Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Wizard of Was


The madness doesn't subside.  Did I already say that it started like an episode of The Twilight Zone then morphed into Fifty Shades of Gray?  Insert dream sequences and phone calls in the night.  My friend told me I will end up with a dead rabbit on the stovetop.  One thing ends, another begins.  No--two things end, and therein lies the rub.  At work, I was given a t-shirt by HR that has one word emblazoned on the front: WAS.  I am feeling forlorn.  The Wizard of Was.


I am touched sometimes by people's concerns.  A friend of mine once told me that my problem was that I wanted a woman to think about me all the time.  Hell, he said, you're lucky if she's thinking about you when you are standing right in front of her.  I realized how true a statement that was.  And so, if we were talking about a woman who supposedly had feelings about me, what chance would I have that others would think about me at all? 

That pretty much became the assumption I lived by.  I don't believe I exist for people unless I am standing in front of them, and only sometimes then. 

But people have been telling me I need to go somewhere, to get away.  I used to go all the time, they say, but I haven't had a vacation in years.  They must be noticing something about me to bother saying it.  I am sure they are correct.  I need to get away. 

A mattress on the floor, books and records in Peaches crates, a stereo, a ficus.  A ficus?  Everybody had them.  It was required, I think.  Look how easy it was to get out of town, though, how easy it was to change your life by running away. 

The factory whistle blows.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dance, Dance, Dance



Pictures are being leaked as well.  What could this fellow have been thinking?  No wonder we were the only band in town without groupies.  There is nothing right about this thing at all. 

The turmoil of my life continues to rage, but yesterday my poor and tender heart had to harden in order to save itself against the disinterest of another.  Last night, knowing nothing is ever final, there was resolve.  But resolve only makes the next lunatic step more dangerous.  I am like a drunken man reeling on the dance floor.  A quiet night at home just isn't any more.  The balance is off quilter now and home seems a duller and lonelier place.  I've been here before, and it was exciting each day and night not knowing what to expect, but I don't know that I can take all that any more.  Physically or emotionally.  I know it is happening, for all the music sings to me. 

"Dance, dance, dance. . . ." 

It is exhausting, and this morning I slumbered far beyond my usual hour.  It was lovely. 

But every morning I am reminded that the night before I was drinking and emailing songs.  It is a bad and troubling sign. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Whistle Blows for Thee



The blog may be going dark soon.  Take a look at Google's new policy:

Choice: Self-censor, or be 'disappeared'

The notice to all Blogger users marked as "adult" reads,
(...) In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or presented where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content. 
The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.
This should be no surprise, really.  It is what corporations do.  They find a niche, fill every possible need they can afford to find, make a ton of money and begin to whittle down the choices they previously offered.  Grocery store chains are great at this.  At first a good one has all the things you had never been able to get in your home town.  Everyone gushes about the store, and it becomes "the place" to shop.  But slowly--and then quickly--they start paring and reducing, and you begin to see products that are labeled with their own branding.  And one day you realize, "This place sucks."  But "they" know that it will take a long time and a lot of effort for a competitor to challenge their success.  Eventually, when another company does, they reduce prices, bring back more products.  They can do this because they have all the resources, all the money.  How do you fight it? 

We all know that my images are "artistic," though, right?  Fuck that.  Really?  I want Google to tell me about what is art and what is education and what is documentary in nature?  Oh. . . about as much as I want ISIS deciding such things.  Art is a public matter.  It goes to "market" so to speak, and is valued in the public space.  The public isn't right about such things, but it isn't wrong, either.  If they don't like a thing, they just don't go to see it.  That's why they put the on/off switch on the t.v.  A picture of a woman trying very hard to show us her cervix is sexually explicit or graphic, right?  Unless what?  Unless it is referential, ironic, aesthetic, educational?  I will leave that to the omniscient computer people who run giant corporations to decide.  People like Google and the Koch Brothers.  They must know everything or they wouldn't be so rich.

I don't know what the blowback to Google will be, but they will survive it.  I have loved "The Google" as a search engine, but I will wean myself now.  I began watching "CitizenFour" last night, the documentary about Snowden.  This morning, I read this.  I have to wonder if Google will decide that Robert Mapplethorpe's photos have artistic quality?  I don't care, really. . . for two reasons, one of which is that they have no moral authority in such things.  But that, again, will be born out in the marketplace.  If "shoppers" allow them to do this and be successful, then they will have been granted the authority de facto. 

