Sunday, January 29, 2023

Back to the Fallen World

If you are one of the people on my text message group, you are probably sick to death of the images I send you from my phone of everything I eat and drink.  I'll stop.  I swear.  I've been oversharing.  It is a problem that evolved during the Covid lockdown.  But as with the over-talking, I'm becoming more self-aware of how irritating I can be.  I'll quit sending all those things that make me laugh early in the morning when I'm reading the news, too.  Silence is Golden.  I heard that somewhere.  I can't remember where, but surely it came from someone who was oversharing because, I mean. . . it is really irritating.  

So if you want to hear from me, come to the blog.  This will be the sole repository for my lonely mind junk.  Even as my audience slowly dwindles. . . . 

I went to the baseball-themed funeral yesterday.  It was a non-religious and touching tribute to my colleague's life.  I gave a ride to my crippled tenant and saw my old friend, bandmate, and college roommate as soon as I pulled up.  There was a little hill to climb to get to the stadium that neither of them could manage, so I drove them around to higher, level ground.  When I got back, parked the car, and walked into the crowd, I saw some of my old department members and some retirees who I haven't seen for many years.  I had, it seemed, stepped back into my former position and professional role.  After sitting and moping for so long, it felt good and natural to be in a privileged and esteemed position again where my reputation was well-established and well-known.  Emotions, of course, ran high because of the occasion. There was a lot of love.  

Unexpectedly, I was referred to by name during the testimonials.  I got shout outs during a themed, non-religious funeral?  

Well. . . of course I did.  

After the service had ended, a group of factory kids was going to a nearby bar, but I was not drinking and my roommate is not in barroom health, nor was the tenant who I had to take back home, so I did not go.  

After I dropped the tenant off, I drove to Whole Foods to get groceries for dinner--a NY Strip, asparagus, and little red potatoes.  At home, I put away the groceries and fed the feral cat and sat out on the deck with some cheese and olives.  For some time now, however, sitting out alone on the deck has lost its flavor and its charm.  I'm not as self-contained, maybe, as I had been, now that the world has opened once again.  Cooking and eating alone with only the cat as companion has lost much of its flavor.  The neighbors no longer walk as much and those Covid conversations with passersby have pretty much ended.  The garden was wrecked by the hurricanes and then damaged by the freeze.  I've failed to keep the bird feeders filled.  Still, the neighbor's cat has returned and lies about with my little feral as of old.  I can't explain it yet, have failed to articulate it, but something just feels off about it all.  I am really done with being alone.  

After dinner, as dark descended, I came back into the house.  I had an idea.  I Googled, "Why do writers drink?" 

The results were surprising.  There were many.  Even "Psychology Today" touted the benefits of drinking for the Creative Class.  I don't know which Tea Totalers you enjoy reading, but I haven't any.  

Then I stumbled upon this. 

"Do you long to trade notes on postmodernism over whiskey and jazz with Haruki Murakami? Have you dreamed of sharing martinis with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton after poetry class? Maybe a mojito—a real one, like they serve at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana—is all you need to summon the mesmerizing power of Hemingway's prose. Writer’s block? Summon the brilliant musings of Truman Capote with a screwdriver—or, “my orange drink,” as he called it—or a magical world like J.K. Rowling’s with a perfect gin and tonic.

With 100 spirited drink recipes and special sections dedicated to writerly haunts like the Algonquin of the New Yorker set and Kerouac’s Vesuvio Cafe, pointers for hosting your own literary salon, and author-approved hangover cures, all accompanied by original illustrations of ingredients, finished cocktails, classic drinks, and favorite food pairings, How to Drink Like a Writer is sure to inspire, invoke, and inebriate—whether you are courting the muse, or nursing a hangover. Sure, becoming a famous author takes dedication, innate talent, and sometimes nepotism. But it also takes vodka, gin, tequila, and whiskey."

OMG!, I thought. How utterly delightful.  And of a sudden, I realized what had changed.  I realized the difference.  

I ordered the book from Amazon.  

As I sat down to watch t.v., I thought about eating a gummy.  But I don't really like them.  I don't like smoking pot, either.  I have never been enamored of drugs, by and large.  And so, straight as a gate, I turned on "Knives Out: The Glass Onion" which bored me to tears just as the first one, that in three attempts I never finished, did.  Luckily, nine o'clock, my new bedtime, came around, so I switched it off and went to bed.  

And dreamed.  All night long I was in the same, extended dream.  I was back at the factory.  I wasn't working, just hanging out, popping in and out of meetings and events, without duties but still esteemed, joyous and happy.  Several times, I woke up grinning, and when I went back to sleep, the dream continued.  

It was a happy dream, but this morning, it concerns me.  I may be growing senile.  WTF?  I'm not ready for this.  I'm not about to sit around the house and think about "the olden times."  Fuck that right up the old bunghole.  That's not going to happen.  

It was just a reaction to the day, I am certain.  I had wondered what I would do in February, wondered if I would stay sober or if I would drink.  I can tell you absolutely now, come February 1st, I will make a cocktail without apologies to my sponsors.  I will never convert to Islam, I can assure you.  Were I forced to convert to some religion, it would definitely be Catholicism.  My dead colleague was Catholic, and they ended the service with an informal wake at the bar.  And I will tell you a secret, but you can't spread this around.  Yesterday at the funeral, I saw lots of old colleagues, and the ones in the worst shape--by far--the ones with debilitating diseases, bad hearts, those limping and walking with canes, the ones who were most out of it, were all non-drinkers.  

They were not the creative ones to begin with, either.  Literal beings with popular sensibilities.  

Jesus.  I hope none of them ever stumble upon this blog.  

My intentions are to limp back into the living world, as horrible and fallen as it is.  I will return to my charmingly corrupt ways, maybe even here on the blog.  People desire something beyond their normal, sensible lives.  They want wild adventures and questionable behavior.  The want danger from a safe distance.  They want flawed and tragic heroes.  

A glass of wine on the deck with olives and cheese and a grilled steak dinner.  A scotch afterwards as I open a book or sit down to write some romantic missive to a long lost or potential love.  And perhaps, from time to time, a romantic tryst.  

And I'll remain a generous friend.  I promise, I won't be the one to steal your money. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Nod and Grin

My dead ex-friend Brando once told me when I was moping about that girl, "Your problem is that you think she should be thinking about you all the time.  Hell, man, you're lucky if she's thinking of you when you're standing right in front of her!"  

I always enjoyed using that one on other mopey fellows.  But as of today, I have an addendum to add to that.  

"If she is thinking of you, there is no better than a 50/50 chance that it is in the way you want her to."  

And so it is written.  

Maybe I'm just dyspeptic this morning because the milk curdled in my coffee.  It was dark and I wasn't sure, so I drank it anyway.  When I went to get more coffee, though, the sun was up and I could see the gunk in my cup.  Pouring my second cup, I looked for the instant creamer I bought many years ago when I went to Cuba.  After a long search through the cupboards, I found it, but it wouldn't pour.  It had become a solid block.  I worked at scraping it for a few minutes until I got enough powder to cream my coffee.  I'm not certain which will be worse for me, though, the curdled milk or the years old creamer.  Since I have drunk each, I'll not be certain which one was the culprit if I get sick--or if it was some synergistic combination of the two.  

I'm off to a fine start on a cold funereal Saturday.  Literally.  I must go to a dead colleagues funeral this afternoon.  And it is a weird one.  They are having the service at a baseball stadium because he was a huge baseball fan.  Attire is Baseball Formal, the announcement said.  We should wear baseball garments.  I am not certain what this means, but I know I don't have a baseball uniform.  I don't even have a baseball cap.  I'm not sure how to dress at this point.  Perhaps I should run to a sporting goods store this morning.  

But I can't.  The window repair guy who took out the window in the apartment before the hurricanes is going to put back the repaired window today at ten.  That's a lot of months.  And I will owe him a lot of money when he shows up.  I just paid out money to the HVAC repair people this week but the tenant says the a.c. isn't working now, so I have to have them back.  The tenant likes to call me when she needs something.  She is paying half of what I could be getting for the apartment.  At this point, the rent isn't covering the cost of maintaining the place.  We are going to have to have a talk.  

