Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer of 2012

The last time it rained nearly every single day was back in… damn, I can’t remember it raining nearly every day before. It’s not like the rain is coming down in buckets or even enough to fill the pond, but it is coming and if nothing else I’m not having to water the tomatoes. I’m not watering the grass either, but mowing it has become a hobby all of a sudden. The one year I decide to push the weeds and the vines back into the woods is the year the rain get stuck in the “on” position and doesn’t stop.

Summer in South Georgia has been known to last until October and sometimes until a few days after Christmas.  It would seem the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September ought to be a month unto themselves. They seem to blend into one another seamlessly and  any hope of relief from triple digit heat doesn’t isn’t on the menu really. Do not look for Summer to end until the last part of September for those of you who are truly optimistic and the pessimist buys a new ceiling fan right before Thanksgiving.  This isn’t anything new at all. If climate change makes South Georgia hotter it isn’t like we haven’t seen it before.

But the rain is something a little new. Back in the late 90’s all my grass died and I didn’t crank the mower up at all one Summer.  The mosquitoes are really bad this year and going outside means wearing pure DEET or a tourniquet .  The mosquitoes are as bad as they have ever been and there are those who claim they will get worse if the world warms up.  That is one truly sobering thought. We’re going to start losing horses to mosquitoes if this keeps up and as I pointed out, we might be three or four months away from cooler weather.

Yet even in the heat nature balances out; there are more lizards this year and more dragonflies. For all their hell and torture, mosquitoes are quite yummy to about a thousand different species. It is damn inconvenient to us to be lunch for a billion mosquitoes but at the same time we do as much damage as we can to those species whose main occupation on life is to eat the mosquitoes. We poison dragonfly larvae, destroy the habitat of barn swallows and most human beings rather pet Charles Manson than let a bat live anywhere near them. This is the first year of my adult life I have ever bought a spray with chemicals in it to kill mosquitoes and I wouldn’t have done than but there is someone here whose blood is dear.
And the heat rocks on. This morning after a couple of hours of trying to tame the vines I was worn out. The humidity climbed up faster than the temperature and by ten in the morning it felt like someone has lit a bonfire in a sauna. There isn’t any way to combat this and still do yardwork. Swear was pouring off my body but it wasn’t going anywhere at all.  There was as much moisture in the air as I was wearing so the sweat wasn’t cooling me off. The sweat turned sticky so it was like wearing warm dishwater that wasn’t lemon freshened with borax.  The human body cannot take but so much heat and I had reached mine after a couple of hours and a few miles of vines. Working outside past midday is a great way to get used to the heat provided it doesn’t kill you outright.

I did that a month ago, you know. I got out with an axe and flailed away at some Oak wood and did quite well if you count lying on the floor panting as doing well. The dogs lie on the floor and pant and they’re cute so does that work for me, too? I don’t think beauty is always in the eye of the beholder but when a man strips down and lies on the floor with a bottle of water on his head it is never pretty, you know. If the bottle of water is placed anywhere else then you start to lose an audience in readership who never wants that image in their minds, ever. What is imagined can never be unimagined.

Two months and two days have to go by before October gets here. There is nothing at all to be done for it except ride all of this out. August has a reputation for being hellish and it is earned. Things burn in August and storms are spawned in August and the Summer never ends in August. This is a month where things that are already going terribly wrong go horribly worse. This is the month where a region gripped in heat discovers there is still some room at the top of the thermometer. This is when we discover that proximity to the end of the calendar Summer means nothing at all to August or September or… you get the picture don’t you?

Have you ever noticed I always capitalize the word “Summer”?  My spell check tells me I am not supposed to do this but I know more words than my spell check.  You should, too, by the way. If there is a day of your life that passes without you teaching your computer a new word you aren’t writing nearly enough or you are writing far too much, but I digress. Summer is the capitalized Gods of Seasons down here in The South. Here we have four seasons just like everyone else but we have hunting season, Christmas, NASCAR and Summer.  For the record I do not hunt, watch cars go in circles, or shop.

You have to admire a time of year that can and will kill you. Summer can and if you let it then it will kill you. But there are the rains and there are tomatoes and there are reasons to survive it all.

