Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frost Composting




The last time I added anything with any real mass to the compost pile someone had given me some really large cardboard boxes and a stack of newspapers. I keep telling people that I don’t compost the slick stuff but they keep giving me newspapers with the slick stuff in it anyway. Today is one of those days I turn the entire pile and I will see what’s dissolved and what hasn’t. What does and what doesn’t go back to the earth fascinates me like very few things do. I would very much like to return to the earth when I die and I hope to have a green burial and maybe even in a compost pile somewhere.

The cardboard boxes are totally gone. Nothing is left of them at all. There was a layer of newspaper covering the entire pile, only a couple of pages thick, and it is gone as well. There is a small knot of paper envelopes and stuff that I didn’t scatter out so well and it’s amazing how intact this junk mail offering to the Gods of Rot has survived. I use a pitchfork, yes, a real live pitchfork, to shovel everything over to one big pile. We have denizens, yes, we have, even in weather this cool.

There are scores of largely immobile earthworms. A lot of small creatures that usually scurry about, but the chilled air has them slowed down a bit, and then there are the fireants. Fireants are what hell will be like if it was twice as evil as we could imagine and there were telemarketers there. They are small, endlessly aggressive, and they pack a venom that hurts a lot more than you’d give credit to such a small insect being able to inflect and they sting until you are dead or they are dead. They are among the few creatures on earth I truly and honestly hate. I would, with no hesitation, cause the total and complete extinction of this species and never blink.

The colder weather causes them to move slowly as well so I am able to dig their entire nest up. Thousands and thousands of eggs are exposed to the cold air and I hope this puts a damper on their usually runaway growth in the compost pile. It’s very difficult to get them out once they get in, but the colder weather helps.

I started this pile way back in 2006. There for a very long time it was a pile of leaves with junk mail tossed into it. It didn’t go very far or happen very fast but eventually, after a couple of years, it began to have some sort of internal process that devoured stuff faster. In 2009, a Loki Mutt arrived and he happily dug through it looking for edibles. A fence was erected around it. And finally, in 2010, I decided to start planting peppers and tomatoes in the soil I had created from junk mail envelopes, used paper towels ( no cleaner on them, thank you) and yard debris. This soil rocks, I tell you!

There have been some lessons learned. The first is this; water. Or more precisely, moisture. The pile has to be kept damp to operate but if it is large enough, there will always be moisture at the lower levels. The second was plastic never rusts. All those junk mail envelops had those little plastic windows in them and each and every one of them showed up and they are still showing up, even though I stopped using them after the first year. If it is plastic it will return to you. The plastic tape on boxes never breaks down at all. Even metal will erode away before plastic goes anywhere at all. Think about it; I’ve been doing this since 2006, tossed in junk mail for just one year, and those little clear plastic windows still pop out of the earth every once in a while. Imagine how many are in landfills not doing anything more.

So the plan today was quite simple; stack everything up, put down a later of newspapers that have been soaking since last week, put down a layer of new stuff, put old stuff on top of it, wet it down, put new stuff down on top of that, put old stuff on top of that, wet it down, repeat until I ran out of new stuff or old stuff.  Or I get tired.

Anyway, this is my theory. There are microbes and material in the old stuff looking for new stuff to eat. The new stuff has to be wet, warm, and yummy which is why I make sandwiches out of the old stuff. The activity in the old stuff generates heat and this further breaks down the new stuff. This is all a process as old as…dirt.

Newspaper, kitchen debris, new stuff, water, old stuff, water, new stuff, water, old stuff, water, and call it a day. The fence goes back up and the dogs, who have been watching with disinterest, wag their tails hopefully. It’s rather cool and they rather be sofa mutts than composting out here in the cold. The pile has steam rising off of it now and the sun is going to warm it up a bit as the day wears on.

Deep inside the pile, the colony of fireants is in a state of disarray. I have an odd theory that goes something like this:  The fireants leave trails of pheromones so other ants know where food is and where everyone else is, too. There are other creatures, centipedes, termites, worms of a hundred types, beetles, and the sort who live in the pile too. As they walk over, crawl over and slither over the ant trails, they start to smell like ants, too. Sooner or later, there’s a population inside the pile that are no longer noteworthy to the ants. I fear my activity disrupts everything. Life is turned upside down for everyone. But the pile grows larger, the soil inside gets better and my garden will grow too, come spring.

I’m going to get some Carolina Reapers.

Take Care,

Mike

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rowing On "The Endless River"




Even with a bad knee I felt like I could have done a hell of a lot better in my last 5K. But my schedule has sucked lately and…no more excuses. I’m back hitting the treadmill every other day, at least, and I have missed it. To cut down on the amount of knee stress I’ve been trying out the rowing machine. I think I have found something I can wear out.

This is a bad time to be in a gym. There are three times a year you really do not want to join a gym and this is one of them. Thanksgiving and the holidays cause people to think they want to work out but they’re too busy to even so much as think about it. They’ll show up a few times, punt, and then come back in January, when is the second worst time to join a gym. January brings those people who have just made a Resolution to get in better shape. Women are bad about pairing at this time, and you’ll see two determined looking females side by side, not hurting their treadmills at all, but they’ll be too sore to walk the next day and never return.

But just about the first of May is the very worst of times. Bikini bodies that will never be arrive and desperately attempt to find that magic solution to a year of sloth. Men and women alike have visions of being tanned and toned while all the while eating the same stuff that got them where they are today. All the running and weight lifting in the world cannot solve a bad diet.


