Thursday, June 20, 2024

Random Notes

I think it should say the doctor is "far out."  But I get their drift.  

Or I did when C.C. sent this to me yesterday.  I'm not getting much of anything this morning.  Muzzy.  Took sleep aids last night and still slept fitfully.  Woke up to an early equinox.  I think it is due to global warming, but I'm uncertain.  That side of my brain is most asleep.  There is no way I can make a narrative, so. . . just a bunch of random notes.  

This is the hole they dug in my yard beside my driveway.  I watched them as I wrote yesterday's post.  Just before I went to my mother's house, I saw them filling it in.  Two big fellows, sweaty and wet with rain.  

When I walked out, I said, "Looks just like it did!"  They looked up surprised, then laughed.  

"Oh, don't worry.  They're gonna fix it.  Unfortunately, we're gonna have to dig it up again anyway."

"You mean this isn't the final resting place?"

Confused looks.  "Huh?"

"The body.  They are going to dig up the body?"

Oh, we were having a swell time.  They said they'd like to come to Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year . 

I haven't had a wallet since my car was broken into.  I've just kept my driver's license, credit card, and money in a rubber band.  Why?  I simply haven't thought about it.  I had an old wallet in one of my drawers, I remembered one day, so I pulled it out.  Black.  "Genuine Cowhide," it says.  Try-fold.  So that's where my social security card has been!  How old was the wallet?  I'm guessing from at least the 1970s.  Could have been a Christmas gift.  Not sure.  Back "in the day," wallets were like. . . well, my dad called it a pocketbook.  His was as thick as a brick sitting in the rear left pocket of his baggy pants.  It held all sorts of things.  A little money, some pictures, the usual licenses and bank paraphernalia, notes and reminders.  It had many places to hide things.  Wallets came with those little plastic windows, too, where people kept pictures of their loved ones.  My black, tri-fold, genuine cowhide wallet had them, too.  What the hell.  I put my stuff in it.  I carried it for two days.  

Yesterday I ordered a wallet.  Trim, card carrier.  

I used to have a money clip.  Scoff if you will.  I've had all sorts of things.  This one was silver and engraved.  At one point, I thought to use it, but I could never find it.  What would have happened to an engraved silver money clip?  I don't think I would have thrown it away.  

Swedes sing songs, get naked, and roll around on the ground to celebrate the solstice.  That's what I read this morning.  Those crazy Swedes.  They used to be so liberal.  Immigration has turned their politics on its head.  

Louisiana passed a law requiring the posting of The Ten Commandments in all public bathrooms.  No. . . school rooms.  My eyes are still foggy.  

Woody Allen had a t.v. show when I was a kid.  He had Billy Graham on as a guest.  Woody asked him, "What's your favorite commandment?"  Graham said, "Given the times, I'd say 'Honor thy mother and thy father," to which Woody replied, "Funny. . . that's my least favorite."  I about shit myself.  Not long after that, I was watching "The Merv Griffin Show."  He had on the comedian Biff Rose who played piano and sang, "I'd hang on the cross too, if I knew what Jesus knew."  The life of that young boy was turned upside down.  

Those wacky republicans. . . they're always fooling around.  They just like to cause mischief.  

Went to Whole Foods for something yesterday.  I walked out with a whole lotta things.  I haven't been eating meat much for awhile now, mostly fish, chicken, and tofu, but when I walked by the meat counter, I had to buy a big fat steak.  I was going to cook it up for dinner.  I'd changed my mind by dinnertime, though, and ended making a big salad topped with chicken.  

Later, I snacked on the fresh figs, goat cheese, and truffled almonds.  Paired with a French Vouvray, Demi-sec. Holy Moly, Joseph and Mary!  I first had fresh figs and goat cheese in Carmel By the Sea at the wonderful, historic  La Playa Hotel (link).  We sat outside in the fresh sea air and had this most romantic snack with a good wine, the name of which I can't remember.  I don't think I've had it since.  Last night. . . oh. . . it was orgastic.  

Yea, yea. . . I remembered that word from the "Gatsby" quote I posted a few days ago.  I would normally say "orgasmic," but "orgastic" doesn't seem so dirty.  

All I'm saying is you should certainly try it.  I don't see fresh figs on sale here very often.  But Christ, paired with that goat cheese. . . something magical happens.  Get the almonds and Vouvray, too.  

There is a "major" news story going around about a Texas minister who has admitted to having an "inappropriate relationship" with a twelve year old girl many years ago.  To protect the not-so-innocent, I'll not report who sent me this reaction to the story.  

Pedos go into the ministry for reasons similar to the ones that Willie Sutton gave to the judge for why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
I liked that a lot and sent it to a friend of mine who is the best, most honored author I know.  In his youth, he became a minister and eventually had his own rural church.  He wrote back:

When I look back now and remember the ministers I worked with, it's amazing to me that I didn't realize how many of them were gay. I just thought of them as  . . . I can't think of a word that completely fits. 

Now I'm like, Holy criminy, they were a bunch of closeted gay guys. The kids of a significant number of them were adopted -- because the wife "can't have children." It should've been OBVIOUS. Right? 

 I wrote back:

Most of the strangeness of life passes before our eyes unnoticed. That's why we have the arts, I'd guess.
I impressed myself with that acute observation, which was, I think, the whole point of posting the rest of it.  I'm a real sage, sometimes.  But yea.  It's true.  

Ministers and priests, Boy Scout leaders, teachers, coaches. . . I'm shocked!

To wit. . . well. . . it seems to have fallen into some kind of "to wit" order in spite of (not despite) my muzziness. . . I watched "Freud's Last Session" last night (link).  It is ostensibly a debate between C.S. Lewis and Freud over the existence of God, but it is much more than that.  It is so beautifully filmed you just lose yourself in it.  Both actors, Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode, are better than any of the trite words I can pull up right now--"fantastic," "wonderful," "marvelous."  I'm just not up to the task.  Maybe later.  But the story of Freud and his daughter, Anna, is well-played.  I don't know much about it, but now I am compelled to look it all up.  

In the movie, Freud says something I've been laughing about for weeks.  He admits to Lewis, "I'm a flawed character!  We are all flawed characters."  

I've been chuckling that scholars and critics so often use that same attack on a person to attack the work the person has done.  I was thinking of Hemingway scholarship, for instance.  For many, we must not accept the work of a flawed character.  

Oh, my!

Sorry, but that's an idiot's offensive.  For me, it is as ludicrous as the insanity plea.  

"He wasn't in his right state of mind when he committed the atrocious act."  I mean, who in their "right mind" commits an atrocity?  It seems a tautological argument to me.  

What artist isn't flawed?  For that matter. . . the devil's in the mirror.  

Which brings us back to the picture of the cat psychiatrist, doesn't it?  I can't help it, I guess.  I just think in narrative ways, even if unconsciously.  

And that's what I got here on the twentieth day of June, the day of equal light and darkness. . . approximately, or so I've read.  In the northern hemisphere, at least, daylight will be shortened a bit each day, and for that, I am grateful.  

Oh. . . I almost forgot one good thing I heard last night.  Before "Freud," I watched a documentary on the very promiscuous if uncomely Peggy Guggenheim who was asked by a reporter, "How many husbands have you had?"

To which she replied, "Mine or other's?"

Oh, God. . . I do love wit.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

All It Would Take

I haven't any pictures to post.  I've tried.  I've been taking them, but I have been trying to shoot film and I keep effing everything up.  Once, I loaded the film but it didn't advance through the camera.  I shot one roll at the wrong iso/asa.  I have a habit of taking different cameras out and not finishing rolls.  Yesterday, I got a wild hair about doing some candid (sneaky) street photos, so I picked up my little Leica CL, the tiniest of Leica film cameras, and attached a 28mm lens.  I was going to shoot blind with zone focusing.  I loaded a roll of Portra 400, a color film.  

That is by way of explanation for what comes later, but let's come back to that.  

My reading night was interrupted by a call from my boyfriend Tennessee.  He was Puff Daddy high, sitting on the balcony of his beachside condo.  First I got some texts, then a call, then a switch to FaceTime so he could show me the sights.  It is a lovely property with a large, long, green space between the condo and the dunes leading to the beach that is manicured as fine as a golf course.  It's good to have money, I thought, with a big house on the lake here in town, a cabin home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a condo at the beach.  I was always fond of ideas.  My rich friends all say, "I always liked money."  When I was reading, they were investing.  When I was younger, their wives and girlfriends. . . oh, never mind that.  I was more interesting, you know, but now. . . whatever. 

