Tuesday, October 4, 2022

To Be Happy or Not to Be. . . . .



The water in the lakes keeps rising despite the absence of rain. Mysterious to some, it is again a simple matter of physics. I guess. So while there are those still suffering, it is difficult for me to write about the beauty of these days and nights.

But I will.  

Maybe it is the manual labor I have been doing that makes me feel this way.  It has now been seven days since the storm.  The week before, I sat around the house and did nothing.  Barely moved.  Hardly showered.  Never exercised.  I think I mostly just sat and stared.  

Since the hurricane, all I have done is work.  No, that is an overstatement.  By a lot.  I have worked, though.  That is true.  Each day.  

And as I have said, the weather here now is nearly perfect.  Daytime temperatures in the low to mid eighties, nighttime temperatures in the sixties.  If your house or neighborhood or town or city have not been destroyed, it is joyous.  

I came home from visiting my mother last night thinking of watching the news.  Rather, I made a simple Margarita and sat outside.  


I was joined by the little feral one.  She was calm and relaxed and, as Hubert Humphrey used to say, pleased as punch.  She ate and I sipped and we communed with the passersby and with nature.  In a little while, for a little while, we had company.  

I hated to leave the deck on such a fine night, but I needed to make my own dinner, a catch-as-catch-can dish of lentils, eggs, and rice--a surprisingly tasty concoction.  

After dinner, though, I was antsy and there was still a residue of light in the air.  I went out with my after dinner drink and walked around the neighborhood, first looking at my house without a fence from different vantage points, then into others' as the romance of warm light falling from living room windows into the purple evening took hold.  Walking back home, I saw my own house with the half moon above, grabbed my phone, and took a pic. Then another.  Then another.  I couldn't get it to quit using flash.  Ten or so pictures in, I figured it out.  Oh, my, I thought.  

"Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

Out of nowhere, the long gone beauty of the neighbor's cat appeared.  Where in the hell has he been?  I had assumed he was dead, but I was afraid to ask.  Nope.  There he was, happy and healthy.  He came when I called him to me, and I gave him some love.  Then I heard a commotion above me.  It was the little feral cat navigating the branches of the tree as she climbed down from the neighbor's roof.  

"Meow.  Meow."

Both she and me.  We talked her entire way to the ground where she was adamant that her two boyfriends should not intermingle.  She ran between us from one to the other mewing in earnest.  As we had not been together as a threesome for so long, I decided to sit on the deck for awhile and commune.  On the deck--not in a chair on the deck.  It was time for a little stretching.  I've become as flexible as a two by four, so I was gentle with myself.  I did what I could.  Painfully.  Still, it was gorgeous out there in the evening stretching and meditating with my two pals.  

That morning in the gym, I found out that one of my new friends'' lake house was flooded.  He is rich and lives in one of the best parts of town.  He said he will have to rip his floor up in the front room of the house.  Then I found out that FEMA was going to pay for the repairs.  

"I may get a new boat out of this, too."

Later in the day, I heard that another well-to-do acquaintance who had no flood insurance is getting a check for over $100,000 to repair the damage in her house.  And I started thinking.  I'm going to bet that the majority of the money FEMA will pay out is going to go to the wealthiest people in the state.  I may be wrong, but the damage to the most expensive homes is going to be far more than those living in "bunny hutch" houses.  And navigating the system is going to be harder for some than for others.  Those who paid for flood insurance, something that is not cheap in this state, will get nothing more than anyone else.  Somehow, this money giveaway is going to be as lopsided as the forgiveness of student loans.  Those who worked and sacrificed and paid their way through college without taking loans will get nothing for it.  I think the idea of relieving people of their burdens is great, but somehow the system is terribly flawed.  

"Oh, really?  D'ya think?  The capitalist system, you say, is flawed?  Huh?  What a concept."

I was told I could get FEMA money for my broken fence.  Hmm.  I mean. . . if everyone else is doing it. . . . 

The maids come today.  I have first world problems to take care of.  I must pick up before they come.  This afternoon I will go to the market to get some of that "expensivist" cheese and some olives and a baguette for tonight.  And a good bottle of wine.  The house will be clean, the yard will be mown, and the cool air of evening will be lovely.  Should I enjoy it, or should I worry about the problems of others?  

That is the question.  A different dilemma than Hamlet's perhaps.  Not "to be or not to be," but "to be happy or not to be happy."  There is too little joy too often.  Maybe I will indulge myself just a bit.  

And, of course, if I do, you'll be the first to know.  

Monday, October 3, 2022

I Ain't a For Real Cowboy

In the movie"Midnight Cowboy," Joe Buck admits,  "Uh, well, sir, I ain't a f'real cowboy. But I am one helluva stud!"

I've known real cowboys.  Hard work ain't nothing to them.  My friend from cow country sent me pics of real cowboys in neck deep water working the ranch lands to save their cattle.  They were mugging and smiling.  Ain't no sissies on a ranch.  Work is what they do.  

Some of them did look like they were right off the silver screen, though.  They could have been leads in any western. 

But these were Cow Men, not Cowboys.  That was always the preferred name here in my own home state. That and "Cracker."  There are a lot of explanations of the term, but the most likely is that they used whips rather than lassos to move the cattle through the southern brush, and you could hear their whips cracking from far away.  

At night, they ate their camp food with one hand and swiped mosquitoes away with the other.  These were not fellows to be messed with.  

I went on a hog hunt with some cowboys from the largest cattle ranch in the state long ago.  I wanted to make a documentary on the history of cowmen crackers in my state.  These were some rugged mothers with twisted senses of humor and no political correctness.  

"Remember old cock breath?"

That was the beginning to a story about a cowman they had worked with.  I've never been able to use the epithet in my own life, but I swear I can't get it out of my head.  They didn't hate the Brokeback fellow.  They just found him amusing.  Quite a few stories there.  

Cutting up the pieces of the broken fence and hauling them to the curb turned out to be more work than I had anticipated.  At the end of the day, my hands felt like arthritic claws, painful to open and to close.  When it was done, I sat back and looked at the damage and the deed and decided I definitely would not rebuild the fence.  After a shower, I sat on the deck with a glass of wine.  The little feral cat joined me.  She seemed to like the new horizon, nervously checking all escape routes and then settling down.  She stayed with me for a long time until finally I had to pack up and leave to cook dinner for my mother.  

I made an easy dinner of cut up chicken thighs cooked in bbq sauce, jasmine rice, and Brussels sprouts.  We drank a Meiomi chard.  After dinner, my mother and I sat outside in the cooling air and I raked up some branches and leaves in the road in front of her house that were bothering her.  

I made it home in the early dusk and had a lone whiskey and a think.  Thinking is one of those things I do best.  Thinking is easier than breaking fence, but there is something in fence breaking that is satisfying, something that thinking sometimes isn't.  I thought about the changing nature of the world and how with each year I lose a bit of the past.  The fence which was there when I bought my house so long ago now was just a current symbol.  I am a sentimental fellow, I guess.  I'd spent so many hours sitting with the flowers and the birds, the squirrels and the cats, on this deck with my own true love.  

Moving on.  

There is much more to do here after the storm, and I guess I am just the man to do it.  No choice, really.  

I'm sure it is good for me.  Pretty sure.  Maybe.  It could be.  

Sunday, October 2, 2022

A Broken Manliness in the Hands of an Angry God

I'll admit this pile doesn't look that impressive in a photograph, but it represents 36 feet of wooden fencing that I ripped up. It is really 18, but there was fencing on both sides, so. . . . I did this with nothing more than a crowbar and crippled old man muscle.  I'll spare you another version of "Big Balls in Cowtown," though. 

