Saturday, July 13, 2024

Sailing to Byzantium


I've involuntarily joined the Insomnia Society.  I haven't slept for weeks now.  I fall asleep easily, but I wake in pain.  It's my back.  If you've never suffered with a back problem. . . well. . . you are the lucky one.  Last night I sought some needed help.  I got hold of some light narcotics.  Opioids, if you will. Tramadol.  It is supposedly like codeine.  I took half.  Hours later, I took the other.  It didn't touch the pain.  

Up before five.  Selavy.  

No.  That's not interesting.  How's this.  Sally texted wanting me to go out.  Yea. . . I haven't mentioned Sally.  I don't tell you everything.  But I was feeling funky and told her some other time.  

"Come on, you old geezer.  Let's have some fun!"

It could be fun, you see, but. . . well. . . I'm not in love.  Still. . . .

"I'll need to take a raincheck."

I don't know if I'll get one or not.  Again. . . Selavy.  

Q got married yesterday.  It's true.  He told me so.  Sent a photo of his bride, son, and self.  They are moving, changing coasts.  They'll be rich now.  Love and money.  The American Dream is alive and well.  

For some.  

I'm still haunted.  

What should I call her?  She sent me a song.  No message.  We don't message anymore.  Just a song.  It resonates with the popular theme of "someone living in your head without paying rent."  I wasn't sure whose head, though, nor whose rent was not being paid.

I decided I needed to go out.  It was Friday.  No gym.  No walking.  Nothing.  Just limping in a corkscrew fashion, fat, untidy.  I was hungry and decided to go to an old old old haunt I never go to since I went to China.  But it isn't a Chinese restaurant.  It's Vietnamese.  I'd go for some pho.  I'd take cameras.  Maybe I could finish a roll of film.  It has been nearly impossible, it seems.  

I parked in the lot behind the building and walked the block, little camera at the ready.  It was hot.  Brutally so.  There was no one on the street.  As I approached the restaurant, I passed several others.  One was new to me.  It had a Michelin sign.  I looked in.  It was sparse, clean.  I decided to try.  


 The small restaurant was almost full, but I found a table for two and slipped into the bench seat facing the window overlooking the street.  It seemed small and too upright, but it would have been ridiculous to take the chair facing the wall.  A waitress came immediately and said she'd bring a menu.  As I waited, I read the placard in a holder on the table.  

She brought the menu.  Udon noodles.  I chose a beef dish with a side of fried mushrooms.  They didn't serve alcohol, so I ordered a Mexican Coke.  

The waitress set the table.  It was a mystery to me, several small bowls and dishes and a mortar and pestle, I guessed, but for what I hadn't a clue.  

The soup came along with many small dishes of. . . I didn't know.  I pinched up a small taste of one.  It was crunchy and plain.  I decided to put everything in the bowl.  I tried a delicately breaded fried mushroom.  It was wonderful.  Then the soup.  It was good, too, and filling.  And, of course, you can't beat a Mexican Coke over crushed ice.  I looked around the restaurant.  I was the only one eating alone.  A line had formed and people were forced to sit on a bench outside.  The restaurant was doing a good business.  About 50% of the customers were Asian.  The other 50% were what you would guess.  At $14 for a bowl of soup, they were doing alright.  

A real outing, I thought as I walked outside.  I'd bothered the usual friends with photos of my food, but the list of recipients is shrinking.  Not everybody wants to share my joy.  

Selavy. 

It was too hot to walk around, and as I limped to my car, I thought I should have ordered a desert.  I'd settle for a cafe con leche.  

At the cafe, I took out my phone and Googled Zaru.  I was wondering about the Michelin sign.  Indeed, the place had won a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award, an award given restaurants that serve simple but  standout dishes at reasonable prices.  There were four given in the state this year.  

So I read.  

As I sipped my coffee, I made some notes in my journal.  I was thinking about the song I had gotten earlier.  My friend had sent me a Spotify link, but I no longer have Spotify, so I went to YouTube to look it up.  It was one of those songs melancholy maniacs like me fall into.  As I listened, I read through the comments.  


Of course people live in your head. Those you've loved. There are loveless people, I know, sociopaths whose love is so shallow or paranoid that they can simply turn their backs and walk away. 

Who would want to live like that.  Broken hearted people are the only ones for me.  

Rent free.  

The song, I read, was from a show that the YouTube commenters seemed to love.  

"Normal People."

I looked it up.  It had nice reviews.  I'd give it a go.  

It was three.  I decided to make my visit with my mother.  

She was not doing well.  She has a doctor's appointment Monday with the dermatologist.  There is a spot on her ear she thinks might be cancerous.  It bothers her, is red and crusty.  But, she said, the entire side of her head was hurting.  

"Do you want to go to the emergency room?" I asked.  

"No.  I'll wait until Monday." 

I reminded her that she had some anti-anxiety pills the ER doc had prescribed when she fell and hit her head.  She decided to take one.  That is when I nabbed a Tramadol. 

I was back home by four.  Fuck it.  I'd felt off all day.  It was time for a cocktail.  Campari, gin, vermouth, lime juice, and soda.  That thing kicks ass.  

I ran a hot Epsom Salts bath and sank into the tub.  Friday night and I was staying home.  Maybe it was the song.  I didn't want any company.  

I fed the cat and smoked a cheroot.  I should give up smoking and drinking, I thought.  Maybe I should go to a meditation retreat.  Maybe I'd meet some fucked up girl there and fall in love, just like in the movies.  

I poured another drink and watched two--no, three--interviews with Donna Tart.  Why?  Beats me.  I have two of her novels that I've never read.  I tried "The Secret History" a couple times.  She was nineteen when she started writing the novel and twenty-eight when she published it.  Publishers were in a bidding war to get it, and she was paid $450,000, the highest price ever paid for a novel.  I bought it right when it was released.  It is 576 pages long, and I have never made it to page 100.  

After watching her interviews, I thought I knew why.  She is from a writing program and talks like she's in a graduate class workshopping some piece of fiction.  It's just too precious, I think.  Still, I decided that I would give it one more go.  

I fixed dinner, the same as I'd had the night before.  I didn't want to cook, so I made a salad with a can of chicken on top.  Most of a can.  The kit-kat was still on the deck, so I left some in the can and rinsed it well to get the salt out as I've learned to do so that I don't destroy her kidneys.  Just a little chicken and a lot of water.  

When I tire of Tart, I put on the first episode of "Normal People."  Oh, no. . . I'm hooked from the get go.  I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff.  I have to turn on captions, though, for I can't understand half of what they say.  The Irish accents are tough.  At the end of the first episode, there is a song.  No, not a song, two or three lines from a song.  I Google it.  Oh, my.  

I send it in response to my friend.  

The fucking show makes me cry, of course, for far too many reasons to explain.  

I watch another episode, then "Babylon Berlin."  Then I take half the Tramadol and go to bed.  

Most nights when I lie down, I begin writing in my head.  Not much of it makes it here, of course.  Last night I was thinking about what I had done with the day, what I hadn't read and what I had watched, and I thought about the difference between watching a thing and reading.  It is a matter of distance, really.  Watching a show is external.  You are reacting to surfaces.  Reading is all interiority.  You and the characters, the setting.  All merge and become one.  You are inside the words that are inside of you.  It is the difference between watching a landscape pass you as you look out from a moving train and being in the landscape itself.  Each is good, but they are different arts.  

Then I thought about the things that don't get said here.  And I hear the music.  

Always the fucking music.  



Friday, July 12, 2024

Early Work

Christ, even the republicans are watching Biden now that he is melting like the Wicked Witch of the West right before our very eyes.  Inside sources reported Trump had his first boner since he screwed a porn "star" years ago, back when he and Epstein were the Party Boys of NYC.  But Biden is a walking experiment now.  He is the poster child for the long term effects of adrenochrome, which he began taking on the advice of the Clintons.  It's a sad fact that sooner or later, the ravages of adrenal gland exposure will catch up to you in the end like all the ill-gotten wages of sin.  

You can't cheat the Devil. 

You can only try.