I don't like talking on the phone and hardly ever answer a call unless I think it might be something intriguing, of if I feel guilty for not answering someone's call too many times.  The most irritating are the drive time calls.  The most interesting are the ones from girls.  The ratio in recent times, however, has been about a thousand to one.  Girls don't call.  They text.  I get texts from girls.  I got one yesterday while I was at my mother's house.  My phone was in the car, so I didn't get it for over an hour.  

"We're at Ojos.  Come join us."

Ojos is a restaurant at the end of the Boulevard.  Two of the factory girls were there and sent a selfie.  The one who texted was the girl who barely kinda/sorta asks me out.  She looked gorgeous.  I would have gone, but by the time I got home, an hour and a half had passed.  

"Damn, girl. . . give a fellow a little heads up next time."

The line went dead.  Selavy.  

Before mother's, I had gone to the Cafe Strange.  Have I ever told you about that place?  Ho!  It is truly endlessly fascinating.  I wish the town had more places like it.  I don't want to be "a regular" in a place like this, and so I limit my visits.  But I could go every day just to watch.  Girls--always girls--come in dressed in such wonderful and weird costumes and giggle and line up to take pictures in the Photo Booth.  They are making a fortune on that thing.  I am, probably shamefully, one of the only boys I ever see go into it.  I've gone in with women, of course, and have cherished photo strips from the past.  But I go in alone, too.  I do it when nobody is around, sort of sneaky like.  

Otherwise the place is populated by people working on computers, by and large.  Once I sat next to a fellow who was working a help line.  I know a university psychology prof who often does his online classes there.  Then there are the eccentrics who are a bit off, who sit with coffee lost in interior dialogs muttering to themselves.  

As I say, however, there is nowhere else like it in town, so. . . . 

There are a lot of people who work the counter there, almost all women.  Most often they look harried, bothered and bored.   They work in front of the kitchen where the air is warm, and they seem to me coolies laboring in the sun.  They often have a slight sheen.  So who can blame them if they are, at times, surly.  I admit, they make me nervous.  But I don't go so very often, and I almost never see the same counter help for weeks at a time.  But. . . and here's the mystery to me. . . they all seem to recognize me.  Am I the straight guy in the freak show, or am I just another kind of freak?  I always fear the worst, of course. . . "Oh, here comes that weirdo with the. . . " blah blah blah.  

But most often they know what I want at the time of a particular day. . . and I think their attitude changes and they smile.  

"Large mimosa?"

"Cafe con leche?"

Of course, it is probably that I over tip.  I'm certain that the clientele of this place are not big tippers, so. . . yea. . . it could just be the money.  

Or, as has been recently said, it could be that I have a certain charm.  

When I walked in, the woman behind the counter lit up.  She is a "legacy" worker there.  She's been there for many years.  She's a hipster, still is, but she has had kids since she began working there and they are now getting to be big.  She has beautiful sloe eyes and a languorous, musical voice.  

"Hey there," she fairly cooed as if she were meeting a long lost friend.

"Can I get a decaf latte?"

"Sure.  That's a nice camera."

I started to give her a treatise on the little Leica CL.  My hands were shaking, my voice quivering.  I was making no sense.  Why was I even telling this?  Holy shit.  But she stood looking me in the eye, listening.  I was an idiot and here was the evidence.  Still, she listened as if with interest.  

Oh, fuck it.  

"Can I take a photo?"

She looked pleased.  "Sure."

I haven't used this camera for a very long time.  This was not the ideal situation for it.  The viewfinder is small and has grown dim with age.  Nothing is automatic on it and the meter keeps cutting out.  I fumbled with settings fairly panicked, fairly blind.  I tried to trip the shutter, but I hadn't cocked it yet.  I was beginning to sweat.  So, in embarrassment, I just took the photo.  I could barely look her in the eye.  

"I'll send you a copy of it turns out."

I took my coffee to a table and sat down in shame.  I looked at the camera settings.  Fuck--an eight of a second.  It would be blurry.  The aperture was set to 2.0.  There is no way I got focus.  And, it was color film balanced for daylight.  There was mixed window and fluorescent light.  The colors would be wildly off.  

I have to learn my lessons over and over and over.  Why hadn't I brought in my digital M10?  Everything would have been fine.  Lesson learned, once again. . . painfully.  

Outside sat an Asian girl in a pretty unusual getup.  Unusual for this town, I mean.  All of this is everyday in NYC or SF or even LA.  She was spectacular.  I wanted to photograph her, but, per usual. . . . 

All the while, girls lined up at the Photo Booth.  Boys are so dull and unimaginative when it comes to self expression.  Not girls.  I've seen their photo strips that come out of the tray.  They don't just sit on the stool like they are getting mugshots.  They do wonderfully creative things.  I especially like the ones they are giving to their boyfriends like little love notes. 

The world is so very photographable, but I haven't been any good at it lately.  It seems that anymore all I am doing is experimenting.  I go from camera to camera, format to format.  And I've been nervous for no reason.  People want me to take their photographs.  I meet them.  We talk.  These last few years, however, I've grown self-consciously insecure.  I had help to start with, but it has developed into a near psychosis.  So it feels.  I am, it seems, trying something dangerous in a very divided land.  

I watched a documentary on Tom Wolfe last night (link).  That was after I watched one about Kerouac.  Wolfe invented the phrase "New Journalism," but I think that it began with Kerouac.  That's how I taught Contemporary Literature, anyway.  Wolfe, Mailer, Talese, Thompson, and Didion.  They all wrote about distinct cultural phenomena.  Wolfe got famous for his essay on the car culture of California, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," in which he broke with the straight arrow style of traditional journalism.  

Pow. . . Vrroom!!!!

I sat and thought afterwards about the Cafe.  There is a culture there.  What would it take to truly work at writing an essay about it?  Photos and words?  What would it take?

Too much, I concluded, at least in my own hometown.  But goddamnit, it should be done.  All it would take is talent. . . and charm. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024


The invitation came, dropped off on the kitchen door while I was showering.  Attire: Garden Party Chic.  WTF?  In a panic, I went to the closet.  Fucking all my clothes have shrunk on their hangers.  I can only guess it was the humidity.  But, I found a pair of khakis that still fit. . . if I don't mind sucking in my belly a bit.  I have a couple linen jacket that will work.  Shoes didn't shrink, so no problem.  I haven't worn long pants since I left the factory, I think.  Pretty sure.  Nor shoes.  Nor a jacket.  I'll be sweating on the lakefront lawn in the heat and humidity of a sultry southern afternoon like a puffy drunken pig.  Jesus. . . how do I get myself into these things?  I guess I'm a likable guy.  

The film prof gymroid said he and his wife went to a kids birthday party on the weekend, "And you know how those things are.  When we left, my wife was worn out with smiling and carrying on chit-chat.  She said that she liked talking to you because you are just so real." 

Well. . . I took the compliment and gave one in return.  But as one friend told me, you hire someone to work for you and they end up at your Thanksgiving table.  Hell, man. . . even the garbage collectors beep their horn and wave whenever they see me.  I am good, I guess, in a certain crowd.  

I don't think I'll lose weight by Saturday.  I should have scanned the other side of the invitation so you could see the program.  Christ. . . I'll be there all night.  I mean, fuck's sake. . . it's my tree guy!

O.K.  I'm just being a butthole because I'm fat and don't fit into my clothes.  If I had some nice, drapey linen pants that fit, I'd be o.k.  Maybe I'll go down to the Boulevard and see if I can pick a pair up. . . but I am sure to have sticker shock.  

I've had some self-revelations outside the closet, too.  I've come to realize that for my entire life, I've always been in a hurry.  That's why I am not good at so many things.  Everything seems to be a contest, whether it is driving with idiots in traffic or trying to color when I was a kid.  My pictures were always sloppy, going over lines, leaving blank spaces between hurried crayon strokes.  I'd watch other kids, careful kids like Susan Pleitchwaite, as they carefully filled in the spaces with concentrated care.  I had time to watch because I finished so quickly, and I liked watching Susan.  She was the prettiest girl in our class.  