Then it was all about the power tools.  My friends never let me around power tools.  But I had bought a circular saw thinking I was going to build my own deck.  It had never been opened.  It took me half an hour to figure out how to get the saw blade on.  I still haven't figured out why I can't cut further than about four inches before the saw quits moving.  I'll YouTube it before I go out to finish the job  in a bit.  It is sure to be something simple.  

The battery died around 3:30.  The saw's, not mine.  I cleaned things up and made a rum and coca-cola and sat to contemplate the mess.  There was a breeze from the west where the fence has always stood.  I have never had that breeze before.  The fence was there when I bought the house in 1996, but now I wonder why?  I will not replace it.  Indeed, I may tear more of it down.  

While I was drinking my Cuba Libra, I turned toward the house and got a surprise.  There, sitting quietly watching me was the little feral cat.  She had survived the storm.  I went inside and got her food.  She was a happy and hungry kitty.  When she finished eating, she enjoyed the new vista, too, sitting in the dirt beneath a plant looking back at my house.  I think she approves. 

After my drink, I took a shower and made another for the trip over to my ma's.  It had been and was the most beautiful day, bright blue with a very few puffy cumulus clouds.  Daytime temps in the 80s, mid sixties at night. It seems a cruel irony to have such beauty when so many now own homes that have been destroyed.  My mother keeps saying how lucky we were, and it is true in the main.  Many of her neighbors are still without power.  Just a few miles away, thousands of homes are still underwater.  

After a manly day in the bright sun under blue skies, I wanted to grill a steak.  I bought a big ribeye and some asparagus which, along with a sliced potato, I grilled on the high rack as I sizzled the meat.  I made enough for two and had company eating on the deck as the neighbors strolled by, each kidding that they would join the party.  Things were good, but there is still a strange weirdness to it all.  We all shake our heads like survivors of an airplane crash, grateful but horrified.  

Steak and asparagus and potatoes and beans and a bottle of wine.  A quick cleanup and then the whiskey and later, of course, a palate cleanser of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream.  

My fashion editor friend was in town during the hurricane having come here from the coast with her daughter to be safer.  Her St. Pete home, however, got less weather than we did here.  I had dropped her a rare line as the hurricane approached wishing her and her family well.  We corresponded over the course of the storm.  She was sweet and I had to keep myself in check in my responses.  Now she has returned home and the line's gone dead as it should, I guess, but knowing she, too, shares sweet memories made me happy.  

Yes, this has been a bittersweet storm.  

The coffee is gone now and I must put on my leather gloves and get back to work with fingers and wrists that ache from manly toil.  Every time I do something like this and then pick myself up on my shoulders and parade myself around, I realize that people do this every day, eight hours a day. . . and but for a twist of fate, that well could have been my career path, too, as it was for most with whom I grew up.  Such labor will make you a very different fellow.  It was labor like this after I graduated from high school that inspired me to sign up for classes at the local college.  

"And that has made all the difference."

My biggest regret in life was that I wasn't "to the manor born."  Selavy.  I'll take what I can get.  

For some reason, though, the last line of James Joyce's "Araby" come to me now.  Perhaps it is my foolish romantic heart and my own silly vanity.  

"Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."

Yes, as the good Bible teaches us, vanity vanity. . . all is vanity and chasing after the wind. Or in this case, running from it.  

"And my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world would be for me thereafter."

That is the last line of John Updike's "A&P." That is the difference between Updike and Joyce. Either way, though, I feel myself the buffoon. Still, it has been one hell of a ride.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Numb

Things return to normal here in my own hometown.  Most people did not lose power as the lines have been mostly buried underground in the last few years.  Men and women raked up their yards today and moved the larger limbs curbside for the garbagemen who will soon come.  I did, too.  The Boulevard is teeming with lanky teenagers in short shorts over long legs excited by the storm.  Kids tube through the canal between lakes screaming against the possible gators.  

This is my hometown.  

I am, however, disconsolate.  My body seems as weary as my mind.  I have gotten an infection somehow on the upper and lower lids of my left eye.  They are red, swollen, and painful.  I've Googled may condition and am not happy.  This could be something that could become chronic.  I read a medical report today that said there was a correlation between Covid 19 infections and this eye condition.  I was asked to go out for lunch today, but I felt too hideous.  Vanity is a powerful thing.  

I went over to my mother's to clean up her yard, but it was already done.  She has great neighbors.  So we sat outside and talked for a bit.  Then I fell asleep in my chair and had crazy dreams.  I feel myself under some ancient spell.  I am a somnambulist.  

I went to the drugstore to get eyedrops.  I never use them and only know Visine.  There are a thousand different kinds.  I wanted a saline solution but got scared off by the label that said to only use it under the advice of a doctor.  I read on the Mayo Clinic webpage that saline solution was good for an eye infection, that salt had antibacterial properties, but I was afraid to buy it.  All other drops and gels were some version of glycol or mineral spirits.  I had not read that those would help, so I ended my half hour in front of the eye medicine aisle by buying some eyelash wipes.  I don't know if they will do any good.  I will put warm compresses on my eye tonight as the webpage recommended.  It also said that antibiotic salves work, but I am not sure if I have the right kind.  Just put it on a Q-tip, it said, and gently run it over the closed eyelid.  I may try that tonight.  

If you have been reading, you know the week before the hurricane, I had been morose.  I thought to get better, but the hurricane has set me back.  I could continue to sit inside in what passes for pajamas for days on end without bathing.  This, I know, is sad and dangerous.  

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  

I'm sitting on the deck now as I write this, a rum and coke at my elbow.  For some reason unknown to me, the squirrels have returned and are chasing one another around the trees.  The birds have come back, too.  Is that a chickadee?  There are three redheaded woodpeckers.  I will fill the bird feeders tomorrow after I take apart the busted fence.  If my eye gets better, I will go to lunch somewhere smart, perhaps to my favorite Spanish restaurant.  Maybe I'll see Tsunami.  But that can only happen if I have two good eyes.  They are blue and wonderful, I think.  Losing one to infection would be a tragedy.  

But life, truly, is the only tragedy we need.  All our glory and triumphs disappear in the end like a Crazy Jane poem.  I haven't thought of her in a good long while.  She is the horrific reminder of what we are to become.  

III. CRAZY JANE ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT 

'Love is all
Unsatisfied
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul’;
And that is what Jane said. 

‘Take the sour
If you take me
I can scoff and lour
And scold for an hour.’
'That’s certainly the case,' said he. 

'Naked I lay,
The grass my bed;
Naked and hidden away,
That black day’;
And that is what Jane said. 

‘What can be shown?
What true love be?
All could be known or shown
If Time were but gone.’
'That’s certainly the case,' said he. 


* * *

I wrote that in the liminal zone between light and dark, day and night, that emotionally dangerous time.  It is morning now and I am having coffee lightened with Carnation Evaporated Milk. I got that at the little terrorist market around the corner that has stopped selling milk.  You can get energy drinks and beer, but not milk.  They did have this, however, and since nothing else was open. . . . By God, though, I may keep this stuff on hand.  It is pretty good.  And it is the subject of a famous anonymous poem, "Carnation Milk."   Every time I read it, I think of my father who grew up working on a farm during the Great Depression.  Hard work made him strong, but like almost everyone who was recruited to fight in WWII, he loved the conveniences that modern life afforded when he got home.  

Here.  You can read it for yourself. 