I gave a five foot print of this photo to Q years ago.  He complained.  He wanted one, so I sent him something safe.  But he never hung it.  Framing alone would cost him $300 minimum if it is done right.  So, I am confident, it lies curled and probably ruined by rubber bands or humidity in some closet or under the bed.  It's a wonderful picture, one of my favorites.  If I can get him to send it back when he packs to move back east, I'll frame it and hang it in my living room.  His is the only copy.  

I've only thought of it because 591 Photography recently posted some of my old work again.  I was both surprised and flattered as they have published some of the better contemporary photographers of our time.  

Thirteen years have passed, but C.S.'s exhibition still stands as one of the most remarkable efforts on 591.  I have made some small updates, so you can enjoy the full album again.

I looked at the old exhibition and thought I could make another, better one now.  That one could be earmarked "The Early Work."  Given another chance. . . . 

But I gave all that up years ago.  It is an old story.  It was probably for the better in the long run.  

"There were days, though, my friend. . . ."


Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Nigger of the "Narcissus"

Life is rough, hard, unpredictable, discomforting, so we make environments to mask and assuage the fact.  "The comforts of home," as they say.  In the past, when my bed no longer felt comfortable, I'd go into the mountains and sleep in a tent on the hard ground in a mummy bag lying on a thin foam sheet.  I couldn't sleep the first night, of course, but over the days, often exhausted after a long day's hike or climb, I'd fall asleep like a champ.  

Now I just want to buy a new bed.  

Get it?  That is what happens.  When I travel now, I want a room with a view.  

But you can't escape the ravages of time and circumstance.  No matter how you live, something will go wrong.  

"But I don't deserve this."

The old myths, however, will tell you that you do.  This is what you get.  So. . . . 

Leave the comforts of home.  Just like sleeping on the ground, you'll get used to it.  The bar might be sticky, the cook might be coughing, the glass might not be clean. . . .

That's what I thought yesterday, anyway, after walking and riding my bike for two days.  It was (un)godly hot.  Devilishly so, I should say.  Walking hurt my back and knee.  The bike was hell on my neck and shoulder.  The roads were bumpy and uneven.  The distances were long.  

But. . . I started liking it again.  Then I got a text from the auto repair place.  

"Your car is ready."

I rode my bike up to the shop at noon.  I was handed the invoice.  

"How much do you think my car is worth?" I asked the fellow at the register.  He looked surprised.  

"More than the cost of this repair, I hope."

"Nope."  

Whatever.  I put my bike in the back of the Xterra and drove home wondering if this a.c. was blowing as cold as my last.  

When I was walking and riding my bike, I passed other walkers and people sitting at bus stops.  The pitiful and poor.  That's what people in cars think as they pass.  I've been a walker, a bike rider, a bus rider, a hitch hiker.  There is something to that.  Among the throng, beyond the righteous.  

I drove to see my mother for the first time in three days.  She's not doing so well, and I am getting frustrated.  She spent the morning at the cardiologist going through a series of tests.  She has more to do in the coming weeks.  I try talking to her, but she cannot hear me unless I nearly shout.  She will look at me with uncomprehending eyes and nod and smile the smile of the deaf.  It is excruciating.  She complains about pains but won't take the meds the doctors give her.  I can do nothing.  I get frustrated and angry.  

And filled with guilt.  

I decide get out.  I drive to the absinthe bar.  I've been there only once before, but when I walk in, the bartender asks, "Where have you been?  I haven't seen you for awhile."

I am stunned, so I nod and smile the smile of the uncomprehending.  I order the house special.  The drink does something to me.  The bar is small, dim, the clientele of a certain type.  Men wear hats.  Women seem characters out of an Eastern European film.  The place is certainly not "normal."  The music is old, pre-rock, pre-punk.  Standards.  It feels like "Babylon Berlin," I think.  

"Where have you been?"

It is time to eat, but I don't want to cook.  Just down the street is a great bbq place that wins national awards.  My girl and I used to go when it first opened.  The owner was a giant.  His father helped him early on.  They always remembered us when we went in.  But neither the giant nor his father are there anymore, not so you'd notice.  The giant has opened up other places now.  He's become a recognizable figure.  

I usually get takeout when I go, but I decide to eat in.  The place is packed.  I stand in line, wait, make my order, and sit at the bar.  It is sticky.  The side door is open.  It is hot.  It is a "chef's table" if you will.  I'm watching the cooks cook, the handlers plate.  A tall, thin girl with short, pink hair and many hipster hair clips looks my way without noticing.  A chubby dark haired girl smiles and gives me my order.  

It is good.  It is really good.  My fingers get sticky with hot sauce.  I almost lick them like a kid but stop myself.  The beer glass shows my fingerprints.  I eat everything.  

At home the cat is on the deck.  We do the usual.  I think about my mother.  I realize something.  She has trouble navigating the world now because she lives in her own environment.  She does only what she wants.  No boss.  No pushback.  When she has to get out, it is hard.  The food is bad, the service is bad, the doctor's are terrible.  She feels better when she gets back home.  

I realize I am thinking/talking/writing about myself.  Too comfortable at home, on the deck with the cat, cheroot and cocktail, "my" music and books, commercial free t.v.  

Sun setting, I say goodnight to the cat and go inside.  I find "Babylon Berlin" in German again.  It is much, much better that way.  

I can't find who made that picture at the top of the page, but it is a perfect representation of what bedtime is like for me now.  Remember all those terrible nightmares I haven't told you about?  Yea.  

You can't run from it.  You can't hide.  Fires and tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.  The electricity goes out and people die from the heat.  Nothing lasts and the world is a hideous place.  Get used to it.  Eat and drink and go among the throng. 

It's a hard rain that's going to fall.  




Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Green

No car.  O.K.  I'll ride the bike.  But first, strip the bed and get the sheets and pillowcases into the washer.  Outside, they are digging up my yard again.  It gets worse each time.  Today, they are running underground conduits from the street to my electrical box on the back of the house.  Many men walk around my yard, onto my deck, and into the alleyway between my house and the fence.  The maids are coming and will need electricity.  I walk out among the workers to ask if they will be cutting the power.  Nice guy says no, they are just running conduit.  He doesn't say that, exactly, but that's what I think.  I put away cameras and bags and other paraphernalia that the maids would have no idea what to do with.  I dress for the gym and go to the garage to pump the tires on the bicycle that I haven't ridden in, what. . . a year?  Two years?  And then maybe only once.  

I search for the pump.  I can't find the pump.  I look at the mess in the garage, make plans.  I find the pump.  

I have always had trouble attaching the pump hose to the tire valve.  The tires are flat, so the valve sinks in when I try to push the attachment on to lock it.  I push the valve from the flattened tire's backside.  Once.  Twice.  My knee and back are killing me.  I straighten up, curse.  I try it again.  It feels attached.  I pump, but the air won't flow.  I reach down and detach the hose and try again.  

Victory.  

Front tire.  I am unable to get the clamp on the valve for ten minutes.  I am sweating, hurting.  I painfully sink to the cement floor and try.  And then. . . dumb.  Just dumb.  I have the clamp's switch in the wrong position.  I have it for releasing, not attaching the hose.  

Tools and me.  

Victory!

The bike is a fifteen year old fat tire trail bike.  Leaning on the low handlebars is uncomfortable.  I've never liked bike riding because my arthritic neck makes it painful to lean forward and put pressure on my left arm, but since the accident, the shoulder hurts as much or more.  But it is unavoidable on this bike.  As I ride, I wonder if I could put on a different set of handlebars that let me sit more upright instead of in the forward racing position.  Surely.  But then I think I am just a baby and what I need to do is ride enough so that I get stronger in those broken parts.  That is the dumb logic I have always used.  

I pedal the 3.5 miles to the gym.  I am sweaty when I walk in.  The gym is fairly empty.  All my gymroid friends are out of town.  I workout without talking and am done in half the time.  I check my phone.  No call from the repair shop.  