I promised myself I would not go out on Black Friday but I really felt like some exercise this morning. The path to the gym leads directly past The Maul and right by Mal-Wart. The parking lot of Mal-Wart was jammed to the gills but traffic was not as bad as I feared. The Maul was brimming with the cars and trucks of people who, on their best days, cannot navigate traffic but I had one right turn to make to get into the parking lot of the gym. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared and the gym was nearly empty.

Whether it was a satellite radio thing or maybe it was someone’s playlist, but they played about five Michael Jackson songs in a row. I always wondered if he listened to his own music when he was molesting children. What sort of soundtrack does a monster have? I have Pink Floyd. I turn it up as loud as my ears can handled it and I row.

My sister and I had a conversation about the people in my hometown getting out and walking. They’ll walk around the courthouse square in the afternoons before hitting the fast food places for dinner. She knows people who walk a quarter, maybe even half a mile a week and they are mystified that they still can’t fit into the clothes they wore last month. They come in and complain to her that they are still sore after walking and they’ve been doing it, off and on, for nearly a month.
Rowing is mindless exercise. It requires a repeated effort and very little else. I set the machine for 10,000 meters, or about six point two miles. Row, listen to Pink Floyd, row, think about writing, row, think about writing, row, listen to Pink Floyd, holy mother of Nick Mason, just how much does that guy weigh? He’s a giant. Not tall or merely big, but he’s pushing four hundred pounds if he’s got an ounce on him. He looks desperate. He looks like he’s been given a death sentence and maybe he has. He’s doing weights and not much of them. If he’s new he’s smart; never overdo it the first time in. Work your way up. He keeps look at me as if he would really like to try rowing. There’s no way he can run carrying that much mass. His knees would die.

Row. I can feel the muscles in my arms and shoulders beginning their protest. My legs are also beginning to feel as if they’ve been worked. That isn’t enough if I want to run a 5K in a time that will really make me feel good. I have to sweat. I have to push myself into a state of near exhaustion. This has to hurt to feel good. Row. More Pink Floyd. Row. A woman I knew a long time ago works here now. She looks really unhappy. I think she is a lot like a cat; she isn’t ever truly happy when there are strange people around, but cats don’t need jobs as long as they have slaves.


The man with too much weight is sitting on a machine and checking his stats with one of those watches that give you a variety of things to think about; heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and grandmother’s blood type. He looks worried every time he checks it. I wonder if that’s part of what drives him, like my time in a 5K, the numbers on the watch? Row. He pulls a tiny notebook out and looks over a list of some sort. He then wanders off to check something off the list. Row.

I hit 10,000 meters in just over fifty-four minutes. If I was running I would be impressed, but no so much on a row. I need to walk for a while now, to get my muscles loosened up, and sure enough, Mass Man comes over and wants to learn how to row. He also wants to explain himself. His doctor says work out, eat right, or die. Rowing was suggested. It’s easy but it does take some coordination to get it right. He tries too hard, goes too fast, but settles down after a few minutes. Row. I tell him to get some Pink Floyd and he looks askance at me. Okay, maybe not.


I walk with some incline for another half hour. Mass Man is on a mission. Maybe he’ll stick with it, maybe he won’t, but I’m here for the long haul. I’ll see if he is.

Take Care,

Mike


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Dreams Of November




It’s a hard feeling to describe. There isn’t a point of reference for it and I can’t give you some movie scene or television show or even some book to help out. It’s like trying a male virgin trying to describe the act of loving making, in all its glory, to a female virgin. If this is madness then I’m pretty sure it is a personal form of madness and the sane won’t even begin to be able to take measure of the words. Those who are likewise affected, virgins they are not, are tainted by their own experiences. My choices here are few but I tend to lean towards the idea that I’m not as insane as I sound. The idea that I am less insane than I sound bothers me more than the idea that I might be more insane than I sound. Take a moment with that last sentence. I can wait.

Welcome back.

As far as my candidacy goes it’s a compelling case. There’s family history, substance abuse in years past, my isolation from most of the world most of the time and the fact that I love it, and then there are these things that I tell you about. That’s where the pressure lies. Are these experiences real or they the product of that mishmash of grey masses mishing together when they should mash? The brain is made up of various parts with various functions and everyone has to play together to sound nice. What happens when they do not sounds a lot like some of the incidents I have related to you. Oddly, that’s actually best case here. The other explanation takes some getting used to, it would seem.

Imagine yourself nude. Someone you really care for and someone who really cares for you, comes up behind you and puts their arms around you, kisses you, nibbles you, caresses you, and you begin to melt into their mood with one of your own that very closely resembles that which you are responding to, isn’t this how it happens sometimes? You know what your partner likes, your partner knows what you like, and together you might just find a moment in time where you both really like something that is happening. But this cannot be planned. It cannot be turned into sheet music to be played at will. It’s a haptic experience, certainly, but there is more to it than just flesh on flesh and skin against skin.