But I've decided talking does me little or no good.  I was a professional talker.  I was trained to be a critic, and I was a good one.  I have a knack for noticing the sublte cracks and gaps in logic.  For this, I was rewarded.  Not handsomely, of course, but professionally.  

But that talent doesn't make me friends in the "outside" world.  It is considered a rude and nasty thing.  People tend to like you when your opinions align with theirs.  I understand.  It is only natural.  As I've written here not long ago, people just want to have fun.  Make them laugh.  Don't contradict them.  Presenting a winning argument is not the formula for popularity.  

"I love that guy.  Have you ever argued with him?  Man, he is really something." 

Nope.  And holding opposite opinions is even a worse idea.  And yet, that is what I do.  It doesn't matter what the opinion is, I will take the contradictory one.  For me, it is fun.  I don't really care if I win or lose, if I am right or wrong.  I truly don't believe in absolute rights and wrongs.  The only thing is the argument.  

"Argue with yourself, asshole." 

The thing is, though, I don't like emotional arguments, and I won't engage in them.  That is the point where I say, "You are right.  You win."  Purely intellectual arguments, sure. . . but for people who aren't of that ilk, they engage their emotions immediately.  

I don't get paid to be critical any longer.  There is absolutely no reward in it for me now.  I am going have to remember to simply nod and grin and say things like, "That's an interesting idea." 

Making Friends and Being Popular 101. 

I never took the course.  

The craziness of it is, I like people of all stripes.  I never think I am "right."  I just think I am insightful.  And I like to show off.

Selah.  

I watched the Memphis beatings tapes last night.  My recommendation is don't watch them.  Just believe it when people say it is awful.  It is, and seeing them will do nothing good for you.  Watching the tapes really jacked me up.  I grew up with that.  I've witnessed gang beatings that were similar in woods, in trailer parks, in parking lots. . . .  People never believe me when I say this, but it is true.  I know what it is like to hit a person high on PCP and coke and many other drugs.  You know what happens?  Not much.  One night in a trailer park party, a big guy just back from Viet Nam got fucked up and started punching people, so the crowd turned on him.  They hit him and kicked him and beat him, but it didn't seem to register.  He just kept fighting until he could fight no more.  It looked much like the video I watched last night.  That was not the only time I saw brutal beatings.  I grew up with gang members and thugs.  I've spent my life trying to get away from all of that.  I live in a bubble now, but that shit never goes away.  As a teen, I had a gun put to my head by a fellow tripping on acid.  That wasn't the only time I had a gun pulled on me, but it was definitely the scariest.  The fellow took the gun from my head and shot a roadside sign next to me just to let me know.  My life was like that until I went away to college.  I never went back.  

Watching those videos and listening to the audio of the officers jacked on anger and adrenaline and feeding off the energy of the moment took me back.  Listening to the immediate retelling replaying of the event by the police officers took me back as well, the sudden energy dump and the first bit of realization of what just happened and the verbal and mental attempt to justify it all, to recreate and reshape it in narrative.  The majority of people I know have never lived in that, have never witnessed that, and don't really know that it happens every day and all the time somewhere where they aren't.  They are shocked and sickened by the brutality.  I am horribly reminded and taken back.  Those policemen were angry and they were jacked.  Maybe Erin Burnett can't understand why none of the other officers intervened.  I know why.  You may think you would have, but I know you wouldn't.  You may not have participated, but you would not have gotten in the way no matter how righteous and brave you think you are.  You may have been sickened by it and turned away, but that is all.  Later, in court, you might even testify, but in that moment you would have smelled the outrage and the danger and you would know you were not big enough to stop it.  Unless you have been in it, don't fool yourself.  Just don't.  

My stomach is rumbling and sounds like a chainsaw.  I'm sure I won't get sick, but I didn't finish my second cup.  It didn't taste right.  It makes me sad because I spent a lot of money to get that Kenya coffee, the delicate, high altitude coffee that Issac Dinesen first grew on her farm in Africa.  It is very difficult to get now for reasons I don't understand.  But this pot has been wasted.  I will probably put on some clothes and go to a breakfast place where I can eat and drink some less that desirable coffee but coffee nonetheless.  And I must hurry as the window guy will be here soon.  

Have I mentioned the robins?  I don't think so, . They have been here all week, about a hundred of them, roosting and rooting about in the two big camphor trees.  They are peripatetic little monsters and make a tremendous ruckus.  It is like a blessing, though.  I think of them as harbingers of good luck.  I need some.  

You needn't worry about my nodding instead of talking, at least not in writing here in on my blog in my own home.  Not to talk here would be silly.  It would be a crime.  But if you see a silly fellow in the streets with a bobble head and an indiscriminate grin. . . you'll have found me.  I'll be the popular one.  


Friday, January 27, 2023

Wagyu and Gelato--A Way of Life

That's Wagyu beef.  So they said.  If you zoom in on the receipt, you will see it was 3:24 p.m. when I sat down with it.  What kind of time is that to eat?  It's not lunch.  It's not dinner.  And yet, the place was fairly busy.  I'm very traditional in my middle class eating pattern.  Lunch somewhere around noon, dinner between five and six. Old habits.  I'm not proud of this necessarily.  I can envy the nonchalance of people whose meals are not determined by the hands on the clock, people who eat whenever.  But, and this is a big but, even though I know of no studies that show eating at regular, middle class times is healthier, I believe it to be.  Thusly, eating so late in the afternoon was odd for me--but also exhilarating.  

"Look at me!" 

It happened by accident.  I went to the gym, got home in time for lunch, showered, and then got into a phone conversation with the tenant.  It was already getting late when I remembered I had left a shirt that I like at the gym, so I jumped in the car and went to retrieve it.  It was two o'clock, so I decided that being close by, I would just go make my daily visit to my mother.  By the time I left there, it was three.  I had been thinking that I would wait until dinner to eat, but I was really hungry, so. . . are you fascinated yet?  

How about this--the day was gorgeous and brilliant.  The temperature was a perfect seventy-four, the afternoon light brilliant creating sharp, deep shadows.  I was on the Boulevard walking to the burger place when I passed a group of kids from Country Club College.  "Hey, man. . . I like your hair," said one of the fellows holding hands with the girl whose legs I was not looking at.  It caught me by surprise.  

"Uh. . . uh-huh. . . ."

But you know, that is how it has been going of late.  I'll give credit to Sky for restoring some tiny bit of confidence.  You know how that goes.  A little steam in your strut, glide in your stride, etc.  Only I, Gargantua, was limping quite noticeably.  No matter, I thought.  I can make this shit look cool.  

I sat at an outdoor table "sol y sombre" in the perfect afternoon, and I was happy.  It was like vacationing, really, this break with routine.  I was outside my normal.  Aaiieee.  

When I had finished the $15 burger (which was really good), I thought, "What the hell."  Those words exactly, I am pretty sure.  And with those words in mind, I crossed the street to the best gelato store in town.  

Would I be sorry later?  Sure, but I didn't care.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  Isn't that a saying?  I'm sure it is, usually coming as a bit of useless advice.  But just at that moment, it made sense in its duality.  And so, without hesitation, I went for it.  

Back on the sidewalk, my hair glistening like a golden field of wheat in the richness of the late afternoon sun, having been told my hair was cool, I thought "selfie."  And sure as shitting, as the old folks say. . . . 


That fellow must have been kidding.  What the hell was I thinking?  

Still, I have gotten used to my ruined visage, maybe even reveling in the unjust ravages of time. Whatever can you do but shake your fist at the sky and hostile fate?  Whatever, indeed.  You take your pleasures where you may.  

Cone finished, fingers sticky, I popped into Restoration Hardware to see if there were any sales on lamps and to use their restroom to wash my hands.  There were no sales as far as I could tell.  There were no prices at all, only QR codes you could scan.  Why?  Is it really easier to print QR codes than to print prices?  

