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America The Beautiful
I was keeping my eye out the window on that star hovering over the Lower East Side as I laid comfortably awake on a couch that was deceptively comfortable. I would leave when I couldn't see the star anymore and go move my vehicle parked nearby.
In the parking lot I studied a map for a minute but who am I kidding, I don't read maps that well. Winging it had me on Delancey going the wrong direction and right before the Williamsburg bridge with the sun in my eyes blinding me to the reality that cops are everywhere I jumped a piece of real estate that we call neutral grounds in New Orleans and other people call medians but in New York the cops call...
...rushing across the street two NY traffic cops are gesticulating, at me I guess.
"Sir, what the hell are you doin, you wanna tell me that, just what the hell you're doin? Jumpin a sidewalk? Are you crazy, you can't jump sidewalks, where are you from?"
"I know I'm a f***up but I'm turned around again and I can't go over the Williamsburg Bridge, I'm tired of my mistakes and I have no business in Williamsburg." I said all this in pleading voice.
The lead cop paused to look at my inspection sticker, with it's distinctive upside down white crescent on red background, and said, "Oh, you're from New Orleans, I just got back from New Orleans two weeks ago, great town, I go a couple a times a year!"
It was barely seven in the morning, cars were rushing off the bridge from Williamsburg, looking at me up on on this sidewalk/neutral ground/median hanging out the window talking, now just talking, conversationally, to these two cops.
"You know, it's more expensive down there than I would have thought."
"You're staying in the Quarter?"
"They get you pretty good there and all up Canal, yeah."
"I go twice a year, like in October and April; the weather was perfect this last time."
"Those are good times; don't go in the summer though, it will break your heart."
"Yeah, it get's hot I hear. Hey, where you goin, you goin back to New Orleans now? You need directions, you want me to lead you out of here," the lead cop said happily.
I told him my plans, the most immediate being the entering of the Holland Tunnel and about Virginia and New Orleans and how I was thinking about moving after all that, maybe next spring. The second cop said,
"You're not thinking about moving here!" I think he meant it in a nice way like you seem all free spirited being able to consider moving any place you like so why the hell would you consider New York. I have so many thoughts. I could have told him a few of them but it might have been embarrassing for all of us so I just spoke the blanket truth.
"I don't know where I'm going or where I'll end up most of the time."
The lead cop gave me directions, making sure I knew the Bowery and how to spell it, and then the right on Canal, easy as pie.
I got lost three more times between the tunnel and my eventual departure from Jersey City, where I spent the earliest part of the morning napping upright on a bench with a sack full of books between my knees and a sliver of the sun on my face listening through my headphones to Catpower and every so often smelling the sweet aftershave or perfume of morning passersby. I would open my eyes to look at a dog barking at a puppy or a mother pushing her baby on the swingset and since it was Halloween there was also a dog or two in full costume: capes, hats, dinosaur suits and such.
Very close to where I stay, in familiar territory, someone took down all the pertinent road signs, so I got lost again, added an hour to the trip, against my will exploring new roads through the pastoral beauty of farmland backdropped with mountains backdropped with an exploding red, white, and blue sunset while my hand got numb from squeezing the steering wheel because I was trying not to fall asleep at the wheel.
I've been thinking about that Louis Armstrong song--Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?--and when I first heard it a couple of years ago I wondered if I would ever "get" the song and I guess now I do. Still, that Louis didn't hang around either.
Shooting death on Banks St. yesterday, between the Rocheblave house and the local Taco Bell. Eighteen-year-old victim.
Last night I tended successfully to the onslaught of negative emotions that were trying to keep me from going back to Sperryville to that restaurant with the best situated TV for sports viewing, although the food trails in favorability to the two urinals separated by the full length splatter guard, and I was almost finding myself pitifully comical at one point because I was vascillating so--I'm going, I'm not going, I'm going, I'm not going, I'm going, I'm not going--but in the end I did make the drive--and found the restaurant closed.
Midway up Hawksbill Mountain yesterday and I come upon some more deer on the path. I walk real slow and the deer don't move, like they training for the petting zoo. I came close enough to one of the two females to touch, pet even, had I been so inclined, but I just kept heading on up.