It’s not a form of ecstasy. That’s not what I’m trying to tell you. When I was a kid there was a local movie theater, a dump really, but there was a hole in the screen, at the lower left hand corner. I remember the shape and size of it exactly. But I would try to concentrate on the hole and not let the movie take over my mind and I would totally fail. Even when I noticed the hole in the screen in the middle of the movie I still would be so engrossed in the story that I could not draw myself back into the real world.
I don’t think it’s a fantasy either. I’m not trying to tell you that either. Maybe, and finally this might get closer to accuracy, by telling you what it is not you might be able to feel what it is. All the while I’m not doing justice to the experience. There isn’t way to share it any more than showing you ten thousand photos will help you feel the Okefenokee Swamp. The water there is a rich red black color that changes hue depending on light and depth and time of year. Trying to describe the water with a single color would be like chooses one color to tell someone what a rainbow looks like or telling someone the Grand Canyon is a really large hole.



There is a path on a farm and one day we, a woman I love and I, walked down that path and we found a live quail, sitting on the path, unmoving, but apparently uninjured. The photo of the bird does no justice to how it felt to find it or how that entire day felt to live it and how the photo of myself and a horse doesn’t tell anyone that she took that photo and how when I see it, I feel not the horse but the loss of the woman. And I still have no idea why that bird was sitting so still it allowed us so very near.


It is a form of reality. Even in madness rarely is there nothing at all there. The minds of those who perceive the Universe differently than the rest of humanity still operate within that same Universe. Love may be lost, love may be futile, love may be unrequited but it is still love, is it not? Unless you so choose to argue that love is madness and in that we would come to an agreement very quickly. I may have stumbled upon my strongest argument yet; what is real and what is not real can be expressed by everyone in love.



In the end, we all have to come to some form of peace as to who we are. Each person has to be able to look in the mirror and discover there is someone on the other side that’s acceptable, maybe not to the general public, perhaps not to family, maybe not to the Westboro Baptist Church, we can hope not, but one on one, the person you are is who you have to live with. Even if you change, evolve, or adapt, there still has to be some sort of mutual agreement within that things are going to be, at least, okay.

Oddly, of all that I said, love is what I come back to in the end. Not that I love being this but in love a person learns to take their object of affection as is, no guarantees or warranties or 30 day trial offers, no, you either love that person or you do not; you are either in for the long haul or kicked to the curb.



I meant to tell you about a dream, and maybe, in some way, I just did. But if it’s a dream, I’m good with that, and if it isn’t, I’m good with that too. Now, if it’s something external to who I am and what I am, well, it’s going to be much more interesting.

Take Care,

Mike

Perfect

Friday, November 21, 2014

Doggie Drama: Part 277654677654

We have Doggie Drama. This is not new drama, but old drama, repackaged and recycled and replayed. Because it is cold and Sam is so old, I put him on the bed, and I do have to lift him to get him on the bed, and Sam is a Happy Hound because he’s on the bed and he was the first one on the bed. But I have to put Sam on the bed first because if I put him on the bed after Lucas then Sam will snarl at Lucas and Lilith won’t get on the bed, until everyone is asleep, and if Lilith gets on the bed after everyone is asleep then Sam gets really upset and Lucas wants to go over and play peacekeeper, which makes things worse, by far.

I could and have called Lilith up on the bed first but when I do that Lucas really gets bent out of shape. She likes to sleep near me, which is Lucas’ spot and rather just find an area to sleep on both of them try to sleep on top of my head. You see why this won’t work don’t you?

So, I get Sam on the bed but he decides to plop down where my legs are supposed to go so I have to shift over. Now, Lilith would fit very well to where I just shift from, but Lucas has to land first and he gets as close to me as possible. Lilith steadfastly refuses to join us. I know she’ll wait until the lights are out and we’re asleep so I pick her up. Whoa! Lilith! That’s some solid mass of a girl dog! But she allows the lifting and when I put her on the bed, Sam snarls at her.

So, there’s Sam, on the lower left side of the bed, forcing me towards the center. Lucas is on the upper right, near my chest and he takes up as much room as I do. So Lilith Warrior Girl decides that frail and elderly Sam is too much to deal with; she plants between Lucas and the head of the bed, near my head, which makes Lucas squirm and twist trying to get closer to me than she is at the moment.

But this is doable. Everyone, well, everyone except me, is very comfortable. I have this odd thought, that it’s possible just to chase them all off the bed and try to rearrange them all, but they look so innocent and peaceful in their sleep, don’t they? Lucas, whose head is inches from my face, but consider the alternatives, there are worse part of the canine anatomy to have aimed at my nose, is snoring already. Lilith Girl Dog is sound asleep as well, contorted to fit the Gerrymandered spot she has claimed, but also strategically placed to share body heat with Lucas. Sam is alone but warm. His body rests against my legs and for a few moments Sam puts his chin on my shin. He won’t sleep with is head there but his is his way of connecting with me, to let me know he likes being on the bed when it’s cold, even if being above the floor freaks him out a little these days. Sam’s world is a dimly lit thing, full of fast moving and confusing images and sounds half heard. But at this moment, on the bed on a cold night, right before Sam drifts off to sleep, he is warm and Sam is a happy being. I can sleep with that thought.

At some point in the night Lucas stands up, licks my face, snuffles me in the ear, turns around three times, and drops as if he was just turned to stone by the angry sleep gods. Lilith gets up, paws at the covers, making a nest, and she too comes over to check my pulse, and then she touches down lightly. Sam wakes up and snarls at them both.