Same has been true of tool use.  When I was sixteen, I spent the summer with my aunt and uncle.  He got a side job painting the wooden house of a man down the street who suffered from polio.  My uncle took me down and showed me how to use the hand sander to take off the paint where it was rough.  Then he left me and went to work.  Of course, I was in a hurry and worked quickly. . . so quickly, in fact, I put divots all over the side of the house.  The guy with polio sure could be mean.  I wasn't asked to sand anymore.  

Even when I paint a wall or the deck, I am too hurried and sloppy, getting splatters of paint everywhere.  Trim work?  Forget it.  It looks like one of my elementary school crayon pictures when I'm done.  Even getting groceries and camera bags out of the car, I hurry.  Bags rip and cameras drop.  And like any good hillbilly, I never screw a cap back on a bottle all the way.  

But I'm always quick with a retort.  That is one place where speed has come in handy.  

The only place I slow down is when I read.  And I've read.  Boy oh boy, I've read.  That has been the secret sauce in my life, I guess, my safe space.  But as you well know, when I write. . .  I don't take time to go back to edit things like this blog, and I don't try to rewrite sketches into the stories I think I should be writing.  

And I've always been impatient waiting for people to get ready.  Impatient and irritated.  It has not been a good trait.  It has not served me well.  

Jesus.  I should delete this.  It sounds like a twelve step program.  

"Hi, I'm C.S. and I have a confession.  I eat too quickly and too much, and now, as you can see, my pants don't fit and all my white shirts have food stains."

Now that I've lingered so long writing this nonsense, I need to hurry to the gym.  I'll try to do a quick workout.  I don't know if I'll have time to. . . . 


Monday, June 17, 2024

A Lazy Day

"When art critics get together, they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning.  When artists get together, they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine" (Pablo Picasso).  

 My enthusiasm for exercise kind of died when I got out of bed yesterday.  I was stiff and didn't really want to move.  I read and wrote a long piece and made some breakfast.  I thought, "O.K. Mister I'm Gonna Change My Life, take a two hour photo walk." Or at least one hour, I argued back.  By the time I had gotten my shit together, though, (to use an old hippie phrase), it was dreadfully hot.  "Tough luck, old sport. . . you waited too long.  Now get out and go!"

I drove toward Gotham not certain where I would stop.  I had brought my big-assed Hasselblad.  I thought to finish up some film and develop it that night.  I had my courier bag, too, in case I wanted to stop at he Cafe Strange.  But as I drove down the long strip of highway to the city, there was nothing.  Nobody was out.  The streets were dead.  Past the little hipster section, through Little Vietnam, across the intersection of two highways and through the hip gay neighborhoods to the iconic lake and farmer's market.  Nothing but sweltering cement.  Downtown was dead.  Further, into what is being called the Creative Center and down what once was a very dangerous street that has now been gentrified.  I gave up.  I decided to go to the grocery store and get the things I needed for dinner that night with mother.  

When I got back to the house, I wanted a beer.  No. . . a Michelada.  I was angry that I had no tomato juice.  I was tempted to drive back to get some.  

Mid afternoon.  Screw it.  It was Sunday, Father's Day.  Child-free, I decided to take a nap.  It would not be a productive day after all.  

At four, I got up and showered and prepared to go to my mother's.  I was slow.  As I was getting in the car, my mother called.  

"What are you doing?"

Ten minutes later, I was at her house.  Before putting the water on for pasta, I opened a bottle of wine, then began chopping garlic.  My mother cut up broccoli and put it in the steamer.  Water boiling, pasta in, I sautéed the garlic, and add a pound of lean ground beef.  As the pasta drained, I added organic spaghetti sauce to the ground beef.  That is the secret, kids, to a hardy spaghetti that nobody makes.  Try it.  Use lots of beef, not a little.  Everyone I have ever served it to loves it.  My mother certainly does.  

We were killing the bottle of red wine.  Dinner over, we left the table to sit outside.  The afternoon had cooled and the breezes blew.  As we sat drinking our wine and talking, a black racer snake crawled toward my feet.  It was skinny and about four feet long.  It stopped about two feet away and lifted its head, tongue licking the air to smell me.  That's how snakes smell.  Trust me.  I'm a zoologist almost.  

I've always told my mother to love the racers, that they are good snakes and cannot hurt you.  So when I raised my feet up into the chair and let out a sharp, shrill, frightened sound, my mother laughed.  

"Ho-ho. . . it can't hurt you. . . ."  

She enjoyed that.  The snake got frightened and slithered back into the bushes.  

"I don't know why they always cross the driveway here.  I don't know where they are going."

I could see the snake in the bushes.  Just then, another one, a bit bigger, started across the driveway by my car.  

"HOLY SHIT," I screamed.  My mother got up out of her chair to look.  And then a third black racer came across the driveway.  It was like snake armageddon.  My mother simply watched them go back from where they came.  Were they indigo snakes or black racers.  I asked Siri to tell me the difference.  These were black racers, identified by their white chins.  The are smaller than the indigo.  They lay their eggs June through August, so. . . this was a bit of an orgy prep we were witnessing.  The eggs hatch in the fall.  

"There are black snakes all over the neighborhood.  Everybody sees them."  

I began laughing and making fun of myself for being such a scaredy cat.  

"When I was getting my zoology degree, we used to have to go out and collect species, lizards and frogs and snakes and any other vertebrates we could get hold of.  I was the only one in the department, I think, that never caught anything with his bare hands.  I knew I wasn't going to be a very good field biologist.  But it was the hardest major in the university and it taught me a certain kind of discipline.  It was good for me.  In theory."

Yes.  Like I knew snakes smelled with their tongues.  Woo-hoo!

I stayed a good long while with my mother.  When I got home, the cat was angrily waiting on her dinner.  She let me know.  

"Meow, meow, meow yourself you faithless little shit.  Alright, alright. . . I'm getting you your food." 

I poured a whiskey and joined her on the deck.  It was 7:30 and still bright, but the temperature had dropped and the breeze was good.  Still. . . nobody passed on the street.  

At eight o'clock, I went inside.  So. . . I hadn't exercised.  I hadn't taken any photos.  What was the other thing?  Oh. . . yea. . . I was going to read two hours a day.  I could do that.  I could do that now.  

I decided to re-read "The Beautiful and the Damned."  I'd read it, of course, but I couldn't remember anything about it.  It was basically like sitting down to a new book.  Fitzgerald had already hit pay dirt with his first novel, "This Side of Paradise."  I remembered that one well enough. I could skip that.  

So here was Fitzgerald writing at 26.  I'd forgotten how fine the sentences were.  More than fine, some almost as serpentine as Faulkner's, but more accessible, without obvious artistry.  And he took chances, doing things that weren't being done.  No, I did not remember the novel at all.  It wasn't a straight narrative.  He took detours, made strange breaks, added interior monologues and flights of fancy.  

The thing about reading books rather than reading on Kindle is that you can't highlight and send a note to yourself.  I like that about the Kindle experience.  But wait.  I had my phone beside me.  I came to a word of which I was uncertain.  I asked Siri to define it.  Brilliant.  No need for a dictionary by my elbow.  Then. . . "Hey, Siri. . . take a note."  And I read a passage to her.  When I had finished, I looked at the note.  O.K.  I'd need to actually say the punctuation marks out loud.  Otherwise. . . I found a way around the Kindle.  

This made me very happy.  You've probably done this and think I am a moron, but it had never occurred to me until last night.  Things just get cooler and cooler.  

If you don't get hacked.  

I sat the novel down.  It was nine-thirty.  I had not read quickly.  Rather, I poured over the sentences checking modifiers, descriptors. . . trying to understand the Big Fitz style.  I knew what he was doing, but doing it was another thing.  Pages would pass with descriptions of traveling from the city to the country.  He would backtrack and provide historical information, lay the groundwork for meeting a character.  He was never in a hurry with the narrative.  He took his time.  For a not-so-good student who couldn't spell at all (I've had the opportunity to look at his drafts at Princeton), he had a most glorious vocabulary.  He was a mocking bird, really, copying the verbal rhythms and codes of his rich, upper echelon classmates.  He was a fanboy made good.  Those who had known him at Princeton were totally shocked by his success.  He'd taken everything and woven it into a brilliant tapestry.  

