Monday, July 03, 2017

The Only Good Way to Get a Really Good Suntan is to Start with a Really Bad Burn


1.  Preface.

I'm calling this weekend the fuck ton of rain, reminded that vinegar is a useful substance, conjured by God in his first days as a maker.  It's the key to the brand of the brain, it's the flame that lands like a plane.  Closing the loop, the loop is closed, there is no way out nor no way in.  Knowing this clangs like cast iron dropped on a sheet-metal floor, machine screws rattling with stress, under duress, in the gloaming.

I am accepting that I am incapable of a plot, in my own life, or in the ones I can't make up, because I can't explain where I've come from and I'm afraid of where I must go.  The Prince, the pauper, the man in the middle with a makeup bouquet.  A maudlin Mexican mannequin makes magical medicine at midnight.  I walk through the rain and get wet, waste bandages, and crane my neck to unlock the clock in the gutter.


2.  Short Story Titles Worth Reading, IMO.

    I.  The Rock Project.
    II.  Advances in Stucco.
    III.  Meet My Friend, The Brown Recluse.
    IV.  The Only Way to Get a Really Good Suntan is to Start With a Really Bad Burn:


3.  Permission to speak apolitically, Your Honor.  I disrobe but baseball and lackluster lust keep me coming back.  The drain has been swamped with a deluge of Deluxe Drano.  In the game Hungry Hungry Hippo one hippo ate all of the marbles and was shot.  A dozing director was tried for the crime but skipped town on his bail, took a puddle jumper to some unknown island, got a strange kind of lice, and died by a vote of 5-4.  I have no idea why I'm telling you all of this.  I'm supposed to be bussing the tables of my mind.  The sound of silverware hitting against porcelain keeps me up almost always.  I break glass occasionally, christening nothing.  There are index cards in my back pocket bearing the most bizarre tattoo sketches.  I am not working, I am not working.  I am sweating.  I am smoking for old time's sake, old timer.  I dream of planes I can't climb aboard.  Paging Jack Randall, paging Jack Randall.  Mr. Randall, this is a courtesy call.  Your flight at gate zero-nine is ready to leave without you, again.  I've calculated the odds of leaving now, arriving by foot.  They aren't so good.


Despite trusted advice to the contrary I've resisted implantation of a news feed directly into the base of my hippocampal cortex.  Those that have sprung for the procedure speak well of it and can quote excellent prices, on a nearby street, bookings available toward the end of the week.  This is what it means to mean everything but I prefer old music and a mishmash of words that might not make sense to anyone.  I'd rather not have an opinion.  Asked a question I often reply, "No comment."  I also love answering by saying, "Next question."  And then when I get the next question I say, "No comment."  I give no reviews.  Occasionally I participate in a well-meaning survey.  It would be progress if I could keep quiet when I take to the roads, putting my life in the hands of those who have one hand on the wheel and one hand on their input device.  I drive to do errands at the local food conglometory.  Sometimes I drive River to work to save her from parking under the signs that say "Falling Trees" or "This building is coming down next!"  I drive on a series of interstates, taking Google-frowned routes to avoid local ghettos, to visit my parents on their late-20th century homestead.  While there, news of the news crackles and buzzes in my ears like early-onset tinnitus.  The market is up, the market has risen, the market will live in infamy again.

And tomorrow I will circumautolate another part of the country, virgin to me, assuming I make it onto the plane.  We fly to AriZona to visit River's parents.  They say they have enough water but I am afraid they will try to tap into her, claiming genetic rights of appropriation.  Gila, Salt, Colorado, her.  I imagine large red rock formations, poisonous creatures of sand, water-hoarding cacti, shimmers of heat appearing to rise in the distance off of the road we are traveling.  Lizards, near-tropical birds, political animals, billboards, a pool, a golf course—maybe some peace and quiet for River.  I need only the stars, a red light, and enough sobriety to make a little sense of a timeless sky.  I will not pack any of my meths but I shall be able to get plenty of them there, for paper scratch.


4.  I quit my corpo job and finally told my few remaining local friends about it.  Pat said, "At least you are no longer a salesman."  True but we are all salesmen of one stripe and it's not something any of us will ever be free from.  If I am not selling then River must be;  and we are then partners, each a share in the River-Rand partnership, she sells I clean.  Brochures, stories, pitches for applications and traffic—demand.  Build demand and the rest is what you live on.  Even the professor must sell with print while fronting as a teacher.  The publication is the breeding plumage, the academic machísmo.  The campus buildings proliferate, get modern, induce more and more research, and the publications puff at the seams with the conclusion that more research is needed.  I bite the hand that feeds me, a hypocrite.  I need to find a second third career.  Who shall I sue next and in what court of law?  What does Foghorn Leghorn declare about the rising price of home prices?  A local hum-drum property sold at a lark-set asking price to an unknown, sight-unseen AriZona investor.  The West is coming back to the Gateway, in search of all of our precious wet water.  The River des Peres will be the unlikely first midwestern stream to be pipelined to the desert to fill the pool I am about to go drink meths and swim in.  When my head drops below that thousand mile water line the ringing will stop, complete submersion a happy stab at silence.

Later:  I am drunk as an astronaut.  My mouth tastes like chicken fingers.


5.  A little too much of the meths last night.  Bounce out, trash can.  My organs are getting less recyclable.  Coffee then, black as always and never.  We are somewhere over the Great North American desert, cold and metal like a missile.  I attempted to launch seven cyberattacks while I ate a croissan-which.  The cheese melted my motherboard, all of the attacks failed.  Arroyos, dry creekbeds, rattling snakes in ancient pottery-filled caves.  Dirt, dust, mud, clay, memory of water.  If we had taken the train we would be in Arkansas about now, looking at blurry trees.  Both of us coffee then.  It might make me pee but River boasts a bladder of steel.  She speaks both Russian and English.  Russian, river, valley.  In the distance greened up mountains make a town.  We checked one big bag.  I carried on my man purse.  Some call it a fanny pack.  Another plane sings like a drone off our starboard side and low.  Pueblos, village in a cliffside, the village took itself, gone like yesterday's best-seller.  In the news there is no news.  Many Mexican magicians made mummies morosely.  River isn't fond of morbid art.  El Niño brings flowers and floods her with them.  "We're going to have to take the boy."  The weather-borne Christ-child.  The unchronological condensed version of Jesus's totally unauthorized autobiography:  I died, rose again, hung on a cross, woke up as a tiny baby in a pile of straw.  Joseph said, "I am not your father."  Jesus said, "That's possible."  I participate in zero memes.  I make short films that go anti-viral.  They get negative numbers of clicks and I am deep in the hole with YouTube.  We are over the wing, the moon is over my hammy.  Buck the moon, buck the trend, truck the bend, end the luck that doesn't tend.  I asked River if once we get to AriZona we should turn into real estate moguls and begin to buy a host of properties sight unseen.  She took off her mary jane shoes and threw them out the cockpit window.  They parachuted safely to the playa.  Due to the drop in cabin pressure our oxygen masks deployed.  They clung to our faces like squid.  Portugese man-o-war have beached themselves in Nantucket.  Scientists have raced to tag them, confident they are proof of life dying.

Mesas, plateaus, the makings of a canyon.  Pachelbel's canyon, a popular place for weddings, though they must be dry weddings.  Another whizzing zephyr of metal and passengers off the starboard bow—much closer this time.  I have the window seat.  I have finished my coffee.  I am using the $8 in-plane wifi to do a rocket loan application as I line up one, two, and three rounds of financing for the real estate investment trust I will form when we land.  It will invest only in properties I have never seen.  It will pay a handsome dividend yield.  Max the Dog is treasurer.  Shares are only $20 apiece.  I am feeling better and better about this.  River is going to handle the advertising.  We will run ads during ballgames next to the Geico commercials and the Dairy Queen ads.  I am circulating prospecti to other seasoned barons, mavens, and horse traders.  You know why Nature's carpets are dirty?  Because Nature abhors a vacuum.  It's vacuous down below.  Evacuated, if ever it wasn't vacant.  The Maker made a little bit of this earth without water just to see if it could be done.  Yeah, it's possible but it's preferred by few.  Denizens dutifully designate desired destinations.  What we're above right now is not one of them.  My real estate trust will not be investing down there, I can assure all of you about that.  I am not authoring a book titled Coyote Investing: Making Money with Wild Dogs.  I have several other titles in mind, however.  One is: How I Made Millions Buying Small Houses Built in the Shadows of Airports.  There would be any number of chapters:  LaGuardia, Logan, Kennedy, Reagan, Lambert, DFW.

Now we are circling the airport.  "Why are we circling the airport?" we all cry out.  The captain comes over the radio, laughing.  "I want y'all to guess!"  he says.  Someone says, "Someone's on a cell phone and you can't contact the tower."  The captain plays the wrong answer sound but suggests it was a good guess.  River tries an answer:  "The runway has melted because it's so freaking hot down there!"  Wrong answer sound again.  Then I look down toward my lap and realize, Duh!, I've still got my tray table down because I'm writing on it.  I put it in its upright and locked position, apologize to my fellow passengers, and immediately I can feel the plane begin its gradual descent.  Ailerons, aft shutters, port fins, porto fino.  We have landed.


6.  Bird Interlude I.

I saw a cactus wren, confirmed, a large wren in a desert setting, white eyebrows, heavy chest streaking.  Other confirmed sightings are common birds: house finch, house sparrow, cardinal.  — (too tired to do this now).


7.  MCD.

It's the day after the Fourth of July.  It is also a Wednesday, the most recent of memory, the first of many to follow.  I set this work in motion, particularly in parts three through five by employing a voice that wasn't my own voice and was a bit of a stretch.  But I was excited about it because it was inorganic, i.e. not me, i.e. conjured—invented.  Only, it was an acerbic voice.  Mordant.  Caustic.  Some might say negative.  I'm down on society lately.  I concede that.  My job lost me then I lost my dog.  Driving drives me nuts.  We're all on our cell phones-soon-to-be-input-devices too much.  But I had something wonderful happen to me yesterday and if before I had an acerbic, tainted view of my fellow human growing inside me that growth was erased quick as the scenes of a movie on a cassette tape being sent through an x-ray machine at the airport.

Dateline Catelina, AriZona at one of the rare remaining McDonald's restaurants that has not recently been re-designed on the outside.  ...