Carnation Milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand—
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

— Anonymous

That is the version that they teach in school.  There are many, more ribald, versions extant.  

I soaked my eye last night and it seems a bit better, but I don't think there will be fancy lunches today.  Maybe if I wear sunglasses. . . .  No matter.  There is still much work to do around here.  Idle hands and all that.  It is better, perhaps, to stay busy during my own Great Depression.  

Friday, September 30, 2022

The Other Side

The Other Side.  That is where I am now.  This, I think, is the extent of the damage my house received--a blown down fence and some broken pots.  There are branches all about the yard, but they are small and not large limbs or fallen trees.  I stayed with my mother through the storm without much sleep.  We had another refugee staying in the guest bed, so I slept in something the size and stability of a small canoe.  Or didn't sleep.  I was up and down all night listening to the wind gusts that intensified each hour.  In the morning, we made coffee and watched the news of what had happened in the southwest coastal regions  It was horrific.  

Mid-morning we made a taco salad and hoped the storm would pass quickly.  

It lingered.  

By afternoon, we saw photographs of the damage that my own hometown was sustaining.  Cars in parking lots were underwater.  Entire neighborhoods were flooded.  There was a travel curfew as the rain and wind seemed to intensify.  

By early afternoon, I was exhausted and went to lie down and try to sleep a bit, but it was useless.  I decided to drive to my house to assess the damage.  The roads I drove were mainly clear.  I saw two trees that had toppled, but by and large things did not look as bad as I had imagined.  The closer I got to my house, though, the more I remembered that it was my house, only, with the five broken oaks that destroyed the apartment.  Though I keep the trees trimmed yearly, they are still huge and could fall on the house.  

Branches everywhere, but no limbs, no trees.  The fence between my house and the neighbor had blown down.  There were two toppled plants with broken pots by the kitchen door.  Inside, I ran through the house looking for evidence of water.  I found none.  The power was still on.  I ran to the apartment to check.  Same thing.  Even the broken window I had taped had survived.  

I had been very lucky. 

I decided to drive back to my mother's "the back way" through the neighborhoods just to see.  When I got to the end of the street two blocks from my house, I saw this. 

The water came from the large lake a block away that had overflown its banks.  Many of the big houses on the Point, as it is called, were flooded.  

Wind had not been the biggest factor here with Ian.  It was the water.  Some areas, it was reported, got nearly 20 inches of rain in 24 hours.  Three of my big Otto trash cans had blown open during the storm.  They were nearly full of rain water.  But I am lucky.  My house is on high ground.  Water runs downhill.  It is a law of physics.  I am certain my street looked like a river as the water sought the lake.  Elsewhere, in low lying areas of the county, hundreds if not thousands of homes were underwater.  I didn't see it, but I got a message that Anderson Cooper was riding a motorboat through neighborhoods near the big university that were flooded.  I've not seen those reports yet, but I believe they could be accurate.  

Ian has been horrible and continues to be as it heads toward South Carolina, but the damage is not all due to the intensity of the storm.  Greed has been as much a factor as Global Warming which is the result by and large of greed as well.  But the damage incurred is not the result of a single factor.  There are multiple reasons for the flooding here and the damage on the coast.  Most of the credit goes to developers and slick politicians.  

If you live here in a neighborhood that was developed prior to the 1970s, you probably did not get flooding.  But my own home state is famous for it's land boondoggles.  Much of the coastlines are not natural but are manmade.  As early as the 1920s, new machinery allowed developers to dredge and create land where there was only water.  Much of St. Petersburg and Clearwater were created this way.  There has been much dredging in South Florida.  

Away from the coast, developers called on engineering feats to convince community politicians to allow them to build in low lying places including water recharge areas.  The plan was to build using drainage systems that would transport water to retention ponds.  To allow this, the state required that developers use a mitigation process that required them to purchase land elsewhere that would be set aside never to be developed.  In the area surrounding my hometown, they built so relentlessly that they ran out of land to mitigate.  Developers began to set aside land hundreds of miles away in rural parts of the state.  

Needless to say, this resulted in several problems.  One is that rainwater that used to get purified by the limestone understructure of water recharge zones where it ran into massive underground reservoirs, some of which are used to draw drinking water, became surface water that was susceptible to evaporation and pollution.  When the reservoirs begin to dry up, the limestone caves collapse creating giant sinkholes which eventually become lakes.  Much of the state is sitting on a limestone substrate that is susceptible to what we used to refer to as "acid rain," rain water with an artificially low pH factor caused mainly by the emissions of sulfur dioxides and nitric acids.  Consequently, there are many sinkholes in the state.

When developers build in low lying areas and siphon rainwater into artificial lakes, they give the neighborhoods cryptic names like Snapper Creek and River's Bend in places where there never were snapper or never was a river.  

Comes a storm like Ian.  There is no place for the water to go but to the lowest lying areas.  The ground gets saturated, the retention ponds overflow.  Then the flooding begins.  

I've interviewed developers for environmental documentaries before.  I've interviewed people working for environmental organizations.  I've interviewed land mitigators.  One documentary, now decades old, won minor awards and got me in hot water with the Home Builders Association who thought the doc cast them in bad light.  I, however, was impressed by how well the developers came off with their carefully crafted narratives about "ecologically friendly" development that touted engineering feats that were good for both humans and environment.  

My science degree is old now, and I am neither a geologist nor an environmental engineer and have not run this by any who are.  I hope I haven't butchered this summary beyond credulity, but I think in the main it is accurate.  My point is that the disaster which Ian has wrought has been a long time in the making.  

I came back to my home from my mother's last night.  For some reason, it was strange.  It or I.  I should be ecstatic that my house is intact, but I felt a tugging of sad hands pulling me into a dead sadness.  After I had put everything away, I ran a hot Epsom salts bath, lit some incense and some scented candles, poured a scotch, and crawled into the tub for a soak.  The hurricane has resulted in some unseasonably cool weather.  The house felt damp.  I turned on the heater to dry it out.  The tenant came over to talk things over.  In a little while, I went to bed.  

Today will be cleanup.  I will rake up the many branches and put them into bins.  I think I will get a saw to cut the fallen fence into pieces so I can move it.  I sit now and look out through the kitchen at the deck and yard beginning to show in the grey light of morning.  My spirit sinks.  I feel myself ungrateful.  

There are tens of thousands of people, if not more, whose homes have been destroyed by water and by wind.  They are broken.  Where do they go?  How do they rebuild?  What is going to happen?

Most people in the state do not have flood insurance.  That has not been included in homeowners insurance here for a long time now.  These people will be financially devastated as I was after Charlie.  More so.  

Who will pay?  

I guarantee you it won't be the developers who walked away wealthy.  It won't be the ignorant if not corrupt politicians who gave the green light to those developers, either.  

It is not hard to be grateful, but it is difficult to be happy now.  A sense of gloom lays heavy in the air.  Despite what I must do today, or maybe because of it, I feel enervated.  It will take all my energy to get up, put on my work clothes and leather gloves, and begin to clean up.  But I must.  I will need to go to my mother's and do the same.  It will be a busy and desultory day.  

The weekend, however, will be clear and bright and beautiful.  That is the prediction.  And by then, in my little town built long ago on land that is high and dry, people will be ready to push all this into memory.  There will be eating and drinking and shopping.  "Can you imagine living in one of those flooded communities?" they will silently say in their privileged way.  "It must be awful." Some will speak of the damage to their vacation condos on the beach in sadder, more authentic tones.  There will be some, of course, who have damaged rental properties, houses and commercial buildings, and there will be real concern there.  But our governor, who as a senator opposed federal storm aid, is on television making sure we get a big check from Biden.  