So, when I looked at the time and the number of pages I'd read. . . yea. . . I was slow.  But I had notes.  I had passages.  It was not just reading.  It was something else.  

I will try to get back on track today.  Exercise, diet, photo stuff, reading.  I have a plan.  I'll get skinny and creative.  You'll see.  

And I still don't care.  I don't.  I really don't.  

I like the Picasso quote.  It says something about the relationship between art and analysis.  It is pithy if untrue.  Picasso did talk about painting with painters, and Hemingway and Fitzgerald talked about writing with one another.  

But, as that bad boy Anthony Bourdain exclaimed (before offing himself because of a girl), "Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride."

I mean, yea. . . that's where the best material lies.  Lays.  Well, there. . . and in love.  

Sunday, June 16, 2024


My computer had been hacked, or so it seemed. Compromised passwords, unknown computers using some apps, some of my info on the Dark Web. I needed to change passwords, so I did. And therein lay a real shit show. It could be easier, but Google and Apple don't like to talk to one another. That was my takeaway. I need Google. They own Blogger. I'm not even sure where Meta comes into play, but it does. FB and IG are owned by them. Google owns YouTube. That's not accurate. Alphabet owns them both. My email is a site, too. Apple, however, wants access to all of that information so that I can run the apps on my iPhone and computers. If I tried to use Safari, Google suggested Chrome. But somehow DuckDuckGo had become my default search engine.  

Are you following? Yea. It's the Great American Free Marketplace. Lovely, huh?  

Having changed passwords, questions were posed, the answers to which I didn't know, so I had to guess. I don't think I guessed well. My iPhone, MacBook, and iMac were no longer talking to one another. I couldn't send or receive email on the MacBook. If I texted from it, the phone and the iMac didn't show it. Holy fucking moly.  

I thought about buying new gear and starting over. I was verging on tears.  

I had to get away from it. I decided to put on my running things and go to the outdoor exercise track for air. I needed to move. I needed to unwind. I grabbed my phone on my way out, though I wasn't sure what it would or could do.  

It was hot, of course, but not overly. I stretched and started limp-walking. It wasn't just my knee. Back, hips. I stopped at one of the stations and did more "limbering" exercises. I love the word. Limber. Nobody says that anymore. Just my mother. 

On the second lap, I stopped at each of the stations to do various exercises, a routine my climbing buddy in Yosemite and I started doing when? Some thirty years ago? No. Longer than that. We used to run five laps, going harder each time around. Then we'd walk to the overpass and sprint up it eight times. I think of those times whenever I come out. We invented the optimum workout, and everyone does some variation of it now. Orange Theory has made a fortune using an indoor version of it. Selavy.  

After the first stop, the pushup station, I don't know what got into me. Yes I do. I'm fat and I will always be fat as long as I don't do cardio. I had done a full hour of it in the gym the day before on an inclined treadmill, an elliptical machine, and a stair stepper. I was terrified afterwards that my knee would blow up, but surprisingly, I felt that I was walking better, not worse. I wanted to get thin. No one was around. I tried a little trot. A stumbly, foot dragging thing, but faster than a walk. I was checking in with my knee. When I hit the downhill portion, I walked. Huh. I have always been a heel runner, but as long as I ran on the balls of my feet, very slowly, maybe. . . .  

Crunches. I got up and started to trot a very slight uphill. The problem was that my body wanted to do my old running pace. It kept going faster. I had to keep tuning it back down. Squats . Trot. Dips and pull-ups. Not really, not since getting run over, so. . . modified dips, hanging rows. Then comes the longest unbroken run of the lap. Trot, trot. Just a little. I'm breathing. My heart rate is up. The body remembers. I walk to the start of the next lap.  

At the end of two miles, I am sweaty and happy. My knee feels o.k. I haven't been able to go faster than a brisk limp for a very long time. I could feel my running muscles. My back and hips had loosened up. I was making deals with God. Let me do this and I'll be a humble and loyal servant. If I can do this, I will quit eating and drinking and. . . and. . . I'll give up self abuse. 

On the way back home, I stopped at the 7-11, got a big bottle of Gatorade, and drank it right down.  

When I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, I slowly put my weight on my bad knee. No worse, I thought. But when I walked, I knew my muscles were going to be sore. An Epsom soak. A hot shower. I look in the bathroom mirror expecting a slim version of me. I quickly looked away and ran to get dressed.  

I looked at the computer. Shit, piss, fuck, goddamn. I got a text from the gymroid group. I wrote back.  

"Who is this?" one asked.

My name or phone number weren't coming up.  

"It's C.S. My accounts got hacked and when I changed my passwords everything went out of sync. I've been working on this for hours."

"Stay off the porn sites."

"He can't. He's addicted." 

"Goes straight to the furry sites."


I'd make adjustments and write asking them if my name or number came up now.  

"Still Cafe Furry."

Shit piss. . . . 

It was Apple, I was pretty sure. It kept wanting to put information into iCloud storage. I don't want iCloud, but no matter what I did or do, I can't stop them. It wants to store passwords. It populates my apps with information I don't want to share. Remember when Apple was the brand you bought because you didn't want to be a tech head? It was just plug and play. Not anymore. Apple has become Evil. That post-lapserian logo of a bitten piece of fruit is certainly apropos. They are the devil who has gotten us kicked out the garden.

Around four, however, I had given up enough of my information to get everything synched again, and for the moment, at least, I was coming up in texts as my old self. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope everything would work again, but I was pretty sure Google and Apple were still fighting it out.  

Time for mother's. When I stood up, I could feel the soreness in my legs and hips and back. But I was walking better, I thought, without a pronounced limp. I would give up drinking. I would eat only enough to sustain myself.  

My mother was sitting out when I got to her house.  

"Would you like a beer?"

"I'll split one with you," I reluctantly said. And then I remembered that I had not eaten all day. Nothing. Zip. Well, it was only a light beer.  

"Sure," I said.  

My mother told me that she was feeling better. She had sweated out whatever had been plaguing her during the night. She had taken a walk, talked to relatives on the phone, had people stop by. It had been a good day. Still, when I got up to go, I felt the great guilt of leaving her alone even though her social life was much more robust than mine.

I had vegetables to clean and cut. I didn't want to. I stopped at the grocers and got chicken tenderloins. WTF is a chicken tenderloin? I hadn't an idea, but they were cut into convenient strips and were cheap. I'd soak them in teriyaki sauce and throw them in the pan, three minutes per side. That is the magic number for cooking, I've found. Three minutes per side.  

Brown jasmine rice and broccoli. While that cooked and the chicken marinated, I made a Campari and gin.  

"I thought you weren't going to drink?"

"I'll go easy on the gin."


I was feeling good. I was feeling like my old self. An hour of cardio a day. That's the secret. I used to run in the mornings and lift in the late afternoon. I'd. . . I'd. . . try not to hurt myself now.  

"Don't go getting carried away. It won't last."

As Wilde so famously said, "I can resist everything but temptation."  

The phone rang. It was Mr. Tree. I thought for a moment, then I answered. He asked if I'd like to go to dinner with his fiancé and him. I saidI was cooking my dinner just then.  

"Will you be home later?"

"I'm in for the night. Sure."

"I want to drop off your invitation to the wedding."

But he didn't wait until later. I had just dished my meal when he knocked on the door. He was with his fiancé. I asked them in, but they didn't plan on staying. He had forgotten the invitation. The wedding was next Saturday.  

"What's the dress code?" I asked.  


I was hoping for shorts and t-shirts.  

His fiancé smiled nervously. She is Cuban surgeon born in the nineties. She has only known tourist Cuba and its economy. I asked her if she was going to try to pass the medical exams to practice here. She nodded her head uncertainly. A minute more and they were gone.  

After dinner, I cleaned the kitchen and put on a pot of tea. I would be good. No more alcohol for me. I was feeling nearly righteous. I turned on the t.v.  

Piss, shit, fuck, goddamn. My YouTube Premium channel was all fucked up, too. Who was I? Did I want to set up a new account? I pushed buttons. I did things. I am not sure what, but I got a code to scan. A text came to my phone. Was it me? Hell. . . I wasn't sure anymore. I said yes and clicked in with my new passcode.  


