Monday, June 21, 2021

The Madding Crowd

  

I used to like to go out so that people could see me.  Now I stay hone so that they don't.  Maybe I can eat my way into a new diet.  I'll just eat all I can of fruits and grains and vegetables, try to stuff myself and never go hungry.  That way, maybe, I'll just lose my appetite or grow tired of eating.  More likely, however, I'll just waddle down the same path I've been traveling for a while now.  

I finished "TFW No GF" (link).  I don't recommend you watch it unless you want to know how people get so fucked up.  No, that's not correct.  You won't learn how.  Yes you will.  No you won't.  

This shit just gets in your head.  You probably shouldn't watch it.  What you don't know will probably kill you.  

"Stop it!"

O.K.  Yesterday I watched a debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault.  Foucault's panache rather ran over Chomsky.  They tried to agree with one another while working from different paradigms.  It was the collision of old and new ways of thinking.  More like a sideswipe, really.  They just talked past one another.  Most notable for me, however, was Chomsky's belief in "better" and "right."  He works from a certain moral order.  So does Foucault, but he makes less of a claim that it is moral.  

After watching that, I went to my mother's for dinner and a couple hours of "Naked and Afraid" (link).  I must admit that I am astonished that nobody I know has ever seen the show.  It has been a mainstay of my mother's and my Sundays for years.  It is where I catch up on my commercials.  While they were playing at some point, I asked my mother how church was that day.  She hadn't gone for over a year and has just recently been able to return.  

"Oh, fine," she said.  "They talked about forgiveness." 

I'm sure she mentioned that because I talk a lot about that.  I am a very forgiving person even though I have to vaporize people I don't like in my nightly meditations.  Having watched so much Hitchens lately, however, I blurted out, "Forgiveness!?!?  How can they talk about forgiveness in an institution that believes in Hell?!?!?  Where is the forgiveness in that?"

"Well. . . Hell is only for really bad people.  You have to ask God for forgiveness." 

"Come on.  Faced with eternal and everlasting punishment, who wouldn't say whoa, I'm sorry?"

Her vision seemed to turn inward, and I was sorry I said it.  What was gained by that?  What accomplished?  No, I definitely wanted forgiveness for that one.

We ate roast beef and drank a bottle of wine, and I was off.  I needed to get home to feed the cat.  She has not been much of a pal lately, however.  She eats and leaves.  She just doesn't appreciate.  

Scotch and a cheroot in the fading light of the summer solstice.  

Then it was back to join the Incels.  

I read the news today (oh boy).  It is all about the weather.  Have you heard?  Wow is it hot.  And the heat is driving people mad.  Those MAGA people are really going at it, and people with guns are really getting heated up.  But PRIDE is marching and the V.A. is planning on funding gender affirming surgeries.  Make America Great Again.  Oh, they won't like paying for that, either, though my inclination is to think that they pay less tax than others.  

I should probably be doing this in a chatroom rather than here.  I'd get many more "followers."  

And isn't that what everyone wants?  


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Pod Life

  

Where do I begin?  Today is the longest day of the year, the first day of summer.  I'm sure there are plenty of QAnon devotees who would question that.  

"How do they know?  It can't be summer everywhere!  Is it the longest day in China?  When did they decide that?"

Of course, Bubba, you are right.  Today is the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  Shortest day. At the equator, of course, there is no difference at all.  Equal day and night all year long.  

You have to give to those QAnon scholars.  They do their homework.  

Yesterday while I was visiting my mother, my cousin called her to tell her a startling fact she had just found out about.  

"Did you know that the star of "The Rifleman" was Matt Dillon's brother?"

My mother had her on speaker phone.  

"No, that is not correct," I said.  "Robert Graves of "Mission Impossible" was James Arness's brother."

"Oh."  

Later.  "See, mom, that's just an example of how bad information spreads among the. . . well, just spreads."

My mother thinks that FaceBook and the news are the same.  She tells me incredible things.  I mean that literally.  Incredible.  

So summer comes to the not-so-sunny south, and we begin to live pod life.  It is too icky out to do anything, really.  People walk early in the morning, but the rest of the day is spent in air conditioned pods. Evenings are just too buggy.  

I wish I had a swimming pool, but those are sure to be outlawed soon.  There won't be enough water to go around.  

Last night I grilled a kabob and roasted some vegetables.  I was inspired by some recipes I saw online.  I have not grilled vegetables much, and I did a very poor job last night.  But at least it was a lot of work. 

When everything was ready to eat, I took my plate outside to dine with the cat, but the mosquitoes were hitting too hard, so I came into the house and sat in front of the television.  I looked at my list of saved film titles and chose "Bukowski: Born Into This." I paid $2.99 on Amazon, but you can watch a lower res version on YouTube for free (link).  I mean. . . if you want to.  Most of my friends have "grown" out of their "Bukowski Faze."  Indeed, Bukowski can get tiring, but not so much when you are young.  And as my friends have made more money, skid row bums have held less fascination for them.  And, of course, social values have changed, too, so Bukowski is another one who needs to be cancelled if you are into that.  But the documentary was really very well done with interviews by a strange assortment of people from Bono to Sean Penn to Tom Waits.  It even has one brief clip of Harry Dean Stanton reading a poem to the camera, weird as he never appears in the doc again.  But Bukowski certainly had a disgustingly horrendous existence.  Nobody, however, in American literature, anyway, has ever been so good at telling us why.  

After that was finished, I rented "TWF No GF" (link).  I didn't make it very far before I went to bed, but after watching Bukowski, it was even more interesting than it might have been.  If Bukowski had an internet crowd, who knows what he might have done.  Mass murderer?  QAnon hero?  Would he have fallen into chat rooms with this crowd?  I doubt it, but the juxtaposition of the two things was interesting.  I'll have to finish it tonight.  

Such films, however, do not make for good sleep.  My dreams were haunted by losers and miscreants and I was up and down all night.  I know I must be more selective about what I watch before bed if I want to sleep peacefully, but sometimes you just get sucked in.  

I can't see out of the windows.  They are fogged with condensation.  It is the time of mold and mildew.  The world is green and once again closing in as the vegetation grows lush.  I read a book once about an explorer in the South American jungles called "The Green Hell."  I've been in the jungles of South America, and while that is worse, this is close enough.  I should have made more money and had a retirement home in the mountains for a summer retreat.  

Half my friends do.  The other half. . . probably read too much Bukowski.  

Oh, yea. . . and Happy Father's Day.

"Do they have that in China?"


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth

 Today is Juneteenth.  Most Americans don't know what that is, I read.  Hmm.  Maybe it is the name that is confusing.  It is like the number "fleventh."  It is a linguistic trick.  If it were called something like "Emancipation Day," perhaps. . . .  Somehow, however, it has been connected to Critical Race Theory which most people don't understand, either.  Again, maybe if they simply called it "Institutional Racism," people would get it.  Not that they would like it, but they might know what the hell they were against.  

Half my friends are full of theory.  

The N.Y. Times often has "quizzes" you can take to see how much you know about such things.  The one quiz I haven't seen is "Test Your Global Knowledge:  Which Countries Do Not Have Institutional Racism?" 

Not "European countries."  Just "countries."  

It might make a lot of racists feel better.  

"Hell, boy, tell me where they have let the !Kung bushmen be in charge!"

O.K.  Maybe they wouldn't know what a !Kung bushman is, but you get my drift.  

There just seems to be no gentle way of telling people to think about things any more.  We have to put them into boxes and put the on the spot.  

Well, Siri just informed me that tomorrow is Father's Day.  I'll neither be giving nor receiving.  