My sleep comes and goes. The dreams are short lived creatures who are forgotten as soon as they are born. Sam’s dreams are haunted and his legs kick and move during the night. Lilith’s sleep is punctuated by short high barks at times and her legs jerk in rhythm of some unknown beat that only she hears in her sleep. I reach out and my hand finds her side. Lilith breathes deeply and sighs. Almost immediately she returns to a deep sleep but at peace it now. Lucas raises his head for a second, maybe two, and then he snores again within the minute. Sam sleeps without dreams. My pack is at peace.


I drift off and slumber too. Then I hear the sound of a puppy in distress, a lost puppy, a little dog right outside of my window and I awake with a start. I can still hear the sound of the puppy’s cries and I almost get up. But The Three rest easy and as I lie in bed and listen I realize that there is no puppy outside, or at least, not outside my window. Somewhere out there this cold morning, there is a puppy locked out into the cold, bereft of his family and any understanding of why he is alone and isolated. This will be his life until they grow tired of him and discard him or he learns to be silent about his lot in life. There will be a few, a very few moments of attention each day but so many dogs are sentenced to life without parole, in solitary confinement.

Lucas knows I am awake and I sometimes think he can read the clock. It’s close enough to time to get up that he thinks he can provoke the awakening of the pack. He stands up, shakes hard, flapping his ears, and Sam moves off the bed and comes to poke me in the face with his nose. Lilith crawls towards me from a few inches away and Lucas, having jumped down off them bed to push Sam away, now puts his front paws on the edge to nose Lilith away from my attention.


I have managed to save but three of many of thousands. But each of these three were discarded, abandoned, and cast adrift in a world that holds very little hope for happy endings. These are my three, these are my pack, my family, and as long as I live there will be dogs whose lives are lived like this, and my life will be lived like this as well.

Take Care,
Mike



Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Letter, Part Two: The Hammer of Being Seventeen



Most seventeen year olds wouldn’t have written a letter to begin with. But then again, I didn’t have any points of reference. Dating isn’t something that had any manuals or 1-800 sex help numbers. It didn’t clarify my feelings that sex seemed to equate love. If a girl loved me she would have sex with me, right? And if she didn’t love me she wouldn’t sleep with me, right? And if I went home and got a hammer so I could get into that metal mailbox and get the letter back.

No, seriously, this was who I was when I was seventeen.

Very seriously I was going to get a hammer and breaking into that mail box. Of course, I would wait until about three in the morning to do it. Yes, I had a plan. Of course, I still lived with my father so I would have to sneak out of the house at three. That wasn’t very hard to do. Then I had to walk about a mile to where the mailbox was, and that was more difficult. The walk itself was easy but I had to make sure the one cop in town didn’t see me. I tried hiding the hammer under my tee shirt but it kept falling out. So there I was, at three in the morning, walking towards the courthouse square in Blakely Georgia with a hammer in my hand.

In that one mile, about three cars passed by and each time I would leap into the shadows as if I were an assassin. No one, ever, was more nervous about their mission than I. By the time I got to where the box was I was sweating profusely and I was also covered in dirt from diving for cover, like James T Kirk, so many times. I didn’t care. The box had to die, be gutted, the letter retrieved, and I would be free.

I knew I had to act fast. The mailbox was right under a street light. Why didn’t I think about that? Why didn’t I bring a pellet gun to kill the light first? I could go back. I looked around. The streets were empty. Now or never! I went to front of the box and had this insane idea of reaching into it. But suddenly I realized there was writing on the front of the box: “All mail picked up at 5:00PM Daily”.

I had mailed the letter at about ten in the morning. It was gone.


This is a feeling that most teenagers can relate to once they’ve hit the send button and realize what they just sent in a text message cannot be recalled. The thing is, the internet is forever and letters, well, that one might as well been. I saw the headlights of a car and I panicked. I put the hammer in the mailbox’s chute and let it fall. There was an ominous and very loud, “Boom!” as it hit the empty bottom. I just kept walking and the one cop on duty stopped and offered me a ride. Maybe he was drunk. Maybe he was bored. Maybe he just wondered what the hell was going on. But he rode me around for about an hour lecturing me on the dangers of loitering and how crime was a slippery slope. Once I started out being bored and wandering around at night I would soon start shop lifting and that would lead to bank robbery and eventually Communism. But that letter was one its way. The only way out now was to break into the post office. Hey! They cop was right!


I sat in my room and watched the sun come up. The morning traffic picked up and I wondered if I could talk to the post office people and get them to give me the letter back. It occurred to me that I had never heard of anything like this. Normal people went on dates, seemed to stress not at all about it, and life went on. I wrote one letter and the world was coming to an end. What was wrong with me? The idea of trying to pass the letter off as apocryphal came to me in a rush. I could always deny that I wrote it. Yes, someone forged the letter in my name that seemed very reasonable. I could imagine trying to explain this theory to her father and that caused a tsunami of fear to wash over me. I could jump out of the window and hope the fall killed me.

Truly, it was that bad. There wasn’t any way for me to relieve the pressure of being in love with a girl that I couldn’t speak to without falling apart. Because she did live twenty-five miles away all the calls were long distance and my father was adamant that no long distance calls were to be made from his phone. But that was an excuse of convenience; I simply lacked the social skills to talk to her. Period. The sun came up on Day One. The letter, short of some miraculous accident that caused the postal carrier to burst into flames, and for that I prayed, would be delivered in two days, maybe three, and there was no telling what would happen after that.

