Posting just to assure myself that this web-log won't disappear.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Terry And The Pirates
Listening to Live365.com 's "Homefront Radio" station ---which has a wry slogan 'World War Two for the World War Three generation'---I discovered that some of the childrens' late afternoon, 15 minute long radio serials were very good. Terry And The Pirates, in particular, had terrific story-lines, acting, and production values. You can find mp3 files here, at the stupendous Archive.org site.
"Terry and the Pirates was a radio serial adapted from the comic strip of the same name created in 1934 by Milton Caniff. With storylines of action, high adventure and foreign intrigue, the popular radio series entralled listeners from 1937 through 1948."
The episodes in the Archive.org vault begin in the week prior to Pearl Harbor. The sponsor, Libbys' Juice, is offering a "Terry-Scope" of cardboard and mirrors, which is even better than the one Terry invented himself because for one thing it's new. And it has the Morse Code printed on the side and a game and a funny picture of good old Big Stoop.
"Why say, you'll get thrills galore. Gosh, you've got a swell time ahead and that's not even half of it." The announcer's voice is pleasing, measured with just the right amount of excitement and friendliness. The Terry-Scope can see around corners, behind you, you can look over walls.
"More than likely your mother has some Libby's Tomato Juice and Libby's Pineapple Juice in the house right now, " he says, before giving instructions how to send away from this cheap but nifty toy.
"I don't guess i have to remind you of all the tight places where the Terryscope has come to the rescue of our friends in China. After the show, ask your mother to get one can of Libby's Tomato Juice and one can of Libby's Pineapple Juice---they're both delicious, a real treat. Then take the labels off each of the cans and on one of them write your full name, age and address. Enclose the labels and ten cents and mail them to Terry in care of Libby's, Chicago. Of course you know how to spell Libby's. It's L-I-B-B-Y-S."
This is the pitch during the episode on Monday, December 1st, 1941. Somehow as the fatal week passes, day by day the announcer makes the Terryscope offer more appealing.
On Wednesday, it strikes him that Christmas is coming soon, and maybe this would be a good gift for one of your friends, boys or girls. And if mother doesn't have these in the house, you should tell her how good the juices are for you---with vitamins C and D1--- and isn't it a lucky break when something that is so good for you is also so delicious?
(ed. note: Tomato juice is not delicious. It is not even possible to swallow.)
On Thursday, as the week comes to a close, perhaps the gift idea was good but increased the volume of mail alarmingly. We're startled (but somehow not disappointed) to learn that the offer will expire, boys and girls, at midnight December 6th.
I don't have to tell you, dear readers, that this might be mentioned in someone's memoir.
Wikipedia notes that while the China adventures are contemporary, the show was not allowed to mention Japan. The characters are moving from one bombed and blasted Chinese city and village to another, but the villains are only referred to as "The Invaders".
On December 8th, after the Pearl Harbor attack, the contest is over. There is no mention of the attack in any of the week's episodes, though of course the war becomes central to "Terry And The Pirates" and the show boomed in popularity.
The only difference, that Monday following Sunday, December 7th, is that the send-away is over and Libby now emphasizes each day that pineapples are from Hawaii. The golden voiced announcer teaches us a few happy facts about the islands, along with some of it's vocabulary, like 'luau'.
The show is an older boy's fantasy, and Terry even has a girlfriend along, named April. His best friend is a tough-guy journalist and their coterie includes at least three women, one of whom is a typical 1940's style New Yorkish sophisticate.
The plots are complicated but deftly restated at the beginning of each episode, with the exciting iteration of the previous day. I imagine many fathers enjoyed the show as much as their kids (but not ironically/moronically as would probably be the case today). There are details which the older listener picks up on that the younger does not need to understand to still enjoy the show.
Maybe Junior had to be frequently hushed when he asked questions. The episodes are really only 10 minutes, minus the commercial time, and you would have to save up your questions for afterwards. But don't forget to go see if there is Libby's Tomato AND Libby's Pineapple Juice in the pantry (or maybe the icebox) first!
Post-M, Pre-D (2004)
“I was in love once. I’m sure of it.”
“Yes, I believe you were,” the Miss Kitty patted my fore-arm.
“I know. Because you know why?”
“Cuz it hasn’t happened since.”
Friday, August 29, 2008
So queer this morning.
I was in a self-talk /committee dream, where we'd all come to some morale boosting consensus to cooperate together, me myself and I and numerous demons, and then my cellphone alarm clock went off.
So it was like: here's the test right now. Who's going to get the phone, then?
I knew immediately this was going to be embarrassing and I didn't want to allow that. Eyes would dart, faces would fall or turn red. A cynic would grin and enjoy the discomfort.
Time to live up to our new group-loyalty!
I decided I'd get it myself.
Atta Boy John, that's the spirit, they said. Decisive action. No waiting for someone else to do it.
Yeah yeah yeah yeah. Then I was like, fuck, it's always me. Always, always. And then I was alone. Everyone dispersed to their pleasures. Back to sleep I suppose.
My bitterness lifted quickly after a short prayer as I sat up in bed in the dark.
I have to stop my mind leaping ahead to the day's petty, irksome errands that would follow work, like having to go to the grocery or pharmacy. And when would there be rest and peace. Not for several days.
It's been a cool, wet summer. May didn't take place. August was like early May without the promise. Now, for the first time in three weeks I could sit outside on the deck before the sun rose and be comfortably warm, so smoke and reflect.
Thinking of Patricia mostly, Dee and Nick, and my brother David with his Mastocytosis and daily interferon...
Lord guide me, remove these defects I created and exasperated for 25 years, drinking to stay ahead of a hangover...This isn't my world, other people's problems are far greater. Give me the obvious opportunities, I need for them to be obvious you know, let me know what I can do for someone to make their day easier and mine more meaningful.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tippy And Miss P.B.
My friends' perpetually surprised, seven months old Golden Retriever.
I'm just back from two weeks house and puppy sitting. Tippy is very good. It was an ordeal though, I'll probably remember fondly and falsely.
Now it's nice to be home.
The dog was always seeing ghosts, as pictured above, and I damn near started to believe him. At the same time I'm reading Henry James "Turn Of The Screw", which seems to be a ghost story (anyway there's a lot of fainting in it).
Upstairs was Miss P.B., a 40 year old woman who has had the same apartment for 17 years and does not suffer neighbors lightly. For months we felt maybe she was right, maybe we were being loud down here, opening and closing kitchen cabinets.
Then she got crazier and she must have a bowling ball up there. That or she jumped from her kitchen table down to her floor when she was mad. *BOOM!!*
She was giving us coronary by-passes almost.
Then came the day she began to noticeably "follow" us around the apartment, listening closely, and then drop her bowling ball on our heads, as it were. *CRASH!* Reverberations.
One evening I was over and the bowling ball fell and my pulse shot up to 160. Split second End Of The World sort of feeling. Or, 'WAS THAT CLOSE!!"
I had enough. I went up and knocked on her door and when she didn't answer I yelled "stop this harassment of your neighbor downstairs or I'll call One Adam Twelve!" Five minutes passed and she dropped it again on the floor over our bathroom. I called the cops.
They couldn't do anything but knock and then leave their card. We stood outside that night discussing the mentally ill, while gazing at her picture window.
Miss P.B. was deeply shocked, and she no longer drops bowling balls.
We found out from the neighbors then that "P.B." stands for "psycho bitch". She'd been in bad favor for seven years, ever since she pounded on a neighbor's wall during a wake.
But why am I sharing about her? I guess maybe she adds spice.
She was gone for a week, once, and we were overjoyed. We thought maybe she was on vacation to Haiti, maybe. Or a business trip more likely (she drives a very fine new car).
Every night when she failed to come home we began to realize how deeply we resented her, as well. One Sunday night around 11 o'clock, she returned and we still held this instinct to tip-toe (even though, as I say, she lives above us). I thought she was in bed when I took the dog out, or else I would have waited, since it's awkward to see her and offer the natural, cheery "HELLO!" "How are you??"
Tippy suddenly, bewilderingly started to growl. Not like a puppy. Not like a house dog. Like a real dog. A wild dog maybe. And there she was, across the parking lot at the dumpster, disposing of some human bones perhaps.
Then, instead of walking past us toward the outside stairs leading up to the back entrance of her apartment, she got into her Saab and drove away.
Tippy relaxed then. And I'm sure he felt he'd not only got his message across, but he'd done it without getting any lip , too. She was gone baby gone.
Come to think of it, I think that's when he started seeing specters.
It is good to be back at Oxford. These men are ghost-busters and they can tell you all about women too.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
So my pal is with a college degree now, but wants to be the Sexton at the Episcopal church instead of manage the cell-phony store where he just started as a sales man.
You know those little store-front cell phone stores with their meager displays and nothing much to do but stand there with a co-worker and wait for a customer (who is usually coming in to down-grade).