8.  A new pen to start a new chapter.

This is the dead of day in AriZona.  The temperature here is an even 100 degrees.  The mercury doesn't line and only time'll bring it down.

The washes here are all dry.  I saw water from the plane, in the form of the Salt River.  Since then we've crossed creeks, washes, streets named after rivers, and numerous artificial holds of water—retention ponds, pools, fountains, sprinkler washes—but nothing has run of itself.  I don't know when the rainy season begins here in Tucson, AriZona but as of July 5 in the year 2017 it hasn't started yet.  I have wished I had jotted down the names of all the washes—rock hard, bone dry, wet as dust, bright as a soul, windy as a furnace—we have crossed.  Bogard, Tom Mix, Tanque Verde... Tanque Verde... great name for a beer, salsa, cocktail, something sexual even.

River drove us out to Seguaro National Park.  It was upper nineties, with hot gusts of wind, bright as an unsheathed incandescent. There was a forest of cactus and an ample sampling of birds, so we liked it.  I've got enough confidence to add these birds to my list:  curve-billed thrasher and rufous-winged sparrow.


12.  Possible sighting: brown creeper.

Climbing along the woodwork of the veranda (pergola?  awning?)  The temperature has climbed to 102 degrees.  Maybe 103.  Even looking from inside at the way the light hits a rock makes me feel the furnace that is out there.  The towhees and the cardinals and the thrasher are drinking from the bath.  I saw a dove visit there, for the nonce.  It was a white-winged dove.

I find the towhees a bit goofy.  They are large and bouncy.  They will walk along the rail of the fence, as if they are walking a fine line, a la Foghorn Leghorn.  It is a plain-looking bird with a cardinalesque beak and orange-rust on its rump, nearly hidden.

We have hit a wall here.  It is not possible to do much outside without taking the heat-hammer to the face.  Perhaps the AriZona real estate investor is fleeing the heat, racing toward the water, pure and simple.  We will try to run again tomorrow morning.  We ran some laundry and set our dryer-skeptical clothes to dry, which they did in about ninety minutes.  A cloud passes overhead and for a moment, shade!

I have seen at least two different lizards, one I believe to be an actual gecko.  There are almost always house finch at the feeder.  From time to time I sneeze, perhaps allergic to pollen of the mesquite.  I was going to tell you about the golden paper wasps landing on but not breaking the surface of the pool but I went and cracked a beer.  It will be a struggle to keep from becoming a dilapidated, dehydrated mess of a man tomorrow.  J.O. and I climbed an old ladder and walked on the flat roof of this house this morning.  There was a paper nest visible from the ground hanging from a garrett, but it was defunct.  I was wearing a flimsy windbreaker for protection.  There were no wasps up there.  I think they're nested under the downturned and browned but not-yet-fallen palm fronds.  The cactus wrens might be holed up in similar fashion.  The wasps makes endless trips to the pool as long as it is light, taking the water back to their nest to cool it down.


13.  Correction.

It is not a California Towhee, it is Albert's Towhee.  The California is not in this particular geography.  They are quite similar looking, apparently, except that Albert's has a black face masking around the beak like a cardinal.  Albert's note is a 'peek' whereas the California's is a metallic 'chink'.  In any event I filled up a small plastic dish that once held flowers or maybe served only to collect run-through.  It drips but the towhee and the others found it.  The towhee jumped in, a real sight for sore eyes wet,  a lot of black from underneath showing through and a very rumpled appearance overall.  It is about 16:50 or so that these birds start going nuts for the water.

And I have one new 'addition with confidence'.  It is the blue-gray gnatcatcher.  A small "mite of a bird" that cocks its black tail like a wren, flits about, and seems to be feeding on the plants just beyond the wall.  It has a white eye ring and its coloration is blue/black/white, the blue a dark or steel blue.  Payne's Gray.  Either way if your name is Payne Gray or Gray Payne you're in for it.  It's either, "Don't be such a pain, Gray."  Or, "Why so gray, Payne?"

The quail are on the wall.  Only at this time of the day.  Why?  They walk back and forth, appraising, apprising, checking, and chucking.  It could be the same mama and papa with the five or six whelps we scattered out front much earlier in the day.


14.  It is the Next Day, July 7.

Seven July.  We walked quite a ways back from River's cousin's vivienda last night.  We held a confrontation with a pack of javelina.  Even seen a pack of a dozen javelina lit only by the moon?  We walked slowly and one by one they continued on, roving porcine boulders, moving shadows, ghost pigs.

I added three:  gila woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, and pyrrhuloxia.  We are parked at Sabino Canyon.


15.  Bronzed cowbird and Costa's hummingbird.


16.  Infinity, end.

My mind is a noodle for a wet compost heap.  We saw water in a river, the Gila.  We did the Casa Grande, fashioned from caliche, kind of like stucco.  Ducco, bucco, lucco, trucco.  It was 116 degrees.  I got mad at the chef because he lost my order and wouldn't admit it.  Sam at Hertz says we were supposed to log some sort of written record about a small dent in the car before we left with it.  Because of course we put the dent in the door.  Hoops, songs and dance, games.  We are progressing backward.  I'm done with this company, I'm done with that company.  But we can't travel on Etsy can we?

The heat wore on me.  Family wore on me.  My sense of humor is like the old school pencil that's got so little left to it that it won't fit into the pencil sharpener without disappearing completely.  The birds and the cactus.  The eighty-five degree run.  River.  This plane aloft, speeding home.  Landing not so far from that in-demand sight-unseen new purchase in St. John.  I palmed a couple of vodkas while standing in wait to board the plane.  I got texts from Roy.  River and I listened to baseball on satellite radio.  We heard John Stirling call Clint FraZier's walk-off home run on Saturday as "Down...town goes FraZier!"  I get so buried in what doesn't work that I can't see or feel or think anything else.  Can I blame the heat?  Can I say, "I'd love to chit-chat but my system is down."  The weather, the pleather sofa I fall back on but stick to.  There was a bobcat on the deck, right outside the sliding door, looking at me with both curiosity and assertion, its den perhaps below the deck.  Saguaro, sahuaro.  Teddy bear cholla, chain fruit cholla, agave, aloe, palo verde, mesquite.  Mormon tea, Mormon temple.  A national park, a national forest, a national monument.  U.S. Fee Area.  The tram to the last of the canyon.  Forman Wash, Oro Valley, Coolidge, Chandler, and Mesa.  An old windmill too rusted to feel the wind anymore.  P.O. Box Zero, middle of nowhere, hot as hell, AriZona.  Nalgene, Evian, cup-of-ice, Camel-bak, Elkay bottle-fillin' fountain.  Three-bin compost system so there's always room to turn it.  Wire-mesh compost bin, very basic, open to the air, maybe I'd put some lawn scraps in there maybe coffee grounds.  I tried a hard plastic composter once, one shaped somewhat like an egg.  It took rain, got wet, attracted mosquitoes and rats.  The chickens are asleep.  The retirees are cuddling with their dogs.  The pool is blooming.  The hummingbirds are whirring, the roadrunners are bothering the cactus wrens, again.  The lizards are just minding their own damn business, trying to stay out of the next cute commercial.  One cigarette, no grass, neon urine.  Birds of the West, binoculars, fresh water in the bird bath.  Bats when the wasps go away; wasps when the bats cease flying.  Bird seed, nectar, native plants.  Legumes fixing the soil—but the soil wasn't broken.  Ahhh, but to the legumes it was.  The Palo Verde drops its leaves only to fall back on its bark: green and capable of photosynthesis.

Some turbulence, no drink service yet, coughing passenger, sneezing passenger, laughing passenger, crying passenger.  I won't do this again anytime soon.  I'll drive.  Then I drive and it takes forever and I say, I won't do that again any time soon, I'll fly.  Like seasons, spin turn, turn around, dry out, get wet, do it all over again until—Until one day you're there cursing the dry-ass river, the river that ain't a river, but—


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Farm March 2017—Outhouse Edition.




I.      Wood for which the flames to lick...

Farmhouse fajitas, nachos, Helm at the helm, old time music, fiddles, a nearly full moon, clean
cool air.  Chucking my banana peel toward the brushline, cabbage shards.  My nose is cold and runny.  Hat on, hoody, vest, thermal, two pair sox, crox.  Hot dog on the stove in foil this morning, baked potato on and then in the stove last night.  Splitting wood, getting wood, arranging wood, burning wood.  Excursion to Iberia via Brays Church Road, church there at 42, Mount Gilead, cemetery too.  Pastures, cows, farm dogs just chillin not chasin.  I cut up a fallen ash that wasn't nearly as dead as I thought, somehow still going at a forty-five degree angle and living on and through the v-trunk of another tree, maybe the second hickory species here, without shaggy bark and difficult to split—pignut?  The four horses are still here, two white, one black, one...Appaloosa?  I thought that word and then Helm said that word so it must be so.  A sparse, low fog rolled in.  I spoke of Misty at Chincoteague, we talked about wild horses.

The fajitas were good.  Tortilla, mex rice, refried beans, shredded cheese, sauteed onion cauliflower and broccoli.  Sour cream.  That means the beefaroni once again will have been packed only to go uneaten.  Helm is cleaning up.  I've poured a vodka tonic but I'm feeling torpid, tired.  No soap on the skillet, hot water and a wipedown.  Love is a rose. Salsa container, scotch tape.  3M, 4M, 5M.  A $1 paring knife.  A coozee that says, "Tell Me Again How Lucky I am to Work Here."  Neil Young, Dr. Dog, water in a one-gallon jug.  A spork.  Water through the coffeemaker not for coffee, not for tea—for cleaning.  More wood for the wood stove.  Split, dried, seasoned, split again, like pellets, there is almost no smoke just warmth to live by.

A creek, an outhouse, a woodstove, a whip-poor-whil and I can be happy.  Magnets, a collander, reading glasses, paper plates, a chess set.  Leftover refried beans dumped into a paper cup.  Expletive.  Photograph of a man who did good work here.  Headshot.  Cancer.  Cardinals 94.3 FM, Kleenex, shims, Jim James. Chainsaw, axe, wedge, sledge.  Inadequate splitting stumps.  Wood cache.  Wood marked in Sharpie.  Ash, oak, hickory, wood from the stand by Planet Sub.  Oil spill.  Expletive, expletive.  "Could be worse."  Soothing reggae riddims.  $1 paring knife out for an encore.  Lemon on this green plastic cutting board.  "We could be looking for the same thing, if you're looking for someone."  Lemon, gnarled lemon, a large Myers?  No, it's from a bag.  Trash fire.  "I've got a gal that lives on a hill."

