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It takes a while to get used to a new place. Some places leave you alone (New Orleans) and some places don't (everywhere else).
Last night's overhead canvas at dusk was a black and blue Pollack with a slice of moon.
I'm not sure what to focus on.
Ima go through the motions though (motion one--get out of bed), see what happens.
I was long done with thinking about dogs, freaky or otherwise, when that cute little black puppy with floppy ears lifted his head from the grass growing alongside highway 211 and oblivous, I mean completely oblivious to oncoming 55mph traffic, I mean as if this little black puppy was operating in an entirely different dimension, he puppy galloped onto the road, me the leading vehicle.
I was hoping to give the puppy quite a bit more consideration than the puppy was giving itself but I had to check the blindspot for motorcyles before changing lanes to the left and the puppy was now like playing chicken, running head on to my truck.
Lucky for the puppy's soft little skull I had a free lane so puppy lived. At least as long as time measured by my rear view mirror allowed. The Porsche behind me was similarly cautious, it's engineering wasted thanks to the many state troopers who patrol the scenic 211.
Now on 211 business, just up the road past the Chevron, I saw a giant black Labrador up in the field with the cows, only it turned out to be a baby Black Angus. I was a ranch hand for awhile. I was in that capacity once told to catch and wrestle to the ground a day old calf and it proved to be much more difficult than you would think. In fact, I failed at it.
There are no cows on this property but this morning it smells like cow waste up here. And I'm not sure but there might be a little eau d' Herman inside of up here at the big house. That's the problem with a big house, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where a cat may have peed if indeed a cat did pee.
I'm going to do a paragraph on sheetrock now so you all can run along if you even made it this far. It's not going to get any better, I'll just be talking about sheetrock.
Cancel that sheetrock. I was thinking about church again, as a pasttime, just for a little passive intellectual stimulation, but passing the Catholic church up 211 across from the gun store I noticed all the men going in wearing suits, which you'll say, sure, no big surprise, but in New Orleans I had noticed, passing churches on my Sunday morning drives, that people were dressing very casually up in many of them churches, even shorts and tennis shoes some people were wearing. But I'm a retired zen Methodist, so maybe I should be looking elsewhere than Catholic. The Episcopals have a nice building up on Gay Street, I think, in town here, and the Baptists have that really nice building with the bell tower that overlooks, among other things, this property, and the pool. Which is why you can't swim naked during the day here. There may be other reasons you can't swim naked here but I have not fully explored what they may include.
It could happen that I'll be getting bored soon. The idle mind is the devil's workshop?
So right now I'm avoiding that trip into Warrenton for supplies, some of which won't be available and some of which I will forget. Make a list? Forget about it. I'll just forget to put something on the list.
Coming back from Sperryville just now, sated on the Egg McRae and some sort of cream cheese filled pastry, it's a little foggy out, and I become momentarily lost even though it's a straight shot. That one-two punch of not knowing where I am or who I am is ok by me but really we should all make sure we are buckled up.
I saw Leaving Las Vegas for the first time last night. What a great, sweet, brutal love story.
I lost my cell phone a couple of weeks ago. Then, or before that, my Internet connection got queer on me. Now my home phone 99*7 has gone queer and will fall into that category of things I need to attend to but probably won't. I have been for awhile not crazy about phone communication but really had started to embrace the cell phone, and except for it not working within a ten mile radius of these two houses out here I would rush out and buy a new one. I'll put that on the Warrenton list: find Sprint store in the land of Cingular.
It's almost October and I have to start making some decisions about my future.
Yesterday I planted a sign in the grass by the gravel driveway. On the sign, which was made of brown cardboard, I printed BIKES, and then an arrow pointing to my garage.
I was most of the day up at the big house negotiating with the electricians, who wanted to cut another hole in the ceiling just because one of the ceiling joists they were trying to run wire through had a quarter inch steel plate sandwiched in between it. I called them damn sissies, chew through it with your teeth I implored, but in the end I gave in, said, ok cut another damn hole. Then I went and lovingly washed the old dried crusty wallpaper paste off of the library walls.
Later, as the clock wound down, I wandered down the hill in search of beer. In my open garage were seven boxes (thanks cookiejack) and in each box was a different used bike, each totally cool in it's own right, one or two much better than the others. I put the Italian one together first and I don't know which of its 21 gears I was using but driving up the gravel drive and then coasting back down through the grass, was, while not better than sex as I remember it, still was much better than some other things that aren't quite as good as sex as I remember it.