That is the report here from a lucky part of town.  We'll be watching Ian to see what more catastrophe will ensue.  If you are not in it, this must be a hell of a show.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Until Then

I don't know what the situation will be tomorrow, so I will write what might be my last post for the next few days.  We, here, are living in a slow motion nightmare.  More so for property owners, of course.  I won't go into the economic hazards that I face, but you know that after Charlie, I was devastated.  I've had my fair share of bad hurricane outcomes.  I've lost trees, seawalls, toes, apartments, and a ton of money to the fucking things.  You'd think I'd move, but I love this place as much as many despise it.  For me, it has always been a weird and wild wonderland.  


I am on a factory group text and I posted the following:

In truth, I've become catatonic.  I am having trouble doing the simplest of things.  I will go to my 90 yr. old mother's house to stay with her, but after suffering Charlie's devastation more than most, I am PTSDed out.  Scotch and Xanax seem my only friends.  Still, I know everyone has concerns.  I don't know what it means to "stay safe," but I wish everyone great luck in the next few days.  This is slow motion horror show.  I wish I were a landless college kid again and that this were just one of my first exotic adventures.  

The resident psychologist responded.  

C.S. -scotch or Xanax. Remember You only get to pick one at a time! And if you want to talk just give a call. That goes for everyone--This shit is anxiety inducing and makes nerves fry 

To which I replied:

Jesus, pal, I used to trust you.  WTF?  These are Strange and Unusual Times.  The Old Rules no longer apply.  Xanax and scotch are a perfect combo and I recommend them highly except for those who are not initiated.  The psyche wards will be full of people who didn't know any better and took the road of purity and prudence.  We are all likely to be washed away in a Biblical Great Flood.  

But seriously, brother, I love your concern.  You are one of my True Heroes!  

Just remember what Miss Jean Brody told her students about the "Safety First" poster on the classroom wall--"Ili, please take that poster down. Children, safety is important, but it certainly shouldn't be first!"

O.K.  I don't remember the student's name.  But you get my drift. 

And I am hyperbolic as all get out.  No Worries!

But all of that is simply bravado and has little bearing on my true state.  I want to curl up into a fetal ball until everything is over, and maybe long afterwards depending upon the damage.  

Depending upon circumstances, I'll see you on the other side.  Until then. . . . 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Rum and Coca-Cola

I didn't sleep well at all last night.  Bad dreams, bad juju.  None of it makes sense, of course, but I think it is anxiety over the coming storm.  Others who have not been ruined by a hurricane make light and laugh about it.  Before Charlie, I did, too.  Oh, I think, to be young and landless again.  It is simply something different and exciting.  With the potential of the storm looming, Country Club College and the local university are shutting down which includes clearing their dorms.  This is utterly astonishing to me.  Where do all these kids go for two or three days?  Why can't they stay safe in their rooms?  It is hard to fathom. 

But I see the kids from Country Club every day, and they don't look stressed.  They know they will not die, will not be blown away.  It will be the purview of others to deal with the aftermath.  The kids will get with friends and drink and smoke their way through the days.  They will eat potato chips and M&Ms and drink rum and Coca-Cola.  There might even be hurricane sex.  Who knows?  

It's great to be young, great to be alive.  

I, on the other hand, am having no fun at all.  I've seen some predictions that give me hope.  Those are the ones I am seeking on the internet.  The reliable internet.  You know, the one with all the accurate information.  

I realized last night while semi-sleeping that I don't even have food for tonight's dinner.  I don't buy ahead; rather, I shop for groceries daily.  I must go this morning and buy supplies.  Yesterday I bought three bottles of whiskey, but when I got home I realized I should have gotten some rum and vodka, too.  And wine.  Red since it will not be chilled.  Tins of sardines, chicken, tuna. . .  crackers. . . . 

My head has not been screwed on right. 

But there are fun things.  The air conditioners are healthy again, and I got a hero's welcome when I went back to the gym yesterday.  It was like a little celebration.  Strangely, I had been talked about.  I had been missed.  Now there is a party planned to take me out.  Even the pretty girl at the front desk beamed at me and was chatty.  The "boys" want her to look up and give them my phone number.  

"It won't matter," I said.  "My phone won't ring you through unless I have you as a contact.  But fuck, I'll give you my number.  I can always block you." 

Etc.  

My entire body is sore today.  

I don't think the big factory union social I was invited to will happen now.  It is planned for Thursday.  I am no longer a union member, so it is nice that they would want me to come for free food and drink. I had some trepidation about going from the get-go, though.  This social is where the potentially juicy story might have come from.  Even my horrorscope says my romantic potential is skyrocketing these next few days.  But as I am not an optimist, I think my rocket is the one that just crashed into that asteroid.  

Yes, the hurricane is already impacting my life.  No stories, no romance.  

I had never really spoken to the pretty girl at the gym before.  I don't talk to anyone I haven't been introduced to, at least not women.  I watch the creepy old men come up with their worn and tired phrases. I see the painfully pathetic smiles they get in return.  Nope.  Not me.  But now that I have been introduced, the girl and I speak to one another, and her voice seems familiar.  It was eating at me until yesterday.  

"Hey. . . I just realized you sound exactly like Scarlett Johansson.  You could do voiceovers as her."  

She laughed but kind of beamed, too.  I mean, it's a weird sort of thing, not a compliment exactly, but kind of fun.  It's the sort of thing that will occur to her from time to time and make her smile, I'd guess.  

"I've been meaning to tell you that you are looking like Orson Welles in his latter years."

O.K.  She didn't say this, but it is what I imagined.  I'm no fool.  Not in that way, at least.  

When I was still pals with my dead ex-friend Brando, we went to a party one night at one of his travel client's house.  A woman who did a fair bit of traveling with him, a dowdy, overweight drinker of middle age who had a crush on me said, "You'd better fuck me now because when I lose twenty pounds you'll have to stand in line!"

That lit me up.  What a great line.  We all thought she was hilarious.  

Now. . . "I feel you, yo."  


Monday, September 26, 2022

All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun

I'll be interrupted any minute.  I'm waiting on the a.c. guy.  He is late.  I have a service contract that gets me two cleanings a year, but today's visit will have to include fixing the a.c. in the apartment.  It went out again last night and I could not get it back on no matter what I did.  

And so. . . he's here.  I had him check out the apartment right away.  The capacitor was shot.  He is fixing that now, and when he is done there, he will be here at the house working away.  The tenant will have a.c. again. . . for a little while, perhaps.  Ian is coming.  I told her she just got a head start on all of us for sleeping without a.c. which we may all be doing soon.  

Here is what my home state looks like now. 

I assume they are all buying water.  And chips and M&Ms and batteries.  The photo strikes terror in my heart.  I mean, holy shit, we are an unattractive species.  This is what makes our state, our country, spin?  The photo may have been taken this weekend, but it could be any day.  Nobody works anymore.  Not in the traditional way.  

Most Millennials, I read, want to retire by 50.  I believe most of them have yet to have a job.  

Jesus--I just Googled it.  According to Pew Research, 52% of millennial live with their parents.  I'm just guessing--they plan to live with them until they are 50 and then retire.  

O.K. O.K.  I've become a bitter man.  

My week of lassitude ends today.  Yesterday was gorgeous again, and as has been the case all week long, I did nothing.  I left the house only to go to the grocery store.  I chopped onions and carrots and potatoes and made a Great Northern Bean and Chicken stew to take to my mother's for dinner.  I'd never made this before, so I was nervous.  The result?