You might think I’m entertaining hyperbole when I tell you some of the things that ran screaming through my mind but I’m not. I thought she, or her parents, might call the Sheriff for harassing her. Then I thought she might call the record company and have me sued for using the lyrics. Then I had this nightmarish vision of where her father contacted my father and we were all gathered together for me to explain myself, and that frightened me much more than any other scenario. I did what I always did when my mind went into overdrive; I drank. A lot.

This was the vicious cycle I commuted on in my day to day life; I would imagine the worst case scenario and then augment it with distilled paranoia. I would then try to figure a way out of the worst case mess I had made and replay in my mind what each party would say or do. Then I would sink into a depression over what had happened and have the repeating epiphany that I would never be able to see her again much less have any sort of relationship with her, and my life, at age seventeen, was over.

 Day Three rolled around and I was already thinking about hitting the road. I would jump a train and just go. I was pretty sure warrants had already been issued for my arrest and my father had begun missing the hammer. You forgot about the hammer, didn’t you? I had, too, don’t worry. I was walking by the phone when it rang and just by instinct, answered it.
“Mike? That was the sweetest letter I ever got” and she started crying.

Take Care,
Mike






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Letter






I remember standing in front of one of those big blue mailboxes with a letter in my hand. I was seventeen years old, and really I was a lot younger than that, and I had sat down the day before to hand write a letter to the girl I loved. There was no way I could express my feeling other than through someone else’s work so I had laboriously copied the lyric to a song on a piece of notebook paper. The song was “Say Hello” by Heart and I wasn’t sure I had them right at all, but what I had written sounded good, at least to me. But now I had to send it. I felt as if I stood upon a precipice and looked down a thousand miles to craggy rocks awash on cold cruel water.

Quasimodo had better people skills than I. A man being attacked by hornets in a phone booth during a sandstorm at midnight had more legible handwriting than I could have produced in a month’s time. Someone on a ten day drinking binge with multiple personality disorder with a meth IV drip was more decisive. My hands shook. I mouth was dry. My knees felt as if they might buckle at any moment. There were some real issues here.


After all, she lived twenty-five miles away. I didn’t have access to a car but I had already figured out that if I walked four miles an hour I could get there by lunch if I started at sunrise. But what if she didn’t get the letter? What if this was the one mailbox that never was checked? What if the envelope opened after I dropped it in and what if the stamp fell off and what if she threw it away when she got it?

“What cha doing?”

Damn. Wouldn’t you know it? Here I am trying to write during my lunch hour and someone has snuck up on me. I parked my truck a million miles from anything else to write on my laptop and now there’s someone who wants to talk.

“Writing my mother an email, she’s not feeling well.” That’s what I usually say. People tend to leave me alone after that. But this is a man who really wants someone to talk to during his lunch hour and I was the only one around.

“She okay?” He asks. “She ain’t dying or nothing like that is she?”

He means well. Really, you have to take it in the spirit is was given.  I assure him that everyone will live through this event.
“How come you’re always writing at lunch? How come you don’t do nothing else?” And I realize that I’ve been watched. I had no idea people knew I wrote at lunch.

“It’s the most effective form of communication that I have.” I tell him. “And I really have to get back to it before lunch is over with.”
“How come you listen to elevator music?” He asks, ignoring the fact that I’m trying to disengage.
“It’s soothing.” I reply and begin to roll the window up. I’ve given up explaining classical music to the masses.
“Ain’t you got a light?” he asks and produces a cigarette.
“Sorry, no” and I look down at my laptop. I check my peripheral vision. He’s still there but he’s looking around. I turn the radio up a notch and he retreats.

I couldn’t mail the letter. I decided to tear it up into a billion pieces so no one could read it, because there are people out there sorting through bits of paper alongside the road who do that sort of thing, and just forget about it. I walked a couple of blocks and then walked back. The mailbox sat there silently mocking me. It refused to be of any use to me at all, except passively. Either stick it in or walk away. I was horrified at the metaphor when I made it so many years ago. Really, this was a spiritual journey.

Tap, tap, tap!

I roll the window down again.

“My mama died of cancer, it was ten year ago March, will you tell your mama I said get well soon?”

I sigh. “Yeah, I will, thanks. But she’s just got a bad cold, it’s not the flu or anything like that.” And I realize this might be it. But he turns around and walks away. I watch him as he makes his way back to his truck and I wonder what all of this was about.


I stood there in front of the mail box and wondered how long it would take the letter to get to her. I knew that now it was inside that damn blue box the die was cast. A sudden jolt of fear hit me when I thought that her mother, or worse, her father might read it. I would die if her father read it. He would kill me. How long could it take to get there? What if she threw it away? What if it never arrived? What if, months from this day, I asked her about it and she said she threw it away? How long would I hope that she read it before I gave up? If it took three days to get there, couldn’t count the weekend, then by Tuesday at the latest, and she might write me back, another three days, so maybe a week from Friday, but what if she didn’t read it?

I was writing this down and realized that my people skills were terrible back then. I was so afraid of that girl and considering all things, she should have been afraid of me, too. But that was what it was all about, is trying to get over the fear and everything else, and trying to figure it all out. We never did that. I never really got that much better with people.

Tap, tap, tap!

“Yeah?”

“What kind of cancer?”

“Huh?”

“You mama died of cancer, what kind?” I asked.

He’s just sitting in his truck looking off into space and I get in.