He's stuck there so I wanted to stop by and take advantage, that he had a leash that could only go so far, and an invisible cage so he couldn't deck me if I got out of line.
I put him through his paces as a salesman, which I suppose helped pass the time of his shift.
I said, suppose the worst. That I had no lifeline at all. Like my last enabler was gone to St. Peter and I needed a cell phone.
His first question actually startled me, since I am not frontal-lobed. He said that depends on your credit.
So we looked up to see if I had any of this mysterious.
And The Phone Company said my credit was fine! We were both surprised. I don't mean mildly surprised, I mean like, holy moses, and our eyes darting around instinctually for signs of danger or a trick.
What about the student loans from the '80s, I defaulted on. What about the millions of dollars I owe doctors and hospitals? And as a drunk, there never was a landlord I didn't eventually go out the window to escape. I know at least two of them filed lawsuits in my 25 years of postponing The Hangover.
So! It wasn't going to be a track-phone then, if this situation arrived where I was actually orphaned. I'd be able to sign a contract and get a free phone!
We went to the wall and I saw all the prices writ large. But those were not the prices. Not those in large print.
He said something like, "The large print gives, the small print take-ess away." A Tom Waits aphormism , he told me.
I said, can you save that credit report to file? Can you show the credit report has already been done? Ha, ha. No. What if you went and blew it this afternoon?
So I went home and applied for a credit card. Because who knows in this crazy world that has always let me be. Maybe I can finally go American. In which case I can, for instance, get a plane ticket to come stay at your house for awhile if I'm ever in trouble.
Am I in recovery? Summers are iffy. So we cross our fingers and hope the world does not extend me credit. Because you know why? Then my credit score would go down, of course.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Since Whitman's day
" Baseball, to me, is still the national pastime because it is a summer game. I feel that almost all Americans are summer people, that summer is what they think of when they think of their childhood. I think it stirs up an incredible emotion within people." ~Steve Busby
"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. " ~A. Bartlett Giamatti
"Win or lose they always gave their best"
Just a picture I like. I noticed two boys (left) helping their dad, who is in charge of the concession stand.
Girls. Still better than boys.
The couple on the left love their boy so much. They never miss a game. I can tell they do, is all. God keep them.
Two girls and two flying balloons in a post-flag era.
Full moon up there!
"Baseball is a game dominated by vital ghosts; it's a fraternity, like no other we have of the active and the no longer so, the living and the dead." ~Richard Gilman
Friday, June 13, 2008
I got it made, continued
I got it made this summer.
Islecom, the university library consortium, extended my stay until September. They increased my work-load by 1/3rd but gave me a three day weekend.
I was so happy I forgot to ask, what about a raise? I don't really care though. We're good. The gap between the rich and poor, which the New York Times often laments during Republican administrations, is finally narrowing.
Last night, thieves ransacked my glove compartment and left all sorts of lost items on the passenger seat. Keep-sakes. A love letter. A phone number. I'm rich in pens, now.
They didn't take my library books.
There were no jewels No Nothin' !
- (all quotes here are from Dylan)
And it was reassuring that they were caught red-handed, after midnight. The human alarm went up and they were made to casually stroll on down the street.
This is a good neighborhood in the middle of a bad neighborhood. It's well lighted, and the residents are mostly reformed crooks themselves. And insomniacs.
My girl has a boy and a Golden Retriever puppy, I've told you here, so I am blessed that she shares her life with me. We go to a lot of little league games and practices. The 14 year old is relishing his summer off from school and I am feeling that almost forgotten feeling, like it's contagious.
I get off at noon and usually go over there around four, when we go to the batting cages or to the recreational center. He lifts weights. I'll swim. We'll play Pingpong! there's the Belle of Xexaloitez!
And when his mother gets home we wait for our supper.
Then there's a movie! For the first time in 20 years I am seeing current releases. I can join in conversations at work now! I have my opinion about "No Country For Old Men", and love to hear other's take as well.
Last weekend the three of us went to a go-cart track. My Memphis, she is a fearless one; but don't pull over, keep on the inside.
The Great Zigfield and his 14 kids are game too. His house is a short distance from here.
It's true I take my life in my hands, stopping by exactly at lunch time, and my welcome is time and again interrupted by psycho-motor moments like this. See by my face, I'm pretty sure he'll not traumatize the kids.
You've heard tell about someone here ending up on the "third floor"? That's what we call it here since that's where it is. But Harmonic Zigfield will never go because who can take the time off for that??
I'm also thinking of learning to play the guitar since I've also learned in the last month that I can 1.) Rollerskate and 2.) Hit a baseball.
It's a musical family.
Don't I get around.
I like to get an unlikely picture of myself and then, eh, get on home.
Is really what it is.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
On the upper deck, through the sliding glass doors of our kitchen, you can sit amidst the high tree tops, open a book over your chest, close your eyes and hear animals scratching a living. And birds tweet-tweet and trill and I like the tiny mallet sounds of the woodpeckers.
The New Sensation is the verdure, for it was a short and sudden Spring. It awakens a strange temptation in me to lean in close and wash my face in the green waxiness. And breath it in, like how I'd do with cash.
Down by the timber-clear, the crick is transparent and rippling over small rounded stones. Near by there are three tulip gardens. These are from some years ago, planted by some newly sober man. Still well cared for, anonymously, (by one of my house-mates I suppose) they are late blooming this year.
We have a terrific "Sober House" arrangement. The men are older (two of them already nonchalant cancer survivors) and we're hip to the famous "broken window theory", in regards to communal living. The house is made spotless each Sunday and we keep it that way through the week.
No one here would think of leaving a cup or a fork in the sink, for instance. No one leaves any personal items, save books or magazines, in the common areas.
It keeps everyone calm, I notice. Seven men at peace, including me. Of course it's a very large house.
This doesn't lead to --- or spring from--- any contract. It's not an edict from above, it's not an order from a mad sea captain.
It's a mutual discovery passed down from earlier tenants: Fix 'broken windows' immediately.
Don't give license by slacking off, don't take license when you see someone else slacking off.
I had some bad luck over the last seven months. Evicted from a slum. Fired from a phony-baloney job. Maybe a tornado will take me to a better place, maybe a lightening strike will cure my neurasthenia. (Old fashioned word. Means dysautonomia, don't you know.)
I don't think sobriety is paying off yet but I seem to have some friends with Jesus.
I mean, Christ..! God looking over children and drunks, that's something you start to see all around you once you've finally seen it.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
not down to me
My own again lowst again won't marry me to me down.
She is a Memphis girl but grew up part-time/seasonable in Mississippi, where her family they say would scare the begeez out of me but I'm not afraid tho and would give up the pleasure of her company to live down south with her dad, who is my kind of guy though I am far from his kind of guy I'm sure. See, he was a professional wrestler in the late 60's, on local TV you know, giving interviews to a trembling reporter. (My own again lost again spent some time thinking it just natch to turn on Saturday morning TV and seeing dad in a cape. He was always the good guy, at least. What if he'd played the villain? I mean , my word. How would that go?)
I'd like to hang with him because he would probably send me to the fridge for a beer and say "have one yourself i guess".
And if I had a headache he'd probably say, "There's some morphine in the medicine cabinet, if it's really bad but don't take too much". Her dad has broken every bone in his body. His back three times. He was known as "The Blue Gas Heat". Or something more lyrical but the same idea.
My love she remembers her sainted grandmother fondly. This woman realized she'd better take the girl of the boys to church and buy her a dress and let her have special time, talking and eating at a restuarant afterwards. My love is sweet and cheerful beyond belief.
If she is in a bad mood she will laugh, "I feel so grumpy today."
But I try to marry her, up from my low grade of depression in life and it's summertimes enough just to not be said no to. I stick around. She's got a life , and brains; she's got perfect vision and can hear far away : WHAT'S THAT.
It would be a good match for me as generally I am shrew-bait.
I guess it's funny I'd accept a counter-proposal just to go live with her retired dad, but I've explained that now.
Friday, May 16, 2008
An afternoon of blue skies with the wide, white eraser marks. I'd been expecting Spring and here it was, on a weekend too.
She'd washed her car and was contemplating the distinct, gravitational pleasure of the result. Then as we waited for young Kominski to come out with his baseball mitt, ball, bat and cap, we played with the new pup--a golden retriever, four months long, tall and happy.
Not the same dog week to week, by golden appearances.
I'd lifted my hood for the first time in months and checked the oil. I checked the oil because my hood was up. I wanted the hood up to impress someone that I might give a damn what was under there.
I never can believe this stupid dipstick. Can't be I'm still in operational range. Just can't. Put in some more oil then.
I told her, "This car fixes itself, you just have to wait it out. My left blinker was out for two months, suddenly it works again. And do you remember the floor mats got so dirty last winter I threw 'em in the trunk? Well, behold. Come look. Now they're like brand new."
"John," she said, "those are my floor mats. We were on a shopping binge, do you remember? They're brand new and I put them in your trunk. I forgot all about them."