Helm continuing to clean, down with the oil spill towels.  "Skyy's the limit."  The Band.  The third disc is just the first two discs live, after all that anticipation.  Expletive.  Next pod, please.  Chess, queen, queen down, move on.  "I could have used that playlist a couple of weeks ago."  Thank God, closure.  Nicotine hitter, oh to be home again.  Nest in the outhouse, nest and nesty, dust and grass and clipped twigs, pod of honey locust.  Hexagonal hole in the seat, roots in the dirt below, where oh where to go if not below?



II.  Aged at Sea.


to the melody of "Lost on the River"

Sittin at the table
in the cold
listening to the Dead

No calendars this year

To the fridge for ice cubes

Sun and showers,
aged as rain

aged in the ocean,
aged on the plains

Aged in the Aege-
the Aegean Sea.

Raised on the plains,
aged on the sea
Aged in the Aegean,
the Aegean for me.

Big Muddy River,
close to the sea
The sea that I sounded,
when it crashed on me.

Minds colliding,
at th'estuary,
overdue books
at the library....



III.  The Take Home Jug.


Filling my take home jug
with water from the farm

When will I get back here,
by wing or by arm

Weather vane romance,
end of the line,

Wade the creek together,
some other time

Crawdads and tadpoles
laundry line

Can I get you to get here
some other time?

Crummy service,
message won't send.

It's coffee in the morning,
no breakfast in bed,

chickens in the outhouse,
that's how these things end.

Cross behind
that dusty old shed

I'm here mining for roses
but I keep finding lead

They don't want it in gasoline,
they don't want it in bread,
but it's stuck in my head.

Floors are a-tatter,
the families, they scatter

And the onions get rusty,
like that broken-down shed.

Don't steal this trademark,
don't fight this fed

By the time I'm done singing,
the memory'll be read.


IV.  Saturday Morning, Czechoslavakian Dateline.

Sources: Country to split into two,
czech czech czech.  One two, one two.

Writings songs and drinking coffee.  Hot dogs in foil sizzle on top of the wood stove while I play this Feelies album.  We leave today, it's cold out there and cloudy.  It's not red meat that gives you cancer, it's the char.  The czar, the tsar, just a little czar is ok, the rest gives you cancer though.  First hot dog accomplished, the second sizzles because it is NEXT.  Gonext.com, where is everyone is waiting—but for how much longer!  Cooking dogs on the stovetop, no condiments.  Just a little char, char boy.  Cedar, locust, hickory dickory dock, dry dock, repairs.  Fears of pears, tears of pearls, tiers of earls.  The music has stopped, the music has left the building, to pursue opportunities in another field, of sorghum.








Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NOLA: 2017



I.  Preface: Not there Yet.

I imagined what it would be like if I did Dwight Yoakam's "1000 Miles From Nowhere" as karaoke and it wasn't a pretty vision.  Bad vision, bad vocals, song sad, not letting me do my thing.  I heard him do that song in Milwaukee in 1999 in clothes I no longer wear.  I drove up there with my best friend from high school.  He lived in northern Illinois.  Where is he now?  Last I saw him was in San Francisco in 2011.  He drove up from San Diego.  We spent an evening together, all of us, I think I disappointed him because I did not go all out.  I called him the next year, left a message, never heard back.  Then just two weeks ago, I stepped out my front door to go for a run, so early, and this guy on the opposite side of the street, windbreaker on, hood pulled tight over his head, the way he walked—australopithecan—I think it was him.  Improbable.  Ejphoop@imsa, was it you?  I miss you, I miss having a connection to my high school years.  I've bounced around like that, I have no one from the IMSA days. Only Roy from the year prior and even that is tenuous of late because of a divide that was always there, the awful donkey-elephant frankenstein in the room, even though I am neither and maybe he isn't either either.  Oh, pass the ether, it's awful and ether and good morning, America, how are you?  Don't you know us, we're your native sons?  We are just incommunicado for a while here and not even savior son of the north Joey Votto can save us this time, regardless of how many times he gets on base, how tight his pants are, or how many doubles he lands.


II.  Strep To.

Who wants to riverboat gamble?  Bramblewine, Charley Pride, kiss an angel good morning.  At 4:35 a car on St. Ann honked, a woman whooped, and I coughed this cough I've got, craning for health, for a clear cranium, for enriched uranium, for heavy water—Enough.  It's not a cough I've got but a sore throat and a wicked one.  All my life I'd hear about other people getting strep throat and I can't recall ever having it myself...until now?  Dunh, dunh, dunhhhh!  I have been under the weather for weeks and now I'm in New Orleans, Louisiana—what am I doing here?  Sipping room coffee at five a.m. because I can't sleep and my throat hurts and I don't have my trusty foam contour pillow, to which I have grown heavily reliant.  The day will unfold, though, and it might just get better.  The only tool of destruction I have here is the liquid kind—no gas and no compacted particulate.  I might remember the good time I'm going to have out on those patchworked cobblestone streets in this old amorous city on the river.

I have little else factual to report.  It's Friday morning.  This is vacation.  B and I sprung this trip on ourselves, by ourselves.  I fear we might get a little lonely.  We had no trouble getting here.  The security line at Lambert-Southwest was no line at all.  Indeed, I'd fly on a Thursday evening again.  The plane was full because there is never a shortage of people heading to New Orleans.  The flight is not quite an hour and a half.  I finished a sudoku and read just a little of Peter Reading's, Perduta Gente.  There's no reason you should have heard of it.  I bought it, used, at Subterranean Books on the Delmar Loop back when that store sold used books.  It's considered a work of poetry but I'd call it mixed media, a poetic collage.  There are stanzas of verse but also handwritten "diary" excerpts and photocopies of newspaper articles and ads spliced into the story, which deals with street people in London: winos and dipsos.  Dipsomaniacs I take it—drunks.  There is frequent mention of peoples' 'meths', which I conclude is a neologistic mashup of meds and methods, or maybe he is simply talking about methamphetamine but I don't think so.

I was struck by a line in the second diary entry, handwritten, torn from a small wire-bound paper notebook not unlike what I'm writing in now, with the derbis hanging like loose textile at the top.  It goes, "Tuesday: In the crypt of St Botolph's we got a mug of tea and some bits of bread.  It's like a sort of air-raid shelter with us all waiting for something awful to go away, or worse, to happen."  I've run with my erstwhile college friend Bill Williams's great line, "It's all a wash—we move, we walk, we travel and, yet, we rarely really talk" as the tagline for my blog for years but I think it's time for a change.  This line of Reading's, penned 27 years ago, fits today as well as any could.

I am struggling in this New Era of the Great America because I am afraid of broaching disagreement but yet I don't want to find myself agreeing with someone either: afraid to disagree, unwilling to agree.  An act I took in favor of myself and some family, for non-monetary purposes, is condemned by those who would tell me what else it was I was supposed to have done for them or for their wards.  I find myself then in some sort of self-imposed exile, having placed my own mind in quarantine, my opinions like germs I must keep suppressed.  If I let them out the arguments and recriminations will become bigger than my reality, swamping a vacation, killing a friendship, stunting a family tree, poisoning the water supply for the whole damn town on down.  Not gonna do it, wouldn't be...prudent.  Ah, those were the days, when I didn't know what a politician was, when I wasn't interested in the fight.  If I could just get a pen and some paper, and observe a lot just by watching—where is Yogi when we need him?


III.  Magazine Subscription.

We're on Magazine, 3000 block, east of Lafayette Cemetery.  The first time I was in New Orleans, with Brett and Tab, we took the streetcar down to the Garden District, went to the Cemetery but weren't sure what to do with ourselves once we'd toured the graves.  Magazine Street is what we were looking for, a tight corridor of neighborhood bars, restaurants, and stores.

I went to the American Apparel and bought a couple of their deep V-neck t's.  In the last twelve months I've bought deep Vs in Portland, Chicago, and now New Orleans.  This store was on the sparse side, dazily attended, what you'd expect from a store whose outfit is in bankruptcy, again. I've been drawn to the Am App deep Vs as a replacement for my nasty-pit white undershirts.  The last time I tried to buy more large tall Jockey V-neck t's they were not nearly as long/tall as before . With the Am App I can give them a second wear as a running or gym shirt after first having worn them to work as an undershirt—less wash.  And they're made in the U.S., which makes them something of a dying breed.  I am getting them while I can.  A couple of my old jaundice-pit whities will get the ax when I get home.  [Ed. note: Apparently Gildan, the activewear company, has bought Am App out of bankruptcy, and has made clear its intent to start manufacturing some American Apparel-branded textiles in other countries.]

We're gonna walk down to a deli at 2290 Magazine.  We've done a fair bit of walking already today (plus the 4.5 I did on the hotel treadmill).  Worth the walk was Willa Jean at Girod and ________.  The shrimp and I grits I had was as good as any shrimp dish I've had her in three trips.  The grits were gritty and creamy and then there was a reddish sauce that I feared might give me heartburn but hasn't yet.  B had a biscuit, eggs, bacon, grits.  The place was doing a brisk morning business but we got seated within minutes and the service was attentive.  I had a grapefruit juice.  I'd give the place four out of four or five out of five stars.  They have a lunch menu, too.  We would go back.

My fear of some major sickness having taken root in me has come and gone in the wake of whatever it was that moved through me earlier.  My throat is still sore but I've discounted the possibility of flu, which is widespread in this area, according to Weather Underground.  Can you imagine if there really were an epidemic, of flu?  Or something else?  Are any of us prepared?  I don't think we have a sense of what emergency really means.  The best argument I can imagine as to why we should let refugees into the United States it is so they could tell us about what it means to live life with true urgency.  But I'm not sure how many of us would stop and listen.  Would I?  Would it strike me right, or would I be just too damn busy carrying on with my carrying on?


IV.  Widespread Accounts of Progress.

Jackhammers, stone cutters, cement mixers, bricklayers, orange cones, yellow tape—this city is Under Construction.  Fences throughout Jackson Square.  Sidewalk ends torn up corner after corner to splice in half-hearted attempts at ADA compliance.  Sidewalks closed altogether for major building renovation.  There was a house on Sophie Wright stripped down to the studs and it looked like even the old studs themselves were being swapped out for new ones in a complete and total retro-fit.

