Wednesday, May 31, 2023

What Remains

My life at present seems to be made up of memories--little scraps of paper, and disintegrating pieces of celluloid.  My present is like a distant past.  What remains are. . . well. . . . 

There is the morning coffee, reading and writing and wiling away the hour(s).  And there are practical things like preparing for the arrival of the maids which seems a hideous chore any more.  I strip the bed and get the bedding in the washer.  I walk through the rooms picking up books and remotes and cameras and projectors, etc., and putting them in their places.  I put away the things littering the kitchen countertop and take a look at the mail I haven't looked at all week.  And when the bedding is in the drier, I dress for the gym.  

The gym.  There lay my social life.  Tennessee is back looking worn with work and worry.  But the returning coeds on summer break seemed to give him a lift.  Little Porsche wants to be an athletic trainer, comes from a monied home, goes to a school for the elite.  Rosy cheeked and polite, she works out ferociously while checking the mirrors to see who is noticing.  A group of girls in short shorts and long t'shirts are catching up in the corner.  Tennessee smiles more.  One of the girls who used to manage the front counter is working out.  She looks and sounds like Scarlet Johansson with the butt of Nicki Minaj.  It is her birthday.  She has turned 26.  Tennessee is running circles.  I tell her she just aged out.  I try not to seem interested in these women, but Tennessee is at the filling station.  It's O.K.  They like him.  The mother of one of the girls in the gym speaks to me.  We have been recently introduced.  In her early fifties, I would guess, a stewardess who flies to the European capitals, she works out intensely battling the inevitable temporal insults we all endure.  She is nice, very friendly.  She tells me I'm funny, that women like that.  I laugh and don't say it doesn't seem to be helping so as to not to lead her to think I am fishing.  She asks me if I was ever married.  She says she would never get married again.  She likes her freedom, likes not having to report or answer, likes doing or not doing whatever she likes.  There is nothing more attractive than a woman with her own house, I say.  She smiles.  Yea. . . I'm funny.  

When I finish, I look at my messages.  The maids will still be at my house, I think.  I stop by my mother's.  We chat for a bit.  When I leave, I tell her this might be my one stop for the day.  When I get home, the maids are gone, the house sparkling.  I make a low-fat milk protein shake with half a banana and a scoop of peanut butter.  I read messages, respond.  I take a shower and think to head out for adventure.  But I am sleepy.  I lie down for a minute.  When I open my eyes, it is mid afternoon.  I think to get up, but I fall back to sleep.  When I open my eyes next, it is time to go to mother's.  But I am not going.  I can do whatever I want.  What do I want?  I think about going here and there, but then, "to what end?"  The afternoon is lovely.  I make a Campari and soda and light a cheroot.  The cat is waiting on the deck.  I sit and think about the wasted day, one among many.  What to do?  Why have I forgotten how to read?  I decide to look at my Kindle.  I read a few pages of a book I read long ago and liked very much, "The Rules of Civility."  I barely remember reading it.  
Champagne was being served off little round trays by young unemployed actors with flawless features and the grace of acrobats. . . somehow it had become acceptable, even stylish, to be drunk before eight.  

We shouted over the dinner tables and slipped away into empty rooms with each other’s spouses, carousing with all the enthusiasm and indiscretion of Greek gods. And in the morning, we woke at 6:30 on the dot, clearheaded and optimistic, ready to resume our places behind the stainless steel desks at the helm of the world.

Here were two single girls from the perfume counter at Macy’s, solidly in their thirties, a little sour with the knowledge that their best years were behind them, riding with eyebrows plucked all the way to the Bronx.

Her skin was flushed with an ignorant beauty that filled me with envy.

Eve was one of those surprising beauties from the American Midwest. Bred with just the right amount of fresh air, roughhousing, and ignorance, these primitive blondes set out from the cornfields looking like starlight with limbs.

We could tell already that this one was as expensive, as finely made and as clean as his coat. He had that certain confidence in his bearing, that democratic interest in his surroundings, and that understated presumption of friendliness that are only found in young men who have been raised in the company of money and manners.
I study the sentences, the descriptive passages, the modifiers and descriptors.  One line cuts deep. 
Suddenly, I could picture Tinker on the back of a horse somewhere: at the edge of the treeline under a towering sky . . . at his college roommate’s ranch, perhaps . . . where they hunted deer with antique rifles and with dogs that were better bred than I.

The long day rolls on.  It is time to make dinner.  I cut cherry tomatoes, chop avocado, beets, and garlic, and spread them over a spring salad.  A glass of wine.  The cat is still on the deck.  She has finally noticed some of the catnip and is rubbing herself in it.  Good.  This is why I got it.  It is supposed to help repel mosquitos and fleas.  I decide to plant more.  But I am getting bitten.  I spray insect repellent. . . reluctantly.  I sit with my silent phone.  No messages, no virtual dinner partners.  I decide not to send the photo I have taken. . . once again.  

Salad done, I start the brown jasmine rice and pour another glass of wine.  In a bit, I pour the left over Soppy Joe meat into a pan with a spicy lentil and bean mix, then over the rice I've dished into a deep bowl.  I despair at dirtying the sparkling kitchen.  Dinner over, I pile things to soak in the sink.  I pour a scotch, read more.  A package arrives. 

Soap.  Aleppo soap, 80% olive oil, 20% laurel oil.  Pure, ugly, clean. . . the best soap I have ever used.  This is my thrill for the day.  

It is eight.  I might go to bed at nine.  I go to the viewing room, turn on the television.  In a bit, I clean the kitchen, set up the coffee maker for the morning.  I check my computer before going to bed.  Nothing of import.  Texts from Red become rarer.  The pretty professor who is getting divorced texts from time to time but has yet to ask me out.  I am bereft of all declarations of love.  Tonight, anyway.

Both reluctantly and thankfully, I go to bed.  I run through a checklist in my head that I never get through before I fall asleep.  

The remains of the day.  I am gone.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

What the F*** Did I Do

Holy shit!  I didn't mean Stanley Kowalski in yesterday's post.  Jesus--you'll think I a referring to myself as a rapist.  No!  It was early, I was muzzy, addled, and confused.  I meant Terry Malloy in "On the Waterfront."  You can see how I made the error, right?  Both are Brando creations, the actor, not my dead ex-friend.  I'm no Stanley.  Terry.  Make no mistake.  


All that "Maisel" talk. . . I think maybe it was my time of the month.  I have too much estrogen for a fellow.  But I don't take any of it back.  I meant it all. And the ending to the show is bittersweet, you know.  I mean. . . Midge fucked it all up, too.  I guess we can't help it.  I've decided that only the shittiest of us end up happy.  To be successful and happy in such a world as this is shameful, right?  So I've read.  

So anyway. . . I'm not Stanley Kowalski.  If I were any of Tennessee Williams characters. . . no. . . I don't think I am any of them.  I'd say I'm more Dick Diver than anything.  Poor Dick.  

I felt like shit on Memorial Day, but I had my mother coming for Sloppy Joe's, so I had to rally.  A quick trip to the gym late in the morning, then a jaunt to the grocers, and I was ready.  Mom came over at two.  The Sloppy Joes were good, but I think they should really be made with shredded beef rather than ground.  Still, they were good and we ate well, and when dinner was done, my mother said, "Do you mind if I go?"  Wow. . . OK. . . yea.  

It was three.

And that was pretty much the day.  I took a nap, and when I got up, it was cocktail hour.  A trip to the liquor store, a Campari and soda on the deck with a cheroot and a feral cat.  My life is going nowhere, I thought, or maybe it is, just in the wrong direction.  There will be people happy to hear that.  They will be gleeful.  But like Jimmy McNulty says, "What the fuck did I do?"