It is not just "Days" we are interested in--National Pizza Day, etc.  We are into superlatives, too.  CNN, The NY Times, and The Weather Channel all have fooled me with "set a heat record" stats.  One "record" I saw was for Tuesdays.  I shit you not.  It was the hottest Tuesday on record.  So now when I look at a story that tells me 700 records of extreme heat were set. . . I just can't trust it.  The news outlets should never trick you. 

O.K.  There's the wisdom.  

I had beers with my California climbing buddy last night.  I haven't seen him in over a year.  Nothing's changed, of course, not between us.  It is like I saw him yesterday except for the updates on everything.  We drank beers and the waitress, a potential model for the new Victoria's Secret look, flirted, and we ate sandwiches and shot the breeze.  

When I got home, I uncorked a new bottle of scotch, turned on the television, and watched an hour of The Beatles videos.  Early Beatles.  They were a good band, but holy shit, they could not write a lyric.  I'll bet most songs had at most twenty words.  "Love, love me, do."  Really?  But it is fascinating to watch the girls screaming and tearing at their hair.  Those early sixties are excessively fascinating, that time of change just prior to the hippie revolution.  It didn't last long.  Just a minute or two.  A few years at most.  

When the Fabulous Mop Tops moved on to more "serious" things like Nehru jackets and LSD. . . they began to seem like Brian Wilson sitting in a sandbox.  They were still good, perhaps, but all the screaming and stomping was gone.  At some point, all that remained was Yoko screeching and Wings.  Things had become hideous.  

I turned off the t.v. when a video with Elton John, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr doing "As My Guitar Gently Weeps," came on.  

At four in the morning, I woke up.  "Baby's In Black" was playing in my head.  I had a drink of water, peed, and went back to bed.  

"Oh, dear, what can I do. . . ."


Friday, June 18, 2021

Party!

 I may be no more chatty today than I was yesterday.  I may have chatted myself out last night.  We'll see.  

I met a group from the factory late yesterday afternoon for a birthday celebration.  This was the first time I'd seen many of the people in a year and a half and it was the largest group I've been around in that time as well.  We had a nice table on an outside porch, under cover, with nice temperatures and a gentle breeze. I wasn't sure how I would react to a group dynamic, but I was one of the first to arrive, so I got to start with just a few people.  And once I started, I couldn't stop.  And I started immediately.  I must be truly starved for attention.  I was funny.  I was outrageous.  I walked right up to the edge and then stepped over. 

Again, I was exhausted when I got home.  

Now I should note that this is, in the main, a group of younger than I progressives.  Not all of my ideas align with theirs and vice-versa.  When I started a story with, "I used to date the most beautiful woman in town," their eyes rolled and the moans began.  "No, no, it was well known.  She was famous.  When men walked by her, it was as if something went wrong with their middle ear.  They just sort of lost their balance for a moment, ran into poles and stuff."  Their faux-hostility increased.  I knew I was going to have a difficult time getting through to my point.  

They all seem to get some tract or talking points or something.  And I?  Oh, I said things like "you people" referring to the only Black person there.  She is my friend and knows what I am saying and why, but you could feel the table tremble when the sudden silence fell.  I don't know why I do it.  I just can't help it.  I had a professor once who said, "You really like to piss people off, don't you?"  I replied, "Not really. . . I just like to shake them out of their complacency."  The unholy thing, though, is that I can't.  Groupthink is a terrifying thing to go up against.  

All in all, however, it was a nonstop love fest.  And this group can really drink some cocktails.  Martini and coupe glasses littered the table.  

And then the bell sounded and everyone got up to leave.  

On my way home, a cop followed me for quite a way.  I was hoping I didn't have a tail light out.  I knew I smelled of tequila and hops.  When he finally turned off, I was aware of the adrenaline dump.  He had taken quite an edge off my buzz.

At home, of course, I recalled the afternoon, mostly my own truly fascinating tales.  I was sitting next to a woman who teaches yoga, now almost exclusively online, and she was trying to convince me to join her class.  Uh-uh, I said.  Not until I can bend over far enough to touch my knees.  I told her my recent meditation stories, about how I had a difficult time helping my enemies be in a happy place, and how I had to make them vanish into vapor instead.  I told her that when I sat on the floor, I had to have my back against the couch or I would fall on my back helplessly like a turtle.  She could help with that, she said.  

The thing is, I did yoga for years until it started breaking my lower back.  Too many vinyasas.  I did competitive yoga, I said.  One of the women at the table went with me sometimes to my practice and she verified that it was true.  

"I used to be able to turn mourned and see the trunk of my car," I quipped, performing a pantomime of an old man with a stiff back and a rigid neck using his jaw muscles to help him make a quarter turn much to everyone's delight.  

In truth, I told her, I haven't really done much of that since the accident, and the broken side of my body and the metal ribs take a lot of care when I am stretching.  She said that I would like her yoga bandini, whatever she called it, where you just lie on your back in a state between sleeping and wakefulness.  

O.K.  It was time to get serious.  I've done all that.  I used to lie on the floor and do the technique of relaxing your body from toe to head until you were in a semi-conscious state.  I relayed how I would seem to levitate, floating in circles higher and higher until I was flying above the city looking down.  I said at first it was scary and I would stop it with a start, but once I learned to enjoy it, it was really something.  All the acolytes at the table were nodding enthusiastically.  I told them I had a "girlfriend" in college that said she could do astral projection.  

"How pretty was she?" they sarcastically giggled.  

"If I told you, you would say I was lying.  She was a beautiful blonde vegetarian masseuse I met at the food coop.  In the woods behind her house, she had a massage table."

"A 'massage table,' eh?"

"That's what she called it.  Anyway, she told me she could come visit me at night.  I told her to climb into bed, then, and she said, no, I can't do that, silly, and I said well then, it isn't much good to me, is it?"

The table was a cacophony of groans.

"But when I started doing the floating thing, I thought I realized what she was referring to.  She eventually got a job as the official masseuse on an Eagles tour."

"The Philadelphia Eagles?"

"No.  The Eagles.  She would send me beautiful letters for ports unknown.  I would always know when I opened the mailbox that I had a letter from her.  It smelled of patchouli oil and lemongrass and other wonderful things.  Sadly, I never saw her again."

And then the table talk turned to factory politics of which I no longer had any part.  My part was done.  

The cop having killed my buzz, I poured a scotch and lit a cheroot and headed out to feed an impatient cat who has come to count on the assigned hour.  I was late tonight, but there was still plenty of light.  I was back now in my routine solitude, and the night would be no different than the 365 nights before it.  But what the hell, right?  The party can't go on forever.  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Jet Stream Extravaganza

I installed my bidet yesterday.  Instructions said 8 minutes.  Liars.  They didn't calculate my ineptitude, I guess.  But thirty-eight minutes later, I had everything connected and the floor mopped up.  Then for the test.  Holy shit (so to speak)!  I couldn't believe how accurate the thing is.  My eyes bugged out like a squeeze toy, I think.  It's a little weird, but it does what it says.  

I'll let you know when my handiwork floods the house.  

Maybe I shouldn't have led with this.  I can't seem to find my way to the next topic.  Don't even have one in mind.  

Which would recommend I stop here, I guess.  Probably so. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Kilt

 I met a fellow from the factory for lunch yesterday.  He was coming off an acid trip from the night before.  He'd just come back from a vacation trip to Las Vegas and to some mysterious town in Utah where he sought to unravel some of the questions he has about his childhood.  We had agreed to meet at a restaurant not far from the apartment where he lives, but as I was driving to meet him, he texted me and said the restaurant was closed.  "I kid you not--somebody plowed their car into it."  He was sitting at the bar at a nearby Irish bar, he said.  

