Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hack, Rake, Burn, Repeat


The fire is set before dawn but this isn’t going to be very much of a blaze.  This is land clearing, pure and simple, and I can either hack the mass of vines to death or I can burn them. There are three sizable Oaks in the middle of the island of vines and thicket. I have to be careful because there are some low hanging branches smothered with Spanish Moss. Many years ago I set fire to a branch of a dead Oak that had been laid low by moss. The moss went up in flames like it had been soaked in napalm and the flames very quickly climbed to other limbs that had moss on them, also.  The whole tree was engulfed in flames that lit up the sky and as a young teen I feared I would go to prison for the rest of my life. But I was lucky; the trees around the torched Oak were still green enough to resist the fire. Their leaves were browned somewhat but they all lived and no one ever discovered what I did.



In the dead of winter on a crisp clear night there might be little chance of a fire jumping from a dead Oak to a Live Oak, but on a day where there is triple digit heat there may well be some sort of disaster if this fire gets into the moss high above. I use a rake to get some of the moss down but the majority of it hangs onto the branch like a vast grey tick. I’ll have to be careful and hope this doesn’t end with a fire truck visiting the area.


Hack, rake, burn, repeat, and the morning begins to fade away a warm up. Most of the stuff I’m trying to get rid of is green so this is no massive fire at all. The wild grape vines which have created a canopy over the area get pulled down into the fire. The old dead limbs I’ve been tossing into this area for the last ten years burn slowly for most of them have turned into mush.  I clear enough area and rediscover the old stump of a wild cherry tree.


I remember taking that tree down the first month I was here. It had died and it looked like it might hit the house if left to its own devices. There is an art to tree dropping, and this one fell perfectly, down to the last inch, and I remember how happy I was that it fell so incredibly well.  There’s a photo somewhere of Bert standing with this two front feet on the fallen tree, as if he helped, and he’s only two years old in that photo.  Bert was good to have around when I was working in the yard. He liked being in the action but he never got in the way, once he figured out when he was. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for almost two months now.


Bert had a hammer for a voice and I miss that. I miss the fact he knew when to bark and what to bark at. He once laid it down when the oven caught on fire and Sam, poor confused Sam, went to the window and barked at nothing while Bert stayed in the kitchen trying to tell me there was a fire where it didn’t belong.  He was fearless in that way; Bert never questioned his own judgment when he came to security.  I wish I still had that photo of the puppy standing on top of the felled tree. That was my dog.



I dare not burn the stump for it might reach far into the ground. Such a fire might go to ground and not even so much as smoke until it woke up in the middle of the night and began to creep forward into the woods. I have seen that before. A friend of mine set fire to a stump and the fire followed a root out past the clear area and got wild into some planted pines. It was two days after the fire was supposed to be completely out and not a hint of smoke arose from the ashes and then suddenly there was a blaze. It took an entire day to contain the fire and nearly a hundred acres of trees were destroyed by the fire. No one could figure out where the fire had come from until they dug down and found the place where it had traveled. A fire underground can be the hardest to find, and nearly impossible to kill. The fires that plagued the great Okefenokee Swamp were fires that dug down deep into the peat moss of The Swamp and burned hot and smoky. It tunneled and nested and it did things people did not think fire could do or would do and it took a tropical storm to put it out.  I am fully aware of the danger in that stump but I would not burn it even if I could. There is a piece of my life in that stump. I was a much younger man and Bert was a puppy, and I did not foresee the day I would look at that stump and see Bert standing on a felled tree a decade hence.


The fire burns lazy and slow. It’s really three small fires and there is little danger it will escape, but as noon approaches I can feel the heat of the day building up.  It’s time to let the fire recede and return to the place where fire sleeps, always ready to spring forth and devour, unless you’ve got one match left at a cook out.  I’ve burned down to the ground, the moss scorched from the trees and the vines withered away with flame now. It is time to quit for the day and let the sun, a fire in and of itself, have the world.

