Post-Turkey Day, I feel a tad regretful. It wasn't a good day at all, really, but I may have made it a little worse. The weather was lousy, grey, humid, and of an indeterminate temperature. There was nothing crisp in or out of the house. I sat inside my own home until mid-afternoon listening to music blankly until it was imperative I take a shower and get ready for dinner with my mother's neighbors.
Friday, November 25, 2022
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
The last year of elementary school was coming to a close. By and large, I'd been in school with the same kids for six years. Now we were finding out that we were to be split up, some going to the old Junior/Senior High School, others going to the brand new Junior High recently completed. I was on the borderline between the two. My hope was to go to the old High School, but that was not the case. I would be shuffled in with kids from another elementary school. All of them. There would be some of my old school kids there, but we would be enormously outnumbered. Life was about to take a big turn.
That summer, somehow. . . I don't remember the circumstances. . . I met some kids from the new school. And apparently, I was already known because of the band. Fame had come my way. What that would mean, I would find out soon enough.
Before school began, I was told that a girl named Violeta liked me and wanted to meet me. Her house was near the "other" elementary school. One day, with an older fellow I had met, we went to her house. The neighborhood was new to me, a distant land, another planet. The sun shown differently here, it seemed, the colors blander, the light harsher. People who lived on these streets, I imagined, were certainly dangerous. My body tensed. I was wary.
Violeta looked as if she had sprung into the world fully formed. She was already complete. She had the body and the confidence of a woman. She was as tall as I, maybe even taller, with hips and breasts and a face that was youthful but mature. She had olive skin and thick dark hair, and her eyes were nearly black. Her smile was overwhelming.
My new friend was older and had a motor bike, a 50cc Honda that kids were allowed to drive with a learner's permit. He introduced me and we all talked a bit, then, unexpectedly, he left. I was alone, face to face with this woman. Nobody else was home. I was like a mute. I had no words. She, however, was relaxed and poised. She looked at me confidently. She smiled. And then. . . she kissed me. It wasn't like the kisses I had gotten at parties in dark corners that lasted only a moment. Her arms around me, I could feel her body press against mine, her very full lips exploring my neck and my mouth. Vertigo hit me full on. My head spun, my body trembled. In truth, I was terrified. There was no one to stop us, no need to cautiously look around. There was only me and this wild gypsy woman/girl with the warm breath and the strange name.
And that is all I remember. Nothing in life had prepared me for this. I only recall that when I left, I felt the difference. She was no kid, not in the way I was. But I had taken the first step into a harder, stranger world. I had, in the parlance of the day, "made out." Walking home from her house through unfamiliar streets, I knew I had just been elevated high above my group of elementary school friends.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
O.K. I'm back. It's all good. Perhaps the focus and clarity I was searching for came to me yesterday after a trip to the gym to purge. Luck may have played a part in it, too. My car barely started on Sunday when I went to my mother's, the battery scarcely turning the starter. And again when I got in to come home. Yesterday, it was just dead. I called AAA and waited in the comfort of my own home cooking up old photographs for my friend. Mohamed from Jordan showed up, a tremendously friendly fellow. He wandered around my yard a bit somehow taken with the bird feeders. He told me of his life, his wife and children, his diet, the first World Cup Soccer game. . . . $200 later, I had a new battery. Sure as shittin' it was expensive, but again. . . in the comfort of my own home. I think that started the Happy Ball rolling.
I got to the gym later than usual. None of my pals were there. No talking which was a good thing given my last couple of days. I worked. I sweated. I left. At home, I made a clean, low calorie protein smoothy. I was beginning to feel fresh. A shower, then a nap.
The day had gotten away from me, though. I got up just in time. With a fresh battery, I drove to mother's. Chat, chat, chat.
"I've gotta go. I need to make dinner."
The usual whining. I know she doesn't think it anything for me to break my day up for the daily conversation. "What else is he going to do? He has all the time in the world." That is what I think she tells herself, that and that I need company. Maybe. I don't really know. But she is going to be 91 in a minute and I'm sure she doesn't really want to be alone. With great guilt and a lot of something else, I left.
A trip to the grocers. A head of cabbage, a pack of carrots, one squash, one white onion, a green and a red bell pepper, two small red potatoes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and some tofu. It was almost dark when I got home. "Goddamnit," I said, beginning to get mad and frustrated. Then, "No, no. . . chill. What the heck, man? Slow down. Just peace out."
And I did. I opened a nice bottle of pinot and put on some music. THE music. I felt the coming of nirvana, just a little one, something just sweet and fine. I washed vegetables. Chop, chop, chop. They went into a big bowl. Holy shit, though, too many, too much. I lay out some foil and spread the vegetables out on it. Kosher salt, rough ground black pepper (POB pepper, babe), cayenne pepper, and olive oil. I cut the tofu and put it on top. I slid the lot of it onto a tray and took it to the grill. The newly renovated grill. The inside parts had rusted through as they always do. I had tried to find parts at Home Depot, but they didn't have them. I figured that was how this company, Nexgrill, made its money. I see these grills on curbsides all the time. Every couple years, you buy a new one. One day, though, I did a Google search for grill parts. I bought the whole lot on Amazon. They were here the next day. It cost a pittance, really. Replacing everything inside the grill--you know, a MANLY grill--I felt myself an accomplished BBC fellow once again. Big Balls in Cowtown.
While I was chopping, the phone had rung. I glanced at it to see. I thought it was Q. I'd call him back when the chopping was done. Now, vegetables grilling, two cats on the deck with me and my good glass of wine, I pulled up my phone to call. But I had misread it. The call wasn't from Q, it was from Mr. Tree. He had left no message. I didn't feel like talking just then, so I sat back and listened to the grill and THE music. I was thinking of my friend in NYC. I'd sent her pictures. We'd shared a memory and a laugh and now some music.
