Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coach Whipped and Dog Bit: A Halloween Story

You’d have to know Freddie to really appreciate the story. He was one of those people who assumed if his brain came up with it then it must be something that needed to be done. “Second thoughts” were things Freddie was strangers with at his best. One Halloween, Freddie became very familiar with why the rest of us have second thoughts, and some of us, once we’ve been drinking, pretty much determine almost any thought that seem like good ideas, are in fact, not.
Now Freddie was the guy who dove headfirst into water, at night, unfamiliar. Granted, there were people swimming in the water, but where Freddie dove was not deep. He lost a couple of teeth on this one. Freddie was also famous for catching a Coach Whip Snake which was well over six feet in length. The Coach Whip Snake is not venomous, but universally, as a species, there are animals who do not like human contact. They are not aggressive by any means, but they will attempt to put distance between humans and themselves, and who can blame them? Lacking the flight option, they will try to fight off anyone trying to hold them captive. A six foot long Coach Whip is more than a handful. Trust me, I know.
Years ago, my sister’s roomie, who was taking a herpetology class at the college, had someone drop off a fifty pound size dog food bag with a Coach Whip Snake inside. The roomie, who was terrified of snakes, called me to handle the extraction. The Coach Whip Snake, though quite long have very little girth so when I picked up the bag, I just assumed it was a small snake. I opened the bag and the better part of six feet of very pissed off Coach Whip snake poured out of the bag and into my face.
Note to readers: Size matters.

Freddie secured, for reasons still unclear, a very sizable Coach Whip Snake. This was quite an event since he lived in Atlanta, where wildlife in general isn’t common. Not having a suitable container Freddie took off in his car with a beer in one hand, and a six foot snake in the other. Okay, after reading that last sentence show of hands of readers who thing this is ending well. Uh-huh, you raised your hand, didn’t you? So did Freddie. And not wanting to spill the beer, for reasons unclear, Freddie let the snake loose. Freddie was going down the middle of I-75, on a Friday morning, in six lanes of traffic, drinking a beer and trying to regain control of his car, a truly pissed off snake, and his beer. He went two for three, and the snake disappeared into the dash of his car.
Summer in Georgia is just slightly less warm than Hell, and totally much more humid. The life expectancy of any creature in a car with the windows rolled up can be measure with a stop watch operated by a twitchy speed freak. Yet Freddie would never know if the snake was in the car or out of the car unless he either found the snake alive, discovered the snake had died, and this discovery had a plethora of unpleasant implications, or he flat waited the snake out. Freddie got a lawn chair, a case of beer, some weed, and a collection of Pink Floyd eight track tapes and waited the snake out. After three hours, and after listening to “Wish You Were Here” straight through twice, as well as “Darkside Of The Moon” the snake slithered out of the car, and Freddie was relieved in more ways than one.
But if you remember from earlier on, this is a Halloween story. Freddie and a good friend of his, Cleaver, whose name is a long story in and of itself, had been working on a very scary alien looking costume for Cleaver, and a bigfoot costume for Freddie. The two were a smash at the party, and they were smashed, and at the end of the evening, they had run out of pot, and the only place they knew where any pot was, that would be fifty miles away, at Cleaver’s cabin in the woods. They decided to drive up there, in costume, and on the way there, they began to laugh about how freaked out the dogs were going to be when they saw an alien and Bigfoot walk through the door. Well, Freddie’s brain thought it might be a good idea to freak the dogs out. His plan was to get up on top of the cabin, and leap down screaming in the midst of the dogs, scaring all five of them out of their hides. Cleaver didn’t like the idea. His dogs were pets, not guard dogs, and they would be traumatized. In fact, Old Bob was the only dog with any real size to him, and he was way past his prime for a Doberman. Yeah, there were a couple of Labs, but really, it’s a bad idea to scare dogs, isn’t it?

So Freddie, still in Bigfoot drag, climbs up on the front porch of the cabin, manages to get to the top of the roof, and then slides all the way down, falling onto the deck below, and into the middle of the dogs, who were waiting for someone to open the door and pet them on dog’s heads. A two hundred and fifty pound furry creature was not what they were looking for at all. They did what a pack of dogs will usually do when presented with a prone intruder. They attacked.

Freddie kept the Bigfoot mask so when he told the story it wouldn’t lose any of its...bite. On the left side of the mask is a very large hole where Old Bob grabbed Freddie by his face. Of course, the dogs realized quickly it was Freddie inside, and were apologetic, but Freddie wore the better part of half a dozen stitches just below his left eye.

The fun part about all this is they went back out to a bar and Freddie won first place for his Bigfoot costume because of the realistic blood stains coming out of the mask.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bring Me My Dead

The great thing about still being alive, and still being single, which I guess is redundant, is every once in a while I’m going to get a call from someone in my past, usually female, who is looking to reconnect with me in some weird way. My father must get an never ending source of amusement from all this because he keeps handing out my number to anyone who calls, but mostly because he hasn’t bitched about it yet. A week or so ago he called to let me know that once again he had given my number to someone in my past, but this time it was different.

To make a long story short, which I’m really not in the habit of doing, this was not an old flame of mine, but rather someone who was seriously involved with an old friend of mine, or to be exact, she was involved with two friend of mine, and there was at least one point in time where she was dating one of the guys, and they were double dating with the other guy and the woman he was seeing. This woman has danced with the devil in the form of drink, and it hasn’t been pretty. This year has been weird for her in ways I cannot relate to you without sedition, and in many ways, it was a conversation I knew.

We went through the list of things we already knew; who was where who was married to who was doing what whose kids were how old as if it were some incantation or ritual we had to perform before we got to the place one or the other of us did not know. Robin Willis is dead, she told me, and that one caught me off guard.

I’ve dated two women with that name, and both of them lasted about the same amount of time. Two months or so, just long enough to get past the preliminaries, and to get gone. The second Robin was looking for a husband and a father for her kids she hadn’t had yet, and that was enough to send me screaming from the room. The first Robin lived back in my hometown, and we saw each other on weekends because we had weird work hours. I cannot recall her face, no matter how hard I try. The second Robin’s face always juxtaposes in the mental picture, and I cannot remember either woman’s middle name, and for some reason, that is troublesome to me.

Robin, the first Robin, that’s what all of this is about, was a friend of my younger sister, back in High School, and the fact I didn’t remember much about her back then should have told me something. She came from a good family, not wealthy or anything like that, but classy people who everyone respected and their youngest daughter married well beneath herself. She married into one of the worst families in Blakely and I remember hearing about it, and wondering how in the hell she managed to screw her life up so bad. Years passed before I saw her again, she got divorced after a year or so, and when she and I went out her daughter was just three years old. I did ask her about it, how she managed to get hooked up with someone everyone knew was headed nowhere, and it was the same thing for so many small town girls; no one else seemed interested. Alcohol, boredom, and sex unprotected just one time too many and presto! Being the girlfriend of a deadbeat is bad enough in a small town but to get knocked up by one was just too much. He bailed on her as soon as the bills started piling up and she moved back in with her folks. That didn’t work out so she rented a duplex and was working her way to the bottom again.

I had a decent enough job, and it didn’t take long for me to wonder if that was what it was all about, that coupled with boredom and alcohol. One night her parents had her daughter and we went to a party and left early. It was odd being in her place alone with her, without her daughter, and without the awkwardness of sobriety. I remember her sitting on the edge of the bed, the security light cutting a knife’s edge of light through the edge of the blinds that hit her on her naked back as she drank a beer. The light reflected in the bottle, just a brief flash as she killed it, and I could see the muscles in her shoulder move, and the slimness of her hips in the light. She's there right now, frozen in that memory, still naked, still drinking the beer, still on the bed, and I remember quite vividly thinking Robin would have made a stunning photograph, but just at that exact moment in time, right then was her time for immortality, and then she put the bottle down and lay back with me, and she was gone forever.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Night Work: Traffic

Two in the morning is when it really begins. Screw that midnight spiel. At two in the morning the human brain begins to do things it normally doesn’t do, and if you’ve already been given an abnormal brain, that doesn’t mean you become more like everyone else. Of course, if you’re out with a bunch of people who keep the same hours you do become the same species of zombie, but that doesn’t tell the whole tale, does it?
Intellectually speaking, two in the morning is no man’s land. You no more want someone at two in the morning making decisions that will affect your life than you want someone taking double shots of cheap bourbon to drive you home in the rain. All the human senses become deadened to the present reality and begin to slip into something else. Familiar sounds and sights suddenly become just a wee bit alien. Artificial light, especially when there is a surfeit of it, blinds rather than illuminates. The human eye needs natural light, and natural shadow to register reality. The white hot blinding work lights cast deep dark shadows that create a two dimension world of blindness and blindness.
Assume nothing in traffic. There is a huge slow moving milling machine spewing out a steady stream of crushed asphalt. If the operator moves the conveyor belt too far to the left or right a human being should not be where that stuff is landing. Stay away from it at all costs. Move quickly out of the area if you have to move through it. The truck being loaded by the milling machine back up by watching a man guide them back. They may not see someone standing there, and they may drive poorly. There are two machines with huge cylinders lined with bristles to sweep up the excess. The create clouds of dust as they travel. Their operators may not be able to see. There is a front end loader helping clean up in the dust, he may be likewise blind. There are three pick-up trucks the managers use. There is a truck with a trailer behind it the traffic control guy uses. Not all of these are moving at once but all of these will move at one point in time or another and some of them move together. We’ve also got in a lane closure. The traveling public is asked to do something new at two. Someone once told me, “Mike, the good news is only one person in a thousand is going to do something stupid enough to get you killed. The bad news is if there are five thousand cars a day, you never know which five are going to try to murder you.”
The idea of people driving their cars with their brains acting like mine is enough to keep me awake at night. So far, however, things have worked really well and I’m very happy about it. The traffic control guy doesn’t have any sort of sense of humor. When I speak to him he holds his breath. He was the traffic control guy on their last project where a drunk ran off the road and killed someone. The drunk didn’t realize he had hit a person. The man was that drunk. This event haunts the men of this crew, and it’s more than just a little spooky.
If you are going to work in, or around, traffic then you are going to eventually see people torn apart or dead. You can either live with this or you cannot live with this. You do everything humanly possible to prevent it, you plan as well as you can plan, you put out as much traffic control as you think you can, you cover as many of the spaces as you can, you do everything right, everything by the contract, everything by the plans, and everything anyone around you can think of doing to make it a safer world, and some drunk will still kill someone one day.