This is not at all what I had planned on writing today.  I am not a polemicist by nature.  I much prefer the vagaries of life.  I have no doubt that Google will succeed.  But something will pop up.  Of that, too, I have no doubt.  And it won't be the outrage over art or education or science that does it.  You know what it will be.  You know what the market wants.  You know where there is money to be made.  It is by servicing man's lowest and basest desires.  And I hate it, hate the drawing of distinctions between this and that, between art and whatever it is not decided by corporate gurus.  I'd rather see it all in the same stew, so to speak, where it can be valued for what it is, where it can be diluted or moderated based upon an average or mean rather than a skewed sample. 

But oh well.  I have other things to think about now. . . the factory whistle blows.  Ask not for whom the whistle blows; it blows for thee.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Disaster by Land and by Sea


(things that did not get done)

My life went sideways a bit this weekend.  Choices.  Now I just want to be alone in my house to read and contemplate the lack of meaning, which means I want the blank slate on which to write the meaning of my life.  More, I want to "put my house in order."  I don't know that I can survive the crazies as well as when I was young.  I mean, I felt young for a minute or a day or whatever, but circumstances have changed much and there are new retributions I'm not prepared for. 

In other words. . . I want to crawl under the covers for a week with the blankets pulled over my head.

Oh, I think, the glory of mulching, of cleaning the refrigerator, of organizing the library and various book stashes all about the house, of the joys of early bed and good, healthy living. 

An apothecary lamp has a safe and serious voice.  Listen to the lamp. 

*   *   *   

So Carl entered the Navy married and a hayseed.  He later would say that he was glad he chose the navy as he always had a comfortable bunk and hot meals.  He stayed in shape, he would say, by climbing the rungs of the ladders using only his hands and by boxing in the little gym they had in the belly of the ship.  And so for the first few months, life in the navy seemed o.k.  He grew a mustache of the Errol Flynn kind and made friends with whom he went when they made their first port of call.  They had been at sea and had not been allowed ashore, so when they finally put in to dock, they were half-mad for land.  What happened that night, though, was never completely clear.  Carl, who had never tasted alcohol before, got drunk with his new pals.  When he woke up, he said, he was in the brig and was facing court marshal.  He didn't remember anything of what happened, but his friends began to fill him in.  They were drunk and rowdy and some MPs came to take them back to the ship.  Carl had busted them up pretty good.  It looked like he was going to be dishonorably discharged and sent back home to his wife and son.  That was what it looked like, he said, but they were back at sea with him in the hoosegow when the ship came under attack from Japanese planes.  It was all hands on deck, then, he said, and they let him out of his cell to man his station.  After that, it took awhile for his release, but eventually he was called to report to the ship's commanding officer where charges were reduced.  He wouldn't be returning home after all--with a condition.  He was going to represent the ship in the fleet's boxing tournament. 

*   *    *

O.K.  That was weak.  My head is still not screwed on right, and there are butterflies in my stomach.  I've made a mess that will take time to rectify.  Seems I might have learned something by now.  Perhaps there is still time. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Carl



Carl was born in Ohio in 1920.  His mother divorced his father after he was "institutionalized."  It was something the family kept quiet as being shameful.  His father, it seems, had gotten involved with gangsters and moving whiskey in Dayton during Prohibition.  These, however, were not tolerant people, and when he was found in the apartment of the bosses girlfriend, they dropped him out of the window on his head.  He never spoke after that.  The doctors, so the story goes, said that he was fine to leave the hospital, but he wouldn't.  He remained there until he died.  

Carl was the third of four children, two boys and two girls, though there was talk of another who died in infancy.  Rather, there was little talk.  After their mother remarried, they all moved onto a rural farm with her new husband.  His eldest sister wed and was the first to leave soon followed by his older brother.  Carl and his younger sister were left to help on the farm.  Carl milked the cows and fed the chickens every day before school and went back to work when he got home.  He had to miss a couple years of school when he got older in order to keep the farm running.  As a child, he had straight brown hair, but as he got older it became curly and black.  When people asked him how he got the curl in his hair, he would to tell them that he used to sit in the barn with the cows and one of them liked to lick his head.  His hair, he said, had turned curly overnight.  

Carl was left handed which caused him trouble in school.  Superstition associated left-handedness with evil spirits and deviltry, and Carl's teachers forced him to do everything with his right.  They would tie his left hand behind his back when he wrote and smack his knuckles with a ruler when he used his left hand to pick anything up. As a result, though, he was almost completely ambidextrous when he got older and could do most things equally well with either hand.  Working on the farm had made him strong and he became well-known in the county for his feats of strength.  People would drive to the farm with their children on Sundays because they had heard about the boy who could pick up the backend of a tractor.  In the barn, he had hung a canvas sack full of sand from the highest beams, and he used it as a punching bag.  He learned to swing the heavy bag in a huge arc and to stop it dead with a single punch.  Once, when his older brother came for a visit, he asked to see Carl do this.  "Let me try that," he said afterwards.  "Don't do it, Harry," he told his brother.  "You'll break your arm."  But being the older brother, of course, he wouldn't listen, and so he pushed the bag and got it to swing out to its full arc,.  He timed his punch as it returned, and when he hit the bag, he screamed out in pain.  His arm had to be set as he had busted both the ulna and radius.  