"Hm! ---Oh, do you want them back?"
"No," she said, and then leaned back against her sparking gem-blue car and crossed her arms and laughed at me.
"That's like... magical thinking!"
"Pleasant anyway, " I said.
"Come ohyn, Kominski" she said to me and the dog and the sky, as the boy tarried inside still.
Then to me, "My roony is going to church youth group tonight. He volunteered!"
"What what what?!"
"He came to me last night and said he'd asked Alicia if she'd be there and she said yes."
We seemed to have plenty of time because when the boy came out and the dog greeted him it was time to play, not to drive anywhere.
I don't always know what's going on, I don't ask the schedule, I don't care what errands. Kominski left his bat in the grass and I picked it up.
When I was 8 I was washed out of the pee-wees. I was on the worst team ever---the jinxed Wildcats--- and they kept me in right or left field, whichever one that is, the ball doesn't reach in little league.
I remember being up to bat and the pitcher seemed to be nodding assurances to me. While his team-mates yelled repeatedly, "he can't hit it, he can't hit it".
I liked this pitcher. He looked right in my eyes and nodded yes I could, or so I thought. But I couldn't, I didn't. I always struck out.
Now I had Kominski pitch me my first ball in 41 years.
Not being in the least self-conscious today, I hit a line drive right into his mitt and lo ! I believe the boy was not only surprised but impressed. We all looked at one another in wide eyed, silent surprise and then moved to a better spot. To rule out the fluke.
Another pitch. Another line drive, but to his left and he missed it so the dog got it. Then a pop fly. Then I put some muscle into it and hit the ball to the tree line, about 40 yards away.
"Get my mom on the phone! I'm a natural after all!!"
"Jumping June Bugs, " his mother said, and crossed herself.
"You're not even holding the bat right," said the boy. "Nice hits, though." He is good natured and funny, despite the major teenage crisis of finding himself in a new town with divorced parents and without any established friendships, as yet.
Kominski is good looking, like a Kennedy. I want to call him Hyannis-Sport, but it's too early for me to give him nicknames. His homecoming was only two months ago and I haven't been here all that time of course.
"It's a great sound hitting the ball. Ok, you'll have to teach me how to hold the bat then, sometime. Maybe. "
"Coaching is good. Kominski doesn't just play ball he studies ball," his mother said.
He is training to be accepted on the high-school team next year when he enters 9th grade. One day his mother told me over the phone that he was getting bored, so she bought him a parachute he'd wanted. She said it was to run with, and I supposed this meant he was going to try and fly. I said, that's a good age , when you still have hopes of flying. I warned, though, no to let him up on top of the garage.
They still think that is very funny. Jackson, how could he fly?
Well, I said, maybe by running into the wind until the parachute is wide open, and then letting himself go and be dragged in the opposite direction. Maybe on a small hill he'd lift off for a second. Right?
"It's a training tool, honey. Kominski isn't as fast as he'd like. It's a way to run stronger, I guess. By the drag."
He also bought a special ball, which resembles that Willy Wonka ever-lasting gob-smacker, or some sort of model of an atomic particle, with four nubs. You throw it against the wall and never know which way it will go, see. But it usually goes into the dog's mouth and then the dog runs so it's predictable.
We ran the errands in her car.
They chat and laugh a lot, mother and kid. He has a nascent, worldly sense of humor already. He's good with the reparte and with wise cracks about public figures and general society. What we observe driving around this college town.
Like my brother, many years ago, street signs can be a source of mockery or querulousness. At 14, lots of things look stupid.
At the grocery, there's quite a crowd. I tag along and since I'm not shopping I actually look over all the glorious food choices I have. This is different than coming in with a shopping list in mind. I take cell phone pictures of beautiful boxes of branded TV cereal. The color just jumps at you.
Their updated mascots no longer trouble me like they used to. They've been drawing Captain Crunch differently for a decade I suppose. What happened to Jean La Feet? I was telling Kominski the other day about the pirate who helped Andrew Jackson--- my great great ever so great uncle--- save New Orleans. Was that Jean La Foot? Eh? Which was the joke? La Feat or La Foot?
We turn the corner and there is a gathering of five ladies talking. She makes as if to mow them down and then , unexpectedly, one notices her and in just that split second we've almost got an incident. An older lady jumped, the others turned away and made to press their bodies against the merchandise. Kominsky and I independently pirouette, ready to abandon her to an outraged public.
It's a close call. She rolls the cart between them all without apology, then turns around and brightly smiles at us.
Grocery, home for a fine dinner at the new kitchen table with the new swivel chairs. I like this, and the two of them. Listen with interest even as they do the carb-math for his diabetes, and figure out 'bolus' and 'basil' or whatever you call that information his pump needs, or that his pump reports. All his life, Kominski is used to this. Though the pump is a fairly new miracle.
A few weeks ago he had to be in the hospital because he was having a teen growth spurt and his hormones were at war with the insulin. He came out five days later two inches taller, I swear, and now his shoulders were broader than mine.
I'd been staying there taking care of the puppy and I wasn't sure who grew more. Well they both grew. That was a great homecoming. It's not routine to me so I got misty alone.
Now to make Saturday night deeply impressive, after youth group we go to see Iron Man.
I need to be shoved into this new century. Like from the 19th. I haven't seen an action flick on the big screen since Ghost Busters in 1985. So those were two hours of pure astonishment for me.
Kominski had to draw deep from the 'genius of generosity' to allow himself to be seen on a Saturday night with two grown ups, while the other 14 year olds all sat in their merging cliques. I could well understand. He is new to town but that's not generally known. He could be mistaken as a loser despite everything in his favor. The school he attends is very large compared to what he was used to.
He reasoned that if he was seen with his mother, the other kids might suppose that he was the child of divorce and this was a favor he was doing her. But to have me there, people might conclude he was spending the evening with both parents. And that just couldn't be explained away. Still, he let me come along. I think he regretted it, but as a favor to his mother he assented.
Happiness is for dogs, I do believe. What we want is calm contentment and laughs and things to do together after work and school. But even that is asking a lot. You get to be my age, you're lucky to have some imagination for what's over the horizon, the Kingdom that is also within us.
Everything eternal here on earth is also ephemeral and being forever renewed. I'm seeing two generations grow up already, and I'm only 47. You're also lucky to finally realize that it's the young people who are the real deal, so to speak. You learn, and it's too late, and you care but not in any interested, invested way, about the world. The world isn't as full of phonies as I used to think it was.
Magical thinking. That's good when approaching a time of spiritual hurdles.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I've mentioned that I am the quiet one (in my post "Defining Quiet Down") at the university's Islecom library consortium.
So it's fair to my readers to pick up the narrative where I become mildly chagrined at someone there, and then perhaps later on I'll start to brood too much, and start to see their face everywhere, like with a milk mustache on advertisement billboards (both those moving on the sides of the buses and those stationary, on the sides of the super-sonic fast freeways).
Then we'll all say bless our enemies and the Dairy Council with hot coals on their heads, conclude amen.
I'm self contained.
But sometimes you want to tell a humorless peer to fast-forward when they're answering your understandable shop-question with remedial and maybe patronizing bloody obvious apriori (n.)
Men are inferior; they bore me except when I'm suddenly carried into the sphere of murderous thoughts. I've wished for them all to drop dead. Even my old man, though of course my feelings for him were mysterious, me wanting him back right away.
I mean men, I mean unless they're ancient. Not just the ones with neck tattoos. Not just the ones who leave whiskers in the sink and stink.
Am I alone? Don't you catch yourself sometimes daydreaming of that day one goes whoops-WOW , surprise down the chute, leaving the table to be reset, with a new table cloth and the novelty of an extra chair.
So I don't write about men very much.
Because I love. And I want this scroll to reflect that about me.
I'll just say this about this worm tutor of mine. When I instant messaged for help one day, I typed "Watson, come quickly i need you".
Ever since, he's made me pay by teaching me my ABC's again.
I think the farker wants me to be late with my assignments. That's how it's going, lately.
I've had work tutors turn on me before when I was rude to them! It happens. Oh yes.
I could never be mad at a woman of course. This is well known. They get mad at me instead. I love women , up from their toes. So I will write about them.
Now Janice---I'd prefer to call her Miss Applington of course because that's proper---she is congenial. There's no other word, except nice. Janice, Janice! You're nice.
Don't ever absorb these hard times we have with the bastard men here. React instead! Strike out! Stamp your feet.
Look, there goes the Albino Rastafarian, I've singled out to annoy. Praise Bush in front of him someday soon.
Miss Applington, I wish I could stay to help you this afternoon.
"Oh, but I don't know if Christopher would approve, um..., John, I'll tell you what though. I'll shoot him an email asking if you can have more hours. And I'll copy to Ann, our executive director."
Shoot him and copy Ann. Yes.