Delicioso!!!!  

I am not a chef by any account, but I am one hell of a cook.  

The rest of the day was spent cooking up old photos with my new technological capacity.  Most of them I can't show here, of course, for many reasons, some of which you will guess and others you might never know.  A few of them were of me as a handsome lad from only a few years ago.  "Holy smokes," I nearly shouted "look at me!  No wonder Ili fell for me!"  

I liked the way my hair was cut in many of them and sent the photos to my beautician.  "I like my hair this way," I wrote, but I was showing off, too.  Yes, of course.  

Some were of kids from the factory.  I got sad about not having that any more.  The crowd looked much better than that hurricane mob.  

Others were like what you see at the top of this post, old street photos.  I also got caught up in looking at the blog, especially all the old film black and white photos from the streets.  Oh, man. . . it added to my "condition."  I used to be so wonderful.  There is a plethora of good photos to see.  I often forget that.  It has inspired me to make a website for my photography that I can pull up on my phone and show people when they want to kick my ass for having a camera.  

"No. . . no. . . really. . . I'm LEGIT!"

I was, anyway.  

Today, I will go back to the gym.  I have been indulging myself too much in opium and cannabis and liquor.  The bottles are always empty, and somehow I have gained a tremendous capacity to stand it all.  That ends today.  Well, it slows today.  It is a matter of aesthetics.  I'm sure that one of those people in the hurricane picture could be me if he was much fatter.  A friend sent me a couple phone photos she took of me a couple days ago.  No, no, no.  How did I let that happen?  

Coffee.  Tea.  Cranberry juice.  You know the drill.  It is an impossible drill that never sticks.  But believe me, I will have to think of something.  

I've been smart to stay away from the public eye.  

I'll pay Mr. Tree this week and get that off my back.  If I don't hear from Mr. Window today, I'll text him to see what's up.  And after the hurricane, whether it comes across my house or not, it is the time of year to get to work.  I have many worker chores that need to be done now that the days are cooler.  

All by way of saying I'm done living with my "condition."  Let's just say I had "a spell."  Now its time to look like the pretty man in those pictures again.  It makes life so much more fun.  


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Hoping for Some Respite

I took a picture, the first one in weeks.  I was documenting "The Return of the Cat."  She has only come once to be fed while I have been gripped by my somnambulistic depression/anxiety or whatever.  She looks o.k,  She must be eating elsewhere.  She talked a bit, then ate, then hung around while I had a cocktail on the deck.  When I went into the house, she walked up to the door with me.  She has only done that once before.  When I closed the door, she peered through the bottom panes at me.  It must be getting really dangerous for her out there.  The big male cats of the neighborhood come across my deck all the time now.  The neighbor's beautiful male cat does not come around.  There has been a change in the neighborhood dynamics, I guess, and these new males do not love the little feral.  There is no longer any affectionate gamboling on the deck.  

After gazing into my kitchen for awhile, the little feral cat leaped upon the covered grill, then up to the fence railing and up the tree onto the neighbor's roof.  It is a weird thing to see.  I don't know if she spends the night up there of if she comes down.  What a strange kitty.  What a hard life.  

My own, you ask?  Oh, you know.  Anxiety fills me. I still don't know how much the tree work and repairing a window in the apartment is going to cost.  Many thousands, but I don't know how many.  But that isn't enough.  Let's heap on a bit more.  Yesterday, the tenant told me the air conditioner was not working.  I went over to look at it.  I fiddled with some things, flipped some breakers and heard the outside compressor hum.  But it wasn't turning.  I took a stick and pushed the fan blades and they began to rotate.  I went up to the apartment and it was cooling.  Well, that was good but it wasn't.  I mean, something is wrong.  I didn't fix it.  I asked her to keep an eye on it and left.  

Last night as I was brushing my teeth before going to bed, there was a knock at the door.  It was the tenant.  I went up and fooled around with the thermostat for a long, long time.  It has long and complex menus--far too many--and something seemed weird to me.  I couldn't get the thermostat to go below 74 degrees.  The fan would blow but there was no cold air.  After half an hour screwing with menus for "Home" and "Away" and setting schedules for different times of day, I felt some cool air.  I went out and saw that the compressor was turning.  I was very tired and hoped that it would keep her cool for the night. 

I had nightmares all night long.  Weird ones, but somehow they always came back to the apartment.  

To top it off, the meteorologists have me flipping out over something that has yet to become a hurricane.  Oh, it will, and we need to keep a careful eye on it.  Stock up.  Prepare.  Consequently, you can't buy a bottle of water.  This always confuses me, of course.  I just fill bottles and jugs up with water, but in all the years I've lived here, I've never had to use them.  

It is not just water, of course.  Panic buying prevails and the massive mental disorder affects me.

I wrote to the factory group that "the Cone of Uncertainty comes directly over my house."

A friend wrote, "But you are live in the Cone of Uncertainty, don't you?"

Clever girl.  Ho-ho.  I needed a clever retort. 

"I'm not certain," I replied.  

Yesterday was a most beautiful day.  I didn't go out into it until it was time to see my mother.  

My week of of uncertainty may be giving way to a week of absolute catatonia.  Once again, someone has put a hex on me, some horrible voodoo curse.  

Or so it seems.  But I am trying to hold out hope.  Maybe Mr. Tree will give me a reasonable, friendly price.  Maybe the window repairman will return with good news.  Maybe the a.c. will be only a minor repair.  And maybe Hurricane Ian will not cause devastation in my own hometown.  

As I watched the feral cat, I realized fear and anxiety and a broken heart and hope are all things she, too, experiences.  She probably knows about the hurricane, as well--you know, with her animal senses.  

I am hoping for some respite.  I can't tell, though, if cats have hope, too.  




Saturday, September 24, 2022

Friends

Need info on this pic?  You'll need to go back and read the first few lines from yesterday's post.  This is the one I changed out.  

I've been having fun this morning.  My republican friend sent me the results of a WSJ survey.

"Wow," I said, "all those Mexican roofers are going to be Trump rich."  I told him I thought it was an intelligence test.  You don't get rich by working.  You get rich off of other people's labor.  And sure, as Bush said, America is the greatest country in the U.S., but the wording of those "questions" makes them more dialect than standard English.  

"So you want bread with that soup?"  

I believe he was thinking that he had toiled away in the stock market to "get ahead in America."  Who knows? 

Mr. Tree stopped by twice yesterday.  The first time, he brought me lunch from a Thai restaurant.  The second time was at the end of the workday.  I was sitting out on my deck with a scotch after dinner enjoying the less tropical weather and the lack of mosquitoes.  O.K., I thought, steeling myself against the shock of the bill.  

"Do you want a drink?"

We sat outside and talked about "things."  His crew had spent the day down the street doing tree work for a neighbor.  

"She's a nice lady," he said.  Then, lowering his voice but sounding conspiratorially emphatic, "She tipped the fellows $500!"  

Sweet Jesus, I could feel the squeeze.  

As he reached the bottom of his glass, I asked, "So. . . how much do I owe you?"

He paused.  "Whatever you want.  You decide."

Fuck me.  

"You know. . . you are my friend. . . . "

Sure, buddy, I get it.  Friends don't stiff friends.  He changed the subject.  The bill is still. . . outstanding.  

To be continued. 

"This looks nice," he said, gazing up into the trimmed tree branches.  "You are in good shape for the hurricane." 