In his senior year, Carl was a track and football star.  Because he had been kept out to work on the farm, he was twenty years old in his senior year, but that wasn't an uncommon thing.  His slim yearbook had pictures of the football team and a story about his quarterbacking the team to victory against their cross-county rivals.  

After graduation, he moved away from the farm and got an apartment in Dayton.  There he worked as a bartender and a bouncer, and he met a woman named Trixie.  They got married and had a son who they named Carl.  They called him Junior.  A couple years into the marriage, Carl got a draft notice.  He was taken into the navy where he served as a Machinist's Mate in the Pacific.  The marriage did not survive the war.  

(to be continued. . . I think. . . . )

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Can Change



"I went to bed and closed my eyes and tried to see long roads ahead. I saw trains and boats and motorcycles. . . anything that will transport me. I am, even if only metaphorically, going away."

"I can change, I can change, I can change. . . ."


"oh, oh, oh. . . ."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Iceman Cometh




I've been trying to write a simple paragraph for over an hour.  It is too important, I guess.  I just can't say it correctly, just can't get it to come out right.  Yesterday I made a decision that effects the rest of my life.  Irrevocably.  It was not a surprise, necessarily, but it was sudden.  One of the consequences of living as I do is not having anyone to talk about these things with in the night.  You can talk to friends, of course, in the daylight, but it is does not help you viscerally.  And thus the psyche suffers, I guess.  I am different now.  I don't know.  

After the decision, I tried contacting people I thought I might want to tell.  I was largely unsuccessful.  

Then drinking alone in the night, I made mistakes.  There is no wisdom, perhaps, but only living with illusion.  When illusions begin to crumble. . . the Iceman Cometh.  


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Soles of My Shoes



Watch the first ten minutes of "St. Vincent."  Don't watch any more than that.  Wonderful opening to a schlock movie.  But the first ten minutes. . . .

Vignette.  For many many years, I would leave town when I got too stressed or sad or depressed, would just get in the car and head south to the little hotel where I had stayed with my family in the early days of living in the Sunshine State.  It was a mom and pop place on a beautiful pure white sandy beach with a diving reef within easy swimming distance from the shore.  As a young boy, I watched a man pull seahorses from the water around us.  I saw barracudas follow us, so my father said, as we walked in the early evening sun.  It remained for me a place of dreams and promised adventures.  It was close, only a couple hours away from my own home town, and it was cheap.  I'd stayed there often enough that the owners and staff always remembered me and gave me a special rate.  And often, as has been too much the practice in my life, I went alone. 

One spring I was there doing what I always did.  In the early morning, I would rise with coffee and a book, then I would take a run and a long walk on the beach to the inlet a couple miles away.  When the sun got hot, I would take a drive to Palm Beach and explore Worth Avenue or The Breakers or any of a dozen other places.  At sunset, I would go to dinner on the water and eat fresh fish.  Back at the hotel, I would take a rum drink out to listen to the sound of the waves and watch the lights of the ships passing in the dark. 

Oh. . . and I thought a lot.  It was my pleasure and my curse. 

This particular trip, though, I had stayed longer than usual, and one night, bored and lonely, I decided to go out.  There was no nightlife anywhere around the hotel, at least not the kind I was thinking of, but forty minutes or so to the north was one of those boom towns where everyone is making money in the money houses.  Of course there was a club, a disco sort of place that was big in the '80s.  It was not the sort of spot that I ever went to back home, but what the hell, I thought, nobody here knows me.  I will just go and stand around and watch the show.  None of my friends will ever need to know. 

In forty minutes, I was standing in a long line of people dressed for a night out at the club.  People were out to drink and hook up.  It was the kind of place where young brokers and bankers take a girl to the car for some blow and a little oral, returning to his buddies afterwards feeling heroic and quite triumphant.  Everyone seemed to me to have that hardened, expectant look. 

I, of course, stood out like a sore thumb, but I was used to it and probably reveled in it, too.  Where they were cocky, I was contemplative.  They talked.  I listened.  They drove big powerboats.  Mine was sail.  Their cars were new and sharp and often leased.  O.K.  I have to admit, I had bought a new white CJ7, but our intentions were different, I think.  My hair was always tousled from driving in the open air without a top.  The thing was messy. 

