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One minute I'm outside practically naked digging up a flower bed and the next minute I'm shivering inside looking out at the horizontally blowing snow and being all herky-jerky like the delirious-tremens poster boy every time the wind opens and slam-shuts the multiple screen doors on this dwelling.
It is the next day now and looking out there are only a few trace reminders of the snow and the wind is asserting only its merest influence on the pine boughs. I could venture out but only fools rush in..., I don't know? If that's about love I'm not going there. I cannot lasso an idea that depends on ephemerality to exist. I am not allowed. I was denied credentials. Two other things I cannot do is fly, and, make sparks shoot out from my fingers.
I am quite a little sleeper, able to drown in cessation, but sometimes I stay up all night composing not one cogent thought as I bathe myself in self-doubt, which I only mention to attempt the deconstruction of happiness.
I am this year trying to remember that some bats are birds and some birds are, in actuality, tree frogs.
You actually have to descend after the ascension but I'll say it like this anyway--I went up to Big Devil's Stairs this week. There was a Lexus SUV with Maryland plates in what is the only parking space and so I had to park in what turned out to be an illegal spot. Coming back to the spot later I would think briefly about becoming an outlaw again or depending on your definition, for the first time, and going on the lam to avoid any dealings with that lawman with initials for a first name who had left his card in the bottom right hand corner of my driver's side window, tightly inserted behind the weather-stripping. The card had a hand written message that said--Please Contact Today! Had it not been for the Please and the exclamation point I would have jumped the nearest boxcar out of here. I hope it is a sign of maturity and not weakness that now makes me give the law its due credit and consideration for politeness.
I was trying to do nine miles before sunset and I was getting a late start, a slurpable go-cup full of black-eyed peas my lunch in transit, and four one-slice peanut butter sandwiches my hiking fuel. And a bottle of water. No drugs, but if that's true, why even mention it? Because you couldn't get 'em lit is why, you punk ass, ill-prepared sissy. No drugs is better though and I am for one brief instant being completely straight with you. Even though it's only an opinion and therefore debatable. Or because it's an opinion it's not debatable, I get mixed up, but I don't want to linger on this point, I'd like to get back with minimal delay to this obliquely sincere version of my view on the moments that make up my day.
I took the horse trail shortcut because I wanted to by-pass the camping shelter with the log book I can't resist reading but that makes me sad because of the predictability of the human emotion it contains. The happy scribblings make me think of that animated short that ends with the big claw foot of Godzilla squashing flat on the forest floor the short lived Bambi.
Snow from last week is still on the trail and unlike previous snow hikes this time it's only me leaving human tracks, parallel to or on top of the deer and cat and crow feet. The snow is good, not too soft and not too crunchy. I have waterproof hiking boots this year and five dollar socks so I'm really well equipped from the ankles down. I still wear jeans though and a brown leather work jacket that was left behind at M's house in New Orleans. She did not know who's it was or what was the history behind the jacket before it ended up stashed at her house but the details behind the origins of it are perhaps inauspicious. I will here just have to leave it to the scholars of modern juvenile hijinks what these details might include. You can have it if you need it she said to me.
I took it and all its undeclared history with me when I left New Orleans.
A couple of weeks ago I was on this same trail (which is in Virginia, not New Orleans) when a surprise rain storm caught me clueless without a poncho and I had to use the jacket like an umbrella. After it dried out it looked really good, even better than before, so I don't know about this idea that water is bad for leather. It has plenty of pockets and in the pockets I have stashed a water bottle, four cellophane wrapped single slice peanut butter sandwiches, a very small 2mega pixel digital camera, a 5gig Mp3 player, and curiously, because I have no film camera, an old plastic film container. I wear a knit cap and brown cotton work gloves that keep me warm enough to leave the jacket open to expose my thrift store outer shirt which is open to expose my faded navy, paint speckled under shirt. The zipper is busted on the jacket.
I passed the Maryland couple on the way up (they hadn't hiked far enough to mess up any of the snow) and they were dressed more appropriately than I. Hiking is a ga-billion dollar a year industry and there does exist a wide array of proper hiking clothing and gear. We exchanged hearty hellos, which is optional, and I admired the fabric, buttons, functionality, and style of their garb, which they wore as they should, unselfconsciously.
I got to the cliff over the chasm which is the payoff of the Big Devil's Stairs hike and it is a good one if you are into all that depth of field beauty inherent to foregrounds that drop a thousand feet and multilayered, undulating, blue-green, black-shadowed, snow-dusted mountains as background.
With all that majesty before me and certain death a misstep away I thought about my doctor's appointment the next day, the first in ten years, which at this writing has already happened--and proven my procrastination fueled but understandable fears to be baseless, (and given bolder credence to the words of that gypsy at last year's Christmas party: that I'm going to live long, in fact longer than some will appreciate)--but hadn't happened then and so was still a weighty thought, heavier than the lofty and dizzying sense of freedom and flight one might ordinarily feel at cliff's edge. I waited, but perhaps not long enough, for an epiphany that did not come.
Back at my truck after the hike, the card from the cop stuck in my widow as a reminder that a nine mile hike intended to ease one's mind can sometimes be followed by a sharp stick in your eye. I debated about calling the cop but not too long did I kid myself about not calling the initialed officer. Back home I tarried a bit by checking my email and then I practiced my gender neutral phrasing, and made the call. It was a man who answered and I identified myself as the missing hiker. The officer sternly but politely gave me some advice about parking and I assured him (was I too obsequious?) that in the future his advice would be that which I followed. But I think I'm done with that hike for awhile and will look around for trails that lead elsewhere.
I was following behind a manager at the Lowes in Culpeper as he led me to an opposite end of the store to show me a kitchen timer. I had hoped he would just point but the store is new and some people want to appear useful or actually be it for all I know. There were more employees than customers in the store and I got stuck behind one who had veered out of the manager's way because the manager looked all purposeful and this employee was clearly making good money for doing absolutely nothing. I remember a past work life when I was purposeful and I used to tell less ambitious co-workers that I did not care if they worked or jerked off but to stay out of my way when I was working. Which is what I felt like telling the employee who had veered in front of me to get out of the ambitious manager's way, because I was in a hurry to keep up with the manager. I did not want to lose him after all this effort he was putting forth. I pretty much knew that the manager had misunderstood what I was asking for and that this journey would end fruitlessly, and I was right about that.
I stood looking at a 20 dollar kitchen timer while he said he would ask about cheaper ones and I then waited until I could see him take a phone call and I disappeared back to the area where I had begun. I brushed lightly up against a woman's sleeve who was standing with her boyfriend, husband, or brother and she said after I passed, excuse me. She said it in the way that meant she was offended by my sleeve brushing against hers. She said it like a woman who is easily offended. I said sincerely but offhandedly, oh yes I'm very sorry, and I wandered up the aisle a bit. Then I came back and stood by her and her man friend and her girlfriend who was of a different skin color than the other two and fifty pounds heavier and much taller and wore a type of shoe that neither of the other two would even think about wearing. I wanted the offended woman to engage me or just continue to be offended by me. I wanted to say to the man, sir, please take no offense but your girlfriend is sort of a bitch and yet if she would give me a hug I would feel better about life. You see, I have been out in public longer than is my custom and I am coming a bit unraveled due to the fact that I can't really find anything and the longer I am out in public the more uncomfortable I get about being in public because if I can't find anything I could have just stayed at home. Although I do enjoy the drive, yes I do. I could really use a hug, ma'am? How 'bout it? Hug me?