And then a pickup truck pulled into the driveway. Mr. Tree. Jesus Christ. There I sat, phone on the table. Whatever. He came with the usual hugs, saying, "I just called you but couldn't reach you." He looked at the phone.
"Yea. . . I'm preparing my dinner," I said with confidence.
He'd come for money. He is repairing one of his big trucks, he said. He needed to get me to pay him.
"I don't even know how much I owe you," I said. I had not asked him to come trim the trees. One day he just showed up. He gave me a price. It stung, but it wasn't outrageous. I wrote him a check. I liked him a bit less than before, though. I asked him if he would like some wine. Of course he would. He checked his phone. It was his fiancé in Cuba. He put her on speaker and introduced me. She is a doctor of medicine and sounded very sweet. We chatted briefly, then he said he would call her back in a bit.
He then launched into a story of his mother's death during Covid. He could not get to Malaysia in time for the funeral, but now he needed to go to pay his respects. He didn't feel good that he hadn't been to the grave. He was trying to arrange for his fiancé to go, but travel for Cubans is dicey on both ends. Getting permission to travel is one thing, but many countries won't let Cubans transit through on connecting flights without visas, or, in some cases, not at all. He recounted his woes of planning a route to get her there and back. And then,
"So, anyway. . . I want you to come. I'm from a beautiful island renowned for its cuisine. You can come and we'll get you hooked up with some women. I have a room for you in my house. Then we can go to Thailand. You won't believe Thailand. . . . "
Fuckee suckee. He invites me to Cuba. He invites me to Asia. But always. . . he can hook me up. I mean, it's nice of him, but. . . .
I make an offer of dinner, and he accepts. I put the jasmine rice in a deep bowl and spoon vegetables and tofu over it. Teriyaki sauce. The pinot goes perfectly.
"Man, this is really good," he exclaims. I would think him simply polite, but there was no doubt--it was REALLY good."
He talked about the cuisine on his island, Pangkor.
"I'll be like Anthony Bourdain," I laughed. I told him I would research the flights.
Dinner finished, the wine bottle empty, he said he had to go.
"Good. Take you money and leave."
Of course I didn't say that, but I was glad to have the evening to myself. The clean up was easy and only took a minute. And then a whiskey with the cats. And the music.
I try to leave my friend working in NYC alone. I don't wish to be a bother. I don't wish to be aloof, either. It is complicated. I sent a song. She texted back. Of late, it is mostly emojis and text abbreviations I don't understand. I Google them, but not always successfully.
"The depth of you arcane knowledge is astounding," I wrote. She replied that she enjoyed unnerving me. Oh, she does. It is her superpower. She can throw me off any time she takes a notion.
The best I can do is write things like "Word up." I have no idea what that means, what I am saying. I'd just heard the song playing in Whole Foods the other day. Some things age well.
I was feeling great. New battery. The purging. A great meal. The music. I was happy. I was sleepy. I would need nothing to sleep. I would have good and pleasant dreams.
Monday, November 21, 2022
I should be happier than I am. At my friend's urging, I've been out more. I take trains to distant towns to eat and drink with friends. I go to favorite places with men and women I have recently met. While out, I am embraced by those who have known me. The holidays are upon us, and now Christmas decorations have been hung in my own hometown.
Mixed in with this, however, have been floods, two hurricanes, twisted and broken trees, and now dreadfully glum weather. Two weeks ago, I had dinner with the woman who is driving this post-Covid transformation. But, it seems, her ship has sailed and I despair of having dinner with her again any time soon. I had become comfortably numb, as the saying goes, fairly comfortable in my melancholy solitude. There were no highs or lows, just the long, low hum of an nearly palatable routine. Almost three years ago now, I was leaving the factory with trepidation but with hope. There would be travel. There would be stories and photos. Then Ili left and Covid shut everything down. Alone in the house for days and weeks and months I ate and drank and wore pajamas and like others, blew up like Orson Welles.
I had, however, a lovely butterfly and hummingbird garden and two cats to keep me company. I took long walks with cameras and, as always, continued to explore the world in writing.
But when the world opened up, I got an email. The possibilities of life were upon me. Friends travelled and chided me for staying home. Their trips did not interest me, though. The world had changed, I thought, and was a mere facsimile of what came before. The old joi de vivre seemed strained and somewhat wary. But maybe, I thought, it was simply me.
So when the messages came and then the dinner, the past and present were conjoined. There were happy impossibilities.
My mother has told me at times that I seemed "low." She worries about me, of course. I have never been a "low" guy. Not even after the terrible accident, not during my months of crippled therapy sessions learning to move my arm and torso again, nor in returning to the gym and the unimaginably light weights where hundreds of pounds used to be. Nope. I didn't moan or whine.
But somewhere something changed. I lost energy. I lost drive. I lost confidence, even among friends.
Like everyone else in America, I've been reading about the use of hallucinogens in curing everything from alcoholism to depression. Article after article touts the outcomes of LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA therapies. I've had my doubts. Growing up when I did, I knew lots of hippie burnouts. LSD had not brought any of the people I knew enlightenment. Indeed, I saw some of the brightest minds of my generation. . . get dumb. I've never been much of a drug user smoking pot on rare occasions. I've always touted opioids, of course, and have romanticized the smoking of opium which I have never done. Like Baba Ram Das, I've always thought the way to enlightenment was through thoughtful living. And as much as I love the wild writings of Hunter S. Thompson, for me, the drug use was only metaphorical. Watching Thompson's great meltdown over the years seemed an apocryphal tale.
But somehow, I've collected a great number of drugs in recent years. I've used small amounts of Xanax to help me sleep from time to time, then marijuana gummies. Once they were legalized, I had plenty. Then a former colleague at the factory gave me some LSD which I put in the freezer. I procured a large batch of mushrooms from Oregon. A friend who grows pot gave me a big jarful. All of these things sat untouched. I started a yoga practice again and began some guided meditations. The way to a better life was through a more wholesome existence. But man. . . between yoga, the gym, and meditation, I was spending half my life.