Take Care,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Miss Hotness

One of the true oddities of living in a small town is watching strangers grow up or grow old. Eleven years ago she was a sixteen or seventeen year old girl with an attitude problem and a cute body. I had only lived here a couple of months before I learned to avoid her line when she was running a cash register because she was easily distracted and she was slow. One time she stopped work to look at another customer’s baby photos and I said something to her about it. Terse words were exchanged and I stopped going to that store, the only grocery store in town, for a couple of months.
It was an odd thing seeing her pregnant, first because very young women who are pregnant always look a little out of place, and two, she seemed genuinely freaked out about it. Young, pregnant, and in a small South Georgian town means a woman has topped out as far as a career goes. Less than a year later she was pregnant again, but this time she had already begun to look less like a girl and more like a working drudge. The attitude went the way of the skinny jeans and low cut tops. Bad nutrition and minimum wage combined to ravage a body already burdened by childbirth. From someone who wore a “Miss Hotness” tee shirt to work to someone who wore stains from a burping baby, this girl found that space in time is a very short one.
Miss Hotness brought the babies to work to show them off, as well she should have, too. Babies are adorable no matter the economics, but like cute puppies or cute kittens they grow up. I’ve watched these kids go from infants being held to toddlers being underfoot to full grown kids who seem to shuffle around like diminutive zombies.

The son, who is the oldest, seems to devoid of expression most of the time. The last time I saw him he meandered into the store and stood behind his mother, speaking to her without any regard whatsoever to the customers. She had to stop long enough to shoo him away, but he stood a couple of feet away, waiting… I’ve never seen this kid dressed in anything but rags. I know they’re poor but to feign homelessness isn’t a fashion statement. His sister, the younger sibling, and she dresses better, but then again that isn’t a very high bar. At seven or eight she’s a full blown prosti-tot, wearing skin tight clothing and pierced earrings that are the size of golf balls. She’s a clone of her mother, with the same face and eyes, and it’s hard to believe she might have a child of her own in a few years. Neither kid has ever spoken to me or acknowledged my existence or the existence of any other customer as far as I can tell. We’re all just background noise to those children. We are there but not there. We’re not of their world at all and we get in the way of whatever they are trying to get done, slowly as they’re doing it.

I have these thoughts as I am leaving the store, with the dressed down son and the dressed up daughter standing idly behind their mother, who is trying to do the same job she had when they were conceived. I have no idea why they are there, but I have seen them walking down the road, a tiresome threesome, each walking more slowly than the next, going nowhere at all with no haste, and why should they? This is not their world. Theirs is a world of long lines and little hope, of big dreams and little rest, and of a certain past and a dead end future.

Tsk! Tsk! I say, and I wonder why they never noticed there are much more successful people right in front of them, and those people are moving at a pace that…

It does occur to me at that point I have seen these three, together or alone, walking down the road, and not once have I ever offered any of them a ride. I’ve known this woman for over a decade and I don’t know her last name. I don’t know the names of the kids. I’m as oblivious to their lives as they are to mine. They must see me as someone who whizzes by without any regard to how hot, or how cold, or how hungry they might be. They must view the world of steady income and working transportation with more than a little envy as well as some sort of question as to how this is done and what sort of people do it. Is the price paid for this a disregard to those in need?

I have never considered this before.

It’s not that I have a commission to step in and offer these people anything at all, but at the same time, if I am to sit here and wonder aloud why they are stuck in their plight might it now be asked of me what I have done to make things better?

There was this time a couple of years ago I watched Miss Hotness scanning items over the register, adding some items, subtracting others, and what she was doing was trying to get the total amount close to what she had. But what she was guying was pure junk; high sugar cereal, candy, sugar laced fruit drinks, and not a single thing was worth eating. I remember nearly asking her to toss that stuff aside and I would buy her family some veggies and something with some nutritional value to it. But I wondered if she would have any idea what the hell I was doing or why?

Did I?

Will I stay here long enough to see a third generation of young girls wearing tight clothes make it all the way to their Freshman years in High School before becoming drop out minimum wage mom? Will I do anything to stop this?

 Can I?