Other properties, which we saw walking through the Garden District, are wood-exterior homes in dire need of paint.  For some, the moment for paint is long passed and rotting wood needs to be excised and replaced altogether.  It made me think of our stucco bungalow, with its wood trim.  The maintenance requirement is never-ceasing but manageable.  There is no freezing and thawing here but plenty of rain and nearly year-round moisture.  I have no doubt those parcels are worth a lot but it's not a hold I'd be interested in taking on myself.  We might get back down there.  If we do I'll want to look at the houses some more.  We saw one that a restoration company's sight out front.  The house looked clean and trim and fresh and made me envious and happy.

I meant to do some study on parts of buildings in advance of this trip so better to describe them.  I want to call everything a balustrade or a parapet.  Wall.  Stairs.  Balcony.  We saw two gents working on either side of the railing of a porch along the front of a bed and breakfast.  One kneeling up top, one standing below.  They were scraping and chipping the paint from the balusters making up the railing.  They watched me watching them as we walked by, first in the wrong direction, and then again as we doubled back.

We took the bus back.  We had taken the St. Charles streetcar down to the Garden District after Willa Jean this morning.  The bus seemed like the better way to go—quicker and roomier.  It was the 11 we took back up to Canal.  There were other riders but they seemed more like locals as opposed to the streetcars being more of a tourist vehicle.  But we wouldn't turn down the streetcar if it were the better option considering time of trip and the amount of walking involved.  Same cost: $1.25 per ride.  We each bought a $10 pre-loaded card this morning.  After one trolley ride and one bus ride we are down $2.50 each to $7.50.  There is a machine on either the trolley or the bus into which you slip the card and it pops back out minus the fare.

I've had a few Andy Gators.  I just poured a vodka and tonic.  We have new neighbors on floor 3, who appear to have us surrounded.  They are flitting back and forth between their numerous rooms making enough clatter with doors banging to distract me from this task.  My job is to deal with it.  Unless it gets ridiculous and then I'll ask the hotel to move us.  I don't like being surrounded.  The only fail safe is that we've got this "split-level suite"—an oddball of a room where we have entrances on both three and four.  These old party folk shuttle diplomats are not on four.  They might have the balconies I can see out our floor three window, on either side of us.  There is now an ashtray out on the balcony to the left I'm pretty sure wasn't there before.  If I were Pat or Roy they'd probably make friends with these folks but I have a hard time of that.  I'm unsure where else I could go just to hang out, perhaps the lobby like I did last time or the wrap-around staircase mezzanine near the lobby.  I'll have to pull that cord at some point.

WWOZ, currently a string of funky jazz, is playing upstairs on the actual FM radio (90.7) and downstairs I have it going on my phone using their app.  It is filling our split-level nicely, though the timing is a little off.  "It's a round, don't you get it?  The delay is intentional.  It adds to the effect."  The two guys sitting next to us at Stein's were talking movies and seemed to be old friends.  One was quoting and making references left and right.  He said something about Matthew McConnaughey in "Mud."  I don't know that one.  There might have been references to comic books or a comic book movie.  My memory has been mud lately.  I've had a hard time remembering some of the expenditure amounts.  I need my recall facility to work if my style of travel writing is going to yield the expected result.  They mentioned some specific other flicks but I just can't remember.  Perhaps I got distracted when one of the sandwich baristas yelled at a customer who must have been picking up his finished sandwich while also being on his phone.  "Hang up the phone, motherfucker!"  My back was turned.  Was the patron in offense merely because he was on the phone while picking up the finished order?  Or did this patron try to converse with the barista while on the phone, therein angering the sandwich maker?  I am uncertain but I know for sure that it created an air of tension in the place.  I went up to get our finished order soon thereafter, phone far away, and the yeller was still fuming, muttering "fuckers..." under his breath.  The sandwiches were good but we opted to eat them outside once we had them in hand.

Ship's left the station now, another little vodka and tonic, this time with a lemon.  WWOZ played an advert about a food festival being held, alas, after we leave but the location is one Central City BBQ, a destination on my list of 14 "Other Food Options."  It's at 1201 S. Rampart, 26 minutes away via the 28 bus, open from 11 a.m. Thursday through Monday.  I had visited and left New Orleans the first time, having stayed a block "east" of Rampart and never stepped in that direction once.  My second time here I had a sense of where it was and could apprehend that it was "a complete mess" and had no reason to scale it.  Things could change this time around.  Rockets red glare and the ramparts they wail.  To quote Dayn Perry, "National anthem, bitch!"


V.  Writing in the Dark.

It's 3:05 a.m. Saturday morning.  I've not slept well the last couple hours.  Woke up a lot between two and three.  Dreamt of June, doing a crazy jump.  I dislike the pillow arrangement here.  Two crummy pillows.  I've become a pillow prig.

I looked out the window, took my earplugs out.  There isn't a whole lot going on.  A group of seven fifty-ish black gals walked by.  One of them stopped, looked back up St. Ann in the direction of Bourbon and said, "Whatch'all doin?"  A minute later three more gals and a guy walked by.

There is a trickle of taxis and other cars, their lamps washing over the ceiling of our room as they coast by.  My ears were starting to hurt from the plugs so I pulled them.  I'm a little tight.  I can feel yesterday's walking in my calves.  The fridge kicks on, sounding kind of like an oink.  We saw a pig on a leash yesterday.  It somehow reminded us of June.  The whitish fur, being low to the ground, and the placid look on its face.


VI.  Say It's Saturday.

a.  Room Coffee.


I went to an ATM and withdrew some cash.  It's 7:30 a.m. and chilly outside—low forties.  But it's clear and it's Saturday and the mercury's got nowhere to go but up.  B went to grab some breakfast at her favorite bakery, Croissant d'Or Patisserie.  I am going to put in a couple of miles on the treadmill and then do approximately five exercises with the dumbbells in the fitness center.  I've had one room coffee and one lobby coffee.  WWOZ flows from the radio upstairs.  Stevedores were unloading boxes and boxes of "15 dozen eggs" for consumption at Brennan's on Royal.  The street machines have doused their cobbles, making it look like there has been rain.  Activity begins to percolate in the hall.

b.  Day Errata.


A wild-eyed man in a hoodie at the streetcar stop on Canal and Dauphin was saying, "There's an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.  Half the people don't know."  Anything's possible.  I should have stopped to see if there was anything more to go on, or if this was his annual message, irrespective of current events.  But I was headed to Crescent City Books and I was not stopping.

                                                                            *

My feet are beat.
My feat is a beet.
My feta are beta.
My fate is bait.
My fete is bet.
My fat is bat,
enough of that.

                                                                            *

I just snagged a copy of J.F. Powers's Lions, Harts, Leaping Does from the compact labyrinth that is Arcadian Books, right across Orleans from our hotel's main entrance.  I had heard Annie Proulx read "A Losing Game" on a New Yorker fiction podcast a couple of weeks ago.

"J.F. Powers," said the proprietor when I handed him the book.  "I haven't heard that name in years.  He used to be a big deal."

He checked the cover for the penciled-in price.

"And that's an old price, too," he told me, looking over his glasses."

I didn't say anything but inside I was feeling like I had won something important only to me and him and he was playing the good sport.  I recall Proulx suggesting Powers was out of print.  So, a tip of the hat to the New Yorker fiction podcast and its host, Deborah Treisman.  So too a nod to Annie Proulx who said she had wanted to read Powers because she thought he was in danger of being forgotten.  I've never read Proulx's most famous work, The Shipping News, but I would by it or a collection of her own short stories were I to encounter them.

Powers might have fallen from favor because, according to Proulx, he writes mainly about religious professionals—priests, deacons, vicars, prelates, and bishops.  Not a subject I would otherwise be drawn to.  But "A Losing Game" was a remarkably clean, well-dialogued, straightforward, secular story in my estimation.  Character-driven on the small scale.  I like short stories because they allow me to get in and out without having to lend hours and weeks to one story that might curdle three hundred pages in, having grown maudlin or politically quagmired.

I just wish I could write a decent short story or two.  I had a chance years ago.  I feel very far from being able to do so now.  I wrote two pretty bad stories in 2015.  They were bad to the point I left them both unfinished because I didn't care about them.  They were the epitome of me writing just for the sake of writing.  I'm too hostile and red in the face and sodden and I spend too much time in a car related to work to write something decent.  I fear I will be unable to write a decent story until I can still everything out.  I can't see achieving that now or soon from now.  But this helps.  Just to go through ink and paper does help.  Yet, getting to a state where I can create characters who have important lives or who have something important to say....  It's the old joke about asking for directions, "You can't get here from here."

After visiting the ATM this morning I put in 3.4 on the treadmill and did three weight exercises: bicep curl, tricep raise with dumbbell behind head, and incline bench press with dumbbells.  I tried some lunges with dumbbell but my left big toe could not brook the flex required of it when I lunged forward with my right leg.  I tried a couple of other things only to conclude, "That's not an exercise."  Or, "No, that's not an exercise either."

I've opened an Andy Gator, fourth of six from yesterday's sixer.  Bottles.  I am heavily emphasiZing aluminum lately but I know I like the Gator and it's not in cans to my knowledge.  The Gator is an 8.0% ABV doppelbock, not at all like an india pale ale, or a stout, or a belgian ale, or a barleywine.  It's a "high gravity, strong, slightly fruity" badass German-style beer, made by Abits in Abita Springs, Louisiana.  There's also a strawberry version, which B and I split one of last night.  Not bad.
As previously indicated, I went to Crescent City Books after running.  It's below Canal now, having moved about a year ago.  They had a handful of books temporarily corralled in their "New Arrivals" section that I wanted to buy.  I did snag one of them, classified as Nature writing, about a guy in England who tracks the "comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fenlands of eastern England."  I picked it up, looked at the neat drawing of a peregrine falcon on the cover, read the description, and said to myself, "Oh, I am buying this book!"

I also bought a travel writing volume called Expats by Christopher Dickey.  The subtitle is "Travels in Arabia, from Tripoli to Tehran."  I read a lot of fiction and I'm not sure it's always educative.  Plus, the type of writing I have managed to pen is best called travel writing so I might as well see what's been passing as some of the best of the form.  I then went and scanned the expansive fiction area.  I was working from a list of list of writers or readers from the New Yorker fiction podcast: I always look for Donald Barthelme, and I never find him.  (I have his Sixty Stories, one of my desert island books, but I did not realize until 2015 or so that his Forty Stories is not a tighter version of the sixty stories but forty distinct stories unto themselves, and I search for it, unsuccessfully on end.  WTF, Kenneth?)