Outside, I was loathe to go home.  I strolled on my gimp leg a bit, but feeling all Quasimodo-like, I returned to my car.  It was a quiet hour.  The Boulevard was empty.  After work traffic was building.  I decided to go home. 

Where my friend the feral cat awaited me.  She meowed and I meowed and she meowed. . . and I got her some dinner.  As she ate, I sat on the deck thinking I was beautiful and waited for my new girlfriend to show up.  That is what I do.  I wait. . . sometimes for many, many years.  But this was not the day.  The street was empty for whatever reason.  There was no parade of joggers or dog walkers.  There was nothing but me, the cat, and the sinking sun.  

I decided to text photos of my fun day to all the suckers who had not been there.  The responses were varied.  My travel/art buddy texted back that he hadn't had a drink for a week, that he was exercising and losing weight.  One of my former department workers texted back that she now had a craving for gelato.  Her young friend texted that it made her hungry for anything but what was in her house.  She was stuck inside with her third case of Covid.  I wondered which one of them would be the first to get Monkey Pox.  Neither of them are careful.  One of the women from the factory responded that my name had come up in the most unlikely scenario in a meeting at the factory that made her giggle.  She was, though, envious of the food.  My buddy who writes for the Times said life looked great and that while he was in town and that we should get together for a meal.  

Sky, working on assignment, was brief--"Living your best life." 

I would try to pretend it were true.  

Later, drinking herbal tea, I returned to "Stutz," psychiatrist to the stars if the credits are any indication.  I can see why, of course.  He has an actor's attractiveness about him.  Jonah Hill, however. . . well. . . I like him in movies. 

"Stutz" ended just before nine, so I cleaned up the kitchen, set the coffee pot, and headed to bed to read and to sleep.  

The morning is cold and clear and the day holds out great promise.  Surely I will not be equal to it.  But that is negative thinking, "The X Factor," and must be vanquished or at least kept at arm's length according to Stutz.  Of course, he is right about that.  I must work on a more positive outlook.  I must dare to "try," to move ahead, to set my sights on reasonable goals, and not be afraid to fail.  

Doesn't that sound like me, though?  Isn't that what I stand for?  Isn't that what always do?  

* * * 

Ha!  I just saw this.  She must have watched "Stutz"!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Don't Listen to Me

I have a new routine.  I get into bed every night at nine.  Nine on the dot.  I take a book and read until I am sleepy.  That may be fifteen minutes, it may be two hours.  It doesn't matter.  Eventually, though, my eyes begin to get heavy, and I put the book on the bedside table and turn off the light.  What I am finding is that my dreams are more pleasant.  Again, last night and this morning, I woke up smiling.  I think I'll not read dark or heavy books before bed.  I'll save them for earlier.  Bedtime reading will be about happy adventures, personalities. . . whatever the old people read.  I think they read a lot of biographies.  There are plenty of books that will make me happy, I'm certain.  

I'll leave the nihilists and existentialists for other times.  It is not that they don't make me happy.  I love to know that other people see life in a similar, if more articulate, way.  That never depresses me.  But the lighter stuff seems to make for better dreaming.  

Lighter music, too.  I wouldn't want to listen to Tchaikovsky or Chopin or parts of Mozart or Beethoven before sleeping.  

You may, however, prefer the dreams invoked by Bach or the Brothers Mann.  Each to his own.  For once, I'm choosing the path most travelled.  

There are other life modifications I will be making, too.  Hacks?  Isn't that the popular term?  Life hacks?  I'm not sure.  I avoid popular idioms preferring the language from the "way back."  My father's language and the language of my grandparents.  And sometimes "groovy" and "far out," but only in a mocking tone.  

People keep asking me if I feel different being alcohol free.  I always tell them, "I'm bored."  And that is true.  Physiologically, I may have lost a couple pounds, but I have mostly countered that with an uptake in sweets.  I've noticed, however, that my arms have become more vascular during workouts, so there is that. Mostly, though, I'd say I've become a tad less sardonic and a bit more sublime.  I may be more thoughtful in my reaction to things and less likely to say the first thing that comes to mind.  I was going to say I felt like I was channeling some inner Norm MacDonald--you know, the performative one, slow and goofy--so I Googled it.  All the things I looked at say his personality type is INTP, so I looked that up, too.  

Yea. 

Which is a good segue into "Stutz."  Upon recommendation, I started watching that last night.  If you don't know about the film, it is something akin to a documentary Jonah Hill made about his psychoanalyst Phil Stutz.  Johan Hill is as irritating as he can be in the film.  Intellectually and emotionally shallow. . . well, the fellow needs a writer and a script.  Stutz, himself, is fairly fascinating to watch.  He is a colorful character with a thoughtful and irreverent demeanor.  I have only watched half of the film so far, for when it turned nine, I had to turn it off as is my new wont, so any opinions I express here are not final.  Stutz got his residency and first practice as a psychiatrist at Riker's Island.  That was not mentioned in the film, at least so far.  I had to look it up.  I was actually trying to find out if Stutz had been Woody Allen's shrink, for what they say about life have incredible parallels.  Allen's, I think, are more palatable to me because he relies less on cloudy metaphors.  Stutz is obviously used to working with a less thoughtful or intellectual audience, or so it seems to me.  He draws cartoons and diagrams on 3x5 cards as he talks and gives them as visual representation to his patients for guidance and inspiration.  He realizes, I think, will eventually get lost in his metaphors and symbology.  I'm not sure where the doc is going.  There seems to be a bit of mysticism in some of the things he says, just enough to make him a bit of a cultish figure if not the leader of a cult.  He uses terms like "The X Factor" to reference what can easily called negative thinking.  But, it seems, he likes figures and images.  Perhaps it is easier for a certain clientele to "get" a fairytale version of the psyche, but then again, such notions were the difference between Freud and Jung, I think (in my Cliff Notes understanding of these things).  

If you have seen the doc already, think "The String of Pearls" theory in which every pearl contains a turd. It only made me wonder what the turd contained and if he would explain that later, or perhaps how it came to be there, or why, indeed, he seemed to be mixing his metaphors.  At that point, I was reminded of Tom Cruise and Scientology.  

He tells us that he was born a therapist, that since he was a child, people came to him to tell him their troubles, grown ups looking for advice.  He admits that ideas just come to him as if by divinity.  Much of what he does and says breaks with standard practices, so I read, above all maintaining a professional distance between himself and the client.  

And yet, I liked watching this crazy character.  He's funny and charismatic.  And he is, as I say, in accordance with The Cosmos According to Woody Allen.  

Again, I haven't seen all of it yet.  Maybe Hill turns out better than he begins.  Perhaps he has a big breakthrough.  I hope so.  

In a nutshell, let me see if I can summarize all of art, literature, philosophy, and religion.  Life is absurd.  We try to find meaning.  We despair when we realize there is suffering and death and that we can not put an end to that.  To counter our despair, we try to find distraction.  Some revel in cheap abstractions like drink, drugs, and popular entertainment.  Others try to be more productive and throw themselves into their work.  Sometimes, however, we are overwhelmed and seek help whether fantastically mystical or stoically practical.  Some seek guidance in religious texts, some from artists and philosophers, and some from talk show hosts.  Some, of course, combine two or maybe all of three of these things.  In the end, however, all we are left with is the absurdity of our fate and how we choose to face it.  

Fluffy clouds, angels with harps, and streets of gold, or an eternity of dirt and nonexistence.  It really doesn't matter what you believe.  It is how you act, or, as Charles Bukowski says, "What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire."  

Maybe, though, by the end of "Stutz," I will have changed my mind.  

All that to say. . . I'm reading happier things before bed, and it is helps me dream better dreams.  Try to reduce your screen time.  Avoid social media.  Don't read about yourself and what others think about you and your work.  Do what you believe in and try to avoid regret.  Stay away from negative people, and remember that, by and large, Cindi Lauper was right--people just want to have fun.  