Apparently The YouTube doesn't think I am serving adults on this channel.  You'll need to go to their site to watch that.  So. . . hey kids. . . don't wake the parents.  Just click the link. 

* * *

I wrote that last night.  I was thinking that if I wrote at night, I could edit in the morning and avoid all the mistakes I generally and inevitably make writing when I get up and do not edit.  But habit is habit, and there is nothing that competes, as the song goes.  So, here I am, once again, typing out the inside of my head at the breaking of the day.  

This morning it is just a head full of nothing.  Just the same old complaints.  Maybe today I will go somewhere and sit with a drink and try to find some new complaints.  And then I'll try to make them interesting and funny the way Joyce did.  He was a real comedian unlike his undersecretary and scribner Beckett.  If you find Beckett funny, you have a sharper wit than I.  But Joyce, he was a real jokester, and that is what people who come to him on bended knees do not get.  He was a clever boy who trained to be a priest until he had sex.  That is when he got the joke, I think.  Then he knew what was funny.  

I'm no Terry Malloy, either.  

I've been scanning more of the old 8mm films from my childhood.  I was a hideous child.  My father and mother got fat.  The illusions are destroyed by those old mildew and fungus eaten films.  And my father was a progenitor of MTV.  His takes are the shortest in history.  He didn't linger on anything but landscapes.  There are hours of landscapes.  Put my mother or I in the frame, though, and you'll miss it if you blink.  I think my father said something like, "I see you two all the time."  Meaning, he wanted to remember the other things he rarely saw.  Fair point, I guess, but it really needn't be a choice.  

I'm learning a lot, however, about how my personality was shaped and where some of my attitudes came from, mainly from the Christmas movies he took year after year.  There I am, three, four years old, with a football helmet and football, a toy rifle, a drum set, boxing gloves, and a Superman costume.  Oh. . . and a Kewpie doll and a teddy bear.  If I still had the teddy bear, I could hold it as I weep over t.v. shows.  

I'm going to try to write about something other than me for the rest of the month.  

That should make you laugh.  

But seriously. . . what the fuck did I do?

Here is something to soothe the savage soul.  Better than breast or beast, right?  Yes. . . the savage soul.  

Monday, May 29, 2023

There Are Some Things You Can't Cover Up

 This is what it looks like in my small kitchen at dinnertime.  For one.  It's a mess.  And that is something akin to what it will look like today.  After dinner with my mother last night, she asked, "What are we going to do for Memorial Day?"  I was kind of thinking "nothing," but that wasn't what I replied.  

"I'll try to cook something up."

I had just spent several hours at my mother's house.  Sometimes. . . but she needs my help now more than ever.  And so, I moved bedroom furniture and helped her hang some new blackout curtains that were the wrong size and definitely had little blackout going for them.  Measuring the area over her windows was just too much for her.  How she came up with the dimensions she did will never be known.  I had gone over early because I hadn't eaten all day and she said for me to come early.  Dinner, however, wasn't ready for an hour and a half.  The t.v. played commercials.  I don't know. . . . 

So, yea. . . today I will prepare a meal for two.  I made Sloppy Joe's once a long time ago.  They were good.  That sounds like a holiday treat, right?

Obviously, I have no photographs, no story, nothing clever to say.  I go up, I come down.  I'm in the middle of several big projects that are very time consuming and am on the brink of something that could turn my life around for a bit that probably won't but might happen.  

What I have and can report on is a problematic knee, a desire to lose weight, a liquor cabinet, afternoon visits with my mother, and nightly t.v.  Oh, and the occasional night out and sometimes a little faltering romance.  

And the desire for My Own True Love.  Which I have tragicomedically beaten to death.  That may not be a word, but you get my drift.  

"I'll take television for fifty."

"What television show's finale was watched by over eight million viewers last night?"

Yea, I watched the finale of "Succession."  The show seems to have captured the American Imagination.  Critics and reviewers think the show gives people an insider's view of greed and plays on their distaste for elites and their omnivorous greed.  I don't think so.  I think people who watch the show want to live like the Roy's, the Murdoch-inspired family around which the show revolved.  I won't say it was a bad show.  I will say that critics underestimate the audience's capacity for misunderstanding.  People desire privilege.  What they disdain is their lack of it.  Nine out of ten people are thrilled when, standing at the end of a long checkout line, some cashier calls them over to the lane he or she is just opening up.  

I just made up the numbers there.  No research involved.  Just an uneducated guess that reveals more about my attitude this morning than anything else.  

Because. . . that show got a lot of press, each episode, every week.  It was good.  I watched it.  But how much influence did HBO have in the publishing of those articles?  Again. . . I'm just spitballing.  But goddamnit. . . "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel". . . . 

If you don't believe me, just do this.  Watch the first and last episodes of "Succession."  Then do the same for "Maisel."  See what I mean?  Huh?  Do ya?  Do ya? 

Yea, that's what I did last night.  I rewatched the first episode of "Maisel."  I cried again.  Like I said, something is broken in me, I guess.  I get weepy for complicated reasons.  I hope.  I hope they are complex.  But goddamn, that show draws a perfect arc, and if you watched only the very first and the very last episodes of the show. . . I don't know. . . maybe you would cry, too.  

Do it.  Do it.  

They knew what they were doing down to the song playing over the closing credits.  Every major character story is complete.  Rising action. . . denouement.  Freytag could have done no better.  No?  Look him up.  

Maybe I cry because I feel like Stanley Kowalski. What do you think, doc?  Does that have legs?

"Mos def."  

The day stretches out before me like a giant dead whale.  I'll have to figure out how to navigate this one.  Do things open on Memorial Day?  Surely.  They all have sales, right?  I don't know.  This is the day they used to sell poppies when I was a kid.  Uniformed men would approach you in the street, at stop lights, and you'd give them money that went to. . . the heck if I know.  Oh. . . I just remembered that an old girlfriend had a love of poppies.  The flowers.  Her things were often bedecked in poppy images.  I should have paid more attention.  

The poppy field in "The Wizard of Oz" was full of Papaver somniferum, the source of the crude drug opium.  

"Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odor is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever. But Dorothy did not know this, nor could she get away from the bright red flowers that were everywhere about; so presently her eyes grew heavy and she felt she must sit down to rest and to sleep. . . . "If we leave her here she will die," said the Lion. “The smell of the flowers is killing us all."
—Excerpt from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (book, published 1900)

Yes, yes. . . but what a sweet and lovely death. . . . 

O.K.  I need to tackle the whale.  

"There are some things you can't cover up/ With lipstick and powder."

"What a world."

"Tits up!"

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Girls Talk

  I suspect I'm Jewish.  Again, that word.  But that would be right.  "Ish--kind of, sort of."  We never say someone is "Americanish" or "Arabish,"but we do say people are "British."  I'm probably a Jewish Anglophile, though I like to think I'm kind of "Frenchish" or maybe simply partially a Francophile, too.  But I grew up watching t.v. like all kids of my generation.  Jesus.  I hate that word.  But I am rather "boomerish" though I've never really felt stuck there.  Obviously.  

So, to begin again, I may not be a Jew, but I think I might be "Jewish."  Growing up with television, I watched a lot of stand up comedians.  I think the majority of them were Jewish comedians who played he Borscht Belt.  As much as anybody or anything else, they shaped my World View. 

Oy!  They even have an emoji for that.  No kidding.  What is your response to most cosmic questions?



I have a point.  In a bit.  I'll get back to this.  