Out with the factory kids one night not long ago, I mentioned having a freezer full of mushrooms. I was stunned.
"Yea. . . I don't really like mushrooms."
"No. I prefer dropping acid."
Around the table, the kids told drug tales of adventure and daring. The shrink was the biggest surprise, liking to trip, he said, but preferring the hight on MDMA.
"Oh, yes. . . I love Molly. When I was clubbing. . . . "
Jesus Christ, I thought these kids the straightest of arrows. I mean, without doubt, I am always the weirdest one in the bunch. I have always had to watch myself, for I can clear a room with a single idea or confession. But these weren't burnouts. They had achieved. They were high functioning Ph.Ds.
For all my strangeness, I realized I was the most wholesome one in the crowd.
But circumstances conspire, and going out and seeing my incredibly beautiful friend for a mere moment. . . it had merely shaken loose some old debris, a life remembered, perhaps no longer attainable. I'd been sinking too much lately. I had no purpose now, no large responsibilities, no stage on which to perform. And by god, I had been a fantastic performer. I performed such daring feats to astonished and admiring crowds. The high wire, the trapeze, all the while laughing. Though here and there, one might become accomplished in one trick or another, no one could perform them all. Now I sat like a retired clown telling stories nobody believes.
So fuck it. I needed a lift. Micro dosing, they say. Just little zips and pings. All of Silicone Valley is doing it. Makes them more creative, more attentive. It delivers a certain zest and focus. So. . . O.K. What the fuck.
It had been two weeks on Saturday since I'd entertained my friend, but it seemed an eternity. In a short time we'd been through two hurricanes and more. I had decided to grill a steak, potatoes, and asparagus. I bought a good bottle of wine. I'd been reading about the incredible benefits of eating mushrooms. Micronutrients. Super foods. Not the psychedelic kinds. All of the rest. I'd bought some mushroom powder that day to put into coffee. I wanted to see if I felt what the Mayo Clinic and the WebMd websites said I would. But I wanted to micro dose, too. I wanted to feel a little ping, a little zip. I wanted to be creative and walk on that old high wire again. So. . . I grabbed the bag of mushrooms from the freezer and scraped off the smallest of pieces lying in the package. Microdosing. I put them in the microwave and heated them thinking to kill any bacteria that might be clinging to them.
When dinner was done, the wine half gone, I poured a scotch. I ate half a gummy. And then, fuck it, I ate the shrooms.
I sat down and watched tv for awhile, and at ten, getting sleepy, I went to bed.
I woke up howling. It was a strange, plaintive sound similar to the one I heard a bull make in a bullring in Madrid after it had been stuck by the picador with his banderillas. He simply stopped in the middle of the ring, raised his head, and let go the high wailing cry of a banshee. That is what I heard lying there in bed in the profound darkness . The cry was my own. What the fuck was that, I thought, and I closed my eyes to return to sleep. But in a minute, I had woken to the same wailing. And then, like a wounded beast, a low, growling cry from deep in my chest, my muscles tensing in panic. I realized with alarm that I was not micro dosing. Something really strange and deep was happening. The cries alternated in periodic waves.
I got out of bed. I stood naked in the darkness disoriented, ready for flight or fight. It was midnight.
"Shit, shit, shit," I thought. I couldn't go back to bed. I had to see what this was, would need to ride it out. I walked through the house growling and tensing.
"I want milk," I thought. I need to boil some milk."
I knew this was a dangerous idea. There was still a tiny rational part of my brain telling me so. No, no, I argued. I can do this. I pulled out a pan and poured in the milk. See? See? Now be careful with the flame. Don't forget. Just stand here 'til it's ready. I got the Golden Milk turmeric and spices powder and poured it into the near boiling liquid. Then I poured the boiled mixture into a mug without spilling. I thought I might need to go outside, need to walk into the dark. No, no, said the little rational voice deep within my brain, that is not a good idea. You are not dressed. Bad things will happen.
I walked to the couch. The room was dark. I leaned back and covered my mouth with a pillow and screamed. I didn't want the neighbors hearing me and calling the cops. I was like a wounded carnivore, cornered, surrounded. The low, deep chested howls continued, fists closed, arms and shoulders and chest and back and all the muscles of my legs flexed and ready. And then the plaintive wail. The little rational voice was talking, trying to figure what this was all about. I was pissed and wanted whatever it was to come near me. I'd make it pay.
"You're processing all those repressed thoughts and memories about your accident," the voice said. It made sense. I rubbed my hands over my broken bones, my clavicle, my shoulder, my ribs and scapula. I felt the deep scars from the chest tubes and the long incision from the surgery. More and deeper howling, more desperate cries. I shook my fists in the air, but I felt frail. "I will fight you with my fists," I thought. "Come close. Just come near."
I was a wounded beast. Just that. Caught, my foot in a trap, unable to flee. I felt wronged. I would die. Just come close and let me exact my revenge.
I knew death was near.
I made another cup of hot milk. I sipped it between howls. I was certain I was purging all the fear and anger I had repressed about the accident for so many years. This might be good for me, I thought. Surely this is needed. There was more to it as well. It was the entire package, Ili's abandonment, the loss of the circus tent, the isolation. Jesus Christ, yes. . . all the things that wounded me, all the things that trapped me. Just come near enough and let me get hold.
By two, I was exhausted. The adrenaline dump was done. I went back to bed for a strange night of sleep.
I woke at my usual hour. I got up in the dark, dazed and cloudy but no longer high. I hit the button on the coffee maker. I tried to read. I tried to write, but my brain was not verbally functioning. Where was the clarity, where was the bliss I'd been promised? I had only the miasma of a pre-verbal fog.
A long, slow, cold, grey dawn. The temperature dropped. Then the rain. My body hurt. I kept returning to the thermostat to raise the heat. I would be trapped inside all day.