If you need help, advice, or guidance, you can always call.  I'll throw the bones, read the tea leaves. . . . My services are not cheap, but, you know. . . being a Life Coach is a lot of work.  

Selavy.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Tea for Two Would Be Nice

Here's some advice--if you are ever going to steal anything, make certain it is marked "Top Secret."  If you get caught, just shrug.  "I don't know how those got here.  Maybe somebody put them there by mistake."  That seems to do it.  But don't get caught stealing a pair of bloomers from Walmart.  History would have it that the same excuse won't work there.  You'll most likely end up in court. 

Just saying.  

That photo at the top of the page is a snap I took with my iPhone last night on a trip to the grocers.  I took it and cooked it up in under sixty seconds.  I'm pretty much done with digital cameras for anything but the most "important" shoots.  These shoe phones knock me out.  

The trip to Trader Joe's came about because I didn't want to cook. TJs is for the laziest of us.  Oh, it is cheaper than other stores, too, but for real savings you want to go to Aldis.  Not me, of course.  I don't shop for the savings.  I shop to get what I want, and TJs had it last night.  I didn't want to cook.  The cleaning crew had come that afternoon, and per usual, I wanted the kitchen to stay clean for at least an entire day.  So TJs and its gigantic choice of pre-made "ethnic" dishes, none of which meet my usual dietary standards.  What I wanted was a good bowl of Asian noodle soup, pho, ramen, or the like.  I was prepared to make it, but again, I didn't want to mess up the kitchen, and for some reason, driving to a place I could get noodle soup takeout seemed too complicated.  So. . . I bought a frozen pho with beef and two chicken tamales.  I know. . . I was confused.  There were simply too many choices, all of them high in fat.  TJs loves fat, apparently.  It is not a health food store.  

So I bought three different kinds of candy.  They have good candies.  

Such are the confusions of a sober man.  If I were drinking. . . . 

I can't quit thinking about the secret files thing, though.  How in the hell do they get to avoid a firing squad?  All of them.  "Oopsey" is not a defense.  God knows who else has them.  Apparently the National Archives or whoever is in charge of these things (yea, I'm a real political scientist, I am) is like a colander with a big hole in it.  I'm bewildered.  Who cares what ideological or political beliefs they hold?  There are bigger penalties for being late on your auto tag renewal.  

As you know, I like to read reports on the latest scientific findings, but I've decided I need to stop.  I don't think I am enamored of science any longer.  It is good stuff, but it has become too much a business.  People need to publish to get ahead in the field, especially academics.  As a result, if I may opine from an unworthy place, there is too much "junk" science.  The rate of "discoveries" has accelerated.  Too much sleep will kill you.  Too little will give you dementia.  But. . . maybe. . . the quality of sleep is more important.  We just need to figure out how to measure that.  Many, more women than men, more people over 65 than under, more poor than rich, rely on "sleeping pills" nightly.  But they are bad for you. Not sleeping is bad, but pills are bad.  "Ask your doctor," they say.  

I'm not asking my doctor.  She's a moron.  

"No amount of alcohol" is good for you.  O.K.  Why not label ibuprofen, too.  And acetaminophen?  And everything else on the "over the counter" medicine aisle?  

"Use only as needed."

Fuck it.  They have scared me to death.  Nearly.  I fear for my health and life daily.  I can't possibly consume all the things I need to to live forever.  I need both aerobic and strength training every day, but I can't forget about meditation and yoga, either.  It is really important that I don't sit for long, they say.  

My mother, 91, and all of her similarly aged friends, have eaten bologna, processed cheese, bleached flour bread, and lard along with their smoking and drinking.  They all love them a Vienna sausage from time to time, too.  

I'll quit reading "the science."  It has damaged my psyche.  

I was a little productive yesterday.  I went through two weeks' worth of untouched mail.  I emptied and re-organized two big drawers in an effort to find the rechargeable batteries I bought so long ago but could not find.  I found them.  I found a lot of things.  Drawers are mysteries to be explored.  One of the things I found was a sage smudge that Ili left.  Now that I am anti-science, I may light the fucker and burn away all the bad spirits or whatever they are supposed to do.  I'm going to get my friend, a bruja in training, to cook me up some mystical potions and elixirs.  I'll pull out the crystals, too, that were left behind.  I'm certain that it will bring me more peace than science currently is.  

I'm skirting a lot of personal revelations here, I know.  My life is full of worry and drama that I don't want to write about here.  It was either the best or the worst time to quit drinking.  This morning, however, I woke myself up laughing.  Big belly laughs.  I was remembering a night with my climbing buddies down in Old Mexico. Four of us shared a room.  I slept in a bed with one of my friends.  In the morning when I woke up, I was wrapped around him from behind as I would be around a lover--in flagrante delicto!  Holy shit, holy fuck.  He woke up as well just at that moment.  I wanted to kiss him and tell him I loved him, but it didn't seem appropriate in the moment.  

And that is how I awoke.  Laughing, I mean.  Maybe tumescent, too.  I only remember the belly laugh.  As I lay there, I tried to remember the last time I had laughed like that.  A belly laugh.  When was the last time I laughed so hard I couldn't catch my breath?  It has been years, I think.  That is a sad reflection.  Tragic, really, because I used to laugh so much.  But it is hard to laugh alone. . . unless you are recalling screwing your buddy in your sleep!  

I need to laugh.  I need to laugh until I can't breathe.  It will take something stupid. . . like singing a tune by Big and Little Edie.  I used to laugh about the dumbest things.  

Life was better when it was stupid.  



Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Big Questions

My fascination with driving through Crackerland this weekend has worn off.  I said I would tell more of the tale later, but I can't remember what I thought I would report.  My ability to make a long drive with cameras I didn't use seem fascinating. . . well, I've lost it.  The ability, I mean.  The excitement induced by such a mundane excursion has dissipated.  

All that is left are the photos.  Such as they are.  Those and all the photos of Dino World, too. 

I have a whole folder full of them, but the tale's gone cold.  

I would take up the Bildungsroman again this morning, but I have not thought it out.  Usually, before I write it, I lie in bed and think of what I will tell. This morning, I did not.  I lay in bed and wondered about the pain in my knee.  I woke with a start when the lower part of the leg separated from the upper.  That is not accurate.  What I felt was the startling pain of my knee joint dislocating.  I've just read several articles on knee replacement, however, and the whole replacement thing is not appealing.  The best that one can expect is being a pain-free cripple rather than a pain-filled cripple.  But crippled you still will be.  There is not much you can do on a replaced knee, it seems, other than walk.  "Light hiking" might be possible.  

The only outcome is compromise.  

I'm of the "why me" school on this, but it does no good.  There are consequences to living.  

I watched a long recent interview with Woody Allen last night.  I am of the Allen School of thought about "The Big Questions," i.e."The Meaning of Life," etc.  There are no answers, or, perhaps, only bad ones.  There is nothing of comfort "out there."  We are miserable creatures at best and horrible creatures at worst, and all we can do is distract ourselves from thinking about it. Some distractions may be better than others, great art, for instance, better than the predigested pap of popular culture, but in the end, it doesn't really matter.  We all suffer the same fate.  Allen is the pop version of Beckett, I think, but they are of the same school.  You are either lucky in life or you are not.  There are many lug heads, for instance, as big and strong as someone like, say, Hulk Hogan, but they were not in the right place at the right time.  Hogan got lucky.  Love is luck, too.  You can't do anything about it, really. It is a gift that is given and that can be taken away.  And there are people, however perfectly suited, that you will never meet. 

Some people are just luckier than others.  They will feel themselves special or believe that they did something wise or profound to get it, but that is only partially true.  

Maybe.  What do I know?  

Most mornings, lying in bed, I prefer to think about what I will write when I get up, but sometimes pain gets in the way, as it did today.  Still I write.  Or, perhaps, and so I write.  It is the only way I can make even partial sense of things.  