So, as I excitedly added to yesterday's post, THE MICROWAVE STARTED WORKING!  How'd I do it?  You know. . . I think I became Magnatronic.  Whatever happened, though, I am grateful.  The microwave works and the exhaust fan is a mere whisper.  So the morning was bright and the air cool, and I was ready to play.  I could do whatever I wanted to.  But you the trouble with most people, right?  They don't know what they want.  It is a condition I try hard to avoid.  It is a sort of death blow to relationships.  The weekend comes.  You are with your partner, whichever kind you have.  

"What do you want to do today?"

"I don't know.  What do you want to do?"

"We could go to the Farmer's Market."

"What would we do there?"

"I don't know.  What do you want to do?"

"I don't know.  But I don't want to go to the Farmer's Market."

You run down the list, then you run out of ideas, then you end up at breakfast in some shitty chain restaurant where the eggs are runny and the bacon is limp and without saying it you feel this is the other person's fault.  

Most people don't know what they want.  They only know what they don't want.  

I try to know what I want.  But that wasn't working for me yesterday.  I didn't even have a partner to blame.  So I began scanning more old home movies.  I don't think I even turned on music.  And somewhere around noon, completely kerflumpt (a Yid-ish word I made up), I put on my walking outfit.  Should I grab a camera?  I didn't know.  

Camera-less, I headed out the door.  I intended three miles.  My knee hurt, so. . . slowly, then more quickly.  I was struggling.  I was sweating.  Walking used to be the most wonderful thing to do.  At the marker (there is no marker), I turned around and came back by way of the Boulevard.  The cruise ship had landed.  The restaurants and sidewalks were packed.  I limped along.  I could see my reflection in the shop windows as I passed.  Quasimodo!  People gazed at me in horror.  They pulled young children close to them for protection.  

"Look away!"

I made it home, though.  It was the furthest I have walked since. .  . 

I looked at the clock.  I hadn't eaten.  I wanted ramen.  The good ramen place, I remembered, had started serving brunch on the weekends.  I looked up the hours.  If I showered and hurried, I could make it in time.  

This isn't my drink, but I had just read about this kind of cocktail glass.  "The Nick and Nora."  Really?  Of course, I love Nick and Nora Charles, so when I saw the glass resting in front of the woman sitting at the bar where I was seated, I asked if she would mind if I took a picture.  Making friends.  

I ordered the "Richey Rich" which is always a mistake.  The ramen is great, the bone broth boiled up in vast vats each day, but the bowl is filled with pork belly.  Every time I eat a bowl of this, I think it is just too rich.  

"Hence the name, dumbass."

 But. . . it is really good. 

When I got there, the restaurant was no longer seating and there was only one seat left at the bar.  I crammed in next to two women, between them and a service station.  It was uncomfortable, but I had made it.  They would serve me the ramen I so desired.  

The girls talked.  I mean they really talked.  Loudly.  They annoyed me, disrupted my vibe, but what was there to do?  I've been out, lately, and around a lot of conversations.  They are dull to me.  All it seems that people talk about are business and things.  I mean like boats and cars and other "things" they can own.  They are nothing like me, probably to their benefit, but I mean, they never talk about art, literature, ideas. . . . They have attitudes, I think, and they know how to express them.  And they are all incredibly handsome and beautiful.  But the talk. . . .


I had just made it in time, and now the place was shutting down.  The bar was clearing, but the girls next to me must have arrived mere moments before I did.  They were just getting their food.  I looked at the empty seats now, and I thought about moving.  Alas, that seemed rude.  So I sat and gazed at the two women across the bar who were getting their check.  They were tall as people are, and had perfect hair, teeth, and skin.  They wore tops that showed their flat bellies as people do.  They were a blonde and a brunette.  They talked in that flat, bored tone as people will, the blonde continuously pulling at her shoulder length hair.  They were serious women, as women are.  They seemed mirthless.  But by god, they were strong and tall and sure as millennial are. . . now. . . . 

When they were gone, it was just me and the two women next to me.  I was wishing I had moved.  Then they, too, were finished.  They chatted with the young bartender.  They were friends.  They were going to meet up later at the soccer game, I think.  He was giving them a discount.  Then it was just me, alone but still crammed into a small space at the bar.  It was the end of the shift.  I watched the young hipster bartender do shots with two of the hipster servers.  We chatted a bit.  They were friendly.  I settled up my tab so they could begin shutting down.  Around me.  

I was closer to my mother's house than mine, and I didn't want to make two trips, so I decided on an early visit.  She was watching t.v.  I lay on the couch, fat and bloated and sleepy.  The t.v. didn't go off.  "Naked and Afraid."  For every four minutes of show, there were five minutes of commercials.  This is how people get Alzheimer's disease, I am certain.  I was losing my mind within minutes.  The t.v. was loud.  I think my mother is losing her hearing.  She sits and stares and watches the flickering commercial images that are cut at lightning speed, and listens to the idiotic commercial jingles.  Familiarity.  Maybe it is comforting.  

I tried, but I couldn't handle it for long.  We planned our Sunday meal and I headed home.  

My belly still bloated, I chose to make a Campari because it is a digestif. It is actually considered an aperitif, but it does aid in digestion.  It's the secret blend of herbs, they say, an ancient recipe.  It was nice on the deck, the air still supernaturally cool, the cat waiting to be fed, a cheroot burning in the ashtray, the neighbors walking by.  It would be a quiet night.  After two nights out, I was ready for the couch.  Sort of.  As used to sitting home as I have gotten, it was feeling kind of lonely.  I wished I had someone to call up for a drink, but there are not so many bachelor/bachelorettes nearby any more.  Death, estrangements, and a whole series of family "tragedies". . . .  There is little spontaneity in most of their lives, and I have always been a most spontaneous guy.  And so. . . I settled in. 

And so. . . back to "Jewishness."  I poured a scotch and prepared to watch the series finale of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."  I didn't want to, didn't want to finish the thing.  I wanted it to go on.  But endings. . . you know?  I read a good piece on why it is so hard to end a t.v. series just yesterday (link), and the author pretty much nailed it.  T.V. shows are based on making more shows, not on ending, so the middle is the most important part.  Few t.v. shows ever end well.  "The Wire" did a most masterful job of that, the best I've ever seen.  "Mad Men" ended every season perfectly and did a fine job ending the series.  "Deadwood" never ended unless you count that lousy movie they made years later.  And "Game of Thrones" is notorious.  So. . . I put off watching the show.  I watched some YouTube things until I could stand it no longer.  

Now, no shit. . . something is broken in me.  I cried for about the last ten minutes of the show.  Not because it was ending.  Because. . . I don't know. . . .  I've never dated a weak woman.  They have all been strong, smart, and successful.  They chose me for some crazy reason.  And I was infatuated.  They were the strong ones, the successful ones.  I never resisted.  I was me. . . and by now, if you have been here long, you know what that means.  I'm not a shrinking violet and, as the song from a couple days ago that made me weep goes. . . when I take the stage, I expect to have it all to myself. . . .  But I never denied them a stage, either.  And so, part of it was watching this struggle end in success.  Now that ending was no surprise, of course.  We all knew that part as the character is loosely based on Joan Rivers.  Still. . . 

But there were beautiful, subtle things that broke my heart.  That Lenny Bruce scene crushed me.  The brilliant, fallen man, Maisel, his one-time lover trying invisibly to help him.  The twinkling tear in Maisel's eye as she blows a tiny kiss to her tragic ex-husband in the audience.  And of course, the other, unspoken thing, the unrequited love of Susie for Midge which is sooooo subtly and gorgeously handled when, after talking about her affair with her college roommate who had "gone blonde" after she married Susie asks Midge, "Were you ever a blonde?"  

Fuck me.  I balled like a baby.  Love.  Fucking love.  

And so when the show ends with them watching VHS tapes of "Jeopardy" together talking on telephones from different continents. . . well just fuck me.  I'm a baby.  