Back home.  I think to shower, but I get a text from the cleaning crew.  They are on their way.  What to do?  I decide to ride my bike to the cafe.  One of the crew tearing up my yard watches me get on my bike and says, "Brave man."  He means the heat, and I think he's kidding since they work all day in it, rain or shine.  But he's chatty.  A nice fellow.  We kibitz a while, then the maids pull into the driveway.  I talk with Lamine, the small, Ethiopian man who runs the cleaning crew.  The crew is sitting on my front door stoop eating lunch.  

"Lamine, they can sit at the table."

He shrugs.  I'm off.  

There is a steep hill I must climb.  It is only two block long, but my legs are burning.  As I top out, I am breathing like I have run a sprint.  My lung capacity has been reduced from the accident.  It is embarrassing.  But, I think, I can fix it.  I need to ride up hills every day.  

But I won't, I think.  I just won't.  I remember lying in the hospital, the left side of my body broken in pieces, thinking, "If anyone can come back from this, I can."  But I also remember thinking, "It is O.K.  As long as I can function, I'll be O.K.  I don't need to do all that anymore.  I just want to be able to sit in cafes and talk with my girl.  My brain is good.  I will be interesting.  Good company."

I guess I knew how bad it was.  

But I've done a good job.  Maybe I will ride hills and see.  

12:30.  The cafe is empty.  I've never seen it empty before.  No gaggles of girls in costumes.  Only an old guy sitting with a beer at the small bar.  The cute girl behind the counter isn't so cute.  She can be, but she isn't today.  She doesn't seem cheerful, either.  I am sweaty.  I need something hydrating.  Is green tea hydrating?  Maybe a beer.  Neither, really, but I don't want a sugar drink.  I settle on the tea.  

I sit, open my courier bag, and take out my journal, glasses, and pen.  But I am blank.  I had put a small camera in the courier bag, too, but I didn't see things.  I just concentrated on riding.  Riding a bike did not make me feel creative.  It made me think 'Point A. . . point B."  I am no better now.  I write nothing, then more nothing.  I write things I have written before.  I look at the time.  Ten minutes have past.  I'm cast out of my own home, exiled to a cafe to sit and wait.  All I can think of are practical al things.  The car, of course.  Food.  Drink.  Basic life stuff.  Survival.  

After an hour, I depart the empty cafe and ride across the street to the liquor store.  The price of scotch has shot up once again.  It had gone down to its pre-covid price of $29.  Now, in just one week, it has shot up to $47.  I will quit drinking, I think.  How many months would I have to quit drinking to make up for the cost of the auto a.c.?  I calculate.  It is an embarrassingly few months.  I put two bottles in my courier bag and head home.  

The maids are gone. I think they have been rushing, but there were four of them, so it is probably fine.  A man is on my deck using my hose and my broom to clean the planks.  He grins.  

"I thought I'd clean our mess off the deck," he says.  I nod and step into the house.  It is after one.  I am wet with sweat, but I am hungry having not eaten anything yet.  I open a can of sardines from Whole Foods, some brand I've never seen.  The sardines are big and fat unlike the skinny things you get in popular brands.  I grab some crackers and. . . fuck it. . . a beer.  The sardines, crackers, and beer are good.  I check emails as I eat.  I read a free article from Vanity Fair.  They want to sell me the magazine again, only a dollar a month.  I cancelled my subscription years ago when they got a new editor who made the magazine "Woke."  I preferred the old corruption, the ads for expensive watches and shoes I would never buy and stories about the dastardly lives of royalty and would-be royalty.  "Murder in Darien," and that sort of thing.  I could get the sort of progressive commentary the magazine gave anywhere.  I didn't need to pay for it.  The magazine sucked.  It got thin.  They had fewer and fewer articles.  

I've noticed a change in content lately, though.  It is less about identity politics and the struggles of privileged women whose suffering had been unconscionably yoked to those of minorities here and around the world.  There was more of the old sparkling frivolity again.  

I don't need a lecture.  I need to be transported.  I have the Times, the Post, and U.S. News and World report along with NPR and PBS for the other.  That field is fairly crowded.  

Maybe I'll spend a buck.  

Lunch done, I dip into a hot Epsom Salts soak.  It feels good.  I fairly doze.  Then a shower.  Then a brief nap.  I get up at 4:30.  I call my mother.  

Five.  A Campari. I feed the cat.  It has rained while I slept.  The heat of the day has been broken.  I put a towel on the wrought iron chair and sit while the cat eats.  A sprinkle starts.  I go inside.  I check my phone.  Nothing from the auto repair shop.  It's o.k.  I have food.  I am not in need.  The house is clean.  I'll have to dirty the kitchen, though.  I chop red pepper and garlic and sauté it while I chop the tofu and soak it in teriyaki sauce.  I heat the noodles and spices in bone broth and water.  It all goes in a big bowl together with the pack of sauce.  It is a big bowl.  I test it.  Oh. . . it is missing avocado.  I have none.  It is o.k.  But drats.  

It is still too early, but I feel under house arrest.  I turn on "Babylon Berlin."  But. . . what the fuck. . . it is in English.  It is a terrible dub.  All the voices sound the same.  I go to the options.  I can't change it back to German with English subtitles.  Last night it was in German, but tonight it is only dubbed.  The show seems lousy now.  I think about AI and how it will be able to dub shows using the original actor's voice.  Surely that will make a world of difference.  The dub I have tonight is the worst I've ever heard.  

But house arrest being what it is, I watch two episodes.  It is still early, but I go to bed.  

I wake every hour with pain.  My back, but the pain has shifted.  My knee.  Long before dawn, I give up and rise.  I have options, one of which is to go back to bed with the sun.  I might, but I fear I won't sleep.  

My car should be ready sometime today.  I will ride my bike to the gym, and if it is ready after that, I will ride to the car place.  If not, I will Uber later on.  

Maybe then, I will get creative again.  


Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Decisions

Two grand.  That's what the a.c. is going to cost me.  I'm doomed.  I'll never go anywhere again. . . except, maybe, back to work.  Or I could invest the way the smart boys do.  I could become a gambler or join the Mafia.  Do people still deal drugs?  Or maybe I'll just give up and join a cult.  

When I dropped my car off at the shop, I had a decision to make, Uber or walk.  I hadn't walked that far in over a year.  I'd just come from the gym, so it was almost noon.  

"Don't be a sissy," was the last voice I heard.  "It's just walking."

In ninety five degree weather under a cloudless sky.  Dumb.  My knee hurt.  My back hurt.  I hadn't drunk any water.  

As I limped along, early on, I thought, "This will get you ready for NYC."

I sweat through my t-shirt.  Then my head began to ache at the base of my skull.  Then it got worse.  

Five miles later, I was back home drinking a quart of coconut water.  Good electrolytes and plenty of potassium.  I started an Epsom Salts bath, got a can of sparkling water, and sank into the tub.  I showered.  I dried my hair well and fell into bed.  I'd sleep away the heat of the day.  

When I got up, I called my mother and gave her the news.  "I won't be over today," I said.  

3:30.  No car.  I had to wait 'til four, I said.  Then I made a Campari and soda.  I decided to add a bit of sweet vermouth and a little gin.  The cat was on the deck, waiting.  I'd drunk a half gallon of water, or so it seemed, and I still hadn't peed.  As I sat down on the wrought iron chair, I realized I had not eaten anything all day.  I'd loaded my drink with ice.  It tasted good, bitter, sweet, and cold.  Having not eaten, it had an immediate effect.  

I got a text from a girl who had not bothered to respond to me on July the 4th.  Fuck her, I thought, and didn't reply.  I don't care anymore.  

The cat finished eating and lay down on the deck facing me.  In the not too distant north, the sky was blackening.  The cat sniffed the air.  

"You'd better get somewhere dry, kit-kit.  There's going to be a storm."

We both could smell the rain.  

It was five.  I could heat up some dinner, leftovers from dinner with mother.  Little red beans, pork tenderloin, rice.  I cooked up some fresh Brussel's sprouts.  As everything heated, I turned on tv and watched some news headlines.  Same old stuff.  Biden's defiant.  He'll bring down the whole party ticket "downstream."  News speak.  I disdain word fads.  I turn it off.  

Dinner.  I watch something unremarkable.  I'd made too much food and push my plates away.  I go back to the deck.  The sky is getting dark.  I sit for awhile thinking.  I'd gotten a text earlier. 