Take Care,

Things That Go Boom In THe Night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won

The plan is a simple plan and the execution of the plan depends on how hot it gets and how exhausted I get, which are related. The limb that fell has to be removed before I can mow, and I have to mow because it’s rained so much. I spent yesterday cutting the rest of the limb up, with an axe, and quite frankly I’m pretty damn impressed with my axemanship. I have a chainsaw, and it would have been so much easier with a chainsaw, but I mistrust those devices. I just felt like tackling a very large limb with an axe in ninety degree heat.

I came home from work last week and knocked out the base of the limb in two or three foot sections, making one cut one day, and three the next. So Friday I had what was left and a lot of bushy stuff. This was a fairly massive limb, mind you, and it took three pick-up truck loads to haul it out of the yard and into the burn pile but that was where it was at the end of the day Friday.

Saturday morning found me still wearing some exhaustion and I thought about waiting until tomorrow, but the way I have it set up is to be done early in the day Saturday and take Sunday off to rest and to write and to train Lilith to be a good dog, not that I have far to go with her.

The limb fell on July the Fourth.  That was ten days ago but that means the wood is going to be a bit green for a good fire. Yet if I do not burn this weekend I’ll have to burn next weekend and I want next weekend free. Just leaving this sort of pile might draw uninvited guests because all of my yardwork has been reducing the amount of habitat close to the house. The fire sputters, catches, and begins to breathe on its own. Okay, time to mow.

There is a certain amount of Zen to pushing a mower around the yard. The pattern I use is never exactly the same.  Today I start at the shed, mow towards the backdoor, mow around that area, then go through the gate to the front yard, and head north to the fence line. I plan to do the front yard first and I remember the time a mower died with a minute and a half worth of mowing left. Life is a lot like mowing; no matter how hard it is you have less left when you started once you get going, and no matter how bored you are during the process you’re heading towards the end with each step. I go back and forth for a while then around and around for a while, and the amount of area to be mowed decreases.

I’m not one of those people who picks up every little twig when I mow. My theory is a very simple one; mow over it often enough and it will eventually be small enough. I did try to pick up the debris left over from chopping. There are good sized chunks of wood knocked out by my axe and this is how it is supposed to look when it’s done right. But I cannot mow over such as this so I have to flip them over the fence and into the woods.

The triangle across the path gets done. The back and forth part in the front gets done. The scraggly stuff on the east side gets done. Suddenly I’m done with the front but the back is much bigger. Back through the gate, down to the shed again, and I quit to check on the fire, which is doing decently enough. I am tried. The thought of shutting down and finishing tomorrow occurs to me but the fire is going to keep me occupied anyway so I may as well keep going.

The back yard has far too much shade to ever be a lawn. There are more weeks, more weirdness, less grass, but if I don’t mow it there’ll be clumps of weeds and stuff and you know what hides in places like that. I live closer to Florida than I do Georgia so I have a lot of sand in my yard which turns into dust when it is dry. It doesn’t take long for me to look like Pigpen from Peanuts.

At ten I’m close to being done but I can feel the heat now. I can also feel the drag of yesterday seeping into my bones. Working in heat carries over from one day to the next, and if someone from South Georgia can say that the first cool spell in October isn’t welcome they’re lying. But this is still July, August hasn’t been set yet, and I have an hour of mowing to go. The fatigue will have to wait a while still.

No matter what task is at hand keeping at it will end it. Mowing with a push mower is walking and there is a certain amount of walking that will equal the end.  I’ve divided the yard into two sections and one section, the bigger one, is done. The other section is smaller but the tiredness asks me to finish it tomorrow when it is cooler. I keep walking. Every step is a step closer to being finished and each blade of grass and weed that gets a haircut won’t need another for at least a week, or maybe even ten days. These are high grass days, this is mowing season at its worse, and with rain I will have to do this once a week.

I’m done. I shut the mower down and break down the air filer to clean it. It is caked with dust and if I do not clean the air filter after each use the mower will actually stop running. I put it back together and wash my hands. The dogs, who have dealt with the biblical plague of mosquitoes while I mowed, want to go in, too.

The fire is dying down and it is time to stop working for a while now.