Take Care,
Mike

Weather Report

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Dress


A woman’s dress with tell on her if she isn’t careful or the dress is too thin or if it’s too short, or if it is just too low. But then again, a woman’s body inside of a dress with tell on her, too, if a man is paying attention.  Who she likes and how much she likes that man can show up pretty quick if she’s built for it in any way at all, and this one is. I can tell what she’s thinking sometimes because she doesn’t like wearing a bra, and I wonder if that’s why. This is a woman who likes sex, but she doesn’t like to initiate the action overtly. She’s doesn’t like to be pressured yet she does like being pursued. Sometimes I think she likes saying no just to prove she can say it, and when she does it’s final. And there’s other times it seems she is willing to do anything I want if I just say so. But she wears that dress easy, and the dress seems to enjoy being worn the way she wears it.  
I’ve never seen her in a pair of jeans but I do like the idea of that body being slipped into denim. She isn’t too thin, isn’t too broad, isn’t too anything but short, and she is also a little sensitive about that so I never mention it aloud. I once held a beer up over her head and she kicked me hard in the knee for it. So the shortness factor never comes up in a conversation, and I never mention the fact she is dead, either. She stopped speaking to me for nearly a year the last time I mentioned it, and it was an accident I did.

Sam is her favorite, and always has been, and Lucas doesn’t understand it at all. He’s worlds more cute than Sam, and he’s larger, more energetic, and he’s the Loki Mutt. Why would anyone love Sam more? But she does and it shows. She’ll pet Lucas and speak softly to him but there is a strong attachment between her and Sam.
“Don’t go spinning them webs at me,” she told me once when I tried to analyze why she likes Sam so much. She also wears a tone of voice like no one I’ve ever met. She tries hard to keep me here, in this moment with her, and I know better than to find some sort of depth. We’re here. We’re together. Time is slipping away. Don’t ask questions unless they matter to this moment.

The dress has buttons in the back not a zipper, and when all five of them are buttoned to the top it means she’s gone to some trouble to make sure they stay that way, and I am to understand that. One undone isn’t necessarily an invitation, but three is. Anything past three and I better not let that go unnoticed for very long. But the dress itself is a soft and cotton thing, pale blue with tiny white flowers on it. I can read her mind by the way her body lives inside that dress. Her shoulders tell me how tense she is, or how willing she is to be touched, or if she isn’t interested in intimacy quite yet because Sam needs to be petted on a dog’s head. I’m having these thoughts, watching her cooing at Sam, and I wonder if I can tell as much about what a woman is thinking when she’s in a pair of jeans. I remember watching a woman walk out of a room one night, going to the kitchen to makes us another drink, if she knew I was watching, wanted me to watch, and I wondered while she was walking if the idea that I could read her mind in her jeans made her…
“You think I’m that one?” She’s grinning at me as if she can read my mind now. She laughs at me, reassures Sam she isn’t stopping the petting, pushes Lucas’ ears playfully, and then looks at me seriously. “Your singer. You think that’s me?”
“No, the voice is different, and the body, the…” I hesitate. I dreamed of a redheaded woman who sang to me. “…she wasn’t the same person.”
“Who do you think she is?” She stands up and walks to the window, only one button undone, and I wonder why she chose this moment to turn her back to me, after my daydream.
“I don’t really know who you are.”   And I don’t.
“You have an idea who you might be, Mike?” She says this softly as if she’s sorry she brought this up. “Take away that machine you write with and then what?” She returns to sit at the edge of the bed, and looks at Lucas’ neck. She rubs the scabbed part and looks up as if she is waiting for me to say something.
“I couldn’t quit writing, you know that.” So many times, like this time, I’ve felt I hadn’t said the right thing at the right time.
“That singer,” she smiles at me, comforting me the same ways she puts a hand on Sam’s head, “what did you ask of her?”
“Nothing”
“And you remember her fondly, want to see her again, want to hear her voice again, maybe learn who she is?” She kisses Sam’s head and Lucas rolls on the floor, striking the cutest of all cute puppy poses, all four legs flailing the air. She rubs his belly with a bare foot and Sam nudges her with his nose.
“You’re saying that asking something of someone is the way to stop liking them?”

“I’m saying that and more, Mike. Why don’t you do something different? Why don’t you pretend for one day of your life it is real, and let it do what it wants. You’d write, so you say, no matter what, you’d write with a stick in red clay mud, wouldn’t you, yet here is all this magic and all you do is sit and wonder.” She slips to the floor to pet Lucas and Sam whines at her and lifts his left forepaw in the air.