"What year is your car?  Do you think it is worth spending two thousand dollars?"

I was surely getting ripped off, but. . . I don't know.  That's the thing.  I don't know.  I'm not ready to buy a new "vehicle."  Cop talk, broad term.  My choices right now, if I were forced, would be a Mazda something, the little CX 5, I think.  They are not so expensive and everyone--well--every woman--at work had one and loved it.  The people across the street from my mother have two and the people who make us come to dinner have one.  $30,000 base.  The boys at the gym could make fun of me.  

Or, an F-150.   Maybe.  There are many different versions.  $40-80,000.  I wouldn't be entertaining the $80,000 one.  

But I don't want to right now.  I'll keep driving Old Paint for a bit longer. . . just like my Volvo.  

But you know. . . driving a shitty car was more attractive when I was younger.  I mean, it was just a sign that I didn't care.  Now. . . it seems something else.  I remember giggling about old people driving their twenty year old Chryslers and Lincolns.  

But by God, I'll tell you one thing.  I won't be buying a Camry.  

The rains came.  Big rain.  Good rain.  It is early still.  Whatever.  I'm stuck in the house.  I turn on "Babylon Berlin."  But wait.  I'm starting Season Two, but I've been scammed.  Amazon Prime gave me Season One with my subscription without telling me I'd have to sign up for another network to watch Seasons Two, Three, and Four.  This is why I hate unregulated capitalism.  

Fuck it.  I sign up for the one week free trial.  Things will get complicated after that.  But the show is too good not to follow.  I watch two episodes.  It gets better and better.  It is almost ten.  Almost.  I make an executive decision.  I will go to bed.  

I wake up thinking I must have been asleep for a good while.  I look at the clock.  11:10.  WTF?  It will be a bad night.  My back hurts.  My knee hurts.  I am unable to find a comfortable position.  I am up and down.  At four, I take some pain meds.  At six I am up.  They did not a bit of good.  The long walk in the heat was not good, but I will continue to take those especially long walks.  Today, however, I will pump up the bike tires to ride to the gym.  Low chance of rain until later this afternoon.  The cleaning crew comes.  Without a car, what do I do?  I'll have to play it by ear, I guess.  

I took the photo on Saturday.  I was coming back from the farmer's market in the cute town to the north when I spotted this on the other side of the highway.  I turned the car around and drove into the lot.  Apparently, they have car worship.  But it is in the back field of a very big church.  Maybe this is just additional parking.  I got out of my car in the main lot and crossed a ditch carrying two cameras.  I walked around looking at different angles.  Two cars pulled into the main lot and sat near my car.  When I got back, I got that little tingling on the back of my neck.  I lingered a minute waiting to see if someone would get out of one of the cars and approach, but nothing happened, so I put the car in gear and drove to the exit.  The two cars followed.  I had to go up the highway to a light where I could make a U-turn to head back to my house.  They pulled into the turning lane behind me.  Then they made the U-Turn, too.  Weird.  They follow me until I get to the Turnpike and take the exit.  They drive on.  

I wondered what that was all about.  

Just more photo-fun in the modern world.  

I've written this morning before reading the news.  I will go scan the pages now and see what I have missed.  Today promises to be a real shit show.  

Selavy.  Selah.  



Monday, July 8, 2024

Best Laid Plans

Sunday, day 3 of my breaking routine.  I lingered too long in the morning, perhaps, but eventually I got underway.  

But. . . it was hot. The streets were dead.  Tires were melting off the rims of cars.  I drove.  And drove until I was in the industrial district.  It changes but is always the same.  A school bus turned camper, I imagine, parked under a tree that was once a hobo encampment, windows blackened, some sort of big wooden structure attached to part of the roof.  Spooky.  The bus looked to be in bad shape.  I drove slowly by but didn't stop.  

Same old pics.  

And then, the air coming from the a.c. was warm.  It stayed that way.  I turned it off and on, but the compressor was not kicking in.  Windows down, I drove toward home.  Son of a cracker, I was back to being the hillbilly nig I was born to be.  

Home, I didn't feel very well.  Was it the heat?  I pulled a chicken thigh I'd cooked the night before from the fridge and put it on a brioche bun.  I opened the canned Michelada I'd bought for Sunday, just in case.  I put small red beans and pork in the InstaPot with yellow onions and garlic, salt, black and red pepper, and poured in half a bottle of white wine.  

My movements felt odd.  My coordination was off.  I was sleepy.  I went to bed.  

I got up at four and showered.  I remembered that I had no auto a.c.  I went out to check the fuses.  There are three panels, one inside the glove box and two under the hood.  I looked at the interior one.  It was a mystery.  The schematics made no sense to me.  I tried to remove a fuse, but as I had read, it takes a special tool.  Why?  I could tell nothing.  I closed up the panel and went back into the house.  I'd just have to take my car into the shop on Monday.  

The day before, I looked up flights and hotels for NYC.  Usually, something expensive happens after I spend money on a trip.  That has been my lot in life.  This time, it is happening before.  If the problem with the a.c. turns out to be something inexpensive as a fuse or a switch, I'll book a flight.  If not. . . . 

Do you believe in curses?  Oh. . . I know some who do.  

Hoodoo.  

Sometimes, I think. . . . 

I took the beans and rice to my mother's at five.  She had not made rice, so we set that up and went out to have a drink "on the porch."  We chatted away, my mother always remarking on the rain and the liars at the Weather Channel.  She is very snarky about it.  

She had charged two of her devices she hasn't used in I don't know how long, an Amazon tablet and an iPad.  I had bought those for her years ago.  She told me she couldn't do anything with them, that they needed a password.  It wasn't a question, so I didn't say anything.  I simply nodded my head.  

"What's your password."

"I don't know.  I haven't been able to get in since you changed it."

"I've told you many times that you need to know your passwords."

"I have them written down but none of them work."

She began to recite them to me, simple things like my father's 1st name and birthdate, etc.  

"I don't know.  I'll try them after dinner."

Dinner was good, of course.  Afterwards, my mother went to her desk and brought back a sheet of passwords.  It was in her writing.  There passwords crossed out and new ones ascribed.  I tried them all, but none of them worked.  She used to be able to watch Netflix on the Amazon tablet, but my account has changed and I don't know the password without having my laptop.  I was getting irritable.  

"I can't do anything more right now," I said putting everything down, shaking my head.  It's not my mother's fault, really, though I know she doesn't even try to keep up with this stuff.  I should never have bought her so many electronics.  It has been a misery for me.  

Back home, I realized something.  The passwords were probably all on her computer in her office.  I'll check that today.  I should have thought of that while I was there.  Makes me wonder about my own efficacy.  Am I losing brain cells?  

Probably.  I think so.  

I'd fed the cat before going to mother's, but she was waiting for me when I got back, so I poured a whiskey and lit a cheroot and went out to join her.  

"Poor kitty.  It's hot.  I need to get used to it, too."

I lived as a kid without a.c.  I didn't have a car with working a.c. for years.  My cars have always been on the margins of things.  How had I stood it, I wondered?  I felt an irritable lassitude about me.  There were reasons for the stereotype of the stupid, lazy southerner.  This heat sucks the life out of you.  How did Faulkner do it?  Hemingway?  

I will need a new car one day sooner than later.  My Xterra is almost 20 years old.  I love the thing and would keep driving it, but at some point maintenance becomes as expensive as a purchase.  I don't like cars.  I would buy a Ford F-150, but prices are high.  It is not a good time to buy a car, new or used.  

So I hear.  

The cat has gotten better looking, I think.  Maybe it is because she relaxes more when I'm around.  My every little move used to make her tense.  Now I can walk around and she just stays still.  Cats are inherently pretty.  She looks like a feline Egyptian statue when she sits.  Now that she stays longer after she eats, she naps, one leg extended on which she rests her chin.  I need to take lessons from her.  She moves with much guile.  

But. . . I am lucky to move at all.  So they say.  To which I always respond, "Do you think so?"