The show ends with Teagan and Sara singing a remake of "Girls Talk" recorded just for the show.  

Kind of perfect. 

So, as they always said, "Tits up!"


Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Pig

I haven't really thought through what I am going to write this morning, but maybe the choice of images will become meaningful somehow, somewhere along the line.  Maybe.  

I think I'm ready for an Ashram.  

But first, let's update yesterday's post.  I woke yesterday morning with a sense of dread over the microwave and the exhaust fan in the bathroom.  And I just felt bad.  Had I gotten Covid?  I swear, I'm still paranoid about spending time indoors with people.  They all, at some point it seems, become close talkers.  You can feel their breath.  You can see their spittle.  I am talking, of course, about a drinking crowd.  And why else would you go indoors with a group of people. So. . . achey and listless, I moped.  Moping wasn't fixing anything, though.  Maybe the internet would.  I Googled "how to repair a GE over the range microwave."  Well, now, if you are interested, here's a link (link).  After a lot of internet reading, I decided that it was not the easiest fix, the fuse, but was something worse. I thought this as the light in the microwave comes on, and when I push the buttons for time, there is an audible click in the control panel.  Not a fuse.  A Magnetron.  How marvelous, really.  I watched several videos on how to replace the Magnetron.  I could do it, I felt.  I could.  But. . . I didn't really want to.  I did, but I didn't.  I know I could do it, eventually, but I am not a tool guy.  I would be dropping screws and scraping things.  But remember, I did fix my mother's drier.  It just took me a long, long time.  

And so I sat and thought.  I saw myself as Buck Rogers (link).  I sent the video around to friends to see what they thought.  My friends are about as adept with tools as I.  Most of them said hire a repairman or simply buy a new one.  C.C. said I would probably irradiate myself.  In full Buck Rogers mode, I thought, "Yea. . . I might become Magnetronic!"

Then I looked up the cost of a replacement microwave.  $220.  A repairman would probably be over half of that, plus parts.  Now the question became whether or not I would be able to take the old one out and put in the new one myself.  More videos.  I still don't know.  What I do know, though, is that all things are possible.  

I decided to tackle the exhaust fan.  I unscrewed the grating and saw a hideous mess.  I guess no one had ever cleaned the fan.  I hadn't, and I got the house in 1996.  The fellow who lived here for many years before me was old and lame.  He never cleaned it, I'm sure.  It may never have been cleaned.  Scary.  I got a whisk broom and got to work.  That should do it.  I turned it on.  Nope.  It squealed like a pig (not the reference to the photo I had in mind, but o.k.).  I thought "WD 40!"  Surely that would work.  I went in search.  

Nope.  Not there.  Not here.  Nope.  

How could I NOT have WD 40?  There was none in the house.  I would have to go to the hardware store.  But first, I would change out the a.c. filters in the apartment and the house.  I wanted to make sure I had them.  I did.  I went to the garage.  Hey. . . lookee there!  WD 40.  O.K. then.  

Back to the house.  Spray, spray. . . turn on the fan.  It sounded better.  Spray, spray.  

That shit is a miracle. The fan, my friends, is running like a charm. . . silently.  BBC, baby.  Legs akimbo, hands on hips.  

Magneto Man!

That, I thought, was a good day's work.  I would deal with the microwave later.  I thought to take a walk, got out my clothes. . . and it began to rain.  O.K.  I would digitize more old home movies.  And there I was in my various incarnations at different ages, sometimes looking like a scarecrow, other times with a little pot belly.  Sometimes my hair was longish and cute, other times I looked like a prisoner in a Nazi war camp.  I played good music.  The rain continued.  The afternoon rolled by.  

I had been invited out by one of the gymroids for a happy hour drink, so I showered and put on some going out clothes.  For real.  Seersucker shorts, a white polo. . . I looked like a 1990's preppy.  First, though, I headed over to see my mother.  

"Is that a new shirt?  It sure is white!"

We chatted awhile.  The sky cleared and the air cooled.  It felt like fall.  I told her I hade a couple Death Doulas, that I was set.  She looked at me like I'd hit my head.  I told her not to worry, that I had been Magnetized.  We discussed the microwave.  She proposed buying me a new one.  Ha!  She had little faith in my Magnatronic powers, I could see.  

It was time to go.  

My gymroid friend had chosen a big hipster bar in a transitioning part of town.  It is on a highway and had inadequate parking.  I circled for half an hour trying to find a spot.  Finally, a woman walked to her car.  It took her another half hour to get settled and back the fuck up.  I walked through the muddy lot and into the rear entrance of the bar.  

My buddy was sitting with a bunch of his friends.  They did not look like the rest of the crowd.  I didn't either.  Why did I put this shit on, I wondered.  Everyone had on t-shirts and ripped jeans.  Everyone but my buddy and his friends.  They hailed me to the Old Man's Corner.  O.K. What the hell.  

We were short a barstool.  My buddy jumped up and introduced me to his friends.  I thought I'd break the ice. 

"You like my Cocksucker Shorts!"

They roared.  O.K.  I explained the line from "Sophie's Choice," but they were no longer listening.  They were all drinking Old Fashioneds.  Me, too.  Apparently, all the drinks were on one of the fellows I didn't know, some prominent lawyer I was told.  These guys had known one another for forty years.  My buddy is the one who just bought the three hundred thousand dollar McLaren.  They were drinking and talking about golf tournaments, etc.  While they did that, they were eyeballing the girls.  None of you would have enjoyed the scene, I promise, but I was on, the outsider talking in, the loner in a crowd.  I was taking stage.  I was performing.  

"Why?" asked my bruja friend the night before when I told her I was going out with this republican crowd.  She couldn't understand it.  I told her I got a kick out of them.  

"I don't have to be careful about what I say around them."

She looked at me with a question mark on her face.

"If I say the wrong thing around you guys, I'll be off the island.  I'll get cancelled.  So, you know. . . I always tiptoe around a bit.  You don't like anyone to disagree.  They don't give a shit.  They think they are smart.  They think they are quick.  They think they are tough.  So I surprise them.  I turn the table over.  Their gyroscopes go awry and they can't keep up.  And in the end, I think, I change their minds a little bit.  And besides. . . they are funny."  

A fellow in a ball cap was talking to the boys.  I didn't like the look of him at all.  He kind of looked like a wise guy.  When he got up off his stool and came over toward my buddy, I fairly grimaced.  I was preparing myself for battle.  But when he came up, he looked me square in the eye and said, "You look like. . . " and he named someone I had never heard of before.  My buddy said it was a professional golfer.  It was difficult for me to imagine someone who looked like me playing professional golf, but maybe it was my seersucker shorts.  Ball cap stayed.  He was making friends.  He kept looking at me and grinning.  He said he was a gambler.  He talked about gambling.  I got another drink.  He was looking over at a tableful of women.  He was, he said, going in for the kill.  I am not a gambling man, but I would have bet heavily on him striking out on this one.  

"Weird guy," I said to my buddy.  

"Yea, a little."

"I think he was rubbing his dick on me the whole time."

"Was it big?"

"I don't think so." 

My buddy got up from his barstool to talk to someone.  The bar was getting crowded now, and a pretty girl stepped in to order a drink.  I could see her out of the corner of my eye, but I wasn't going to look at her.  Nope.  But she stood there waiting for a long time, so I said without looking, "You're not doing so well."

"What do you mean?"

"The bartender must not like you."

"He's just busy."  

I pointed to a woman across the bar.  "She got her drink.  You're doing something wrong."  

"I could see her look at me and laugh.  

"What do you do?" I asked her.  

"I put people to sleep."

"Do you mean you bore them or are you a professional wrestler?"

"I'm an anesthesiology nurse."