None of this imaginary after the fact reconstruction of reality has any bearing on the here and then so, moving on, in another aisle, I found an employee who looked as uncomfortable in public as I say I am and I asked him about timers and he walked me four feet and showed me an array of timers of the type that turn plug-in devices on and off throughout a day. I was happy and expressed my thanks happily and the awkward feeling man appeared to feel happy, if only conditionally. I could tell he wouldn't take well to being hugged so I just moseyed on.
Things got worse before they got better--if in fact they have gotten better, which is in question-- when I ventured to the SuperWalmart where I got a neat array of items, from a colander to a knitting hoop to dish rags and a basketball and some bleeding heart tubers to bread and peanut butter and talapia (but I didn't really get enough food and now the next day I'm hungry, 20 miles from the nearest full sized grocery store). A couple of different people acted like I was in their way and they wanted to kick my ass for it and if only they weren't in such a hurry they would have. There was clearly nobody in this store who would give me a hug but that guy in the mismatched camouflage outfit did look like he wanted to slit my throat. I made a note to keep an eye out for him. I turned away once and he disappeared, but was probably right in front of me. I may have underestimated the efficacy of his camouflage. The camo-bandana hanging like a mullet hair extension under his gimme cap I had actually sort of smirked at before the underestimation. Hell, maybe it is better to withhold judgment or to never even form an opinion about something. The guy could have been a secret government agent protecting my candy ass with his skills of stealth and may have been at that moment on the trail of a wanted international terrorist and all the while I'm making fun of him for the implied lesser status of his breeding versus mine when let's face it--the both of us are milling around the same Walmart. It would serve me right if he did slit my throat in housewares, me bleeding out near the toaster ovens.
I got up at two this morning and it felt like wake up time so I made coffee and toast and oatmeal and had breakfast and then read for awhile. I treaded lightly through the house because the cat had thrown up in five different places last night before I went to bed and where there are five piles of cat vomit there may be a sixth. I forgave him the creamy biege lumps of bile laden puke but afterwards the incessant crying to be fed earned him a one way trip to the cold outdoors. I let him back in later, and fed him, the spoogey-eyed cat bastard.
Forget all that Greenwich Mean Time asserting that its only two in the afternoon, I've been up for ages and I'm having a cocktail. Cheers. And I'm sorry for making fun of bitches and warriors and sick cats.
Today is Valentines Day and I just finished having breakfast with Lorina followed by a bout of speechlessness and then I bid her adieu out into the icy cold and grey wet unknown of the Virginia countryside.
Some months ago we decided to break up on Feb. 13th and so for the special occasion last night I baked some Salmon and she baked this medley of vegetables cut into cubes and doused with olive oil and salt and pepper. The vegetables were beets, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, and carrots. She made a spinach salad with cranberry raisins and goat cheese and some of that raspberry dressing you can't escape even if you wanted to, which I don't. She brought a bottle of white and a loaf of homemade bread and wouldn't I have to be crazy to break up with a beautiful, loving, intelligent woman laden so heavily with delicious fruits? The scale certainly dips heavily towards yes.
This idea of sharing your life with someone is kind of tricky and I don't want to pretend that I know anything about it, not that I would be very convincing even if I were pretending a knowledge about it, and surely not convincing enough to fool Lorina or earn entry into the Book of Right.
I just now fell into a sort of narcotic cat nap and when I opened my eyes the screen was full of letter S's.
I was going to write my mom a letter today but I haven't even sent her the three I wrote last week so who am I kidding writing letters and not sending them off in the mail?
I did call her a minute ago and she sounded tired so maybe she is having nightmares again; the doorbell rings but nobody is there. My sister is visiting her this week and that might be making her nervous too because she probably knows the plot to upset her autonomy is forward moving. She probably doesn't remember that I was there for the month of January, haphazardly pushing the buttons of the machine that would bring a stranger into her life, to live with her, but part of her remembers it and that part might be coming back to conspire with the part of her that is anxious because my sister is there introducing the same kind of crap I was introducing, although likely with more finesse is my sister introducing it.
I can hear geese honking out the window to my left at night now because I put this aside for a few days so its not right after breakfast anymore, or for that matter, Valentines Day. Lorina is in another state entirely, attending a bachelorette party, which makes me a little nervous in that hey what happens at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party sort of way. Ultimately what saves me is that I don't have the strength or willful endurance to be as insecure as I sample at being, and uh, ok dammit, I trust Lorina, even if only in equal measure to my insecurity regarding all things her, which occasionally is a very fucked up way to be but for now will just have to be good enough. Besides, if you removed all my petty insecurities I would be so excruciatingly incredible that no mortal woman would be able to be with me, without bursting into flames, anyway. But mostly what I think about when I hear bachelorette is who was that chick on that show a couple of years ago about a single gal looking for a groovy hubby? Its as if the name is on the tip of my tongue.
You can't always be autonomous is what I had knowingly explained to my mother in January.
Sometimes you have to let people help you is what I had said.
I drove 22 hours straight with only a 30 minute catnap to arrive back here from Texas on the 3rd of this month. For the home stretch I came through mountain passes on both sides of Luray with dusted snow on the black pavement at 2 a.m. As is often the case around here, even when its not 2 in the morning or snowing, I was the only one on the road. I was lonely as I considered that everything and everyone on the other side of the mountain had been wiped out by an apocalyptic event. It being so cold and sparsely populated here you wouldn't even smell the demise of humanity for quite some time. It would be as if the apocalypse never happened or as if the humanity never existed. You might see people sitting mannequin-still in their cars obliquely angled to normality but you wouldn't think much about it if you minded your own business like you're supposed to. I was driving very carefully, winding downward now, as I imagined black ice under the thin layer of snow. It felt sort of pointless all the previous day's road rushing. Though it was a driving record for me, over 1200 miles in a single stretch of driving, with only over the counter energy drinks to fuel me, so I could pin that medal on my bony chest if I did indeed make it down the mountain instead of off the mountain in a fiery crash of sparks and smoke and flying metal ending upside down in a frozen creek bed with only the predictable desolate flickering meanderings of my last few cognitive moments to keep me company before the final darkness.
I arrived back here and crunched over snow and onto the breezeway and then into my shiny clean abode scrubbed by Lorina and there was the rhododendron cutting on the table that won't stop blooming. And some love messaging written on paper and a cat that only briefly considered had I been gone at all who rolled over on the wood floor and sprawled belly open to the latent potential of my kung fu warrior death blow.
Lorina slept elsewhere and I was too wired/tired and crazy to my core to go over there and wake her up and say baby baby I'm home. I'm crazy. What? Yes, yes about you, but if I could only keep my mouth shut I wouldn't add some less romantic self-absorption which would cause us to sit together in a quiet and awkward silence while you debated with yourself my merits or lack thereof and I not to be out done would do the same right back at you, until I switched sides to join you--just who the fuck do I think I am?
Instead of that I had a glass of whisky and searched the spidery corners of secret places until I found a dead roach, which I crumbled up and laid lengthwise along a section of a feathery page torn from a bible and then I sealed it with a lick and set fire to it.
I did not drift off and then abruptly wake up just as my truck rolled off the side of a mountain. Nor did I leave my body and float purposelessly near the ceiling. I slept in a dreamless void and woke up later in the afternoon to a world that would, despite its abundant allures, take some getting used to. And that's as far as I've gotten. But I will keep you posted as events unfurl in the wind making the flag look like all its stripes are not connected even though through other sources we are led to believe that they are not only connected, but parallel.