It's time for Herman to go outside.
Another boy, young man really, that I know from New Orleans, has gone to jail. I didn't see it coming. It's a very tough city though, for a kid to grow up in, and stay out of trouble. It is more than unfortunate that the most successful boys club in New Orleans is the parish prison at Broad and Tulane.
I have one more bike to put together, then I'll head off to Sperryville for that Egg McRae sandwich, maybe a pastry too. Probably should haul some trash today, put those headboards on the beds, fine tune the bikes, clue in the local bank to the PO Box, and finish wiping all that crap off the library walls.
Uh, For breakfast I've been hitting the dessert case at Rae's Deli, Sperryville VA., pretty hard. Today I had another variety of cheesecake. Thank you Rae. Electricians are here, and some AC/Heat guys. And I'm supposed to be painting, so bye.
I am without Internet connection, yet again. At the Rappahannock Library, on a Mac, dial-up, not overly convenient, but very nice this particular second, good thing I have so little to say. Thanks NYkers for the fun last weekend.
Yesterday, out on the farm, legs hanging over the back porch, I was telling Dave about this miniature bee that stung the beejeezus out of me while I killed time on a Georgetown nature trail the day before. A few seconds later, the very same type of bee is hovering right near my bare foot and I said, a bit over-excitedly, that's the one, that's the same bee!
Dave did not hesitate. He picked up his bb gun ( a bb gun for every camper, that's our motto at Mt. Prospect Farm), cocked it, aimed, and fired. You can argue 'till you're blue in the face that this may not be something to be proud of, but Dave put a bb right up that bee's b-hole, direct hit.
If you need someone to argue with, I'm here for you.
Although I generally eschew the ďwriterĒ tag (when it is applied to me) I must accept it and its baggage while I am actually writing because technically I am a writer while I am writing.
Although I generally cringe at the idea of a writer working on his ďcraftĒ I sometimes aspire to being somebody who has a craft to work on.
It is said, by writers and people who talk about writers, that a writer only has one or two stories to tell and it is those one or two stories that he will tell over and over, banging his head against the wall of self-deprecation because he can imagine the story much better than he can tell it.
So I have this story I have told several times now over the last week, mostly verbal recitation but also written once to a friend in Oakland, and it is about my life as a catbox fabricator. I sit down to write about something else, or while standing up, or sleeping, or eating, or walking, or talking and thinking about sitting down to write, and I cannot think of anything to say because I cannot get past this one story, the story of my decline; or is it an ascension? that has me falling off the high horse of idealism.
My previous lifestyle, in New Orleans, although undeniably too cloistered, too ďall by myselfĒ, perhaps not rich enough, and needing some improvement, was at least simpler (and therefore better)? in the sense that I didnít have to tell too many lies to maintain it. I was what I was and thatís all that I was. And Shorty accepted that.
Now by ďliesĒ I am not talking about the stuff of Peyton Place but more the stuff that just might fall under the category of mis-communication or lies of omission, or lies of convenience. I have slung the meaner, more accusatory word ďduplicityĒ around while talking about this idea, mainly because itís hard not to consider the global situation right now and how that lying we grownups all accept as somewhat necessary has gotten us, as a country, into, Iím sorry but itís time to complete that ďhigh horseĒ metaphor aboveĖa heap of shit. At one point I was putting myself on the other side of the fence from it, duplicity that is, implying that my ideals protected me from such weak behaviour.
All that though was before I became a catbox fabricator. Before I took that paint stick and made cat prints in the fine, deodorized sand of expensive cat litter to hide the fact that I had been keeping Herman outside all night, providing him, although against the wishes of his owners, with an autonomy I thought he might like.
That feeling, brief though it was, of satisfaction, at the realism of my fake cat prints and the added sense of job well done at the authenticity I created by flicking some litter onto the floor, was the beginning of my remaking from whoever the hell it was I brought here. Slim, are you still with me?
Anyway, it could be said that I am happy, much as I am capable of it, and Herman, who now spends his nights up on Christineís bed, seems really happy too.
Billís brother is a big time New York City advertising executive so imagine my surprise when he calls up the other day and tries to sell me a replacement flue for my fireplace. He had me going for awhile. I blushed in embarrassment behind the safety of 250 miles of separation when I realized who it was. I called him a bastard and vowed to get even. So...this is it...Billís brother is a lousy fireplace flue salesman. Other than that though, heís a pretty ok guy. Okay dammit, actually, he was a pretty good fireplace flue salesman, the bastard.