Janice is 35 or 40 and has that youthful, hearty appearance of all women who decide they like how they look at 26 and then make a bargain with the devil.
Janice. Glasses on , glasses off.
She makes me think of the identical twins, Ann and Laura , my classmates in the 4th grade. One wore glasses, the other would not.
She brings to heart forgotten losses... like how those twins ash-trayed my soul.
Or like when my brother finished the Fruit Loops one Saturday morning before I got up. May 3rd, 1970.
And I quietly wept, Miss Applington (if I can call you Miss Applington? May I? And you can call me Mr. Henky-Menkey).
You don't mind if I share with you. Someday perhaps. The tribulations.
I swallowed my grief. It's been my motto since toddler-hood to suffer in silence. Oh, I knew what my parents had to do to put Captain Crunch on the table. I grew up fast. So fast, sometimes I'd have to pretend I wasn't so mature. I had to put on a false face of lip quivering selfishness.
I'm sorely conscientious. (bzzzzzzzz! That is true. I'm terrified of offending. Return gradually to falsehood.)
I don't like to worry people. For instance this morning as I followed you up the stairs I kept my distance behind you so you would not feel hurried. And I kept my eyes on my own ankles.
By the way, I was taught to follow women up the stairs, to catch them if they fall. And to lead them down the stairs, to break their fall.
My friends who know me would tell you I'm great to know. Now, who else can say that about their friends? I ask you. My friends would gladly tell you that.
And God and Abraham are my witnesses... let me tell you, dear scroller. She dresses like it's 1972.
She is suite petite, little straps from her brown/orange plaid dress going over her white cotton top, and she wears flat black shoes. Her lips are soft looking and not painted.
I type in the message box, "My application, Janice, is Sock Seven."
She steps over to my desk. We sit only 20 feet apart, separated by low cubicle walls, but we like to instant message at Islecom.
"Oh, did you get another soc 7 again? Don't worry. Some of us would like to have Soc 7 on our license plates. It's nothing to worry about, just let me see..."
"It's here." I put my finger on the computer screen and there are electronic lines rippling outward from the smudge.
"Oooh. Say, that's an interesting one I've never seen before. Gosh you make the most interesting mistakes. I like the challenge. I might have to get Adrienne to help with this but let me see..."
She'll find that the more obvious traps will get me later this summer when I actually have an idea what it is we do here, and I forge ahead from 'Go', after eight weeks bafflement at the starting bell.
"Do most people here have library backgrounds, Miss ---Janice."
"Most of us, yes. We're not programmers. You're the only programmer."
"Ha ha." Jesus, they still think that. "I was a bookseller for ten years, you know," I tell her.
"Hm, really? That would be fun. What was it, part-time?"
"Yes. Just for the book discounts of course."
"Oh god I can imagine. I'd have never collected a paycheck there. Just books. But that would be a great job."
"Yeah. And the co-workers in a bookstore, you know..."
"Eccentrics. All sad in their own preposterous way."
"Spoiled brats, you mean. Right??"
"Ha, ha. I didn't want to say that." This is going splendidly.
"And you were one of them, right??"
Ha, ha! No, no not really. Maybe a little self-serious. Maybe. I was ambitious of course."
This isn't going to last. Thanks for visiting.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I work inside
(letter to Dr. Patricia)
The women make the place creamy. I love it when they're in a gossip in the morning and they say "hello john!" in unison when I arrive. haha. My name is already so musical to me, you know. At 8:01 it was already a good day. My big boss, the one who is seven feet tall and has a deep radio-ready voice, is gone to a conference as usual, all week. He's impressive, I like him.
He corrected me when I called him Chris, though. He would like to be called Christopher, please and thank you.
He's never been a boss until a few months ago, and I don't mind that he likes it.
On Friday we approached him with some simple question and got an answer, but then he said "Wait!" as we stood up to leave his cubicle.
I sat back down and he delivered a maxim: "When you come to me with a question I want you to have answers as well."
At first my head shook, yoddily -oddily- oddily, but I think I know what he meant now.
No, wait, it's escaped me again. But anyway as I was driving home that day, I counted syllables.
Mister Jackson= 4.
But then I thought, this guy is my age, and he's earned this, so all right. And I like Christopher better than Chris anyway. More class.
People think I have a problem with authority but that's not true always. I look for authority, I look for expertise, I look for my superiors. It's true I'll tease them and push but that's not rebellion is it?
Now, cops, yeah. *Click*. I can have a problem with that kind of 'authority'.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Defining Quiet Down
There are six librarians and myself all separated by cubicle walls, busy at our computers, sometimes instant messaging one another with questions. It is so peaceful, my work-place is damn near inviting, like a study.
Yet today when a new Other-Island arrived and there were introductions, one of the women said "Oh let's not forget John. He's the quiet one".
Then we all came out to the center of the room and there was one dude I'd never seen before. It was such a surprise I almost challenged him.
Who are you.
Hey, who's this caught out of night here, I don't like sudden living surprises.
Hey, he doesn't even cough, isn't he a smoker, I thought we all were smokers here, dammit.
Maybe they've decided I'm quiet because they sense I'm full of speech and I'm a man who is apt to get drunk someday. Maybe the truth is obvious. Because you know, at my age... The facial lines... Biography!
But how can I be described as 'quiet' here, of all places? I'd hate to think what else the lines say. Some of it isn't true, which is why I spend a bundle on philosophers and poets, in hopes of restoring my original project in life and having it appear in my eyes.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
'Times are hard everywhere'
"We'll just have to see how it goes."
-dylan (too much to ask)
Coltrane reminds me of my ornery Uncle Bill so much I want to ask him if he has a glass eye. Also, Uncle Bill was always good for a twenty, so my reasoning goes...Haywire, I mean. Whoever is handy now, that's how it is. Friends who saw me coming knew to ask first, and for more. Say John, you got a hundred bucks I could borrow?
No, I don't. Do you have five? What's a fiver to you who wants a hundred?
This day before payday. Casey O'Fallen, the former triple A baseball player here, was good for a twenty on Sunday, just before the church plate came around. THANK GOD!
Is it just me, or do you think last week went fast. Did today seem slow? Is it just me or do you think we've run into some hard times.
I remember when gas was only three bucks. Is this what they mean by a weak dollar? DON'T TELL ME. Your explanations are wasted.
Anyway. Here's something you may not have known: the tax rebate of 600 dollars is only half that for the poor (like me) who weren't really trying. I get $300.
It's fair. I know. Ok, ok , ok. All right all right all right, enough! I said it's fair. I even think it's amusing. To be poor just because you, well, haha, don't want to work. A surprise to get anything at all.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
While Lovers Are Comets
Springing straight up from the occasional snapping traps laid before me in daily life. Test the will, and be sub-consciously ready with the saving reflex.
Leap in my new Proto Power shoes, hop bow-legged to save my balls. Jog at my steady pace while boxing my fists in the dark. And be careful not to catch a cop or robber on the chin. Or then it's trouble, Marlowe. Splints, maybe.
It's what they mean about getting your business straight. Then you can keep it straight, maybe, says a patron, and learn to relax. Re laaaax...
I believe the bible is right: it's your tongue that does your dirty work. Lungs for tone and inflection, as well. You can stab someone to their heart and not mean to. Say, when questions start popping. Hop. Scotch.
"That certainly calls into question everything you've ever told me about your intentions in this relationship."
In midair I say, "Wait. There's a misunderstanding here. I'm not sure what you think I just said. I'm consistent, sweet-heart. Now what is it again?"
"You just told me your basic intention in life is to avoid work not matter what. How do you expect to be in a relationship with an attitude like that."
"Did I say no matter what? No, no. I was talking about in my present condition. Being single and childless."
At work my boss expects me to think and sometimes I say I understand some apparent chop-logic when I don't. I plan to figure it out on my own, whatever it is, when he's away and not making me worry. But what if his next question is premised on that supposed understanding I have?
Then you spring up and turn around in mid-air and start walking, I suppose.
Bosses are a dime a dozen.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I've finished my first week working for Isleicom, the organization that tracks inter-library loans among all the state's college and university libraries. It's entirely computer work and much of the computer work is custodial (repairing errors in files, reporting programming bugs to programmers, etc.)
I may as well be tracking used auto parts among junk-yards. The difference is that my 15 co-workers have Library Science Degrees. My last job was working on an assembly line for a newspaper, in the bindery department. I haven't had a technical job since I was an 'analyst' for a financial information service, where I wrote in COBOL and produced financial reports that I couldn't possibly fathom. (I was successful for about a year, then the slow crack-up, or unmasking). I almost forget my eight weeks at the bookstore earlier this year. That is where I belong, but today's super-stores have few full-time positions, and pay starvation wages.