My brother in his prime could throw a baseball 90 mph and at 6' 7" his backswing and follow through with a golf club are such that I cringe a little each time he drives the imaginary ball 300 yards down the fairway, which is represented by me sitting in an easy chair in front of his fireplace, just six feet away. I slouch down a little so that my head is protected from the accidental tragedy that would be the slipping of the club from his fingers. With each fierce swish my mind pulls up a photograph from the past so that I see and hear a swishing flicker show of images, one of which is not from the past but the future and is glass enclosed framed photographs on the wall in front of me exploding in a Sam Peckinpaw smithereens fashion as the accidentally? released club bounces to and fro like it is under the control of an invisible and not so very adept baton twirler. The pictures from the past are me smarting off to him by asking does he want a medal or a chest to pin it on, or stealing his car keys to sneak out the family car three years before I had a legal license to do such a thing (driving, not stealing), or the accidental? karate chop to his throat that made him reassess his real or imagined superiority over me, in our childhoods.
I got new tires on my truck yesterday and a new windshield last month and will begin driving northeast in the morning and although my stay here in Dallas did not seem to accomplish much towards the ultimate goal of easing my aging mother into the idea of accepting in home care I did learn a thing or two about the incompetence of some agencies that provide such care. My brothers that are local and a sister coming in for a follow up attempt will carry on and despite this string of dismal failures we have faced it would only seem natural that luck will eventually change to an opposite of whatever it has been bringing and for this family that will be a good thing. My mother, meanwhile, is a long way from full blown alzheimers and I expect will carry on just fine until her children are able to get their acts together.
Thoughts From The Battlefield
It's January but it is seventy degrees here so my mom has been watering the lawn. To my ridiculous assertion that it is the middle of winter and besides that--this town suffers from water shortages, she scoffs. She has a sprinkler system which breaks the lawn down into individual sections. Each section can be watered individually, or together with other sections, and in combinations so complex that you are caught smack dab in your smart ass face with the whip cream pie of reality that answers affirmatively to your whining past querulousness self which wondered aloud or to yourself in class--will we really need all this complex math crap in real life?
She seems to be able to figure out the controls well enough even though she is completely unsure of the time of the year. In fact, she loves controls now or anything with dials. The two thermostats in the house will in the course of the day spin from 50 to 85 and from heat to cool.
I upset her earlier in the day by trying to take her to the doctor again but she has forgotten that now and so we are starting fresh. She forgot that I had called in my brother for backup, and that that is why the front door and storm door were unlocked early this morning. She is blaming that on the replacement paper boy, whom she doesn't like. The regular paper boy, whom she likes very much, will go on vacation in May and possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather here, she thinks it is May, and that her paper boy has left her in the hands of "that other guy."
She had a boyfriend before dad and she would have married him but he got killed in WWII. Dad survived the war but cancer killed him 12 years ago.
She was juggled from parents to grandparents to an aunt in her early youth. She was a country girl who went to a big state university in the mid thirties, back in the day when they called role in class, and the great depression was not a distant memory. Her somewhat mysterious parents gave her a boy's name, she thinks it may have been the name of a horse on the family farm, and so in the big college classrooms she would endure the giggles of her more sophisticated classmates when an instructor would call out her name and in a broken voice almost as ridiculous as a callous boy making fun of a country hick with a high pitched voice, she would say--heeereuh.
After we have difficult converstations about the need for her to have a some hired assistance in the home, a thing she will not admit the need for, she might be found sitting on a short children's chair, stooping over to detail clean a return air vent, or the tracks of the sliding glass doors, and weeping.
On the bar by the dining table there are leaned pictures of grandchildren and great grandchildren whom she really doesn't know anymore. Lately to this grouping has been added a little snapshot of a drop dead handsome black man who worked in the off campus dormitory in which she lived as a college student. I wish she would talk about him more; he has a kind face, and I bet was nice to her.
By the way, I failed in that attempt to get her to the doctor. She's a good fighter, wily, determined, and focussed on nothing but the battle. I though, like the invader of a foreign land who is motivated by questionably good intentions, am clearly outgunned here and doomed to failure, or at best--a very unpleasant victory.
I can't even imagine what my mom is thinking about this Spec Bebop by Yo La Tengo which is coming from the device on my lap. She is 87. I am 45. Both of us are a little older than the Yo La Tengo core audience. Speaking of old I have through recent Internet searches found some comforting definitions of what was previously for me a gray area. What is elderly, I had wondered? According to at least one medical site you may be considered "elderly" the day after you turn 55.
And if you are elderly then it stands to reason that you should start considering into which assisting living facility you are going to insert yourself for those golden years.
There is a long waiting list for that one in Amsterdam which is exclusively for heroin addicts. The idea of that sort of appeals to me. I am not a heroin addict, or even a casual user, but I will not rule out a future which includes heroin addiction. Lorina was going to fly down here for a few days to...hey never mind what she was coming down here for, voyeur. The thing is, you can fly to Amsterdam cheaper than she could have flown down here on short notice and I'd rather save my money and hers for my future heroin addiction in Amsterdam, which I understand can be quite costly.
Here is something to think about. Don't get too used to the idea of independence. You are going to have to give it up someday and like all things, the longer you hold onto it, the harder it is to give up. Perhaps it is similar to a heroin addiction in that sense. I gave up cigarettes back in 98 so about giving up addictive behaviour I have some insight. Honestly though, if I had known giving up cigarettes was that hard, I would have at least been snorting heroin. I mean you could literally fill up a building as big as a school with subject matter that is not taught in schools. Of course, as a fan of brevity, I can also see the allure of short and simple messages like--Just Say No, or, Falling Bullets Kill. I'm not so crazy about stringing alot of ideas together cohesively. I think cohesion is misleading.
I think my mom thinks I am mad at her because she turned down my invitation to have dinner at a brother's house tonight. She is associating turning down that invitation with how mad and frustrated I was when she fought me about going to the doctor two days ago. I told her it was fine, really no big deal, but even to me it sounds like I may just be saying that, and that I really am mad.
In the white space between these two paragraphs is her sitting down over there across from me and pursuing one of her more frequent hallucinations. That there are other house guests here besides me. I ease her into the truth of the matter and she says--well, maybe I am losing my mind. It would be unlike me to respond otherwise, so I say--well, maybe you are, which elicits a smile. Partly she thinks the person up there is my girlfriend, Lorina, and partly she thinks it is the care-giver we have been threatening to force on her. I assure her there is nobody up there (yet), nor did anyone sleep up there last night, besides me. She goes into the utility room and from the freezer brings a whole stack of frozen dinners and sort of fans them in front of me to get my opinion on lunch. I am trying not to do too much for her because I want to see what she does on her own, seeing as how she persists with the assertion that she can take care of herself. We have lasagna. She was a pretty good cook back in the day. Now though I am happy to see her do the frozen thing without too much assistance.
The next day my brother came over and tried to get her to sign some papers but she got mad at him. He talked with her in a rational manner for a pretty fair amount of time and you could tell she wanted to believe him but, no, something's up and she knows it. My brother took his grand daughter and left to go spend 60 minutes in rush hour traffic, without signed papers.
Later we watched TV. She asked me during a commercial break what I had on tap for tomorrow and I said I was hoping we could do that doctor's appt., get it over with. She started in with her argument and I said no, uh, uh, not this time. You don't want to go, we won't go. You win. You now get to do whatever you please, whenever you please. You are a big girl. I can't fight with you over every single little thing. In answer to her question was I mad at her I said yes. She left the room. After a moment I went to check on her and I could hear her taking a bath. Such as she does, which sounds like she is conserving water. She came back into the room some time later, in her nightgown, and silently handed me a slip of paper, and then left the room. It said--I will go, against my will.