I had been standing in line for a few minutes when one of the doorman/bouncers began walking toward me.  Jesus, I thought, here it comes.  It was always the same.  I knew something was going to be wrong. 

"Hey, I am not going to be able to let you into the club.  You can't wear tennis shoes in here."

"Oh, really?"

"Yea, man, sorry.  Do you have any others in the car?"

"No.  But technically, these aren't tennis shoes."

"What do you mean?"  He looked puzzled. 

What I had on were a pair of canvas boat shoes.  I told him so. 

"Let me see the bottoms," he said.  I turned my foot up so he could see the tread.  "Alright," he said, "you can go on in." 

I couldn't believe it.  What stood between my getting into the club and getting back into my car was the part of my shoe that you couldn't see.  By this point in my life, though, I had come to accept many of life's absurdities, especially as they confronted me.  I had courted them, I guessed, through acute recognition if nothing else.  I had already developed a strange awareness that served me. . . dare I say "well"? 

What happened that night after I went into the club is a story for another time.  You will think I am making it up when I tell you, though, and you might be able to write it before I get the chance to.  I'll give you some of the ingredients the way the publishers of the Harlequin Romance series do to potential authors.  There was liquor.  There was a shoving match.  There was a girl.  Yes, yes, she was rich.  She was from Palm Beach.  She was going "my way."  You can write it, I know.  But not the ending.  You will never be able to write the ending. 

Sometimes it goes that way now, too, though in truth, my life is more like the first ten minutes of "St. Vincent" than I would like to admit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Transformative



Sunday, after brunch and after a walk on the Boulevard, my friend and I went back to the studio where the cars were parked.  I was given a brand new skateboard for my birthday.  It is small and quick and squirrelly, and I have been, in truth, rather afraid of it.  But my friend had brought his own skateboard, a long board which is much more suited for touring, and he said, "You ready to ride?"  The street in front of my studio is a long, slow hill.  "This will be perfect," he said.  And since he is a friend with whom I have done everything from high altitude glacier climbing to 5:10 rock climbing and I don't know what grade whitewater kayaking, I certainly couldn't say no.  He is nearly fifteen years younger than I, though, and doesn't yet know what it feels like to be brittle-ish.  But I think he might have seen some trepidation in my eye because he said, "You take the long board down first to get used to it."  "No," I said, "this will be fine."  

And how could it not be, really.  The earth has a limited number of perfect days, and this was certainly one, the sky a high, far away cerulean, the air cool and the sun warm upon your skin.  Everything seemed fresh and new.  

I put my left foot on the short board and gave a little shove with my right.  I'm a goofy-footer, you see, in this and in surfing, and it says something about my personality, I think.  All the little muscles, the ones used in balance and not  for strength, the tiny ones that hold the tendons and ligaments in the ankles and shins and knees and the little muscles that connect your hips to something and others that must be connected to the ribs--all the crazy little ligatures that are never employed in power moves--they were suddenly alive. 

I leaned back with my heels to make a slow turn, but damn, the little board could practically turn around on itself, and I took a quick breath without yelling out.  Then forward toward the toes, back and forth, skating like I skied on the hard blue slopes when I thought I had gotten good before I knew that I was tearing up the slope cutting back and forth across the mountain to take off speed, now on the skateboard picking up speed nonetheless, finally coming to the bottom of the hill where the road gently began to slope upward, the board finally slowing.  I looked back up the tiny hill.  It didn't seem a hill at all, really.  

I wanted to go again.  

And so we spent the afternoon playing on skateboards like the kids who came around to do jumps off the slopes and loading docks around the studio, the kids I never run off but tell to be careful.  They like that I don't run them off, but I tell them to be quick because the other fellows in the back are not nice and will call the police.  No, not quite like that, for we didn't jump anything but simply felt the fun sensation of controlled slow motion falling down a hill, all those little core structures beginning to remember what it was like to do such a thing again.  

On the last run, I got into a bit of a jam.  Cars were parked on one side of the street, and a car was turning at the intersection right in front of the studio.  Three cars, however, were coming around the parked cars toward me.  Suddenly, the street was very narrow.  If the car at the cross street pulled out, I was going to be toast.  And so in a clownishly serious way, I began to wave my hand in the air while saying something like "Yikes."  Suddenly, I saw hands popping out of the three cars coming my way, and as I passed them. . . pop, pop, pop. . . high fives.  The kids were getting a kick out of watching an old man on a skateboard, I guessed.  