“Rain’s, stopped Mike.” She closes her eyes and leans her head back on the bed. “I wanted more out of tonight…”

It’s still dark outside. The coffee maker is perking at me, and the dogs have gone outside to snuffle the remains of the night, and if I close my eyes I can see the pattern of tiny white flowers in the dark of my mind.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, June 25, 2012

How To Lie To A Woman


She’s very young, no more than eighteen or nineteen, but she already knows how to work the tiny area at the coffee shop.  Smile, lean forward just a bit, hope for a tip of some sort, and back to the kitchen where she has some serious conversation going with the other waitress. They stand close together, hands touching a shoulder or a waist, but this isn’t sexual; it’s the type of intimacy between friends young women share. Men this same age aren’t as apt to touch one another, but between these two there is a shared sisterhood if nothing else, gossip.

The blonde isn’t a small woman at all. She’s a thick bodied creature but she is also graceful. She isn’t overweight just not slender. It’s a body type that will follow her all her life, and there is evidence she’s working out.  This one has real muscle tone in her quads. I haven’t seen her at the Y but it could be she’s working out elsewhere.  She’s dressed entirely in white, but her bra is a beige color.  I find myself fascinated by the idea someone so young is already using her sexuality for tips, but looking back at my own life, I knew much younger women who did the same thing.  Put a sixteen year old in a family restaurant in South Georgia and she’ll learn very fast a smile is not just a smile. Done well a smile is worth a couple of dollars more than just a smile. Show some teeth, show enough cleavage to make them look for more, and hope like hell mama isn’t watching when you lean over.  Oh yeah, I knew one who did this, and did it well.


The blonde giggles with her partner in crime but realizes she’s being inattentive. She looks back into the small area where there are half a dozen tables and looks down at her pad to see who has what and when they came in.  This is a different world than the one I knew when I was in the restaurant business.  The pad she carries in a minicomputer and it has an overview of the dining area and the orders are all done electronically.  There’s even a picture of the customer superimposed over each table and I wonder how much information it saves. Get the same customer in several times and your pad can remember the weak spots like cinnamon rolls or extra shots of espresso.  But the blonde doesn’t seem to be predatory right now; the other woman has her attention with whatever it they’re conspiring over.  The blonde checks her pad, goes forth with refills of regular coffee, leans over to see what I am writing, realizes my handwriting is indecipherable, and heads back with a flourish.


This one has a natural walk. Her hips roll in a way that suggests she hasn’t practiced walking the way some women have. There’s a degree of swing that becomes fake and it’s cumbersome to watch.  She doesn’t have the body for that exaggerated rock and I don’t know if she’s ever tried it and quit, or never thought about it at all.  I know a woman who has a back and forth motion that is nearly comical. It’s one thing to look like that in the movies but quite another when you’re at work.


Her friend is another matter altogether. She’s working the cash register and she’s more outgoing and more active.  She’s going full tilt on the flirty thing and it’s working with some of the guys who order.  I know better, but I didn’t always. There have been times in my life I’ve been worked for tips and never knew it, but those days are gone forever. I just want some coffee and to write, and to watch the blonde for a bit.
“You okay?” The blonde has snuck up on me.  She has  the refill carafe and a smile. She’s also got the pad tucked into a pouch. I ask about it and she shows it to me about the time the other women shrieks out loud. An obscene message very lewdly suggesting I’m lusting after the blonde pops up on the screen right as she turns it towards me. The blonde reads it at the same time I do and she says, “Oh my god!” and flees.  The other woman heads out to where my table is, retreats, apologizes profusely and is nearly knocked down by the retreating blonde who has turned a shade of red not found anywhere else in nature.

I should go, I know, and make it easy on both of them, but what’s life if you can’t have a little fun? Yet getting the blonde out of the backroom will take some doing, and the other woman, well, she’s withdrawn to the cash register and even from a distance I can tell she’s also burning red. I’m fairly certain I could simply walk out without paying my bill and those two would gladly never say a word but I cannot resist.