Or one night.

In seventeen and a half years I’ve never had anyone killed on a project. I do mostly bridgework, and they’re safer when it comes to traffic, but by and large, none of this has anything to do with luck. You have to stay on top of everything all the time, even when there are other things going on, you have to stop and periscope up, take a step back, and ask yourself what the people traveling down the road will see as they are coming towards you. Can they see you? Do they understand where they’re supposed to be? What’s out there to confuse them? Deep breath. Ride through and check everything at least once an hour. Move barrels that have been pushed over, check the lights, check the workers, talk to the cop that has been hired to stay out there with us. Make sure he’s connected with the people on the crew.

My brain gets weird on me. It’s an odd feeling this, a sort of a disconnect from reality. I check spacing on traffic panels and count the number of moving vehicles. I follow traffic through the project a few times, to see when people are swerving away from the work, to see how many of them know what’s going on, to understand what they see, not what I see, and because I need their brains to tell mine what they are feeling when they drive by.

Two weeks into the project we’ve had no accidents, no weirdness, no near misses, no one has done anything wrong. But each night is a brand new day. Each car is a new test. Each car is a person, with kids, with drinks, with distractions, with no sleep, with divorces, with war, with insanity, with blindness, with old age, with hurry, with hurry, with hurry, and without. You can either live with this or you cannot work in traffic. You leave it on the road when you head home, and you hope it doesn’t follow you.
It sometimes does.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hobo Bill and The Death Of A Farm

Tifton Georgia was once in the very heart of Georgia’s farm belt, and parts of it still very much are. Yet I-75 cuts through Tifton like an elevated anaconda, and it strangles the slow-paced life that depends on green things growing. Where the speed of a person was once measured in how long it took to get something done, time is mostly measure in how long it takes to get from one place to another, and no speed is ever fast enough.
This is a new dichotomy. The population of humans passing through Tifton is greater than the population of Tifton itself. Fast food dispensaries line up like lice next to an open wound, and sit- down theme restaurants nestle themselves as near the trough as they can. Motels and Hotels spring up like mushrooms after a Summer rain, and suddenly, at any given time, there are more people spending the night in Tifton than there are actually living there. These temporary citizens will be gone in the morning, after breakfast and coffee, and their replacements are hot on their heels. They come and go, at speeds once unimagined, and the good people of Tift County scarcely know their company exists at all. No handshakes are exchanged, no stories are told, no meals are shared, no one sees the new people or the old people, and all becomes a blur of shiny vehicles. The family headed for Florida sleeps within a mile of the family who has lived here all their lives, and no one knows the kids all have the same names, or they share a love for the same foods.
Maybe it’s a “if you build it” thing. It would seem unlikely there would be such a strong need for such a violently quick, but temporary migration. Like an endless plain of wildebeests the cars and trucks pass day and night, as if some naturally occurring phenomena. Our project is just South of the Interstate, and the sprawl of pop-up motels and propped up fast food chains are creeping into what was once a very rural neighborhood. The truck stop with its acres and acres of parking lot, and its multitude of pumps, and its billion watt lights burn a hole in the night. Target, the slightly less trashy cousin of Mal Wart set up a distribution center nearby. An LP gas farm was built within spitting distance of a trailer park. People once honestly poor now find themselves living in what is becoming an industrial slum.
Under the billboard that’s half a football field wide, and lit with enough electricity to power a dozen homes, is what was once a family’s yard. There are still some old ornamental trees, and there is a small pond, with a dock shipwrecked in the middle. The house is gone; destroyed, moved, burned down or pushed down, and no traces of the people remain. Somewhere here are the graves of pets. Someone buried a loved kitten here, and over there is the final resting place for an old dog. A couple of the old farm buildings remain in the middle of the field near the house, and during what passes as lunch, I go to investigate.
The billboard supplies enough light so I could read a newspaper as I cross the field. I borrowed one of those new small but powerful LED flashlights from a contractor so I can look inside the buildings. The small red-orange signal flare of a cigarette gives me pause. Someone is in one of the buildings. I’m twenty-five feet or so away, and just for an instant I think about turning back. These are humans who have succumbed to the “build it and they will come” meme. They mimic their faster brethren, loping along, hoping for a ride, carrying what they can, or what they have to, in backpacks or shoulder bags. I’ve seen members of this species of human pulling luggage with wheel on the side of the interstate, and I wonder at what point the bearings will break, and a decision on what to carry, or how to carry, will have to be made. Suddenly, I’m consumed with curiosity. I’d like to know what they’re carrying, and why.
There is no way in hell I would ever enter the building. It looks like it might have been a pump house for a well. It’s small, the door is long gone, and there are no windows. I can hear someone scrabbling around, and gather up belongs as I approach. I stop ten feet away from the doorway and call out, “I’m not a cop. Relax.” A man who looks a little older than me steps into the glare of the billboard. “What’cha want?” It occurs to me there might be someone else in there with him, and there might be others in the building fifty feet away. This is stupid, Mike. Bail.
“We’re going to tear down these buildings tomorrow.” I lie, “I want to make sure no one is in them when we do. You can stay the night if you want.”
“Got nowhere else to go, the man tells me, “ain’t et in a week.” Lie for lie.
“I’ll give you some money for some food.” I tell him, “But you have to sell me something.”

The pack back contains mostly junk, and even the pack isn’t worth much. The straps have been knotted together after breaking, there are holes worn in several places, and the whole thing is on the verge of disintegration. The owner of the pack is in worse shape than he first appeared. Under the billboard I realize he might not have eaten in a week. His face is haggard and his breathing isn’t regular. His smoker’s hack is almost constant. This isn’t some romanic vagabond with a sad story of how he wound up on the road. This is a man with true mental illness and he cannot stop talking. I’m careful to keep upwind from him, and not touch the stuff on the ground. He tells me his name is Bill, and Bill owns a cell phone recharger, which he would really like to sell to me, a plastic coffee mug, that is ugly and green, he owns a new CD, still wrapped in plastic, of Latino music, and he wants to sell that too. Bill owns a car battery terminal, some lead weights off car tires, and a small bag of aluminum cans. There’s a small bible that’s been wet more than dry, and a porn magazine that I would not pick up for a Pulitzer Prize. Bill pushes the cell phone charger as a great deal. I tell him I’ll give him three bucks for the CD, and he very shrewdly tells me I can sell it to one of the workers on the crew for ten bucks, so he will let me have it for five. I give him a five and he quickly squirrels his stuff away, and heads for the truck stop, coughing.
The CD is a bootleg, of course, and likely of the very worst quality. Bill didn’t own anything else really worth anything. An entire life carried on his back, and the very best of it sold for five dollars. Bill can get a six pack of cheap beer for five bucks, drink it quickly, and sleep soundly until it wears off. Or he can get a pack of cheap cigarettes, and poison himself in a different way. By the time you read this, Bill will be one of those people you do not see on the Interstate, invisible and moving slow, a subspecies of traveling human, speeding as fast as the rest of us to the same destination.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bitchy Biscuit Karma, and The Cubic Long Knife.

I ought not be mean to the overtly religious, I know this. At worst, I should treat them with the same sort of apathy and indifference given to the drunk panhandlers and beggars that plague the night shift when I go into town for caffeine, which in and of itself is a religion, or at least a very serious philosophy. With caffeine, all things are possible, yea.
Bitchy. That’s the word, no matter how I try to thesaurus my way out of this, the plain truth is I woke up Sunday morning bitchy as hell. I tried to stay up all night to keep my internal clock right for night work, and I managed to stay up until three. The puppy Lucas woke me up near dawn because he’s a Dropper (later, I promise) and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate eating fast food, and breakfast is the worst, but I didn’t feel like cooking and I had a coupon that I got in the mail. Yes, using coupons that come in the mail only encourages that sort of behavior, but I didn’t feel like cooking, okay?
The fast food place, I cannot bring myself to call it a restaurant, wasn’t busy and I thought I could be in and out of there in nothing flat. Neeka was there. Neeka is a young mother of two who also works the grocery store as a cashier. Two dead end jobs and Neeka is growing up fast and growing up faster, but she is competent and outwardly friendly. She takes my order, and my money, and that’s when Church Man shows up. Church Man got a gazillion biscuits for his church, and we know this because he kept repeating it, and he thinks he got shorted. So Neeka and Church Man are going through the three bags of cheap fast food breakfast biscuits, and I tell her I’m going to have a seat, wave when my order is ready, please, thank you.
Bitchy. I’m three quarters tempted just to walk out, go home, cook breakfast, and get my money back some other day. But Neeka might feel bad, and it irritates me I’ve gotten myself trapped in this… Church Man is talking loud on his cell phone, and someone from the church just called him and they need more biscuits, you know, if there is a god, then there was something cosmic here because they had just determined the order was right, and he was about to leave. Instead he has to wait, he blames Neeka for this, and reason defied, Church Man comes and sits at the table with me. No hi how are you may I sit with you, oh hell no, he says with a word of warning, “Do you know God’s plan for you?” and he starts digging a business card out of his wallet.
“Yes, I do know God’s plan for me.” I reply. Church Man pulls the card out but he has to stop. Oh, I just totally ruined everything, didn’t I? Church Man looks me in the eye with that, “I’ve got on nice clothes so you’re subservient to me” look. I look at him with that, “My new puppy keeps me awake, I work nights and I’m bitchy” look. He smiles. I do not. Finally, because he brought it up, he’s forced to ask, “So what do you THINK God’s plan for you is?” I do not have on nice clothes on a Sunday morning so what in the hell would I know about God’s plan, but the overtly religious have this game they must play. I’ve taken on the mantle of the knower of God’s Plan. Church Man must pay homage to that concept, even though it irritates the hell out of him.
“After the Rapture, God wants me to hunt to everyone left who ever proselytized to me, and cut their head off with a knife, one cubic long.”
Church Man stops smiling.