"What hurricane?!!!? "

I had to look it up.  The cone of uncertainty comes right over my house around Wednesday, they say.  I guess I'd better get to the liquor store.  I'm sure the grocery stores will be packed.  I don't need much.  Some cans of beans, sardines, maybe some vegetables, chicken, tuna. . . and a big fucking generator!  

But the weather today is supposed to be great.  Best day of the fall so far, anyway.  I'm looking out the window now at perfectly clear blue skies.  I'm haunted by the question: "What will I do?"  If the answer is anything like it has been for the past week, I'll do nothing.  

I think I should get out into it now, though.  I probably should go to the grocery store and get some stuff just in case.  I've been through a number of hurricanes now and know that no one starves to death, but there is always the fear, you know, that you won't have the right things.  Can't forget the peanut M&Ms.  

Really, all I care is that the house and apartment don't suffer structural damage again.  I can't do another Hurricane Charley.  My constitution won't take it. 

O.K.  I'll let you go.  There is nothing to tell here, no tales of romance, no stories of adventure and daring. I'd have to leave the house to have that.  

Friday, September 23, 2022

I Changed Today's Photo--Don't Be Confused

This is the silliest of pictures.  Sometimes I just shot stuff that the model wanted.  This makes no sense to me at all.  But now. . . I mean, it is really bizarre in a way, and I kinda weirdly like it.  

And I have nothing recent to post.  And all I have to write is a report of yesterday's activities.  So.

My new best friend stopped by early yesterday morning.  With his crew.  They were walking around my property, he pointing, they looking.  Mr. Tree was preparing his tree trimmers.  I had not asked him for this.  We had never spoken of it.  

"What's up?"

"We're going to get started today."

Started?  Today?  Was he doing me, his only friend, a favor?  Was this going to be free?  I said nothing.  Maybe I said O.K.  

The garbage men like me because I tip them at Christmas, I guess.  

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've been in the valley of the shadow of death of late, in the lagoon between the descending mountains, and I felt myself sinking like the proverbial stone.  Well, not the stone that David killed Goliath with.  Just one dropped into a very deep lake.  The power tools were buzzing.  I was despairing.  I thought to go for a walk.  

Walking, however, is very painful right now, so I decided to drive to a park with a half mile track surrounding an open field.  There is a little exercise park there.  Perhaps, I thought, if I had just a little exercise, nothing hard, just something to get the old blood flowing, I would feel better.  And if my knee got too painful, I wouldn't be far from the car.  

So I stretched and walked a lap and did a few sit ups and knee bends and push ups and hanging rows.  Not many.  Then I'd walk again and do the same thing.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue.  After a couple miles of this, I thought that maybe it was working.  Maybe I was emerging from the gloom.  

Not wanting to return home, I decided to go see my mother.  When I got to her house, a fellow was there to fix her garage door.  The exterior keypad was not working.  When I walked up, though, he was trying to tell my mother that she needed to replace the framework inside the garage as it was not up to code.  He said that he noticed that some of the boards were cracked.  I went over and saw that he was full of shit.  He was getting wide eyed now explaining things to me.  He said he could get a crew to knock the work out in a day.  I told him that was interesting and that what he should do is work up an estimate and email it to my mother.  Today, though, we just needed to get the keypad done.  He kept talking, telling us what he could do.  My mother looked at me.  I just nodded my head and sat down to make it clear that he should fix the keypad.  

And here's the kicker.  I thought the thing was hard wired to the system, but I should have known better because it took batteries.  He lifted the cover, unscrewed one bolt, took the keypad off the wall and replaced it with another that took the same single bolt.  Done.  $85.00.  

When he was gone, I told my mother he was full of shit and trying to scam her.  She knew, of course.  But I was pissed off at myself, I said.  I Googled garage door keypads.  $35.  I could have done it.  

Selavy.  

The city has changed the vendor who is handling their online payments and everyone in the city who pays online has to set up a new account.  My mother was going to drive to the utilities office to do this, but I said we should just do it online.  Bingabangabong. . . I had her set up in no time.  I was mom's Golden Boy that first day of autumn.  She said she'd treat me to Chic-fil-A.  

When I got home, the tenant came over to complain about the dryer in the garage.  This reminded me that I had not heard back from the window repair guy who had cancelled on me the day before.  When she had finished, I texted the repair guy to see if he was coming.  He texted back.  He could be here in half an hour.  I had a fellow from Pella Windows come out to give me an estimate on replacing the window.  $3,500.00.  The window repairman said he could fix it, explained what he would do, then said he would have to sleep on it before he gave me an estimate.  He wasn't sure how long it would be before he could get to it.  

Outside, as the day drew short, the tree guys were still walking around the property cutting and hauling things.  

Cha-ching!

I went home, showered, and drove to the grocery store to get the evening's fixin's.  It was going to be a light meal, a tofu and mushroom stir fry with vegetables.  That Chic-fil-A had left me "heavy."  

When I got home, I made a simple Margarita and turned on the six o'clock news.  The tree fellows were hanging around the truck waiting for Mr. Tree to come back.  I decided to cut the garlic and slice the tofu and mushrooms.  Oh, hell, I thought as I listened to Ari Melber opine, and I poured the oil in the pan to heat.  I dumped in the chopping for three minutes, removed them, and put in the stir fry veggies.  Three minutes later, I dumped the choppings back in and added the stir fry noodles.  I saw Mr. Tree through the kitchen window.  He was traveling the property and getting his fellows to do some last things.  I filled a deep bowl, added Teriyaki sauce and poured a glass of wine and went back to watch the news.  As I finished the first bowl and the first glass, I saw that Mr. Tree was finishing up.  What the heck, I thought.  I stepped outside.  

"Do you want some dinner?"

"I have to go see another client right now.  Let me run do that and I'll come back." 

Another client?  But I thought we were friends?!?

"I have to go out in a bit, so. . . "

"Well, O.K.  Yea.  I'll take a bowl." 

We sat outside on the deck with our meals.  He liked it, of course.  I'm a good cook and this was very tasty.  

And then he was gone.  I said I'd see him tomorrow.  How much was today going to cost me, I wondered as I poured an after dinner scotch.  The window?  The trees?  I was sinking again. . . sinking.  

I got a text message from the factory group.  They are having a union get-together at a bar for union members.  But they want me to come.  Apparently, they needed to have a head count or something, and wanted me to commit.  I thought about it for a minute and said I would go knowing that this was no more binding than making a pledge to donate to public radio.  This way, I had options.  

It picked me up that they wanted me to come, ancient hero of the movement, beloved, etc.  

The whole thing could be problematic, though, and I am in a quandary--about which I may be able to tell you later.  It could be juicy.  

Darkness had descended and I was feeling conflicted.  I was momma's hero boy and a factory legend, but financial surprises lay ahead.  I decided to smoke some boo and watch t.v.  Then I smoked some more.  It really helps to slow the drinking, I thought.  It also put me to bed early.  By ten, I was down.  

What fresh horrors lay ahead today?  Tomorrow?  Yesterday, I drove by a church with a big sign telling me that God loved me.  That made me laugh.  "It doesn't feel that way," I thought.  But who knows?  Maybe things will get better, eh?  I do think I have an easier life than most, lucky in some things and unlucky in others.  Love and Money have been problematic, and I have had most of the bones in my body broken now, but there is love and there is money and I am still, for the most part, ambulatory.  

And it is autumn.  It is time to change the heavy quilted comforter from green to red (maroon) as has been my habit for the past twenty years.  It is a silly marking of the seasons, but I love those comforters.  