But it was like starting over. Maybe that was good. It had part of my old history from long ago. It suggested a documentary on Fitzgerald (link). I clicked on it. The show began and ended with a discussion of Matthew Brucolli, the preeminent Fitzgerald scholar for a very long time. He was a tyrant about the scholarship, however. He believed he owned it. He made enemies. There were interviews with people I had known or met at Hofstra University and in Paris where I presented a paper at the first Fitzgerald/Hemingway International Conference. My session was in the early morning. I was hoping no one would be there. Sitting right in front of me, however, was the man Brucolli himself. I was nervous and hurrying. Brucolli yelled at me to slow down. I was taken aback and quite afraid that he would rip my presentation apart as insipid, stupid, and lazy. My hands were shaking, but I settled down. Brucolli closed his eyes but didn't yell out again or ask me questions. People came up to tell me what a fine job I had done when I was done. I was asked if I could submit something to a book one professor was editing. It would have to wait, I said, until I finished my dissertation.  

I paused the show to make a mug of Golden Milk. I was sticking with the plan. Fitzgerald drank himself to death. Maybe the show was helping. I sat back down and continued watching, thinking. I had been a scholar once. As I watched, I got an itch. I could do it again. These scholars and experts were not intimidating. But when they read long passages from Fitzgerald's work, I wanted to weep. He was too good. He knew that life could never be as good as it had been again. He knew he and Zelda had hit their zenith. Read Gatsby and then read Tender Is the Night. It all went so quickly, that talent, like powder in a flame.  

"The light that burns brightest burns half as long." So they say.  

I woke up this morning feeling stiff, fat, and sore. My light ain't burning bright. I'll cook for my mother tonight. Maybe I'll have some wine. And maybe I'll read again.  

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


Friday, June 14, 2024

The Lure of the Honky Tonk

Another night ending in a parking lot, but not so late nor staggering this time.  I was able to avoid The Devil's Den I had feared though the calls were loud and fierce.  Still, I may have regrets.  Regrets can be inevitable, if you let them.  I may regret not heeding the call.  I could be a better reporter.  I should always pursue the good story.  

But this one is pretty tame.  An Irish pub, gymroids, and some tame shenanigans. It was a terribly normal night.  

I should have listened to the siren's call.  

Now what?  

Beats me.  Paint the stairs?  Tend the garden?  I need to clean the fridge.  

I'm enervated just thinking of it.  

"Too much beer and wine, too many good times."

Not to mention the weed and the Joker product.  Things get out of hand rapidly.  Sooner or later, even when it's lame, some drunk shits his pants and the party's over.  

It's a cautionary tale.  Ignore it at your own peril.  

I've no mind for writing this morning, it seems, so I'll leave you with this.  

Three versions: hillbilly, country, and folk rock.  No matter the culture. . . take your pick.  I know you are not like me.  I like them all.  I can't make up my mind.  

Thursday, June 13, 2024

If I Weren't Lonely Baby, I Wouldn't Be Talking To You

This is what I need to do--stay home and read a book.  I didn't last night.  I won't be able to tonight.  Sitting at home reading too much, you begin to think, "I'm missing things."  Then you go out and remember what you are missing.  You don't remember it until morning, maybe, but you do.  I went to dinner last night.  This morning I feel like poop.  I have another round of it tonight, only this one may be later and worse. I could have a weekend filled with regrets.  Oy. I don't think I look so good this morning.  

The best part of last night was dinner.  We went to my favorite little Italian place.  I knew there was a seafood thing I wanted, but I couldn't find it on the menu.  So I said to the bartender.  When I asked her about the seafood and pasta thing, she pointed to one with mussels and shrimp.  I said I remembered one with much more than that.  

"There's one that isn't on the menu with mussels, crab, shrimp, clams, scallops. .  . "

"That's the one."

She said I could order it, that they could make it.  When it came out, it was big as a flying saucer.  Unbelievably good.  

That was at five-thirty.  At eleven-thirty, I was learning Muay-Thai fighting in a parking lot.  Far too much went down in between.  

I'm pretty certain that what goes on tonight is to be never told.  I'm already frightened.  I'm fairly certain I should feign illness and stay home.  

Red texted me yesterday morning asking me again when I was coming to L.A.  It occurred to me that it was 4 am where she was.  

"I"m guessing you are not up and getting ready for work."

Travis tells me to go.  "Don't be a sissy," he says.  Not a quote really, but that is the gist of it.  

A woman writes to tell me she wants me to be a larger part of her novel.  What?!?  It is weird to think of someone writing about you.  I mean, sure, I can do it, but. . . .  

It's just that I have never believed anyone thinks about me unless I am standing in front of them, and, as my dead ex-friend Brando would tell me, "You're lucky if she's thinking about you even then."  

I have always believed that to be true.  When I'm not in eyesight, I just disappear.  I think, however,  I'm very visible.  That get's proven to me over and over.  I just don't know if it is for good or bad reasons.  

"Why are you so binary?"

The bartender last night was the good looking psychopath who is friendly with others but who always looks like she wants to kill me.  It is not always a good thing to be remembered.  Sometimes invisibility is a very good thing.  

"If you could have one superpower, what would it be?"

Most people say the ability to fly.  The unknowing might desire the ability to read minds.  Uh-uh.  Nope.  Not me.  Can you imagine that?  Torture.  

I'd choose the ability to be invisible.  Oh. . . yes!  I have that limited power now, I think, but only when I don't want to be.  

"See me. . . see me now."  

I need to drink lots of water today.  And to take a nap.  I should only drink light beer tonight, but that will be fairly impossible.  I think I might end up in the Devil's Den at midnight.  It's the sort of thing I once desired, but I should know better by now.  I do, but the allure of some things is greater than fear.  By God, Hawthorne knew that oh-so well.  How he was friends with Melville is a mystery to me.  They were of two types.  Read them both, of course.  

Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accents of towns-people of his own, men and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion table, and had seen others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine at Salem village, but never until now from a cloud of night There was one voice of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward ("Young Goodman Brown).  

 Yes!  And crowd chants, "Do it! Do it!"

There are times when one just should not cross the threshold.  That was the reason, I'm assuming, the  groom carried the bride over one into the home.  Lock the doors, pop the corn, and turn on Netflix.  There is nothing but danger out there.  

But that's why we go.  Travel and the opportunity for romance.  It is the thing James Salter could write about so well.  

Yes, I should stay home and read a book tonight.  But I won't.  There will be no pictures I can post nor stories I can put into print if all goes as I suspect.  

"The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the incidents reported here are accurately portrayed in spirit and fact."  

That's what every liar with a pen or keyboard says, anyway.  

"You mean a lot to me.  I want you to be a bigger part of my novel."  

"Should I be flattered?"

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Wisdom

Sometimes, maybe, if you are trying and working hard, things come together and work out.  Most times, I think, they don't.  As your Life Coach, that's my message to you today.  When things don't come together, when things don't work out, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this is pretty usual.  It is how things go.  No you've got The Wisdom. 

But yesterday was one of those Crown Jewels of a day.  I want to chalk it up to my effort and hard work.  I know that is bullshit.  Still.  

I was up early and finished my reading and writing and coffee drinking.  The sun came up in a cloudy but rainless sky.  O.K., I thought.  Get your ass out there and get stuff done.  First thing was to put away the paints and brushes and paraphernalia that goes along with taping and scraping and cleaning.  This required many trips to the storage room off the garage.  But the thing was a mess.  I couldn't step inside to put anything away, so before anything else, I had to clean it up.  There were old paint cans from nobody knows how long ago, cans of turpentine and unrecognizable poisons.  When I picked up one rusty can, my fingers went right through.  Nothing at all was holding it together.  A can of spray foam had exploded and cemented many things in place.  I would have to deal with all that later, but I removed what I could, bagged it up, and hauled it away.  After half an hour or so, I had arranged things so that I could walk in, and after many trips, the painting equipage was stored.   

The air was moist.  I was soaked in sweat from head to toe.  