I looked for David Means.  I looked for Mary Gaitskill, and there was a volume of the sort I sought but it was not only hardback but also "signed by the author" and cost $24 so I passed.  There was a J.F. Powers hardback, $10, I passed.  Tobias Wolff's A Boy's Life is reputed and I have enjoyed the work of his I have read—Old School is worth reading, and I read one of his short story collections, liking it—but I couldn't pull the trigger on Boy's Life.  There was no Sherman Alexie, that's the surprise gay Indian sex story from the podcast series.  No Muriel Sparks.  There was a huge tome of Nadine Gordimer; a pricy hardback of Coover; no Peter Stamm; no George Saunders; only a novel by Joseph O'Neill, carrying a president's endorsement on the cover, which I took to say, "This is an overtly political work" and I passed; only a novel of Antonya Nelson's; no Joshua Ferris, etc etc.

I started getting texts from B so I bid the cat adieu, paid $17.05 for my two books and then went in search of a USPS mail drop box...









Friday, January 20, 2017

2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel



2017.  Year of the Turd.  That's pretty crude, I can do better.  OK.  2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel.  I like the idea of a flying squirrel, they have pluck.  No wings but they make do.  They fly somehow anyway, though not as well as a bumblebee.

I've heard references to 2016 being a bad year.  Because of Trump?  Please.  My dog died—or, rather, I had my dog put down.  I invited some horrible woman with a needle to come into my house and kill my dog.  If 2016 was a bad year it was because I had to make that hasty and rude introduction with death, the reaper.  Or for the people in Aleppo was 2016 a bad year.  It was a bad year for the people who lost mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, friends they have known for most of their lives.

If I said 2017 was the Year of the Turd it was because I'm sitting here feeling sorry myself, with a head cold, rainy drear outside.  It's January, it's not supposed to be pleasant.  Spring is ahead.  Baseball, the full 162, is out there on the schedule, yet to be played.  Good music is going to be released along with thousands of free podcasts.  I got a new iPod for Christmas—ask and ye shall receive still works for me.  God, I've been spoiled and lucky.  The iPod I was replacing, which I'd stuck in a creaky drawer, suddenly woke back up when I plugged it back in on a whim, once more 'round the old ballpark, for kicks.  Lo these last few months it was merely hibernating, much like the flying squirrel would do.  Wait—

"Google, do flying squirrels hibernate?"

As it happens I've set my default browser to Bing but as I type "do flying" the first suggestion in the auto-complete is, "Do flying squirrels hibernate?"  This is too much.  Sadly, though, according to the website for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, flying squirrels do not hibernate.

"Though seldom seen, flying squirrels are interesting animals.  With their loos folds of skin (called a patagium) stretched between all four legs, they are able to glide considerable distances under full control.  Many people who think they see birds flying across highways at night actually are seeing flying squirrels.  Flying squirrels do not hibernate but slow their body activity in winter and sometimes nest in groups to stay warm."

I'm taking a moment to add "See a flying squirrel" to my bucket list.  They're nocturnal so I'm going to have to stay up late.  Their habitat includes northern states as far and wide as Maine and Oregon as well as a wide swath of Canada.  Maybe one will glide across some cold Canadian highway one night as I drive in search of my number one bucket list item, the aurora borealis.  Here's to 2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel.




Monday, January 16, 2017

Trip Up East 2016



September 3, 2016.

He and I are laid up, stuck, at Lambert.  Our flight was scheduled for 11:05, pushed back to 2:25p.  The plane is detained in Oklahoma City for maintenance.  There was an earthquake north of there this morning, about seven o'clock.  Some in St. Louis—my mom—said they felt the tremor.  B and I were running, felt nothing.

I went and got us coffees, long line at Starbucks.  There is TV noise, there are children, there are many aboard the blunderbuss of airport confusion.  The board is clean except for our flight.  Bad luck, bald luck, bad eagle.  It's been awhile since I've had an unpleasant flight experience, not since a layover in Miami coming back from The Mexico in 2010.  I can't recall what amount of time that required.  There's a lady from my eventual flight on her phone, talking away.  One call after the next, as if her talking keeps the phone charged.  She's telling people the flight was canceled, and rescheduled.  Not true.  Alarmist.  Unruly kids, agitated mother.  I'm not long for this seat.

"I just turned 59-and-a-half, that was a milestone for me," she says.

She can now take a distribution from her IRA penalty-free.

"I gotta pay taxes on it?"

And they pump the CNN into this terminal like it's laughing gas.  "This was not in the plan, I can tell you that."  Like Dad said—what I lobbied for—we take the direct flight and it backfires.  Egg on my face.  We asked at the desk about going through Hartford but that option wouldn't get us there any faster.  "Manchester, NH?"  Nope.  A guy is restocking the soda machine.  I should have packed more than just one little bourbon.  The wait is on.  It was, all along.  The earthquake announced it, the vouchers, denounced it, all I can do is sing this song.

I'm slinging my "old" iPod, the one with the cracked-windshield screen.  What was my current iPod just stopped working.  I didn't drop it—it dropped me.  Cold, dark screen.  We had a good run, many of them in fact.  How many tubes of caulk did I crush listening to 'casts on that pod?  Several, many several.  How many baseball games did it succor me with?  Many, very many.  Lots of John and Suzyn.  Plenty of Tom Hamilton.  It's uncanny too that the earphones I'm now using are new.  The old ones were going, getting slip-shoddy just before the pod checked out.  Maybe the pod knew it, stepped away just in time—Wow.  I was getting to this but the old Pod has forced my hand.  On random it breaks out Daft Punk, DJ Koze, then Modest Mouse.  You give me chills, old Pod!

There's a little, tan lady lying down on a row of seats, watching something on an iPad at a weird angle.  Neck vertebrae of steel.  Maybe she is Wolverine's mama.  Talk of lunch.  Audible audibles.  Dad suggests Chico's, just down the tarmac from here.  I realize he means Chili's.  Loud noise from the vending machines, just short of a soda explosion.  There is a lull all through the terminal, like the morning window for arrivals and departures has closed.  The shopkeepers and clerks have all gone out for their noon-time break.  Smell of apple cider vinegar on my fingers.  I sent B an SOS re: my sweaty pits.  She did some research.  Next thing I know I'm wiping ACV on my armpits.  I'll try anything.  In college I wrote a story about a guy—Jackson Middler—who had a terrible sweating problem.  Much of the story took place, as it happens, at the airport.   But that was pre-2001 and I used the airport as a peripatetic landscape where people could come and go, regardless of whether they held a boarding pass.  This imagined airport had a strip club, where Jackson had an encounter with a woman named Samantha Spumoani.  It's all coming back to me now.  I spent a lot of space in the story talking about the speed ramps in the airport—the motoriZed walkways, the horiZontal escalators—and how they allowed people to move at different speeds.  A person could use the speed ramp and walk; could get on the speed ramp and stand; or, a person could choose not to use the walkway at all.  Jackson Middler didn't use the walkway at all.  That's who he was.  I am pretty certain I have no remaining copies of that story.  11:27 a.

                                                                              *

I'm reminded of that line from the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B", a line I first really heard in a laundromat in Munich in 2008, there on a trip with B and Roy.  This isn't the worst trip I've even been on but this is top five worst flights—most miserable flights—of all time.  Considering first the delay.  Second, sitting in this window seat with BFR in the middle seat to my left: his elbow is encroaching my space in an inconceivably great way.  I have a couple of poses to choose from, as I am a statue in torture en route Boston.  Third, there are a disproportionate number of young kids on this craft and they are all taking turns screaming their heads off.  Are they being operated upon with blowtorches?  One is in the seat right behind us and if he is in a quiet stretch it is because he finds that kicking the back of one of our seats is a basis for placation.  Now one of the stewardesses warns we are going to hit some turbulence.

I just downed the pitiful sole bourbon bullet I loaded in my carry-on bar gun.  What was I thinking?  Why did I not plan harder?  Music, turned up as loud as it can go, will have to keep me aloft the rest of the way.  I've heard some of my classics.  Black Keys, "The Only One"; Future Islands, "Back in the Tall Grass"; a Pearl Jam song I never hear any more; Led Zeppelin, "Ten Years Gone."  How good was that Future Islands album?  Anything I'm hearing from it now has held up well or gotten better.  Now Neil Young, "Out on the Weekend."  Not loud enough but good.  What state we're over I can't begin to say.  Pennsylvania perhaps.  I didn't pack my cigarettes either and damn I wouldn't mind one right now or when I step off this p(l)ane.  It'll be like a victory.  A race run, not won, but survived.  And that's the name of the game for this adventure, this jaunt.  Survive this trip.  Get on the other side of it.  September, LouFest, birthday, beer, some time off, Scratch, work on the wall.

                                                                              *

We made it to Boston and off that plane.  Walking the walk to baggage claim (cabbage blame?)  I ate a Chick-fil-A that I'd been caching in my fanny pack since STL.  It tasted alright.  I was hungry enough and I didn't want it to go to waste.  I also ate a chocolate granola cranberry cookie that was surprisingly good.  A chunk fell on the floor near the baggage carousel and I really wanted to eat it but thought better and tossed it away.  

Tammy was waiting on us in passenger pickup.  She had been there for a little while and had, she said, almost given up on us.  Our walking was at a slow pace, and our baggage was toward the tail end of what was spit out onto the carousel from our flight.  We must have been the last Southwest arrival.  The terminal was quite vacant as we coursed through it toward cabbage blame. 

It is about 90 minutes' drive from Boston to Ludlow, assuming copacetic conditions on the Mass Pike, which we had.  BFR asked his cousin Tammy question after question the whole way, like it was a de-briefing of her role as herself since the last time he had seen her.  I didn't say much.  I spoke up to talk about dogs, running, and my wife.  Apart from investing, drinking, baseball, and caretaking work on my house that's all I'm really interested in, at this time.

Elsie's house—she's my dad's aunt, though they are separated by only seven years—is as I remembered it.  It has been five years since I've been here and walking in, sitting down at dinner, getting cold water out of the Poland Spring container in the fridge, it's like I never left.  