When I got there, he was most of the way through his first margarita.  

"Hey bud, how you doing?"

"Good.  I'm sweating like a pig.  It feels like it is a hundred degrees in here."  

He knew it wasn't, of course, that he was still reeling a bit with last night's adventures.  The bartender stood in front of me with a beer in hand.  

"Is that for me?" I asked.  

"Do you like IPAs?"

"Sure."

"Then it's yours."  

That's what being clever will get you, I thought.  I brought the glass to my lips.  Fortunately, it wasn't bad. 

"Before you got here, she was talking to the guys to my right."  I looked over to see the standard fellows in their fifties, the sort you see at every restaurant bar like this in town, the sort who look like they play golf, vote republican, and tell jokes with a straight face. 

"One of them asked her if she went to school here.  'What do you mean?' she asked.  'Where did you go to school?'  She said she went to a private Catholic school and then to a state school at the upper region of the state where she graduated two years ago.  'I guess I've been wearing this same uniform most of my life,' she said."

I looked over at the bartender.  She was wearing a plaid kilt and a black leotard top.  She was more than a little striking.  Maybe it wasn't an Irish bar, I thought.  The Irish don't wear kilts.  No matter, though.  I was going to have to focus on not looking at her.  The short bar was filled with men who watched her move about her bartender duties with great enthusiasm.  Everything she did fascinated them.  Me, too, I must admit, but I am very conscious of not wanting to be "them."  Still, it was almost unavoidable.  

I took a look at the menu.  There was really nothing I wanted.  My friend ordered a margherita flatbread.  

"Do you feel on the spectrum?" I asked him. 

"What do you mean?"

"You only order things that are margarita."

"Oh.  I hadn't noticed." 

I ordered the shepherds pie.  

It was lunchtime, and the place was pretty busy.  I thought about the bar which I am sure never gets cleaned, about these republican men, some of whom surely have not had the vaccine.  It was the first time I'd been in a place this closed in.  There are more than just Covid germs, I thought.  We've sort of forgotten that we used to get ill pre-Covid.  The thought made me uncomfortable, but what could I do?  

"Were you alone last night?" I asked my friend.

"Yes."

"What did you learn?  Did you have fun or was it something else?"

He thought for a minute.  "It was fun," he said.  "But I came to a realization, too."

He stopped there, and I felt he was waiting for me to ask the obvious question, so I did.  

"I realized," he said, "that I have to quit narrating things in my head.  I narrate all the time, and I have to just let that go and just be in the moment."

It didn't sound like something one needed LSD to think about, but I wasn't judging.  

"I don't know," I said.  "I think turning life into a narrative is a positive thing.  Most people just live randomly, their lives just a hodgepodge of events they never try to link together.  Once I started writing my life out, everything got more interesting.  Suddenly my life was a story, and each day I couldn't wait to see what would happen next."

"No, but I mean like I'll sit here right now and be narrating in my head and I'm not really experiencing the moment," he quarreled.  

O.K.  It sounded a bit like the LSD talking to me, but it didn't matter.  Such a thing was of no consequence to me.  I was writing stories about the bartender and enjoying them.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her bend down to pick up something off the floor.  My body convulsed involuntarily.  She was smiling and joking with the men who watched her like the Super Bowl.  She was working them with smiles and eye contact and a seeming interest in what they were saying.  She was putting more than pennies in the piggy bank.  

"She is really putting that college degree to work," I whispered to my friend.  

He laughed.  

Over lunch, he told me tales of his trip out west.  He is a writer of repute and tells a good tale.  Most of them today, however, had to do with his quest to the mysterious town in Utah.  There was a mystery he was trying to solve, a gap in his memory, or, perhaps, false memories of his childhood.

"Don't you ever wonder what made you be the way you are?" he asked.  "Don't you want to figure out how you became who you are?"

"No," I said.  That broke him up.  

"Really?"

"I don't see the point of it.  I have a hard enough time just trying to be me.  I'm not really sure what I've become, so trying to figure out how I got to this place I can't fully understand. . . well, no."

He sat quiet and thought about that for awhile.  I snuck a quick peak at the bartender.  She was a real pro.  It was almost disgusting, but not quite.  

Suddenly, a loud voice filled the room.  What the fuck was that?  It made no sense.  The music had gotten louder, and a young guy in the corner was singing the lyrics at the top of his voice.  He was sitting with a young woman, and the two were obvious friends of the bartender.  

"That guy makes me sick," I said.  "That is probably the bartender's boyfriend, or at least occasionally.  Have you ever seen the documentary 'Crumb'?" 

He hadn't, so I recounted the part where Crumb talks about high school and that he could never understand how the girls always went for the guys they did.  I said this was why I had trouble in groups, why I couldn't participate in social media.  

"What were you like in high school?" he asked.  

"I was an only child.  I was used to being alone.  Parties made me nervous.  When all the cool kids were having fun, I was the guy in the other room sitting with the potted palm and the girl with the lazy eye."

This made him laugh.  "Really?  I never would have guessed that.  Why?"

"You know, I don't get it.  But it's like that group text thing from the factory.  Everybody will be chatting away, people liking other people's comments, everyone seeming to try to show they like it more.  Then I'll post a comment, and the chat ends.  I've always been able to clear a room.  And like Crumb, I just don't get it.  So. . . whatever.  I try to be the first one in and the first one out whenever I can."

Lunch done, the bartender wanted to know if we wanted anything else.  

"Are you having anything?"  My friend had gone through several margaritas.  

"I am if you are."

"I'll have a scotch," I said, naming the brand.

"You want ice?"

"No, just a small splash."

"I'll have another margarita." 

When she brought the drinks and set them down and had moved down to take some orders, I pointed to my scotch.

"You see that?  She's flirting with me."

"I was going to comment.  That's a pretty hefty pour."

The glass was half full.  

"I didn't really want that much," I said.  For Christ's sake. . . that kilt was killing me.  I had thought she surely must be wearing boy shorts under it, but I had visual evidence that that wasn't the case.  At least, I thought,  I wasn't trying to chat her up.  That separated me from those laser stare others.  Or so I consoled myself.  

In a bit, I looked at my phone that had been blowing up with texts for some time.  It was a group chat. . . nothing.  But the time was surprising.  We'd been sitting at the bar now for over three hours.  

"I've got to go," I said.  "I need to visit with my mother."  

The bartender brought the checks.  I needed to leave an adequate tip for having taken up space at the bar for so long, but it had to be subtle, too.  You know, I wouldn't want to look like those fools.  There was a delicate balance here to be struck.  

On the sidewalk, we chatted a bit more.  It was good, we said.  We'd do it again.  

By the time I got to my mother's, the exhaustion had set in.  We sat outside in rockers with the garage doors open, the temperature cooled by rain, the breezes, the quiet of suburbia, the birds. . . . 

"Oh.  I guess I fell asleep for a minute," I said. 

"I saw.  Go inside and lie down."

"No, I've got to stop at the grocery store.  I'm going to go."

The day had worn me out.  I thought about the upcoming group meeting on Thursday.  God, I, thought, I don't have the strength.  Really. . . the first one in, the first one out. . . . 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Magoo

Are you anything like me, kids, astounded at the things you read that you've never heard of nor know anything about?  It is not like I am illiterate, not like I don't pay attention to what is going on in the world, but Jesus Marimba, I'm constantly reading taglines like this:

"Tremeus Jones Says He Supports TDC Study"

And I wonder--am I an idiot?  I have no idea who Tremeus Jones is nor what the fuck a TDC study might be.  And so I am stuck with a quandary.  Do I read the story so I can catch up with the rest of the world, or do I just skip it and face potential ridicule somewhere down the line?  