Next, I moved the heavy furniture and potted plants back onto the deck, even the big glass table top.  I was scared, I must say, for these were the conditions in which I dropped the even thicker glass table top on my big toe.  As then, I was working in flip-flops.  I bent my knees, spread my hands as wide as they would go, got the grip, and lifted.  And trembled.  The sonofabitch was heavy, the ground uneven, and I had to step up on the deck.  When I tried to place the glass on the table, though, two chairs were in the way.  I'm dumb, dumb.  I decided to muscle it up anyway.  Chairs fell.  I had a trembly grip, my bare toes exposed.  

So, o.k., that's a lot of drama for a non-story.  I got the table top in place just fine.  Sorry to disappoint.  

The heavy planter pots, the various milk jugs and porcelain cans.  When it was done, I stood back and looked on at the beauty of the deck with glee.  

I moved Tennessee's pressure washer and the half can of gas back to the garage.  Then I changed my mind.  I don't know anything about storing a can of gas, but I know bad things can happen with gas and wood.  I went back and got the can.  Where would I store it?  I walked up to the brick patio off the bedroom and put it under a potting table.  That should be fine.  Next to the potting table was an old sheet of wood that had been laying there for far too long.  I decided to move it to the garbage, but when I picked up one end, the board folded broke.  It was rotten.  I picked up what was left. . . and found a horror show.  Winged ants?  Termites?  I didn't know.  But there were big bull ants three times the size of any others, so I'm thinking carpenter ants.  I ran to the shed to get some spray, but the thing wouldn't pump.  I ran back and got a smaller bottle.  I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed and watched the ants run around in drunken, wobbly circles.  I opened the bigger container and splashed the poison against the fence.  I poured it around.  I started stamping on them.  It was a nightmare, but I think I got them all.  

Just then, I heard a truck pull up in front of the house.  It was the roofer.  Three of them.  I walked out to the truck.  The lead guy said, "Hello.  I remember you."  I shook his hand and took him to the kitchen to show him where the water came in.  He told his fellows to get the equipment.  I said, "I"m going to keep working back there if you need me."  

I went back to the nightmare.  A few wobbly, dying bull ants and a battlefield of carnage.  How could I let a piece of wood sit out for so long?  I grabbed the broken sheets of board and hauled them to the curb, far away from the house.  I was sweaty, dirty, and probably poisoned.  I needed to shower quick.  As I walked back to the house, the roofers were walking to the truck with their equipment.  They had finished up.  

"What do I owe you?" I asked.  The fellow looked at me for a minute and said, "I'm not going to charge you.  I remember coming out here to fix some flashing once before."  

That was five years ago.  I was amazed.  

"I really appreciate you, man," I said.  It seemed weak appreciation, but it was all I could think of other than, "Wow!  You've got to be shitting me!"

When they were gone, I ran to the shower.  I could feel my feet going numb, my fingers.  I could feel my face swelling.  I'd look like one of those Palmetto Bugs after you spray them, walking in hurky jerky circles, kicking their legs.  

I still had things to do.  The cleaning crew was coming.  I'd stripped the bedding and thrown it in the wash earlier.  I put it the bedding in the dryer and began preparing the house for the maids' arrival.  It was after ten when I finished up.  I got dressed and headed for the gym.  

When I got there, Tennessee was waiting outside what he bawdily calls "the Boom-Boom Room."  It is where people stretch and warm up and do odd exercises.  T does what he calls his daily hundreds there--a hundred push ups, squats, sit ups, etc.  The room is usually full of women.  A lot of kibitzing goes on.  I sat down on the bench next to him and waited.  The class would be finishing up in mere moments.  Just as they were walking out, the Shock Jock walked up and we all walked in together.  My friend the nurse saw us and came in.  

"This is the place to be if you want to talk instead of working out," I said.  She grinned and got a mat for the floor.  T and the Shock Jock got mats as well, and they all found their places.  I was across the room hanging from a bar next to the small weights I would use to warm up my very terrible shoulders.  A woman walked in who I have never talked to but who always makes eye contact with me and smiles a small, friendly smile.  She found a place to lay her mat.  

T, the Shock Jock, and I were raucous.  The nurse grinned and giggled.  

"Where did we end up deciding to go on Thursday night?"

"I don't know.  I don't think it has been decided."

"I thought we were going to the bowling alley."

"We need to decide.  She said she wants to go."  I nodded to the nurse.  She laughed.  She never said such a thing, but she liked being included.  The woman who smiles silently did her exercises with her eyes closed.  Were we pissing her off?  I said, "You can ignore us or you can join the conversation."  She opened her eyes and sat up.  We'd been talking about a new Mexican restaurant that had opened recently.  I hadn't been but the boys had and they were raving.  They couldn't remember the name, though, and were arguing about what it was called.  The smiling woman said, "I lived in Atlanta.  That is where it started.  This is the first restaurant they have opened outside of there."  She said the name of the restaurant.  "I don't know.  That's how they say it there." 

She was unexpectedly proper, I thought.  She didn't dress up for the gym, but I could tell she was "society."  Funny, huh?  That's how us hillbillies talk.  

"Oh. . . she's one of those society gals."

I asked her name and we all made introductions.  Then I excused myself to go work out in the weight room.  

When I finished up there, the boys were coming out.  They were done.  They were leaving.  I was going to do half an hour on the bike, but I said, "You boys have inspired me.  I'm going to leave, too.  What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," said T.  

"You want to go to lunch?"

It was decided.  I hadn't eaten anything.  This was a good idea.  

We met at the restaurant.  It was a place T and I go to often.  The Shock Jock ran to the bathroom.  The waitress came.  We always get country girls, it seems, and they like us, T with his heavy hillbilly accent, me with my hillbilly ways.  We kid, they laugh.  We always order the same thing.  When the Shock Jock came back, the waitress asked him what he would like.  He had no idea.  "Have they ordered.  I haven't. . . uh. . . ."  He was flustered.  "I'll have the Reuben."  

"And bring him a glass of water," T said nodding to me.  "He doesn't drink enough water.  That's why his lips are always chapped."

The waitress got the dig and belly laughed.  "Old cock-breath here should know all about that," I wanted to say, but I had to wait until the waitress was gone.  

When we were leaving the restaurant, I looked at my phone.  I had a message from the cleaning crew.  They were at my house.  Had been for about forty minutes.  O.K.  I'd run some errands.  Got gas.  Went to the grocers and got a ton of vegetables for grilling.  Tofu.  Emergenc-C.  Wine.  Beer.  I looked at the time.  I'd drive to my house.  If they were still there, I'd run some more errands.  

They had finished and were gone.  I walked into a house that sparkled.  How do they do it?  

That night, I did three loads of laundry.  It had been a day.  Things seemed to have come together. I had The Wisdom.  

But there is much more to do.  Much.  I need to channel my inner Doolard and get to work.  But I don't really have an inner Doolard.  What I have is a charming, lazy Bohemian.  I was verified as "charming" by a woman at the Y earlier.  "Charming and intelligent," she said to Tennessee.  She didn't say anything about my good looks.  Oh well.  There's a little more of The Wisdom.  I had to remind myself that I just don't care.  

I just got a text from Red.  It is four in the morning there.  She is still celebrating her birthday.  She wants me to come out to L.A.  Her girlfriend, the one she brought to my house a few months ago, is staying with her for awhile.  She needs me to come out and celebrate with them.  Should I let her know that terrifies me?  I don't party like they do.  I'm good for an hour, maybe two, but they are maniacs.  Still, I have a place to stay in L.A. if I want.  I guess it's because I'm charming.  

The sun is up.  Another few days of intermittent rain ahead.  It is alright.  The world turns green and begins to grow.  I must make choices and decide upon my day.  And I will.  Right after I make some heavy whole grain avocado toast.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

If You Just Don't Care

I called my mother yesterday morning and asked her how she slept, how she felt.  She slept like a rock, she said, for a long time.  I asked her if she felt anxious.  She said no.  I guess that antihistamine really did its job.  She said the lidocaine patch had helped her back, too.  O.K.  Things were going splendidly.  

On the other hand, I had slept like shit and my lower spine and right hip were killing me.  Selavy.  

Before taking my mother to the hospital, things were swimming along nicely.  Sunday was pretty much like Saturday until mid-afternoon.  I didn't get out, didn't walk or take photos.  I just sat at the computer and edited surf pictures and listened to music.  I hadn't showered, hadn't eaten.  I'd not had any social contact for days, so I decided to go unwashed, to maybe walk around with a camera before getting a big old mimosa.  Wearing yesterday's clothes, I picked up my camera bag, slipped on some flip-flops and headed out the door.  

