry to have worried you, we leased out your place earlier in the month, (and for fifty dollars more than what was already questionably high rent for the size of the place.) In a neighborhood pretty constantly on the edge of destruction. So if improving a ghetto property without contributing to gentrification is a good thing then this is me stroking myself for accomplishing that (or just thinking that I have*).
I still have the business of convincing my insurance underwriter not to cancel my policy on the house, which they think is over-insured by almost a factor of two. I believe an appraisal delivered to the desk of the underwriting agent 90 miles away will take care of that. I've been given a deadline and that may be construed as a good thing.
So like a tree frog burrowed underground for the winter but without the ice crystals around his heart I have started to emerge from my less than active winter work schedule and the work is emerging faster than I care to think about and the same goes for Lorina who has several thousand vegetable and flower plants outgrowing their individual planting cells, at least two weeks before potential last frost.
I have too many projects started and a few I have contracted out. Firstly I need to scrape and paint the metal roof of the bighouse (while not completely ignoring the back porch which I sanded down after fixing the few rotten areas.). I got the ladders set up and a rope tied around one of the chimneys and I made a little plywood platform to hold my paint buckets level on a slanted roof. I have started scraping with a six inch mud knife taped to a stick and am about ready to start spot priming the first section and the goal will be to finish this before it gets too hot and also not to slide down one of the 10 or 12 gables to the detriment of my burgeoning well being.
Their is rumor of a future beach house needing the attention of one skinny caretaker so my territory may expand. Curmudgeon International, Slim speaking, what the hell you want?
(*my nephew sends me an email yesterday, from which I excerpt: "... but should see [your former neighbor, Melba]
maybe tonight at a meeting or something, and will be
sure to inquire on what should be her latest gripe
towards you: the increased chance that the tax
assessor for your district, under steadying pressure
from state tax commission to stop the tax breaks to
under-assessed uptown mansions, undertakes a
comprehensive reassessment of the entire district,
thus driving up her/your/everyone's insurance rates.
what are you some sort of bougeoise (I don't even know how to spell your kind) gentrifier?"
If Thou Be Near
This past weekend, with the truck's head gasket all but blown, I chuggged up a mountain road near Asheville, NC, following a friend with one broken lug on his rear right tire and the nuts of two more near the end of their thread, when an 80 year old woman with one eye and blue hair began to pull into the blind spot to her right, which I occupied.
For that brief moment in which I could watch this happening like the uninvolved spectator I wasn't, I thought, interesting, and, why is she trying to occupy a space that is currently occupied by me? Was this the moment that marked the end of time for one of us? Your time is up sir, you will relinquish your space to the blue haired woman. I could see in through her passenger side window the glove box and the latch of it was the last thing I remember before I started honking my horn and veering to the right onto that strip of pavement that is reserved for emergencies, and from which I used to hitchhike years ago, before various highway patrolmen threatened me with equally various degrees of success. Some patrolmen just politely explained how I needed to be hitchhiking from the on ramps and a couple even took me there themselves.
I remember unfriendly highway patrolmen in Virginia, Arizona, Montana, and a ChiP in Los Angeles and the thing all these guys had in common was their disdain for my occupation of state property. The trooper in Montana hit the bottom of my feet with his baton but in fairness to him he was trying to ascertain whether I was dead or alive,which was in question because I looked dead, in my serenely supine state across the front seat of the Ford Maverick, with my feet hanging out the open drivers side door, parked in a rest stop.
I continued to veer onto that little strip of asphalt, which in some states is more justifiably named as an "emergency lane" and in other states would be more aptly named "a waste of state money," and I realized I could, if need be, just occupy this lane for the emergency now occurring. I did not even consider at that time my previous trespasses of state property across America. Though as I straddled the white line separating the right lane proper from the emergency lane to its right, I did think of a joke from childhood. Your friend asks you would you rather slide down a razor blade naked or kiss a rabbit between the ears and at the time, probably not having developed any pleasurable use for pain, you say, kiss the rabbit, and he pulls inside out the whites of his front pockets and says, well come on then.