Mr. BC asked me the other day how it was for me in Rappahannock. He may have been referring to the fact that I seem pretty well adjusted to my environment given that the environment here could be said to be diametrically opposed to the one I left in New Orleans.
ďItís good. Itís easy to forget,Ē I said.
Fís new friend, B, who with F broke into the Dumaine house several weeks ago and stole a registered handgun from E, was jailed last week for two counts of aggravated rape.
S, who me and a friend tried to help for awhile and then succeeded only in helping to put him in jail, may be out of jail now, a legal adult, which is the thing he always wanted to be. With no guidance and no proper education beyond that rich but possibly fatal future doled out on the New Orleans streets.
I was sitting on the back porch gazing out beyond the swimming pool and the acres of soft, green, manicured grass, at the solid, peaceful, non-threatening Blue Ridge Mountains. Itís easy to forget.
Mr. BCís wife, over broiled Tilapia in lemon sauce, with asparagus and salad, asked me have any of the boys I know in New Orleans committed murder. The answer is yes. As to her question how do I feel about that and her sisterís question why have I stayed there so long, all the words that try to answer those questions ultimately succumb to the indecision of I donít know.
X kill A at St. Philip and Dorgenios.
E2, in jail on drug charges, is charged with one count of murder, and two counts of attempted murder.
J is recovering nicely from the seven gunshot wounds he received last year. The three wounds to his face have altered his appearance somewhat.
There were three young New Orleans girls I was privileged to know for a few years, who I watched grow up in American squalor, who had so much human spirit about them, who made me laugh, and now thinking about, not knowing about, make me cry.
J2, now 17, and early on perceived as the brightest of a bunch, canít pass the mandated state tests and has stalled out in 9th grade. He will enter a job training/GED program this coming school year.
L, who was doing Algebra in 8th grade, a thing which set him far apart from his peers, dropped out in 10th grade, became a corporal in a 6th Ward army, and most recently upset an aunt enough to have her put out a peace bond on him. Which means she wants him to stay the fuck away, and is asking the police to help her realize that.
And G didnít ask for any of this. He wanted something happier, safer, cleaner, less threatening day after day after day.
The thing is, about forgetting, you have to start over every day.
A Day Not Clicking
I got off to a slow start today. Everybody at the diner was having a slow start too.
I was trying to look forward to the Home Depot shopping chore but itís a thirty mile drive and the farther you get from this little (five square mile) world out here the more you realize you didnít really want to leave it at all, why not just try to get what you need at the Rappahannock Farmers Co-Op. But they didnít have the six foot aluminum step ladder last time I was there and Home Depot has that one stop shopping thing going on which is what you need if there are more than two things on your list. I had three.
So this morning I got 25 miles into the trip and came to a rise in the road which allowed me to see about 200 cars in front of me, waiting I guess to turn onto 66. Thereís a fifteen mile stretch of the trip where Iím unlikely to see 10 cars total on the road and now I was looking at what seemed like madness. I gave it 15 seconds of thought and made the easy U-turn.
If I headed back to Warrenton I might find that Walmart which has eluded me so. I canít begin to describe what a disappointment that was. Except for the enjoyment of the female form in aisles 16, 18, 13, 11, and 8b. Some of the women were with their kids and husbands and I thought good job everyone. I felt a little panicky at one point, a thing which afflicts me briefly but with force and has been triggered more often at Walmarts than any other place. Still, I remain a faithful Walmart shopper. I got the feeling people would soon start pointing and hissing at me, their eyes glowing red, their overbites transformed into bloody fangs, if I didnít act immediately so thatís what I didĖbought a coffee maker and some baby powder. Also I didnít know there were still extreme punk rock looking, black leather clad, half shaved head, half long dyed black hair wearing dudes but in the Warrenton Walmart I saw three.
I kept driving, on to Culpeper, where I came upon another Walmart and just pulled in like thatís all I know how to do, shop at Walmart. This one pretended to be a SuperStore but Iíve seen the latest editions in the New Orleans area and this was a step down. After fighting off the onset of a parking lot panic attack I set out through the sultry heat into discount shopperís paradise. I found a six foot step ladder and an 18 foot extension ladder, which Iíll have to have if I am instructed to paint the stair wells or clean the gutters. The woman at the check out said, referring to the 18 foot fiberglass extension ladder, I know the price of that one because people keep saying can you put that in a bag for me. I donít think I actually laughed but let her know that I thought she was the perkiest, funniest, most helpful Walmart checkout person in the history of retail shopping. I was supposed to get some of that black flexible gutter pipe extension but that was all about the Manassas Home Depot and I was miles from that now. I also found a replica pair of the cheap sunglasses I had stepped on ten minutes after imagining that I would step on them, that first day I arrived on the Rappahannock property. Maybe this whole day was about those sunglasses.