This is a man who is accustomed to things going his way. He glares at me. It’s the same glare that works so well with cashiers who he thinks are morons, and other church members who dare to argue with him about what color carpet they’re getting next year. I reach for his card and he suddenly realizes I just might be serious. I can see it in his face. He has a business to run; he cannot have some damn religious fanatic in his church.
“Uh, let me check on my order.” Church Man gets up and heads back to the counter. Neeka has been watching this, and she’s trying not to laugh. She has no idea what I’ve done, but she knows I’ve done something to him. Church Man collects his bags without counting or saying a word.
I go up to the counter and Neeka hands me a bag. “That man just left without his last three biscuits, wanna take’em home to your dogs?”

Bitchy. I’m a little less so now.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zombie Deer and Dying Trucks

We’re working close to Tifton Georgia, which is right on I-75, and at five in the morning I head South, towards Adel, where I’ll pick SR76 to Quitman, where my personal truck is parked. I get onto Exit 62, and promptly my truck begins to lose power. It’s dead, Jim! Well, not dead, but dying. Fifty-five is all I can get out of it no matter how high the revs go. At five in the morning there is no one up, and there will not be anyone up for a couple of hours. Also at five, the traffic isn’t very heavy yet. I can count on some of the interstate people coming in at seven so I’m only hanging out on the side of the road for a couple of hours, but damn. I’ve been at work for twelve hours now. I want to go home.
It’s twenty-three miles between exit 62 and exit 39. At fifty five miles an hour I’ll be there in about… Let’s see, sixty miles an hour is a mile a minute, divide sixty by fifty-five, and I realize I cannot do math in my head this late in the day. I’m guessing twenty-five minutes or so. Trucks pass me like I’m sitting still but this is the faster way between point a and point b. The truck’s engine revs up but doesn’t speed up. I lose miles per hour on hills. I’m not going to make it to Quitman.
Incredibly, the speed limit on the interstate is fifty these days because of the road work. They aren’t working nights, and I wish they were. Maybe someone will come in early, and I can find a way home by seven or eight. The truck revs up but doesn’t gain anything. Suddenly, it does kick in and I find myself able to do sixty. The irony here is I might get a ticket for speeding. I settle down at sixty and watch for Mile Markers. I’m heading South so they are decreasing in number. 55,54,53,52,51,50, and at forty-nine I’ve only got ten miles to go. The engine revs up again and I lose power. Back to fifty-five, and back to worry. Exit 39 has a lot of billboards and weirdness and a strip mall so I can see the lights like a false sun, like a false promise, and like a false prophet, Now comes the interesting part.
It’s twenty-seven miles to Quitman. I can wait here, it’s a little after five, and in a couple of hours or so I can get one of the Interstate guys to give me a ride. If I head down SR76, it will take me further and further away from where someone can get to me easy. At fifty-five it will take me about thirty minutes, screw the math. SR76 goes from the middle of nowhere to closer to nowhere before it hits Quitman. I’m tired. I want to go home. I turn off onto 76 and head South.
I reset the odometer to zero and drive. Worse case is I wind up sitting it out on the side of the road. It’s ten miles or so, with the engine reving and me sweating blood, but I finally hit the big city of Barney. Yes, Barney, where State route 122 crosses over 76, is a real town, of sorts. I have to stop at the stop sign, with its red flashing lights, and when I do I roll down the widow and sniff the air. Nothing. The engine doesn’t smell funny or anything like that. Onward! It’s now just seventeen miles to go, and realistically speaking, I could walk that in just over four hours.
I can hold a four mile an hour pace walking forever. So with each mile that passes I’m knocking fifteen minutes off my trip home, if I had to walk. That’s ninety seconds knocked off the walk for every tenth of a mile. On cue, patches of fog begin to appear. I’m waiting for zombies to wander out into the road, or maybe a deer. A deer would be more likely, I do realize that, but I’m a writer, so zombies come first. Deer can be worse than zombie, because zombies are less likely to go crashing through the windshield, and…

Okay, seriously, if you’re out at five in the morning, you’re in the middle of nowhere, your truck is dying, and all you can do is weigh the risk of ramming deer versus zombies might I suggest a little sleep?

In Morven, where 76 crosses 133, I have twelve miles to go. I did walk twelve miles one time, just to see how fast I could do it, and I came in about three hours. Now every tenth of a miles knocks ninety seconds off three hours. Every mile is fifteen minutes less than three hours. No deer. No zombies. Just open road and patchy fog. One mile down and I can walk back to Quitman in two hours, forty-five minutes. Hell, this close, I might be able to call someone from Quitman to come get me. Really, in all good seriousness, I think I could call the Sheriff’s department and get them to come get me. Wait. That’s not very interesting reading, Back to the zombie deer, please. Two miles then three miles, and then four, and I realize I’ve cut deep into the trip. Six is halfway, and I can already see the false dawn of the lights of Quitman. Six I could walk in an hour and a half, but that turns into five, then four, then three, and suddenly I’m back at my truck.

I leave a note for someone to take the truck to the shop, but it’s fine. It doesn’t act up again with two different drivers. I drove it last night and it was fine. Not a sign of losing power or anything like that. Really, it’s just fine. Zombie truck? Go figure!

Take Care,
Mike

The Loki Mutt Versus The Snake.

Lucas: BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!
Sam: Meh
Bert Meh.
Lucas: BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!
Sam: Meh
Bert Meh.
Me:??????????
Lucas: BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!
Me: *getting up to investigate*
Lucas: BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!
Me: *seeing Lucas barking at something under the deck* Dogs in the house NOW!
Bert*into the house*
Sam*into the house*
Lucas: BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!
Me: *seeing snake springs over rail almost on top of Lucas*
Lucas*runs!*
Me: Lucas come here!
Lucas: uh-uh
Me: NOW!
Lucas: oh shit.
Me: Now, dammit, come here!
Lucas *crawling over to me, peeing on the ground* : Dad, don’t kill me.
Me: *grabbing Lucas by the collar, dragging him into the house.*
Snake: Thank you.
Me: *going inside to check Lucas.*

Luke got popped twice. If this had been a Cottonmouth he would be dead now. I took Lucas back outside and screamed at him every time he got near the snake. Before it was over with when the snake moved in one direction, Lucas moved in the other, in a hurry. Both older dogs got scolded for letting it happen.
Dammit.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Night Shift.

Classical music is making a comeback in my life, as it will on occasion. Working late at night means commercial radio is going to suck, and I dislike having a MP3 player plugged into me while I’m around traffic at night. Public radio will crank out the classical music at all times, so when I’m back at home I’m still in the mood for it.
Some of these tunes, if you can call them that, have been around for hundreds of years. They lack the driving beat of modern music and most of them lack lyrics. It’s an acquired taste, at least for the people I know, and most of the people I know do not like classical music at all. Modern music tends to towards factory produced music and all the songs have the same cookie cutter pattern to them. They are all about 3:30 long, they have repetitive lyrics, they’re easy to dance to and they have a good beat. By and large, most of it is garbage, even if it’s fun garbage, and I suspect that history will remember the music of the rock and roll era as mostly just that.
Equally certain is the umbrage that will be taken by younger people who are totally convinced their favorite group or groups or bleached blonde implanted starved looking half dressed lip syncing really has something to say to them about life. Were it not useless I would suggest they look at those who are delivering the message, and compare accomplishments against the message. Yet the love of celebrities will not end soon, or well.
Working late at night near an urban area means I get to see just how much other people cannot see at night. Powerful street lights blast megawatts worth of wasted light into the sky, killing any chance the stars might have of winking through. Each of those stars might contain some form of life we cannot imagine, and the chances of imagining that life if we cannot see the stars that provide light and heat for them. Billions of aliens are up there, perhaps, and perhaps at this very moment, one of them right now sees our sun, and wonders what we will be like if we ever meet. I wonder if this being writes, or if writing is something just we humans do, and if that being does not write, then what passes for creativity among their kind? I fear we will not travel to the stars if we cannot see them.
A side street we’re near holds a poor neighborhood that has a natural gas storage facility dead in the middle of it, along with railroad tracks leading to it. Trailers dot the road like trash tossed out of a car, and a lot of that is present also. This is a patch of land sandwiched in between two major roads, and the interstate, and I cannot help but wonder what sort of night sounds these people have. I’ve got frogs, horses, crickets, owls, coyotes, and the sound of three mutts snoring. We pass within a few hundred feet of these people at midnight, and I wonder how many babies we’ve awakened, how many workers are disturbed from their slumber, and how many people simply sleep through this sort of thing. Even in Hickory Head the sound of human beings is an omnipresent noise in some way. I have to go to the Okeefenokee to truly go to a place devoid of noise of any species. Only there is the acoustic world free from our constant barrage of extraneous sound.
After midnight, traffic begins to lessen, and the workers begin to slow down, too. Men move more slowly, think more slowly, and they react less quickly to danger. I see this in myself, no doubt, as my math skills decrease, my ability to discern objects in the dark begins to degrade, and my mind wanders muchly. ( If I write when I get home you should see the spelling errors this creates!) Human beings are critters of habit and by habit few of us wander the wee hours of the morning, much less work them. The last few hours of a shift is when I have to really question if productivity is really work the payroll spent in keeping everyone out here this late.
Exhaustion is not without merit. Strip away the body’s ability to function properly, and erode the mind’s ability to function as quickly, and you’ll wind up with some interesting thoughts running around, well, at least walking around your head. Plots for short stories and novels begin to sprout like the stubble on my face. The flashing lights and reflectiorization of the safety equipment begin to become fascinating. This is dangerous because the light also attract drunks, believe it or not. Drunks are much more likely to ram something with a lot of light than something less visible. Sober people, on the other hand, hit things without lights. Either way we’re targets, and even late at night we cannot forget it.