How are you going to intefere with my business today? she said.
Not at all today, I said. I rescheduled the doctor's appt. for 7:30 Friday. But today you will be glad to know there is nothing on the calendar.
Don't hold your breath, she said.
About what? I said.
I'm not going anywhere that early in the morning.
Yes you are.
Don't count on it.
I am counting on it.
Because for three grueling hours yesterday morning you fought me about going to the doctor and when you finally relented, and we did go, the nurses had to very politely, and apologetically, inform me that when they called earlier in the week to confirm the appt., you told them to cancel it. And they went to some trouble to find another spot. I gave them other local numbers to call. What happened yesterday is not going to happen again.
I guess my goose is cooked.
I don't remember doing that.
I believe that, I said.
Well, don't count on me going.
You know, you have asked us to not treat you like a child and I want you to know that I am not treating you like a child. Because if you were my child I would have grounded you a long time ago.
I know that, she said.
It's just a routine yearly checkup. The same thing you have done all your life.
I don't know that doctor.
You went to him last week.
I don't remember that.
You did, it was on Thursday, and we fought about that one for awhile too. But then another of your meddling sons came over and took you.
Then why I am I going to him again?
Because the checkup last week was to look into your recent memory loss and this other visit is for blood work. The same type of physical you have been doing for many years.
Who took me?
AJ took you.
Did I tell you about not remembering who he was that one time, I think that was at a doctor's office too.
Yes, I think you mentioned that (all hyperbole aside, perhaps sixty or seventy times in the two weeks I have been here).
I just don't see why I have to keep going to the doctor. You can't do anything about memory loss.
I know. But we wouldn't have to go again if you hadn't canceled yesterday's appt. We would have been done with doctor's visits for awhile.
Who canceled the appt., she said.
You did, I said.
I really don't remember that. But those darn people down there should have tried to fit me in. That really gets me boiling. We drove all the way there and then had to come right back.
Yes. It will go better on Friday.
Don't count on it, she said.
Note To The Youthful
Had a woman do an assessment here at the house yesterday to determine the needs of my mother for whom me and my siblings are trying to set up some in home assistance so she can stay in this home she has lived in for forty years (the last 12 by herself).
I had thought it was going to be an African woman with a slight accent but it turned out to be an American-Nordic woman with a somewhat forced sense of humor.
I think it went pretty well. After the woman left my mom slammed her fist down on the dining room table and said, "I do not want that woman in this house ever again!"
Note to the youthful: do not get old.
Who's Your Mama?
In my twenties I was once in Mexico for several weeks and I met a bunch of Europeans in Palenque and a Scandanavian or two and after awhile I was saying yah instead of yeah. The affected speech wore off after I came back to the USA and likewise I'm hoping that once I leave Dallas I won't be so tempted to use my cell phone indoors at public places. Today I was at the big Half Price Books on Northwest Highway and I carried on a pretty long very personal conversation in the stacks looking for a particular Vollman. The Vollman did not exist. I got a Vonnegut and a Gide just to buy something. My brother was suggesting I not tell my mom he was bringing an African woman with a slight accent into mom's home, tomorrow at 2 p.m. I've been telling her everything though. He said to use my judgement. I'm a shitty liar. I'm great at being reticent, or absolutely mute, but get me started and I just spew and spew and spew. I share with my siblings the desire to see a care-giver of some sort sharing this house with her on a part time basis. So I am not separating myself from my siblings on this. We have different methodologies, that's all.
Are ya'll ganging up on me?
All of us, all six.
Because you are losing parts of your memory and over time that could become dangerous for you.
Do you think my house is dirty?
Then why do I need some old woman in here doing for me what I can do for myself?
So that before your memory gets really bad you can have some say in who the person is that helps you
But I don't need help.
Everybody needs help.
I'm 87 years old and I've lived a good life.
Yes, we want you to keep up the good work.
Are ya'll talking about me behind my back?
Every couple of weeks, by phone, on conference calls.
I think its because we love you.
It's demoralizing to be treated like a child when you've lived through two wars and done a lot of things that none of ya'll will ever do.
I can see how it would be.
They took my car away from me last year.
I only ever drove to the grocery store a block away.
I know, but the people on the roads around here are lunatics. Its gotten worse over the years. But if you want to drive your car around, I'll go with you right now.
They took the key.
I have one.
It doesn't run.
Just the battery, I can get it started. Come on, change out of your nightgown and I'll get it started for you right now.
They treat me like a child.
I wish they wouldn't.
Instead Of Cheerful
There is an undercurrent of resentment which in my opinion belies the outward show of cooperation between the group. Who resents whom or what and why is something inside a variable of seven.
There is a feeling among three, six, or none, that emotion should be contained until the business is effectively performed to a satisfactory end. There is in this no mention of product but there may be one.
One or all have thoughts about the questionable benefits of longevity.
Everywhere around there is larger tragedy to dwarf that of the individual but the individuals are connected with no dissent on the issue of self-involvement.
Some are suspicious of the emotional hoax and some are just waiting it out.
The product lacks patience and so do the buyers.
No thing remains.
Twelve Hundred Miles Back
One thing I can’t get over is at the library in the New Orleans Lakeview area where I was hoping to check my email by borrowed computer the librarian asked me a question and when I was in the middle of answering her she shushed me and reminded me of my location, which as I have already mentioned, was at a library. Or in a library, I don’t know, I was, and am now, thinking about it, a little nonplussed. I mean most of the time I mumble like that guy on the King of the Hill cartoon, Boomhauer? So I’m really used to people saying--what? Or, I’m sorry, could you repeat that? But, shushing me for talking too loud, well, it’s just unheard of.
Then I’m sitting there, at the express computer, because after being shushed I really did not want to take a full hour, “no, I’ll only need fifteen minutes,” I said, and so I’m getting right to it, annoyed some by the library’s homepage, and the other librarians, standing right next to the librarian who shushed me, are yakking up a storm, and the man librarian, acting like the chief, keeps walking right behind me while I try to type very important stuff, just aimlessly wandering back and forth this guy is, until he collars another computer user who had gotten up to ask “my” librarian a question at full volume, and he, the seeming chief librarian, he says to this guy, at full volume, do you know much about football?
I’m having my first ever conference call that evening and I forgot the phone number and the ID/password numbers so I am accessing that information through my email inbox via the world wide web of the internets on a borrowed public library computer. I didn’t have my library card in my wallet, it was in the truck, my name is…was what I was explaining when I got shushed. The reason I come to Lakeview is because it is a rich neighborhood and I reason that rich people will have their own computers at home so that will free up the six computers for loan, for me. I have never, in the past, when living in New Orleans, and being temporarily without internet access, had a problem getting on a computer here, and needless to say, had never up until this day, been shushed. I don’t like noisy people myself, but I don’t shush them. Of course, in fairness, I’m not paid to do that, and I might feel differently if I were.
Anyhow, the guy says he knows a little and the librarian says how he can’t remember the name of the former quarterback for Dallas and no one could accurately guess who he might mean so the guy does what any half-assed football aficionado would do, he just starts throwing out names. Vinny Testeverde? Quincy Carter? Troy Aikman? The librarian says, that’s it, Troy Aikman.