"Ah. Where'd you go to school?"

She named one of those for profit rip off colleges. 

"So. . . have you paid off your loans yet?"

"Nope.  What do you do?"

"I used to be a school marm."

"You retired?"

"Hey, now, what the heck," I laughed.  

"I just mean you said 'used to.'"  She grinned.  

I could see my buddy eyeing her from behind, so I said, "Listen, don't talk to these guys.  They are just a bunch of old creeps.  If they say anything to you, just ignore them."

Soon, she got her drink and went back to her table.  

"She was hot."

"She's with her fiancĂ©.  I asked her what he did, and she said, 'Oh, he has about eight jobs.'  I told her he was a loser. Don't marry him, I said.  You are certain to become some doctor's second wife." 

At another table, the douche struck out, and in shame, he went to the back of the long bar.  I'd had a few drinks and was getting hungry.  I told my buddy I was going to get something to eat.  He said, "Wait a minute.  We're going across the street to eat at the barbecue place." 

And so I did.  Wait a minute.  The barbecue place is one of my favorites.  I tried to settle up my tab, but it was already done.  It turns out the lawyer wasn't buying, my buddy was.  He is a very generous guy.  He gives money to a lot of charities and sits on a lot of boards.  I guess I'm one of the charities he gives to.  I am going to have to buy him some expensive bottle of something.  I'm getting in too deep.  As we got up to leave, one of the fellows said, "I can't believe it.  That guy took my drink."

He was talking about ball cap.  Ha.  I knew that guy was dirty. I reached back to make sure my wallet was still there.  

As we were finishing up our meal, the boys were making plans for the rest of the night.  They were going off to one of the fellows offices to do some blow.  

"Come with us," my buddy said.  

"You guys going to do blow, strip down to your shorts, and wrestle with each other?  No, man. . . I'm out."

"Oh, come on.  You don't have to do the coke.  Just come hang."

But I would have a hard time thinking of something I would rather not do than that.  I'd rather replace the magnetron in the microwave.  

"No. . . I'm going to go home and get on the couch and watch old Buck Rogers movies."  

And that, my friends, is the story of The Pig.  I guess.  You'll have to figure it out.  

* * *

Update!!!!  The microwave started working again.  Unbelievable.  I did it on my own!!!!

Friday, May 26, 2023

Speak Easy

I met some of the kids up at Factory City yesterday for drinks.  As always, as the time approached, I didn't really want to go.  I thought about "calling in."  But I rarely go anywhere anymore, and so I put on a shirt and shorts and flops and headed out.  

And, per usual, I went to the wrong place.  It used to be the right place, but it was closed.  Shut down.  Abandoned.  No more Twisted Kilt.  WTF?  I called my friend who didn't answer.  

"O.K. I'm standing outside the Tattered Kilt, and of course, I'm in the wrong place.  Where the hell. . . ."

In a bit she called back.  The restaurant/bar had moved across the street.  When I pulled up, the crew was laughing.  My fuck ups are predictable.  It was a small group this time, just four plus a husband who came late and stayed for just a bit before he left me "with the girls."  

"Better for me this way," I said.  

I ordered a Black and Tan and floated along with the conversation.  It was "witchy."  My bruja friend is getting a new certification as an herbalist.  

"I cannot call myself an herbalist, though," she said.  "It is illegal in this state."  

A lot of the things she is "certified" in are illegal in the state.  

"I'm not allowed to treat anyone," she said.  

"Basically, you are like a Wicken, right?"

"No.  Yes."  

It doesn't matter to me, but the rest of the esteemed group were ready for tips.  I find it strange that people with grad degrees go in for this sort of thing, but they do.  

"I went to an acupuncturist in Grit City once," one of them said.  "To relieve stress, you know.  I thought, heck, I'll try it.  I'll give it a shot.  So I went in and he put needles around my face, but you know, there are meridians and he put them right down my leg."

"Oh, yes," the table nodded in agreement. Meridians.  

"When the session was done, I thought I felt marginally better, you know, from here," she held her hand up, "to here."  Her had dropped a few centimeters.  "And I thought, o.k., but when I was driving home, all of the sudden it just hit me.  I felt like I had taken a drug."

The table responded eagerly, heads nodding energetically in approbation. This is a group who were early into "mindfulness."  I'm an old hippie, so one would think I would be in support of that, but I am something else, too, and I made soft fun of the whole enterprise.  In sessions at the factory, they would teach people how to be mindful by sitting quietly in their chairs for one minute.  There under the fluorescent lights in industrial folding chairs, the room grew preternaturally quiet.  

My cell phone rang.  Unbelievable.  Nobody EVER calls my phone.  I struggled to get it out of the front jeans pocket and mute it.  

"Of course," they all said afterwards.  

"Studies show that students who mindfully meditate before taking a test do better."

"So do kids who masturbate," I said.  "It's true.  They get the same sort of focus and stress relief. . . ."

I didn't have any studies to back my claim up, of course, but I was certain it was true.  

Still, they let me come to their events.  But I'm not really in the "inner circle."  That is for the like-minded.  

At five, we were to move from the outside porch into the brand new speak easy.  They were excited.  

"What makes it a "speak easy," I asked.  

"You enter through a phone booth."

"I mean, do you need to know the password?"

Blank stares.  


None of them knew the Marx Brothers bit.  I pulled it up on my phone (link), but nobody watched it.  It was too long for them.  

When we got to the phone booth, it was closed.  There was a sign that said to use the side door.  

"It's a trick," I said.  

Everyone piled into the booth.  One of them picked up the phone.  

"Hey. . . there's a message.  A speak easy message."  The girls all huddled around the receiver.  Then a big fellow came up and the girls jumped.  

I looked at him for a second, then I yelled "Swordfish!"  He laughed immediately.  

"See--he watched the whole clip," I said.  

The big fellow led us to the side door.  Then he looked at me and said, "You can't come in with open toed shoes.  Do you have any others in the car?"

I shook my head in the negative.  One of the girls, however, had on open toed shoes, too, so she said, "Am I allowed in."

"Yes, the rule is only for guys."

Now I wondered what my ideological friends were going to do.  They take a hard stand on such things. . . usually.  But the big guy kind of stuttered, "Let me go in and talk to my manager.  I'm just doing my job. . . ."

"Is Tom inside?" one of the girls asked.  


"Let me in to talk to him," she said.  

I didn't care one way or the other.  "I've been kicked out of better joints than this one," I told the girls.  In a few seconds, though, all was well and we were let into the plush, darkened interior.  The manager came over with apologies.  

"He'll wear shoes next time," my friend said.  So much for ideology.  

We sat at a table in the small room near the bar. The bar was a nice one, and there were two rooms for larger parties, on for seven and one for eleven.  There were giant red velvet curtains you could draw if you wanted privacy.  

"Those are the Trump rooms," I said.  One of the girls spat, "Don't start with the Trump shit."  I had made her cry once, long ago, in 2016, at an oyster bar when I tried to say something about Trump that they didn't like.  

"Oh, sure. . . NOW you're going to get all ideological again."  Then quickly, to defuse what might be a bad situation, "I have those curtains in my t.v. room.  This place looks a lot like my house.  

They began planning a party here for a small group.  Who?  They began naming names and counting on their fingers.  

"Just the 'inner circle,'" I said.  

"And you."  

"Sure.  If I remember to wear shoes." 

And it was quickly set, the dates, the people, and phones came out.  It was planned.  

I hadn't eaten, and now after the Black and Tan on the porch, I had an Old Fashioned in front of me.  I looked at the food menu.  It was skinny and everything was expensive.  That, I guessed, was how you knew it was a speak easy.  I ordered the ceviche.  