I couldn't read. I had a low hum of nervous energy. I decided to organize the mountains of stuff I have stored in the study. Closets full. Drawers full. I pulled one out, full of papers, pictures, paraphernalia. I sat down and began making my way through. I thought to discard things. Oh, no, not this. There were photos I would have to keep. I put them in a pile. I would go to the store this week and get more albums. Scraps of paper. Written on a piece of cardboard in German letters not my own was an address. Nothing else. Who was this from? The German girl with whom I was in love in Peru? Here were notes and letters. I read them, testaments to my passion and profound influence. They proclaimed love. I read the names. I could no longer remember. Stacks of them. Some of their faces came to mind. Here was one from a woman who'd seen me in the streets years after I knew her. She wanted me to know. My god, I've saved everything. There was nothing to get rid of and I am terrible at organizing. The floor filled up with piles of paper and pictures. Stupid things. The ticket stub to the Ryan Adams concert I saw at the newly renovated and just opened Beacon Theater. Nope. Won't ditch it.
There was artwork I'd made, image transfers, hand painted images, small encaustics, collages. I'd once been adamantly creative. I've done nothing. It fell upon me.
The music played, sweet, sad, sorrowful things. I was lonely. I heard from no one. I needed a nap.
The dark, damp day drifted by like that until it was time to go to my mother's house for dinner. I had convinced her to cook. We sat and chatted as usual. My cousin and her husband had gotten Covid. It had caused her to go deaf in her left ear. The neighbor had confessed to the same thing. Jesus. I had never heard of that. This winter might be bad, my mother said. Yes, I agreed. We should stay away from indoor crowds. This was not a happy thought. I don't think I can take another season of isolation.
Sunday, November 20, 2022
I find it impossible to write this morning. I went too far last night in search of peace, in the pursuit of bliss. I confronted things. . . I don't know. How much does one confess? What is true and what is fiction?
I'll need to come back to myself. The day is cloudy, cool and damp. . . predictable gloom. I'll soak in the tub, drink tea. . . all the things I thought I would do before.
The photo is apropos. Phone camera. What a world.
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Breaking from the little narrative I've been writing. I think I will return to it, but who knows. Life is weird and strange with twists and turns like a snake eating its own tail. That was fun to write, but it really makes little sense.
I've been out the past two nights. It is partially the fault of a girl. She told me I had to get out among the throng, that I needed to see people and interact. She told me this awhile ago in writing, then, later, in person. She encouraged me to go out, meet with women. She wanted to give me my mojo back.
I've been there now. She's right. It was probably necessary. Like annual trips to the dentist or the required colonoscopy.
I'm not saying I didn't have fun.
I took the train back to the factory town for "Friendsgiving." Fried turkey and fixings on a large patio on a cool, clear evening. Gas heaters hissing, glasses clinking. It was a large group some of whom I had not seen in a very long time. Smile. Shake hands. Exclaim. Ask the usual questions. Answer with the usual answers. More smiles.
I finally lighted at a table with the customary friends. Quipping and laughing. I never drink much when I'm out with the factory crowd, a longstanding habit, so after three, I was ready for the train ride home.
"Hey, man, we'll give you a ride."
I sit longer, a passenger prisoner.
I had done well all night, said the right things, avoided the wrong ones. I'd not offended anyone as far as I knew. Then, on the ride home, I stepped in the shit. I told my progressive friend that I had a lot of republican friends who I enjoyed, clever friends with keen senses of humor.
"They are not afraid to say the wrong thing. They'll go inappropriately off-color."
"How can that be funny if it is inappropriate?"
Delivered with "that" tone. What could I say?
"It's just funny."
Last night I was out with the gymroids, an especially incorrect group. You have to bring your boxing gloves to hang with them. Again we were outside on a cool and lovely night. We were half a mile from my house at one of my favorite bars. The big courtyard stretched for a quarter block with gas heaters and high, triangular awnings attached to tall poles. Things got weird fast. A couple of fellows had been out the night before and were still "partying." The infamous d.j. had begun drinking earlier in the afternoon. I sat with the fellow who keeps picking up the tabs and ordering expensive tequilas. Then some decent people came, a married couple. I scooted down to make room for them. I had tilted to the drunken, strange end of the table. In my left ear were the verbal jabs and hideous rumblings. In my right, people were talking about the housing market. I sat next to a nice college biology prof who was getting a lesson in the strange, but somehow I was ending up the brunt of every joke, and now the fucker was chiming in. The fellow on my other side was telling that crowd that he had owned "that ranch" once. He sold it for $110 million. Just one of the deals that made him.
The waitress was young, beautiful, and sweet. I don't know how. The fellow who sold the ranch told her she looked like Zoie somebody whose mother was the mother in "Back to the Future." He held up his phone to her to show her the picture. My Tennessee boyfriend began calling her "Miss America." It was getting hard to take. I could feel the embarrassment crawl up the back of my neck as I remembered my progressive friend's jibe.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a woman slid up beside me and gave me a big hug. I turned. It was the wife of a friend I hadn't seen in years. He had made a fortune as a partner in a crane company. The nice couple who had joined us knew her. Their daughters had roomed together in college. The woman was still attractive the way all the rich village women are, with good hair, beauty treatments, private trainers, trips to the oceans, trips to the mountains, always in beautiful suites. She stayed a long time and sang my praises. The gymroids don't know me this way. Somehow I have picked up nicknames like "Wild Man," and "Shaman."
"He's got poppy juice at his house and a freezer full of mushrooms. We're all going to go over there one night and party."
"Uh. . . no, no you're not. Stay off my lawn."
As I write this, a text comes in from one of the gymroid derelicts.
"Highlight of last night was when Bob called C.S.'s female friend Yoda for interrupting the conversation. Lol"
"How can it be funny if it is inappropriate?"