Now I know I've gone on about something silly, mythologizing a non-event, so to speak.  And it is true.  But this isn't about the heroism of gliding on a skateboard down a small hill, but about what happens to you after.  Leaning against the truck in the fine winter air, I felt different than I did before. It was not that I felt any sort of accomplishment, for I knew how silly I must have looked, but that I felt liberated.  There was a changing of my mood and spirit standing there having done something so frivolous and fun.  I remembered a lifetime of that, of feeling different because of what I had just done.  It used to be a common event, mornings on the lake in my kayak paddling as the sun came up over the trees, everything still, the bass jumping, looking for gators on the farthest side where there was no development, and paddling back as the sun came up still all alone on the mirror smooth surface.  Just silly things like that or climbing buildings or overpasses with my friends on a Saturday afternoon--just for silly fun.  

I am determined to have more silly fun again.  It is powerfully transformative.  

*   *   *   


A woman I know sent me this the other day saying something about my birthday which was already a week gone. I didn't get the shirt, of course, but I got the message. It is the reason I try to keep my blog anonymous and out of the eye of people I know. How can I write if I don't use the materials at hand? But I am going got begin to tell stories from the past as if they were present, not sticking to chronology but mixing them up as I remember them. There is much that I don't wish to forget or let die with not writing them. When I tell a story at dinner now, I often hear, "You should write that."  


Indeed.  


But maybe in fairness, I should get the t-shirt.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Night and Day



Confession:  I'm fat again.  I've eaten and drunk most of my belly back.  I did it in a single weekend.  It doesn't seem possible, but it is.  It was unnecessary but inevitable.  It comes from deprivation, really, and then overcompensation.  On Valentine's Day, I barely ate a thing.  After a pot of coffee for breakfast, I thought about going to the gym, but it was cold and my old bones didn't want to do anything, so I sat around the house reading and working on photos and listening to music.  At noon, though, I cooked up three eggs and had two tangerines.  Then, I thought about my mother.  I told her in the morning that I was coming over with a Valentine, and now it was late, so I put on my gym clothes and hustled out the door.  After the gym, I bought my mother a dozen roses and took them to her house.  I am a perfect boy, eh?  Might have been better, I know, if I'd taken them first thing, but she and I are pretty inured to all of this, and I stayed for a while and watched two guys in the forest trying to get a fire started and kill a deer with a rifle and the single bullet that they had.  My mother is apparently studying up for the coming apocalypse.  For me, watching these shows is like watching people run a marathon.  It is difficult, no doubt, but nobody dies.  It is easier to try a thing like that when the most that will happen is that you are embarrassed by your lack of prowess.  However, when the boys had killed the deer and made it through the perilous days and nights successfully, I felt the afternoon with mother had reached its denouement, so I gave her a hug and said goodbye.  Trips to several grocers and a liquor store, and I was home and ready to shower.  There were eating plans for the night.  I poured a drink and got into the shower.  Then it hit me.  My blood sugar was falling.  Three eggs and two tangerines had been it.  The workout and the liquor were beginning to conspire.  I would need food very, very soon. 

You see, that is where things begin to go wrong.  Such eating does not help you lose weight.  No, no, it only helps you lose your mind.  But everyone was ready at the appointed time and we got a good table at the delicious Italian restaurant with the roaring ovens and terrific smells.  I needed food in a bad way.  But of course, there is first the bar, the drinking and the talking and the being suave and debonair.  Think of Cary Grant or one of the good versions of James Bond if they had shaggy hair and wore jeans.  O.K. O.K.  But it kind of works for me sometimes.  Perhaps one of the bad Kennedys.  Yes, that's more like it.  So we chatted up the barmaid and saw the model I had gotten a job there.  She came over and said hello and thanked me up and down.  This was great, she said.  She had lots more time to study.  That is what I was glad to hear.  She looked wonderful and my friend was instantly enamored. 

"I thought you didn't like young women," I said to him. 

"I'm changing my mind," he said. 

"Oh, you're a bad influence," one of the others chimed in.  "You only like young women."

"It is well known," I said, though it was not exactly true.  Of late, I had dated an actual woman. 

"What do you have against women your own age?"

"Nothing.  It's just that the older women get, the more they focus on what's wrong with you.  Younger women tend to see more of what's right.  Look at you.  You're already up my ass." 

"I'm not 'older,'" she said.  "What the fuck.  I'm in my twenties."

"Late twenties," I said. 

She looked put off.  "Early late twenties," she laughed. 

Just then a group of women walked in the door wearing subtle leopard print dresses and poofy scarves.  "Here they come, our friends from the northern counties."  A woman at the bar turned to us and began to chat.  She was from one of the cities to the north.  She and her husband had come in on the new commuter train.  She lived in a town that was trying to undergo some gentrification.  It actually had some nice new bars, but the streets were still full of rednecks and people doing the jitterbug crack walk.  She asked us some questions about town, and I told her that it had been overrun now. 