Dusk coming on, I say goodnight to Scar and go inside.  Move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.  Check my email and cook up a couple of photos.  I was not so productive on Sunday as I would have liked, though.  

I sank into the couch and turned on t.v.  I've been watching "Babylon Berlin."  It has been suggested to me for awhile, but it is in German and I am like a kid when it comes to reading subtitles.  But I had nothing else. 

Oh, boy. . . this is dark and weird and German, and it gets better with each episode.  But. . . 

I think this has been the reason for my terrible crazy nightmares.  You don't know about them because I have deleted much that I have written in the past three or four days.  

Again. . . you're welcome.  

But they have been the worst of my life.  Really sick, disturbing things.  And the same cast of characters are in my dreams each night.  That's the really weird part.  

Other people's dreams are boring, but I'm speaking of their effects on me, not the dreams themselves.  I'm pretty sure, though, that the weird German show is responsible.  

Oh. . . it is set in the '30s just before Hitler comes to power.  Commies, Bohemians, and the coming reich.  If you like such things, it is a history lesson of sorts.  

Too late, I go to bed.  I will call the repair place in a minute and see if I can get my car in.  Then. . . Uber.  

For some reason, the t.v. show made me think of this song, maybe as an antidote to the evil portrayed in the show, the evil that lurks in the hearts and minds of men.  

Singing nuns.  It's a weird world.  



Sunday, July 7, 2024

A "Meh" Picture and Another Bland Report


Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  This kid nailed it.  

O.K.  It doesn't deserve this kind of trumpeting, but I am happy I asked this boy if I could take his picture.  I mean. . . an actual stranger on the street.  

He was the only one, though.  I went to the cute little city with the huge farmer's market half an hour to the north yesterday.  With cameras.  It is harder than ever to walk around the streets with a camera.  People stare.  Maybe it is just me.  I don't know.  But people are suspicious.  

"Try that in a small town."

I did.  It was weird to be in a big crowd again--with cameras.  But this guy with his dogs. . . . Nice boy.  

I'm trying to change my life a bit.  Even my mother says I need to get away.  I'm checking on things.  Meanwhile, I get used to going.  

C.C.'s been in NYC all week.  Sends pics.  A friend who grew up there went back recently and said the city still wasn't all the way back.  Yesterday he sent pictures from Coney Island.  And here's the thing.  Nobody pays attention to you if you take pictures with your phone.  That seems to be o.k.  Hold your phone at arm's length and frame away.  People don't know, I guess, whether or not you are taking a selfie.  Maybe that's what I should do, practice that "selfie face," neck bent, head tilted, big smile, and snap away at the street.  

But I don't care.  I don't want to photograph people in the street anymore, really.  I want to get some chutzpah and embed myself in some micro culture and document.  

I won't.  I wanted to do a series on backyard pools this summer.  You see how that has gone.  

I bought fifteen rolls of Kokak TriX b&w film yesterday.  I'm stupid.  Something has gone wrong with the last two rolls of film I have developed.  I don't remember ever having that problem when I was taking photo classes in college.  I don't remember ever having a bad roll.  Have I gotten sloppy?  I don't know.  But film is a lot of work if, like me, you develop and scan it yourself.  I scanned 36 frames yesterday of a damaged roll and didn't have a single picture I liked.  It took hours to find that out.  

I should do with this what I've done the past two and just delete it, but at least I wasn't whining.  Or was I?  It's not really a good picture, after all.   

But maybe, if I just get out of town. . . . 





Saturday, July 6, 2024

Sometimes Silence

I've tried for too long this morning.  I just can't write. I've deleted everything twice.  It was awful both times.  I give up.


You're welcome.  


Friday, July 5, 2024

Absalom, Absalom


Tennessee sent this photo last night from his lakeside home.  I've never liked 4th of July celebrations, but this looks nice.  


I've deleted my narrative about yesterday after writing it all out.  It was a miserable account of pain and gloom.  I've tweaked my back and am a corkscrew now.  I'm a crippled cripple.  That' all I want to say about that.  

I napped an hour at a time last night, even with pain pills and sleeping aids.  I finally slept at dawn, but I am the worse for wear this morning.  

I'm tired of whining.  I may only write when I have something interesting to tell.

But these days, sometimes, I feel myself a ghost, watching the past like an old movie projected onto silk curtains wavering in gentle breezes, no present, no envy for the future.  

Yeats may have been right.  Geologists have discovered some disturbing changes in the earth's very core.  

"The center will not hold."

At some point, the past will remain unchanged.  

Absalom, Absalom.  





Thursday, July 4, 2024

Girls Girls Girls

Q sent this cartoon to me last night.  I sent it to my friends identifying myself as "a true badass bohemian."  Almost everyone I sent it to wants one of those t-shirts.  Take it literally.  

What?  

It's simply that people's selfishness and inconsiderate behavior gets the best of me sometimes.  I'm working on it.  I've gotten pretty good at not ending my educational lectures with "fuckhead" or "motherfucker," and I'm really good at it most times now.  But when the heavens conspire and three or four idiots converge in a single moment or even back to back to back to back. . . . 

And then I feel like shit and think about what I'm repressing and who I'd really like to smash, and. . . . 

So it is good to be home, tucked away in my own little sanctuary, no invasions.  

When T was over a couple nights ago, he was sitting next to a journal I'd left lying on the couch with a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck lying on top.  He picked up the pen. 

"Nice pen."

"It's s fake.  I have several real ones, but I don't take them out with me."

"Yea, I've lost many nice pens."

"It's like expensive sunglasses.  It seems I always leave them in restaurants.  If I wear a cheap pair, I can't seem to ever lose them."

Then he reached over and picked up the journal.  

"Is this. . . " he struggled to remember the name.  

"Moleskine," I said.  

"Yea, yea. . . that's it."  He started flipping through the pages.  I shouted out in panic.  

"No. . . don't look through there."

"What's a matter, homie?  You afraid I'll read something."

Oh, you bet.  That ain't no blog, friend.  

He told that story the next night out with the gymroids.  Now they all figure I'm writing about them.  Everybody wants to be a character in the play.  Everybody wants their story told.  

"I'm sure you're writing shit about us."

"What do you think you deserve?"

No writing is true or complete or accurate.  What do you have to do to make it sing?  I guess I could write, "In Praise of Infamous Men."  

Women, too.  

I couldn't wait to sit down to a tofu and noodle dinner.  I keep coming up with ways to spice up those Annie Chun noodle bowls.  Last night, I put some vegetables in a bowl of bone broth and water and let them cook for a minute before I put in the noodles and spices.  Fried teryiaki tofu slices.  Sliced avocado.  O.K.  It ain't like real good pho, but it is good.  Really, it is good.  And really easy.

Paired with a good wine, of course.  

So. . . it is America's favorite holiday today.  What?  It should be.  I asked several Gen Z kids about it.  Apparently it is important because it is the day Lee surrendered to Grant in the First World War.  Yup.  History is lost unless it is on X or Instagram.  But don't blame the kids.  They weren't brought up on the Ten Commandments the way the next generation will be.  Yea. . . blame the fathead old people who decide to cut the humanities out of the curriculum and fail to teach them math.  As you know, I'm in favor of youth.  I get in trouble about it all the time.  But they ARE the brightest generation, the prettiest, the most athletically talented, the most sophisticated.  There has never been anything like them in history.  

They just need to know that they stand on the shoulders of what came before them.  They didn't invent any of the things that make them so incredibly talented, so sophisticated and beautiful.  And they are.  They need a little humbling, that's all.  

So, yea, let them know that today we celebrate Washington cutting down the cherry tree.  

What am I saying?  That most people don't know shit about the 4th of July unless they've been watching Oprah.  Or somebody.  

You can always YouTube it.  

I will, in the usual spirit of the day, make burgers and things for my ma.  We'll really whoop it up.  There will be beer.  

And then the annual "scare the shit out of the dogs" neighborhood fire fest begins.  That's really what it's all about.  