Here I am making more money than I need (sharing a sober house is cheap and I lack for nothing but usually I am anxious for the next paycheck and sometimes have to borrow money for smokes). It's all due to my sobriety of '98-2000, and the uncharacteristic discipline---mysterious grace, really--- I had to finish a two year degree in legacy programming. By god, what little use I've made of it, it's still there, that degree and those transcripts. What I am saying is that I'm surprised to find I can make grown up sums of money. People take me too seriously. They pay. It's stunning.
And I'm happy. May and June are the happy months and I am in the catbird seat. It's part-time and still the money is awesome to me. At my desk at 8, on my way home at noon, five days a week. It seems there are still 24 hours left to the day.
I don't remember those three years sober. Not really. Just like a bender. Now I am about to celebrate another three years and I'm older---47, not 37! (I never knew 37 though I was high-functioning.) The spectre of becoming a toothless, sunken faced old Dead End Club Elder makes me truly afraid. I don't know or care if Alcoholism is a disease. All I know is that if I drink, I have no brakes. I will continue drinking.
And this time I'd surely be doomed. If not to jail, death or instituions, then to an eventual "truth"---another unmasking---where my appearence reveals everything. I don't want to lose control now.
Happily, with a sort of second-hand vigilence, I will stay sober the rest of my life, I believe. I have to behave as a cancer patient who knows damn well what would bring about another tumor. So I attend AA, do 12 step work, keep myself in prayerful spiritual condition, and keep close to the people who have succesfully overcome their obsession to self-destruct and drink. "Stay in the middle of the boat", they say. And stick with the winners.
Friday, April 18, 2008
8.) Mr. Life Advises Client
Twenty miles out of town,
and cold irons bound
-dylan (time out of mind)
The big key was in the lock of the sky blue iron door. What now, I've got a great movie on HBO here. I didn't ask for any cigarettes, I didn't push the red emergency button on the wall for a snack.
It was the Sheriff. He asked as usual how the accommodations were, and as usual he was more or less sincere, friendly.
"Your lawyers here, waiting in the library."
"Ah. Good god I was afraid it was that priest again." The library was twenty paces away but through three locked doors, then through the hallway where my big picture window was, so I could watch passers-by.
I got up and followed and he asked me, "You ever met him before?"
"No. His name is Life. I'm a little anxious."
"Ha, ha! I don't think they can give you more than 40 years, Mr. Jackson."
My lawyer looked like a cross between Mr Peepers and Bob Newhart. This was no movie and thank goodness he wore a tailored suit. But it shouldn't have mattered. Mr. Life's law office was off the town square, near the court-house and the coffee shop where all the town elders met each day to discuss the morning papers.
He stood up to shake my hand of course, and had his briefcase opened up on the metal picnic table.
"Greg Life," he said.
I began to tell him what "happened", then stopped and began anew, "This is what I did."
"Wait. First, are you the Rooftop Burglar too?"
"No. I'm the Drugstore Bandit. I don't know him."
"Ok. And did you hit the one in Des Moines too?"
"They're thinking you're the Rooftop Burglar. It's crazy." He scribbled something on his legal tablet. "People are so impressionable and that's not always good. Sometimes it is but not always.
"But listen! Let me tell you something interesting. You know that last pharmacist in Oakapalooka, the one who finally got your licence plate?
"His wife just got out of prison for stealing narcotics from him---yes!--- he caught her on a security camera, she used his keys. Her name is Barb and she is very sympathetic toward you.
"She's been in and out of drug rehabs for 20 years. Anyway, she knows your mom, she's a friend of Eby Flakner's. Hugh's wife.
"I was talking to your mom by the way, and she said that Barb had knocked on her door one rainy night and asked to use the bathroom! Well, that's an old trick, what she wanted was to check your mother's medicine cabinet."
"Oh... SAY! Do you know what!"
"Hold on. Barb stole a bottle of hydro-codeine from your mother and that's another reason she's come to us. Guilt I guess, to make amends. Here's the thing: Barb's husband, the pharmacist who chased after you, told her you were a pansy."
"So that's what happened. But that's incredible! I searched three days high and low for that bottle. There would have been enough of those pills left to last me to rehab."
I was missing Mr. Life's point.
"He said you were scared to death and you looked like hell and the only reason he didn't grab you was because he felt sort of embarrassed for you."
"So another pill head got into my mom's medicine cabinet. And it was the pharmacist's wife. That's...marvelous! A story-teller could..."
"Write nothing! The police have a hundred spiral notebooks already. This is important, John, because I have to establish that you were not threatening."
"I wasn't. I just said I was a hostage. My kidnapper wanted drugs."
"'Under duress', you wrote those words in one of the notes. The clerk didn't understand what 'duress' means, by the way. Yes, in each of the robberies you claimed you were being held hostage. This is very important to establish, and having Barb's testimony that he called you a pansy... "
"What a prick, that guy.Sent his wife to prison, eh?"
"He's been in trouble too. Exchanging drugs for sexual favors."
"From his wife?"
"Look. There will be a deposition eventually. I want to wait until every one of those drug store clerks has had time to calm down. I want the novelty of being robbed to pass."
I thought, well they'll have to be several more times, then.
"Now, Barb's husband is ornery. A town character. That's why I'm so glad we have Barb. He'll be under oath and I'll ask him if he called you a pansy and then he won't get started telling a tall tale or making himself out to be a hero."
"I see. He'll swear under oath that I'm a pussy." I started to laugh, "The front page headline will read ..."
"Don't worry about it."
"I'm already going to lose fans when they find out I'm not the Rooftop Burglar too."
"Now. You're still on the waiting list to get into the rehab. It's very good that you were already signed up to go in."
"Mr. Life, I want to sue the County Health Department. I was drinking a keg of beer a day, showed up at every psychologist appointment drunk, and they prescribed me Klonopin and Prozac."
"That's none of my business. Now, here are some letters your mother gave me..."
"New York. Thank you , Jesus." I put my forehead down to the cool table for a second.
"Please don't call me Jesus. Now. As soon as there's an opening, I'll get you out of here and up to rehab. Don't tell anyone! I'll send your mother to pick you up. Or, she'll know to come get you immediately once she gets the word that they have a room. And when you get out in a month, don't tell anyone. Stay in the capital city.
"Last thing..." he stood up now. "How are they treating you here?"
"I'll miss this place. Come back someday for a vacation. Got a stack of American Heritage bound volumes, got cable TV, blue walls very calming, a pretty girl bringing me food..."
"You're safe. You feel good now. But, yeah. Sharon wears a gun, did you notice? Ok, then. Good luck at re-hab."
Back in the cell I held the envelope--- her responding letter to my jail-house jotting---and savored her childish handwriting. There would be yelling inside but you couldn't tell looking.
Why are you apologizing to me? You've done this to your family. To yourself. No, I did not notice the dentist pills missing but you did steal my New York Yankees baseball cap and I want it back. And don't say well you live there. I want it back. John, at least now you are going to get some help. I talked to your mom, things sound good, considering (have you apologized to her???) I don't know what more to say, I hope you are out of jail and at detox or with that creep movie director, Roman whats his name, by now.
"I want to write a long letter because 'he's in jail!' but geez. It's not fair to me. That's not fair. This you can apologize for. All the drama. All the care-taking. TAKING. Never giving.
"You explain but I don't understand how any of this could have happened. I knew that you'd have to live with your mother if you went back to Iowa and I knew you wouldn't have the gumption to get out of there, not while still drinking and so depressed, you were also too comfortable. You know what, boredom is a good thing, John. It makes you get up and DO something. But you set off bombs! I don't understand. I never will but I guess according to your mother. Oh scratch that, see, don't apologize to me, you haven't brought shame on MY house or MY name. John, John, John. Doogie is back from Russia. The U.N. guy came over and tried to rape me by the way. I almost called the cops but he stopped, he left, he knows damn well not to show up here again. Doogie is starting his own business and has an office near my father. No surprise to you , I guess, he's always been so good to me, I do love him, my best friend since we were you know since forever except when I was being mean to him. I'm engaged! June wedding. I'm going to have babies and be a yenta. I'll send you an invitation but you will have to be sober to attend.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
7.) Verrazano Bridge
I don't remember anymore, maybe I never came out of denial. When I tell the story of winning and losing her and I complain, my bitterness is phony. I'm lying.
I'm more likely to smile in the dark, remembering her smiling into my eyes as I got my hands underneath her to pull her panties down her legs and off her feet.
The only problem still, if it's a problem, is her spending more than ten years in my dreams, being either happy or angry with me.
I never believed her leaving me any more than I believed her spending wakeful nights with me. Laughing out the bedroom window when in the middle of the night there were helicopters with spot-lights flying over the prison, then over my porch. Singing every John Prine song we knew by heart.
After I married one of the cafe girls, Laura, (a sprite she was, popping into Mariah's office one day and talking so fast we could hardly understand her, and when she left we looked at one another and laughed, that girl was for me, supposedly! For the writing about her!) Mariah moved to Brooklyn Heights, right across the Verrazano Bridge from Manhattan. She became a gardener of court-yards, and worked at some botanical gardens in the city.