"The Boulevard tonight is full of out of towners.  This is the new Disney of Liquor and Food.  You can see them when they come, all full of nervous energy, eyes a-bugging, dressed like they are going to a prayer meeting or to prom.  You know what we call the commuter train, don't you?" 

She looked at me with nervous eyes.  "No. . . what?"

"The Carnivale Cruise Ship."  She and her husband laughed.  "There used to be a subtle vibe to this town," I said, "understated and calm.  Now it is like the Hootersville bus gone to Mardi Gras.  Everything good has moved off the Boulevard far enough away that the rubes can't comfortably walk." 

I don't know why I have to be such a prick, but I always liked being the only hillbilly in a very nice town.  I don't mind hillbillies in their element, of course, but I've never liked the white collar working guy who makes enough money to badly emulate true wealth in a conformed and caustic way. 

But before I could tell my new friends more, just before I went into a diabetic coma, our table was ready.  I couldn't get food quick enough.  The restaurant is wonderful and doesn't scrimp on ingredients.  First cold press extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar and slices of fresh bread--Jesus, I had never eaten anything so good.  I ate everything and asked for more.  A bottle of wine.  Caprese Salad.  And the special, a center cut Chateaubriand filet with potatoes and vegetables.  I felt like Falstaff.  At last, though, I'd quit talking, and the table conversation had gone normal-ish.  I looked around the restaurant.  Everyone was beautiful now.  It looked like L.A.  A women at the table next to me and slipped her foot out of her subtle Marie Claire and was rubbing the inside of her opposite ankle.  She had perfect feet, perfect toes.  I'd seen her come in wearing a camel's hair topcoat.  Her hair was of that same color.  The warmth of the restaurant, the smell of the food, the clinking of forks and glasses. . . .

"Let's go to that new place at the end of the Boulevard next to Paul McCartney's house for a drink."  We were just finishing up.  "Have you been?"

"No," I said.  I'd been by it.  It never looked like my kind of place, but the night was new and I didn't want to be a poop.  Everyone always seems more ready for things like this than I am.  So we piled into the car and drove toward the carnival.  I slipped the car into the parking lot of the Catholic church.  The gates were up. 

"You're a catholic, right?  You go here?" 

"Well, my family paid some money, so I guess technically. . . . " 

The night was beautiful, clear and cool enough for everyone to wear their winter clothes.  We walked by the McCartney mansion.  There wasn't a light we could see.  It is a mystery to everyone why he built the place at all.  We crossed the street, and I started to walk into the bar, but my buddy told me no, not that one.  We were going upstairs.  Oh, shit, I thought.  There must be some kind of disco.  As we walked the few steps down the sidewalk, a car full of young girls drove slowly by and rolled down the window. 

"It's Valentine's Day," said a beautiful teenager.  "Will you be my Valentine?"  She was smiling and the other girls in the car were laughing.  I put my hands into the air in surrender and said, "You know I'm a Ready Teddy."  Everybody laughed.  That is how life should be, I thought, just silly and fun. 

"She had the window down before she ever saw you," said one of the group caustically. 

"Sure she did.  Whatever." 

And just then, we were there.  A man who looked like his name might be Mustaf stood in front of the door with his hands crossed across his cods like he was ready to block a free goal kick in a soccer game. 

"I'm sorry sir, but we require that you have a collar to get into the club."  I had stood back while the others had approached the door.  I was glad.  My mind was clicking.  Mustaf was wearing a white shirt with what couldn't quite be called a suit.  I don't think the jacket and the pants quite matched.  I thought to tell him how nice he looked and ask him where he got the uniform or where he got his hair cut, but I didn't care.  This was not a place I would ever want to go to.  It was the inevitable fall of subtle things.  Dress codes to keep out the hoi-poloi.  Oh, their would be swarms from the counties to the north who knew how important a collar was when going out for a sophisticated time.  They would come in creased pants and shiny shoes in their late model Lexus's that they had on a forty-eight month lease.  They would stand around smugly at the bar, perhaps telling some women about the deals they were making, buying the water rights to a new development or how they were partnering for a new shopping plaza, the girl thinking she was hitting the big time, picturing Sunday afternoons by the pool or tooling around on a boat drinking champagne, not picturing the wife he had not mentioned at home, the one he would tell her later--if it came to that--that he was leaving because she did not understand him.  No, I would not be going to that show. 