Later, in some other town between Virginia and Texas, Lorina is finishing up what was turning out to be a rather complicated drive-thru order at a burger joint. The person taking the order could not hear Lorina properly and I, who wasn’t having anything and generally can’t be heard at all, mumbled something under my breath at the precise moment the complicated order was completed, and the drive-thru voice, apparently hearing me perfectly from the greater distance, said—what? Lorina looked at me with a look that screamed if you wanted something why didn’t you say so sooner and I just stared back blankly. Lorina was asking me what I wanted while the drive-thru person said will that complete your order. Lorina had the expression of someone who is having a run of bad luck. I told Lorina I didn’t want anything, hoping she would have better luck conveying that message than the she did the original order. That the world was conspiring to make things unnecessarily difficult for Lorina was a thing I could be sympathetic of because this was for me just like being shushed at the library. Clearly, whoever’s mixing my sound is falling down. I thought I had let that shushing incident go but I hadn’t. Reclining my seat as Lorina accelerated up the on-ramp I began humming, out loud or to myself (I was at this point unsure of volume levels in general), the Steppenwolf classic, Born to Be Wild.
Irrationally juxtaposing time schemes has me approaching New Orleans after 19 hours driving straight and Lorina is behind the wheel again so I have the luxury to contemplate executive decisions. “Let’s stop here in Slidell and go Walmart shopping at 11 p.m.” Lorina almost got sidetracked on a search for toilet paper but I, on the verge of a Walmart panic attack, assured her that not only can one get liquor and beer twenty-four hours in New Orleans, but also toilet paper. We could get the little stuff at the 24 hour quickie mart on Broad, near the house. At Walmart we got one of those queen-sized air mattresses with built in pump.
When we got to my house on Rocheblave we were met by two young men, one near college graduate and one near high school graduate/hopeful college graduate, who were preparing the house for our arrival by turning on the heat and laying out essentials, including toilet paper. When you haven’t been around for six months and are asking after people there is an obligatory recitation of who has been shot and who is in jail. The one bullet riddled young man from that Dumaine/Dorgenois area where I once lived was said to be upset because one of the bullets fired at him, one of the ones not entering his chest, hit him in the finger and sort of tore it off. The near college graduate, a former sixth man on a team that won the 5A state high school basketball championship, had in fact been on the very same steps where the shooting occurred when we arrived after 19 hours driving to pick up a key for my house, around the corner. I had slowed down and said hey E, and he had said he’d be right over, which I didn’t fully understand, until after getting the key, and stopping for toilet paper and water, and then proceeding to my house, where there he was, with J, being the upstanding citizen that he is. They had not executed this bit of kindness on their own, but with a little guidance had provided us with drinking water, toilet paper, and a frozen pizza.
In New Orleans Lorina and I attended a tourist site or two and leaving the French Quarter, walking through Armstrong Park, where alongside of you know I park on St. Philip, we saw right before exiting the park these two guys taking cuttings from the rose bushes. I’d never really paid much attention to the rose bushes in Armstrong Park. Lorina cupped a bloom in her hand, in December mind you, and sniffed. I will do whatever Lorina does, if it doesn’t seem harmful. I veered from Lorina at one point and on or near the seventh bush one of the guys, attending to a bush across the lagoon from us, said, that one there is my favorite. I carefully chose a bloom and sniffed. It was, as advertised, kickass. What are you gonna say? I said, nice. The guy said the bush was from 1830. From a cutting I would guess because the park hasn’t been around but since the mid 20th century.
I saved all my business for the last day. Made a run with Charles from across the street to the dump on Elysian Fields to get rid of all that stuff I had paid him to get rid of before leaving back in May. I paid him again. Got a brake tag/inspection sticker for the truck; went to the library and got shushed; went to the vintage record store on Magazine; visited my nephew so I could have a comfortable safe place from which to participate in a conference call; made a promise which is bringing me a little pain; called the person I was supposed to meet and said I couldn’t; went to a fancy ice cream shop to meet with Lorina’s college chum and chum’s husband; then had dinner at Liuzza’s on Bienville.
In Austin we stayed with Jose, who is projecting retirement to Puerto Escondido within the next year or two. And who am I kidding if I don’t admit to at least the consideration of being his chief bottle washer, or flower gardener. We ate Mexican food pretty much breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for three days. First place goes to El Azteca, on E. Seventh. We had spent the bulk of that day at Pedernales state park, which is near where Willie Nelson used to have a spread before the IRS kicked his ass. We weren’t on drugs but if we had known the sky was going to look like that, we would have been. We did the Continental Club on S. Congress one night, heard this bluesy, charismatic rocker, Jon Dee Graham, and thought him pretty good. Though the second hand smoke was enough to make me want to quit smoking, again.
In Dallas my mom remembered my name but recited a story about the ignominious forgetting of who my brother was and forgetting she had just told us, told the story a pretty good number of times, over just one dinner. One brother and his whole family and another brother with abbreviated family came over for Christmas Eve. Everyone seemed a little uncomfortable and ready to leave from the get go and I don’t know if it was because we are recently all plotting to help dear old mom, against her will (is it an intervention?) or if they all just had better things to be doing on Christmas Eve. I do know one thing though. They brought all these mom’s recipe cookies with them and then took them with them when they left. Yeah, I know you made a lemon cream pie especially for me but you could have left a few of those cookies, dudes, dudettes. How I expressed that last idea without cussing I’ll never know. Perhaps this will help—I’m a selfish bastard.
At that first ever for me conference call in New Orleans with my five siblings to discuss the ongoing realities of old age dementia as they pertain to our mother, I was feeling a little like the youngest son who has skated by on baby charm for most of his life and feeling that I had little to offer in this conversation that was all about bank accounts and powers of attorney and doctors visits I just spoke up and offered to come stay with mom for the month of January, to help execute this plan we are doing our bests to lay out perfectly in an imperfect world, and to say again, against mom’s will.
Lorina and I got back to Virginia a few days ago and she just came by to express no hard feelings that I’m not attending her New Years gig tonite, she being the trumpet player in a punk band (and me being the, cough, slightly older, curmudgeonly, non-pogo-dancing boyfriend). Tomorrow, if she doesn’t win the highway patrol lottery and end up DUI in jail, we’ll have collards, and black eyed peas, and cornbread. The next day I’ll drive the twelve hundred miles back to Dallas.
I half nuked 5 medium baking potatoes, although half boiling or half baking them is better, then I sliced them into medallions and tossed them into a pan with a liberal amount of olive oil and butter in which already were sautéing a half a onion and two cloves of chopped garlic. The pan was heaped high, a veritable mound of potato medallions, and I had to be careful upon the tossing not to let them spill over onto the stove top, perhaps to be lost forever under a burner, to commune with other bits of petrified food like loose change under a bed pretending to be covered with mold that turns out to be, in the end, simply, dust bunnies.
I lowered the heat and went up to the bighouse to check my email. I had missed the hearty breakfast I needed and had eaten instead two cinnamon rolls and coffee. That had burned off before I even thought about going out to perform chores in the fifteen degree windchill. It was supposed to warm up a little so I would just wait on it some. I checked my email again. Responded to one or two.
It’s cold here. I later in the evening talked to a Canadian writer who will perform cat and looking after houses duties in my absence and she said the cold didn’t bother her until it got below zero but she was saying that in my living room with coat all the way buttoned up and toboggan still pulled low over her ears. I’m just saying.