But, by God, it was hot.  The streets were silent.  Anyone with any sense. . . etc.  I don't have much sense, of course, but I had enough to know that walking around under a sun that could knock you down was a bad idea, so I had a better one.  

When I walked into the cafe, there was a short line to the counter.  All about, however, were young girls lining up to get into the Photo Booth.  The cafe was packed with them, and they all seemed to be in costumes of micro mini puffy chiffon petticoats. 

Were they a team, a tribe, or was this a rage?  I hadn't any idea, but they seemed happy and very excited.  "Their parents must all have died," I thought. . . then, "and it seems to be a good thing."  

Yea, yea, yea. . . whatever.  But you don't get this kind of weirdness anywhere else in town.  

When I got to the counter, the girl smiled and asked, "Large mimosa?"

Well, now. . . that was kind of nice, being remembered and all.  

"Say. . . that's a swell idea," I said.  

She grinned, stepped into the bar, and came back with an armful of oranges.  I watched her slice them in half and press them using the big juicer on the bar.  When she came back, handed me my drink, looked at my Leica and asked, "What are you taking pictures of?"

"Nothing yet."

"Are you a photographer?"

"Everybody with a camera is one, I guess."

"Yea, I guess so."

Fuck it, I thought.  Just do it. 

"D'you want to get me started?"  I asked holding out my camera.  

Oh, boy. . . did she, without hesitation.  She immediately went into "that pose" that you see on Instagram and TikTok, head tilted, eyes wide. . . that smile.  It is ubiquitous.  

"O.K.  Don't smile.  Stop it.  Just look at me."

"Like this?"

She couldn't quite, though, the best she could do being that little Mona Lisa grin.  I told her I would get her a copy once I had the photos cooked up.  

Yesterday, I was up early and decided to finish painting so I could put all the pots and furniture back on the deck and tidy up so my neighbors wouldn't have to look at the mess any longer.  I scraped the peeling paint off the outer wall and  put a coat of Kilz Primer on it.  It would take awhile to dry, so I decided to take a walk.  I had four shots left on my Leica, so I decided to take it along and see if I could finish the roll of film.  When I got to the end of the street, I passed a fellow digging holes in the yard of a hundred year old house that had been turned into condos.  Just as I got past, I heard him yell out in a booming voice, "Hello!"  I turned to face him and said hello back.  He walked toward me and began talking.  It was a little strange, I thought, but he was smiling and being friendly.  He looked at my camera.  

"What are you taking photos of?" he asked.  Well, now.  

"Just anything.  I'm trying to finish up a roll of film.  Here. . . I'll take a photo of you."

He hit an interesting pose and I snapped.  

"If this turns out, I'll get you a copy.  This is a new film and I have never worked with it before, and from what I read, developing it is kind of like experimenting, so. . . . "

"Do you develop your own film?"


I said I'd come by when I finished my walk and get his number so I could text the photo to him.  

And so I went on my way.  I was happy.  I would finish the roll, 36 frames.  But then the counter went to 37. . . 38, 39, 40.  Oh, shit.  I started rapidly winding and releasing the shutter.  Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.  The film had not gone through the camera.  

I would have to tell the fellow, "Never mind."  But I've had a sea change recently, and after a long absence, I've been remembering myself.  It's taken awhile.  But I just don't care too much about what people think anymore.  

It seems to be working.  

Later in the day, I painted the wall with actual paint.  I am sloppy and dripped yellow paint on the green deck, so I will have to touch that up, but this morning, before it rains, I am going to move everything back to the deck.  The cleaning crew comes today and I have much to get done before they do.  Sometime today, the roofer will come to look for the leak.  I still have the apartment stairs to clean and paint, and then I need to attack the mess in the utility shed.  There is no end to the shit that needs to be done.  

But so it goes.  There is a guy I watch on YouTube, Martijn Doolaard, a Dutchman who bought two stone cabins in the Italian Alps that he has, so far, spent two years making livable (link).  I began watching him when he was riding his bike from Canada to the tip Argentina, making videos all the way.  Now, every week, he posts a video of what he has done to the cabins.  It is all work punctuated with cooking and the occasional hike.  It gets to be fairly monotonous at times, of course.  But it is fascinating, too.  Over the years of living alone and working, his personality has changed.  When people do come to help him, he seems odd with them, unable to carry on a conversation.  That's what solitude will do to you, I guess.  You learn to become silent.  You realize that most of life is silliness and jabber, and you begin to avoid it.  People tend to say the same things over and over again, mostly regurgitating something popular they've heard somebody else say.  I think of his videos to get myself working on these mundane chores that are necessary and must be done.  There is goodness in work. . . when it is done.  

But once in awhile. . . you just have to go to the cafe to see.  It is so silly and superfluous. .  . and pretty.  All those little crinoline skirts, ankle socks, and Mary Janes.  And if you're lucky, the girl behind the counter will remember you and know what you want.  

Maybe. . . if you just don't care.  

Monday, June 10, 2024

E.R. Again

This is how my day ended.  It had been a good day, but when I went to see my mother, she was not doing so well.  I sat with her awhile before she said, "I think I need to go to the E.R.  The pain in my back won't stop.  I couldn't sleep at all last night, and I'm anxious and can't settle down."

"O.K." I said.  I could tell she was not doing well.  

The E.R. on a Sunday night.  This one was newly renovated with a large, airy waiting room.  I was surprised.  There were only a few people there.  Within a few minutes, a nurse called my mother's name and we went into a room where she took my mother's vitals.  It was only minutes before my mother was wheeled into a examination room, and not long after, a doctor came in and began asking her questions.  It all went pretty quickly.  

But my mother isn't good at giving answers.  She has been that way her whole life.  It is frustrating.  Maybe it is the hillbilly in her, but she won't give a straight answer.  Rather, she'll launch into some long, seemingly unrelated story which may or may not contain the detail you were seeking.  My mother has been retired for almost thirty years.  She does not dwell in a professional workplace.  There is no rush.  Everything moves slow.  Now that she is losing her hearing, everything has to be said twice.  I sat slightly behind her looking at the floor.  Occasionally I would speak up to answer for her.  

The doctor was a friendly sort, but I could see that he was not going to do much.  Walking through the hallways, I saw that most of the rooms were filled with the elderly, people in their eighties and nineties.  We all know the old saw: aging is not for sissies.  They say that you just have to do the best you can and go on.  Walking through the ER on a Sunday night, however, you might think differently.  There is nothing heroic or gallant there.  There is only fear and suffering and one wonders why we are determined to keep going.  That is what the doctor's patronizing smile told me as he nodded and typed things into the electronic chart.  

"We'll get some X-Rays and see what's going on," he said as he left the room.  The nurse made sure my mother was comfortable and shut the door on her way out.  

And we waited.  The room was cold.  Machines beeped.  We talked for a bit at first, then fell silent.  We waited some more.  

In a bit, a fellow came in and wheeled my mother away.  They left the door open for me so I could watch the people passing.  It would have been a jail sentence had they not.  Nurses wheeled carts with computers and monitors by.  Some walked in twos, softly giggling.  White coats for doctors, blue uniforms for everybody else.  It was comforting.  Patients, by contrast, looked disheveled and piteous. 

My mother was wheeled back into the room.  

"Would you like the door open or closed?"

"Open," said my mother.  Good.  

We talked for a bit, then again fell silent.  We waited.  I looked at my phone.  Two and a half hours had passed.  I hadn't eaten.  I was in a t-shirt and shorts and shivering.  

The doctor came back.  

"Let's have a look at the X-Rays," he said.  He turned the computer screen toward us.  He pointed his pen to where my mother said she hurt.  

"You have some moderate arthritis, nothing unexpected."

He didn't have to say, "for someone your age" but it was heard.  

"I don't see anything broken, so that's good news."  He turned the screen away.  "I'm going to prescribe you some lidocaine patches to help with the pain."

My mother spoke up.  

"Last night, I couldn't sleep.  I was anxious.  I couldn't settle.  Can you give me something for that?"

I was fairly shocked.  It wasn't like my mother. 