Sunday broke incredibly beautiful, the skies a million miles away, the light coming from everywhere.  We sat outside at the same Italian restaurant.  The barmaid from the night before came out to say a sarcastic hello.  The sidewalks tables were filling up.  The men were subtle, the women beautiful.  It was not the Boulevard.  That was done.  Later, we would stroll there to take a look, but it smelled like Bourbon Street, the sidewalks now covered in dark gum spots and stains from spilt ice cream.  Yahoos crowded the cafes.  It was over and done.  We had gone elsewhere now.  There was no use in looking back.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine's Day Just



Shakespeare: Sonnet 138

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:
But wherefore says she not she is unjust? 
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love, loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Snake Bit



This was my Valentine's card this morning.  The wife of my college roommate sent.  What the fuck?  Is he grabbing her breast?  I'm certain he is grabbing her breast.  He looks like a follower of Charles Manson to me.  What would you do if you saw this fellow in your neighborhood?  Would you believe him to be anything like you? 

It came with a note--"You really haven't changed." 

As the elders say, the old ways are best.  C'est la vie. 

Why is it, though, that the old world looks like such a sparse and barren place? 

No segue.  I looked forward to the crazy juxtaposition of Friday the 13th and Valentine's Day with eagerness.  What would happen.  Nothing, really, but plenty, too.  Only love can break your heart, they say. . . well. . . Neil Young, actually. . . . and so I wondered about V-day cards on the last working day of the week.  I talked to people I work with who do not have significant others and asked them about cards and candies and flowers and received the usual rebuffs about the Hallmark Card Holiday, but like many of my own protestations, they held a tinge of sad regret in them.  I seriously hope you are not on Facebook, I said, and told them stories about the old non-P.C. world where we turned shoeboxes into Valentine mailboxes in elementary school.  They still do that, I was told.  I was surprised by this, of course, because it was such a horrible experience for kids.  We would all go to the five and dime or to the grocery store and buy a big bag of cheap Valentine's Day cards.  There would be four big ones and a bunch of medium sized ones in the bag.  Then we would write something on them and take them to school and sneak them into the Valentine mailboxes without being seen.  You had to be early, though, if you wanted to get one into Susan's box, for she was pretty in pigtails and cute print dresses and white socks, and she was the smartest kid in our grade besides.  Her box filled up with the largest of the cards quickly.  Poor Bebe's box was empty.  Of course I gave a big card to Susan, but the others went to my guy friends with some sports comment on them. 

No, no, I was told, the kids have to give Valentines to everyone now.  Ah, I replied.  Everyone's a winner.  But you are right, said one mom.  They have their own traumatic experiences on Facebook now.  It's just moved outside the classroom.  Yes, it would be devastating to not be friended or whatever it is they do, to not get a message from anyone in your class and especially not from the girl or boy you loved.  Everyone is not a winner on Valentine's Day, I'm afraid. 

I, however, may still be.  There is a young woman at work who I have been in meetings with a few times when there are legal issues at hand.  She is attractive, a J.D., but something, I've decided, must definitely be wrong with her, for the few times I've seen her outside of meetings, she always acts a little. . . jumpy.  In another time or place, I might assume that she was a bit attracted to me. . . well, O.K., I still do, but I only say that with a disclaimer for I know why I have let the number of mirrors in my house dwindle.  I, of course, always hope that women will see below the surface, more than skin deep, as they say, but I have yet to find a mirror that does.  Two days ago, however, she began to email me, and yesterday she said she needed to see me about a risk management matter.  Again, she fidgeted, her eyes dancing about.  It might be medicine, I thought, or perhaps a disorder.  Later, though, she called me and asked me out to lunch.  I looked at the calendar.  It said 13th alright.  I'm not superstitious, of course, and lunch is for next week, but I am suspicious still. 

Perhaps, though, it will feed this hungry blog for a while. 

I was supposed to shoot with a favorite model last night.  She was excited, she said, to do an absinthe-themed shoot on Friday the 13th.  She had me very excited, too.  But in the afternoon, she texted me that she had come down with something bad and that she couldn't possibly shoot.  It was the second cancellation of the week, but I understood, especially with her.  Having the night free, I took a "late lunch" which meant I left work around three and headed for the gym.  Bing, bang, bong, home by five-thirty and thinking of cocktails.  I jumped in the shower and heard a thumping on the wall.  Bang!  Boom!  It was the house repairman.  He had come to get his ladder, he said.  Fuck you, I told him, I'm in the shower.  It didn't bother him.  When I finished, he was sitting in my living room drinking a coke. 

"Come here and talk to me," he said.  I was standing with a towel wrapped around me. 

"Let me get dressed.  This is too much like a gay bathhouse."  He's a redneck, so that was funny.  Give me this one. 

"What's this," he said picking up the bottle of scotch on the living room table.  It was the present my friend had brought over on my birthday. 

"It's whiskey you unsophisticated slob."  He doesn't drink.  He used to, but now he is a legal junkie, hooked on morphine from a back injury.  But now things have gotten tight in the old pain clinic industry, and he was having trouble getting his prescriptions filled. 