She dated a school teacher who, one inevitable night for the Stupid, remarked with a grin, "You like sex , don't you?"
He sent presents everyday for a week before she convinced him to be gone forever..
I invited Laura to Iowa, where Mom was widowed and manic, (visiting her priest to ask "why can't I stop talking?").
I started school again, dropping out with "A"s in Latin this time. Then I invited Laura to return home to her parents, because I'd turned her into a shrew with my constant beer-drunkenness.
Couldn't step into certain rooms, missing Laura so much...
Dad's friend Dr. Fanning dropped dead at 55. He was a ruddy faced man and a drunk. His poor little wife had "agoraphobia", which I'd never heard of. But she was so much fun when she came over, I couldn't understand it.
I moved outside of the university town, near to a presidential library. I got to know the farmers at the "County Quart House", and the drunken proprietor. He hired me to man the bar three nights a week and I'd stay til 4 a.m. alone, watching TV and eating pizza. The place was dark with glom rot and it was past time to clean. It was time to burn to the ground (maybe it still stands now, 15 years later, I don't know or care).
That autumn the Sheriff sent me a ticket to come visit him for two weeks on the Oregon coast. Mariah heard and sent me a check...money enough so I could spend the trip drinking on the observation car of the Amtrak. There was hulla and hella balloo in New York and Nashville when the Sheriff absently confirmed to people that I was off my rocker.
Then six days in Nashville. Three homeless.
I wasn't invited here, I wasn't lured here Fell in here without welcome.
It's strange how I packed, what I tossed into my bags the night I left. If I needed any reassurance my mind was disordered, why is my two ton dictionary in the night bag.
The hurry when there's no hurry, the driving to the store without an errand or any money. Three days she barely tolerated me but at least I could sleep there. While she worked at the bookstore, I had to be out of the house the first two days, and then she trusted me to stay. Now, though. After being caught actually drinking in her room. After her house-mate Chiu heard us yelling. Eleanor was nice but it was like ten years had passed, not one. At 10 a.m. I went in and had a memorably great time at the bar across the street from Tilly's.
I must have been very uptight, then very relaxed and therefore grateful to God.
Homeless and it's winter. Seems about right. I guess I expected someone at the bookstore to get me re-hired and put me up in the meanwhile. Is that what I've failed to do? But then that means I've nowhere to go but to live with my widowed mother who just broke her leg.
And Laura won't forgive me laughing at her secret that it was that Newsweek Cover-story on Lesbianism, that opened her mind, her heart, but not her legs yet (but soon). Funny how I'm ok with that. Another man, though. If there were another man, boy that'd hurt.
Her heart ---well, to me---so cold since I refused to board the plane. I refused three months before its departure. I refused in October, through November and December, right up past my finals which I skipped, to the crying in the airport as she was boarding.
We drove two hours here, I don't have luggage, and still you curse, beg and cry. Finally saying how would it look to her family, and the church people who saw her wed, that she'd be home for Christmas alone, a bride. Finally that got to me, inside me like an egg beater but I wasn't going to go even if I did have my luggage.
She was gone two weeks and I didn't take my finals and still got a "C" in Latin. Means an "A" if you'll listen. And for two weeks why didn't I ever want to shower or eat or drive to my mom's even for Christmas. Jesus I was lonely. She was coming back, I knew. Maybe to kill me.
Most of the day here ---what's it like, there is Milwaukee's Best on tap. The women come in for their men and go. Dressed alike, like bikers. I crossed the street to Tillies once and a homeless man was at the mike in the corner. More upscale crowd there and three times as expensive, prohibitively expensive.
Johnny Cash sat here and here and here and here. Christ I'm losing my mind. Then when darkness falls I'm safe to drive the car to one of the big motels where I cand park and sleep behind the wheel. I won't freeze to death because after two hours the sobering up will wake me.
I ate White Castle. I knocked on Laura's door one sorry and timid evening and after showing me the Halloween mask of her fury she slammed the door in my face. Snow was falling in little shakes, not much. I went to Joe's of Happy Memories, and walked out on the tab. From there, directly to the sports bar where I did the same. Eleanor's for a shower and shave but I didn't stay, afraid to ask. She wasn't the same after her car crash and the intensive care.
A Monday night foolishly parked in the empty mall parking lot. In the morning a middle-aged woman arriving to work was kind enough to warn me to get away, since it was obvious I was living in my car.
Mariah calling Martha to give me money to drive to New York City. Martha telling her of course, and have him come over and get a good night's sleep first.
Holy Moses, one minute you're writing in your journal Wow, This Is It, the next thing you know there's a tug-boat.
Payphone that was like a block of ice held to my ear as Mariah laughed and chatter-boxed about what we'd do together. Maybe a play, eh?
To Martha's, family friend to the Maye's. Psychologically Sound, she is. So sound as to be mysterious to me.
Good timing, she said, my son was just home from college and I've been crying, there are Thanksgiving left-overs for you. John, Mariahs told me everything. You sure that car can make it?
Hot bath and a well-made bed with the covers actually turned down for me. Trophies and pennants and other signs of peace and sanity. We sat up a little while watching TV until she claimed exhaustion. When I got up at noon the next day she had the three boxes of her son's favorite cereals out on the counter. I ate AppleJacks while she worked out with a Jane Fonda video. Then she put her own money in the pot and gave me a triple A card as well, I'd mail back.
Virginia was dark. I might have been in Maryland at some point. Was that the Potomac at 4 a.m.?
On the New Jersey Turnpike I was going ten miles over the speed limit and they still honked at me, so I knew it didn't matter. Not to let anything get to me.
When the city loomed I was well unctioned, when I saw the Verrazano I was relieved and unafraid. Mariah gave good directions but she didn't realize all the freeway signs were obliterated by graffiti. I missed by one exit and then found my way into Henry Miller's neighborhood. As she instructed me, I left my car doors unlocked and carried everything with me to the door of her brown-stone.
I got a hug and and she said "you weren't kidding, you look awful!" But that was soon remedied and by the time her girlfriend came over I was showered and powdered, smoking a cigarette and enjoying a special occasion glass of wine.
Six weeks I stayed. Across the river, New York City wasn't a dream but instead, simply convincing.
We didn't sleep together, it didn't even cross my mind. I wonder now if it crossed hers. I wonder now if I was supposed be going into her room and fucking her all that time. But there was a man from the U.N. who came to court. She enjoyed giving the details ('we were leaning over one of my drawings') and I was neutral, amused. We laughed most of our time together.
In the mornings, Howard Stern was actually entertaining, trying to bait celebrities into ruining their careers by responding to his baiting insults. After breakfast we'd pick up our shovels and rakes and walk three stories down to the city streets and then several blocks to some magnificent house to work in the courtyard. Then back for lunch and she would sit at her drafting table designing gardens for a class and I would take my indefinite leave , first to my policeman's bar, then the HarperCollins hangout, where the men at the bar talked of David Foster Wallace "infinite jest all right"
Down the subway- way, three stops, four, what did I care, into Manhattan. Laughing along with the general embarrassment as some homeless black man sang "Stand By Me" all too well.
I came across the Sony corporate offices where my father had visited many times, and it was like falling into a hole. Really a very unhappy mystical experience I wouldn't want to relive.
To Greenwich Village, thinking, was Max Bodenheims' life the most embarrassing ever? The doomed writer should have toured with the Cherry Sisters and sang instead. He'd have benefited from Gertrude Steins work, "Replenishing Jessica" diminished the rest of us. He wasn't a name dropper he was more like a vague stylish idea dropper.
Baroque BoHo to the max, Max. Auto-immune problems no doubt.
And here it seemed these were thieves and fences selling their booty on the streets, just like it was on Ridiculous Day, back home.
Some good pot was offered and sold to me in Washington Square, I met an old friend who'd just received his Christmas bonus (he told me he was a "number cruncher" and I'd never heard of such a thing, it sounded hilarious). At the top of the Empire State Building I told him I was broke and he gave me two hundred dollar bills.
Was I here to stay, nobody knew. Barnes and Noble had my application, that was enough, I thought, I'd just bug them with phone calls. Then a dozen other shops and finally Dunkin' Donuts interviewed me and turned me down so I knew I was going back to Iowa, I'd invited my wife to move to and live away from.
Mariah said I could be a hat and coat-check man, if only I'd stay sober and not get the tags mixed up. Would I like to do some nude modeling, she asked. With my freakishly thin body, I thought well yes maybe they would have me. I didn't get around to it. By the time she was packing for Europe, her last suggestion was to write Laura such a love letter that would go down in history.
Over Christmas; four weeks alone as she went on a trip to Europe with her aunt. I had Christmas dinner with her downstairs neighbors, a man and his elderly mother talking to me with a mannerly ease and in the holiday spirit.
Those four weeks alone I spent in the apartment, still sleeping on the couch for some reason. I discovered what a readers dictionary was and read and wrote letters. I bought cases of beer from a small warehouse six blocks away.