Descending later on a piece of the Appalachian trail and I pause to tie my shoe, my shoe propped up on one of the many granite boulders lining the path. The boulder was splotched with circular lichen patches white and green. Upon closer inspection there appeared to be some human finger markings on the face of the boulder and so I began to inspect the big rock in earnest. I tapped on it and it sounded hollow. I took a chance and punched my fist into it and it was then I realized the boulder was paper mache' and chicken wire, with a realistic paint job. So it's all a big fake. 300 million years old, my ass. I bet those deer are fake too. I'm going back today though, see if I can disconnect the batteries on that little family from Maryland I keep running into.
I don't want to forget where I come from and where I'm going so I also report that throughout the day yesterday, in New Orleans, while I hiked in the Shenandoah Mountains, and then back here visited with someone else's family, and later watched baseball and drank beer at that Sperryville restaurant with the nice urinals, eight people were wounded by gunfire in several different shootings around the city, and aother sixteen-year-old boy died because someone put a bullet in his head.
Piggy To Market
With a couple of notable exceptions I cannot see the future and up until he was loaded onto a trailer early this morning the squealing pig could say the same thing.
I propped up Betty's gravestone this afternoon. And sat out in the grass with some deer. Read a story.
I walked up to Mary's Rock this morning. It was hiking. Do you hike? Well yes, I've been to Mary's Rock I can now say.
There is air pollution in Shennadoah National Park, from I think the Ohio Valley mostly. I don't know if that includes Cleveland.
Still, its a nice park. Entering this morning I asked the ranger in the booth what time the park opened. She said the park was open 24 hours. Sweet.
Mr. BC was here when I got back, with his youngest, LC. Mr. BC is doing his damnedest to help me meet locals and yet his damnedest was not good enough this time. I do not mind such assistance, new people can be fun, and also equally I feel ok with the hand I got. There's only about ten people in the world worth knowing and I already know seven of them.
I cooked up a bunch of red meat, some tenderloin and some ribeye. It was bloody good. Mr. BC and the boy are asleep now.
Come Quickly, Be A Hero
That's the way my tenure in New Orleans started, ten years ago, with the FBI busting cops running a cocaine/heroin ring. Yesterday 13 (only one actually) New Orleans policemen were accused of running such a drug ring, and stealing citizens SS #s to activate cell phones they used in communicating with each other, and suppliers. Maybe that's why that gangbanger was leaving all those messages on my phone. Identity theft, go figure. Hey, you can have me, part and parcel.
Alas, I am not in New Orleans, I am in Rappahannock now, and can offer no seedy details about the goings on of criminal minds, except my own.
I would now like to adumbrate for you the local eating scene.
One place I go has consistently delicious food, and coffee, nice humans, and offers calming mountain views driving there.
Lately I have been having for breakfast just coffee and toast here at the big house.
For lunch yesterday I went somewhere else around here and had the special. Canned green beans, mashed potatoes with packaged brown gravy and a pork roast sandwich served on white bread sliced diagonally and drenched over the top with same brown gravy. I am not crazy in love about what happens to commercial white loaf bread when it is wetted in any fashion, so it is finally coming around to be a good thing that I started losing my eyesight three years ago. I ate in a hurry and then had peach cobbler ala mode, a dessert from this establishment recently given notice in the NY Times. I know a couple of people just off the top of my head who make better cobbler but what am I, a critic?
Last night around sunset I made the drive down Fodderstack road to an adjoining town, the road is a bit narrow, but traveled by few, and offers that bucolic beauty thing which is so abundant around here as to make one feel almost decadent for being privy to it. They make an ok cheeseburger and serve, along with a couple of others, Guinness, Stella Artois, and New Castle on tap, but the small TVs up inside the bar are not that conducive to enjoyable sports viewing and the bartender was prone to asking stupid questions, like--so what brought you in here tonite to which how am I going to answer any other way?--I was hungry. He mentioned something about it being open mike night, maybe he thought, given my long hair, that I was one of those musician types, I get that sometimes, but all I could offer him was the opinion that won't that live music conflict with baseball on TV?
There's another restaurant, in another direction, more small green mountains around it, and the food is not very good, but the men's bathroom has two urinals in addition to a toilet and the urinals are separated by a full length splatter/privacy guard, which is a thing I like in my public restrooms. I would really like for this restaurant to be better because it purports to make one of my favorite foods. I believe I know some people or at least people who know people who could do a better job in the kitchen, no offense, and if J*se in Austin could come out here and bring somebody who can cook really well, or just average would be an improvement, I would really appreciate it. But you gotta hurry man, they ain't gonna last long at their current level of mediocrity. Whomever you bring will like it here and will possibly be celebrated as heroes.