It's a 50/50 proposition.  I've learned to skip such stories from experience.  But I wonder, have I become the Average American?  If I do fall into the trap and read such stories, however, I find I am maybe the opposite of that.  Tremeus turns out to be a gay hip-hop/country rapper crossover sensation on TikTok and TDC refers to something to do with inter terrestrials.  

But today a story on teaching pornography to children caught my attention.  In the opening paragraphs:

[A] study found that more than 90 percent of boys and close to two-thirds of girls had viewed online pornography before turning 18, whether intentionally or involuntarily.

I’ve been interviewing teenagers about their attitudes and expectations of sex for over a decade. When talking to boys, in particular, I’ve never asked whether they’ve watched porn — that would shoot my credibility to hell. Instead, I ask when they first saw it. Most say right around the onset of puberty. They not only learned to masturbate in tandem with its images but also can’t conceive of doing it any other way. “I have a friend who was a legend among the crew team,” a high school senior told me. “He said that he’d stopped using porn completely. He said, ‘I just close my eyes and use my imagination.’ We were like, ‘Whoa! How does he do that?’” (link)

Now. . . I've been a little disingenuous.   It is an op ed piece, and it is not actually about teaching pornography to kids but about it.  If you read the piece, you will find that it has an agenda--to change porn.  What is needed is a lot more diversity.  Kids need not simply to know about heterosexual anal sex but the many other possibilities that are available.  Who can argue with that?  The author judges porn and finds it lacking.  How can a kid really know what it wants to grow up to be if it doesn't have the full menu?  

Personally, I have about as much interest in porn as I do in the Disney channel, which is not to say none, but I can only take about two minutes of it before I get bored.  For me, each is about as rooted in reality as "Gilligan's Island." 

"O.K., kids, we are going to have a little pop-writing assignment today.  The topic is, 'Who do you find sexier--Ginger or Mary Ann'?  Now remember, in writing this brief essay, you need not close your eyes."

I just don't think I'm dialed in to the mainstream.  Not that I ever was, but mainstream sure has changed.  More and more I feel like the least interesting character on "Gilligan's Island," The Professor.  Or maybe Grandpa on "The Waltons."  Was there a Grandpa character on that show?  I confess, I've never seen it.  It just seems to be the kind of show that would have a crusty, suspender-wearing grandpa character who from time to time doles out a widget of homespun wisdom.  

I don't own any suspenders.  Yet.  

Oh--I just Googled it.  Sure enough, there was a Grandpa character.  I must have seen that in the trailers.  

Q asked me the other day if I had read some philosopher.  I forget which one, but it doesn't matter.  I said no, I find it is like the poetry of Alan Ginsburg.  I get more pleasure in reading about it than reading the work itself.  I find  philosophy overly tedious in its arguments as they try to prove the impossible.  Anyone who has read "Being and Nothingness" and says they found it fascinating. . . .  To wit, last night I watched some YouTube videos on Spinoza.  One of them kept referring to Will Durant who wrote the crib notes to all philosophical thought.  There was another that actually went through some of "Ethics."  I'm not sure that what I took away from the evening is accurate.  But it doesn't matter really, does it?  I could spend a lot of time misreading his work or an hour or so listening to some other equally valid account.  

A better comparison of who I am becoming would probably be the character of Mr. Magoo.  Yes, that is who I am beginning to feel like, a nearsighted retiree who is mistaken for a lunatic by others.  If I could only manage to feel as cheerful about it as he.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

Sleepwalking, Sleepwriting

 I slept away most of Sunday.  WTF?  I am somnambulistic of late.  I had to rise at three in the afternoon to do some marketing, but I never felt awake.  My mother was coming at 4:30 for an Early Bird Special.  I was cooking ribs and beans and slaw.  Once again, it was to be my first meal of the day.  I've not had a great desire to eat of late.  It is probably the weather, the heat.  I have been thinking of fasting every other day to see how that feels.  I have never heard of such a thing, but I will Google it.  I'm sure it is something.  

Many days I have nothing to do but Google.  I Googled "Organic Milk" today.  It is better for you than regular milk.  By far.  Never drink low fat milk.  There is nothing good about that and much that is bad. I Googled "How Long Do Squirrels Live."  It depends on the species.  In general, though, squirrels in the wild have a much shorter lifespan.  Generally a year vs. twelve to twenty-four in captivity.  Living in captivity is much better for longevity, if that is what you seek.  

I wonder if my somnambulism isn't a result of solitude and the corresponding depression?  Perhaps, but there may be a horrific organic reason, too.  I find you think much more about how you feel when you are alone.  In a crowd, you forget about that.  There is a public performance that is demanded.  But those badass fuckers like Jeremiah Johnson didn't dwell on such things, I would think (link).  Nor did Hugh Glass (link), the subject of "The Revenant."

Curiously enough, both Robert Redford and Leonardo Di Caprio starred as Gatsby in block buster movies.  

* * *

Dinner with mother was good, but she left early in order not to drive home in the coming rain.  And finally, a rain did come.  The land has been parched here, the lakes drying up.  Summer, however, could bring flooding rains.  Still, this is the fastest growing state in the union, so no matter how much rain might come, the aquifers will continue to shrink, sink holes continue to grow.  We've paved over thirty percent of our water recharge areas.  I made that figure up.  It could be higher.  I don't know.  I DO know we do it along with pumping toxic water into deep aquifers that we would have depended on one day.  Meanwhile, we have granted access to our best spring waters to giant bottling companies like Nestle who sell millions of gallons of the water per year.  

I just Googled that.  They own fifty-one brands of bottled water and sell eight billion gallons per year.  

The ways of human greed.  

I drink tap water.  According to its reports, my own hometown has very good drinking water, probably because we lack both agriculture and industry.  I had a friend who tested water, and he told me that it was purer than the major brand of bottled water sold here.  I wonder how much money I save each year.  

I calculated this week how much money I spend on gas driving to my mother's house each day.  That little journey costs me about a thousand dollars a year.  A little more or less given the price of gas per gallon.  I was shocked.  

When I told my mother, I think she felt guilty.  She keeps wanting to pay for groceries now.  She even filled my tank when we went to Costco.  

I'll tell her I more than make up for that amount of money by not drinking bottled water.  

* * *

There's some piss-poor writing for you.  The juices aren't flowing.  This is the writing of a somnambulist.  Perhaps I shouldn't force myself to post something every day.  

No matter.  


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Broke Down Tired

 I went to dinner yesterday with only the 4th person I have seen out since the pandemic began.  It was he I believed had given me Covid early on.  Now I'm not so sure.  He told me that he got Covid at Thanksgiving.  It was severe.  He ended up in a Remdesivir trial (for which he was paid $3,000).  So maybe it wasn't he who helped ruin my life after all.  

We met for the Early Bird Special, dinner at 4:30.  Well, drinks at 4:30, dinner at five.  I have fallen in love with the early dinner.  The woman I went to the museum with does as well, and she is not old.  I think Dinner at Four could be definitely cool.  Staying out late now is for perverts and decrepit drug addicts.  The beautiful people are all in bed by nine and up with the sun.  So I've read.  I've always been this way.  My motto has always been, "Nothing good happens after midnight."  But midnight is too late for good health and a beautiful, shapely figure.  All science shows that exercise and early bed are important for a healthful mind/body relationship.  That's what all the Hollywood stars do, now.  It is not that you can never have the occasional hit off the crack pipe or the odd snorting of heroin.  You just do it early.  Q recommends doing LSD first thing in the morning.  Otherwise, he says, you'll be up all night.  