Bach is good for late night working. The man must have spent many a night composing to the wee hours, for it seems his music is more conducive to late night work than most others are. The very teeth of the wee hours, those hours before dawn is even thought of seriously, is a good time to crank up Bach. I wonder what this would sound like on one of those music systems in the young man’s cars where it goes thumping down the road. Bach with bass? I told you this time of night produced some weirdness, did I not? Lunch hour is nearly over, so I will leave you with this last thought. As you slept last night, and as we all sleep at anytime, someone out there is creating something. Music, writing, a road perhaps, but it never stops, ever, and when we’re awake, we ought to remember it is our turn to use our minds to create.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Night Work

Night work has some very serious liabilities associated with it, and rightfully so. Trying to reset an internal clock is difficult at best, and the first night out is pure hell. I’m accustomed to going to bed around ten or so, maybe doing some writing before then, but by and large the closer to midnight it gets the more geared towards sleep I get. Perversely, I’m pretty much set at getting up between five and five thirty, and now that is what time I get off work.
The array of chemical weapons at my disposal is legion. My coffee is famous for both its high caffeine content and its ability to wipe out fire any colonies after one application. There are no-doz pills. There are energy drinks. There are Goody’s powders and if you live in a part of the country where they do not sell Goody’s powders, you may as well just start packing now. Get the red ones.
Yet I do realize this is a mistake. If I’m amped up when I get off work them I won’t be able to sleep and that will suck. I have to ride out this first night without any help at all. If I am to survive night work then I have to shift my clock as quickly as possible, and that means being half-dead by the time five rolls around.
Yet there are some benefits also. Night work means there will be no one else around. It means less traffic. It means I can be in a world all by own for hours on end. We’re milling up the old asphalt from a road and the machine makes a terrible racket. I put on hearing protection and the possibility of interrupted thought drops to near zero. The crew has been working together so long they communicate mostly through hand signals. They forget I’m around, and I can drop into a sort of zombie state as long as everything is going well, and it does.
The milling machine has a huge rotating drum with teeth on the outside of it that tears the road up, and throws the millings onto a conveyor belt that moves it to the bed of a semi truck. A truck backs up with no lights and I’m reminded there is peril here. The problem is a loose connection and the driver gets a warning not to come back without getting it checked. I write down the driver’s name and the truck number, and his foreman takes note that I’m taking notes. The machine roars and moves forward, times doesn’t roar, and creeps.
The milling crew is a sub contractor, but I like the way they work. They all carry small blinking lights on their hardhats. The man who guides the trucks back carries a large flashlight with a red cone on it. Watching them is fun because they’re good, and no matter what the profession, anyone doing a good job cannot be very boring. I check the depth of the milling and they check behind me, and I check behind them when they check it. We’re putting down new asphalt tomorrow, well someone else will, and how deep we mill is how deep the new asphalt will be. At a hundred bucks a ton, this is important.
At midnight I feel like death warmed over. Five hours to go and I’ve got a bad case of stumbles. My boots feel heavy. My face feels heavy. I fight off the urge to sit in the truck. The milling machine lumbers on slowly and eats asphalt. The crew tends to it and they forget I’m there. A short stories brews in my head, and I cannot flesh it out. That sounds odd, I know, but think of an idea for a story like finding an egg on the ground. You know something is inside but you do not know what. This one I work on, think about, and try to figure out what it is. Yes, it’s science fiction, I can tell that now, time travel, okay, but what? The story forms around a man who discovers aliens in the jungle of South America. They’ve been living there for quite some time, hidden from all humans, and one of them, curious about who and what he is, takes him in and heals his wounds. The man is a Nazi hunter, looking for evidence the Nazis came to South America to set up a colony. The alien offers to send the man back into time so he can kill Hitler, and the man gladly accepts. The alien warns the man that time travel is inexact, and he will only be able to go back within a range of years, not a certain date. The man winds up in Germany in 1936, kills Hitler, and to his horror, his followers set him up as a martyr and things go even worse than had he lived.
The alien brings him back and he’s shaken by the experience. Graciously, the alien offers to send him back again, when Hitler was a child, and he think this is the way to go. But this time Stalin runs amok because there isn’t a Hitler to slow him down. With a weakened Germany, the Soviets sack Europe easily, and America turns to isolationism.
The alien brings the man back again, and once more offers him a chance to change history. Yet the man is at a loss to understand how now, and realizes the alien hasn’t really sent him back in time, but merely given him the illusion of it. The alien then shows him how different events in time might have changed the future, but now always as we might have thought it would have.

The story is okay, but it is just scaffolding at this point. How many people would go back and kill a ten-year-old Hitler if they had the chance? Would something worse than Hitler rise up? Would people think perhaps Stalin as the ultimate evil? What if a changed past because unstable were it altered, and nothing that had been would be again?
A car with a flat tire brings me back to the present. We help the man change the tire, and it’s only three in the morning. Two more hours and my brain doesn’t work anymore.
Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oreo Woman and Mutt Blankets

Not all people like the way dogs smell, I have to remember that, even thought there is absolutely no way I will ever understand it. Dogs smell like coffee, and garlic, and fresh water. They smell like those things that make a house a home. Dogs smell like love and security and good food and sleep. I like the way dogs smell, and the puppy Lucas smells very much like a puppy. When he curls up next to me, or lies down on top of me, it’s relaxing and soothing to smell the puppy smell.

Alas! Not all human share this love of canine incense. I wash my sheets once a week anyway, but I also wash the mutt blankets the dogs sleep on during warm weather too. The big comforter on the bed is too large for the washer so I have to take it into town and use the laundry mat’s big machine. It takes about an hour or so, but it’s worth it to curl up with the dogs on a clean comforter.

“When my son was born he weighed six pound and eleven ounces so I tell people he weighed seven pounds.” I’m certain I don’t know this woman. I look around the laundry mat and there are a few people on the other side of the building, and there isn’t anyone near this woman but me. She’s staring right at me. “That was my first and believe me you I was sore for a while, believe me you, it was the worst pain I ever felt.”



In a perfect world strangers talk to other strangers about the weather, Balloon Boy, the economy, and maybe football. I’m thumbing through my internal rolodex for canned responses to the labor pains of women I meet in laundry mats who blurt out such things and discover I have none.

“You don’t have a washer at home?”she asks.



Clearly, as long as I’m standing close enough to hear her, this woman is going to speak to me. I look at the small group of people on the other side of the building and one of them nods. Uh-huh. Right. Time to check out now, it’s been very good meeting you, but, hey, look at the time! I feed the machine quarters and hope she stays out of knife range. I don’t think she’s either armed or dangerous, but remember the guy in Canada who decapitated a fellow passenger because he was bored? She doesn’t look bored or Canadian but why take that chance? I ease towards the other hostages.

A older Hispanic man with uncombed hair comes in and they apparently are married, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. He’s brought her a sandwich bag with six Oreo cookies in it, and it’s like he just handed her a bag full of money. “One, two, three, four, FIVE, SIX!!!!” she nearly shrieks the last two numbers and the man coos to her to get her to be quiet. The woman takes one of the cookies out, put the bag under her arm for safekeeping, and with a look of near prefect ecstasy, begins the ritualization of Oreo cookie eating. She slowly twists it apart, carefully separating the halves as if she’s defusing a bomb. She then licks the frosting off both sides, and finally devours the two chocolate halves. The whole process takes a couple of minutes, really, because each step in the process must be done with perfection. The woman then takes the bag and counts the cookies again, “One, two, three, four, FIVE!” but she is somewhat less excitable about it. I ease out of the door to check out downtown Quitman, which takes less time than it does to eat an Oreo, proper.

The washing machine has a glass door and I can see the comforter washing then spinning as mutt fur is being separated from it. There’s a long black hair that is Sam’s, and there are many of Bert’s tan and white Husky hairs, but I cannot distinguish the hair of the puppy Lucas. It will be almost a week before the comforter really smells like dogs again, and I’ll miss that. Twenty minute in the dryer and the comforter is dry. Oreo woman comes over to me while her husband isn’t watching. “Are you cold?” she asks.

“Forty-two.” I reply.

“That would be seven times SIX!” Oreo woman exclaims loudly.



Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Loki Mutt is NOT Allowed on the sofa



No, really, He isn't.