If you have money, health, and love. . . revel in it.  Don't think too much.  There are no answers.  It will do you know good.  You are better off thinking about what color to paint the house or which kind of face cream to buy.  Keep it simple.  

I have thought too much, and it has cost me.  I distract myself with silly humor.  In my best relationships, we laugh a lot about stupid things.  But as I've been told, I can go from light to heavy very quickly.  I'm smart, but I might have been better off if I had never read.  The women I have been attracted to have not been heavy readers.  Oh, they all have had degrees, often in the humanities, often advanced.  They read, but by and large, they weren't interested in heavy reading.  They would choose one, or maybe two, masterworks as proof of their intelligence.  But they did not pour through literature and philosophy and science looking for succor.  They were all successful and smart.  They liked champagne cocktails and astrology and burning sage and all manner of body treatments.  I liked those things, and I liked them that way.  In the end, however, they left me, usually for someone much different than me, businessmen and contractors, dentists and attorneys, men with more money than I, and simpler, more popular or common interests.  Vacation homes, memberships at the club, friends of repute.  

I try to smirk, but I can't.  I am jealous.  

So I, Quasimodo, (or, perhaps, the likes of Joseph (John) Merrick), limp along misshaped and deformed by misfortune and time.  And, perhaps, by volition, too.  But, I think it is a genetic predisposition that drives me.  C.C. tells me we have an unfortunate malady.  Q blames me for transferral. Too much thinking is not good.  Too much reading is worse.  It is better to do.  

But again, in the end. . . . 

How was that for venom and self-pity.  I'm a monster.  

I'd like to believe the sign is true.  I could join a gang, a mob.  I could be part of the crowd.  

Rather. . . . 


Monday, January 23, 2023

Out

"And how," said my republican buddy.  "He's got it all!"

I got out of the house yesterday.  I loaded up my 4x5 camera, lenses, tripod, and accoutrements and drove north up a long, often congested highway to the land time forgot.  But it's changing.  As is the case everywhere in my own home state, realtors are having their way.  Roads are built so they can develop the land putting up big ranch style housing projects of dubious quality with large yards and those big walls and gates that are supposed to suggest an exclusivity.  Then, just down the road, after the majority of the properties are sold, the humongous apartment complex goes up.  Orange groves go down and the largest, scariest warehouses are built.  All of this, of course, made possible by our tax dollars that fund the construction of those roads.  

There is no stopping money.  At all.  Money will have its way.  So it is written.

But the transformation isn't complete.  Not yet.  These hillbillies and crackers who have lived here since time immemorium still people the older places.  Going there is like a trip to "The Day of the Hillbilly Dead."  There is more of the past in the people than in the land.  Just a jaunt out of the big city and you see people in clothes by the pound and hair done at the beauty salon by gals with names like Rita and Marge.  

I drove through the afternoon passing places I thought I should photograph, but the traffic was bad and I would have had to turn around and I wanted to get to the furthest point of my trip, so for a long time, I just kept moving.  

I hadn't stopped to take a photograph all day.  I was feeling pretty incompetent.  Needing gas, however, I pulled into a 7-11.  After filling up, I thought I had better pee.  God knows, I pondered, what I might find inside.  What I did find was a store full of people in 7-11 shirts milling about, slack jawed and slow.  When I came out of the bathroom, they were talking among themselves.  Casual conversation.  I decided to get a snack.  From what I could make out, the woman behind the register was going to get a ride home from another woman who had just asked the cashier to make her two pizzas.  It seemed she was going to eat one and take the other one home to the family.  

"No, you don't have to wait around.  I'll call him.  He can pick me up."

Still, she said, two pizzas.  I gazed upon the shiny, wrinkled hot dogs twirling on the gleaming electric open rotisserie.  The mustard, ketchup, and sweet pickles sat on the counter beside them in open dishes.  A selection of donuts sat under a clear, plastic lid.  I took a pass.

The men wandered about aimlessly.  Nobody seemed to notice me.  It seemed that other than the cashier, everyone was just hanging around the work place with nowhere else to go.  Fuck it, I thought. . . when in Rome. . . . 

I took my rinds back to the car and decided to cross the road to photograph a gathering of signs.  

Nice signs, really.  Somebody had done a good job.  I needed to be careful, though.  People in their trucks didn't look as if they they liked me taking photos here with my iPhone.  God knows what might happen if I took out the 4x5 and set up a tripod.  In the past, I've had people throw things out the window at me  they drove by.  I've had trucks pull up and fellows ask me what I was doing.  Maybe it's just me.  I never hear stories like this from others.  But, with a gimp leg on which I was having much trouble walking and my long, blond hair, I kind of stood out.  I decided I needed a driver.  At every stop, I would turn my car to face the escape route and get out leaving the engine running.  I would have felt much better if I had somebody behind the wheel ready to bolt as I leaped into the passenger's seat.  

"Punch it!"

But who am I kidding.  I can't leap.  

As the afternoon grew late, I made more frequent stops, but I never took out the big cameras.  I remembered that I had some medium format cameras in the car that needed a few more clicks to finish the rolls, so occasionally I would grab one of them.  I saw no reason to shoot with digital cameras, though. I have gotten addicted to the phone camera.  I can shoot and process an image in seconds.  I have printed some of my phone images large, and by God, they are fine.  Two of them are now framed and hanging on the walls of friends.  Crazy.  But, I think, these camera pics are the new Polaroid.  

There is more to the trip, many more pictures, and though I'm anxious to show them all, I will save the rest for the second part of this narrative without end.  And I will skip ahead, leaving the middle part of the trip for later.  

Fast forward. 

Driving back, I called my mother with whom I was to have supper.  I'd be over at five, I said.  O.K.  When I got back to town, I had too few minutes to spare, but I needed a shower to wash off the grit that had settled on me.  I got to my mother's a bit after five.  My mother and cousin were just mucking about.  They were in no hurry.  It would be awhile before a dinner of microwaved potatoes and George Forman grilled slices of pork loin, so I turned the t.v. on to watch the end of the Bengals and the Bills.  You may wonder at this, at me, after all my declarations, watching the NFL playoffs.  Well. . . you know. . . it's only a few games.  

My cousin, being from Ohio, my root culture was, of course, pulling for the Bengals.  Only after they had won was dinner served and in that particularly hillbilly way, everyone scraping butter for their potatoes out of an almost empty tub, mismatched glasses of water, set beside plates, the table clutter pushed aside.  You know. . . a heritage meal.  Respect the Community, yo.  

I should be able to get along with those hillbillies and crackers in the hinterlands, but somehow, out on my own, it doesn't translate that well anymore.  

I got home late.  The second half of the 49ers and Cowboys was starting.  My old college roommate texted.  We would watch the rest of the game together.  We are smart about football.  We know more than the coaches, our talents on display after every bad play.  We were pulling for those insouciant 49ers, of course, and when they played a Waylon Jennings song after a commercial for the Official Wine of the NFL (did I dream that?), I opined that they needed to balance this with a song by the Dead.  

"Ha."

Earlier in the day, a fellow we had worked with from our inception at the factory had died we learned from a group text.  My buddy is not well and doesn't get out much any longer, so it was fun sharing a game as in days of old while we reminisced about our colleague.  No. . . I won't apologize for watching the NFL playoffs.  Not for all my bitching and complaining.  

The sun is not yet up, but the world is visible in shades of gray.  What will I do today?  There is so much I need that needs doing, yard work, maintenance, taxes. . . but I grow ever lazier.  I decided to shovel up the dead possum, though, and put it in the garbage, so there is that accomplishment in the bag.  

Maybe I'll just spend the day resting on my laurels.  There is only so much a fellow can do.  

Sunday, January 22, 2023

I Like. . . .

I took this picture.  That's all there is to it.  Nothing.  Sort of how I feel.  Ordinary existence.  I'm a real hero, though.  I haven't had a drink.  And oh, God, life deserves a drink.  Every primitive knew that.  Fermentation is ancient.  10,000 BCE.  That's B.C. for you Christian Nationalists.  We don't even know their names, but we know they liked to make fruit wine.  