Good advice.  

The problem is, however, now that it is chic to dine in daylight, you can't find an Early Bird Special, at least in my own hometown.  I should be saving a lot of retirement money right now, but from what I hear, I'd need to move to a retirement town where they still have such things.  Here, in the heart of a mundane middle class metropolis, "Fugit about it."  

I met my friend at the bar.  I don't really do sit down tables unless there is a large group.  I hadn't seen my friend in over a year.  There was a lot of catching up to do.  He is moving to the Middle East.  I think I've already mentioned this.  He has a three year contract, so I'll probably be dead by the time he comes back.  I mean, I probably won't see him again unless he returns for some holiday.  He probably will, but I prefer the melodramatic approach.  Why not?  

There were a lot of good specials on the menu, but I was boring.  Chianti Classico, Arugula salad, Spaghetti Carbonara with chicken, Sambuca, and a scotch.  We talked our way through several hours, so we tipped our barman well.  Within minutes, I was home.  

And exhausted.  I still feel socially awkward having little practice at conversations this year, and throughout the course of our meal, the restaurant became very crowded.  It made me a bit jumpy when some man would bellow or some woman cackle, and there was a sternly beautiful waitress, obviously disturbed by some great internal turmoil, with a crazy tattoo on one arm, a sort of Asia Argento type, who had to pass by us a hundred times.  Each time, my innards would contract, and though she wore a perpetual frown, I swear she was looking at me from the corner of her eye.  Oh, mock me if you will, but I know these things.  She probably was thinking she would like to stick a fork in my bicep for laughs, but I don't believe I am wrong about the glances.  Even if I am only imagining it, though, it sapped much of my energy during the meal.  Just nerves.  

When we left, she didn't say goodbye.  Not even an almost imperceivable wave.  Maybe she's just shy. 

When I got home, the cat was waiting on her own dinner, so I poured a scotch, lit a cheroot, and sat with her on the deck while she ate.  By eight, I was on the couch.  

Oh, the couch, that lovely, luxurious couch.  I've recently taken to lying on it while I read.  It is deep and wide, and the buttery leather cools or warms you depending on your need.  I propped myself up on two large pillows and settled in with more "Submission."  When I woke, it was midnight.  I must have put the novel down for a minute to think on a passage or to rest my eyes.  I didn't want to get up, but my neck was starting to kink.  I knew I had to.  With great trepidation, I made my nightly concoction of oral contraceptives, brushed my teeth, and took a "'Nite All" to assure I would make it through the night after my late, long nap.  

The bed was glorious.  Each time I woke, I was "strong like raging bull."  Was it my little Argento?  Or maybe the Sambuca had some hand in it.  No matter, each time I'd fall back into some dreamful sleep.  

I have never felt comfortable in crowds and have always felt a tension in social situations that is hard for me to explain, but now that has been exacerbated by isolation, age, and a physical brokenness.  I don't think I have a party in me any more.  Maybe.  Just for awhile.  And then the sweet collapse.  

I had better eat my wheat germ today, though, for I must party again tonight with my mother.  I am grilling a rack of baby back ribs I bought on our frenetic trip to Costco the other day.  Ribs and slaw and beans, I guess.  Early.  No late eating for us.  It is not that mom goes to bed early, however.  She is a night owl.  She often stays up until midnight.  So do her friends.  Whatever.  That generation has a different juice.  They are all around ninety and don't look like they are running out of voltage any time soon.  My generation is already in decline.  Too many chemicals in our youth.  Too much plastic.  Too much Monsanto.  It is probably Monsanto that has me on the couch.  That lovely couch, soft and so deep.  I have plans for a good afternoon read today while the brutal sun mercilessly bakes the dying lawns and wilted shrubs.  AC, a cool couch, and. . . zzzzz.  

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Oh, Man. . . I Can't Even Come up with a Title for This One

 

I didn't take this photo.  It was taken by a seven year old boy who had my camera.  This is Henry.  He was my longest relationship until about a year ago.  He was my yard man for three houses and thirty years.  Then one day, he just quit showing up.  I had no way of contacting him.  I didn't have an address, a phone number. . . nothing.  You might find that odd, but that is the way we worked.  He'd show up, and once a month I'd pay him.  When I met Henry, he was probably the strongest man I knew.  I don't mean lifting weights strong.  You just knew he could pull a small tree out of the ground with one hand.  That kind of strong.  When he came to do the yard, I'd always go out and chat a bit.  I never told him what to do.  He just did everything.  Sometimes I wouldn't see him for a long while.  He'd come when I wasn't home.  Sometimes this went on for months.  When I saw him again, I would pay him everything.  Sometimes he just didn't show up.  When I'd see him again, he'd say he went home to visit family in Jamaica or he would tell me his truck broke down or his equipment had been stolen.  I'd still pay him because he'd put everything back together just like new.  

When he quit coming, I Googled him.  I found a phone number for him.  It was shared with a woman I thought, by the age listed, might be his mother.  There was an address.  I Google mapped it and saw a small, low rise apartment complex.  Parked there was what looked to be Henry's truck.  I thought I might call the number to see if Henry was o.k., but then I thought it somehow wasn't fitting.  It was winter, so the grass was not growing.  I waited two months.  Three.  Henry never came.  Four.  I finally decided he wasn't coming back and hired my mother's yard guys to do mine.  

One day, I was walking by a house around the corner that Henry used to tend.  The fellow who owned the house was standing outside.  I walked over and asked him about Henry.  He had no idea.  He'd been in San Francisco for many months and had just gotten home.  I told him I Henry hadn't been around.  

The next time I saw the fellow, he said he had called Henry.  Henry said a fellow, a relative--I can't remember which--was supposed to be helping him do the lawns.  Henry told him that he had to have a toe cut off.  Henry, I knew, had developed diabetes.  Over the last couple years, he moved as if he may have had a minor stroke.  His powerful right arm often hung limply while he pushed the mower with his left.  

The fellow around the corner knew Henry's story much better than I.  He said the older woman was his wife, not his mother.  They had a son who had gotten a scholarship to the University of Chicago, that he had received a Master's Degree in Business and had moved home.  He got caught up with a group of druggies, he told me, and had become one himself.  A real waste, he said.  I had often wondered when looking at Henry if he, too, hadn't gotten onto something.  

That was all a year ago.  Yesterday, driving by the neighbor's house on my way home, I saw Henry's truck in the driveway.  He was standing with his relative--a fellow you WOULD believe to be a drug addict--who was working on the lawn mower on the bed and tailgate of the truck.  

"Henry," I shouted when I had stopped and rolled down my window.  He looked up.  

"Hey, mon. . . I was going to talk to you. . . . "

"How are you doing?" I asked.  

"I'm O.K." he said dubiously.  

"Are you working?"

"A little bit, yea. . . ."  

"Stop by anytime, Henry, just for a chat," I said. 

"Yea, mon. . . ."  

It was strange seeing him after all this time.  I always liked having Henry around.  As I say, he was one of my longest relationships.  But seeing him yesterday was like seeing a ghost.

The kid who took the photo is twenty-one now.  He only knew Henry from this house.  

Last night was Sushi Friday.  I decided on that after a harrowing day with my mother.  It wasn't my mother who was harrowing.  First off, I thought the maids were coming, so I spent the morning preparing for them.  But they didn't show up, didn't write.  I went back and checked the dates.  Nope.  They come next week.  Uh-oh, I thought. . . a little cognitive slipping?  Given my friend's condition. . . . 