It certainly wasn't a meal, but it would have to suffice.  The others had eaten before I showed up but one of the girls got an order of Carpaccio.  

"Damn, this is a lazy place," I said.  

They all looked at me quizzically.  

"They don't cook anything."

The conversation went back to witchy things.  Two of the women at the table had decided to become Death Doulas!  They were the opposite of Birth Doulas that see you into the world.  Nope.  They were going to help people out of it.  

"There are a lot of Boomers who don't have any end of life support," one of them said.  They all looked at me.  


"Don't worry," she said.  "I'll help you out."

Well, there was that, then.  I would have someone to see me to "the other side."  This was desultory talk, I thought, but they were energized.  

After the second Old Fashioned, I was hungry and ready to go.  Everyone called for their checks.  The manager came over one more time and asked if everything was good.  The group chimed in together that we would be back soon for a party.  Then we were on the street, hugs and kisses.  

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought something I could microwave.  Just something small.  It was getting late.  

I shoved the chicken things into the microwave.  I hit the button.  Nothing.  ????  I did it again.  The internal light came on, but the turntable didn't turn, the microwave sound didn't come on.  I climbed up on the cabinet, reached in behind the cupboard, pulled the plug and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  

Fuck.  Why?  What had happened?

I went into the bathroom and flipped the switch.  I heard a banshees cry.  It scared the hell out of me.  Involuntarily, I flinched and ducked.  It was the exhaust fan.  Something was wrong.  Shit.  What was going on?  

I went around the house checking things.  Maybe there was a lightning strike.  But none of the clocks had gone off.  The t.v. was fine.  It was just the microwave and the exhaust fan.  Weird.  Just weird.  

I threw the frozen chicken bits into a frying pan.  This is what I had wanted to avoid.  Another scotch, chicken bits, a little YouTube, and I woke up on the couch.  

Nothing has healed itself this morning.  The fan still screeches, the microwave still sits silent.  I worry about replacing them.  The microwave is custom built in over the stove.  The fan is probably from the '50s.  I'm sure the size will not be standard.  It might require a big time renovation to replace it.  I am bummed.  Nothing lasts, of course.  My car engine had a hiccup going to Factory City, too.  I can feel my bank account shrinking.  

All I have to cheer me up is that I now have a soon-to-be Death Doula on my side.  

The day is cloudy.  It is Friday.  It doesn't feel like a Friday.  It feels like a Wednesday.  I have a happy hour date with some of the gymroids.  I may "call in."  Who knows.  Maybe I'll feel better by then.  

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Hog Hunt

This cowboy narrative is haunting me.  I have to get it off my back.  I'd rather comment on yesterday, but I need to do this first.  So. . . . 

I wanted to do a documentary on Florida Cowboys.  Cow Men, actually.  There is so little in the America Myth about them, but the first cows in American were the ones that escaped from the Spanish troops of Ponce de Leon.  They survived in the prairies and bush, smaller cows, stunted by heat and shitty food, perhaps.  But that was the start of it all.  During the Civil War, Florida supplied most of the meat to the Confederate Army.  Florida is still the second largest producer of beef today, just behind Texas but ahead of Oklahoma.  It is difficult to understand how eastern Cow Men have been so largely ignored.  By all accounts, they were rough men, good on horses, and called Crackers because in the scrub brush a lasso was of no use.  They herded the cows with whips you could hear cracking from a mile away.  There were Black Cow Men, too.  My intention was to start the credits with the title, "Cracker," rolling across an image of one of them.  ,

But I never got that far.  

This is the head cowboy for the largest landowner in Florida.  Was.  If memory serves, he died in a small plane crash out west on a hunting trip.  He was a ruggedly handsome fellow, a bit like the Marlboro Man.  I was invited on a hog hunt with some cowboys because a friend of mine was his nephew.  

"Be at my house at four," he told me.  A.M.  

By dawn, we were headed for the prairie we would be hunting on.  I rode with the second cowboy who was half crazy.  He kept a six foot rattlesnake in the toolbox in the back of his truck.  

"Reach in there and get me a wrench, will you?  I never worry about anyone stealing my tools."

As we walked through the prairie, he would bend over close to my feet and pick up snakes I didn't even see.  Apparently, they were everywhere.  He'd just hold them up and laugh.  

I thought they would be hunting with hunting dogs and guns.  The hunting dogs, though, were just strays they picked up on the side of the road, mutts, not hounds at all.  Most of them were small.  They were housed in a big cage on the back of a truck, and when the cowboy released them, they went running wildly across the plain sniffing for hogs.  When they found one, we could hear them in the distance barking and whining.  The cowboys would take off running then, me trailing behind with my camera gear.  

By the time I'd catch up, they already had the hog on the ground.  No guns.  Just string.  The cowboys would just jump in and hog tie them.  Sometimes, one of the dogs had gotten gored.  One of them died in front of us.  

"You're going home, son," was the eulogy they gave him.

If they had jumped a female, they would just let her go.  If it was a male with testicles, they would cut them off, untie him, and let him stagger off.  

"Jesus--aren't you going to put something on that!?!?" I exclaimed.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  

"You can't eat their meat.  It tastes bad.  Without his nuts, he'll get bigger, fatter.  Next time we see him, he'll be sweet meat.  That's the ones we eat."

They kept the nuts.

While we were eating lunch, they put the dogs back in the cage.  One of the bigger ones, an obviously dominant male, began sniffing a younger dog sweetly.  I watched as it licked his ears and nuzzled him, then crawled onto his back and mounted him.  The snake handler began screaming at him and banging the cage with a tire iron.  

"Get off him you goddamned queer!"

And he did.  For a bit.  Then I saw him start all over again and for a second time, he mounted the young pup.  And I took a chance.

"See?  This is what I try telling people.  That dog ain't courting the older ones in the cage.  You know which one he's going for.  Everybody loves a puppy."

They all looked at me.  Nobody said anything.  Then they started telling a tale about another cowboy they used to work with.  

"Remember old Cock Breath?"

After lunch, we got in the trucks and headed out for another part of the prairie.  A lot of the land was wet, so there was much weaving about to stay on dry ground.  Occasionally they would have to stop and get out the chainsaws so they could cut up and move a fallen tree.  And, as usual, I sat in the truck and watched.  Nobody asked me to help.  

When we got to a new place, they let the dogs out once again and they went running.  And so did the cowboys, me trailing behind carrying my cameras and gear.  Only this time, I didn't keep up.  I stopped to listen.  They were just gone.  There I was standing in the middle of a bunch of trees in a long stretch of swampy prairie.  Holy shit!  I was lost.  Had no sense of direction on this one.  Which way had they gone?  Which way was the truck?  My breathing was quick.  Oh, they would get a kick out of this.  I stood still.  There was no sense in walking and getting further lost.  I listened.  Then I heard something coming through the grass.  I crouched waiting for an attack, but it was one of the little dogs.  

"Come here boy.  Come here.  Let's find the others.  C'mon."  

I was just hoping he wouldn't run away.  I didn't know where he was going, but I followed him getting more panicked by the minute.  But the little fellow was good.  He took me back to the truck.  It was not the way we came, though.  I had to wade through some waist deep mucky water to get to the other side of a wide ditch.  When I got to the truck, the cowboys were already there.  They looked at me coming up out of the water like some Swamp Boy.  Nobody said anything, but there was some chuckling and shaking of heads.  Yea, those cowboys got a kick out of that one. 

Eventually they found a hog they wanted, a sweet meat keeper.  I was there for that one.  The cowboy jumped in and tied him with the string, then looked at me and said, "Come over here and hold him down."  


I went over and put my knee on the hog's back and my hands on his head.  He lay there worn out and passive.  One of the cowboys began to tell me about all the diseases you can get from handling wild swine.  There were a lot of them.  