I found dentist pills in her medicine cabinet. They were nearly expired, she'd never miss them. But I felt guilty. Alarmed with guilt the next morning. Also, I'd started reading her personal papers, the majority of them letters I'd written. I couldn't stop.
I didn't learn anything about her, she'd always been truthful and up front and again, there was nothing to write, about her.
She wanted to get married.
For three years now, it'd been time for her to get married, which brings back my most treasured memory, at last.
It was 72 degrees, a beautiful, half cloudy Spring day. It was not too long before Mariah took over as Inventory Manager, and while I was still too smitten even to talk. Ten of us went to a Nashville Sounds baseball game, "to drink", as one of the Smith brothers always said.
We had good seats, and there was enough of a crowd to make it exciting but not so many that you felt you were at a show or in a theatre. Our group took four rows, and I was down in front with Carter while Martha and Mariah were two rows behind us. This was all so close, any conversation included us all.
Mariah was 24. People teased her now about her pre-occupation, this dread of being an old maid.
But there had only been one proposal, her entire life! The proposal was from the boy who'd had a crush on her since Junior High. Doug. Dougy. Dooogy.
"What does he do now?" Martha asked.
"He's in Russia. He got his Architecture degree and he's studying there now. He writes me all the time, how much he loves me but the one time we tried to sleep together it was just impossible, we're too ...We didn't want to see each other naked! We're children together! I can't marry him."
"Why don't you marry John Jackson, then?" Martha said so I could hear.
People laughed, giving their assent mostly. Or even remarking that they knew there was something between us, though we didn't speak.
I looked back up toward her and she said "Sure. Maybe..."
Our eyes met and mine confessed all. She seemed to allow her eyes to consent and for the second time, this maidenly approval, but now breaking my back and sending morphine all through me.
I drove out of New York City at 3 a.m. the Monday morning after New Years. On my way out I helped myself to her NY Yankees hat.
The streets and highways were empty. The Verrazano bridge, I was the only one crossing. The New Jersey Turnpike: it's yours, BUB. At noon I was checking into a motel in a small town in PA. with a case of beer and the good news that a Nor'easter was about to hit and give me an excuse to be motionless for two days. Now it was the end, but I could occupy it, you see. And then Iowa would mean dying, or electric shock treatments, was how I figured it.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
6.) "flip on your bank and mine on mine"
Nothing was real. My humanity was already drying up due to drink.
Hair of the dog that bit me. I'd postponed a hangover for almost 15 years already.
The developers were burning down the woods next to our house, which had been on the market since my dad got sick. The ash floated down, grey snow flakes, but my dad could take it.
Then one day when there was a possible buyer on the way, a bulldozer showed up to shove it all around. Dad went out and asked the fellow to take an hour off , and so the machine stopped and the man went for a coffee break but there it stood. There where the woods. There where the dust and ash. The sun began to shine, pale like in a faded home movie.
We got in the Mercedes and drove away, leaving the house for the realtor to show. Then on the country roads I'd pull over so Dad could lean out sick.
It was a race from financial ruin. Ingram had let him go. Sony hired him to work in New York City, so for some weeks at a time he'd be absent.
His plan was to settle my mother back in Oakapalooka, where we hadn't lived in ten years, but where we all grew up, and then take a plot in the cemetery over-looking the pond with the swans. Forest Cemetery, where Admiral and Mrs. Winrick rested.
Eleanor's beau owned a house on some high ground near the Parthenon, and there was a guest house with two newly refurbished apartments. This was in the middle of a ghetto area, surrounded by a fence, with an electric gate and a pack of mutts, Eleanor had lovingly collected over the years. These could raise a great confusion if someone approached on foot. Cars were welcome, unnoticed or conceded.
It was cheap and the view was as if we were on the very hub of the Nashville City wheel. In every direction, we looked down over the sprawling lights. A century old prison stood like an ivory castle, two miles away across a river.
As Mariah and I became closer friends she'd been helping me find a place and we'd had several misadventures, culminating in a confrontation with a Civil War re-enactor. She'd also accompanied me to all my court dates for the D.U.I. We enjoyed long walks downtown, into the arcade, to her father's law office, to the dizzying heights of some high rise building's glass elevator.
I didn't have a TV for the living room, just a small set by my bed. Mariah called me at my parents' one night--- where ---She had a TV now, for the living room.
So, I went to get the TV and Mariah came along and we got it set up and without even thinking or planning it I took her hand. Then went to bed. In the middle of the night, while she slept, I had to go sit in the living room and absorb.
I hadn't been present. I was out of my mind. This. This wasn't even something to write about. Everything had always been to write about. What was this? I wasn't happy or sad or sated or hungry. Shallow drunkard.
One night I was mugged. I had used the bus to get downtown three nights in a row and was walking in the low streets near where the bookie had his corner grocery shop, which closed at 8.
A black man called out, "I've been waiting for you."
I kept walking, toward a back entrance of Howard Groves, where the fence was out of repair. "Hey. I said I've been waiting."
"Not for me."
"Hey! You floating me a raft of shit dude."
I stopped. What. And out came the small silver gun, pointed at my belly.
"Give me your money or I'll blast a cap in you." (I'd never heard that expression, and I'm not sure I'm remembering it correctly. Is that right?)
All right. Don't take the wallet , here's the cash. I just saw a cop car a block away from here.
"The wallet! Empty your pockets."
I gave him the wallet and pulled the insides of my pockets out. Nothing more. But then suddenly I lost my nerve. The gun was too close to me. I backed away and started circling my hands like I could catch a bullet before it hit my stomach. I don't know what I said but it was turning into a plea.
He said, now run. And he turned away.
"Run!" His voice a little farther now.
The fear left, though, replaced by chagrin. I wouldn't run, I'd walk. Fuck you. Then there was a gunshot and still mindful of my lost dignity I began to jog, or trot into the darkness.
Nothing was real, not even a bullet flying over my head. But the next morning I was afraid about the mugger being a neighborhood hood and that he had my address from my wallet. Then , dark fantasies of revenge, or horrors about having the door busted down. I was ready to fight with my hickory walking stick.
My parents came over to see and were very impressed. The view, the apartment. My kitchen was neat. Dad went to lie down in my bedroom and when it was time to go I picked up one of Mariah's hair pins from the bedside table and showed him. In all seriousness. This took me a year. Dream girl come true.
"Better stop drinking. Go back to school or you'll lose her, John."
Eleanor saw Mariah's new car parked outside my little house and a few days later had me up to Howard's house to visit. On my way out she threw a beer bottle at me, which bounced off the wall, near my head. Then the next day she was OK except she wanted to go to bed with me.
In the first year, while I was too shy to talk, Mariah had dated a few of the booksellers. She said now she was glad I hadn't pursued her, because I might have ended up like "any other". It was a good relationship, but we had to keep it secret due to the work hierarchy.
The sheriff was happy. I remember the next day, we were, the three of us, having a beer and a smoke in the atrium outside the cafe, talking business, when she announced to him smiling that she had a surprise. A secret. "I stayed over at John's last night."
I couldn't believe my ears. It was like news to me too.
We'd been together three months straight, then unsteadily for another couple of months. I stopped drinking for the first time in my life. The smell of beer on her was unpleasant. Mariah was indifferent. One of those nights, making love, I couldn't stand the beer on her breath.
We'd missed the Christmas banquet, where Ty had done a comic monologue which included a joke, what was the most frequent page over the intercom. "John call 377". Mariah's office. When she heard this she cried and for weeks I sat alone in my apartment waiting for the sound of her car, the sound of her footsteps on the wooden deck outside. We were over.
Her mother died the next Spring. Seven days Shiva, 23 days Shloshim---the slow, deliberated return to normal activities and a new life.
She wanted to go to Nepal. Her father refused.
We went to the stairwell from the parking garage, our unofficial Inventory Team Meeting place, and she cried and stamped her feet that she always wanted to go to Nepal. But her dad would only allow her to go to St. John's Island, to snorkel. Don't worry him now.
She told me then that she'd invited her housemate, Kromer, to come with her.
Kromer was new on the scene, working at the bookstore for a few months. I didn't like him living with her of course, but this. I could tell the pain would arrive in a second, like after a stubbed toe. (Shallow! Yes.) I waited. But nothing.
A few hours later we went to lunch and while I couldn't talk her out of taking another man to the Caribbean (not that I'd have been happy to go there, so much) she at least denied that she and Krow-Bart (burly fellow) were sleeping together. He'd helped her plan and got so involved in going through the brochures she invited him.
I led her behind the restaurant and pressed her against the wall and kissed her hard. Almost angrily but she allowed it. She let me hold her hand on the way back to the store.
"I'm not changing my mind, John." I knew.
And so for ten days I tried not to imagine them together.