“It wasn’t bad, was it, I mean, what kind was it?” It’s all I can think to say.
“It was lung cancer,” he said, “I know I ought not smoke but it’s been hard as hell since they cut back my hours, you know, and my wife, she smokes, we’re trying to quit but it’s harder for two people to quit than one, ain’t it?”

“I think so, yeah, really.” And it’s true.
“But mama hung on for a while, after the chemo took everything from her, and she losted her hair…”

“That’s Garth Brooks, right?”

“Yeah,” he turns the music up, “but mama hung in there…”


Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sam's Door




Sam woofs in a horse whisper now. There is no volume in his voice and there seem to be no force behind the sound. If the house catches on fire and Sam is the only one awake we will burn. Sam sounded houndish all his life until he came down with a URI last August. He had a bray that would carry in the woods and there were creatures who knew that voice and feared that voice. This was Sam. This was a sleek black hunter who was built for speed and knew how to use it. Head down, legs churning, body whipping like a snake in short grass and speed, Sam. I never saw a small mammal get out of the way fast enough and when Sam and Bert hunted as a team they pushed fear ahead of them in a distorted wave of chaos. Run, run, blindly, run hard, allow panic to take over for there is nothing else but every effort to get away and there is no escape except for the possibility that there will be someone who freezes and allows the rest to run.

It was nearly a military thing when those two hit the woods. Sam’s speed was always the main weapon, always the defining part of the hunt, and Bert was more than content to play the part of the closer. Whenever the prey ran from Sam, ran without hope or prayer, Sam always was able to use his skill to turn the prey towards Bert. This was not the most fleet hunter afoot but Bert was strong, barrel chested and powerful. If Sam was the hammer then Bert was the anvil. Sam was a Shaker of Death, grabbing armadillos by their heads and snapping their necks in an instant but Bert was a brawler. He went in head first, mouth open, ears back, snarling like a lion, and he was all about the fight. I saw him collide with a raccoon one time and I was certain Bert would take a lot of damage from it but the power in his jaws was overwhelming; a bite to the throat, hard, fast, true, and it was done.

I learned everything I wanted to know about pack hunting from those two and it made me feel much safer inside my home. These were not fully domesticated pets who would be defenseless if the time came. These were well armed partisan fighters who did not live to hunt or hunt o live, but they had the skill they needed to keep the homeland safe from those who might trespass. I didn’t realize how much those two had aged until I got a puppy. Getting a very young dog suddenly showed me that both my beloved dogs were not only getting old they were already there.

Sam stood at the wall this morning and scratched at it to be let out. He lost the door. He’s lost inside his own home. He’s in the bedroom trying to find his way back out again and I hope he doesn’t get into the woods with this sort of confusion.

So much, so very much, has happened in his fourteen years on this earth and as it winds down to the bitter end I did not expect it to look like this at all. Somewhere the spirit resists the decay of the mind and the body, and is that all there is left?

Will I recognize this in the mirror some day?

Will you?

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, November 17, 2014

Having Lunch With Eddie Munster and the Queen of Sheba

There is nothing worse than an exercise buzz being killed off by someone who couldn’t do a sit up if her head was sitting in a fire ant mound and she was covered in molasses. Odd word, “molasses” and it does occur to me that I might have never used it in a sentence before that wasn’t describing someone slow, which by the way, I have to find another metaphor now because where you find someone in a restaurant who is stuffing themselves you are equally likely to find someone who is moving like, uh, damn, see the problem here?
Speaking of odd words, I woke up last night and realized I didn’t know where Sheba is or was for that matter and I got up and Google Maps tells me it’s in Yemen and Ethiopia. It may seem a bit of a disconnect but the woman who was killing herself at the pizza buffet looked, hmmm, foreign and I was trying to figure out what country she might have hailed from. The details about people bother me when they shouldn’t and do not bother me when they should, but this woman might have been from anywhere in the Mediterranean. Not that she looked like the Queen of Sheba or hell, she might have for all we know, but there she was sitting with her legs gapped open as wide as they could get, her thighs hiding anything that might have needed hiding, and pizza is the last thing I would have used as a suicide weapon, but clearly she was on the right path.

I had to move to another table, really. But the woman wasn’t the real problem. The real and true problem here was her son, and they looked so much alike it’s impossible to think he might have been anything other, but maybe a clone. Now, this was a young man, who might have been every bit of about fifteen, who had women figured out. His hair was slicked back like I haven’t seen since those guys from the fifties. I’m glad we’re done with the fifties. The fifties sucked. But here’s a James Dean wannabe and, step back ladies, because he has on a Burger King jacket. Nothing says a man is a class act like menswear from a fastfood joint. But let’s not stop there, why on earth would we? He has on enough body spray to ignite spontaneously if the humidity drops one half of one percent. How does one apply that much perfume? Was there a dunking stool? Was there a sudden shower of cheap body spray? Was there a small striped mammal using different ammo?

Do women find that attractive? I’ve never had a woman tell me she didn’t like the way I smelled and longingly yearned for the chemical spill experience. I’ve never had a woman buy me a ten gallon jug of cologne.

He looks a little like Eddie Munster. He’s in line at the salad bar ahead of me, nearly killing me, and he’s texting with one hand and trying to fill up a plate with the other. Text, put plate down, put item on plate, text, pick plate up, move an inch or so… Then he hoses it down with Ranch Dressing.