"Sure. . . I can give you something to help."

I was certain it would be Xanax, but I was wrong.  

"I'm going to send in a prescription for Atarax," he said.  I can give you one here to help.  

When he left the room, I Googled Atarax.  It is Hydroxyzine, an antihistamine used to counter itching and motion sickness.  

Researchers don’t know exactly how hydroxyzine works to treat anxiety. But most healthcare providers agree that it affects two main chemicals in the body: histamine and serotonin.

It works much like Benadryl.  

A nurse came in with a lidocaine patch and put it on my mother's back.  Then she gave her a dose of Atarax.  

"Since this is your first time taking the drug, I'm going to have you wait fifteen minutes before you're discharged to make sure you don't have a reaction."

When she left the room I laughed.  "Three hours to get you a lidocaine patch and an antihistamine," I said, but then, "well, it's all good news.  Nothing broken, no surgeries or anything."

When we left the hospital, the late sun was still shining, the air still supernaturally warm.  But it felt good.  

When I got home, I made a drink, lit a cheroot, and went out to the deck.  There was a cat waiting to be fed.  Seven-thirty.  My phone had been silent all day, no calls, no texts.  I'd make something to eat, a salad with garlic and plum tomatoes and garbanzo beans and tuna.  I'd watch t.v.  

At nine, I called my mother to see how she was doing.  She sounded fucked up, slurring her words.  

"I was asleep.  I thought it was morning."

"You need to go to bed.  I guess that pill is working."

I felt guilty.  I'm going to need to give up what life I have left, I think.  I need to move in to take care of my mother.  I've seen this movie.  You've seen this movie.  "The Sacrifice."  

I have a busy week, not a fun one.  My problem, not yours.  Fuck it.  What is it they say again?  Where the hell is my Beckett?

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Burma Days

It was marvelously hot yesterday like a Burma day.  That's what I tell myself.  You couldn't stand in the sun comfortably as it neared 100 degrees.  So I didn't.  I didn't go outside at all.  Rather I lingered after reading, writing, and drinking coffee.  I lingered into the noon hour and realizing I had no real need or desire to go into the world, having no plan whatsoever, I sat down at the computer and spent the rest of the day working on the surf series.  I am shocked at how long it takes to make a picture right even with most of my Photoshop actions automated.  How did I do the Lonesomeville series while working a job,  shooting and processing all the while?  It is incomprehensible to me now as it was yesterday while working on the scanned images one by one by one by one.  

At four, I paused.  It was the usual time for going to see my mother.  I stepped outside.  98 degrees with increasing humidity.  Nope.  I'd wait another hour.  Surely it would cool a bit.  

I thought of books and novels set in warm climates.  Orwell's "Burmese Days" came to mind.  Many novels by Lawrence Osborne.  I wanted a gin and tonic, just like those colonial Brits.  Or maybe a trip to the absinthe bar.  

I sat with my mother in the shaded heat, fan stirring the sticky air.  She is not doing so well since her fall.  She doesn't hear.  Her voice is weak.  Her body aches.  It is a terrible thing to helplessly watch.  She's living in a new place now, here but not here.  I get angry, but my anger is futile.  It seems a slow, inevitable march.  She has many doctor's appointments upcoming.  

"But all your blood work came back good," I say.  She nods.  She won't die, she says, because she doesn't want to leave me alone.  She feels a need to take care of me.  

When I leave my mother's house it is late in the day, but there is still much daylight left.  I don't have it in me to go sit in a bar and drink expensive absinthe drinks.  I stop at the grocery store on my way home.  I unpack the car and make a Campari and gin.  The addition of gin is dangerous, but these are Burma Days.  I sit outside with the cat.  She is hot.  I have never seen her breathe with her mouth open before.  She is panting.  Poor kitty.  Summer will be long, hot, wet, and buggy.  She must dig into the dirt somewhere to find whatever relief she can.  The Do Gooders have done this to her with their catch, spay, and release mentality.  She has become wary even of me again.  She runs at my slightest movements.  She is a wild animal, that is certain.  

But I am sitting in the shade and a late afternoon breeze is stirring.  I smoke a cheroot and sip my Campari and gin from a viciously sweating glass that drops water over my newly painted deck.  I still have part of the outside wall to paint and have not returned the wrought iron table with it's big glass top, nor the smaller side table versions, nor the wrought iron chairs, nor the planters and pots.  I sit in the shade facing the house looking across the blank deck when the phone pings.  I sit the sweating glass on the deck thinking that I need a coaster.  It is Tennessee.  He wants to know what I ordered at the Japanese sushi place the night before.  I inform him, but a few minutes later he tells me there is a two hour wait.  

"It's that kind of town now," I write.  "You can't get in anywhere good without a reservation.  That's what I go so early.  Blue Hair Special."

It is a hassle to go anywhere now.  The hoi-polloi all have money.  They are like Faulkner's Snopes family, rising up from nothing to become business owners, buying and selling land and real estate, running for local and state offices,  replacing the old aristocracy.  There is a maddening sameness to them as they gather in the newest hotspots, and there is something else, too.  Their numbers swell like a maddening horde.  

So. . . drink done, cheroot smoked, I go inside to make a simple dinner of brown rice, beans and lentils, and teriyaki tofu with sautéed garlic and wilted spinach. A simple, delicious bowl.  

I turn on the television.  I watch a silly YouTube show as I do sometimes with meals.  It is pretty and decorative and ridiculous but calming.  You can watch it, too.  Don't read, though.  Unless you are as forgiving as I, it will make you crazy.  Maybe you will want to turn down the sound and put on your own soft music, too.  

This is a silly secret.  I am revealing my soft underbelly.  Don't judge me.   

After dinner, I clean the kitchen and pour a drink.  It is getting dark now.  I was going to work on more of the surf series, but my former secretary wrote to me that she was thinking of me.  She was watching "Baby Reindeer."  I had seen the preview for the show and thought, "fuck, no!"  But the show has gotten a lot of press, so I thought I might try it.  

It was worse than I thought.  Why, I wrote my old secretary, did that make you think of me?!?

Maybe, though, it is because I have had stalkers in my life.  Many.  I've had to call the police on two of them and have been able to just patiently wait out the rest.  There have been home invasions and the trashing of girlfriend's cars.  There have been very public lies told in the places I used to frequent by the crazy grandchild of one of the city's wealthy matrons.  An ex-girlfriend continued to interfere in my life with my hacked emails, and another told my friend she has put voodoo curses on me.  

O.K.  Still. . . I can't watch the show.  If you do and like it better than my Nidones YouTube channel. . . well. . . good for you.  I'll stick with the silly Euro-Japanese decorative thing.  

Darkness comes late to an early night.  My curse is that I know how to be alone.  I was an only child in a rural farmland, then in a wicked southern cracker neighborhood where I enjoyed books more than people.  I've travelled alone, hiked alone for weeks at a time, sailed alone sleeping in coves at anchor with a lantern, a bottle, and a book.  I'd rather be in love, of course, but at what cost?  Not so many people I've met can stand solitude let alone need it.  I've read too much, perhaps, for my own good, too many novels where the world is a universe of two.  But you read alone.  You write alone.  

And desire a world for two.  

As I say, it is my curse.  Most people I know have the other curse, the easier curse, I think, of needing noise. . . distraction from the interiority of silence.  They cannot be alone.  But, I think, in some ways, they are better fitted to the overcrowded environment of social engagement.  Walking, driving, they are lonesome and must look to their phones.  

And when nobody is there? 

Sunday.  It will be gloriously hot again today, hotter than yesterday, hotter than before.  It may surpass 100 degrees.  I will walk early this morning, camera in hand, through what will surely be mostly deserted streets.  This afternoon, perhaps, I'll drink a mimosa at a cafe then come home for a nap to escape the steamy heat, naked under the ceiling fan, belly pointed toward the heavens.  Decadent languor.  Dinner with mother.  An evening whiskey.  Perhaps some work on the photo files.  Soothing music.  

It will be rainy next week as we get the late spring monsoons.  They are not monsoons literally, but they are.  I will attend some social gatherings in the evenings, group things that are punctuation points, of sorts.  Burma days, Burma nights.  Campari and gin with soda and lime.  Absinthe at bedtime?  

There's an idea.