Up In There
I emailed M, who is housesitting for me, keep your head down, referring to last Sunday's shooting around the corner at Bienville and Galvez, a shooting which resulted in one death and three woundings. She responded that she hears far more gunfire in my 4th Ward neighborhood than she heard over the many years at the 6th Ward house on Dumaine. And she wasn't sure if she was still receiving my cell phone bill from Sprint.
That being said, the day to day calm of my Rocheblave house is most pleasant to a soul needing respite from Dumaine, and this she is finding out just as I did after my retreat. Dumaine, which is more than just a street name, but you'd have to really taste it to know what I mean. So she says she will gladly continue the housesitting until the New Year, instead of Halloween which had been my original return date.
The asbestos removal team was here yesterday so I took another day off and went back up to Skyline Drive. Up in there I saw God, but he didn't see me.
Last week in America outside Dean and DeLuca's gourmet grocery in Georgetown on M street a man did howl, lamenting the world around him that lacked the common decency of respect. He threatened to break windows to even the score. We the passerby counted our good fortune and moved about with a practiced lack of passion.
In Israel a discontented Palestinian woman set off explosives at the popular Maxim restaurant, killing herself and 20 others, showing perhaps to what lengths a person disrespected can go. And the decapitated infant will not speak of passion unrestrained.
For the time being I seem to have removed all the sharp edges from my life but never underestimate the bedpost, the wonder bar, or the mud scraper, all things that can sneak up on you, put you inside the world of pain.
Yesterday, seeking evermore isolation, I drove up to Skyline Drive, inside that Shenandoah National Park, flashed my pass, responded sincerely and dull wittedly to the park ranger's question as to my destination and then listened as she patiently forgave my ignorance; she just wanting to point out that part of the park is still closed due to hurricane damage. I did not tell her of my often misunderstood default credo that has me, regardless of the various available dangers, going until it becomes painfully obvious I can go no more.
I took the south fork at Thorton Gap and drove a fair piece, parked, stepped over the rock guard rail and followed the foot path until it gave out at the first sign of difficulty. I only went a couple hundred yards past that myself, where I came upon a Flinstones-like easy chair. I cleaned it up a bit and then sat back to let time ease on by. I came to conclusion about nary a thing but felt none the lesser for that.
Walking carefully back up the hill I came to a bramble that was also a path of least resistance and entered into it.
Without the vision of it I felt that jolt of another's presence and stopped so to speak dead in my tracks. In front of me only twenty feet away was an 8-point Buck, sitting comfortably chewing his cud. As I had no weapon, nor would I desire one in this context, I felt somewhat disadvantaged, on someone else's turf, that someone with eight sharp spears on top of his head. For only two or three minutes I stood staring at the deer, momentarily wondering if he could see me; if I was there. A treasure trove of questions came pouring into me at that point, all of which I retreated from, just as I was going to retreat from this deer. He watched my circumnavigtion of his world and then, far as I know, went back to chewing his cud.
Later, back up here on the hill, in this world more manicured, I saw a young black bear lope across the property, its body language clearly stating, I come in peace, just passing through.
I took off from work yesterday to go into Manassas and get a replacement cell phone for the one I lost, so I got that, the 666 number going again, but it has little practical use unless I leave the farm, cell phones don't work out here.
I sat out in the parking lot and checked my messages, about a month's worth. My sister was calling, not from California, but from Dallas, at our mom's house, you know just checking in but it's been six weeks since you moved from New Orleans and no one has heard from you...so me and mom are just laughing about that...
Ok, thanks Sarah, I'm working on the good son angle more than I am working on many other angles of my life that clearly need work, I have written mom two letters recently, and hope to actually be a good son someday. I have some contact numbers that work and some that don't, this I have written to mom, but at times it confuses me so we can guess what its doing to mom.
To the anonymous gangbanger from New Orleans who left me a snippy message to quit calling his beeper I have this to say--Man, f*** you, what I be callin' your bitch ass for?
To Lou in Austin--I lost your number Lou, and K's, so thanks for calling me but I can't call you back because often the # you call from doesn't show up on Caller ID.