"Whatdaya wanna do, Ugh?"

"Let's drink." 

Stark reality is not its own reward.  George Bernard Shaw is probably the most famous tea-totaler.  Warren Buffet.  P.T. Barnum. Enough said.  

So. . . I go to bed as early as possible.  My sober brain does not go to its happy places in the dark.  I guess that is when A.A. adherents call their sponsors.  I'd have to call Q, and that would not be good.  He likes sobriety, he says.  He prefers the dull hum of existence over the incredible weight gain you can achieve by drinking.  He wants to get back to his original state and weight, he says.  No, that is what I say, but I can project.  People aren't that much different from one another.  They are all liars and hypocrites.  You don't have to take my word for it.  Go find out for yourselves.  

Some are worse than that, too, and drinking does them no good at all.  Quite the opposite.  It is the devil's hold on them with which they must contend.  

I. . . and others. . . however, are only full of angels. The worst thing I have ever done while drinking is to say what I'm thinking.  And you know how that goes.  It is only good in literature.  

And so I eat.  Last night, I needed a real meal, so I made spaghetti.  My spaghetti is really meat and sauce with noodles.  Last night, for instance, I cooked 1.33 pounds of lean beef with garlic, then added a jar of organic sauce to the pan.  The sauce, however, looked darker than usual and had a stronger odor.  Same brand I always use, but. . . I looked at the jar to see if it had a date.  It sure did. January, 2022.  Hmm.  I wondered what that meant.  But the sauce was already in the pan, and I was getting ready to watch the second half of the Chiefs/Jaguars game, so. . . I ate it.  Then I worried.  What if I got botulism?  There was no cure when I was a zoology student.  You either survived or didn't.  I Googled it.  There is now an antitoxin doctors can administer, but it does not help the damage already done and one might expect to stay in the hospital for weeks or months, depending.  But I had bought the ticket, so I'd take the ride.  If there was damage, it was already done, so I gorged.  I ate spaghetti, gingerly, I must admit, until my belly was distended.  Maybe it wouldn't be botulism, I thought, only what is commonly called "food poisoning," which can be caused by a variety of germs.  If that, they may vacuum my stomach.  Well, then, I thought. . . if that is the case, I might as well fill up.  

A 16 oz coke. 

Two grape flavored fruit bars.  

Some caramel/pecan sticky bun thing.  

I wouldn't know for hours.  The game over, I was distraught.  If I were drinking, right then. . . . 

But I wasn't.  And I knew I would need help sleeping this night. I was feeling every inch a loser for a variety of reasons, that photo at the top being just a slight example.  If I weigh them out, things in my life are by far more on the negative side of the line.  

What line?

See. . . there's the old sober mind at play.  

If I took drugs to sleep, though, and had to go to the hospital, they would ask me if I had taken any chemical substances.  That might not be helpful and I would probably lie.  What to do, then?

Advil P.M.  I could tell them about that, so I took two and went to bed.  It was early.  

I never have trouble falling asleep.  But recently, I have been waking up every hour.  It is my brain, not my body.  So. . . early on, my brain was struggling against the Advil.  Also, the pain in my knee was not alleviated by the small dose of ibuprofen.  Or was it acetaminophen?  Whichever.  No pain relief and an overactive brain.  I was aware of the struggle.  I was also aware of when the brain either gave up or was overwhelmed.  Advil P.M. is like heroin for me.  

I woke up long after sunrise.  It was Sunday.  I thought about taking a couple more.  But there was good news.  I didn't have botulism.  

That, I thought, should be a cause for celebration.  But then I remembered.  

What did I remember?  You know.  You, too, I'm certain, have had those same concerns, whatever they may be, when you know you shouldn't feel what you are feeling.  It is, surely, part of the "human condition."  

Hence fermentation.  Why would God in his infinite wisdom give humans that if not for a purpose.  

On the other hand, He made the orchard with the Fruit of Forbidden Knowledge, too.  And that, perhaps, is what made us think, "maybe if we ferment that bitch. . . ." 

Just a theory.  

I truly have no real problem living without alcohol.  I don't have a craving.  No shakes nor shivers, nothing like the fellow in "The Lost Weekend."  None of that.  I do not have an addictive personality, I think, at least not to substances.  There are other things to which I am addicted, perhaps, but not alcohol or drugs.  

It is simply the mundanity of things.  

"Some people lived in it and never felt it, but he knew. . . ."  

Hence, the clean, well-lighted cafe.  Not a bodega.  No.  

"Another copita."  

I have decided not to do anything with the opossum carcass.  I can't smell it, so I will let it rot there perhaps as a warning to other beasts with bad intent concerning the underside of my home.  The weather is cool, so it will probably take a good long while.  Perhaps, however, I will bag it tomorrow and put it in the garbage which gets picked up in the afternoon.  I've not made up my mind.  Perhaps a rotting carcass is not the best thing for my mental attitude right now.  

While the rest of you spend your mornings with mimosas and French toast lounging with your own true loves, I will be here listening to the hum.  I have an inclination to take the 4x5 camera out to a distant town and make a couple of pictures. . . probably very similar to the one I posted today.  Why?  It beats the hell out of me.  I took photos of a person recently, the first in years, but my life is devoid of potential sitters, so. . . negatives of inanimate objects that will not be kept.  I've run out of storage space, so much goes into the trash.  

The tenant returns today after months away.  She is bringing someone to help her while she tries to rehabilitate her health.  My mother wants me to come to dinner this early evening.  There are more football games today.  You see?  Why should I be complaining?  Why would I think I want a drink?  

So. . . this is for David Crosby, who, by most accounts was an asshole, wet or dry.  I think Q will enjoy this one, too.  


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Critique

Don't expect much (as if).  I have been up since 4:00 am and ready to go back to bed.  But I have read the papers and formed my opinions, so I need to. . . opine.  But first, the psychological weather report.  

After a long day of beauty and nothingness, the weather being gorgeous and my life being non-eventful, I made a trip to my mother's.  Oh, she and my cousin came home a day early, so my time was artificially bifurcated again.  I went early and sat until five when I thought I might try a sushi dinner at a place I used to love but haven't been to since before Covid.  The restaurant doesn't open until five, so I'd be an Early Bird without the special.  Five o'clock is not date time for dinner, so I was able to find parking close by and hadn't far to limp.  Eating sushi alone is not embarrassing as a dinner alone elsewhere might be.  The place is dark but well-lighted (you know--not brightly lit) and has the best music of any restaurant I've ever eaten in.  It is large and has a connected bar.  It is the only sushi bar I've been in that can serve up "worm killer" (i.e. whiskey) after dinner.  I, however, being a totaler, ordered green tea.  Which was excellent, by the way.  My green tea at home is always bitter even though I have an induction pot that has a green tea setting for the proper temperature.  I can't figure it out.  

Miso, edamame, tuna kobachi, sushi rice.  I'm like the Rain Man.  Whatever.  Don't judge me.  I ate alone, so of course I heard the music.  You can't hear it well, but if you are interested. . . (link).  The food was sensational, but I longed for. . . you know.  A romantic meal for one.  

When I had finished, I decided to go to the grocers around the corner and buy a pint of chocolate fudge ice cream.  Without the usual scotch, I had to have something.  But god. . . I wanted that scotch.  The meal felt incomplete.  Twenty-one days of Dry January under my belt and I still have ten to go.  WTF kind of month is that?!

Back home, though, I was antsy.  I had no desire for a night of t.v., so I grabbed my Leica and got in the car.  I would shoot some nighttime photos.  And I did. . . unproductively. . . and that, too, got to be boring alone.  I don't mind being alone, usually.  Never really have.  So what's wrong?  Why of a sudden?  

Back home, there was nothing to do but consume the ice cream.  Than some gummies.  I was in bed just after nine.  

And that's how I spent (yet another) Friday night.  Maybe it's the weather.  Maybe I already have spring fever.  But man. . . I feel a deep and persistent longing.  