I got hooked on a YouTube creator's group last night called Beehive Productions.  I got there someway through Folk Alley.  I'll share more with you as I filter and cull what I like and don't.  But I spent a couple hours listening and watching some crazy great musicians.  I was hypnotized.  It was all "roots" music, but most of what I listened to was bluegrass/hillbilly stuff.  Funny looking people in funny looking clothes.  Mountain people, valley people.  It is mostly crazy good talent.  It makes me weep to think of the music most people consume.  But I understand.  People like big productions with lots of sound.  

The funny thing is that I came upon it through lesbian music.  I think.  Much of my favorite music right now is simple stuff by. . . I don't know that I should say "lesbians."  It carries a lot of unnecessary baggage.  

Some of them look really good in dresses.  

O.K.  I just had to say that.  I know.  Just to piss people off.  

You want a of me?  

I sure agree with one thing, though.  Girls! Girls! Girls!  

I'm glad she uses that word, too.  



Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Bullfight, The Goring

I like my quiet life.  It is sweet and lovely.  I like leaving it from time to time for a moment, too, but I like coming back to it soon enough.  I'm a "homeboy," if that is what the term means.  I've never really known.  When I hear someone say, "He's my homeboy," I am pretty sure I don't understand.  When I read "A Farewell to Arms," I understood that completely.  Fredric and Catherine's "world" away from the chaos.  A sense of order of one's own making.  Refuge.  

But, you know, you need the bullfights, too.  

I went out for a second night in a row.  Larger group last night.  More gymroids.  Money boys and the famous d.j.  When I walked into the bar, the waiter came over and said, "There he is, handsome as ever.  What can I get you?"  I hardly ever go to this bar anymore, but I get this often enough much to my surprise.  Last night the waiter told the boys, "I've known him longer than you guys have.  What's it been now. . . eighteen years?"

My brain was doing flips.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Then it became clear.  He worked at the old bar before they moved here.  Oohhhh.  

"Yea. . . it's been awhile," I said in relief.  

"Was his hair blond back then?" one of the gymroids asked.  So. . . it is not just the hair, I guess.  

Ili and I used to go in sometimes, and we were always remembered.  I thought we made a striking couple wherever we went, but I was still always quite amazed.  Pleased, of course.  We just got better service.  

Maybe I'm just an odd looking fellow.  You never forget the circus freak sort of thing.  I worked with a guy at the factory for years.  One day he said, "I remember you from playing basketball at the university.  You have a certain walk." 

What the fuck, I thought.  I have a certain walk?  Well, that's gone now, I would imagine.  Maybe I am remembered for my limp.  

I want to be flattered by it all, but I worry that it is not a flattering thing but a freakish thing.  It sure sends my "homeboys" over the edge.  

"He's famous.  He's the shaman."

And again, I wonder what they mean.  Is it like a group of boys taking up a little guy with glasses as their "mascot"?  

Such things.  

I wonder a lot of things.  I get texts.  

"Happy Monday!  What do you have planned?"

Later that night, "How was your evening?"  Then, "That sounds nice."

In the morning, "Good Morning!  I think I'm going to the beach today.  I've taken the whole week off."

"Sounds nice," I say.  "Send pics."  

The line goes dead.  I probably won't have another message for weeks.  Am I just imagining things, or what?

I went to the cafe yesterday afternoon for some jasmine green tea.  The woman behind the counter is very friendly, the one with the beautiful almond eyes, the one with the kids who are getting big.  She surprises me every time.  Women can do that if they wish, make you feel they are whispering in your ear secret things when they speak.  I've met women who I think cannot help but do that.  Others, I think, can turn it on and off.  It is not that I desire this woman in any special way, but she can make my knees rather buckle.  It is unnerving and I become awkward and speak with a halting stutter.  I am only ever confident with men.  Women unnerve me completely.  

I asked her if she ever works mornings.  In this cafe, if you came every day, you would never see the same person behind the counter.  I only go afternoons, so I don't know if they work some morning shifts, some at night.  When I write "the woman behind the counter" here, it is one of a dozen.  That is why I get confused that they know what I want to order.  

"Not really. . . sometimes but not often."

"What time does the place open?

"Officially eight, but the owner gets here earlier.  He is usually here at seven, but he doesn't turn the lights on until eight.  If you came up, though, he'd serve you coffee, but don't tell anybody."

I've known the owner since he opened the place what. . . Jesus. . . maybe over thirty years ago.  He's never here in the afternoons except on some rare occasion, but he always comes over to say hello.

"Are there many people here in the morning?"

"Not a lot. . . usually the same people, probably twenty or so, regulars. . . people from the neighborhood."

I try to go only occasionally.  I dread the word "regular."  I'd rather be an "irregular."  Fingers crossed.  

"I was wanting to use that wall in there to make some photos," I said.  I had to screw up a lot of courage for that one.  The wall is great, and I have envisioned making portraits against it.  It is a world class wall, I think, and the light falls in gently from the huge plate glass window.  

"Oh. . . he'll let you do that.  Sure."  

While she is making my tea, I walk into the other room with my phone.  I want to take a light reading off the wall.  The app on my phone lets me preview what the photo will look like with different formats and lenses.  I dial up "4x5" and "f5.6" at iso 125.  That's what I would be shooting.  The exposure would be 1/4 second.  Tripod.  It is exciting.  I have an idea.  

I just may not have the chutzpah.  

As always, the little voice in my head starts working.  "You're a fucking moron.  What do you think you're doing?  What's the point of that?  It's stupid.  You're worse than a moron.  People will laugh at you more than they do now."

I hate that voice.  

I go back to get my tea.  I've asked for a medium and she's given me a large.  It is cheap.  The cafe is inexpensive.  The owner has always been a bit of a proletariat.  I think he sees himself unselfconsciously as a patron saint of leftovers and freaks, but I don't really know.  The place was originally a video rental store.  He had every good, weird, and strange movie you couldn't get at Blockbuster, mostly bootleg copies.  He did a good job of changing with the times.  When I first met him, he was an aspiring Bohemian.  He read all the beats.  He had a tall, strikingly good looking woman working there.  They got married and had children.  I remember the day he told me he threw all his Bukowski books away.  

"They weren't good for me," he said.  He seemed to have a conversion of some sort.  Not many months ago, I was in my friend's camera store when his wife walked in.  I hadn't seen her for years, but she recognized me right away and said hi, much to my usual surprise.  She was looking for a camera for her daughter who was in college now.  When she left, my camera friend told me that she and her husband had become conspiracy theorists.  

"What?"

"Yea.  They got really weird."

Crazy how people change.  And yet. . . he still runs the strangest place in town.  

I took my tea to a table and took out my journal.  I had things to say.  What I say in an analogue journal writing with pen and ink in a freakish cafe differs from what I write at home.  As weird as the place is, though, I feel like the freak.  

As I write, I look up to see the back of a girl, and for some reason, I am taken with the image.  I can only see her back, but I am moved.  She picks up her can of something to drink, holding it between her thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.  She holds her ring and little fingers in the air.  She tips her head back noticeably as she drinks.  Her finger are long and seem familiar, and I recognize them as resembling Skylar's fingers.  Her fair hair is fine like Sky's, too.  She wears very short shorts, and her left thigh has large, rather pretty tattoo that extends under her shorts.  Her legs are thin and long.  She writes with a stylus on her iPad, then puts it down and stares out the window across the parking lot.  At her right elbow sits a book on the occult.  In a bit, she picks up a deck of cards and shuffles them gently.  She sits alone and I wonder if she is waiting on someone or if she is just another lost soul.  I am looking at her back and writing these details when she turns around.  I am looking at her and she catches my eye directly.  It is like touching an electric wire.  I am jolted.  I look down and she turns back.  Jesus, I think, she is psychic for real. 

Her eyes are large.  I should ask her to throw the tarot for me, I think.  Maybe she'd stand against the wall for a portrait.  

It is time to visit my mother.  

My mother is tired of being alone, I can tell.  It is not good for her now, and every time I leave, I feel guilty.  She tells me she is getting "antsy."  I understand.  She goes through a litany of what her friends are doing tomorrow. 

"Marlene's daughter is coming to take her out.  Dorothy is going to her card group. Ethel is going to be with her sight impaired class. . . ."

I get it.  

"You used to go to art classes.  You quit that.  Maybe you should find another group or club."