So this place doesn’t have waitstaff. They have a guy that cleans off the tables and he isn’t happy with me for switching seats. Then he goes over to Sheba and Eddie’s table and you can see it on his face. WHOA! DUDE! Eddie is eating with one hand and texting with another. But he’s got a landfill’s worth of paper napkins covering his Burger King jacket. Yeah, don’t want to ruin that!

I have this odd vision of this guy’s wedding. I can see Sheba dressed in all black, in mourning over losing him to some woman she doesn’t think is worthy. I can see Eddie in something that has ruffles in front to catch falling food and a Burger King logo on the back. I can see his eight months pregnant girlfriend who has found a job working at home from an ad she saw in the newspaper when she was trying to light the grill in back of the trailer. But they have their own reality television show at the moment because the fetus has become the first American to be declared obese before birth.

This whole thing is going to turn into some science fiction horror story when it’s discovered that the GMO’s that are floating around everywhere are actually using us as a medium to evolve within. Human who consume vast amounts of genetically modified food, also consume vast amounts of genetically modified DNA. Given a warm host, enough generations of trying, and eventually we’ll spawn some sort of odd organism that exists within humans and lives off High Fructose Corn Syrup.

For all we know, we’re already there.


Look around you. People look pregnant. They appear to be gestating. And they’re giving birth to young who are already hosts to the organism that they have been carrying for so long. We go to a great deal of effort to keep these things alive. We’ll avoid activity that might harm it. But most of all we’re changing our diets to suit the needs and desires of genetically modified thing that grows inside of our bodies.


I can see there being a reality television show that, shockingly, embraces our inner obesity as evolution. Here are creatures who carry the greatest amount of DNA within them since time began. Within those bodies are chromosomes with DNA sequences that nature never intended. Like the mosquito that takes blood samples from a dozen hosts, there’s no telling what will become of the DNA inside, and perhaps something new and exciting will arrive one day.

Or it might be killing us. That’s the one downside to this adventure. Science fiction and a good storyline aside for a moment, the idea that we’re going to turn into another species because our food has been played with to the point it’s no long nutritious, can be sold to the fans of Honey Boo Boo, and sold by the soft drink industry, but the rest of us?

We’ll have to see what sort of ratings the show gets first.

Take Care,
Mike







Saturday, November 15, 2014

The BARC 5K: Cold Puppies and a Bad Knee

Thursday the sun came up and my right knee informed me that walking would be interesting and running would be out of the question. Period. There would be no 5K Saturday morning. There would be no escaping the Zombie Apocalypse. At this point I would look towards Saturday morning as a time of gentle reflection with my laptop on top of the blankets, the dogs snoozing at my side, and all thoughts of the multi-colored and poofy tutu pushed back until next year. I checked the site where the money was announced and we were still off by $175.00. We had set a goal too high it seems and we would just have to wait until next year.

Friday morning the money had not moved a bit so I assumed interest in seeing a grown man run in a multi colored poofy tutu had dwindled to nothing. I sent an email to the woman who was running the show to tell her since the money had not been raised I would be sleeping in Saturday, but we gave it a good effort right? And things just didn’t work out and besides it was going to be the coldest day of the year so far. Sleeping in was a really great idea. Writing as the sun rose and under blanket with dogs snoozing peacefully at my side…yes.

We made the money, Firesmith, get your ass up and into that damn tutu.

Okay, so she was a little bit more polite than that but we are talking about a rescue organization strapped for cash and overrun with abandoned dogs.  A little of ten puppies have just been rescued. It’s Dog Abandonment Season, also known as The Holidays where people who cannot afford cheap plastic shit from Wal-Mart that breaks in a week throw their dogs away and people give puppies as gifts not realizing the animals are lifelong commitments.

So I have a choice; I can nurse my knee and deny some dogs out there a good home with loving families or I can suck it up and get my ass out of bed and on the road.

It is seriously cold for South Georgia. When I get up it’s 34 degrees and I need coffee. My knee tells me it’s staying in bed. I tell my knee that for once in its life it is expendable. We’re getting up. We’re strapping on our running shoes. We’re going to wear a pair of shorts and show some leg! I walk outside and realize that I am not showing any leg in this kind of weather, no, I am not. Sweats will do. Sweats are the only way I can talk the rest of my body into this. My right knee says no. It gets kidnapped.

I have a simple plan. Run as slowly as I can and still call it a run. Run as far as I can until the pain stops me. Then walk as fast and as far as I can until I can’t. The plan includes the idea that it might take an hour to go three point one miles. The idea also includes the idea that if it gets bad enough I might not finish, but that will also include me dragging myself along on my damn elbows before I give up. The attitude is right. The knee is coming along for the ride.

The beginning feels good. It’s cold so the running loosens up the body and warms the blood. The knee protests bit it can. I don’t have a watch, and there are no markers. I have no idea what my pace might be. But that’s not the point. The point is to keep going. Keep moving forward. Keep moving as fast as possible. The knee says no. The attitude says the knee is coming along for the ride.

I have to keep pushing the knee the right way. I can’t start favoring the left knee too much or I might injure it as well. I have to run slow. Every slight incline slows me down more. I keep pace with another runner for a very long time but he slowly pulls away. I can’t keep up with him. At my heels is someone else who seems to be trying to close the gap. He finally passes me but I can keep him within sight, at least.