While I reminisced about tired jokes from childhood the eighty year old one eyed blue haired woman decided that she for one, wanted to live, that her time, was not up, and she began to veer back into the left lane, but a little wildly. She swerved back and forth a couple of times like something out of a tire commercial for tires you could imagine yourself buying.
And then I thought how I almost killed that woman, with the shotgun blast of my horn, just because she wanted to occupy space I felt was mine. But the space didn't belong to me. It belonged to the state of NC. The state flag of which is similar to that of Texas. I stayed at the Renaissance in Asheville, with Lorina. It was elegant. Very nice breakfast buffet. I carried her trumpet. She played Bach instead of jazz infused ska-punk. In a chapel in Waynesville. The things you do for love would include getting caught inside the groom's car with three women, placing origami cranes about the interior. It was embarrassing, but better than giving up for good your space to a one eyed blue haired elderly woman. Marginally better. I know of a local guy who makes hats from roadkill. I wonder what kind of hat I would have made, and if anybody would wear me?
Before Raking Leaves
I was sketching out in words this scene centered around a New Orleans youngster pulling a gun out of his sock during a three on three street basketball game. Those portable hoops with the black plastic bases are not exactly a ubiquitous New Orleans prop but they were pretty damn common to the neighborhoods in which I lived and traveled, during my ten year stay. And then just a few days later I hear from my nephew, who still lives in NO, that the city has outlawed those types of hoops in the street.
So like overnight what I was writing became history instead of what I was intending, which was a scene, although based on past experience, meant to reflect an ongoing metaphor-laden reality specifically tied to street basketball. This change in temporality is not crucial to any point I would ever intend to make seeing as how I am unclear myself on what the point is I would ever be trying to make.
Probably the street games restrict traffic flow to some degree and also I guess the gun being pulled from socks is not as uncommon as you would want it to be. And often the players will have some connection to the drug world. And there is violence and death in the drug world. No more newsworthy are the street deaths than the deaths caused every year by respectable drug companies but one might argue that the ratio of death versus benefit is more positively balanced in the world of super pharmaceutical companies. Or I should say unbalanced with the benefit side of the scale measuring much heavier in favor of the good provided by big drug companies. I mean I'm only guessing that pharmaceutical companies help more people than they kill, whereas the street dealers might be perceived, rightly or wrongly, to kill more people than they help. And so the city fathers by outlawing street basketball are again taking baby steps to curb a city problem with systemic roots of disease deeper than anyone has yet to effectively imagine a cure for. Even the drug companies are baffled because surely if they could figure a way to enter the lucrative street drug trade and rake into their coffers some of that sweet ghetto cake, they would have by now done so. The donation of Glaxo Kline Squibb Merck Beechum emblazoned backboards to the hood, as entry point to the market, is now out.
I have tons of ideas for New Orleans but they are all ridiculous and require massive hands on city-wide mentoring and out of personal pocket expense and deep personal heartache. And risk of death and lawsuits (you can invert those two in order of importance I guess) and failure. All my ideas carry with them a seemingly unacceptable failure rate, the beauty of which is--this is a thing they have in common with current practices and policies. Still, in a future world gone whack, where profit could be imagined or realized from the lifting up of our "lesser" citizens, I think I could see myself cutting off my hair, putting on a suit and sitting on some board, spewing ridiculous. "So you see, the benefit of populating floats of the (2,500 rich person only) Endymion parade, entirely with area youth from the ghettoes, and having the rich people populating the predominately poorer sections of the parade route and then the mixing afterwards at the big Superdome party, would be that of a first step towards turning the existing, and failing, system asunder..." And then the rich person says but my system is not failing and I would turn to that person and raise my left eyebrow.
Melba Got My Goat
Oh yeah nephew, well you tell that Melba I went through quite a bit of agony for her that night but if I had known what her reaction was going to be I would have done what the rest of her neighbors did--watched and done nothing and said nothing.