Back at the caretaker’s cottage I checked the potatoes, thought they looked a little unpleasantly translucent like they do when you try to pan fry them raw, and went back outside. I rearranged the myriad garage objects and tossed several bags of garbage into the back of the truck and then went back inside. I checked the heat on the potatoes, stood staring at Miss December on the Stihl calendar just to the left of the stove top and thought how she didn’t look cold, and went out and started up the truck.
I got that windshield fixed the other day, after a year of driving with spider web diffusion right up in my face. The crack was caused by a hurricane that had land fallen at New Orleans and then traveled 999 miles (first dropping the hurricane tag, then the tropical storm tag, to become simply a storm named Isobel) to reach my trucked parked under an American chestnut tree in Virginia. The sixty mile per hour wind propelled chestnut projectile had caused the spider webbing dead center drivers side and I had momentarily thought it a bad omen but drove cross country to the American ghetto a couple of times over the next year to debunk that myth. And like you think New Orleans is the only place Lagniappe happens the local Rappahannock mechanic also fixed the electric passenger side window without charge or for that matter without telling me he had done it.
I drove over to Rock Mills to the dump, off loaded, and then drove back to the house. I tossed the potatoes a bit and went back outside. I backed the truck halfway into the garage and took off the camper shell, leaned it up in the back corner. Back inside the potatoes were looking a little forgotten so I turned up the heat and gave them a light chopping with the spatula.
I drove into town to check the PO Box but got blocked at the end of the driveway by SF. We got out of our vehicles and shook hands.
“Did your friend get that bush hog blade off?”
“Oh, yes, and she wanted me to tell you thanks a lot for the advice, you know, its good to have somebody who’s done it before…”
“Yeah, of course...did she sharpen it?
“Not yet, and we’re going south in a few days so she probably won’t get to it before we get back.”
“Do you have it here with you?”
“Well, I did yesterday, but I don’t now.”
“If you want, if you leave it up the shed while you’re gone, I could sharpen it for you.”
“That’s a nice offer, I don’t know, she may want to do it herself so she knows how, but maybe you doing it once would give her the look of it and that would be good, so, I’ll ask her.”
“Well yeah, just leave it in the shed back there…”
This went on for a good while. I was starting to worry about those potatoes. Forgive the cliché but real men don’t worry about potatoes. SF told me his son’s girlfriend was having another baby. I know the son. I can mess with him a little. And I can’t resist corn pone humor. I said,
“Well good for them. I’m just wondering though, has Jr. figured out what causes that?”
I caught SF off guard with that one but he chuckled and said he wasn’t sure.
I said, “Well, you send the boy over and let me have a little talk with him, because it looks like maybe you never had that talk with him.”
SF laughed. “I’ll do that. I’ll send him over.”
“Yeah, send him over, I worry about Jr…”
Jesus, what was going to happen to my potatoes? I tried a bit of let’s wrap this up body language. It didn’t work right away but after a few more topic changes we shook hands and I was free to go. I paused, thinking maybe I should back up and check on those potatoes, but…come on, don’t be a sissy. I drove the few blocks into town. The mailbox yielded some insurance papers and a couple of juicy offers to get further into debt.
When I got back inside the bottom layer of potatoes was predictably blackened. Perfect. Mission almost accomplished. I tossed them and cracked a couple of brown eggs into a separate pan, with butter. I grated some cheese. The potatoes, onions, and garlic, had reduced to about a third of their original size. I put them in a bowl and threw on top the cheese. The yolk of a perfect over medium fried egg will run between 3/8th and 5/8th of and inch, on a level surface. I laid my nearly perfect eggs on top of the cheese which was already melted on top of the potatoes, which I forgot to mention, were lightly salted and peppered. Damn, lunchtime already.
In the afternoon, properly fueled, I went to the Co-op, and wanting to go easy on my truck made three separate trips out of loading and unloading 45 bags of shredded pine bark mulch for the bighouse flower garden, and the new (anticipating spring) flower bed I recently dug by my driveway. When I’m tripping, you know, I just mean daydreaming, although truth be told, I do have lucid daydreams, I see flowers spreading like the growing fractures of a cracked windshield, all over this forty acres, with me being the mule.
I miscalculated by a good bit on that mulch. I’ll need 30 more bags to finish out that bighouse bed. It’s a little cold right now, but it should warm up some later in the day…
The Shenandoah National Park is open 24 hours so if you go through the booth at the Thornton Gap entrance and the ranger says, after welcoming you--the park is closing at 5 p.m., then you know something is up. It was snowing a little bit so Lorina and I presumed that to be the reason for the early closing. I said, oh we plan on being gone by then, even though 5 p.m. was only two hours away and that really doesn’t amount to much of a hike. We were getting a late start. People do hike at night but usually under full moons any time after the leaves have fallen. Under new moon, early park closing, and snow, it would be considered bad form to be hiking in the evening hours.
Lorina couldn’t think of the trail name until the last minute and then it turned out to be Stony Man. It was Sunday and therefore not as good, generally speaking, as midweek hiking, because during the week you run much less the risk of running into that most dangerous and sometimes frightful park animal, hah, the human being. But this was one of the first days of let’s put on long johns sort of weather and being the second week of December, most people probably are trying to stimulate the US economy with Christmas shopping. We only saw two other cars in the park, none in the Stony Man parking lot.
One of the more interesting bits of trivia regarding the Shenandoah Park is that the range, which goes under different names (Appalachian, etc.) to confuse people, was once, like before man walked the earth, much bigger, sharper, jagged, and taller than it is now and there is suggested the similarity between either the Rockies or the Swiss Alps. For me why this is a particularly gratifying piece of trivia is because the range is considerably less spectacular in the tall jagged sense but so much more pleasing in the round, green with flowing streams and waterfalls sense, even as it provides the ancient evidence of shear granite cliffs (for rock climbers, and geology buffs) of an age which is purported to be some of the oldest on the planet earth. So, what I’m saying is, whatever bit of slow moving apocalypse occurred here, implies a brighter future. I am not here advocating the use of atomic bombs in the Rockies and the Alps, for those who require instant gratification. That would not be a satisfactory shortcut.
We are hiking up the mountain a ways and the cold air hurts the lungs a little but the path is not so steep as to be painfully annoying. It is snowing soft sleet pellets and the trail is lightly dusted white. Lorina shows me the first four story cliff face and I can see how it might be climbable, even for a moderately athletic person, but I don’t even like roller coasters or other similarly safe thrills, so I don’t think I would climb this. I’m not sure I would be able to shake the memory of a casual friend of mine who a few years ago fell four stories during a rock climb. Even though, really, he doesn’t have hardly a glimmer of perceptible limp at this writing. I don’t mind listening to Lorina’s instruction though because people often change their minds and so should I ever find myself three stories up a four story climb, I would like to have as much knowledge about the sport as possible.
We walk on, the trail is pretty much level at this point, and Lorina suggests we turn around because my truck is rear wheel drive and way too light in that rear. The drive down the mountain, with no other traffic to melt the snow, would soon be, or could soon be, treacherous. I agree we should turn around, but let’s walk just a couple hundred yards more. So we do that, and then pause. The snow/sleet is not falling anymore. Lorina nods up the hill and says, wanna hike off trail for awhile? I say yes and she leads the way up and I just follow, in most cases, the same indentations left by her boots in the rich, rocky soil, occasionally having to grab onto a tree trunk or a chunk of granite cropping to pull myself up. After the trail proper has become a memory I ask if she is pretty sure about bisecting the trail again by this off trail methodology. She is sure.