"Dude, you need to go out.  Women just be begging, dog.  It's fucking crazy out there."

Is it really like that, as advertised on the covers of 1950s dime novels?  Lurid, sex-crazed women?  Femme Fatales?  

Not what I'm looking for.  I'm so much cooler than that.  Call me The Cooler Kid.  Or Kid Cooler.  Take your pick.  

"All the other kids with their pumped up kicks better run, better run. . . ."

Whatever happened to those guys, anyway?  They were from right here in my own hometown (link).  We ARE known for our supply of boybands, though.  The big producer for them lives just down the street.  Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, O-Town--never can keep them straight.  Not Lou Perlman, though. The other one.  

Just looked Foster up.  Just the drummer is from here.  They were an L.A. band.  I need to keep up. 

So. . . I read a negative critique of "Emily in Paris" in the Times this morning (link).  Really?  The show is an exaggeration?  It is unreal?  That's not how real life works?  Emily is shallow and that person wouldn't succeed in REAL LIFE?  Where are the concerns about climate change?  Where are the homeless people and the Moslem train bombers?  

Shit, I was fooled.  I thought all this time I was watching a documentary.  Oh, well.  I guess I'll go back to all those other serious t.v. comedies.  You know the ones that aren't exaggerated, the ones with the characters who are drawn from harsh reality.  The one's where aliens come to earth in human form and. . . and. . . you know. . . the more realistic ones.  

"Everybody Hates Emily."  A more popular show.  

Or I will read more Michel Houellebecq.  I don't think, though, the critics would approve of that, either.  

But for all of you writing college term papers, that article will give you good critical guidance.  Just apply the principals to any art form.  Try painting, for instance.  Start with Goya's transformation from Royal Court Portraitist to his later, gruesome work.  Exaggerated, non-realistic characters.  Focus on what's NOT there.  That is obviously just as important.  His work is TOO two dimensional.  I mean, it's a painting. . . still. . . . 

I don't know why I seem to be defending the show, though.  I could barely watch Season Three.  It was horrible.  I think that was due to bowing so much to the negative criticism of the seasons past.  When you try to please everyone, the old saw goes, you end up pleasing no one.  I think this is a case that proves the rule.  

I told you not to expect much this morning.  If you are still reading. . . don't blame me.  

So let's get real for a second.  Real real.  I heard what sounded like the rattling of pipes under my house yesterday morning.  Shocked, I listened hard trying to figure out what it could be.  Yesterday, sitting out on the deck talking on the phone and regaling my friend with the 100 pound possum tale, I swore I could smell something.  

"I think it might have died under the deck," I said, getting up to follow my nose.  When I stepped behind the house, I saw some fur.  At first I thought it a dead cat because it was small.  Shocked and scared, I creeped up on it fearing it would move.  This is what I found.  It's not the 100 pound possum but something young.  Why?  What had killed it?  Why did it grab hold of my pipes and die?  

This is the harsh reality of life--terrifying death.  That is what "Everybody Hates Emily" should be about.  Then it would be a meaningful. . . comedy.  Something like Dostoyevski's Underground Man or anything by Kafka. 

But critics would probably complain about that, too.  

It is not yet dawn, but the world is becoming visible.  I will finish my coffee, eat a slice of the caramel pecan thing I bought last night with the ice cream, and try to go. back to sleep.  The forecast is for clouds and rain.  

I will attmpt to fight the gloom.  


Friday, January 20, 2023

Strawberry Wine


I got a surprise text yesterday morning.  

"Meet me at Dino World."

Dino World is a place I had mentioned that I thought I should go with a camera and make some photographs hoping it would be one of those old, dilapidated attractions that won't be around much longer.  It is visible from the interstate that cuts the state in half running east and west.  I've passed it on my way to the west coast forever.  I've become a Covid shut-in for years, however, and the idea of just taking off one sunny morning at a moments notice was fairly shocking to my newish and seemingly delicate system.  I was ready to make excuses.  The drive was long.  The day was short.  I hadn't even finished my coffee let alone had gone to the gym.  But you know, not wanting to seem like the dying animal I am, I shot back a text.  

"Sure."  

We'd meet at noon.  I jumped up and donned on my gym apparel.  I'd have approximately half an hour to workout.  

When I walked into the gym, the biggest of the Chatties was hanging out on his usual cable machine that gave him a view of the gym floor.  He pretends to work out, but he is not there for that.  His eye popped open when he saw me.  

"No time to talk," I said.  "I have thirty minutes to do my workout."

Fortunately, the gym was fairly empty, and I decided I could superset without trouble.  Twenty-five minutes later, I had finished eighteen sets of chest and back.  

"That's the record," I said to Chatty as I bolted for the door.  

A quick shower and then. . . I loaded ten or so camera into the car.  It is one of my severe flaws.  I knew I would not use them, but what if I needed them?  I had every kind of camera, from small, cropped format to full frame digitals to two 35mm film cameras to three brands of medium format film cameras (four in total) to my big ass Liberator with all the film holders I possessed.  I already had a Holga camera in the car.  

I am ridiculous.  Seriously, this is a psychological problem.  

Since I had some stomach virus the past few days, I grabbed a can of Ensure (a staple in nursing homes for the aged) and a water.  The gas tank was full.  I was off.  

I hadn't driven this stretch of interstate for years, not since the start of Covid at least and probably quite awhile before that.  It was a shock.  While I was gone, they built a billion more things, giant malls and monstrous, unimaginable warehouses and gargantuan apartment complexes five and six stories tall that stretched for miles.  While I was sleeping, it seems, everyone has moved here, especially those who cannot afford it and must live on what once was the outskirts of everything in hideous, cheaply built, expensive apartment complexes surrounded by bare parking lots, Walmarts, a few chain restaurants, and new roads that take them to work at the giant resorts.  The interstate was packed with morons.  I don't know how many, but how many does it take to fuck up the flow of traffic?  There were that many.  

But I am not who I was a few years ago, an aggressive driver with a horrid temper and a heavy foot, so I stuck to my lane and went with the idiot flow watching the jerky boys in ridiculously modified cars with barrel exhaust and neon rims cut in and out of traffic getting nowhere.  It was impossible to get anywhere. I was frustrated, but I felt myself sublime.  

Fortune smiled on me, and I pulled into the lot exactly at noon, and crazily enough, my BFF pulled in at exactly the same time having come a similar distance from the opposite direction.  I stepped out of my Xterra on my gimpy knee and tried to undo the stiffness and pain before I walked to her car.  No matter.  I was limping like Chester from the original "Gunsmoke."  

"Hello, boo." 

Everything she does disarms me.  I don't know if it is an innate quality or something she learned, but for Christ's sake, I am always altered in her presence, reduced to an awkward, unseemly adolescent boy, arms stupidly akimbo, terrified.  She looked me over.  I was wearing the ubiquitous cargo shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops.  There I was, a cracker Florida Man, or so I seemed.  

Across the parking lot there was a giant metal silo reflecting the low, midday sun.  I grabbed my Black Cat Liberator and some film holders.  

"I'm here to see you, but. . . "  

I was feeling more geeky by the second, but, I thought. . . I mean. . . I had come so far .. . . 

I fumbled around metering the shot and then futzing with the ancient beast.  Then I asked her to step in.  Knowing from past experience there was at best a 50/50 chance that my photos would turn out O.K., I shot a second photo with her.  

I put the Liberator back into the car and I grabbed my  Canon digital with the zoom lens that made it look like a bazooka.  I began to sweat with embarrassment.  She works with famous fashion photographers who shoot models for magazines for a living.  I looked, I was certain, like a wannabe wedding photographer without clients.  Still. . . as we limped toward the gift shop, I stopped to take very dumb photos of plastic dinosaurs that flanked the entrance.  If there had been a pile of dog poop, I'm sure I would have stepped in it. 