My mother was taking me to Costco to get some things.  I was taking her, but she's the one with the membership card.  But first, we decided to get some lunch.  On property is a Chickin Lickin', so we decided to go there and get a sandwich.  Among the throng.  When we finished, I navigated the chaos of the parking lot to Costco's gas station and got at the tail of a very long line.  Was it worth it?  My tank was absolutely empty, so I was probably going to save a couple bucks.  But was it worth it?  

Eighteen gallons of gasoline later, we made our way into the giant warehouse.  Friday afternoon, the place was packed with people wielding giant metal shopping carts through the narrow-ish isles.  They came popping out of every intersection, a stream of carts speeding random directions.  People seemed intent on staying in the middle.  I sensed anger and aggression.  My mother was quite content to wander up and down the isles to stop and look at things she wouldn't buy while I tried to maneuver the giant cart into some parking position, but no matter where I went, I seemed to be blocking somebody's way.  Costco is huge.  Time dragged painfully on, row after row of giant sized everything.  I grabbed toilet paper.  The package barely fit into the cart.  Coffee.  Some vitamins.  Was this worthwhile?  My mother was happy and excited that they were giving samples once again.  She wouldn't pass up any free food.  

"Do you want one?" she'd scream to me standing some way distant.  

I'd shake my head to the negative.  She'd reach over and get the second one.  She felt as if it was justified.  

Back in the parking lot, it must have been a hundred degrees.  I couldn't wait to get home.  I needed a nap. But when I got home, I realized that the maids had not come, that I would have to make the bed.  I HATE making the bed.  I can never figure out which way the fitted sheets fit, which is the long side of the nearly but not quite square of top sheet and heavy comforter.  Putting on the king sized pillow cases has always flummoxed me.  When I had finally finished, the bed looked exactly like somebody had just slept in it. 

I needed a drink. 

In the end, it was too late to take a nap.  I remembered that I was thinking of ordering a Tushy Classic 3.0 bidet.  Everyone I know who has one says it is a "life changer."  Direct quote.  Many, many sources.  So I sat down to the computer to do my research.  Oh, fuck, it was funny.  It was so funny, of course, that I had to share with my unwilling friends.  How do you not share this?


Or this?


My rich Trumper friend said she was referring to her wife.  I replied, "Don't be an ass wipe."  Oh, I was breaking myself up, but he wearied quickly and asked me if this is what he could look forward to in retirement?  I said, "Hey, look--we all went to college, we just don't act like it."  

It is very true.  

My new bidet will arrive Monday.  After ordering it, I remembered the toilet paper.  I still had to put it all away.  It was then I found that it wasn't toilet paper I needed.  It was paper towels.  Given that I am getting a bidet, I may never need to buy toilet paper again.  

We'll see if the bidet changes the blog any.  Perhaps, you know,  I might not be a shitty asshole any more.  

Friday, June 11, 2021

Next

 One minute you're up, the next minute. . . .

I spent last night trying to attach metal objects to my body to see if I had been magnetized.  I spent the better part of last night stringing together garlic bulbs to wear to bed.  I have Google Mapped all the 5G towers in the surrounding area.  You can never be too careful these days.  

I blame much of our current problems on K-pop.  

It is difficult to be silly.  It is hard not to be.  Yesterday I got some disturbing news about a good friend of mine.  He's been having some health issues and went through a series of neurological tests.  They told him yesterday he has Lewy body Dementia.  If you don't know what that is, just combine Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and throw in hallucinations and some other really horrible stuff.  It is incurable and practically untreatable.  It is the disease that plagued Robin Williams.  I can't imagine receiving such news, knowing that every day was going to be worse than the last as you hurtled into debilitating madness.  Most drugs that would otherwise help exacerbate Lewy.  Even caffeine and alcohol are out.  There is little to do but sit and stare and ride it to the end.  

He is married.  She is freaking.  

I mentioned this all to some friends.  They each have a litany of people they know who are suffering something debilitating.  

My across the street neighbor is an anesthesiologist. His little dog loves me.  He can't walk by my house without her pulling at the leash and going nuts.  He says sometimes on his walks if I'm not out, she won't go anywhere and they just return to the house.  That dog makes me very happy.  Last night, I was just stepping out of the house with my cheroot and scotch when they entered the yard.  

"Thank God you are here," he said.  "Timing is everything."  

He is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet.  But what would you expect.  What is the best kind of doctor to be?  One without need of an office.  One who needs not see patients.  One who doesn't get calls in the middle of the night.  He picked the right specialty for sure.  And his wife is an attorney.  Rolling in the dough.  His beautiful daughter is now a pediatrician.  Somehow, I don't think that would be as easy a ride.  

After our usual greetings, I asked him if spoons were sticking to him yet.  He, however, had not seen any of this on the news.  

"Oh, you will," I said.  "A medical doctor just testified about that to the Ohio State Legislature.  She's a real card.  She reported that one of her friends got the vaccine and two weeks later her husband had a stroke."  

He just shook his head.  I wondered how much damage this did to the medical profession as a whole.  I know that I, for one, believe half the doctors out there are these kind of nuts.  They are not scientists, after all, but rather practitioners of an applied science in their specialty.  At least that is my greatest hope.  My fear, however, is much deeper.  

As an anesthesiologist, of course, he works every day in the hospital.  He told me he asked the head of nursing what percent of her staff had gotten vaccinated.  She said around 60%.  He was shocked, he said.  He couldn't understand it.  They offered the vaccine to the staff early on.  They didn't have to wait in line.  They just walked in and got shot.  But nope.  

I didn't say anything about nurses and science.  

At that same Ohio legislation, I saw video of the testimony of a nurse who brought her car key to show that she had become magnetized by the vaccine and that it would stick to her.  Um. . . hey, lady. . . car keys are made of brass.  They are not effected by magnetism.  For some reason, she was having a difficult time getting the key to stick, but she was undeterred and very, very animated.  

I'm hoping the garlic will keep me safe.  Obviously there is some other kind of infection going around, probably brought by those alien spaceships the government is telling us about.  But this, I must admit, is like my childhood dreams, a shadowy world of gypsies and potions and magic spells.  I loved movies like "The Wolf Man."

But I'm not a kid any more, and I have reached an age.  I told my neighbor about the news I had just gotten from my friend.  He said that people ask him why we are seeing so much pancreatic cancer among people we know.  "We've reached that age," he said, "where diseases start to kick in."  

All the cool kids got old, get sick, and die.  My friend and I were cool kids.  We played in the band together.  We played in front of large audiences, a few times numbering over five thousand.   We won't be doing that again.  

The neighbor is about my age.  We shook our heads and agreed on what was important now.  But it doesn't matter.  One day, you know, it's going to be your turn.  




Thursday, June 10, 2021

Sometimes You Just Can't Quit

 


I got out yesterday for a bit. An old colleague asked me to meet her at the art museum, and I said sure. I haven't bee to the museum for a long, long time. There are reasons beyond the pandemic for this. The shows are usually. . . well, they are not designed with me in mind. I used to date a fabulously wealthy woman whose mother had an art gallery and was on the Board of Directors of the museum. She did not like figurative art at all, and, to my mind, the museum suffered greatly. Wealth and privilege may bring much, but it doesn't bestow a great knowledge of art. To wit: I have avoided many of the shows over the years.  

But what the hell.  I hadn't been out much and hadn't seen my friend for a long time, and the show was presenting the winners of their contemporary art awards. . . so, sure.  