"Like what," she snarls.  

"I don't know. . . a garden club or a bridge club or. . . I don't know. . . what are you interested in?"

The problem is that my mother doesn't really have any interests.  Going to the gym and working in the yard was about the extent of things, and now she can't really do either.  But she has never been a curious person, not even about shows on television.  Now she watches the same reruns over and over and over.  What she wants, I know, is for me to be her social director, to come over and spend hours a day entertaining her, to take her places that I don't want to go and do things I have no interest in doing.  I've always felt myself to be a good son.  I used to take my mother to see the band perform when it was a large venue and not in some dingy club.  Since I made her 90th birthday, she says now knows everybody in her neighborhood.  But now, I think, she would like for me to come over for lunch and dinner and to sit and watch television with her at night.  It is wrecking me.  

When I meet the boys at the bar afterwards, they ask how my mother is doing.  I tell them what I just told you.  

"Maybe it's time for her to move into that place over by the Y.  It is really nice."

"Yea, but I don't want her spending all my inheritance," I laugh.  

"Now don't be an asshole." 

We eat oysters.  I order an Americano and the boys laugh and ask the waiter if he can put a little paper umbrella in it.  When he brings the drink, he lays a paper umbrella beside it.  The boys whoop it up.  They get burgers and I get the shrimp tacos.  I steal truffle fries from their plates.  When we are done, they want to go for one more across the street, the Irish pub where we ended our epic five bar crawl a week and a half ago.  

"Just one," they say.  

The place is empty.  The same waitress we had last time is there.  They love her and she gives them all hugs.  It doesn't look right to me.  I fist bump her.  She brings drinks.  They kibitz.  She is her normal self at first, but I notice at some point that she checks out.  She's done.  Something happened, but I don't know what.  I have not been paying attention.  T has had three gummies.  The dj has been drinking all day.  They keep telling me the same story over and over because I wasn't there when they all went to some weekend rock concert and stayed in the car guys condo at the beach.  Frat boy shit.  I was pretty checked out so I missed something.  And I said so. 

"She's done with us, dudes.  She's checked out.  I don't know what happened, but it's over."

"T was rubbing her hand when she put it on the railing."

"What? I did not."

"Yes you did," the other chimed in.  "She put her hand on the railing and you put your's on hers."

"I think that was after he was pulling on his pecker or adjusting his shorts or whatever he was doing just before that when he was talking to her." 

"Did I?  I didn't do that."

"No. I mean, yea, you put your hand on hers."

Everybody was fucked up but me, I think.  It was time to go home.  The waitress brought the check and asked who got it.  They all pointed to me.  I gave her my card and then came the "Oh, no. . . we were kidding. . . ."

"I got this.  My old, dead, ex-friend Brando taught me to always pick up the cheap ones."

I was glad that they wanted to leave the tip because I can never read the check.  All I had to do was sign this one.  I had no idea how much it was, but I was pretty sure they threw down more money than I had paid.  Maybe they'd buy back her affection.  

When we stood up to go, she still gave hugs.  Sure, I thought, looking at the wad of green on the table.  I was the last one as I scooted out of the booth.  I stood up gingerly letting my knee take the weight gradually.  Again, I gave the waitress the Obama fist bump.  

"Why do they pick on you?" she asked.  

"Because they are stupid and jealous," I laughed.  "Look at them."

She laughed.  

The sun was just going down.  It was almost nine when I drove the few blocks back to my house.  I was glad to be home.  

I'll be off the hook with the boys now.  They will all be with their wives for the 4th.  I will make a party for my mother and wonder if anybody is ever thinking about me.  I've always believed that no one thinks of me unless I am standing right in front of them.  

"And you'r lucky if they are thinking about you even then,"

Like the waitress, I wonder why people say such things to me.  



Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Just Another Monday

I went to dinner at a newish Tex-Mex place last night that gets great reviews.  It was a big place full of tables, but we, of course, wanted to sit at the bar.  There were two seats on the corner which is where I like to sit so that I am not sitting side by side with my friend.  If we have to do that, I like my friend to be on my right side because my neck doesn't like turning left as much.  But at the corner, I barely have to turn my head at all. 

These were the only empty seats there, so I slid in next to a man my own age who had pushed the bar seat away from him and had pushed his own down so he could have imperial room.  I understand that.  I've done it, too.  So when I sat down practically touching his arm, I looked over and said in a joking tone, "I'll share your salsa, too."  The man's wife looked at me with a sour face and said, "Go ahead.  It isn't very good."  

The man scooted his stool over a bit back into his own space and turned his head sort of toward me.  It was obvious that his neck was arthritic, too, worse than mine.  He was doing the old man torso twirl and pulling  his eyes as far to the side as they would go, the tendons of his neck popping, the corner of his mouth stretching as every muscle in his neck and face strained to help.  

I've done that, too.  

Tennessee said something to them to which they barely responded.  O.K. Leave 'em alone, I thought.  

When the barman came up with menus, he asked what we would like to drink.  

"Can you make a skinny, spicy margarita with tajin?" Tennessee asked.

He sure could, he said, so we ordered two.  The barman did a good job.  

We perused the menu and Tennessee, a real talker, asked about a million questions.  I assumed his gummy was starting to kick in.  

"Can you make it with. . . yea, and some of that sauce from the shrimp taco. . . just see if they can put some on the side. . . and what would you recommend. . . . "

By the time he was done, I was pretty sure we knew all the ingredients in ten or so different dishes.  

"I'll have the chicken tacos," I said.  

"Do you want another margarita?"

"Yes," said Tennessee.

"Make it two.  What the hell.  It's our anniversary."

T grinned.  Later he would tell me the couple next to us looked our way with something akin to hatred.  

We were talking shit now and laughing.  In a bit, I turned to the fellow next to me and said, "You look familiar to me.  Do yo go to the Y?"  

"We used to," the lady said.  

"Yea, you look very familiar."

"Do you still go?"

"Yes, we both do."

Then the fellow turned toward me in his seat and said, "I thought you were Eddie Graham."

"The wrestler?" I asked for clarification.  Eddie Graham was one of the most famous and highest paid wrestlers in America when I was a kid.  You'd have to be of a certain age to reference him.  He was the good guy to The Great Malenko, a "Russian" bad guy.  The Great Malenko was my favorite.  I liked it when he would fight dirty and beat up on Graham.  But Graham was a real crowd favorite.  

"Yea, the wrestler," said the man.  

"No," I said pointing to T, "he's the wrestler."  

The couple was getting up from the bar slowly.  I've done that, too.  

As they walked past us, they kind of stalled for a minute to hear what T was saying.  Then the lady said, "I thought you were serious about your anniversary," she fairly snarled.  

"Yea, but you're not the kind of people to judge, right?" I laughed.  

They didn't.  

When they were gone, the barman came over to see how the food was.  

"Great." 

We were laughing.  "That couple wasn't so much fun," I said.  

"No.  They complained about everything.  I made her a spicy margarita and after I sat it on the bar, I wiped my eye, and my finger had some of the jalapeño juice on it.  Holy mackerel did that burn.  I was blinking and thought I was going to need to go to the hospital, and she was complaining.  I had to leave the bar and try to wash my eye out.  Is it red?"

He opened his eye wide.  

"No, it looks fine." 

"Man, that really burned."

A group of women walked in and three heads turned.  The barman smiled and nodded.  

"He likes them thick," T said nodding at me, "and young."

Here we go, I thought, looking at the bartender and shaking my head.  

"Yea. . . my uncle, too.  He's getting married again to a woman from Columbia.  It is his second wife from Columbia.  She has the same name as the last wife."

"They have a factory there," I said.  

"I like hispanic women because when I tell them, 'Lo siento, soy viejo' they say, 'no, no, es muy bien' and laugh.  It's a cultural thing, I guess."

As it turned out, he was hispanic on his mother's side and said that he was very familiar.  "I'm part of the club," he said.  I wasn't sure what club, though.  He was only twenty-one.  

"Is this on one check or two," the barman asked?

"It doesn't matter," I said.  "It all comes from the same account anyway."

T and the barman laughed.  