“How much do I owe you?’ I say blandly and the woman is to the point of tears. The sheer embarrassment factor here is bad enough, but she also has to worry about getting fired, and maybe even the blonde killing her at this point.
“LookImterriblysorryIdidntmeanforyoutoseethatpleasedontgetmefirediamsososososossorryillpayforyourcoffeeokaythanks” and I can tell she would rather do anything on earth than have this conversation with me right now. She is as distressed as she can possibly get and still have her clothes on.
“Okay, just tell me if this breaks into your top ten most embarrassing moments of your life.”  I stand there and she sighs. I will not go away instantly, but there is some relief. I’m not yelling or angry and that does help.
“Easily,” she says trying to smile, “I”ll pay for your coffee, okay?’ Please, please, please leave and never come back I just want to die, is what she would like to say.
“What’s your manager’s name?” I ask and her face changes colors again, this time it’s a deeper red than ever before.  She has to resign herself to the agony of someone else seeing what she sent, or at least hearing about it.
“Steve.” And with this I can see a little anger in her. She’s ready to start fighting back, and it’s time to let her off the hook.
“Tell Steve he hired a psychic.” It takes her a couple of seconds to realize what I mean, but as I walk out the door she bursts into real laughter.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten songs I never want to hear again, but I know I will:


This is a list of ten songs I never want to hear again, but I know I will:
In ascending order of irritation magnitude…

10.  Any song Eric Clapton wrote for a dead relative. He wrote “Tears from Heaven” for his son who was killed in a tragic accident, and “My Father’s Eyes” for his father, who I heard he never met. Both songs were so overplayed when they came out that I can’t listen to either without wanting to stomp a radio to death with my bare feet.

9.  Any song Elton John sings about a dead blonde. “Candle in the wind” was for Monroe then Diana. Come on man, you’ve got more number one hits than anyone else and you have to recycle one? Please.

8.  “The Pina Colada Song (Escape)” by Rupert Holmes. Back in the day this song was just left playing by radio stations day and night because that’s the only song anyone wanted to hear. I can’t drink a Pina Colada without wanting to throw up but there is no escape.

7. “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet. Some people say there’s a women to blame but I know it’s his own damn fault. A person can’t go to Florida and drink without this song coming on a juke box. I was sick of it two decades ago.

6. “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc. This was a song I hated the first time I heard it. Someone remade it a few years back and I hated it all over again. It’s just irritating, plain and simple.


5. “Train” by Blacksnake. This was one of those songs everyone loved so much some of us started to hate it. Then one night a drunk I knew started singing it, and by the end of the evening he puked out the car window and splattered me because I was in the backseat. I hosed off in someone’s front yard and since then when I hear that song I smell the puke of an idiot in the air.


4. “I Will Always Love You” Whitney Houston. The video of this song fascinated me because Houston looks like she’s sitting on a toilet having some sort of mouth spasm. But really, I was with a male co-worker one day and he stopped to play this song full blast and was explaining to my why this was his song for his ex-wife, even though she had cheated on him, took his money, and left him with nothing. I thought it a poor idea to sit with another guy and listen to that song loud enough for people to hear it. Houston was a drunk, an addict, and had marginal talent. The fact that she died right before the Emmys does not make her special.

3. “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. This song marked a new low in music all over the world and in the United States it marked the beginning of a very long dry spell where there wasn’t an album worth using for target practice. If there was a song that is the musical equivalent of the Nazi takeover of Europe, this is that song.

2. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The lyrics are nonsensical. They do not mean anything special or important, Satanic, magical or mystical. It’s a long, long, song that has been played far too long. Stop it.


1.   “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This is a song that is played over and over by rednecks like they’re four year olds playing some Disney DVD incessantly. At bars, parties, outdoor events, you name it, at some time some moron wearing a three wolves howling tee-shirt draped over his belly is going to struggle to his feet, lift a butane lighter to the heavens and scream, “Free Bird!”  When the song was sold to the soul duo “Peaches and Herb” some of the magic wore off a bit, but it is still the most overplayed song in the South. It really wouldn’t be so bad except for those people who seem to think “Free Bird” is like the national anthem or something. You may love it, and everyone you know may love it, but there comes a time when you just have to realize music did not stop in 1977.  


Take Care,
Mike

Duct Tape? I don't want the words "duct tape" to enter a conversation with the letters "CDC"

Hmmmmm, I don't think they know what it is. Do you?