"Remember how old Bob got sick that one time?  Christ, he almost died." 

These guys were true pals.  

The head cowboy came back and took my place on the hog.  What came next was brutal and I'll spare you the details.  It was enough, though, to make you consider vegetarianism.  

It was deep into the afternoon at that point, and the hunt was over.  We drove back to the snake handler's trailer.  It was a wreck of a place in the middle of nowhere but situated on a big lake.  They broke out the skeet guns and started chucking clay pigeons or whatever out over the lake.  

Kaboom.  Kaboom.

They offered me a turn.  I had shot a rifle only once before in my life and wanted to pass, but no, they insisted.  I, of course, never hit a thing.  

That night, they were going gator hunting, but I was done.  I couldn't take pictures at night, and I was worn out.  For them, this was the vacation time.  This was fun.  They would be back to work the next day with the cattle.  

I thanked them for taking me out with them and climbed into my car.  

Those were some really rough guys.  I never made the documentary.  

And so it goes.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Second Acts

I was all ready to give you the hunting story today, but shit happens.  I got some news last night that might turn my life upside down or around. . . I'm not sure. . . but I don't really think what is predicted will happen.  Still, my head is spinning a little bit.  I was too agitated to go to bed at my usual hour and ended up drinking and playing my guitar too late in the night.  

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head?  Of course you do.  I can't get the song I posted yesterday out of mine.  The lyrics.  They sort of resonate.  Maybe, though, Fitzgerald was wrong about second acts in American lives.  Why would we think him right in the first place?  He was no great thinker.  

Today's photo is not blurry, it is out of focus.  This is what happens a lot when you shoot with a manual camera, and that was all we had when I took this photograph.  Old Mo.  He was a real character, one of the old gymroids from the Ancient Prison Gym.  That is my old car in the background.  I wonder about those guys from that gym.  Have they all gone the way of the Volvo?  They were mostly of the Live Fast, Die Young school.  None of them were planning for the future.  Other than prison, I mean.  

As usual, I was among the throng, but not of the throng.  I was in deep enough but not too deep.  I knew secrets, but I didn't help them bury the bodies.  Too many entanglements there.  

I watched a documentary on YouTube last night about the man eating lions of Tsavo.  If you don't know the story, look it up.  It is the kind of thing that drove my young(er) imagination.  I've seen the lions in a museum somewhere, but in Googling it, I am not sure if I actually saw them or just some replica.  I want to say it was in the Museum of Natural History or at The Smithsonian.  But last night, jacked and jazzed, I was ready to go to Mombasa to start a journey.  Dar.  Zanzibar.  

Then I watched a video of some European "bloke" walking around the market places looking for food he could eat.  Then I watched a couple others.  Then. . . I decided it would be cheaper to visit East St. Louis or the south side of Chicago.  I'd have less chance of getting robbed, beaten, or killed.  

Still, old dreams die hard.  I'll bet my art and travel buddy Travis would go with me.  We could limp around East Africa together and spew venom about Brando for cheating us out of our trip long ago.  We could look for man eaters.  

O.K.  This is a shitty post.  But cut me some slack.  I've written some sterling ones this month.  I went back and read through them.  Oh, sure. . . there are writing errors caused by the Blogger algorithm, changing words and by my own editing on the fly, but there are some quite good ones.  So, you know, stay with me.  I can make a good post more often than not.  And all for free.  You've never had to spend a single, solitary kopek or ruble on this stuff.  

It's just that I'm still pulling myself together this morning.  I have much on my brain.  

I'll end with a gem today.  A song.  1968.  The '60s were weirder than shit, a collision of prosperity after WWII and the revolution against it.  Right?  The revolution against prosperity?  The whole world clamoring for what we were giving up in pursuit of. . . ?  Oh, yea. . . enlightenment.  

* * * 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Foolish, Harmless Fun

I had an old tale to tell today, all prepared.  I mean I scanned old slides and cooked them up in Lightroom and Photoshop and was half ready with a narrative.  Then, last night, I watched t.v.  I've been watching too much t.v. lately.  I like to limit myself to one show a night, but recently for a variety of reasons, I've had no "go" in me, so I burry my head in this overly passive pastime.  I don't mind saying that I watch television.  Many years ago, I read a poll of authors, literary critics, and lit profs in which they reportedly said that they were reading less and watching television more.  In terms of time spent, it had become almost 50/50.  Part of this was that programming on networks like HBO, Amazon, and Netflix had targeted a more intellectual crowd.  High-brow, if you will.  Television programming had become an undeniable art form and university courses began to offer serious academic studies of them.  

Such it not the case so much now.  Those high-brow shows won accolades and awards, but they did not draw the big audiences that more mid- and lowbrow shows did.  That is. . . they didn't make much money.  If you want to make money, reality t.v. is the way to go.  "Naked and Afraid," and "My Six Hundred Pound Life," and "Dr. Pimple Popper" can make you a fortune.  If you want to make a fictional show, stick with the slapstick sit-coms.  

The latest "Golden Age of Television" has succumbed to the profit motive, and like all things of that ilk, have become watered down pablum.  

So this is my semi-shameful confession after writing yesterday that I hadn't a t.v. or a telephone for a decade and spent my time reading.  That is true.  I don't read as much as I used to.  

And now, mostly sad and in need of distraction, rather than call upon the great authors. . . .

It is not all sad news, of course.  I spend much of my t.v. time watching educational programs, lectures on art and literature and history, so it is not entirely wasted time.  I watched several interviews with Martin Amis yesterday, for instance.  That, however, I found to be an entire waste of time.  He was dull in conversation with little new or interesting to say, unlike his good friend Christopher Hitchens.  I'll not be spending any more time watching him.  

After that, I often turn to something along the lines of "Deadwood" or "Boardwalk Empire" or "Mad Men."  I've watched those, so not those, exactly, but of that ilk.  As I've mentioned, I've taken lately to rewatching "The Wire."

But my confession is this--I watched really stupid stuff, too.  And worse, it makes me feel silly good.  I never would have.  I disdained such things.  But when I was with Ili who was a smart girl who loved to laugh, she brought me to a ridiculous show called "Southern Charms" set in Charleston.  Oh my God, as the kids used to say. . . what a giggle.  We would snuggle up on the couch in the dim light of the t.v. room with drinks and let 'er roll.  It was stupid stupid, but I never had so much fun.  It was like riding something at the fair you wouldn't want your friends seeing you ride.  It was nothing to brag about, just a small, delicious secret between lovers.  Goodness. . . I never would have dreamed.  She found a fellow who wrote about the show in a local paper in Charleston, I think.  I just tried to find him, but holy smokes, it seems every major and minor publication in the world was writing about this show.  I wish I could remember his name, though, for he was a tremendously funny should-be-famous writer.  I hope he is.  

I think Ili had some ties to Charleston through a former beau, and maybe there was some thrill in subjecting me to a bit of her past, but I have never been one to want people to deny a former life, so I never took it as punishment.  Nope.  It was, by and large, a marvelous time.  

So. . . here comes my Big Confession.  I have been in the dumps, listless and enervated, and have wished only to sit on the big couch and watch television for weeks.  It is muggy now in the late afternoons and the summer showers have already begun, so sitting on the deck after mother's is either uncomfortable or impossible.  Where I would have cooked and taken my meal to the deck, I now sit in front of the television.  I try to be smart.  I start with some YouTube educational thing, but dinner done, after dinner drink poured, I turn on something else.  Last night, it was "The Wire."  When that was done, there was still daylight outside.  I broke from the television and prepared some photos for what was supposed to be today's story.  When that was done, however, it was back to the television.  