But I was having a bad reaction prior to going.  I mean, breaking routine is difficult.  What routine, you might wonder?  Oh, you know, doing nothing.  Doing something after doing nothing seemed overwhelming.  I sweated while trying to figure out what to wear.  I've only been in my outrageous homeboy peddle pushers and t-shirts for a year and a half.  I didn't want to wear pants or anything constricting.  I worked for an hour to repair a pair of decent looking shorts so that I could look somewhat presentable in public.  I had to move quickly.  It was time to go.  I was getting more nervous and doubtful by the second.  I couldn't help myself.  I poured a big whiskey to go as a bracer.  I was out the door. 

I got to the museum a bit early.  My friend was taking the train in from the factory town and texted she would be there soon.  Before I left the house, I had a call from another old colleague who had been regretfully been unemployed throughout the pandemic.  This is the same friend I suspected gave me Covid as soon as it was available, something I will never know for certain.  He has now secured a job at an American university in one of the wealthy middle-eastern countries and is leaving next week.  He wanted to get together before he left.  As I waited, I returned his call.  

"Sure, if you want to meet up with a weirder, darker version of me, we can get together for dinner."

"That's hard to imagine.  You were already dark and weird."

We set a date for Saturday.  I also had a text from my California mountain buddy.  He and his family are in town.  I will be meeting with them at some point, too.  The walls, I felt, were crumbling, the sea wall cracking.  I would be swept into the world once again. 

My friend arrived with a smile and a hug, and we made our way into the museum.  

"Two," she said to the lady selling tickets.  

"That will be thirty dollars."

"Uh-uh," I smiled.  "One adult and one senior."

The pretty young woman looked at me for a moment with smiling eyes.  "Sixty-five and over," she queried.

"Uh. . . yea," I said with an exaggerated wave of my arms.  

Oh, that young woman was lovely.  "Well, you certainly don't look it," she said.  

"Did you hear that?" I asked my friend.  "That is what you need to remember when relaying the events of this day to our friends!"

Later, in retelling the story, I would self-depreciate by adding the word "grandpa" to the end of the sentence.  That is part of my very expansive charm. 

Having not engaged in much social contact for so long, and having sunk ever deeper into paranoid anxiety and depression, I didn't know if I would be able to hold up my end of any conversation.  I felt like one of those people who never look at you, who stare at the ground when they speak.  I think, however, that the pretty young woman who sold the tickets had turned my life around.  She was just the therapy I had been needing.  And so. . . I became a chatterbox.  I don't believe I ever shut up.  It was as if I had amped up on Benzedrine.  I was a running commentary.  I explained everything to my unsuspecting friend, gave background info on the artists, explained photographic processes, talked about other works by the same or similar artists, and, of course, expounded on Hockney's camera obscura theories.  I told the astonishing tale of my own discovery of American modernism after a long run with only the European variety, and I held forth my own theory of why American painting had often been so primitive and so odd.  When we came to a portrait by John Singer Sargent, a couple who had been near us asked me what I thought of this painting.  OMG!  Did I go on about it.  I retold the camera obscura theory and said that I believed that is why American painting until the 19th century was as it was--they didn't know to use the camera obscura!  

I looked around for my friend, but she was long gone.  

I'd forgotten how many rooms the expanded museum had, and on this day, I was not disappointed by any of them.  There was a hundred foot long and twenty foot high mural that amazed me, constructed of 3'x3' panels that had been glazed.  It would have taken the rest of the afternoon to really "read" the tale told there, but with my friend, after a few minutes of me rattling on about the wonderful Diego Rivera murals in the hallway of the Detroit Museum of Art--"Have you been?  Have you seen those?  Oh, my. . . you must. . ."--we moved on.  Not without me explaining, however, the business of art and who would buy such a large piece and why Chelsea Galleries had to sell large pieces to keep their doors open, etc.  

The last two rooms were large 3D installations.  I'm not usually enticed by such things, but this day, I was fascinated by the lights.  

"We should eat some acid and come sit in the center of the room," I kidded.  "We could get sucked up into the vortex, you know. . . E.T. and beam me up Scottie and all of that. . . . "  

It had taken us a couple of hours to get through the exhibits and now came the decision: was I going to go to dinner?  What the hell, I thought, sure.  It was a Prix Fixe $30 meal deal that was going on all over my own little hometown during the month of June with many of the better restaurants, a sort of welcome back from Covid thing.  Of course, we ate at the bar.  

When we walked in, the bartender greeted us before we were seated.  

"What's happening, brother?" 

I hadn't been in all that often, but it was nice to be remembered.  Even what I drank.  My friend smiled.  Yes, I said smugly, that's the way it is.  

We sat at a corner of the wrap around bar so we needn't turn to see one another but didn't need to look at each other, either.  A bar corner is ideal.  Down the bar, a pretty young woman sat with what I assumed was her mother.  Across from me was an older fellow with another pretty young woman.  And before our drinks arrived, a mother and her pretty young daughter we had seen at the museum walked in behind us.  

"Don't you find it weird when things like that happen?" asked my friend.  

"What, when pretty women follow me all over town.  No, I've gotten used to it."  

As our drinks arrived, two extremely attractive young women, one with very strong legs and arms that were well revealed, sat beside my friend.  You may notice that I have commented distastefully on the women's appearance, but please remember, I haven't seen women for a very long time.  It was as if I had just gotten off the Island of Doom where I was quarantined with other broken toys.  After having no immediate reactions to anything for so long, I was quite in shock and awe.  

However, I am a shy man who doesn't speak to strangers, and I know better than to look.  Old men stare.  There are practical reasons for that, I am finding, basically that it is difficult to see through exhausted old eyes, but I know that is not the only reason, and I am damned if I am going to be one of those laser beam old geeks.  Nope.  Not me.  

But can I tell you that heads kept turning?  My friend noticed it, so it had to be obvious.  

"They must think I'm creepy," I said.  "But I swear, I'm not doing anything."  And I hadn't.  I had kept my gaze steadfastly on my friend and our food and the now rotating bartenders who were all quite friendly.  

"Maybe it is just the potential creepiness," she said with a giggle.  

"Yes, there's that," I half agreed, but in my heart of hearts, I knew the unspeakable truth, and I was gladdened in the old Biblical way, and juiced with liquor and food and recognition, I was off to the races again.  Oh, man, was I having fun!

After we had finished our dinner, and after I had dropped her off at the train station and had made my way home, sitting outside with the cat as she ate her dinner, a scotch and a cheroot in hand, I began to crash.  Holy smokes, the fatigue simply engulfed me.  I had emptied the tank.  I was done.  

Later, though, curled up on the couch reading Houellebecq's "Submission," I thought about what I had feared and what had transpired and about what a wonderful day it had been.  And though I could not move, I, somehow, was happy.  



Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Pisac

I've had some help remembering.  Pisac.  That was the Peruvian city.  My art/travel buddy suggested that it was--because it was clearly printed on a sign in one of the photographs I posted.  In memory, the closest I could come to it was Pisco, but that is a drink, not a town.  After his reminder, I Googled Pisac Festival July and found this (link).  The Virgin of the Carmel's Festival is what I attended.  Pisac looks to be a bit more commercial now, but what isn't since the advent of the internet?  

Long ago and far away. . . . 

That's how every fairytale begins.  Either that or, "No shit, guys, you won't believe this one. . . ."  

I didn't take a professional camera.  I took the smallest camera I could buy, an Olympus XA, and I shot slide film because Brando always had slide shows for his upcoming trips at the big parties he would throw.  Not only did my dead ex-friend Brando steal my money, but he used many of my Peru slides that I never got back.  He only took the best ones.  