Talk at the dinner table was of import, and had some tone of drama.  But there has been death in this family and drama follows death.  Death and business and generations and money.  We all had some drinks but upon me the effects of the alcohol were felt perhaps the least.  Michael—who was at my wedding, who had left the picture, but who has now re-entered it—made me a manhattan which he called perfect.  And at first I'm thinking, "OK, yeah, you've just made THE perfect manhattan.  Thanks, but whatever."  Then I realized he had made the drink called the perfect manhattan.  You use some dry vermouth in addition to the sweet.  It was a good cocktail and I wanted it.

I had a little wine and then a winter ale that might have been from last winter but tasted quite good actually, a scotch ale, not unduly spicy like some so-called winter beers.  We ate lamp chops and corn on the cob and sweet potato spears and green beans and salad.  I passed on dessert.

It is remarkable to listen to Elsie and her three daughters talk about serious subjects at the table.  Not as much the business here, Randall's Farm, but late Billy's business north.  I am not going to elaborate.  It is not my place.  But I am honored and pleased to consider that they wanted me to hear what they had to say.  23:16.



September 4.

I'm sitting on a rocking outdoor sofa on the screened-in porch at Elsie's.  The stand—Randall's Farm, now a much larger operation than when it was just a produce stand—is to my right.  There is Karen walking out of the greenhouse and through the nursery area, where there are flowers and shrubs for sale.  Mums.  Sunflowers.  Roses of Sharon.  Vines—wisteria?  Karen is the CEO and has become a local celebrity, due in part to spots on local news where she gives planting tips.  Tammy was giving her shit about it.

Most of the Randalls in this area have worked at Randall's Farm at one time or another.  My dad likes to say something about being their first youth employee.  Sometimes I think about having B get a job at Hampshire, or Amherst, or UMass.  And I could get a part-time job at the stand, see where it leads me, work my way up.  The winters would be a drag but I have a lot of family here, around here.  Summer, spring, and fall would be pleasant.  A day like today, sixties and seventies, not a cloud in the sky, looking out past the maple, to a field of sunflower, corn, empty greenhouses.

They sell beer and wine.  There is a deli serving formidable sandwiches.  It is a small business, of which there seem to be more of, pro rata, pro capita, here than in St. Louis.  After Tammy, Karen, Anna—who is the next generation of Randall that is going to work the stand?  Johnny, Judy, Will, Taryn?  It could be me, involved to some degree, around at least.  I'd live here more readily than metro St. Louis.  Or Chicago.  There are plenty of options to be by the sea.  Two hours down to Naragansett, RI.  Three hours to Portland, ME.  Hampton Beach, NH, is two hours.  I've been there.  It's tempting to go now, it's been a while since I've seen the sea.  And I imagine there is all kinds of camping in New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York.  Tammy said she's doing interviews for a vacant dishwashing position.  Someday.  No reason B and I couldn't rent a place somewhere nearby for a month, have a kitty of camping gear stashed in some storage locker.  Take a month, or two, and camp New England.  Fish, read Thoreau, stock up on provisions at the stand.

It's 10:40 am.  My dad's cousin, a client, will be here in twenty minutes.  Enough future rumination for now.  There's a gentle breeze.  What a beautiful day.

Much later: "I'm too tired to write and there is more to tell about than I can do.  I want to get up early and go take photos of the farms and fields up toward Amherst."



September 5.

I didn't get up early and I didn't go up toward Amherst.  But I did the loop around the grounds of Randall's Farm and I took a handful of photos.  I didn't go anywhere today.  There are a lot of little moments and details and nuances I'd love to recall and relay but all I want to do right now is listed to Vin Scully call this Dodgers game and keep on reading my Cheever book of short stories.

Today felt like a poem day, the gusts thrown off by a hurricane remnant, distant cousins talking about ancient history, walking to the stand for sandwiches, the honeybee boxes, the pond where my dad wants 1/3 of his ashes scattered, an attempted nap, what sounded like a gunshot turning out to be a car accident bringing down a utility pole, exploding a transformer, Keurig coffee, work on my fantasy team, listening to Vin, reading Cheever.









Untitled Late 2016



1

al Qaeda in the desert magreb
trump in the desert casino
hail red hail black hail bright
alt right alt country control alt delete


2

I used to write like
this in bed, in the
dark, by sense,
umami, inhaling
the dark
nostril

I used to have something
to say, now I am
quiet, in fear of
the fashion police,
the reprimanders,

They know I'm wrong,
not my-self,
bag-eyed,
trumpet-minded,
stuck in my throat,
brisk on the ground

White swan
black swan
any news event that comes along that
is real news not
pundits,
the e-haw,
see-saw
I'll take it.


3

gummy bear
righteous dude
crickets.

choco-lot
monster
room 36

square root of
9 is still 9/3!



Trip Up East 2011



October 3, 2011

10:55 eastern time.

I have moused this little notebook from a cupboard at work.  The market is bouncing again this morning: first down 95, then up 30, then down 90, now down 62.  The S&P 500 is at 1125.  I will wait until it hits 1080 to buy again.

My dad and I leave tomorrow to travel northeast.  We will fly into Boston, spend one night in Ludlow (MA), drive up to Vermont for the Contrary Opinion Forum (three nights, Tues-Thurs), then return to Ludlow for four more nights.  B—and my sister!—fly into Hartford on Saturday the ninth.

I am worried that the market (1) will fall—it's already been such a crummy three-month stretch; and (2) will hit my buy tripwire while I'm gone.  I am also worried about ongoing furnace and AC installation/replacement while I'm away.

Flight info:

Depart St. Louis Oct 4 8:05 central time
Arrive Boston              11:40 eastern time
---
Depart Boston Oct 11 5:00 eastern time
Arrive St. Louis          7:10 central time

*

October 4.


8:45 eastern.

On the plane.  BFR got to the airport before I did.  He went on through, I waited.  He texted me and said he was at gate 14, so I checked my bag and went on through.  The full body scanner couldn't get my arms so I got an arm pat-down too.  When I was standing in the security line I could see BFR standing and waving his arms at me, waving, waving—yes: I see you.  Shaking my head, smiling though.  How is it I am so very self-conscious and would never do something like that short of a life-threatening situation and there he is waving, waving.


11:00.

The plane will soon begin its descent into Boston Logan.  I ordered a cranberry for my drink.  BFR has been reading financial stuff.  Before we departed I ordered a double espresso at SBUX.  I ate the peanuts and Lorna Doone the flight attendant handed out.  I did a sudoku; it took awhile.  It was one where I could say that three boxes all had to have one out of a group of three numbers, e.g. 7 or 8; 3 or 7; or, 3, 7, or 8.  That left only two other open boxes, which had to contain the only other two numbers remaining, e.g. one or nine; or, nine or one.

My neck hurts.  I will need to lie flat later.  I have to urinate (not urgently).

Is "broll" a word?

What is "K Pareve" vis-a-vis food?


16:26.

We landed...at 11:30 or so...I turned on my phone to see that the market had been down big early, down through 1080 on the S&P 500.  Down to 10,404 on the Dow but that it had come back respectably since then.  I checked and saw that the Q's had a low of $50.25 where I had orders.  I wonder if that was them hitting there.  BFR had an INTC order in at $20.40...its low.  We listened to Bloomberg, then CNBC on the XM in the car.  By then the market had gone positive on some indices including the NASDAQ and the S&P 500.  We drove through the tunnels of the Mass Pike, 90W.  Through the neon lights and out through the city, past Framingham and Natick.  By Auburn the S&P was negative again, the NASDAQ was struggling to stay green, baby, stay green.  It started to rain.  We had paid $4.75 in tolls and taken a ticket.  We passed seemingly numerous McDonalds and Gulfs.  The XM was hissing static with regularity.  Bear market, bear market.  I called Elsie to make sure we could stay at her house.  BFR wanted me to ask her to see if she'd go to the deli to get us some sandwiches but I wouldn't.  He was chagrined.  It kept raining but Ludlow wasn't too far away.

Will helped BFR in with his bags.  We turned CNBC back on.  The market was back down, seeming to want to catfish its way back down to the morning depths.  Negative 105, negative 150.  I went nihilist, BFR defended his charts.  I got frustrated and went to make an unrelated call.

I came back out and ... "It's only down 15?  You gotta be kidding me."  I took my eye off it again as I tried to plug Elsie's password into the house wi-fi.  I said hello to Johnny Ruple who said he was up to "playing hockey and eating potato chips."  BFR's trying to tell me something...I'm talking to Johnny Ruple...he leaves...I look over again and, "It's up 60?"  BFR says, "I was trying to tell 'ya!"

I sit back down on the couch.  At that time it was 15:45, 15:50...it hits 100 to the plus side, but it isn't done there.  It's the opposite of the sheer drop.  I wonder about what rumor has to be kicking around about now.  110, 120.  The FT reports that eurozone finance ministers are coughing up more details on what a European TARP might look like.  The euro goes back over 1.33 and the Dow continues to pound the clouds up 130 with just a few minutes to go.  Throw out the script.  What will tomorrow bring.  The Q's are up $2 from their low with AAPL and AMZN still both negative.  It's a short squeeze to end all short squeezes.  The final number is around 150, meaning a 300-point reversal in the last 30 minutes.  The Russell 2000 up 6% today after losing 5% yesterday.  Words can't describe this action.


21:42.

John A., my dad's cousin's husband, is talking with BFR and me.   BFR is in Elsie's chair asking John if he is working tomorrow.

John:  Yeah, we've got a Department of Corrections audit tomorrow [where he works as a guard].  I don't think they'll shut us down, though.

BFR:  Well, you've got most of my IRAs.

I have a puzzled look on my face.  John says nothing.

Me [to BFR]: What?

BFR:  Where'd that come from?

Hilarity and belly-aching laughs ensue.  Later, John says that it didn't make any sense to him, he was processing it and was gonna roll with it.  BFR says he was starting to drift off but that he did hear himself say it and immediately knew he had just said something that made no sense.  But I'll also say that there was a moment when what he said almost made sense, and I was ready to just shrug it off and move on.



October 5.


8:00.

I arose nearly an hour ago.  I flipped on the coffee, snuck a cup, and sat down in front of the computer.


9:06.

I have eaten a couple of pumpkin and cream cheese muffins.  I have had not quite two cups of café.  Water.  I showered, and shaved in the shower, as is my wont.  It is mostly cloudy out, but I was able to visage some blue ceilingless.  Azureglass.