The Sheriff invited me to go with him to Atlanta to join the Wharf Rats at a Grateful Dead show. There was a young couple with us, friends of his, who were engaged but the fellow was nervous about their spending three whole days together. He blew sighs of relief whenever she was out of the way and I began to detest him.
What am I trying to explain. Just this mystery of how Mariah Maye became iconic in my dreams for the rest of my life, and what does she represent?
Thursday, April 10, 2008
5)Just how crazy
Mariah's mother was doing the books at her gift shop at Cheekleaf when she realized she couldn't add or subtract. It was just like that.
The next day we all knew she was in the hospital for tests. Mariah came out of her office under the grand staircase and was putting on her hat and coat. She stopped at Information and said it was a brain tumor. Four or five of the booksellers leaned forward over the counter to reach her and touch, and then Mariah left for the day.
Six weeks later my dad was down on the floor again with another stomach ache. As I recall, we'd been stepping over him for days. You'd find him just about anywhere, holding his breath and he'd say, don't worry, just have to be still for awhile. This morning my mom was at school, my sister at work, and I was about to leave also.
Actually, this time he wasn't on the floor, but lying on the bottom steps of the stairway.
This is crazy,
I said to him, "This isn't right."
"I'm starting to think that too," he said in a voice like he was holding a bong hit.
I got him in the car. "Are you scared to die?"
"Not scared, John. More like being cheated." He was 57 years old. "Worried about your mom. I want you to grow up and not depend on her."
I dropped him off at Vanderbilt's E.R. and went to work. That night, there was still no one home and it was past nine o'clock. I'd forgotten him, and now I was so afraid I couldn't go upstairs to my room and drink. I knew what was coming.
Finally I heard two car doors shut and rapid footsteps up the back deck stairs and my mom and Jane came in shaking and crying. It was liver cancer. The surgery would be early tomorrow.
So it was for months. Chemo, radiation, surgery, no hope. Mariah's mother had the worst of it. She wanted someone to shoot her. My dad couldn't eat, he couldn't even stand the smell of food. He lived on malts and would knock on my door for marijuana, which helped his nausea. Mom and Jane insisted he stop smoking, like he was going to live, and he was good natured about it, sneaking around.
Once I came home and they'd discovered the cancer had spread to his colon. Everyone was in the dark living room watching TV. Dad was on the couch, which was in the middle of the room, and I got on my knees behind it and I wasn't crying or anything but he had his arm resting on top of the couch and I put my hand on his forearm and sort of rested my head a moment. He said he was all right. I asked if I could go to Missouri for a couple of days. He joked was that a northern couple, two days, or a Southern couple, like 'a few'. I said "a couple few".
He said sure and then I called Mariah at home and she said of course, go.
In Missouri, at the Zigzags, I slept too long, accidentally getting sober. I'd never had a panic before now. I went out the bedroom window and bought a 12-pack on the way out of town. I swore to myself I'd never travel to this side of the Mississippi again, and not only because of that damn bridge in St. Louis. Then the beer didn't calm me down until I was entering the St. Louis city limits.
So I made it home early, and back to work early, and Mariah wasn't expecting me. We spotted one another in some long narrow hall way of back stock and just naturally walked toward one another and hugged. Disengaging, she laughed and palmed away a tear and said the Sheriff hurt his back again so this was really good timing.
A few days later Ingram Books invited the owners and Mariah out to their warehouse, and then Mariah invited me along since the Sheriff was still out. It was a half hour drive, and I remember that it was fun, chatting with Miss Davis and Miss Kidd, hearing their stories of the early days of the great bookstore.
I mentioned that my dad was a vice president at Ingram Video. They asked about his health and I said his morale was fine and his doctors were great but he wanted to move back to Iowa and they were having trouble selling the house.
To have this in common. Autumn upon us now, night-time a black veil, my parents' house so far from the Nashville city lights.
Mariah asked me when was my court date, for the D.U.I. charge.
We'd meet at the top of the parking garage at work and then drive downtown in her new car.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
4) Bail Boss
A week after my adoption I attended my first bookstore party. Mariah and the sheriff and I were having a beer out in the atrium after work when they presumed, with a heavy-handed, scrutinizing authority, that I would be there. Of course you'll be there , right John-John?
"Yes, sir. Just so long as I have time to get drunk ahead of time, fine."
The general manager, Diane, came over and joined us. For the first time I got to see her back-stage persona and I thought she was crass, smoking (as we were), one arm over an empty chair and talking out of the side of her mouth. She was so outrageously funny, though, with her exaggerated vindictiveness towards the man who ran the cafe, Mariah said afterwards:
"You're going to love Dianne. And of course you already hate Chuck."
The party was mostly outside around a fire-pit. Kay's parents' home was a hulking over-sized ranch-style house, with the back patio doors open and the house blazing a sharp golden light. I tried not to stick too close to my tutors. There was my friend Carter, there was Eleanor and Danny Briggs (who wanted me to help persuade Eleanor to stop drinking so much). The three Smith Brothers, post-coup, were present and unfazed in their usual sportsman-like good humor.
It was a good time, hearing old book-store stories and about bookseller legends who'd gone on to actually finish graduate school.
Near the end of the evening Eleanor was more tipsy than usual and I decided to leave my car and drive her home.
I'd spent many sexless nights there before, even sharing her bed, and wasn't expecting anything but her usual fidelity to Howard Groves. I only hoped there was some beer in the fridge and that I'd be able to hook up the cable TV, which she never watched. I felt wonderfully at home there nowadays, a measure of success to me. This made two, with my parents' house out in the Nashville sprawl somewhere by balloon.
But then we were pulled over. It was a lady cop coming toward my driver's side door and I guessed that was a lucky break.
After being booked, I declined my phone call for help.
Eleanor, suddenly not completely wasted, was allowed to drive home, where she'd forget all about me I was sure.
Pleasantly drunk, a little curious, not afraid. They led me down several corridors, having me stop here and there for buzzers to buzz or for the heavy clank of keys and locks. There was a growing roar. I asked were we going to the coliseum?
"Big event tonight."
This wasn't the drunk tank at all. It was the jail's overflow. A gymnasium, blacks only, with bunk beds three beds high, and you had to turn sideways to walk.
No one asleep at this hour or any hour. The blazing bright lights above cast shadows of metal meshing. The loudest voices were those crying for people to
shut. the. fuck. up.
Angry restless souls in hell waiting to stare me down. Here and there, I let my eyes rest long enough to show that I wasn't afeared. People began approaching me for cigarettes. One, in a not too friendly way, warned me that I'd better watch out for myself.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm your mama's boyfriend."
"Ha,ha!" I looked around so people could see I'd made a friend and he was cracking me up.
A good guy told me, "Don't take off your shoes, they'll steal them."
The stench of sweat, smoke and the broken toilets back-flow, the 200 decibels, the claustrophobia, it all started to become "Negro" to my mind. The cigarette economy, "Negro". That very word. Then I remembered I was down south in Nashville, too.
They weren't human anymore. Not here. When I am sober in a few hours I won't be human either.
The novelty of my situation lasted five minutes. Must trust someone. That this particular bunk has no owner.
I laid back and waited six hours until the store opened. My thoughts were always with Mariah. What was she doing now, sleeping alone I hope. Someday soon maybe I'd see her house. I loved thinking of Mariah.
At nine o'clock the Sheriff answered the phone and said well john john let me guess.
Next I remember was being in a hallway of cages and seeing Mariah and the Sheriff looking in a small dirty window, thirty yards away. Eyes wide, then eyes smiling.
When the men realized I was getting bail they all pressed against the bars yelling for my remaining cigarettes. It was a zoo. They were desperate. The hopeless ones were behind. I emptied my pack into my hands and stupidly threw all my smokes over their heads so they fell at the feet of those innocents who were just looking on. It was a generous impulse but I realized immediately, when the beggars turned, that it was cruel.
"I'll never be the same," was all I said. It was what I planned to say.
Mariah and Jerry laughing, of course. I could still play drunk, being drunk enough. They laughed and laughed , talking about me like I was a dog they'd rescued from the animal shelter. We walked the quiet downtown streets towards her car. I said I needed to shower. The sheriff said I could take the day off.
"Eleanor didn't call?"
"She will this afternoon," Mariah said, "when she wakes up and has a bloody mary. She'll remember you, John, don't worry."
I stopped and let them keep walking until they noticed.
"It was innocent, you know." Make this a bit of theater. "I mean, don't think. Not me and Eleanor. You know her, she's proper. Sure, she smooches with the nearest guy when she's drunk, I know. But we're just friends. Did you know she's related to Rachel Robarts Jackson?"
Mariah suggested we stop for breakfast.
"We're the bosses, right?" she asked the Sheriff.
"And every things ok at the store isn't it."
"Sure. It's slow."
"This will be down hominy cooking, John!" Mariah said, then as an aside to the Sheriff, "John is here to learn about the South."
Then she laughed, "You'll get to see the court house pretty soon!"