And OMG!  There is a stupid stupid show I have watched all on my own.  A secret show, so stupid it could only be shared with a loved one.  To sit in the darkened room on the big leather couch with my own true love and watch "Selling Sunset,". . . .  No, it's true.  I know you will shun me, that all estimates of my mental capacities, such as they are, will be nullified.  But yes, I've binged "Selling Sunset," and now, after years of nothing, it is back!  A glass of whiskey to help me with the stupidity and boom, I was ready to watch the first episode.  

It was truly, stupidly idiotic.  I wanted someone smart to sit on the couch and watch it with me, because on my own, I felt shame.  

It was really, horribly good.  

I know some of you have turned me off by now, you who like to take LSD and sit by the sea in Latin America or take ayahusca in the jungles of Peru.  That's o.k.  I don't think those things are any more profound than watching "Southern Charms."  Indeed, maybe less so.  

After watching the first episode, I wasn't sure what to do.  It was still early.  I will go to bed early--quite early some nights--but it was not late enough even for me.  I could not watch episode two, though.  I would draw out this idiotic madness as long as I could.  

After walking around the house, looking at books, cleaning the kitchen, pouring another drink, I came back to the couch.  I put on the latest episode of another pleasure that I will miss in a couple weeks when it ends.  "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."  

O.K. I'm stupid.  I'm an emotional wreck.  Kick me if you want.  There is nothing like kicking a man when he is down.  This is what I get for living the life I have lived.  This is how it turns out.  

I found myself overwhelmed with emotion several times.  Suddenly.  Uncontrollably.  You see, something is broken in me.  Something is terribly wrong.  As I sit here thinking about it now, though, I don't remember ever being overwhelmed to the point of tears, actual tears, when reading a book.  I find that incredibly curious thinking that now.  I've felt emotions, of course, some sadness, say, at the end of "Light Years," but I didn't actually weep.  But even a dumb show can bring on a physical, physiological reaction.  Yes, it is curious indeed.  There is a great power to a show, a film, the combination of things.  Technology used correctly. . . . 

Sometimes it is the music.  And at the end of "Maisel," over the closing credits, an old song played.  It was something I have trouble believing I never heard before.  I had to look it up.  

And I spent the remaining hours before bed listening to music.  I was up later than usual.  I am a sap.  I don't think we should let this be known beyond our little group here, though.  As I say, it is a confession, and if you are Catholic or have watched mobster movies, you know that the priest never tells.  I expect that you, too, will offer me a penance to absolve me of my idiocy.  

For truly, that is all it is.  I have committed nothing like a sin.  I'm just a mess.  And I just want to yuck it up, you know, with. . . . 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Love is Luck

"Love is luck."

These are Zinnias from my mother's garden.  I dug the soil, cleared the brush and weeds, and scattered seeds she had taken from old flowers over the ground.  Then I threw cypress mulch on top.  I had little faith, however, that they would grow.  She now has the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood.  It is a shame that nobody sees it.  It is in her backyard.  

My mother calls them Xenias, and so have I.  Xenia was the largest town in the area where she was born and grew up, an unincorporated township thirteen miles to the northeastt.  Xenia, you may know, is famous for tornadoes.  One of the deadliest tornadoes ever hit the town in 1974.  If you have ever seen the film "Gummo," you know about it.  

My mother's "language" has been a source of first agony and then hilarity for me.  It's not her, but the whole hillbilly crew from that region.  It is as if they have invented another language.  I grew up with a lot of what would be called "dialect interference."  I grew up thinking that trees were "chrees," and that there were "chimleys" on the roof and that one "worshed" both body and laundry and that you got "valentimes" on "Valentimes Day."  Etc.  There is a long list of such things.  Now, though, to hear the relatives talk gives me a thrill.  It is like going to a good movie.  Unfamiliar words and sounds are brought 'round to familiar things.  None of them had ever heard the name Obama, for instance, and so for the longest time he was referred to as Bahama.  If it weren't for Fox News, I don't think they would ever have gotten it right.  

So Zinnias (zi-nee-uhs) is Xenias (zeen-yas).  And it is Zeenya rather than Zeeneeuh.  Just for the record.  

I, in all my hillbilly glory, have pronounced them as my mother has.  When I actually saw the spelling of the flower, though, I had that "oh!" moment.  

"Mom, I think they might be pronounced. . . ."

"Probably that's why nobody knows what they are when I tell them," she said with a laugh.  

Mom brought the cut flowers over last night when she came to dinner.  I had made a big InstaPot of small red beans, pork, and brown jasmine rice.  She loves this meal.  I think that it is because I cook them in mostly wine with just a little water in the pot.  It gives a sweetness that counters the burn of the red pepper I use abundantly.  

Before and after eating, we sit with drinks and chat.  It is odd, you know, because I see her every day and that is what we do.  But somehow sitting with wine in the living room seems different.  Last night my mother was looking at the books in a bookcase with glass doors on it.  On the floor in front of it are a couple of stacks of photo books.  

"Do you ever open the doors and get one of those books out," she asked.  I laughed.  

"I did the other day.  I had to move all those books on the floor to get in.  But I have read all of those books, so I do not go in there much."

She shook her head.  My house is full of books, books on shelves in every room.  She can't believe I've read them all, but that is all I did for years.  I had no t.v., no phone.  I was pretty much a loner.  Authors were my companions.  

"You have a good memory," my mother said.  "You remember all of that."

"Ha.  No I don't.  I forget almost all of it.  But all the reading has given me ideas, and I don't forget those.  Oh. . . I'm just full of ideas."

That makes me chuckle, of course.  

"But I'm smart, I'm nice, and I'm a good cook.  I have a cute house and the music is beautiful.  How'd I end up without a girl?"  This is a true quandary for me and not just an academic question.  

"Because you won't let any of the women who like you come over," she says.  And it is true.  "You're too picky."  

Mom thinks I should be practical.  She is practical.  She has had to be.  Me?  I have ideas.  I have a big imagination and an even bigger romantic heart.  But as Woody Allen and so many people before him have proclaimed, love is luck.  And so I say to my mother.  

"Love is all luck.  I've been lucky, then the luck runs out, I guess.  But everything is luck, isn't it?  I mean, you work to put yourself in luck's way if it comes so you can grab the chance, but you never know.  You go to school so that if a good job that requires a degree comes close, you might be able to get it.  But going to school doesn't guarantee anything.  And some people who are nitwits get rich.  I don't know.  I've been lucky.  I didn't plan anything.  I've been lucky in both directions, good and bad.  But it now seems to me that everything is luck.  Right place, right time, right conditions."

That is what I think now, at least.  It is one of my "ideas."  I'm full of 'em.  

When the Zinnias my mother brought over dry up, I will take the seeds and plant them.  This is new to me, and I don't know if I need to let them sit and dry before I do.  I will use The Google.  They are annuals, though, and will die off in the winter.  I will save some seeds, I guess, for next spring.  

This is something I learned from my mother.  

And so, meal finished, drinks drunk, I made a big container of red beans and pork and rice for my mother to take and walked her to her car and told her I loved her.  I feel badly that she will go home and be alone.  I try to palliate her loneliness, but there are too many hours in the day.  Love is luck, but so is everything else.  

I am a good son.  I am better than most, I think.  Some kids hold grudges against their parents.  I have as many if not more reasons for a grudge, I promise.  But I don't hold on to negative things.  I let them go.  They are no good for me and will bring me no luck.  That is another of my "ideas."  By and large, though, I think, my mother is lucky to have me. 

Right?  I mean, luck does run in two directions.  

Oh. . . here is what last night's conversation sounded like.  I mean, it was the low, sweet background to the food and the drinks and the conversation.  It is lovely luck, my sentimental mood. . . my sweet indigo.