"What about Irene?"

She is a popular topic here, still.  So much rain have they had.  We will leave here in an hour and a half, head north to Vergennes, VT, to see where some of the rain fell so often.

I have been in contact with my wife by e-mail.  The smartphone makes that easy.  I am on house wifi. The 3G has been in and out: disappointing.  It's not like I'm in the middle of nowhere—an hour and a half from Boston, twenty minutes from Springfield.  I am perplexed by the network sparsity.

The market looks to open lower.  I am not surprised.  The afternoon pole-vault was way too steep and will need to be leveled out.  I could stomach only ten minutes of CNBC this morning before my temper started to rise.  I cannot watch the financial news coverage anymore.  Hopefully I'll never be able to watch it again.  It is manipulative, whether intentionally so or not.  Watch and your chances of making a destructive more increase.  To that end, participating in the market—any market—is like trying to hit a baseball or play golf: the harder you try the less success you will have.  This is not to say "don't practice" or "don't train" or "stay in shape".  It is to say that when the time comes to swing it is your years' worth of practice that you must rely on to take you through the moment...not the events of day in which you are swinging.


22:02.  

Recap.  Five-and-a-half hours in the car, winding, winding, and bending our way to Vergennes, VT.  WiFi at Basin Harbor Club.  Dinner with Mark T, Brandon C, ... Drinks with David Fuller, David Kodrick, Symon/Wymon...damn, can't recall.

NEWS: Steve Jobs dies.  Roy sends me that text, I see it as I am leaving dinner.  I was really checking to see the Cardinals score.  They won, beat Philly, tying the series 2-2, sending it back to Philly for a Friday night game.

I sat and had a beefeater martini, the Cardinals game had just ended, and I watched a couple minutes of Jobs obit coverage on CNN.  It's so sad to me.  I have been using Macs all my life.  I was ridiculed for doing so at IMSA and a little less so in college.

Then I switched it to Cardinals post-game, Brewers pre-game on TBS.  I was sitting by myself in the little TV room, the bar area was empty.  The portly bartender poured me a good martini: a full chilled martini glass with olives.  The bill was $8.48 and I gave him $10.  That made five drinks: a little Hendricks and ice; gin and grapefruit; gin and grapefruit; the martini; a beer at dinner.



October 6.


9:05.

I woke up at six and three-quarters, made the in-room coffee.  I checked and saw that the Brewers lost.  Ha!  They gave up ten runs.  Ha!

850 on the S&P 500...where was it in July 2009?


Sometime later.

I am sitting in a florally decorated chair over in the main hall, near the dining room.

Sounds: "Good Cider", silverware clinking together (probably being pulled from the dishwasher, lunch's ware, prepped for dinner), "Not as dry as Roger's cider", "Where'd you guys go?", a little air squeezed out heavily as a man plods quickly for the bathroom, an auto piano doing a ragtime ditty, sunglasses clacking closed, the bathroom door opening, these cider folks are...British?...Something about a travel agent, quibbling about a collared shirt being required in the main dining room.  Distant conversation from the front desk.  Air blowing (from) somewhere, probably the kitchen.

Anyway, back at Elsie's I was telling Will about my writing exercise where I try to write everything I hear.  I had to borrow a pen from the front desk.  I decided lately to bring my notebook with me over here, figured maybe I'd write and drink, not just look at my phone.  So I went up to the front desk and asked if I couldst borrow one.  The comely (Jamaican, Trinidadean?) gal gave me two.  She is dark-skinned, with a lovely voice, and heavy neon-greenish mascara.

I skipped both of the afternoon talks.  None looked all that interesting.  I'm tired of the market in most respects.  I like it on my own terms.  I become easily annoyed by BFR when he is reading out all these CSS stocks that "gave buy signals" today, as if nothing else gave buy signals today.  The best buy day in over a year washes up on the shore Tuesday and where am I?  On a fucking Avis bus in Boston, MA, schlepping my way toward this slog of a conference in Nowheresville, VT.  I had strict orders to a colleague to put in about a dozen mutual fund orders when and if the S&P 500 hit 1080 but it didn't get done.

Of course, if we weren't at S&P 1175 as of today's close but instead at 1065 I wouldn't be nearly as upset.  So I try to look at it this way: if the low on Tuesday morning turns out to be the low for this August's air-pocket decline then great, the carnage is over: we'll move higher and do some selling and everything we bought from August until now will be black and shiny like anthracite.

If that was not the low, then I'll be able to put the orders in at some later date.  In the "grand scheme" I guess it really doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of difference either way.

I'm alway going to find something to be mad about, aren't I?  It's a problem, a condition.  It's something more than just being human.  I suppose it is akin to neuroticism, but I think it's worse.
I kicked a chair and felt not knee-deep but chin-deep in the boil of my own bloody blood and decided, "I'd better get the hell out of here."  Am I going to be this prickly, saturnine, aloof, bristly, jaded, jaundiced for the rest of my life?  When did this happen and what can I do to reverse it?

I went out and started walking.  I had a pretty good general idea of where I wanted to go.  All around.  To investigate, explore, define, and re-name.  Across the cove.  To the party tent along the water.  I am distracted by the baby squabbles about some guy at the front desk saying he ought to get his boarding pass printed instantaneously upon his request.  I walked and walked for about an hour.  I saw a portable disc-golf goal and wondered whether there were a course here.  Then I saw a bunch of pretty flowers, zinnia being the only one I knew for sure.  These flowers were so well-kept, in a plot measuring fifteen feet by thirty feet, with several distinct rows.  Upon a closer look I saw some peas strung up along one of those tepee-like structures.  I thought, "I need to do more beans next year."

Then I heard what I first identified as a titmouse but when I turned I saw a chickadee buzzing at me.  I saw that it was perched in a tree bearing fruit.  Apples?  Indeed, a tiny little orchard: a copse of seven or eight apple trees, at least a couple of different kinds of apples among them.  Now the boarding pass guy's buddy is telling him to calm.  At first I said to myself, No, they're not my apples, I'm not going to take one.  "She's cute.  Heavy but cute."  I was looking at all of these apples and there were a lot on the ground.  I said fuckit, I went back to the apple I had touched initially and clipped it easily from the branch with my thumb.  I rubbed it a bit.  Are there pesticides on it?  Nah.  I bit into it and...ahhhh...so juicy, so firm, not so mealy, not grainy, not too sweet, not too sour, probably a McIntosh, probably the best I ever had.


17:39.

I returned one of the pens.  Those two guys talking about the boarding pass were about as priceless as it gets.  The griper's buddy was talking about some real-estate deal and the possibility of doing a 1035-exchange.  The other guy says, "It's been fifteen fucking minutes!"  The buddy is like, "Why don't you just calm down?  Whether you get it now or after dinner, what difference does it make?"  And he suggests they get back to talking about something that really matters, i.e. his real-estate deal.  These guys are like 75 and the griper doesn't care about the real-estate deal.  He's hung up either on his boarding pass or the gal at the front desk.  "She's cute," he says, "heavy, but cute.  Look at the size of those legs!"  Ha!  You can't make this stuff up.

I have moved writing perches.  I hate this pen.  I had someone across from me at the mini-table I was sitting at.  Older.  I got up to take my martini glass to the bus tray.  I came back, she was very gracious, said, "I thought you had forgotten it."  Meaning my glasses case and notebook.  But I said, "No, I was just setting my glass back."  And I thanked her.

A little ways away now in the next seating area over from where I am is the guy from White Plains, NY.  Who I've heard a lot from.  Not directly but because I've been within five, or ten, or as the case is now, forty feet from him.  And I can hear him easily.  He is loud.  Does he want to be heard or can he just not talk in a lower voice?  Based on tone I think he is just unable to talk in a lower voice.  Someone comes up to me and asks me if I'm guarding the door and I say, "No, I'm monitoring, I'm monitoring."  He says, "Even worse, even worse."

Ha.  I'm getting on over half into my second martini and I'm feeling it...already.  My drink rationing is working.  The cocktail hour starts at six.  It's ten 'til and the thirsty ones are going in for the kill.  I'm chewing on a plastic sword from my first martini.  My dad is probably wondering where I am.  I hope not.  I hope he knows.  Where is JBR?  Check the bar.  If that's the worst thing they'll have to say then let them say it.


After 18:00.

The encampments have moved barward.  I am very pleased with the spot I had staked out, two candy-striped loveseats opposite one another.  "They like to drink 'til the very last minute," says one of the organizers of this event.  I am waiting on BFR, like he was waiting for me inside security on the day this all began.  I also did, as I just hear spoken the words "blue heron", see one out fishing in a puddle on the airstrip near the restaurant here, the Red Mill.  I had seen signs for that place but didn't know where it was until I stumbled upon it during my meanderings this afternoon.


October 7.


10:00.

A couple of people are looking for S&P 1250 as a sell signal...


12:20.

I am waiting for this thing to wrap up.  It is the panel session now.  Should be over any minute though.  Folks are starting to make their way out.  The market is mixed but basically flat.  The clean tech guy didn't seem to think the investing prospects were very good for those types of companies.  The options guy was the cranky Yankee season ticket holder from last night.  Ha!


October 10.

I'm in South Hadley, MA, in the plume of someone's cigarette.  How long's it been since I had a cigarette?  Not ages, but...I got to NE last Tuesday (10/4)...I didn't have one on October 3...could've been 10/2 or 10/1.  I haven't hung out with Roy in awhile is part of the reason.  Plus, the American Spirits I had went stale.

Later: I'm over at the stand now, a.k.a. Randall's Farm.  It is remarkably warm here.  Well over eighty degrees, in record territory.



November 1: Postscript.

Can we start from scratch?  I have my second cold since coming back from MA.  I am thinking of making my beard the fall guy for everything negative from August on and shaving it.

I have been depressed, pathetic, desperate, and unfriendly.  I hate a lot.  It's no way to live.  Work sucks.  My neck hurts.  Writing could be a way out, at least a relief.  At least it is seventy-two degrees and sunny outside on this first day of November.  How come there isn't a Yes-vember.  Ever wonder that?

I'll work from home tomorrow.  That's a saving grace.  But I've got to go out for a meeting with a client at 14:00....