By now, you are confused about the picture.  I decided to change it.  The photo I originally posted did not go well with the post.  Sorry you had to read this far to get clarity, but I didn't want to rewrite the beginning.  A picture of a church seemed much more apropos.  

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Autumn, Silly

Well, I guess it's no surprise--it is autumn!  I learned a few days ago, though, that it is astronomical autumn.  It has been meteorological autumn since September 1st.  Either way, though, it is the Autumn Equinox and you can't argue that.  We enter the time of long, lonely nights.  Well, maybe not "we."  Perhaps I am projecting.  

I've been in a texting war with my republican friend this morning.  I sent him some reports of polling that shows support for a Trump presidency is as strong as ever.  Like all weekday fascists, he has tried to distance himself from his last president (he doesn't accept Biden) calling him the "Bloviate in Chief," but I know he likes the Proud Boys more than he likes hippies and intellectuals.  So I said.  But now we come to the The Big Tell, right?  

"So tell me you would vote for Biden in the next Biden/Trump election."

He said that he would have to "sit that one out." 

"Right," I said.  "You would let other people elect him so you could keep your hands clean.  You, sir, do not believe in a democratic republic."  

And I do not believe he would "sit that one out" any more than I believe Hispanic voters from dictatorial countries are voting for democrats.  And I'm right about that one.  Recent polling is showing that more and more they are favoring republicans.  No shit!  All they are looking for is a benevolent dictator.  Democracy is a foreign concept.  

O.K.  I'm ranting now.  And this is not what I intended on one of my favorite days of the year.  Despite a rise in infectious diseases during this season, it is still my favorite.  Things seem to slow down.  Everything seems gentler to me.  Yea. . . I'm as autumnal as they come.  

Time to break out the long pants and winter jackets.  Well, not so much here in the sunny south, of course, but in my head the weather is still Dick and Jane's.  

"Look and see, Dick--the leaves are falling."

But don't read too far in the series.  Once you get to "Dick and Jane Grow Up," things get complicated.  Dick begins to question his gender and says things like, "These are my identity parents."

I don't know what that means, but it must mean something.  I made up the term this morning when I misread my buddy's text which actually read, "identity and parents."  Well, well, that's how cliches begin, first as a novel idea, then they become meaningless gibberish.  

I stepped out the door this morning to feel the autumn air.  It was warm and humid.  The high today will be in the nineties.  I'll simply have to admire the longer shadows, I guess.  

I think, however, that I have been affected by the changing of the season. I decided to evade the gym this week and do some real living.  However, I have done nothing.  I wake later than ever and do not leave the house.  I haven't gone anywhere at all.  I've not been to my mother's most of the week.  I don't remember bathing.  I haven't even cooked a real meal.  I must get out of the house today, somehow, for something other than a liquor store run.  Each day, I go down mole tunnel after mole tunnel.  I've chased beaver trails through murky waters.  Even the cat seems to have abandoned me.  She's only shown up to eat once all week.  If it weren't for people dropping by unexpectedly, I would remain in a somnambulistic malaise.  

Most scary, though, is that I haven't minded.  I've been fairly content.  That should scare even the most solitudinous of us.  

But don't bother.  Save your fear for the coming of Putin's nuclear war.  

Maybe mine is simply a reaction to worldwide turmoil.  I should probably skip the news even more than I do.  Besides, I'm o.k.  The tree guy and the garbagemen like me and say hello.  It's not like I am totally alone.  

Oh. . . just one more thing.  The feds hiked the interest rates.  You know, it is difficult to decide whether I am on the side of those who live on credit cards or those pirates who run the banks.  My mother had a call from a neighbor on Monday.  The neighbor was depressed and needed to talk to someone.  She is 67 and was on her way to work.  She said that her 401K was doing great when Trump was president but since Biden has been in office, she's lost 25% of her holdings.  She needs but can't afford a new car.  She doesn't have enough money to retire.  The price of everything is rising.  

I guess she was having an anxiety attack.  Maybe I am, too.  

The morning is clear and wonderful.  Will I go?  Will I do something today?  Anything?  It is so easy just to sit and stare.  It gets easier all the time.  All I need is a rocking chair.  


It's autumn, silly. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Trans Hemingway and the Cuban Future

As more of Hemingway’s early work comes into the public domain and his exposure to new readers increases, these materials will undoubtedly add to Hemingway’s legacy. They could help flesh out a figure who fell victim to his own masculine mythmaking. Part of that myth points to a darker side of Hemingway — malignant competitiveness, callous anti-Semitism, and a volcanic temper — that often overshadows his work and makes him the poster boy for toxic masculinity. It can also obscure a fuller understanding of Hemingway’s life that includes a generational struggle with depression, brain trauma and the author’s own gender identity — all facets of Hemingway detailed in recent scholarship. (He explored gender reversals with all four of his wives and referred to himself as Mary’s “girl” during their marriage and periodically called himself “Catherine” or “Kathrine.”)

From an article in the Times today on the new trove of Hemingway’s writings left at Sloppy Joe’s Bar when he left for Cuba (link).  

This, my friends, is how scholars plan to bring Hemingway back into the public Realm of Approval.  Hem the Tranny.  Why do you think he was approved of by Gertrude Stein?  Hemingway's wives all had lesbian relationships before (and sometimes after) they were married to him.  And his son, my good friend Gregory, was famously trans.  F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, accused the pair of being gay boyfriends.  Hemingway travelled with the American Gay Bullfighter, Sidney Franklin.  

All it will take is a Broadway Musical by John Waters and Hemingway will be gold again.  

My tree guy stopped by last night to visit.  Huh?  That's right.  He says that I am really the only friend he has.  He wants badly for me to go to Cuba with him.  He has a fiancé/wife there that he is trying to get to the states.  His lawyer says he has taken vows but he needs official documents that the U.S. will recognize.  No simply jumping over the broomstick, I guess.  You see, marriage isn't about the union of souls or any of that horseshit.  It is a matter of State Approval.  Marriage is a legal, not a moral state.  

He is Malaysian of Indian descent.  He had been an officer in the Malaysian Army, and last night he told me colorful tales of his station in Borneo.  He wants me to travel to Kuala Lumpur with him in December and then go to Thailand.  It would be a twofer.  I could see the women with the big lip plates and the ones who elongate their necks with hoops.  He told me that he has seen them.  I was envious.  I'm a big fan of exotic otherness.  

I asked him if he has bought any land in Cuba.  He got to his feet and did a little dance.  He was excited.  He certainly has bought property in Cuba on the east side of the island in a little town on the sea.  His property overlooks a lagoon and has a beautiful view of the mountains.  He has his own private beach.  He is buying up all the land around him, as much as he can.  At present, he owns about ten acres.  Of course, he can't own it himself, and he has been using his fiancé/wife's family to purchase it.  He wants me to buy some.  It is cheap, he says.  I could get a nice property for ten thousand dollars.  

I got excited for a moment, then I remembered where I am in life now.  I would chance it if I were younger.  When Raoul dies, they say that Cuba will "open up."  And I say, if Cuba ever opens to free commerce, nobody will stop in Florida any more.  Flights to Cuba will be packed.  And if this happens, buying land in Cuba will have been a very good idea.  

His fiancé/wife is a Cuban surgeon, but she can make no more money than anyone else, of course, which makes financial transactions. . . well. . . divorce settlements often seem lopsided.  

He stayed for a couple hours talking and drinking scotch.  Finally, late in the evening, he said he hadn't eaten yet and had to go.  He's a very sweet guy, but he still charges me a bushel and a peck to trim my trees.  Somebody has to pay for his right to travel.  