I feel pretty good and it’s not windy and I have a lighter and there is lots of dry wood on the ground. I like it here. I could live here for one night. Probably wouldn’t sleep much and I didn’t bring any snacks and the park ranger would wag her finger at us if she ever got a chance but people get lost, it happens all the time.
We were lost for awhile but as a follower I felt less the mild panic than did Lorina, who had to deal not only with finding the path but with that distraction of emotion related to diminishing certainty. She’d been reading my mind for about a week so instead of talking I just thought, its ok Lorina, we can sleep here, it’s cozy. I’m glad we didn’t have to though. We changed directions once and I thought of that Blair Witch movie, lost in the woods going in circles and all, but in the end there was a white streak ahead of us. Instead of yelling out, there’s the trail, I just kept walking because the streak didn’t look that different from the dusting of snow along a foreground streak caused by snow on a fallen log. Shortly, Lorina said, there it is, and reaching it ahead of me got down on her hands and knees and kissed the sugar coated earth. I said I bet that is only partly in humor and she said goddamn right. Not being lost is only to be properly appreciated after being pretty well lost on a potentially snowy night. Although, back on the trail, the happiness related to comfort and certainty is somewhat tinged by a sense of melancholy which is connected to the memory of that ecstatic freedom of being truly lost and disconnected from all things familiar. I hope to get back out there before driving down to New Orleans on Friday.
The Pink Lee Press On Nail
I’m painting the walls in the basement while these two black guys speaking French are putting together the pool table. We don’t talk to each other that much. Their job requires a certain level of expertise and mine really doesn’t. I could actually talk and still do an adequate job and truly they probably could too but it doesn’t seem like we have that much to say on this particular day. Honestly, I’m not even talking to myself that much. So it’s cool, we’re working peacefully in this room together except there’s really no reason they should have to smell paint fumes in the course of their job. I’ve got a couple of windows open and the outside entrance door too. They don’t complain about the fumes, unless they are doing it in French. I don’t speak French but I used to speak a little Spanish and I’m getting the idea of some their words. When they laugh I don’t assume they are laughing at me, but they could be. I am not without humorous content. It seems more like straight French rather than that totally poetic sounding Creole that the Haitians speak, with whom I am somewhat familiar from my days in New Orleans. I could ask them where they are from, because I am curious, but I am also tired of predictable questions. Hell, maybe they’re from France, or Canada.
One of the guys asks me (in English) at a certain point if he is in my way and I say, no, not at all, I’ve got plenty to do in other parts of the room. It is a large, finished basement, easily bigger than the house I live in. I start picking up the minutiae of five year old boy treasure and transfer it from its chaotic placement around the room, into a short sided cardboard box. Then I move a low, free-standing bookcase or knick knack shelf away from the wall. I throw down a drop cloth. I climb a six foot ladder and paint with a brush where the wall meets the ceiling. It’s called cutting in. Then I climb down and paint with a brush where the wall meets the baseboard. Then I get a roller and dip and roll it around in a five gallon bucket half full of paint, lift it up over the bucket, turn it around a few times by spinning the roller handle, and then put it to the wall and roll until it’s dry. Repeat. I’m working slowly now because I don’t want the pool table guys to think I’m waiting on them. But I am.
There are Ritz cracker crumbs all over the floor but I didn’t do it.
The five year old comes down and wants to help but I tell him he has to change his clothes. He goes up two floors and comes back and I tell him the pants are ok but the shirt is too good, change it. He leaves and comes back later looking as blue collar as he’s gonna get. He’s a barefoot painter like me. I lay down some extra protection against an already painted small section of wall; give him as much instruction as he’s going to take and presto, instant painter. He makes a few mistakes like all the five year olds I’ve employed but his work ethic is solid and he doesn’t talk back. Although, at five, he’s a little too literate for this type of work. He asks at one point—will this paint dry quickly? I want to grab him by the shoulders and say, boy, you can’t use adverbs in this line of work, but I don’t. He wouldn’t get it. It wouldn’t be funny to anyone but I and I don’t even think it’s that funny. After awhile he gets bored and goes back upstairs.
The two men finish the table and the bubble on the torpedo level is true blue so I initial here, here, here, and here, and sign here. As a duly appointed agent of the owner I tip the guys forty bucks and they take off.
I start painting the last long wall, the one closest to the brand new six million dollar pool table. Somebody upstairs, and I’m not going to say who, thinks it would be a good idea to let run free down here with me the five year old, the eight year old and his precocious friend, and the five year olds’ three and a half year old girlfriend. There was in attendance a young, polite, perhaps college freshman, perhaps Yalie, I’m not sure, but he made five people sharing the room with me at the end of a long day. He did reign the kids in sufficient enough for me to feel less the need to duct tape them all in a screaming ball and toss them out into the cold gray drizzle, so his attendance is not to be underestimated.
But before the perhaps college freshman came down the eight year old starts racking them up. Truly as little as possible but sometimes I treat other people’s children as if they were my own, and here let me not be remiss in mentioning that I have no children of my own. I do not in the least little bit pretend that this temporary treatment of other people’s children as my own is a good thing, but to me, watching a child with his full store of post school energy, stuck inside because of the rain, start to do something that to me seems like a bad idea, well, it is just as if I were watching him put his hand in a roaring campfire. And here do not let me pretend that I’m all about the altruism because part of me wants to let him put his hand in the roaring campfire as the quickest path to the hard earned, and therefore well remembered, lesson.
“No, you can’t do that now.”
You know he’s petulant. He says, “why?” with all the grating confidence of five Lee Press On Nails across a chalkboard.
I’m good for one “why?” I explain how it is that I’m painting the wall right by the pool table and how I need to finish (so I can go hide somewhere away from screaming children). By implication of my demeanor I am also saying—I was here first, I am bigger than you, and, I am meaner than you. I am an ogre sure as they are in fairy tales and after I’m done eating you I will use one of your rib bones for a toothpick.
The eight year old backs off a little bit. But is soon to be joined by his precocious friend who is to my present state of mind, for all intents and purposes, a giant Lee Press On Nail. A pink one. The two of them start talking about playing kickball, which is one of the main activities that go on in this room. There was even talk of putting the new six million dollar pool table so close to the wall as to render it useless, just to keep it out of the kickball base path.
“No, you can’t play kickball now.” (Large, freshly painted, still wet wall, and bouncing kickball, and 4’X8’ six million dollar horizontal surface.)
The Pink Lee Press On Nail says—“why?”
(Circuits sizzle, little puffs of smoke are emitting from out of my ears, and nose, and corner of my mouth as it cracks open on one side in grimace. I hear as if from down a long tunnel the words—why don’t you all go play down in the basement.)
Before I even know I’m saying it, I’m saying it. I say—Just because.
If you were ever yourself a petulant kid you know that was one of the things you swore to God you would never say to your own kids, because, it makes no sense. To a kid, anyway.
The Pink Lee Press On Nail says—“that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yes it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“What you mean is, is that it isn’t a complete sentence, and it’s not, but it does make sense.”
All these kids, they go to schools that don’t employ the use of heavy wooden paddles with holes drilled in them.
“Look kid, its idiomatic shorthand for—‘you’re about to get my backhand.’ When an adult says to you ‘just because’ you had better believe the words have meaning. In a world where parents have evolved to a point of not smacking their kids anymore the words ‘just because’ could possibly mean that you are about to be made an exception of."
“You ended a sentence with a preposition.”
“So did you.”