When we got the checks, T asked me what the bartender's name was.  

"Was it Gary?"

"It says Barbie on the bill."

"What?!"  

It said Bar B.  

When the barman came back to collect our cards, T asked, "What's your name?" and I laughed, "Barbie."

The barman looked confused.  

"That's what it says on the bill.  Bar B.  Is it like a stage name?"

The kid looked and laughed.  "I don't know why they can't just have us log in with our own names."

"Oh. . . you don't want people to know your real name.  You'd want to use a pseudonym.  Barbie's fine."

We all laughed.  

"Maybe they could call it Bar 2."

T had driven.  My mother's ac had gone out again that afternoon, so I called T to tell him I needed to cancel on dinner because I might have to bring my mother over for the night, but he didn't answer, so I sent him a text.  He called back right away.  

"What's wrong with her a.c.?"

I told him it came on and then shut off again.  I thought it was probably the thermostat.  

"Does the fan come on?" he asked. 

"No, it won't come on at all."

"Check the float switch," he said.  I was just pulling up to my mother's house then, and the HVAC repair truck was there.  

"I'll call you back," I said.

When I walked into the house, my mother was sitting in a chair next to where the repairman was working.  

"Hey," I said.  "Was it the thermostat or the float?"

"It was the float," he said.  He was a young guy, a full sleeve tattooed on one arm and "If you want peace, prepare for war" on the other.  Both ears had one inch gauge earlobe plugs.  

"That's what my hillbilly builder friend said he thought it would be.  The thing is, if I could find it, I still wouldn't be able to fix it."

He laughed.  "I vacuumed the lines and ran some solvent through them.  I checked everything, the coolant and the compressor, and it's all good."

I went outside to call T. and tell him he was right.  

"Fucking A, homie."

But what he was happy about is that I would be able to go to dinner.  

"Let me talk to my mom a bit, then I'll meet you at the restaurant."

"I'll come over and pick you up at your house," he said.  I knew what that meant.  He wasn't going to let me have an early night.  

But that's a boring tale for a different day.  

I woke last night and remembered something I never remember well.  It's silly how the mind works, repressing and recalling things. . . whenever.  I think I have a disease, as they say, that hasn't any cure.  

Monday, July 1, 2024

Sunday Mundane

More of the mundane. The deck.  Tennessee gave me these stunted agave plants months ago, and I have done nothing with them.  I don't really have enough sun to plant them.  I need to find them a new home where they can thrive.  They don't go with my landscape anyway.  

They are symbolic of something, I guess.  Hmm.  

After sleeping about three hours Saturday night, I had to make a decision about Sunday morning.  I decided to go back to bed, but that didn't work.  At nine, I had to choose between going to breakfast or going to the exercise course.  I put on my running shoes and shorts and went to the park.  I thought that if I felt lousy, I'd walk a couple laps and go home.  But I picked up quickly, and the next thing I knew, I was running.  O.K, O.K., making a stumbling trot.  But somewhere in my broken body is an athlete, or the memory of one, and I could feel my running muscles waking up again.  They remembered what to do and I had to keep telling them to slow down.  I'd trot from one exercise station to another, lap after lap after lap, my big belly bouncing less than last time, it seemed, my stride marginally longer (by millimeters, perhaps), my pace increased.  I wanted to be ginger with my knee, but it wasn't giving me any big pain.  I was running as well as I had before "the injury". . . when?  How long ago now?  Hell, I was as good as I was after the accident before. . . 

Which wasn't very good. 

But my VO2 max. . . oh, my.  It is terrible.  I thought I might puke.  I was sure I'd pass out.  But I pushed on 'til the end. . . and then I celebrated.  

I stopped at the 7-11 for Gatorade.  Then. . . I stopped at McDonald's and got an Egg McMuffin.  It may have been the best thing I've eaten since I got the breakfast sandwich from the Turnpike Wendy's on my way home from Miami.  

Now you may be thinking that I just undid my workout, but consider this.  The sandwich was only 310 calories with 17 grams of protein.  Weigh that against the $17 breakfast of 3 eggs, an English muffin, grits, and bacon.  Better, right?  And it only cost $4!  

I was on a real high.  I think I may have gotten an endorphin.  

Into the tub, onto the shower, then. . . I iced my knee.  That's what I should do all the time but never do.  I iced my knee and it felt o.k.  It was a little stiff, but not much more than usual.  My limp was no greater than before.  

The only bummer was that I was feeling thinner. . . until I stripped down and looked in the mirror.  I seemed to have gotten fatter somehow.  Maybe everything was just busting loose.  

I quickly turned away.  

Afternoon.  I went to the cafe.  There was a long line, mostly young girls come to play in the Photo Booth.  It has become some kind of rage.  They wore funky outfits, of course.  And they slowed up the line for food and drinks.  I waited.  The frowning girl behind the counter looked unhappy.  She looked as if she was ready to quit.  The couple behind me eventually bailed, then the couple in front of me.  The man I was standing behind now was maybe in his forties.  He had a stubble, uncombed hair, and blah clothing.  When he got to the head of the line, he asked the frowning girl in too chirpy a voice, "How are you today?"  She said, "I'm doing well.  How's your day?" without looking up, her face expressionless.  

"Oh, well. . . I got rained out today."  He was pressing.  He wanted her to ask what got rained out, I guessed, but she said nothing.  He really wanted conversation.  He seemed anxious. . . desperate.  

"Poor guy," I thought with the self-realization that I was often not so unlike him.  I knew the condition.  I had sympathy if not pity.  If I am this man inside, however, it is why I try never to initiate anything with anyone, why I am so very closed off in public.  It is why I have never asked a woman on a date.  It is that pitiful man inside I don't want to let out.  

And that is what I was thinking when he took his order away.  

"Hi," said the girl at the counter.  "Large mimosa?"

Was that good or bad?  

"No. . . um. . . a large latte."

"Oh!" she said and smiled.  

Now, see. . . here's the thing.  That man in front of me, the one I keep locked up inside, wanted to say more.  

"Yea, see, I'm trying to lose weight.  I went to the track today and. . . . "

I strangle that guy so he gets no air.  I feel foolish enough wondering if it is a good or a bad thing to be the guy who the counter help knows what he orders.  I think my ears were burning with embarrassed confusion.  But then I remembered something.  I don't care anymore.  And I grinned.  

"Thanks," I said.  

"Sure," she smiled.  

Again. . . it could be the gratuity. 


 I sat.  I wrote.  I write the things that I wouldn't write here.  But I am as silly as those costumed girls.  

Yea. . . it is silly.  An illustrated journal.  If I could draw for shit, of course. . . . 

TMI?  Ha!

Of course, Sunday night dinner with mother.  She was making dinner, but when I got there, she wanted me to cook the meat, thin slices of pork.  I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and teriyaki sauce then put them in the pan.  Steamed broccoli and potatoes and carrots.  A garden salad.  We drank the entire bottle of wine.  "We" not so much, perhaps.  

"This pork is great.  You're a good cook."

"Yea. . . a good cook."

"It's tasty."

My mother is not so much a good cook.  She doesn't season anything.  Her food is pretty bland.  

Home just before sunset.  A whiskey and a cheroot.  I wasn't going to, but I do.  Later, I am settled for the night.  At nine-thirty, the phone rings.  It is mother.  Her a.c. isn't working and she can't find the phone number for the service we use.  I look it up for her.  She calls, then calls me back.  She is not sure they will get to her tonight.  They are very busy, they say.  I ask her if she wants to sleep at my house.  She says no.  She tells me that in the afternoon, there was a clap of thunder and all her appliances went off then back on. She had to reset everything.  

"Did you check the breaker?" I asked her.  

No. 

She goes out to check, but it is too high for her.  

"Jesus, don't climb up on anything.  I'll come over."

I probably shouldn't be driving.  When I get to her house, she is wide eyed and says, "The a.c. came back on.  Just all of the sudden.  I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry.  I'm glad you have a cool house to sleep in."

I hug her and tell her goodnight.  

Back home, another whiskey.  An ibuprofen.  A Tylenol PM.  

I don't wake up during the night.