Fun with drunks

Phone: RING! RING! RING!
Me: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Phone: RING! Friend’s voice as machine picks up: “Hey Mike! Mike! Wake up!”
Me: * still asleep* ^%$#@#$%^^!!!!!!!!!
Phone: RING! RING! RING! RING! Friend’s voice as machine picks up: “Mike, I swear I’m sober, pick up the phone, I need some help man!”
Me: *answering phone* ^%$#@#$%^^!!!!!!!!!
Former friend: I’m in Macon, man, and I need for you to call my ex for me.
Me: ^%$#@#$%^^!!!!!!!!!
Former friend: Com’on man! The bitch nailed me bad, I’m stranded.
Me: WTF?
Former Friend: She bought a new gas cap for my truck, one that locks, and didn’t tell me. I found the note in my wallet saying she hid the key somewhere in the truck, but I can’t find it. I’m running of fumes. I can’t make it back.
Me: It’s your weekend to have the kids, isn’t it?
Former friend: Man, come on that’s not the point!
Me: You bailed on the kids to go to a football game, didn’t you?
Former friend: Man, please, I have to find that key.
Me: You told her you had the flu, didn’t you?
Former friend: Did she call you?
Me: LOL! *hangs up phone, turns off machine*

LOL.
LOL
LOL

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chew Toys

2006…

Me: Look guys! I bought you chew toys!
Bert: Meh.
Sam: Meh.

2007…
Me: Look guys! I bought you chew toys!
Bert: Meh.
Sam: Meh.

2008…
Me: Look guys! I bought you chew toys!
Bert: Meh.
Sam: Meh.

2009…
Me: Look Lucas! I bought you chew toys!
Lucas: YAY DAD! I WANT A CHEW TOY! I WANT A CHEW TOY!
Bert: YAY DAD! I WANT A CHEW TOY! I WANT A CHEW TOY!
Sam: YAY DAD! I WANT A CHEW TOY! I WANT A CHEW TOY!

Me: facepalm

Gackled from The Writer's Almanac

The London Beer Flood occurred on this day in 1814. At 6:00 on a Monday evening, a torrent of beer came rushing through the streets of the St. Giles district of London.

It started at the Horse Shoe Brewery at Tottenham Court and Oxford Street, where there were huge vats of porter perched on top of the roof. They contained beer, which had been fermenting right there for months. The wooden vats were enormous — some as tall as 22 feet — and were structurally supported by large iron hoops, dozens of them. They sat on the roof of the Meux Brewing Company, each of them containing hundreds of thousands of liters of beer.

The largest vat had started to strain under the weight and pressure of all that porter, and on this day, around 6:00 p.m., one of the iron hoops gave way and all the porter in the 22-foot-tall vat came gushing out. There were about 600,000 liters of beer in there, and when the vat burst and all that beer came exploding out, there was a chain reaction and the surrounding vats on the roof also burst. More than a million liters of beer toppled the brewery's brick wall (it was 25 feet tall) and began flooding the streets of St. Giles.

People came out onto the streets of St. Giles with mugs and buckets and pots and pans to collect the free beer; others leaned over and drank directly from the streams gushing down the streets. But many people were injured by the torrent and sent to the hospital, where inpatients smelled the beer and nearly rioted to get their share.

Nine people died. About half were children who drowned or sustained fatal injuries from the flood, which had also crushed the roofs of buildings near the brewery, adding heavy timber to the gushing rivers of beer. One man died a few days after the flood from alcohol poisoning. Trying to prevent all of it from going to waste, he had drunk a lot of beer in the span of a few days. People brought a lawsuit against the Meux & Company Brewery, but in court the flood was ruled an Act of God, and the brewery was not held legally responsible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red Hair and Ornage Soda

He’s a clean cut young man, his hair is very short, very red, and he’s wearing black slacks and a nice white shirt, with long sleeves, and he’s crying. The clean cut young man is holding an orange soda, a Fanta, out with his right hand, like an orange on the end of a white branch, like he’s walking a dog, with the label showing as if it’s product placement in a bad movie, and he’s walking down fourth avenue (northeast), on the bridge over the Okapilco Creek, in Moultrie Georgia and he’s crying. Men don’t cry in public, they don’t openly walk down the road sobbing, with tears running down the face, and snot running amok, but this man is walking like a man drunk on misery, weaving towards the traffic then back towards the bridge, and he’s weeping like Judas. Moultrie’s named a lot of their streets with number names, and the streets run north and South while the avenues run east and west, so you can be at the corner of first and first or second and second, and there’s got to be a comedy routine waiting for this moment, but not for the man with the orange hair, and the orange Fanta, who is walking, and crying. I want to stop and ask him why and I feel bad about wanting to stop because I really do not care about him at all, not in the least, but I think it would make for an interesting story, and I feel guilty about this, but not so much that I’ll stop. It’s a human thing for a person to feel bad about something, but not so bad as to actually act upon the feeling, it’s just the feeling that counts, the thought that counts, not the actual doing something about it. There’s a tent revival going on just a mile from where the young man with orange hair and an orange Fanta is walking, and I wonder if he works there, and got fired for downloading porn on the preacher’s computer, or if he got caught stealing money, or if he caught the preacher with a young woman, both naked and in frenzied repose under the big top tent with the clear plastic windows, which is a new twist from the old olive drab used army tents usually used for this sort of thing . The tent itself is white, like a whale, or an elephant, and it has clear plastic windows, with white plastic tape dividing the clear plastic into panes and I know the young man with orange hair and an orange Fanta has something to do with it all, and I want to stop and ask. It’s revealing, Bonnie tells me, what crimes and sins we imagine other people doing, or have done, and that will tell us a lot about what crimes and sins we are guilty of when we are alone with our thoughts, and when we know we can commit crimes and sins in our minds without getting caught.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lela

Tony was one of those guys who always had a girlfriend but never kept one for more than a few months. He was smooth and charming, and he slid one woman out of his bed to make room for the next, and most women who knew him knew the odds of Tony being faithful were pretty much nonexistent. Some tried to reform his catting ways and it always seemed to work in the beginning, but there was always some event that led to Tony slipping off the chain and back into his old habits.
Honestly, we thought Theresa had as good a chance as anyone alive to settle Tony down. She was sweet, caring, and she kept Tony on a short leash. We, the Fraternal Union Of Drinking Buddies, resented one of our own being cut out of the herd and being treated like an adult, but we realized Tony would soon escape, so we didn’t make much of a fuss. Besides, Theresa looked damn good in a bikini, and the woman loved the water. The threw great pool parties at Tall Tree apartments, and there was an old saying if Tall Tree wasn’t destroyed by burning brimstone soon god was going to have to apologize for Sodom and Gomorrah. But we had a great time, and no one got seriously injured, though there were some divorces.
The one big drawback Tony had when it came to Theresa was her brother Alan. Now, remember this was back in the mid 80’s, and being gay in South Georgia was still pretty much something that no one did openly, at least not around the crowd I ran with. Alan was one of those guy who would have been dressed in a football uniform and just standing there and the first thing anyone would think was “Gay”. Had he wore a neon sigh around his neck it could not have been more obvious.

Of course we kidded the hell out of Tony. We accused him of double dating when he was out with Theresa and Alan, and he hated it. Alan didn’t have a lot of friends of his own, and Theresa didn’t put up with anyone messing with him about being gay. For a woman her size Theresa was fiercely loyal to her brother, and we respected her for it, too. Alan was a bad person just to hang around, but he was, for the lack of a better word, sissified. Tony told us Alan like to be called Lela when they were at Theresa’s place. Lela wore long dresses and make-up and would help Theresa’s female friends get fixed up for dates. He wanted to move to Atlanta as soon as he graduated from Valdosta State, and open a restaurant. The man could cook, from what Tony told us, but we kidded him about the “secret ingredient”. We were like that then, but so was everyone else. That’s the weakest excuse for who we were, I know this, but none of us had ever seen a life lived any other way. We suggested to Tony he fix Alan up some an easy date, a woman of course, and none of us could understand why that wasn’t a workable idea. We saw Alan as a product of choice, and a product, perhaps, of a kid raised too soft by his mother, or something like that. I think one of the things alcohol does to a person is it kills off, or at least deadens that part of the brain where compassion lives. Most serious drinkers lack empathy because they’re accustomed to not feeling any. It gets to be a habit, even when a person is sober, to still feel that sense of deadness that being very drunk brings. Worse, even if Tony had felt some sense of compassion for Alan’s plight, his friends, me included, were constantly putting him on the defensive about his own manhood.
After Theresa and Tony broke up, we were all down at Blue Springs drinking one day, and Therese and Alan showed up. The breakup had been a brutal and vicious thing, and it had been public. Tony got caught putting his hand on another woman’s butt, and Theresa had called him on it openly. Tony, instead of thinking about what he was going to say, instead said, “Hell, you ought to try it, maybe it runs in the family.” And Theresa had dumped a candle’s hot wax into Tony’s lap. Tony slapped her, and she hit him in the head with the candle holder. We broke the fight up, but not before both were bleeding. Tony was still seething over that, and we knew it, and he was fair game for us to poke at him about breaking up with Theresa to date Alan. Tony saw Alan, and meant to embarrass Theresa in public. He went over to Alan and started telling him he was going to kick his ass and before we could think to do anything, Alan popped him. It wasn’t some half hearted slap in the face but a punch thrown hard and accurate. Alan had spent over two decades as a gay guy in South Georgia and had been stomped on more than once. Years of having to defend himself in situations like this trained him to hit hard, hit first, and hit often. Alan damn near killed Tony before we could break the fight up. To make matter worse, when Tony was on the ground, Theresa kicked him in the mouth, splitting his lip.

Months later I saw Theresa and offered to buy her a drink and she shook her head. “After the things you’ve said about Alan, you want to try and fuck me?” I really didn’t understand the problem. Alan wasn’t a product of choice or bad parenting, but to a degree, Alan was a product of people like me. People like me grouped together while drunk and defined him, voted him as someone undeserving of the compassion we were drowning in ourselves. We made Theresa defend him against us, and we made sure that anyone who felt any differently than we did was made fun of, and mocked, until they gave up and joined us.
I saw Theresa yesterday at a book store and when I stopped to say hello she walked right past me.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dragonfly At Dawn

Hickory Head At Dawn

UFO!