I headed back down that road from Culpeper to Sperryville, 522 I think, and itís a doozy, nice and peaceful, easy to drive if you remember to dodge the oncoming gooseneck trailers pulled by big dualie farm trucks which tend to weave into your lane at 55 miles per hour. Some nice green mountain scenery though, which means youíre back in that bubble you realized too late you didnít mean to leave.
Cat On My Back
It was a period of time consisting of mere minutes. One minute I was performing one of my duties which, donít begrudge me my good fortune, consists of swimming around the pool testing various properties ( alkalinity and ph bromide reactivities to human skin, floatability, shallow end rope divider tensile strength, temperature, pine needle irritability, and other multi-syllabic obfuscations meant to put in shadow the fact that I am floating around the pool at midday) and the next minute I am kneeling on the rough ass pool deck, attending to the sometimes malfunctioning pool sweeper device with a 20 pound former Brooklynite feline, claws fully working, attached to my shirtless back. I screamed. And then Herman just sittiní there lookiní at me like, what. I have read Pet Semetary, probably saw the movie, and recently listened to it as a book on tape, so donít tell me I donít know about cats that have returned from the dead to bring moderate levels of discomfort to those around them.
My employer, Mr. BC, says he saw a large bone in the grass just alongside the driveway while he was jogging the other morning. He said it appeared to have been chewed on one end. Which is a thing all goblins learn on their first day of school. Retrieve bones from cemetery, bite off end, suck out marrow.
I forgot to mention there is a small family cemetery on the property. And one of the graves has a bit of a, uh, subsidence problem.
I could make a short, ridiculous, Halloween movie out here if I had a camera and a handful of kids who would do and say more or less exactly what I told them and would work for popsicles.
Mr. BC held my hand yesterday and we got that letter of verification for the right to dump trash in Rappahannock County. At the treasurers office I also got a green cap, and a Rappahannock decal for my windshield. I was so happy about that decal.
I paused leaving out of the dump, right by the office, like I has a rat snake in my boot or something, just in case the dump attendant wanted to admire my new decal. He didnít.
M is looking after the Rocheblave house for me and every so often calls or emails to tell me about important mail. So far:
The IRS wanted me to know they are not kidding around and are pissed off that I have not contacted them about the remaining 13 hundred dollars I owed them. They said they are going to start seizing bank accounts, putting liens on properties, f-ing me in the bunghole because I'm bad, bad, bad to the bone. Bitches. In the 11th hour I hooked up with one of their payment services and for 33 dollars was allowed to settle my bill over the phone by credit card.
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety is mad at me because I was a couple of weeks tardy in turning in my license plates for the the two vehicles I uninsured when I bought the Mazda. M seemed to think they were asking me for 250 dollars. Oh, so I'm the bitch now. Everbody think I the bitch.
The City of New Orleans is pleased to inform me that they have accepted my petition for homestead exemption of property taxes on my primary residence but that they wanted me to be a street address number that ends in 13 instead of the 15 that all my other accounts know me as. I'm not sure how I'm going to resolve that but the letter writing and phone calling that would probably take care of it don't seem to be happening.
At the diner yesterday my waitress, using no words whatsoever, seemed to think I was turning a little sissy on her because I ordered waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and a fruit cup for breakfast, instead of my usual manly breakfast which includes a small rib-eye.
And that letter of verification. I still haven't gotten over to the courthouse to get that letter which will allow me to haul trash to the dump. And I need to mail some money to my bank in New Orleans. I need to throw out that rotten peach. I should swim today. I'm going to breakfast now, then I'll paint some woodwork at the big house.
Fruit And Vegetables
After breakfast at the hippie deli in Sperryville where I spent five dollars for a homemade egg mcmuffin type sandwich and coffee (the sandwich really is very delicious) I went across the parking lot to the organic fruit and vegetable stand and the woman there made fun of me because I thought the apples I picked up were asian pears. I really see less and less well without my glasses. I did not disclose this imperfection of mine to the woman.