Take Care,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lilith and the Bikers

It is not only a man yelling at me, but a large man. He’s twice my size, half my age, looks like he’s more than half gorilla, and he’s walking towards me carrying a motorcycle helmet. Dammit! Did I just cut him off in traffic? No, I have Lilith with me, I’ve been driving very carefully as to not jostle her or scare her. Why is this person, if there is one under the beard and long hair and leather yelling at me, and walking towards me?  I have a cell phone and if I call 911 will they get here in time? What if he hurts Lilith? I just stepped out of the truck to pick up a pizza I ordered. The engine is running. All I have to do is take two steps and…

“Don’t you leave that dog in that truck!” the man shouts and suddenly I realize what he’s saying. He can’t tell the truck is running. He thinks I’ve left Lilith, who is standing up and looking out of the window at all of this, in the truck with the windows up. But my Dog that was fast.

“It’s still running.” I tell him.

“Oh” the man stops and looks back. There’s a woman on his bike. She’s staring at me, past me, at Lilith, and now I understand.

“No, really, come look.” I tell him. “The AC is on and everything. Lilith is perfectly fine.”  But he’s close enough to tell now, and can see the truck is running. He looks back at the woman again. She’s off the bike and walking towards us.  He’s rough looking and she’s not much better. Hell, I think she could take me in a fight when it gets right down to it.

I open the door and Lilith wags her tail at the man. He gets down on one knee and it’s like a religious transformation. Baby girl dog! PUPPY! Lilith has melted hearts all day long and she’s hitting her stride with the cute.  The woman comes up and he backs away to let her see Lilith. Again there is the advent of the adorable.  There’s a tattoo on the woman’s bicep of a pit bull face with the name, “Rocky” under it in red. It’s not a great tattoo but Rocky looks like he’s smiling.

“Pete” the man says sticking out his hand.
“Mike” I tell him and we shake hands while the woman pets Lilith.
“We thought you were leaving her.” Pete tells me. “Terry saw your puppy when you pulled in and we thought… I’m sorry about this, man.”  Pete is a mountain of a man. He looks like he could tear one of my arms off and beat me to death with it. But he also looks embarrassed to death right now.
“Where’d ya get her?” Terry asks but she doesn’t look up. She and Lilith have bonded.
“Rescue group.” And I tell her the story of Lilith and how she came to be. “Who was Rocky?”

Rocky was their first dog together. He was a bull dog puppy they found on the road and carried three hundred miles from Daytona back to Dothan Alabama. (Hey! I know Dothan!) Rocky rode sitting up between them and seemed to love it but they didn’t make it a habit of riding with him.  Rocky went down one day just short of his thirteenth rescue day anniversary.  They threw him a birthday party on that day every year and had already bought stuff when Rocky got sick, and then got sicker.  I nod. I tell them I just lost Bert. Terry hugs me hard and for the first time in my adult life I nearly cry in front of strangers.

So here we have two people I wouldn’t have thought to make friends with and would have never guessed they rescued a dog. I mean, why would they, right, just because they’re typical looking biker people that doesn’t mean they don’t like dogs, does it? I never thought about it. I just always saw stringy hair and bikes and never thought there was a mountain of a man whose heart is still broken because he  and his woman  lost a dog they had found thirteen year ago last year. The woman smokes and had homemade arm tattoos but the one of Rocky was done in a real tattoo place and suddenly, Rocky is smiling. He was a red pit bull but the color in the tattoo was too brown, Terry said, but the face was right so she didn’t have him recolor it. Somewhere under that hard life this woman has lead, and it does show, beats a heart of gold. They decided to put Rocky down the day before his party because they couldn’t stand to see him suffer for that.

They haven’t been able to get another dog yet but they will. Terry likes the idea of rescue groups and I can tell that’s where the next one will arrive from if they do not find a stray. I tell them they will know when it’s right because I did and I didn’t think I could invest so soon after losing Bert but I had to. A part of my heart belongs to dogs. They need me. I need them.  My life isn’t the same with a dog missing from it and I know it. Lucas proved to me I could attach to another dog, even before Bert was gone. I do love Sam but he has been sandwiched in between two of the better dogs I have known in my life. Now Lilith is here and she is also special in her own way already.

I follow them down US 84 because they are heading that way, and Terry’s long hair seems to mingle with Pete’s as they navigate the road. They wave when I turn off, head South, and towards home. Lilith looks at them as they disappear and I think she knows who they are better than I.

Take Care,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Say Anything.