Clearing


Summer in South Georgia means the temperature is going to be close to eighty even at three in the morning.  Gone for another one hundred days or so are the cool sunrises that are bug free and refreshing.  This is like waking up in the mouth of a drunk who lives under an overpass. The air in warm and sticky and even if you shower in the morning just walking outside to pee makes you feel like you’ve been hanging out in a locker room with the fat guys at the Y. Dawn is a couple of hours away but there isn’t anything in the air that resembles night but the dark.

There was more burning yesterday but it wasn’t much fun.  I was tired when I started and I never really got into a groove at all. I cut a path to the pond, realized a fire there would have to wait until there was more time to burn, ha ha, and worked on clearing the fence line instead. There are a lot of really large weeds in that fenceline, and there’s an old dead tree that fell a few years ago. I remember that tree fell one day when I was out in the yard working.  Or more precisely it fell while I was having lunch inside and when I went back outside there was a tree down. It wasn’t very large, mind you, but it would have killed me had it landed on me. It landed on the first fence I put up and never took down once I got the rest of the property closed up. Now the fence has to be removed and the dead tree too, and into the fire it goes.

This is the day of the Dead Tree and the stuff that has built up over the years has to go. This will not be a fun fire because old wood burns poorly and weakly, too. I’m a big fan of letting things go back to nature but if I am to clear this fenceline this stuff has to go. I’m pushing nature back another twenty feet or so and making the backyard more accessible to the birds of prey that grab snakes.  I’m also clearing away some low hanging branches and I realize when this is all over with my yard will look a lot like I’ve never really wanted it to look.

Next year I might turn some of this open area into a garden, and plant some peach trees. I’m turning a lot of the stuff I’m raking up into mulch so by next spring there ought to be plenty. There is a growing pile of rich black soil in the mulch pile and this year I planted peppers and tomatoes again, and hopefully they’ll do well. Once again I waited a little late and should have gotten them out a month earlier.

Fire is a strange thing. I’ve seen people use diesel fuel to start fires to clear land but they wind up with land that smells like diesel fuel. I use old leaves instead, and I can get a fire to walk on the ground, in the direction I want, simply by feeding leaves to the fire. This kills off the underbrush, the thick stuff, and the briars that grow around here with stems as thick as my thumb. The vines that have attached themselves to the young Oaks, which I am leaving, curl up and wither.  But the fire will go where it wants, and where the wind blows so I must be careful. I can’t leave this one alone and hope it will turn out well.  But the fire moves in and out of the fenceline, burning everything I want it too, clearing away a decade of weeds, and opening up more space. To get into the backyard now means having to cross over a wide plain with no cover.


If I expand the mulch pile then I’ll put it near the firepit, which makes sense.  But this means killing off the weeds in that area and that means the yearly bloom of tiny white flowers will never be again. The vines they spring from explode out of the ground in late Summer and suddenly it looks like snow when they blossom.  They climb and intertwine around the dog fennel and I hope to keep some of them but…


Lucas is healing well. The wound on his neck is nearly healed and he hasn’t been slowed down at all because of this. He’s off all his meds now and the swelling is long gone. I was told the hair would not grow back but as the would heals it looks like it will, in fact grow back just like it always was, without so much as a scar. The bite was not as bad as the one suffered by another dog who was brought in the day after Lucas. That one didn’t make it and his parents have to deal with making changes in their lives now, much like I am doing, but in a much worse way. The vet told me they wanted to save him, no matter what it cost, but the dog was small, the snake large, and the venom too much.


There have been many snake bit dogs this year, more snakes seen than normal, and more venomous snakes around than I remember. Elbow has complained about the rat snakes in her henhouse and the vipers around her yard.  The vet told me she has treated three dogs for bite this year.  Lucas got bit and not a week later I evicted another Cottonmouth. I cannot explain it.

My only theory is we had a very wet spring and perhaps the wet weather along with the very hot May we had built up more ground cover for them to move around in and closer too. The ones I have seen have been of various sizes and it’s not like they migrate.  So the Year of the Dead Tree, the Year of the Snake, and the Year of the Fire continues.

And I still do not sleep at night.

Take Care,
Mike