Bert

Hello, Boone!

If you are an artist you may already know it. I went for many years not knowing because, as you have recently discovered, I have terrible handwriting. I grew up with a school system where intelligence and penmanship were considered linked. One of the things that was pounded into me is I would never be a writer because I couldn’t write. They were wrong. Writing, as far as a pen or pencil goes, has nothing to do with arrangement letters into sentences into paragraphs, and making them all come together in a text based dance, which convenes my passion into your mind.

It’s bold, very bold, to get a visible tattoo young, and you’ll hear it’s a bad thing. You have the right to define yourself. Hell, you have an obligation, in my opinion, to be who you are and you have an obligation to your Muse. That part of you that drives you to be creative ought to be fed, and fed well. I starved mine for longer than you’ve been alive, and only in the last seventeen years or so have I really taken it out for a spin. That may seem a long time, to you, but trust me, once you really start feeling the power within you, time is meaningless. The development of your art is your life. You would no more say, “Gee, you’ve been painting, or drawing, or creating for a very long time!” anymore than you would say, “Gee, you’ve been breathing for a very long time!”

You will meet people who look at you and tell you it’s great to have such a nice hobby but what are you going to do for a living? Never confuse the hoops you have to jump through with your ability to fly. You may have to be a bartender, or a bridge builder, or some other person to keep yourself in art supplies, but that doesn’t mean that’s who you are. You decide who that person is, and I think you’re doing pretty well.

There will come a day, and it may have come to you already, when you realize there are two different types of human beings. There are those of us who create, and there are those people who do not. Personally, I think this is in all of us, but I think it frightens some people, and I think some people cannot handle the lack of control creativity demands. Your mind, when you’re being creative, is not subject to the same boundaries that every day life demands. It’s dreaming with an end product. It’s falling into a journey. It’s deliberate madness with a passion. It’s art.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Take no counsel with those who refuse to share your vision. Sadly, they have chosen to surrender their entire lives to admiration of what others can do, and refuse to see it in themselves or others close to them. Listen to your inner voice when it asks you to create. Draw on napkins, draw in the sand with a stick, or whatever it is you feel like doing, and realize that each and every act of creation brings forth more. Everything you do is valuable in some way, no matter how small. Each line, each curve, each photograph is a meme in your mind that feeds on creation. Live it. Love it. Learn from it.

The way is not easy. Nothing worthwhile can be easy. The Doubters will be many, and you will be chief among them betimes. The work that has been done before you will daunt you. The genius you so love will sometimes frighten you. The same forces that drive you forward will also create voices of fear and disbelief. Do not, ever, stop. No matter how hard it becomes to see the future, remember you are already there. This time, this now, is all you have, and all you ever will have. Use it.

The true quality of any artist is not what they do, but how they do it. Serve your art well. Be true to your passion. Live your life as a snowflake, falling, spinning, reflecting light in a million different ways, and finally resting in the end, among billions of others, yet unique. The way is not easy. It will be hard. There will be times you wish you did not feel this inside of you, and you will wonder if it is worth it.

Nothing at all do I know to be so totally true, as I know it is true, when I tell you living your life as an artist is the best life you will ever have the honor to live.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, October 10, 2009

DEATH TO BAD DRIVERS!

I’ve become more and more certain with each passing day working in law enforcement or traffic will not only ruin your faith in human beings but strengthen any ideas you might have euthanasia is a viable option for the survival of the species. There should be some mechanism in place to punish people, and eventually add chlorine to out gene pool, so the morons do not breed, or kill any of the rest of us who are more genetically pure than poor drivers might be.

(1) Stopping at green traffic lights.
(2) Stopping or parking for green traffic light arrows
(3) Failure to comprehend a four way stop
(4) The use of a cell phone while driving
(5) Allowing children to run free in a moving vehicle.
(6) Changing lanes suddenly, without signal
(7) Changing lanes at traffic lights just to get one car length ahead
(8) Charging lane closures to get ahead of the people who are merging reasonably
(9) Backing up on the Interstate because of a missed exit
(10) Throwing trash out of a car. Yes, smokers, a cigarette butt is littering, you assholes.
(11) Stopping your car to gawk at a wreck while rescuers are still trying to help the survivors.
(12) Speeding
(13) Driving slow in the fast lane
(14) Reading and driving at the same time.
(15) Dancing in the car seat in traffic
(16) Stopping to ask directions in the middle of live traffic.
(17) Going past a “Road Closed “ sign to ask someone in the middle of the construction area if the road is closed.
(18) Asking if the sign “Bridge Out” means the road is closed.
(19) Making a right turn from the left lane, or making a left turn from the right lane.
(20) Pulling out in front of someone and then making a left turn a block away from the near collision.

Feel free to add to this list.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, October 9, 2009

Synchronicity

I drift into but mostly out of sleep for most of the night. Dreams come like scattered rain showers on a hot day, and mostly I raise up on one elbow to see how far the clock has advanced since the last time I looked. At three, I get up and let the dogs out, the puppy Lucas overjoyed with the unexpected activity. A brief adventure in walking barefoot by moonlight and we all wander back into the house. The puppy Lucas has decided he will sleep at my side, even if I do not sleep at all. He likes to sleep with his back to me, stretched out, with maximum contact. When I shift he wakes briefly and shifts to match the new position. The Lokimutt loves his dad. Not even Bert was this devoted to my presence. At four I wake up thinking I’m late, and say to hell with it. Up it is.
I’m on the road before six, after breakfast, after showering, after feeding the mutts, and after wishing I was still in bed. The fog isn’t up yet, the traffic isn’t up yet, so why in the hell am I? The moon is a blurry marble in the cloudy sky, and the stars peek out from underneath their silvery sheets. Bu t I have a long road ahead of me, and the day will be long.
SR 133 stretches out as if the first real link between South Georgia and middle Georgia. I’m heading towards Albany Georgia to pick up US19, and then on to Americus Georgia, a place where I lived for a few months back in the early seventies. You didn’t know that, did you? I don’t think I’ve ever written a word about Americus until today, simply because I compartmentalize my life a lot. I don’t write very much about this part of my life because I never really got a chance to find out what it might have meant to me. It ended even as it began, and so there wasn’t anything to write home about.
I couldn’t write about Americus without it leading to me writing about Leslie Georgia, and therein lies the problem. Leslie, back when I was a kid, was home to about five hundred people. It’s population is about the same now. If I write about just one or two people I would be revealing much about the rest, I’m sure. But this isn’t about those people. This is about my mom.

Back in 2003 my material grandmother died. She was my last grandparent, and died at age 90, when I was 43. Honestly, she was more out of it then in it for the last few years of her life, and her death was a relief to her, and to the rest of us who remember her as a healthy and hale farm woman who helped carve out a living out of the South Georgia earth. Today, October the ninth, is her birthday, and for reasons not even the Gods of Coincidence can explain, work has sent me to Americus Georgia. The odds of me being sent to this place, of all places, on this day, of all days, is serendipity on an order that defines rational thought.
I usually send my mother flowers on this day, and I always use the same florist in Valdosta, and they in turn always use the same one in Americus. Leslie, population five hundred, doesn’t have their own flower shop. The flower shop Valdosta uses is right across the street from where I was sent. Why yeah, fate wants me to buy mom some flowers! Flowers for mom!
When I get to Leslie I discover they’re renovating mom’s tiny office, and they’ve moved into a part of an old building where mom once ran a restaurant. That’s a weird story in and of itself, in fact. I sneak up behind her while she’s on the phone and hang the flowers over her shoulder. She smiles brightly and nods, not realizing I’m there, and then she turns around and see me.
This has never been an easy day for her, not in these eight years. For nearly that long she cared for her mother, while she faded in and out of lucidity, and grew more frail, more weak, and less of who she really was for so long. I’m very pleased the flowers seemed to be expected, actually, as if she knew I would remember. But mom is delighted to see me live and in person.
We talk mutts, and money, her husband’s poor eyesight, and the state of the economy. She shows me her new office, which is going to be quite nice, and my stepfather has bought her a car. One of her bassets died, which was sad, but the state of mom’s health seemed to be very good. I cannot stay long, of course, but still to be at this place, at this time, is a good thing.
The drive back is filled with ghosts. I walked these streets as a child. I swam in that pool as a little boy. I remember the water balloon fight we had downtown that lasted for hours, and left the entire downtown Leslie, all two blocks of it, littered with hundred of multicolored balloon corpses. The children there have children, and some of those children have children now. The drive back is filled with a desire to seek out those people, and to see if they remember those times, but we are all so much different now and so little of who we once were remains anywhere but in our minds.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wailer