A friend of mine spiraled out of control, consumed by alcohol and lust, and he lost his wife and a seven year old daughter. The odd thing in this tale was it was nearly ended some twenty years earlier, when we were all much younger and we drank because we were immortal, or at least immoral. Ken married a blonde woman and we started calling her “Barbie” and she hated us, me in particular.  I covered for Ken when he was with another woman and I think Barbie knew it or at least suspected it.  That was in 1989.
It was 2004 when Ken and I reconnected. Barbie was less apt to shout at me for showing up at their doorstep. The two blonde daughters they had in the late eighties and early nineties were now young adults who knew nothing of the life their father ( and I) once lived. But there was another blonde daughter only seven years old and she was her mother incarnate. I remembered Barbie when she was much younger, and her daughters all had that same look about them, beautiful but worried.

Ken had changed. He was a Family Man now. Barbie was sure of it, so  she allowed me back into their lives. I sat on the floor and watched Disney movies with the seven year old and I marveled at the old movies still had lost none of their magic when it came to children.

A month went by and at that point Ken and I were getting close. He would invite me over to watch football or drop by to help out with the yard, or simply hang out and drink a couple, but only a couple of beers with me, declaring he had to drive, or he had to get home, and I believed all of this.

At two in the morning Ken parked his truck in my yard and I went to see what was happening. There was a young blonde with him, not Barbie, and he rudely told me “Just go back inside” and that is what I did. I didn’t care why he was there. I didn’t care who she was. All I knew is that once upon a time I was complicit.  I was not going to be again. I picked up my mobile phone, called Barbie, and told her to tell her husband to come home, then walked outside and told Ken, “Your wife wants to speak to you” and handed him the phone.

Who knew what Ken was doing? Way back then I thought everyone knew but Barbie, and I might have been more right than I knew. That’s how this works. The people who commit such crimes at first befriend those who they know they will need and then they drag them slowly into being accomplices.  Ken had fed me, bought me beer, took me into his home, bought snacks, left beer at my house, so why wouldn’t I just let him park in my yard?

Let’s up the ante, shall we?

Jerry Sandusky was working for a University that was legendary. Penn State was just short of Valhalla. Sandusky, I suspect, was a monster long before he arrived at Penn State. Like Ken, he cultivated friends, took in supporters, and slowly drew in those who trusted him and turned them into lookouts for child rape.

I have been in the front row to this sort of behavior, with popcorn. I have seen a predator set the table, invite the guests, bring out the food, serve dessert, and then murder trust in the name of friendship.  Most people sitting there watching will buy into it, at some level, and once they do they are hooked.

You think Dotti Sandusky knew nothing at all? Her husband would go down into the basement to “tuck them in” and then return to her bed. That woman was the wife of one of the College Football Gods In Waiting. She had money. She had social status beyond her dreams. People knelt to touch the hem of her garment. And the first time she looked away she became as guilty as the man she shared a bed with.  I suspect the second time was easier, and perhaps he left some beer with her. Does that sound familiar? Reward lavishly those you wish to drag down under your rock and perhaps they won’t look at the ceiling, huh?

You think Joe Pa didn’t know?  “I should have done more” is what he said. Done more? Perhaps he should have done something, anything at all, but there it is again. Once the first offence is allowed then there is no looking back. The Oldest of All Of The Old Gods looked away and after that…

Shame can kill. We know that now. A man who devoted his life to one institution and became more than he could have ever dreamed was brought down by complicity in a nightmare. At the end of his life, Joe Pa looked backed and realized it was gone, all gone, and there was no getting it back. The children he had sacrificed in the name of winning football games were slaughtered emotionally for naught.  The rape scene in the shower was read aloud by millions of radio stations and everyone knew, everyone knew, that Joe didn’t lift a finger to stop it.

Ken left Barbie for someone he met in a bar, married that one, left her for someone else, married her, and then wound up without anything.  In the space of eighteen months he was divorced three times. In this wake were those who told white lies, those who didn’t speak up, and those who knew and thought it was okay, because he was such a great guy.

If you cannot speak against the little monsters you cannot condemn the larger ones. When you look at your own life, and you see your own silence you cannot demand others have a voice. Those who prey on children know this already, and they will come to you, smiling, and they will know you will not say a word.

Take Care,