"Hey, do you have any more of that oxycontin from the doctor?"

"Nope.  I gave you all I had last time."

"None?  Fuck.  Walgreens won't fill prescriptions for morphine any more.  Neither will CVS.  I found a small pharmacy that will, but they are charging twice as much.  Can you believe that shit?"

"Sure.  Money.  Why won't the drugstores fill a prescription?  Is that legal?"

"The state has cracked down.  Haven't you seen it on the news?"

"I don't watch the news," I said.  "What are you going to do?"

"Well, the doctor gave me a prescription for 15 mg pills, but I have been taking 30 mg.  I didn't know it, but that is the highest dose.  I tried taking the 15 mg ones, and I started having withdrawals.  Man, the muscles in my back and thighs were cramping up and on fire.  I looked around and found an old bottle of the 30 mg pills, but I'm going to have to wean myself off.  This is bullshit." 

"You can go back to the booze," I said, "though alcohol is much worse for you than morphine."

"Really?"

"Yup.  Studies show." 

"You sure you don't have any of those others left?"  He looked like he wanted to go look through my bathroom drawers. 

I poured a drink.  I could tell he wasn't ready to leave, and I was right.  He began telling me about his wife.  She had left him and come back, had had him thrown into jail for domestic violence once, had taken a bunch of his money, but they were staying together, he said, because they had a nine year old daughter.  His wife hadn't slept with him in two and a half years. 

"Is that normal?" he asked me. 

"Sure," I said.  "Absolutely." 

Just then he got a phone call.  He answered the phone and got a strange look on his face, held a finger in the air and walked outside.  I wondered why, but when he came back, he explained. 

"That was the teller from my bank.  I always flirt with her at the drive-thru.  I didn't give her my number.  She must have gotten it off the computer records.  I asked her a few days ago if she wanted to go for a ride on my motorcycle sometime.  She didn't say anything then, but she just called to tell me she wanted to go."

"That's a little weird," I said. 

"Yea.  She's young and got big ass titties."  He looked bewildered and maybe a little scared.  "I asked her if she called the other number.  That's my wife's phone.  She said no, she hadn't.  I told her to only call this number." 

"It doesn't matter.  Your wife will know.  She probably already does.  Your probably dead and don't even know it." 

"Fuck her.  It ain't normal what she does.  She must be sleeping with somebody else.  Do you think she is?" 

"Of course," I said. 

"'Cause it ain't normal, right?"

"Oh. . . it's normal," I said.  "It just isn't right. This phone call, that's just your little Valentine's Day card, my friend.  Congratulations." 

I bent so that I could see the clock.  It was getting late. 

"What do you keep looking at?" he asked. 

"The clock.  I want to go out for cocktails."  I felt bad.  I didn't know I was being that obvious.  But I was hungry and wanted food and drink.  I wanted to go out and see if somebody would give me a card, too. 

When I got home, it was late and I had been drinking.  Why had I come home alone, I wondered?  I felt handsome.  My hair had grown out a bit and I had lost weight.  Even the drug addict noticed my belly was gone.  I was well-dressed in a beautiful midnight blue wool jacket.  A particularly beautiful woman had been eyeing me at the bar.  But the bar has changed, or rather the crowd, for now it has become famous and every jerk-ass, loud-mouthed broker and lawyer and developer goes there now to talk in those loud jerky boy tones, and she was sitting with a big group of them.  I get so tired of those things, and I had gotten tired very quickly there and then.  And so, mid-evening, feeling handsome and oh-so-desirable. . . I turned on the television.  Netflix.  "Mud." 

Fate is often cruel, of course, or at least coincidence is.  "Mud" is not a movie to watch as the 13th gives way to cupid.  A man gets snake bit.  That's the movie's metaphor, I think, for love.  It happened to him when he was young, and it happens again to a young boy he has met. 

"They rushed me to the hospital.  It took over an hour.  The doctor said I should have been dead.  They gave me the anti-venom.  But they can only give it to you once.  The next time, it would be like shooting me up with poison."

"What happens if you get bit again." 

"I either die or I sweat it out." 

That is how I remember it this morning, anyway.  Shit.  I've been snake bit so many times.  But there was one line in the movie that hit my drunken brain hard enough to make me pause the movie and go write it down.  It was the father of the boy telling him that his mother wanted to get a divorce. 

"You can't trust love, Ellis. If you ain't careful, it will up and run out on you."

All of the men in the movie had been snake bit bad, and love had up and run out on them.  I guess, though, that there was something wrong with them all.  

The boy in that picture, though, sure does look happy.