I try not to eat at restaurants often because the food is rarely healthy. I’m stuck in a strange town in a strange Chinese restaurant, in a small strip mall, in a very small Chinese restaurant, and the couple across from me has a screaming kid. I got loaned out to a project in Camilla Georgia and I haven’t been here since the tornado came through back in 2002 or maybe it was 2003. I went back to the neighborhood that was so torn up and nothing remains of the damage. I park my truck in the same spot I parked it when I did the damage assessment. There was a dead man right over there, in that spot, where there is a nice little house now. The man’s home had been utterly destroyed. The body was still in the house when I got there, and I couldn’t help but wonder whose job it was to get him out. Everyone had so much to do, and there were so many living people who needed help. It was a third world country with fiberglass insulation wafting down from the sky like toxic snow.
House after house after house after house after house had been damaged, or destroyed, and each time I stepped into someone’s home to survey the damage I could see they would have rather me not been there, but they were seeking some hope I might lead to some relief. The Red Cross was roaming the neighborhood trying to get water to people, and there were, I heard, buses coming to take people to shelters.
The screaming kid shatters my reverie and I wonder how the parents can just sit there and let the kid scream. I cannot age kids very well but this is a smallish creature, who looks to be maybe two or three. The one note single wail issues from her mouth like a siren or some warning device. Both parents are eating but as far as I can tell neither are speaking to one another. He’s a burly looking redneck with a seriously angry look on his face. I’m wearing sunglasses to avoid eye contact with anyone, and I’m happy Burly doesn’t see me watching his family, if you can call it that. The woman is a chubby red-faced woman who looks like she’s trying to do anything other than notice her kid, or her husband, and the three of them seem to be in separate worlds. The kid wails. Please, one of you, either of you, do something, please.
Maybe the wail is their way of affecting a universe where they matter not at all. Maybe this child they have brought forward is there expression of selfness, the only way they can go out into the world and make any sort of impact at all. The child wails. Burly and Chubby stuff their faces. It’s a buffet and so one or the other, I didn’t see which, brought a plateful of food and dropped it in front of the Wailer, and then they tuned her out. The child stands in the chair and neither stops to get her a booster seat. The child wails. Neither Burly or Chubby seems to care as they leave Wailer alone while they refill their plates, and they attack the buffet as if this might be their last meal. Both return to the table with loads of food, and both ignore the little girl. The child wails.
A scan of the restaurant reveals a dozen people tried of Wailer. There’s a couple with a kid about the same age, and that kid is intently interested in what Wailer is wailing about. These parents demand their child focus on the meal, as much as they can. Another couple takes turns staring at Wailer’s parents. The child wails. Three men in work clothes are silent, not speaking at all, and their hunched shoulders say they are tired of the noise. A table full of Latinos speak in Spanish and glance at Wailer. Please, for all that is holy in the Universe, do something with that damn kid.

The Asian women who work the restaurant aren’t going to say anything to the locals about Wailer and you cannot blame them. The manager is a small man who works hard at not hearing anything. The child wails. All in all, the better part of fourteen or fifteen people are in a small, enclosed space listening to a child who has, if nothing else, a great set of lungs. I have a stop watch on my cell phone and I wonder how long this can go on. How long can this child stand there and cry?
The attack is so sudden, so vicious, so totally unexpected after all this time none of us can do more than do what we had been doing. Burly slaps the little girl so hard it knocks her off the chair, and onto the floor. “Goddammit!” he yells at her. “Shut up!” Her breath is cut off mid-wail, and the silence is terribly loud. One of the Latinos says something in Spanish, but other than that, we can hear Wailer’s ragged breath. She sits on the floor silently, waiting for some sign it’s over, or that it is not. Chubby pushes more food into her mouth, and chews slowly. The man with the child is turned around in his seat, and if he gets up I’m going too. His wife has a hand on his arm, and for a second, this man and I look at one another and we’re both ashamed we don’t get up. His wife leans over and I can see it in his face. She gets up and goes to the bathroom. Everyone else is just sitting there. Chubby keeps stuffing her face. Burly stares at the little girl, if daring her to exist. Wailer waits. Time stands still and a room full of cowards hope, as we always do. Wailer waits.
Two cops come in and they aren’t looking for a menu. One of the cops is a short stocky woman who looks like she’s just developed a seriously bad attitude. The woman who called the cops from the bathroom stands up, points at Burly, and says, “He hit that little girl.” The male cop asks Burly to step outside and he protests until the cop pulls the cuffs out.
The female cop gets names and phone numbers from most of us, those of us who finally want to speak out, if it comes to it. Burly is kept outside, in cuffs, and I have to walk past him on my way out. I stop and look at this person, he looks at me, and he says, “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing.”

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mutt Stuff

The puppy Lucas has discovered there is a limit to what us elderly packmates will tolerate, and even then he’s pushed the boundaries. He’s developed the bad habit of collision, either out of pure fun or the lack of understanding of physics, and I’ve had to disabuse him of the notion it’s repeatedly healthy. I swung around with a foot and clipped his legs out from under him yesterday, and he did the nose dig into the hard packed earth of the path to the woods. It hurt his feelings but he’s pushing fifty pounds now and I cannot have an animal with that much mass trying to knock me down. Bert pinned him shortly after that and chewed some holes in Luke’s right ear, and I had to break that one up. Bert’s normally shiny coat looks somewhat moth eaten from puppy bites. Thank the ghost of Rin Tin Tin there are three of us against the might of the puppy force!

Sam has discovered some scent of some animal, or he’s discovered the massive Oak in the very Southern part of the back acre is a great place to be preoccupied, and he seems to have made it his life’s work to dig the creature, if there be one, out off the Oak. There isn’t anything I can discern in the tree, or in the small hollow of the tree, and this isn’t the first time the mutts have become fascinated with the Oak. I do not have Sam’s nose, or his ears, or his problems, so if this is his hobby so be it. Sam spends much more time with Lucas than either Bert or myself, so I see his need to get away from it all on occasion. The downside to all of this is Sam may actually find, and kill some critter holed up in the Oak. Sam is narrow of focus and single of mind when it comes to killing. When that thing inside of Sam clicks, only sheer brute force can sway him. It is exceedingly difficult for me to reconcile the gentle and loving Sam I know with the canine he becomes when he’s hunting. Dog owners should not forget they are in the presence of beings who are totally capable of bringing down much larger prey animals than the size of the dog might suggest. Having two, three, or more dogs and there is the ever present possibility they’ll use their instinct is a manner that will take your breath away, and scare you in a manner you were not aware of all safe in the company of the toy animals you were with just a few moments ago. I’ve seen Bert and Sam team up against armadillos and the way they use Sam’s speed, Bert’s agility, and the terrain against other animals makes me acutely aware I’ve got no chance to survive a coordinated attack from two canines this size.
Sam, who is mostly Greyhound, is still much faster than Lucas, and Luke is becoming a disciple of that speed. Mostly Luke wastes his acceleration with a bouncy puppy run that is more of a happy trot than a method of getting somewhere fast. But for each ball thrown that Sam gets and Lucas is left behind, I can tell Luke learns a little more about why he’s losing the footrace. Sam is built for incendiary speed, power take off running, and sheer energy consuming distance eating there isn’t much hope of escape running. Jet black without the burden of any head markings, Sam comes out of the bush at speeds that gives the object of attention tenths of seconds to decide what to do, and hundredths of seconds to do it.
If Sam is a surgeon, fast, efficient, and focused, Bert is a brawler. Bert goes into combat large and loud. More compact and more stocky than Sam, Bert is certain of his mass, and sure of his ability to use sheer brute force to take down prey. Sam fights silently while Bert snarls and growls. Sam takes off in a puff of dust, and Bert takes off with this odd half cough half growl from deep within. Where Lucas will fit in as the only son of these two fathers is anyone’s guess, but I suspect his talents will be revealed. Lucas hasn’t killed anything yet. There isn’t any way I can prevent it from happening, though.
The one thing I am certain of in all this might be Lucas’ need to be loved. He wants to be held and petted, much like Sam, and he wants to have some individual attention, much like Bert loves to have. Nothing is futile nothing is lost, nothing is worthy of despair, as long as you can feel love. Any endeavor, no matter at what great lengths you have to go to, is too fat, or too hard, or too much, as long as there is love. Whatever mistakes I make with the puppy Lucas, he will feel loved, always.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Death Is Inconvenient

The phone rings and you have to stop what you’re doing, and if you were wearing your glasses you’d know who it was, but it doesn’t matter, not really, because you’d answer it anyway, out of habit, and the voice is familiar enough. You couldn’t write it out, this ritualistic greeting, but you play your part, and she plays her part, and then you find out an old friend is dead, but that’s not news because he smoked all these years, and cancer finally got him. You meant to go see him in the hospital but there was the water leak in the bathroom, and supper is always at six yet she doesn’t try to make you feel bad about it. This isn’t the first time she’s had this conversation today. Visitation is almost a cop-out because you know if you get dressed up and go then you don’t have to make it to the funeral, and so you take your suit to the cleaners, and you see the other suits there, dusty, but not as nearly as dusty and they were a decade ago, and not nearly as many either. You take a pan of potato salad from the deli to visitation and put it on the table with the rest of the food, and you try not to look at the clock. The widow is a woman who looked good in High School, but now she looks like an old woman who just lost her husband, and gained a table full of food in exchange. Weren’t you two friends in High School someone will ask, and it’s true you were friends in High School, but he shorted you on a lumber deal, years after, when you gave him two hundred dollars to buy some lumber for the house you were building, and he was helping you build the house, and it was a bonding thing, but later, in the middle of everything that goes on in building a house, the man at the hardware store tells you the wood was on sale that day, and your friend pocketed the difference, and never told you. He took the money and laid out of work the next Friday, you remember he called and said he was sick,and now you know he was out drinking your money away, so that ended it. But now you remember that day in the 9th grade when the two of you snuck off to smoke cigarettes in the graveyard, the same graveyard he’s heading for, and you too, likely in your time, and you remember the beer you stole from the store and the two of you shared it with two young girls who let you pretend to be much older without laughing at you. You remember the quietness of fishing, and the silent fire of time devouring the two of you when you ignored one another as you sat in the same little restaurant for years on end. You try not to look at the clock, and everyone else tries not to look at the clock, but the Packers are playing tonight and supper is always at six.

This is NOT a Chew Toy!