Monday, January 02, 2017

The Ones that Needed Telling (Spring Farm 2015—Thursday Only)


I wasn't going to write anything, I didn't write anything.  This is the first of it I've written.

I was my usual, edgy self Thursday morning.  The night before we ate sushi, the maguro and the sake both so...not just good...better than good: exquisite.  I had two of the big Sapporo, from glass though they are better out of those cold, impenetrable cans.  From there to Walgreens.  I bought a six-cans of Modus and a twelve of Kraftig.  The plastic six-ring holding the Modus cans together failed and two of the six Modus skittered across the floor.  My instinct was to exclaim, "I'm not drunk!"  B will want me to say Walgreens was her idea, and it was.  Dierbergs, earlier, had been a warm beer can fail.  For camping I want to start out with warm cans.  If you have more than about one-and-a-half your expected first-night's volume of beer taking up room in your cooler you aren't packing the cooler efficiently, I have realized.

We got stuck in traffic just east of Maritz on 44.  Even with my drive to and fro Illfallon...and a visit to LA and its vicinity recently...this was the worst traffic event I've been caught in in years.  We were listening to the In This League fantasy baseball podcast.  I looked into the cars of the people around us.  I mean, really, what else is there to look at.  The traffic started moving once we were past 141.  I had to go to the bathroom.

Having to turn around only once we parked at the LaBarque Creek Conservation area south of Eureka (109 to FF to F to Doc Sargent Road).  The sign was barely a sign, faded, hand-shaped, the final turn onto Valley Drive.  There's a loop trail there.  Park, go across the drive/road to where the trail starts, a spur leading you out to the loop itself.  The loop was at least three miles.  We walked alongside a creek for the first several minutes, LaBarque Creek.  Then it was rolling woods, a fairly constant up and down.  At one point we flushed a large bird from some brush.  I thought it was a turkey because it flew so heavy.  There was a lot of rock along the trail, rock bed I'd call it, flatter rock.  The trail itself was not rocky except in a few places.  We stopped for a moment where a tributary to the creek fell and slid peacefully over an unusually smooth continuous rock face.  It was sunny and increasingly warm.  We each shed two layers, down to t-shirts.  We needed the water we brought.  We saw only one other hiker, a lip-pierced woman on the spur as we were headed back to the car.  Hers must have been the Civic couple with Kentucky plates.  How does someone from Kentucky find that trail?

My thoughts quickly then turned to Culver's.  We headed there by going back under 44 on 109 and hitting the Eureka access road.  I didn't like the spot I pulled into.  I had to go contortionist to get out without banging my door against an old Buick, the kind my dad drove at one point.  I calmed down a little when I saw the faded blue tie in the backseat.  Or maybe the car was faded, its windows dusty, and tie was actually a normal color.  I really don't know.  We went into Culver's and killed it, though.  I had a double deluxe, no onion, got some fried (something I had strongly considered not doing...).  I had one of B's chicken tenders and some of her cheese curds.  I refilled my water multiple times, interacting minimally but adequately with the friendly Culver's employees who took our order or brought our food, asked how the meal was, cleaned the exit double-door windows as I walked out to the car only to change from my boots into my sandals.  When I came back in the person said to me, "Hello, welcome to Culver's."  And I was thinking, "I didn't ever really leave.  I've been here, I was here, I am here right now.  Don't you recognize me?"

B got a butterscotch sundae.  I helped her crush it.  That's really the point where our visit went from just a "hit", as in "We hit Culver's on the way down" to more of a crushing as in, "Yeah, we f*cking crushed it, too."  I don't really talk like that, but I kind of like writing that way.

The drive from there seemed shorter and more piecemeal than before.  To St. James on 44 is nothing.  Road work is going to begin along 68 in St. James today, Monday, April 20, 2015.  It's the stretch from Vienna to the Farm on 42 that I still don't appreciate—it feels long and I want it to end.  I want to drive it slow but there's always someone on my ass ruining my roll.  It curves.  It goes up and down.  I drove it as fast this time as ever.  I had a full-sized pickup and a small delivery truck right on me for virtually all of 42.  There were stretches where I thought, Well, I can do this part faster than they can.  But I'd do the stretch, do it good and I'd have gained only a smidge on the trucks, looking at them still right there in the rearview mirror.  They were in a hurry to get to Iberia I guess.  I lost them only when I took the left on TT.  To Adler (rock road), to Redbird, across the creek and there is the Farm, so green, and old, and windswept and august and   .

We walked down to the amphitheater, the fairgrounds, the grotto...what is the name for the place where we have the fire?  Someone had had a fire there since I had been there in January.

We tried to set up our tent where we had done so in January (for just one night) and before that last fall—at the near end of the long shed, to the left of the road leading up to the pasture gate.  But the wasps—mud daubers—were so insistent at examining every aspect of what we did ad what we had that we moved, though they followed us.  The sun and the color of the early spring clearly motivated them because they were much more subdued as the weekend played out in cloudy fashion on Friday and Saturday.  Still, the persisted even then as a nuisance over by the house—their commune—nearly the whole time we were there.

We carried our ten-on-tarp to a different spot and got the tent set up, unfortunately not without some bitchiness from the author.  I'd really just rather put up a tent by myself, not because I'm adept at doing so and everyone else is not but because it is somehow very hard and frustrating to erect a tent when two people must be involved.  It can be hard to say exactly what you are trying to say and have someone else on the other side of the tent understand you in the way you would expect them to.  I get in such a rush to get the tent set up so I can move on to the expanding universe of things I want to do.  I get irascible and impossible.

Next we turned to wood.  I had eyed a large fallen limb just off the creek as we drove in.  I wasn't sure it was part of the L-V Farm but I figured the Little Tavern was the boundary and at least part of this limb was in the creek.  The wood wasn't quite as good as I had hoped.  Some of it was crawling with ants.  Ants can be good if they have carved large, flame-alluring holes in an otherwise hard piece of wood.  Not so much for a smaller limb piece though.  On down Redbird Lane, toward the back entrance, I could see a downed oak limb.  I cut it up and B and I hauled some of it back to the fire area.

She pointed out another piece, in from the road a little, a different kind of oak.  It was in a brushy area.  I've seen people go in there when we were playing disc, but I was wary of ticks.  Still, I wasn't enthused by what we had yet found so I went in and it was the best yet.  Heavy, the bark a little paler and smoother, the oak bark that almost has a little of a blue-gray sheen.  The branch was so heavy and my back was whining.  We grabbed a good bit of it, hauling it about 100 yards down Redbird Lane and then a little farther to the fairgrounds.

It was getting later.  We figured Aaron and Missy would've already been there.  Helm was a possibility, per text.  I needed a shower bad, damn the circumstances.  I needed one after the hike much less the cutting and hauling.

The pump room was waspy.  I plugged in that old-style, wiry plug.  Then turned the red pipe-knob...screwed around with the could and hot handles over the bucket...I had them both turned full open...initially there was nothing but then the water started gushing...turned one handle back off, nothing...I turned the second one back off...stream cut...go empty the bucket...the pump making all kinds of action sounds, I didn't know why.  Then I went into the house and the kitchen faucet was on, I turned it off, went into the bathroom, water going, four wasps in the window.  I killed the water and then the wasps.  That's why the pump was humming...the faucets were all on.  I flushed the toilet, maybe not used since January, its water a blue tinge from the anti-freeze.

I took a shower.  Dial soap.  I thought of, "Don't you wish everyone used Dial?"  I had never showered there before.  The stall is dingy.  So what.  I'm gonna replace that shower curtain though—single shooter.  It's not a very good curtain, it doesn't cover anything.  I'm surprised it wasn't moldier than what it was but that's just it—no one uses the shower.  I'd heard only ghost stories of people using it.  I didn't need shower shoes.  It wasn't the Bull Durham fungus and algae shower show—fungus and algae need moisture, warmth is good, too.  The floor of that shower is dark and dreary but not teeming.  I used the Ivory body wash as shampoo.  The shower was fantastic.

We might have done our first tick check then, too.  It's Tuesday now and I'm talking about Thursday.  This is it.  Tonight or never.  I stood at our car in my boxers, enjoying the still-light evening, the halcyon evening.  It was bliss.  If I had heard a car I would have hurriedly gotten clothed.  And did once one came along, but it wasn't anyone we knew.

Someone had left a small collection of kindling, mostly small cedars, down by the fire-ring.  I used some of those and some of what we had collected and put a beginning structure on top of four or five medium-sized rocks—to keep my fledgling fire off the ground, using the rocks like fire-dogs, a.k.a. andirons.  It helped.  I never had to set light to the fire again the rest of the weekend.

Helm got there only a couple of minutes after the fire started, his blue car fighting up the hill past the creek.  We were resigning our night to the reality of it being just the two of us—but Helm had come through.

He is among several who sleep in the house.  So there was no tent to set up.  I went up and greeted him.  B was looking after the nascent fire.  She came up and said hi.  I walked him through what I had done vis-a-vis the water and faucets, to make sure I hadn't done something wrong.  He came down and joined us at the fire.  We were heating up the cans we had, Chef Boyardee and Chunky soup.  He ate a ripe banana.  He must've brought his chair down.  He had gotten a text from Aaron (his cousin) which indicated that Aaron was indeed just past Kingdom City and headed this way.  It was only a matter of time and even more arrivees would make it a much more than solitary Thursday night.

I said it was Tuesday but it's not.  It's still just Monday and clearly I'm flagging.  I'm not remembering much about Aaron and Missy getting there.  It was still awhile before they showed up.  It was dark by then.  We had a fire going and, yes, a Blues playoff game.  The Cardinals had already played.  So had the Royals.  I was trying to get KMOX clear on my little yellow radio, with the aux cord all strewn out doing duty as the antenna.

Me and B and Helm went up to greet Aaron and Missy and just a minute after they had arrived another truck came barreling down Redbird and...it pulled up the driveway!  None of us had any idea who it was.  Aaron said something about wishing he had brought a gun.  With full confidence this truck whipped right into an open parking slot between our car and Helm's...and we were all like, "Who the f*uck is this?!"  But then, it was Ryan, and with him Doug!  A Ryan and Doug Thursday surprise.  We all relished the surprise and the relief of the moment and had ourselves a typically awesome Thursday evening at The Farm.



—[I wrote this in April 2015 but didn't type it up until now, January 2, 2017.  Obviously, there was more to the weekend but I never wrote it and I haven't written anything since at or about The Farm.]



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