Dogs are forever showing magical powers so if one looks at you when you are leaving, all uncharacteristically sad like, it makes you wonder if he is forecasting your imminent demise. Doesn’t it? It did me at the time, a few days ago, and then later, which was this morning, it did again as I remembered it after escaping by seconds the high speed rear ending of my truck into the carpet van on 66, returning to the bucolic Rappahannock from the less than bucolic DC area. I had been daydreaming towards the left, amazed by the rush hour into DC, on the other side of the highway, 37 miles out.
I survived it though, and that’s all that matters, end of story.
A couple of days before the dog implied my premature ending I had almost died of fright or had a bad case of shoppingphobia in a Charlottesville, VA. Shopping mall, buying a somewhat sub semi-formal outfit for a semi-formal party, which seems a contradiction of terms (formal party, and for that matter, jimlouis buys outfit), but isn’t, and this the many of you who leave your homes to attend soirées on a regular basis no doubt know. I had tried on the sport coat, semi-formal all the way baby, and elicited a veritable whoosh of you so hot from the attending Lorina, but me and Perry Ellis could not agree on the 300 dollar price tag. If my so-called salesman hadn’t been as hopelessly lanky and unable to find clothes in his own store and also been hands off in his approach I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. I picked up a cashmere sweater and dropped it like a hot cashmere potato when I saw the 200 dollar price tag. Except for at the Thrift City next to the Rock n’ Bowl in New Orleans, I haven’t done any actual clothes type shopping in, uh, going on thirty years or so, and that would I guess extend into the past beyond New Orleans but I can’t pull up the cities or the names of the thrift stores for you, beyond the obvious, Goodwill and Salvation Army, and Poughkeepsie (which is a joke because you know I never lived, or shopped, in Poughkeepsie.)
I may go into Culpeper and if I see Perry the Hobo I might ask if he’ll sell me his jacket for 25. Other than that though I’ll just go jacketless, and besides, who’s got all this disposable income to be getting caviar and red wine stains out of 300 dollar jackets? I know what you’re thinking. 300 dollars? My socks cost more than that. Right? And, Perry Ellis? Where were you shopping, Walmart? Just leave me alone.
But it was a long day, with more shopping than I mentioned, and, Charlottesville is not just around the corner from here and that was a round trip on a day we also were round tripping to and from DC to hear The Magnetic Fields at the Birchmere (in, actually, Alexandria.) It was crazy in Charlottesville with all the manic Christmas shopper energy and that per-capita higher than normal number of assholes in the Lowe’s parking lot (I was one of them, I admit.) Also in the parking lot Sponge Bob’s best friend, Patrick, was up 4 stories high in one of those bucketed fire rescue cranes and for the life of me I could not think of his name. Lorina wanted to know how, without a TV, I am so up on this Sponge Bob character (“What?!!!!,” I challenged, “you don’t know Sponge Bob?). This was before, after, or in between one of the times I wanted to merck her as a result of me not handling the stress very well. So if I couldn’t remember Patrick’s name then how come I can now you may wonder? I have a five-year-old friend and yesterday I asked him, twice. “Patrick,” he said, each time, with little, or no, incredulity regarding the scope of my ignorance.
But sure, later I got to go drown my manic depression in the dilaudid-esque well of Magnetic Fields. Which probably would have worked fine if not for the giggly group sitting behind us, who made being depressed not at all enjoyable and more like being in the Lowes parking lot all over again. So we got up and stood but the bouncer said we couldn’t stand, had to sit, and if I pointed out the offending parties “he would take care of it.” No thanks, I smirked, and we went to find seats, next to the only (I swear) other group of happy people in the room. I mean, you can’t really begrudge people happiness, but it is a thing, I think, that can be inappropriate to certain times and space. That bouncer would have been better employed in kicking all the happy people out on their asses. Smiling would be allowed but prolonged head-bobbing and quirky happy chatter would get you thrown out. If voted for, I will run. If elected, I will be an asshole.
Sitting And Traveling
The thing about today is that for all the so-called daylight hours there is only one moment. There is no progression of time. There is no tracking of the sun across the sky. There is only the one monochromatic lighting scheme and there is only the same fifteen or twenty drops of water tentatively leaping from the gutter edge to certain death in the bushes below. Except there is no death for them because they are running on a loop. Instant reincarnation. The rain can be described as falling only in the sense that it does appear to be coming down from up above. Really though it is almost floating, heavier and thicker but clearer than fog. There is only one moment and we are in it. Doing this, looping.
Two days later and now is the time to ask after one another. How was Thanksgiving? Ya’ll go ahead and do that amongst yourselves…all right, good. Did you eat too much this year? I ate a whole pie.
I am not positioned to see The Peak, which is the name of a specific part of the Shenandoah range, and can be seen if I stand up, walk ten feet, and look out the window to my left. In the other room is playing Double Nickles on the Dime, Minutemen, which I got turned onto by a hitchhiker I picked up in Utah 15 or 19 years ago. He was going to Oxnard, CA. or thereabouts and I was going nowhere. We speared rib eyes with sticks and cooked them over a campfire in the desert off the road a bit. The next evening we were outside Dodger Stadium and he was procuring tickets for us from a scalper. He could tell where the seats were just by glancing at the ticket so we weren’t taken advantage of by scalpers who might have imagined he and I had just fallen off the turnip truck. Not that they could see the truck I was driving but parts of the body were tied on with bailing wire.
I remember him telling me that Dodger Stadium was so clean you could snort coke off the bathroom floor and although I would never try that, and could not on this occasion because neither he nor I had any, the stadium was indeed a shining example of cleanliness.
After the game he suggested we drive down to Hunnington Beach for the next days’ national surfing competition, and so we did. It was late night or early morning when we arrived and we slept in the truck and got eaten by mosquitoes, parked on a residential street a few blocks from the beach. Mosquitoes are not a thing I generally think about when I think about California. In those days I traveled to and slept outside in California on several occasions. I only remember mosquitoes in Hunnington Beach. Once in San Simeon, sleeping on a construction site, I was awakened by construction workers at 6:30 a.m. and once in Santa Cruz young lovers snogging on the steps above where I was trying to sleep woke me up because the pitch of the male lover’s begging was similar to that whining pitch of the female mosquito. The whirring of a cheap circular saw might sound like a mosquito on acid but I didn’t wait around for that on the construction site. I gathered up my worldlies and crept off to the nearby road, where I was picked up by hippies in a station wagon offering windowpane. A year prior, in the tramp jungle near the train tracks in Yuma, Arizona, I was awakened by the groping hands of a hobo who was going for the buck knife I would never use but kept resolutely and foolishly strapped to my side anyway. He was unsuccessful because he mistook my mild grumbling as a near consciousness merely one step from him receiving my buck knife the hard way. He did not know how unlikely that was, which speaks well for the power of implication and/or near consciousness. Yuma, Arizona is not in California, obviously, so really doesn’t belong in this paragraph about mostly California but I was just thinking about it so here it is. I am not going to go on and on about it in such a fashion that would justify it having its own paragraph. Not that the tramp jungle in Yuma doesn’t deserve its own paragraph, it really does.
The thing about getting up early is…no, forget that. The thing about The Peak is…no, I’m a long way from being able to describe that because it requires so much compression of time/space and a vocabulary more specific to art. It was purple again this morning and the undulations were richly described by shadow. That’s the easiest one. How was it for you?
Later, on that same trip, I was in Winona, Minnesota and picked up my own copy of Double Nickles on the Dime. One last thing:
The day of the riot at my elementary school was, excluding the riot, much like any other day.