My nephew in New Orleans called to update me on New Orleans stuff, the Canal streetcar project is a little behind schedule but they're shooting for November/December 03 and hope to have a big opening weekend party. Another big police corruption case, or two, going on, based out of Internal Affairs, just up the street from my Rocheblave house. My nephew, Ross, he didn't tell me about the mentally deranged man in the Sixth Ward, around the corner from the Dumaine house, who held off police for hours, up inside his house, and finally had to be gassed out. Or the six time suspected serial murderer who calmly turned himself in to police at the Canal and Broad area Burger King, right around the corner from the Rocheblave house, but he's a busy college professor, my nephew is, how is he supposed to keep me up with everything going on in the 4 thru 7? I check Nola.com periodically.
I had some other messages, it was nice to hear your voice.
In bed this morning, awake awaiting sunrise, I was thinking again about that flick I saw a few days ago, Code Unknown, with Juliette Binoche, about her husband in the movie, who is a photographer on periodic assignment in the war torn Kosovo, and in one scene he's just back, and at a bar with wife and two other couples, he seems a little unsettled, and there is laughter and gaiety around him while one of the husbands asks him earnestly about his work and what it's like to witness horror in a war zone and his description was one I could so relate to, how it was hard at first, but then it became easier, and in a way almost preferable to the environment he was currently occupying. I think he was talking about the ill effects of the affluence of too many choices.
Happy Birthday Mr. BC
Me and Mr. BC we built small gunpowder bombs together, flew kites, rode bikes, tossed footballs, baseballs, basketballs, tennis balls, and wiffle balls at each other. Did Yoyos, tops, and water guns every year. He threw a dart at me once. I still owe him for that one. I went to church, he didn't, and I used it against him in loosely ruled scrabble games by telling him my questionable words were from the bible.
He can draw, play music, and make tons of money and I can't.
I have ingested things he has never heard of.
He has seen things I haven't and me I've seen the same thing.
Tossing a pebble, he once knocked a BB gun out of a kid's hand.
He broke my plane on a string, he still owes me for that.
There was a song from our youth that was about a hippie trying to fit into the establishment by putting his hair up under his hat to apply for jobs and a line in the song started "Imagine that..." and when one of us began that the other would finish the line which was-- "me working for you."
At one point he began buying Mercedes Benzes. For awhile he had a twenty-year-old Cadillac with an eight-track player and a new Benz sedan with CD player, not one of the starter models. This was like 15 years ago now and I was staying with him for a few months in another big house he had up on another hill. The thing is I could never remember to put the Benz in Park. But the long driveway was pretty level at the top so the car stayed in place until I got to the front door and for whatever reason I turned around to look at the car I don't know but as soon as I looked at it it started to move. I chased it for a few feet, heroically flung open the door and jumped inside to jam the brake pedal, two feet from head on to a tree. He sicced some Jehovah's Witnesses on me not long after that, so I guess we're even on that one.
He knows what "you did it purposely" means.
He was on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, November 1963.
He's got a great wife and three great kids, he can thumb type on a blackberry, he's come a long way, from the Badger Days, let's give him a big hand and a--Happy Birthday Mr. BC.
New Orleans Winter
I've been tempted these last few sunrises to use the word "suffused" in part of the description of what's happening to that westerly Rappahannock back drop but tempted is as far as I'm going with it.
Sometimes I talk to people around here. I asked a person the other day--does it get cold in these parts?, they said nah.
Okay, let me start over, I'm from a subtropical climate, does it get cold around here? It's the last day of September and it is forty something degrees. That seems a little cool to me, or to be more exact, like an average winter day in New Orleans. It feels good though, so far.
Yesterday evening I went over for the first time to the local art gallery/video rental store, talked to June for awhile. She only has a few DVDs, mostly VHS, but I got this one with Juliette Binoche called Code Unknown, French film I guess, and it bugged me at first, the way they cut the scenes up, and it had that French interconnectedness thing going on, like when Linklatter? did Slackers everyone was comparing his style to some French film maker(s), it wasn't like Slackers, Code Unknown wasn't, but anyway, the scenes fade to black except it's not really a fade, it's abrupt, and stand alone as vignettes, but also, more or less, tell a connected story with groups of characters connected by blood or marriage intertwining themselves with other groups, except for the one kid who can't get past the door code--he is disengaged from the group. And the deaf children. The deaf children, even in their group, seem disconnected from everyone else. So in the end, I dug it. Kind of reminds me of that German writer J in Jersey City turned me onto, only I cannot think of that German writer's name. But the theme, I can tell you, is isolation.
Okay, I need to start generating a little heat, ciao for now.
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.