In the pre-digital days, of course, the only way to show photos to a large group was with a slide projector, so many travelers shot on slide film.  There were drawbacks to that, however.  Slide film was usually slower than negative film, and exposure settings were much more critical as negative film has a wider latitude and is more forgiving.  As a result, many slides were over or underexposed and/or were blurry from handholding the lower iso/shutter speed.  Slide film doesn't seem to last as long, either.  When I set about scanning my slides some years ago, I found that a mold or mildew had already begun to eat the dyes.  This is typical of old slides, I've read, and once it begins, there is nothing you can do to stop it.  I found making a good scan of a slide much more difficult than scanning negative film, too.  The problems of the past.  Now, of course, everyone shoots digital images--kajillions of them--that only need to be uploaded, often mere moments after they were taken.  Something's gained, something's lost.  The old thrill of one of Brando's slide show/travelogues is something difficult to replicate, a hundred people or so sitting in a suddenly quiet, darkened room having consumed large quantities of beer and wine, waiting to see something exotic, dangerous, humorous, erotic. . . .  Oh, the bullshit was rich and deep.  

"We'll be going to Peru in July, and I'd love for you all to come, but we're limited to [x] number of travelers and as of now there are only a few spaces left.  We'll be doing this again next year, but if you are wanting to go with us now, I'd suggest you sign on soon."

Then the lights would come on and Brando would start collecting checks from those eager to go.  

That is how it worked.  Always the same.  Like a charm.  

These were the days before the large adventure travel companies had taken over.  The hordes had yet to arrive.  Such travel was for hippies, roustabouts, and vagabonds, by and large.  The Disney/Jimmy Buffet tour bus had yet to arrive in town.  

I think you can still travel away from the masses, however, if you are willing to go where others fear to tread.  I found a list today on CNN.  As my early retired stock broker turned mountain guide friend use to say, "Where there is pain, there is opportunity."

If not, however, there are other ways to travel.  Cha-ching!



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Clarification

 Yes, my memory is faulty, as impressionistic as those high altitude villages in Peru where mountain and structure seem organically intertwined, neither beginning or letting off, natural outcroppings of time.  But a day of wondering has cleared it a little, and some simple observation as well.  The year was 1985.  No doubt.  And indeed, I had gone to the strange festival with Brando.  The evidence of that is in the photos.  


You see the little number "28" marked upon the sidewalk?  That's the giveaway, as you will see.  

After the effigies had been taken to the Cathedral, and after the incantations were finished, the crowd moved back into the square where another strange event was about to take place.  



Eventually groups began to arrange themselves around the plaza along the numbered sidewalk, in corners and dusty patches, anywhere that could provide a view.  


Eventually, men began to ride horses into the square.  There was to be a race, of sorts, a competition I could hardly understand.  



On a wire suspended over a section of the street, a chicken was hung by its feet.  The strangeness of the thing was hardly to be believed.  A man in an old, ill-fitting suit, perhaps the grand Marshall, road a most elegant steed to the head of the procession.  


Something took place that I couldn't understand, and then the men on horses began to race through the street, the neighing and snorting and the clomp of hooves on the cobblestones, horses slipping as they turned sharp corners, rider bumping rider as men inelegantly lunged and lurched for the suspended chicken.  Round and round they went in a strange equestrian fandango, awkward and violent, the occasional hushed or reverent cheering emerging from the crowd.  This went on for a long while, I remember, but how long I couldn't say for certain.  The entire event, from marching through side streets, to entering the Cathedral to the eventual capturing of the chicken seems to have taken the better part of the day.  In that time, I hadn't spoken a word to anyone.  I had simply been absorbed by the crowd, a disembodied observer in a collective hallucination.  

Had Brando been there?  I don't remember him in any of this.  And the girl?  It beats me.  I don't recall her coming back to Cuzco.  The photo of the two of them in the village square seems near blasphemy to me now, a contraindication to the unreal mysticism of the day.  I cannot reconcile the two events as having taken place at the same time, in the same location.  


I would go back, if I could, to better remember, to better document.  But Peru has been changed.  Cuzco is now one of the busiest adventure travel destinations for tourists in the world.  You can now helicopter from Cuzco to Machu Pichu for the day.  One no longer needs to hike the Inca trail or take a single gauge railway into Los Banos.  Tourist capital has transformed the region, or so I hear.  But what can you do?  This was all before the invention of the cell phone, before the implementation of the internet.  You had to look hard even to find telephone service in Cuzco back then.  

If I remember correctly. . . . 


Monday, June 7, 2021

An Ancient Ritual

 My memory is a failing thing.  When I was getting my degree in zoology long ago, I realized I didn't like to memorize which was practically all that we did in undergraduate classes.  We memorized formulas, reactions, classifications, Latinate names, physiology. . . .  I just wanted to be Jacques Cousteau and swim with the little fishes.  

It was good for me, though, the training I went through to get that diploma.  I had to learn some degree of self-discipline.  It was the only type of discipline I would ever take, really.  I am not the herding kind.  

Now when I think back on my life, it is mostly impressionistic.  It is a blur and a smear of experiences and emotions.  I often get dates and details wrong.  This weekend, I was sending some images to my art dealer.  I was going through some old hard drives and came across a cache of scanned images from my trip to Peru in. . . oh. . . I believe it was 1981 or '82 or '83.  I told her that it was 1985, but I realize now that was the summer I spent in Spain and France, and my trip to Peru was several years before that.  I was there for five weeks--I DO remember that.  And I went with Brando who had two travel groups meeting him there. But the groups were small.  Tiny.  Like four people each.  It was not a time to travel to Peru, but I didn't know that and he wasn't advertising it.  The year we were there, (whatever year it was) the State Department declared it the most dangerous country for travel in the world.  Given the terrorist activities in the Middle East that year (whichever one it was), that was a mighty claim.  The Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso had taken over entire cities and were ruthless in their killings.  Lima was under Marshall Law, armed soldiers patrolling day and night.  Within the first week we were there, the train our group was taking to Machu Pichu was bombed.  

Etc.  

But that is only backstory.  What I was showing the art dealer were pictures I had taken during some primitive festival I found myself in.  I was alone in a small village the name of which I can't remember.  Even looking at a map now, I can't remember.  But was I alone?  Where were the others?  Why would I have been there?  Perhaps it was between groups.  I have photos of Brando with a blonde I scarcely remember sitting on the curb of a street in some plaza.  Perhaps he and I had taken a bus together to this town.  Perhaps he had met this woman, and I had wandered off on my own.  I don't know.  The memory is distorted as if I had taken some ancient herb, the sights and sounds swelling and receding, objects becoming larger then smaller to a soundtrack that plays in the distance through carnival loudspeakers.  All I know is that I got caught up in some fantastical, primitive parade of dancers in hideous masks and musicians with flutes and harps and accordions and violins playing wild, ancient tunes while others portaged strange religious effigies through the streets.  


What I remember is being alone and getting caught up in a crowd.  I think I was enchanted by the music.  Hypnotized.  


We wandered through narrow paths and back alleys and overpowering odors, the mountains shining above in the distance.  


I don't know how long we marched, but eventually we made our way to the main plaza, and then into a church.  



I am certain I was the only gringo there.  I had no preparation for what I was experiencing, no understanding other than that it was some amalgam of ancient aboriginal rites and the religious teachings of Spanish invaders.  

Arriving at the cathedral, the music suddenly halted.  The crowd was silent.  Then, out of the vapors, a thin voice rose, an incantation, a recitation.  

(To Be Continued)