I like them all, you know, but I do get worn out. I was ready to leave and got up to settle my bill with the waitress.
"Look out! Wild Man's a Shaman."
I grinned weakly and overtipped.
My Tennessee boyfriend asked if I would give him a ride home. He'd been drinking for two days and had to get up at four in the morning to drive back to Tennessee where he is building some resort cottages on a piece of mountain that he owns.
When we got into my Xterra, it would not start. Shit. And again. And again. It became embarrassing.
When we pulled up to his house, he said, "This is where the rich people live." I didn't tell him my ex lived a few houses down. I don't tell most people much. I like my life on the DL. I'd rather be a mystery.
"Did you build this house," I asked him.
"I bought it from. . . ." He named a famous realtor.
"Oh. . . really? I was at her wedding. She had a pretty daughter who was taking over the business."
"She lives in the house behind me," he said.
He didn't invite me in.
Two nights out at opposite ends of the planet. One group likes ideas. The other, money. I just made a journey through the contemporary American landscape.
I think I'll pick up my mother and bring her to my house to grill steaks tonight. It is Thanksgiving week. We will be eating with her neighbors Thursday. A couple weeks later, it is my mother's birthday. I'll be spending time with the aged.
These were all suggestions from a girl I know. She has left the islands work in Gotham. Big turn around. Big life.
I think I need to turn inward a bit. I need to deflate, meditate, do a little of what the Goop crowd calls "self care." But who knows. The season is fleetingly upon us.
I'd rather spend it, though, with my own true love.
Friday, November 18, 2022
As will happen with boys, my interest turned to games. We ran, we leaped, we threw rocks and rode bicycles. And one day, I was on a team. Organized sports. Crackertown was small, but we had a Boys Club with leagues. It was Pee Wee league and there were only two teams--The Red Caps and the Black Caps. We played one another every game. I was on the Black Caps, and on my first at bat, I hit a home run. On the way home, my father gave me the ball. The Black Caps won every game but one. It was awful. One day, though, the game was close and I made an errant throw. They scored and won the game.
Thursday, November 17, 2022
When we moved to Florida, my parents had nothing arranged. They didn't know where we would live. They simply sold the house, packed up clothes, and drove to the Sunshine State. My first "home" was in a travel court made up of cottages surrounding a central courtyard, but we traveled the state as my parents searched for work. My father was a skilled tool and dye maker, and he knew he could get work wherever there was a machine shop. My mother found a job at a huge defense contracting company. They had a policy that prevented married couples being employed. My father had been offered a job there, too, but he thought it a better situation for my mother. He was hired by another defense firm in a neighboring town. Once established, they rented a house in a cracker neighborhood between the two defense plants. Not long after, they bought a house that came up for sale just down the block.
The kids in this neighborhood were nothing like the kids I knew at the nursery school. They didn't have toys, didn't wear shoes or shirts. The lawns was made of sand spurs and sand, but their feet were toughened by walking barefoot on paved roads. The first day I went out with the neighbor kids, they were playing war. I had a toy rifle. They had sticks. "Kyoo, kyoo," they would intone, imitating the sounds of guns and bullets. They were fascinated by my toy rifle. One of the bigger boys broke it. I learned quickly not to bring my toys outside. Soon, I too had abandoned my shirt and shoes. I learned to play with sticks.
One day, the little cracker neighbor boy my own age and I were arguing. His older brother hit me and we fought. I had never been in a fight before, but somehow I beat him up and made him cry. It felt terrible and I wished to cry, too. But I didn't. Rather, I walked home victorious.
The next day, the kid shot me in the back with a homemade bow and arrow constructed of a sapling, a piece of string, and a stick sharpened to a point in the street. Fortunately, the bow was not powerful and the arrow missed my kidney by a quarter inch.
I was learning fast.
My mother enrolled me in school. My first grade teacher was Miss Farmer. She was young and, as I remember her, dramatically beautiful. She wore her hair fashionably pinned and dressed in pencil skirts and what seemed to a young boy elegant dresses. I was in love.
In those days, children were grouped according to their intelligence and achievements. I was placed in the Bluebirds, the highest group. This was owed to my grandmother, of course, who had doted on me and had given me a head start on learning. I liked sitting in the small group with Miss Farmer. It was the best part of the day.
It wasn't until second grade that I liked another girl. Susan. Everyone liked Susan. She was very proper and well behaved. She wore her hair in pigtails and wore smock dresses, white socks, and shiny black Mary Jane shoes. She was the smartest kid in class. When Valentine's Day came, her shoebox was full of the largest Valentine cards. I wanted her to like me.
Nothing ever came of it, though. She was already a girl self-possessed.
One day at the grocery store, my mother was talking to the mother of one of the kids in my class.
"Did you hear about Miss Farmer?"
"She committed suicide."
My mother looked at me, concerned.
"That's terrible. Why?"
The other mother shrugged.
I think now that Miss Farmer had been a manic depressive. There were days when she was happy, but there were days when she was darkly beautiful, too. I had imprinted on her, I think. The future was taking shape.
She had been something marvelous in a terrible and hideous land.
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
First love. She was five, I guess. We were in a daycare center my mother had decided I should go to, what would now be called pre-school. I had been watched by my grandmother until then in the country, a small village dominated by my great grandfather's small farm and the woods above it. A few houses on the hilly, crooked roads, most families related in some way. My mother decided I needed to be around other children. I remember the day she took me for my "interview" to see if I would be going there. It was in the city where my mother worked. The room we entered was a wonderland to me, brightly colored toys, crepe paper creations, comic books. I looked at one of the comics as my mother chatted with a man. He asked me what I was reading, and I explained the visual story in words as it seemed to be unfolding. He asked me if I could read. I wasn't sure.
"He's a very bright boy," the man told my mother. I could feel myself fill with pride. My grandmother had taught me the alphabet, a few words, how to write my name. "Yes," I thought, "I am smart."