I said she should pickle some peppers because who wants to buy peppers pickled in Ft. Worth at a Sperryville, VA. roadside stand? She said she pickled all sorts of stuff and went on to tell me about dilly beans. I said, hey do you pickle string beans? and she said that's what dilly beans are.
I think the reason she didn't laugh at me again is because she was seriously considering that I might have some sort of mental disability. And who's to say she is wrong.
So I said, what, you gonna bring me some dilly beans? and she admitted with some reluctance that she had some old ones. I said, old is good, bring those, I'll see you next Sunday.
The Letter Of Verification
Today is my sister Sarahís birthday, although that fact has for many years been obscured by something about Elvis.
The other day I asked my favorite waitress down at the diner where it is locals haul their trash, since there is no trash pickup here. She said oh down by the highschool there on 211. Easy enough. I will look for the sign.
Iíve been storing household garbage from the two houses on this property in this here guest house garage. In heavy construction grade trash bags.
I got scared late one night from the imaginary snort of a black bear. I had been on my way up to the big house for a snack, as I canít seem to keep any food in this house. From the pitch blackness of that small area of woods surrounding two sides of this house came a snort which may have been from a black angus heifer across the road. But why be reasonable?
I ran back into the house like the girl that I am and decided I could wait until the morning for food. Two eggs, a small ribeye, home fries, toast, coffee and juice is my default 5.99 breakfast.
The next morning I decided that if heifers were going to start imitating bears I really should take action and haul that garbage to the uh refuse station over by the highschool.
I Took a right out of the driveway, past the Chevron station and up to 211. Took the right towards Sperryville. Passed the sign signifying Rappahannock refuse and made the first U-turn, then the first right past the sign. Down a road to the elementary school. Came out, rechecked the sign and drove down two different private drives before I realized the sign was not to being taken literally.
I eventually overcame my spacial confusion, pulled in and started flinging bags. After the second one rang out the fact that I was not recycling my beer and wine bottles I placed the bags in the bin more carefully. Who knew I drank that much wine and beer?
I was anticipating what happened next so as I was driving away and a guy came out of the booth and asked me was I a Rappahannock resident I said to him well thatís what I wanted to talk to you about, acting as if I had been on my way to see him instead of the more likely scenario of me as refuse dumping criminal.
He gave me a card with the name of a person down at the courthouse and on the back of the card were the three words denoting the thing I would need in order to dump my trash in the future: letter of verification.
Now thatís all I canít think about, that damn letter of verification. Iím wondering if there is a strip search involved? Speaking of strip searches I know I should be thinking about sex instead of letters of verification but who can think about sex at a time like this?
So, what Iím telling you? Thereís all manner of work to be done here.
Where The Ghetto?
Ima get a complex if this keeps up. Another friendly (nosey) neighbor come up to the house last night with a ďwelcome to the neighborhoodĒ gift, a damn plant, and look at me with that same incredulity I got from that other neighbor last weekend. I told both these people the same thing, more or less, Iím the new caretaker, or, Ima looking after the place is what I told them and the one guy actually saidĖAre you REALLY the new caretaker?, and the other guy, well, he just looked scared at first, probably on account of I just come out of the pool looking, I donít know, maybe too much a long hair or something, but goddamn it, this is the way it is out here now, you know, for however long, and (Iím not saying I opened the gift card and am taking this quote directly but so what if this is ďthe premier property in all of RappahannockĒ) so donít sweat it thereís a new fool on the hill, freak in the big house, johnny come lately. I might let you come swimming sometime. I mean I said come anytime didnít I? Even though you and I know I was just being polite and that you canít take anything that caretaker says to the bank. That guyís probably searching the Internet as we speak, looking for a good hippie manual.
But Iíll chill for a minute because people sure seem to have a sense for that out here. And I donít want to get people talking about that hippie on the hill having self-esteem issues. Even though, letís face it, a person with a full head of self-esteem is just someone who doesnít ask very good questions.
Iím adaptable though. Ghetto dweller, King of the Hill, same thing, different view.
Several of us in town like that first table for two. This morning one of the waitresses was sitting there so I headed for the other ďtwo,Ē over in the corner under the vent. It was cold. I turned around to orient myself to the crowd, it was just one other couple. The man nodded to me and I nodded back. It was Boss Hoggís deputy, Cletus (actually it was roscoe p coltrane.) Later, the General Lee was seen circling the block. When I left it was out front, parked next to my truck. Thatís a bitchiní automobile, there is no denying it.