As to her suggestion that it didn't matter if I had a phone or not, that I should have confronted the guy stealing her washing machine on a well lit early evening, as he grinded the sides of it up against the metal fence posts trying to extricate it from the too small opening, and yelled out--"I'm calling the police now"--let me just now say that the reason I gave at the time, not having a phone, was not the real reason I never even considered such a ridiculous common sense solution to crime in that rather diluted version of the hood.
I know what you're thinking, jeez uncle, that Melba really got your goat on this one and yes you are right. Melba got my goat. Midwestern poseur. At least I never pretended I fit in that neighborhood, even though in a way I did. And I similarly drape like a flamboyant cape the drama of those New Orleans neighborhoods over the bony shoulders of my existence. So maybe I should ease up on those accusations, except in small doses I like it and its fun, so maybe I won't.
I tried to follow the guy and see where he went, and failed instantly. In the time it took me to sit down and put on my shoes and go out and start the truck, he was gone. A man pushing a washing machine on a handcart down the middle of the street just vanished in the span of thirty seconds. Did that mean he was a neighbor? Maybe, not necessarily, maybe.
It was sort of surreal nephew, because it took the guy a while to get the machine out into the street. And people were passing him on the sidewalk, and ignoring him. Some went into the residence next door and others just moseyed on up to the corner. I had been broken into three times the previous year and the previous week all five of my neighbors to the side had been burgled in one night, backyard sheds ransacked. I didn't really give a good goddamn about her washing machine, I wanted a sacrificial lamb in jail, and I thought the best way to accomplish that was to follow the guy.
Her idea was that I would call out to him that I was calling the police, he would drop the machine and run away, with his handcart. But if he had to take the handcart anyway, why would he give up the washing machine? I woke up five times that night to keep an eye on her and her talented husband's house to make sure a general ransacking was not going on. Did the bitch even begrudgingly thank me for my efforts? No nephew, she did not.
Did I mention that I went around the corner to that grocery store to call the cops from a pay phone? I had to wait to make the call though because there was a cop on the pay phone, his car idling at the curb. Another cop in a different car was ooh-ing and awe-ing over this gangster's CD collection who was handing through the driver's side window all the very latest hot shit from the Rap world. I waited patiently near the cop on the pay phone, once nodding at him with a look of inquiry and solicitation. He didn't seem all that disappointed to deal with me but he did seem like he had other things to be doing. He followed me around the corner and after a brief consult said he might know who did the burglary, and drove off towards the river. I went inside and twenty minutes later I hear a honk in the street and look out and there he is, the cop. I go out to the street and he's got some criminal in his backseat that he caught while looking for my criminal. He says he's gotta go. And that's the last I saw of the cops regarding that incident.
And anyway, what was I supposed to do if the guy did drop the washing machine? I still would have had to run after him to borrow his handcart to move the damn thing to safety. Yeah, that Melba's got my goat all right.
You know nephew, I've already told this story once somewhere on this site but your recent emailed mention of Melba just got my blood boiling all over again.
But the real reason nephew? The real reason I didn't confront the guy and scare him away as Melba implies she has done to characters malingering around my place in my absence? The real reason is I was scared. The dude I was watching out my window was scary in a way that was different from the way I may have been frightened after telling a murderer to get off my motherfucking porch, at that other house I used to live at around the corner. The combination of determination and desperation that emanated from the robber's movements and the nonchalance of the passerby, all of this in more or less early evening broad daylight, well, it sort of freaked me. I did not want to make contact of any kind with this guy. To me, he was that scary. And you know, for a couple of years, at that other house, I was stepping over on my way to and from work the heavyweights of scary local crime, as they played dominoes and cards on the porch.
Well nephew, none of that old business is germane to my current morning so I better get on with it. Just needed to vent a little, no, no, I'm not blaming you.
Anyway, technically, the truth can be how Melba remembers it. I did, afterall, watch from beginning to end, a guy steal her washing machine, and push it down the middle of the street on a handcart, in broad daylight. In retrospect I guess my only regret is that I didn't sleep through the night thereafter.