I just took this away from the puppy Lucas. Yes, he's okay.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Death At Dawn

Today I took off for massive yard projects so the Gods of Yardwork degreed it would begin rain at dawn. They were merciful, and waited until both the mutts and myself had finished watering the tree before the heavens opened up. I thought about getting back into bed and sleeping some more, but Yoga begins at 8:20 and I feel slightly queasy if I don’t eat two hours before the class.
It’s a thirty minute drive in Valdosta, if you drive as slow as I do, but I leave fifty minutes before class. The rain started, stopped, and then just kinda sorta rained. This is the worse sort of weather to drive in because the roads are just wet enough for there to be a mix of rain water and whatever oily stuff that’s on the road to combine into an emulsion. The rain will wash it off, if it rains hard enough, or long enough, but it hasn’t this morning. When the cop car passes me on the way to Troupville Highway I figured it was a wreck, and I figured someone was going too fast. Troupville Highway is a cut over road between US333/GA 76 to GA133, and 133 will take me around most of the traffic into Valdosta.
What bothers me is the number of people who will not pull over for an ambulance. I pull into a driveway to get out of the way, but I watch as several cars simply ignore the lights and sirens. Another Sherriff’s car passes and I’m pretty sure it’s bad. It’s too late not to go down Troupville, but I hope the wreck is one a side road. It isn’t.

It looks a lot like the car went around a curve far too fast and couldn’t recover. They went off the opposite side of the road, tried to pull it back, overcorrected and began the rollovers. It was several hundred feet between the first skid marks and the car, so I’m guessing they were flying. Troupville is a back road, and designed for traffic at fifty-five. What causes the powers that be to designate a road’s speed limit has a lot to do with the degree of each curve, and this curve cannot be taken at high speeds. Now someone is dead, maybe more than one person, and all because they could not outrun the demon of hurry.

Back when US84 was flooded between Brooks and Lowndes County there was no way for people to get from the west to the east, and back, except via Troupville Highway. It was pure madness then, and it’s amazing we didn’t have more carnage like this. Yoga wasn’t the same this morning because if I had left just a few minutes earlier I might have been involved in the wreck, or seen it.

Gotta slow down people. It’s killin ya.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spinning Into Infinity.

I went to the Y today and worked out hard and long. I needed the sweat, and the woman who teaches the spinning class is a cross between a pretty little flower child hippie and a Nazi Death Camp Torturer. She pathologically cheerful and she brightens any room she enters. She’s always happy, smiling, and did I mention she is always so cheerful? Sometimes she really very cheerful and there are the other times when she totally cheerful.
I’ve taken Pilates classes with her that left people lying on the floor moaning in pain. I took a Yoga class with this woman that caused the joints in my body to pop so loud people across the room could hear them. So today was the infamous Spinning Class, which is like a stationary bike class, but they teach it in a closet. Yes, a closet. They had the bikes set up in the corner of the gym at one time, but for reasons which escape me, they took the smallest broom closet they had, and put the better part of a dozen stationary bikes in it.
As a guy taking what is mostly chick classes I feel obligated to pretend I know everything there is to know about all things mechanical, when the reality of the situation is I’m as mechanically reclined as anyone alive. Seriously, my talent with screwdrivers always involves vodka and orange juice. Friday I took the spinning class and the pregnant instructor was taking it too. This is the woman who was six month preggers and teaching step class. We all thought it was going to be easy because she was showing but it was brutal. That’s one thing I can say about the Y here; they hire some of the most dedicated and hardworking instructors ever released from their duties as interrogators from CIA terror prisons. Anyway, we’re about two minutes into the class Friday when I hit a serious bump in the road, but I’m on a stationary bike. It sounded like a gunshot in that damn closet. Turns out I hadn’t tightened my seat down so when it fell… The Pregnant woman was a little startled but she didn’t deliver. I swear to you that daughter of hers is going to be born doing gymnastics.
Anyway, back to today, where the neat little smiling and cheerful, did I mention this woman is cheerful, hippie chick, cranks up the tunes, and we begin an hour of what has to be considered premeditated attempted slow homicide. For those of you who have never taken a spinning class the stationary bikes have a knob that raises the level of resistance of your pedaling. You can breeze through the lower levels, or you can crank it up and it seems like you’re biking Everest into the wind. The Cheerful Keeper of the iPod has us cranking it up, and then she’s got us standing up, sitting down, up, down, up, down, up, down, and all the while the woman never stops smiling and being cheerful.

Did I mention this woman is as cheerful as the Spinning Class is long?

But really, let’s look at this thing for a moment. What exactly does anyone join a gym for if not to get pushed, and pushed hard? What are you paying for if not a great work out? You want to step out of a class saying to the person next to you, “Gee, that was easy! I guess I’m in great shape after all!” No, if you’re trying to get in shape you have to find someone to challenge you. You have to find someone that will put you to the test, and put your body through something you cannot do on your own. (or why else would you be there?) By the end of the class my legs feel like they’re made of rubber. I’m sweating quarts of water out. I feel drained, but at the same time I feel that workout buzz you get when your body has been pushed hard. The instructor is a happy woman, and she’s happy with how hard we pushed, too. She’s urges us to come to her next class, which is at 5:30 tomorrow morning, but that seems to elate her. This is a woman who can take great pride in her work, and her work ethic. She’s pushed a closet full of people to their limits, and she’s done it with a bright and beautiful smile on her face.

Did I mention…nevermind, I did.

Take Care,
Mike

Conversations with Lucas

Lucas: Dad, my mouf hurts.
Me: Lucas, you cannot run through the gate at top speed with a limb in your mouth that’s longer than the opening is wide.
Lucas: But it fit into my mouf, Dad.
Me: Just because it fits into your mouth doesn’t mean you can run with it. Carry a shorter stick next time, Little Luke.
Luke: Dad, can I get up on the bed with you?
Me: Sure! Come on up!
Luke: Puppy kisses for Dad! Puppy Kisses for Dad!
Me: Pettings on a dog’s head!


Later…
Lucas: Dad, there’s something wrong with Sam, isn’t there?
Me: Yeah, yeah there is, it isn’t you.
Lucas (looking towards the door) I love my big brother, but he scares me sometimes.
Me: (petting Lucas on a dog’s head) It’s okay, Lucas. It’s going to be okay with Sam, I promise.
Lucas: He knows you don’t trust him anymore.
Me:
Lucas: Dad, is Sam going to hurt me?
Me: No. I won’t let Sam hurt you.
Lucas: Sam is sad now , Dad, but he’s always sad, isn’t he?
Me: Yeah, Sam has always been very happy, but at the same time he’s hurt.
Lucas: Why, Dad, who hurt Sam?
Me: People hurt Sam before Bert and I found him.
Lucas: Why Dad?
Me: I don’t know.
Lucas: Oh Dad, what did they do to Sam?
Me: They didn’t give him any food, and they left him on the road to die.
Lucas: That’s what they did to me, isn’t it?
Me:
Lucas: (quietly) Dad, am I going to be like Sam one day?
Me: No Lucas, no, you weren’t hurt as bad, or for as long, and I know more about how to fix the problems that come with this sort of thing.
Lucas: Dad, you have to learn to trust Sam again. It hurts him that you don’t.
Me: We’ll work it out, Luke, I love Sam.
Lucas: I have puppy eyes and ears of exceeding cuteness. Pet me on a dog’s head.
Me: Pettings for the Loki-mutt!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Walking Couple Who Revels I'm Sexist

I saw them right in front of one of those supersized hardware stores, a big chain thing I won’t name, and I make the assumption that’s where they were going, and I also assumed they had walked from the college that is only a mile or so away. She’s cute, and I realize that’s totally subjective, and I wonder if I would have noticed the two walking along side of the road if she hadn’t fallen within the parameters of who I consider cute. She’s also carrying a slightly oversized purse, with the strap running between her breasts, and because she has fallen within the parameters of who I consider cute, her breasts remind me of the comic strip I once saw where a man is blaming his rear ending another car on crime because young women are wearing their purses with the straps between their breasts instead of on their arms where a purse snatcher might grab it.
I’m at work though, and have to ride out to a project, and I almost forget about the young woman walking with the young man, oh, I forgot to mention him, didn’t I? He’s just part of the background because she has fallen within the parameters of who I consider cute. Anyway, I think they’re walking to the big chain store because it’s green to walk, and they’re looking for shelving or something for a new apartment. I do this because of the woman who, many years ago, fell dead the middle of the parameters of who I consider cute while I simply almost fell.. She and her young boyfriend moved in downstairs from me and late one night I nearly killed myself by missing the last step on the stairway because she was in her kitchen, nude, and carrying a candle. I almost pitched headlong into the darkness, and she didn’t see me or hear me, and when I recovered I fearfully looked again as she stood in front of the cabinet, just a few feet away, flawlessly young and flawlessly beautiful in the candle light, totally unaware of me, or her beauty, and as she disappeared back into the apartment I stood there and remembered to breathe.
It’s a couple of hours before I pull into the gas station a few miles away from the big chain store and that’s when I see them again, and I realize they’re walking, not shopping or being green. The young woman’s beauty is destroyed because she’s smoking, and her boyfriend is looking around the parking lot, searching for someone who might look like they would give them a ride. He had short blonde hair, cut in a buzz, with no hat, and he’s smoking too, and I remember being broke, and smoking, because smoking costs less than food and lasts much longer. Flawed her beauty is now, but I still wonder why she’s with him, if he doesn’t have a car, then I realize I expect him to have the ride for her, and that’s sexist. Why shouldn’t see be responsible for transportation as much as he? Then I realize just noticing her at all for the reasons I do is sexist too. If she fell well outside the parameters of who I thought was cute would I still be having this conversation with you?
I go back to the office and I wonder where they’re headed, and I decided, you know what? I’m going to go back and offer them a ride, even if it is on hours, and even if it is the work truck. I want to know where they’re going, and if she’s in love with him, and maybe he’s a writer or something, but they smoke, and that makes me not want to do it. What the hell, I say again, and I get back into the truck and go back to the gas station but they’re gone.
Take Care,
Mike