Dino World turned out not to be an Old Florida attraction.  Not at all.  There were manicured walkways strewn with plastic dinos, some that made dino sounds, some that were animated.  We walked through a museum that explained to children where, why, and when there were dinosaurs roaming the earth.  There were fossil claws and teeth and toe bones.  Further on, there was a sluice where one might have dug for bones if it had been open.  We walked and talked and sat on benches.  

"Do you want to get something to eat?"

"Whatever you want to do."

She is quick with a phone.  I can't do it.  But she seemed to have everything on speed dial.  She found a couple nearby restaurants.  She was especially intrigued that there was a Maryland Fried Chicken.  She seemed anxious to see it.  They had meals for $3.75, I think.  We were in a cowtown, all farms and country.  

"It has five stars," she said with an impish grin.  

"Hmm."

"It's a shame you aren't drinking.  There are a couple wineries nearby."

"We can go to wineries.  It won't bother me if you drink."

"Oh, don't worry. . . I'm not bothered."  

She suggested a nearby winery that served "farm to table" meals.  

"They don't open until three, it says.  You need to make reservations but they don't have any available."

Again, I am stupefied by how quick she is with her phone.  

"Call them and see if we can get in."

Of course we could. We got into my car and left Dino World behind.  A few turns down country roads and we pulled into the parking lot.

"Cracker Barrel," she laughed.  

The place was huge.  I imagine they get a big date night dinner crowd, but the place was fairly empty.  We took a table under a giant canopied deck and ordered bruschetta and a charcuterie.  She got some sort of strawberry wine.  I wasn't feeling so bad about not drinking.  

We talked and nibbled for a couple hours.  I had a million questions about the intervening years, about the magazine business, about journalism and fashion and life in NYC.  She told me stories that I couldn't match.  I could, but I couldn't.  I am not enamored of "that" world, but I am of accomplishment, and I am head over heels for her and hers.  And so, by and large, it was largely a "call and response" afternoon.  

"Are you having fun?  Are you happy?"

"Sure.  Why?"

"You are a difficult read," she said.  "Maybe I'd like you 1% better if you were drinking."

Had sobriety retarded my joi de vivre?  Oh, probably.  Sobriety makes people practical and dull, I find.  I was probably not nearly as animated or clever.  But that, I knew, was not it.  Desire and intimidation had paralyzed me, I was certain.  

When we looked up, the sky was dark.  

"I've lost my light?" I said.  

"What?" 

I think she took this as a comment on my essence.  But when we looked at the time, the day was almost gone.  We'd wiled away the hours in nonstop conversation, first at Dino World, then at Boone's Farm. 

Before it got dark, I wanted to make a drive through the countryside.  Oh. . . it was something.  Everywhere I looked, I saw a picture.  Now I was animated.  

"Look at that.  Jesus. . . this is an old part of the state.  Oh, shit. . . look. . . ."

Long, oak covered mossy roads, old fences, pastures and fields and ramshackle barns.  Old farm machines and marvelously empty places.  

"I've got to come back," I said.  I need to come make pictures.  

She held me with a skeptical eye.  I'm used to it, though.  As I say, she has a particular talent of unnerving me.  Soon enough, sadly, I needed to turn around and drive her back to her car.  

I had taken very few pictures all day.  I wanted to make another of her with the Liberator.  She stood and I hoped.  And then it was time.  The crazy day was over and I began to feel the sadness.  

"What's wrong, boo?" 

"Nothing.  You know."  

Whenever we part, I always feel it will be for the last time.  I can't imagine she can sustain interest in me.  There were so many years. . . just a hollowness and a gulf.  

All that was left was the long drive home in traffic on a clogged highway that wouldn't move.  The sun was setting.  It wasn't Barcelona.  It wasn't Budapest.  It wasn't Paris.  But we would always have those Strawberry Fields.  A strange day that could not be forgotten.  

Strawberry Field



Thursday, January 19, 2023

Alien Planet

My computer is a bit like the drawers in my house.  There are places I never look and then, one day--voila!--I open it and find ancient surprises as if opening a crypt.  I still find things I didn't know I had from the days when I was married.  Just the other day, looking for a bar of soap, I found a whole slew of bottles of beauty products that Ili left.  I don't know what most of them do, but I will probably try them just to see.  Once I found a deep blue bottle with a dropper and a thick liquid for skin care.  Every few days, I'd use it. When it ran out, I decided to Google it.  Scary that I hadn't before, but I was too busy looking up dead girlfriends and the like, I guess.  Hyaluronic Acid.  I hadn't actually been using it right.  

I ordered another bottle.  

Old notes and letters and postcards, small, often silly gifts. . . those drawers are treasure troves.  

What I found on my computer was a folder in my email account.  I don't think I set it up.  It is just something that is there, maybe.  When I opened it, there were emails from the past.  Hundreds of them.  Maybe thousands.  I started clicking thru.  Holy smokes. . . a written history of the recent past.  They begin in 2011, not that long ago, but they are the emails of my "bachelor" years, years when I had the studio.  Reading through them, I'm reminded of things I never remember.  I was corresponding with people around the globe.  It was the blog.  A lot of people read blogs back then.  A lot of people read mine.  Heaps of flattering praises.  So many people I admired.  

I don't know how I did it, truly.  I wrote early in the mornings.  I ran a section of the factory by day.  I went to the gym after work.  I worked in the studio at night.  Late, I guess, I was processing photos.  I travelled. I was never lonely.  I had friends, work, travel, artistic, and other.  All the good bars and restaurants were walking distance from my studio.  I worked with models who made their living in front of the camera.  They shot for free. I had no clients, so there was no money, not for either of us.  I had expenses.  They volunteered time.  They wanted the photographs.  They couldn't get them without me.  I couldn't make photos without them.  It was symbiotic.  

There are emails from women who had moved out of town who wanted to shoot when they came back to visit.  Women brought their daughters.  Daughters brought their mothers.  Husbands brought their wives and wives brought their husbands.  I never turned anything down.  When I didn't have a shoot, I worked with alternative processes searching for something that hadn't been discovered yet.  In the late afternoons, I would sit out on the loading dock and talk to the other artists who had studios in this small compound.  

When I met Ili, I closed up shop.  And from that moment until recently, I didn't hear a peep from Sky.  That all happened in 2015.  In another five years, everything went to shit.  Ili gone, job over, no photography, and Covid.  Terrible years.  

Trying to recover now, like everyone else, I find an alien landscape.  It is like those old movies where they put astronauts to sleep for the time it takes them to travel through space to a distant galaxy, and when they wake up, everything is strange.  And like them, all of us are trying to learn how to live on this new and hostile planet.  The inhabitants look like us, but they are not.  They are an angry and hostile people.  They are not friendly, do not laugh, and pose a grave danger like rabid animals.  We are running out of food and water.  Something must happen.

It is like an episode of "The Twilight Zone."  

Back in the other world, people let me take their photographs.  The fellow at the top of the page was a stranger.  I got his email address and said I would send him the photo.  When he got it, he said it was his birthday and that the photograph was a great present.  Imagine.  On this alien planet, photography (other than selfies) is forbidden.  

"Aquolina Pink sugar is the name of the perfume that I really like. It has a cotton candy smell. 

And I like the image :)

Jeanette"

I get such a kick out of the emails.  I copied this one to a buddy who owns a couple of my prints.  They used to hang in his office before he retired.  But last night, he replied that he was afraid he'd be arrested if someone saw that on his phone.  

What a world.  This is a hostile planet, indeed.  

I jumped ahead in my Bildungsroman yesterday, and I need to backtrack a bit and fill in some stories from earlier in that year.  I need to write them out in case I ever want to go back and work these up into "something."  Memory is random, but narrative need not be.  And so. . . .

My mother left town with my cousin for a few days.  I thought, "oh, man. . . I can do what I want."  What I meant, of course, is that the day will not be awkwardly broken into "before four p.m." and "after 5-5:30 p.m."  

Yesterday, however, I did nothing.  

Maybe today.  The weather is gorgeous.  Maybe I could be, too.