My buddy sent me this this morning.  He said it depressed him.  I, of course, believe that anyone over 65 should have the right purchase any drug known to humankind.  You'd have to be fucking looney not to have both anxiety and depression about old age and death.  What sort of crime spree do they think a 70 year old opium addict is going on?  They can't fight.  They can't run away.  They might hobble up and ask you for the time, but c'mon. . . .  Free Acid for Seniors!


Hemingway never did have any fashion sense.  He was probably the worst dressed man of his generation.  I look much like this in my French fisherman's shirt.  Well, maybe not as gay as he looks here, but you know, I've made many fashion faux pas myself.  Indeed, I have half a closet full of them.  The other half, though, are my straight man outfits--white oxfords and khaki pants--that got me through the workday at the factory.  

Did you know Hemingway had Mary bleach his hair blond in Cuba?  

Fuck.  If only I could write.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Cultural Incompatibility and A Penchant for Youth

I had to sit and think for a long time this morning about what photo to put with this post.  A long time.  There are certain things you can't wonder about with a provocative photograph staring you in the face.  I'm not even certain what I am going to wonder about today. . . in print.  I've been wondering about many things this morning, though, and now the morning is slipping away.  


As they will. 

Sweden used to be a bastion of liberalism when I was a kid.  Sweden was provocative.  Swedes were promiscuous.  Viewed from the Puritanism of the U.S., they had the moral fiber of a chocolate bar.  

Then they took a hard right.  Liberal values caused problems.  Sex, drugs, and immigration.  

Wait.  What?  

Yea, they took in a bunch of Somalis but now they don't like them.  About 25% of the country are now part of the Nazi Party.  It isn't called that, but that is where it hails from.  The party is growing in popularity.  

In the U.S., the largest Swedish population (by descent) lives in Minnesota.  When I was a kid, Minnesota was known as a liberal state.  It was once a socialist state (link).  They required new construction projects to spend a portion of their budget on public art (link).  When you voted democrat, you voted DFL (link).  They gave us Hubert Humphrey and later, Al Franken,  

Minnesota also took in large numbers of Somalian refugees.  And then they took a hard right.  

My conclusion is that Swedish and Somalian cultures don't blend so well together.  I'm probably missing something though.  You can shoot me a message and help me out on this one.  But it seems that immigration is something of a conservative's bugaboo.  

In Ohio, I saw the crowd at the political rally that turned into a Trump Rally giving a Seig Heil salute while the Proud Boy's anthem played.  Almost.  


And Trump posted photos of himself wearing a QAnon pin.  


One of the things QAnon loves to obsess about is pedophilia.  Hillary Clinton is at the head of the whole thing.  All of Hollywood is in on it.  Tom Hanks, they say.  And Americans eat it up.  There is no country in the world that comes within a mile of the U.S. in its obsession with pedophilia.  Why is that?  What makes it so weird is Trump's obsession with his own daughter's looks when she was young.  But Hitler had a well-known penchant for little Catholic girls.  Trump likes to project.  Maybe QAnon understands that.  

Again, feel free to message me any of your insights.  Surely I'm not thinking clearly.  But Sweet Jesus, Lindsay Graham the Lifetime Bachelor is gay, right?  This is as sure to be revealed as it was that the Radical Racist Strom Thurmond had an illegitimate child by a black woman.  

Maybe "racism" is the wrong word.  Maybe it is "cultural incompatibility."  I'm pretty sure "pedophilia" is the wrong word, too.  

Those are some things I have been mulling over this morning.  We live in Dangerous Times.  The Storm is Coming and it is sure to be ugly.  All those "cheap bookstore Marxist" are going to need Somalian protection.  This isn't going to be a War of Words.  Well Written Words to the Editor aren't going to do it.  "We need to go up there with baseball bats," Woody Allen says about a Nazi rally in "Manhattan."


But, you know. . . it's hard to win.  Woody had "a penchant for young girls" too, didn't he?  

You don't have to bother with the messages.  It's all confusing.  The world is made up of corrupt politicians, acolytes, and camp followers.  

I'm glad I chose today's photo.  

Monday, September 19, 2022

Call It A Shirt


As with most people, I have been intimidated by the current social atmosphere. People who say they are not more careful these days about what they say or do are only saying or doing it in front of a very small audience. Public performances, though, are another matter. There are things that you can do that are supposedly shocking like wearing a man skirt, but I did that long ago before it was cool. With my friends, outside the public eye, my performance is often different than what I do "out here." Like everyone else, I've learned a double language, learned what to say and do in public and what I really think and do in private.

This makes for a very dangerous world.  

I mean, who wants to go the route of an Oscar Wilde?  Being smart and clever and right didn't save him.  And he was making money at being outrageous.  Who wants a beatdown for free?

The trouble, I think, is that we are all guilty.  I don't mean of a public crime, though most of us have done that, too, but I am speaking of private guilt, the kind that makes you cringe.  You've cheated on your partner.  You squirreled away some money for yourself.  You thought unspeakable things while masturbating.  You hide dangerous materials in secret places away from prying eyes.  

Consequently, we don't want to be raided or questioned in public.  And that, my friends, is how you know you are living in a despotic state.  Nazis to the left of me, fascists to the right. . . .  It is "The Fear" of which H.S. Thompson so insightfully spoke.  As long as you're Fearful, they win.  

I've made a life of living out my own moral code.  It is a real dandy.  I work on it daily.  Oh, you may assume that my code is like a dark cabaret in a film by John Waters, but you would be way off.  I live by a very gentle and generous code.  If you knew me, you would consider my life very boring.  

But I've spent a lifetime peeking into everything that is "wrong."  I am fascinated.  There are moral codes galaxies from mine, codes I could not live by.  Violence, drugs, sex. . . you know. . . the usual things.  

And I am fascinated.

Now, however, my observations are what I hide.  I have a billion photos that I no longer show.  Even my pictures of inanimate objects seem obscene.  None of these things are illegal, at least not yet, but they would get me thrown out of the Party for a Better America, no matter if it was put on by the Book Banners or the Do Gooders, BLM or The Proud Boys.  

Some of you are diehard Lefties or Righties, and so you have only to fear "the other side." I can't imagine that, though.  I can't imagine not being disgusted by both.  

"Lock Her Up."

"Lock Him Up."

Conservatives are fascists and liberals lie.  And vice versa.  I have an allergy to all ideologies.  

Thus, it becomes harder for me to write and post pictures every day.  Over the years, I have found articles written about the blog both praising and condemning it.  As the song goes, it's getting hard out there for a pimp.  

One day they will come for me, I know.  They will scoop me up in a big net and chain me to a wall where they will beat me until I'm gone.  Kafka was the Great Predictor.  

Just now, I got a text in response to an article I sent on book banners:

Yep, if it feels good do it. Why don’t we do it in the road. Yeah, the same narrow minded knuckle heads are probably the same ones that don’t want  Penthouse in the high school library. Bring in the drag twerkers too. Middle schoolers are rock solid in their judgement as I recall. Why should they enjoy their youth?

There seem no winning any more, even with friends.  I get this in response. 


 
Words are weapons and sex is dirty.  Some words are good, though, and sexy is o.k.  But wait.  I mean, what would OAC think?  Oh. . . she and Ted Cruz are on the same page, I guess.  Well, to quote Ray Davies, "It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola."  

Fashion is back, though.  The Greedheads need to make money somehow.  Maybe I should do that.  Fashion, I mean.  Money and Indulgence.  

We'll call it a shirt.