Mornings now, instead of going to my grandmother's house, I rode into the city with my mother. The rides home are what I remember most. My mother would play the radio and sometimes sing along. It was something new, something I didn't know. It tickled me, as they used to say. It made me laugh with happiness and wonder. We would get home just in time for me to watch "The Mickey Mouse Club." I had formed a crush on Annette.
I'd never been around kids before other than my two cousins, one, a girl, a year older, and one, a boy a year younger. Being the first boy in the family came with perks. I got a lot of attention. But there were twenty or so kids at daycare. There were already cliques. The toys fascinated me, though, and I often sat alone playing as I did at home.
There was fenced yard in back of the daycare and stick horses that the boys would "ride" around like banshees. I followed. At the back of the yard near the fence was a playhouse where the girls would sit. I followed the boys on my stick horse to the playhouse where they would torment the girls. One of the girls, pretty and fair haired, gave me a kiss. The moment was transformative. I had been chosen. I had been made.
When I sat alone with toys after that, she would come over and sit with me. We'd stack blocks together, create things. She smiled often and we would giggle. Like me, she was quieter than the others. We didn't have words, but we knew when we looked one another in the eyes, little chemical flashes and blasts in the body and in the brain. Sometimes she would get up to go to play with others. I'd watch her laugh with other boys. This confused me.
When nap time came, we went to cots lined up end to end and side by side, sheets draped between them. She would get the cot next to mine and pull up the bottom of the sheet. We would hold hands and giggle. We got caught, of course, and were separated.
One day, I got a terrible pain in my gut. They called my mother who came from work to take me to a doctor. I was placed into a hospital ward overnight. They put me in a gown and in a bed with high guardrails. My mother left. I had never slept away from my parents before. The large, open room with other beds, other children. A strange semi-darkness, the quiet footsteps of nurses. Sometime deep in the night, a scream pierced the quiet, loud. . . unending. Terror. I'd never heard a siren. I cried out. I wanted my mother. A nurse came to quiet me.
My parents arrived to get me sometime the next day.
I never went back to the daycare. The river behind our house, the Little Miami, flooded. Soon, my parents sold the house and we moved to Florida. Palm trees and hanging moss, everything green and sunny. We had never seen such sun.
Perhaps the clouds of my youth had shaped my temperament. But I liked the sun. I was put into another day care. There were new girls. They were more forward, less flirty. They liked to show the boys their underwear on the swing sets. They would swing high, pump their legs, and laugh. One day, two of them took me behind a toolshed, pulled down their pants, and kissed me. Then, laughing, they ran away.
This was a rough and more terrifying country. This was my new life now. This is how I would grow up.
At night, though, alone in my bed, I dreamed of my first girl, that first kiss. We lived in a playhouse. I would ride my stick horse out and then back to her again. She always smiled as if she had been waiting.
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
You won't believe this. Frangipani. That's the name of the villa in which Skylar is ensconced. Hoodoo voodoo. I'm not a big believer. . . but really. My travel/art buddy says his life is chockfull of amazing coincidences. Perhaps one simply needs to be attuned.
Next time I'll try patchouli.
I've not taken a photograph in months now except those glamor shots of my dinners and drinks. Sky sends me snaps of the work she is doing in the islands. Models in Barbizon poses, cameramen hunched down into viewfinders sending tethered images back to a digital operator tweaking, color grading, a team of stylists. . . . Whew! That's a lot of work to make an image. Meanwhile Sky sends beautiful phone pics and videos that were made in a couple seconds. It all makes me wonder.
I was teethed on another kind of photography. I love a snapshot aesthetic, spontaneous and not overthought or overproduced. But I had a studio, too, where I did all sorts of experiments with materials, transfers, etc. But not enough. Not nearly.
Fashion photographer--William Klein, David Bailey, Sarah Moon--a pretty girl, pretty clothes, a camera.
In some way, I guess, I got caught up between failures. Not complete failures, but personal ones. In the ensuing years since the studio, photography has blossomed and bloomed. There are wonderful photographers and fantastic images everywhere.
I've become saturated.
In the main, I want to photograph my life again. Simply wonderful snapshots of a life well-lived.
"You wanna make pictures, kid, first you get a life."
That's a tall order. . . a giant first step. "Get a life."
O.K. I have one. The cleaning crew comes today. I won't be photographing them though I can visualize some stunning, formal large format photographs. I have a pre-Thanksgiving Day Thanksgiving on Thursday with some of the folk from the factory. One of the fellows, a truly wonderful cook, is deep frying a turkey at one of his favorite bars. Outside, of course. Wonderful pictures in my head. . . but I won't be packing a camera. Friday night out with the gymroids? These new outings have gained momentum. There is lots of laughter and weirdness, and the stories and speculations are wild, so of course, more people want to come. But. . . I am no events photographer.
Last night, however, I watched some camera porn on YouTube. A fellow was singing the praises of his little Fuji x100v camera. I have one. It is the simplest camera in the world, a lovely thing as pretty as a Leica. I thought maybe I'd start toting it again. It is small, weighs almost nothing, and almost fits into a pocket. No film to carry. No lenses. No chemicals. No developing. You don't even have to perform digital postproduction if you don't want to. You can just shoot jpegs and manipulate the look inside the camera.
I may. Maybe. I don't know. I was just thinking.
The holiday season is rushing by. The weather hasn't been much like autumn. Gunmetal gray days, damp and dreary. But the forecast is for change. I should check my horoscope.
Monday, November 14, 2022
I watch a young girl smother a young boy with hugs and kisses. She jumps up and down. He stands stolid as if he's earned something. But he has earned nothing. She has made him. It is a gift. And at any minute, she can take it back. If and when she does, as far as he has risen, twice as far will he fall.
He might get sad. He might get bitter. His reaction may be conditioned or it may be genetic. I don't know. But this is the plight of boys.
Older, he might find someone who adores him completely. It is a miracle. He may be careful or he may go all in, but there is always the knowledge of the first great fall. He's a little more careful walking the tightrope this time.
Beautiful girls have all the power in relationships, of course. It is an imbalance where they hold dominion. But time has its way, and things even out--or maybe even shift. They've married. They've had a child. The relationship deadens a bit as it solidifies. There is the inevitable weight gains, a little more belly, crow's feet begin to form. He fills out, she gets botox, goes to the gym. One day, somebody pays attention again. A revival of feeling. Sex in an elevator. Something exciting. The mind will not stop thinking about him, about her.
One day, one of them is devastated. The other one feels as if they have freed their hand from the snake cage. Maybe they divorce.
O.K. That's pretty old fashioned. That's pretty binary. The world doesn't work that way any longer. It is documented, however, that 60% of marriages fail, but I've not seen a breakdown of heterosexual vs. homosexual marriages. Maybe New World couples are more successful.
But I doubt it. People are people, beautiful, flawed, hopeful, and uncertain. Frailty, I would guess, is equally distributed.
I just looked at statistics. Second marriages end in divorce at much higher rates than first. Third marriages are almost doomed from the start.
Interestingly, 50% of couples get back together. That seems awfully high to me, but it also makes sense. Time and circumstance wither us like old fruit, but someone who has loved you when you were beautiful will always see that person, that quality, something others may not.
How do lifetime partners do it? They
see through the ravages of time.
Love is exhausting. Love lost is enervating.
And she said, "losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow"
And yet. . . what is life without love?
The world seems to work against it. It is a loveless land full of broken hearts and love songs.
Desire and longing and looking for someone to fulfill and complete us.
"The Sorrows of Young Werther" (link).
Sturm and Drang.
What could one tell that young boy at what seems his greatest triumph? There is nothing. In that most luminous and glorious moment, he stands far above the world. This is his unjust desert.
One way or another, he will never get over it. It will linger like the remains of a mysterious disease without cure.
Love, I mean. There is no cure for love.
Well, Grace she's gone, she's a half-written poem
She went out for cigarettes and never came home
And I swallowed the sun and screamed and wailed
Straight down to the dirt so I could find her trail
Spread out across the Great Divide
Well, I just came to talk, Saint Valentine
I never pictured you living here with the rats and the vines
Ain't that my old heart hanging out on your lines
You're all fucked up, Saint Valentine
Now I circle the bars on the promenade
While the girls in the glass, they're just throwing me shade
And I'm saving my coins up for Jingling Jane
She's out plucking strings in the pouring rain
See I'm all crooked feet, Saint Valentine
I've circled this map till it caught on fire
Now Grace she's left you just skin and bone
Well, you hang up your hat, but you can't call it home
You've tried and you've tried, but you can't call it home
You're the loneliest one, Saint Valentine
You're the loneliest one, Saint Valentine
You're all fucked up, Saint Valentine
Sunday, November 13, 2022
I sent this picture around to some friends on Friday night. One of the Ph.D.s from the factory, a woman who wrote a memoir for her dissertation, wrote back:
You should write short stories for each of your cocktail pictures and make a coffee table book. I'd buy it. 😊
Two things. Yup, educated people use emojis. Sky was surprised when we began texting again that I did. But I have been a fan of emojis all along. They are like ideograms. So one night, drunk, probably, or maybe simply giddy, I asked my replacement at the factory who holds a Ph.D. in theory, " I was just watching an art show part of which was about pictographs and petroglyphs when I got a text to which I replied '😵💫."' I was asked to translate, but I said that like petroglyphs, there was not a one to one verbal equivalent. Then I said that Derrida would love them. So. . . what do YOU think. What would Derrida make of emojis?"
To which he replied:
😂🤣😂 well, ultimately, whole emojis are embued with socially mediated meaning, they are diadic, and this less prone to the exposure of the gaps in meaning we get from triadic uses of language.
IOW, an emoji has a distinct connection to the meaning it hopes to achieve...words are always only socially mediated, hence fraught
I get lost in the abbreviations people use, though. I have to Google them to see what they mean. I found that I can just copy an emoji and paste it in a Google search, too. When I got this one, I was really confused.
I thought it was that Shaka sign all the kids shoot to one another--hang loose. Or the Sign of the Horn--rock on. I'm not saying I'm a fluent speaker of the language. . . I just don't mind it.
What was the other thing? Shoot. My mind drifted. Oh. . . yea. . . maybe I should make that cocktail story coffee table book. Nice idea. I could include things other than cocktails, too.
My morning began weirdly enough. I didn't sleep most of the night. I got up before five and did what I do and was ready to go back to bed when I got a text from MIA. Would I be up to take a call? Oh hell, yea, I said.
After the call, I was too jacked for bed, so I ruffled my hair and went to breakfast. Three eggs, over medium, buttery grits, thick cut maple bacon, and a huge biscuit. It was good.
And it was wrong. I had a big belly and was beginning to fade. Back home, I fell into slumber.
It was noon when I got up, and I was still very fat, so I decided to hit the trail for a little exercise walk. Stretch, walk, twist, walk, walk fast, funny walk, windmills, front kicks, stretch, fast walk. . . .
What the hell. No one was around. I tried the old man shuffle. Hey! Nothing hurt. Further. Cool. Walk, shuffle, walk, shuffle. Mile after mile, then the big overpass hill, over and over. Hell yes, the world was spinning under my feet. Like Superman, I was turning back time.
When I was done, I decided to drive to Fresh Market and get some sushi tuna. They have incredibly beautiful cuts. I looked like a cripple getting out of the car.
Back home, I decided to take an Epsom Salts soak. With lavender. That's just how it comes. As the water ran, I poured a Belgian Ale, then sank into the steamy water. Beer and a bath. Not a good choice if you are wanting to do anything else afterwards. I came out limp as somebody else's noodle. It was almost time to go see ma.
A quick trip to the liquor store to say hi to my friends. I grabbed a bottle of sake, too.
Last Saturday night. . . I had company. I got a text from the islands. "Send me music! And porn (i.e. descriptions of dinner)."
I'd decided to make tuna kobachi. First try. Seemed easy enough, but oh those Asian spices can be confusing.
A beautifully romantic dinner for one. God it was good. And a little sad. I sent it with a note to TropiGirl. It was time for worm killer.
I am reading James Salter's "Light Years" again. The opening chapter is a lesson in prose poetry. I'd forgotten it all, it seems. He channels Fitzgerald through Hemingway's prose and Robert Frost's sense of the pastoral. The room was nicely lit as I sat with a whiskey at my elbow. My emo music station was thrilling. Salter, beautiful sad songs, the slight yellow light falling on the tribal carpet and battered chest, 19th century things. . . . all around me color and texture, shadow and light. . . .
A text. I send another song. It's all I had. It's what I got.
I continue reading. Chapter Two--Nedra and the dinner party. Chapter Three--Viri and the shirts. Salter's obsession with beautiful things and what we remember through the passage of time. The arousal of the senses, conscious sensuality. . . hubris.
I was too jazzed for bed. TropiGirl asleep, I still smelled frangipani. I lingered over everthing late into the night.
I still don't sleep. Five, six hours later, I get up. Coffee, sunrise, the house still littered with last night's remains.
I am showing GREAT restraint here today. Phone pics of my sad life. I hardly have a story. Just one right now. Thump, thump, thump.
Saturday, November 12, 2022
It seems last Saturday was a month ago. Time's twisted logic. It never travels at a steady rate. Since Saturday, I haven't been right. Perhaps it was the shifting of the clocks. It wasn't that, of course, but it hasn't helped. And then a hurricane. Strange forces conspire.
Last Saturday was too long ago.
I went back to the gym yesterday. So did everybody else. It was an absolute germ fest. I'm getting VERY paranoid about it. The tenant doesn't have the flu. She has Covid and is in quarantine. My cousin went on vacation and got it, too. Both of them are terribly ill. It hit them like a tank. I'm staying outside the rest of the year.
There is a usual early group at the gym. I mean, they are the Village Idiots. They speak in conspiratorial tones, love Jesus, aspire and pretend to be something much more than they are. The men talk about sports, everything from football to golf. They relive games and matches and analyze them as if it were a serious work of art. They are adamant about politics, too. They are on the wrong side. They are smug and dumb and clannish. I used to go to the gym earlier which is why I hadn't spoken to anyone at the gym in twenty years.
When I started going a bit later, it was a different crowd. They are a little loopy. I didn't talk to them for a long while, too, but they were much friendlier and coerced me into their conversation. They laugh a lot and make off-color comments. I like this group fine.
Yesterday, though, the two groups overlapped at the gym and there was a very weird vibe. And there was somebody I had never seen there before. He looked like he'd spent time in a Brazilian prison or had grown up in the favela. His mug shot face never smiled. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was a fighter and not an amateur one, either. He wore some MMA gym's t-shirt and glanced around the room in a menacing way. Turns out he is friendly with some of the morning crew.
My Tennessee boyfriend, as Sky refers to him, is a good MMA fighter, but I know he is not in the same league as old Monkey Face, and what I saw made me uneasy. It was obvious that Monkey Face had some hard-on for Tennessee. The guy changed the whole dynamic of the place, set it on edge. He was a real thug.
Tennessee had bought me some gummies at the dispensary, so when he had finished his workout, I walked out with him to his car.
"Did you see the guy in the MMA shirt," he said.
"Yea. How could I not. He walks around like a real asshole."
"I think he's a trainer at that Los Vegas gym. If he is. . . ."
He got on his phone and started looking him up.
"I saw him on the Boulevard the other night. My wife said, 'Why is that guy staring at you." I said I didn't know."
"He looks like a real fun guy. Smart, too. I say we just put a cap in his ass."
I could tell my buddy was unnerved. If this fucker is going to be around the gym, it is going to be difficult to laugh. I know this knucklehead. I grew up with the type. Being around him is like being in the room with a retarded pit bull.
"Relax. Bobo here is really a good dog, aren't you Bobo."
But he's a good reminder of the dangerous world. I live in a bubble. I've spent my adult life getting in. I didn't grow up in a favela, but it was sure as shit Crackertown, and I can tell you, it sucks. I spent my early life dealing with criminals, always keeping a wary eye when walking alone, getting gang raped every other week. No. . . that didn't happen only because I was a guy, but I can't imagine what is was like for the girls. The prettiest ones all had the toughest boyfriends. Protection. I did have trouble because of them, those pretty girls. They liked me because I had long hair and was in a band. That didn't go over well with guys named T-Bone and Pork Chop. That's when I learned to do the old 007. James Bond was an escape artist. He was always running away. Yup. Bond. James Bond. I'd hear the theme song as I ran.
I can't run anymore. Can't fight, either. So Bobo is a bother. Not for me in a direct sense, but I don't like the tension. Something will have to be done. Meanwhile, the levity has been sucked out of the room.
Not for me, though. I don't care. I'm an emo and just want to lie on the couch with My Own True Love in my Leave It To Beaver 'hood with the doctors and lawyers and Indian Chiefs.
I've decided I am going to give my Tennessee boyfriend a print. I've given prints away to friends before. I'm not taking money from them. Tennessee's a real good guy. Stand up. Yup.
Skylar flew off to a Caribbean Island for a fashion shoot today. For a week. Maybe more. She will be all sunbaked and toasty when she returns. She's working with one of her NYC friends there. They intend to have fun.
Not me. I have a different kind of work to do. I cleaned up the yard at my mother's house yesterday and must do mine today. There is that and there are a million other things.
We are all trapped by something. Only once in awhile, here and there, somebody sprouts wings.
I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin’
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’