There are no markers. There is no timer. There is nothing there but the road. The pain isn’t building but it reminds me that I’m not 100%. There is no reason to push it. I could walk the rest of the way and still get the donations. I’m wearing the tutu and my time will be miserable anyway. Walk, Mike, walk the rest of the race and it will be okay. No one is keeping up with anything except that you ran it, no one says you have to run it well. The knee is tired of the attitude.

At the final turn I am tired of the knee. I am tired of the idea that my worse time ever has to be worse than it already is. At the final turn I remember that there are ten puppies, ten, who someone took in, and all I have to do is run a race as miserably as I can. In the distance I can see the finish line. I pick up the pace. The guy that passed me is closer. The knee protests but I push it. Come on dammit, it’s not like you have ten puppies to take care of, move your ass! Then it’s there, the second wind, the will to do better than the worst time ever which I’ve already accomplished. There are people out there taking in foster dogs, sick dogs, wounded and damaged dogs, and all I have to do is this, this one thing, and I can help them. The knee screams as I run flat out, wobbly, wearing a tutu, a man whose limitations are clearly defined by age, by the cold, by the lack of training, but whose will to save dogs cannot be denied. I do not have ten puppies to care for. I cannot foster another dog yet. But I can run with the worst of them, and I can do it wearing a tutu!

If you really want to help rescue dogs, find a way, create a way, get in touch with your inner tutu, and no matter your time or your knees, it is a race you will win.

Take Care,
Mike



Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Three In the Morning

The Three, Sam, Lucas, and Lilith, are the Keepers of Sleep and they are also the Sled Dogs of The Dawn. If I wake in the middle of the night, through some dream or my uneasiness, all I have to do is listen for the breath of three animals. I know who is where by the sound of their lungs. Lucas will always be close, right next to me, his shattered face leaking air yet comforting, Lilith with her slight sound of air fueling her big heart, and Sam’s old rattle, still fighting for life, in the corner, defending his dreams with past glory and hunting. The longer I keep company with dogs the more I realize they keep us sane and human.

Of course, Lilith wants not only to get of twenty minutes early but she decides she will be Cuddle Mutt in full view of her brothers and on the very edge of the bed. Lucas decides to grab her by the collar and pull her down. Sam decides to get into the middle of all this and snarl at everyone. Yes, keeping me sane and human, yes, I see that in them right now, I do.

The morning is sticky, nearly, with humidity and there’s a feel that the weather’s on the change. It’s sixty an hour before dawn yet the forecast is for it to be below forty this time tomorrow morning. The dogs feel it. Lilith uses the cooler air as fuel and she runs great circles around Lucas who gamely tries to keep up with her. It’s dark, really dark, but I can hear the footfall of my Little Girl Dog and I try to make sure she knows where I am too. She crashes into Lucas and they tussle in the darkness, sounding all the world as if there are two wild animals trying to kill one another. Every prey animal within earshot has to be on the move at the noise. Who would dare stay were the monsters play?

I actually get breakfast started without anyone underfoot or without telling anyone to get out of the kitchen. They all rush in at once, tails wagging, biting at one another’s faces, pushing, shoving, then they discover there is food in the bowls and everyone settles down to feed. There is a great crunching of kibble and the morning begins as it should.

As I eat I am surrounded. Lilith and Sam stay back away from me but Lucas watches every bite, drool beginning to stalactite from the corner of his mouth like liquid fangs. He never gets fed from the table, never will, but there is that hope, like buying a lottery ticket. Lucas lives for the day that all his numbers hit and I decide to let him eat off my plate on the table, which just is as likely as me winning the lottery. I never buy lottery tickets.

Lilith’s dalliance with the table is more subtle, at least in comparison to Lucas’. She’s wait until all the food is gone and I’m reading the morning news and she’ll jump up on my chair and put one paw on the table. She knows I might ignore her advances if she just lands on the chair, but the paw on the table must be dealt with. She also knows I will not be harsh with her. By loving on her it encourages her to paw the table but so what? This is her way of telling me she wants attention and she needs to be hugged a bit before I leave. This is the second time of the morning she’s asked me to spend some time with her. Jealous of the love fest, Lucas comes in on the other side and he gets half the attention and Lilith absorbs the other half. Sam is lying on the floor ignoring us all.


At least I thought he was.


I get out of the shower and go back into the bedroom and there is Sam, on the bed, a place no one is allowed if I’m not there. Not only is Sam on the bed, but he’s managed to get halfway under the covers. It’s a warm morning so I know he isn’t cold. Sam holds himself very still waiting to see if he’ll get scolded for trespass. I get dressed and slip into bed beside Sam, and pet his ears. He’s an old and crazy dog. His time here is no longer measured in years but maybe months, maybe weeks, maybe days or hours. I pull Sam close and shoo the others off the bed as they try to intrude. They know. They understand. Sam needs to feel loved. He needs to feed special and valued. I wrap Sam up in the blanket and hold him, petting his ears the way he loves them to be petted. After a few minutes he falls asleep and I slip out of bed to get ready for work.

I called in sick one morning because it was very cold and it was raining. All three were in the bed with me and there just was no way I was going to leave them out in that weather when I could have stayed home with them and been this warm. There are books to read when warmed by dogs. The body heat of those who love you cannot be denied as one of the greatest sources of comfort known.


When I sit down to put my boots on Lucas crashes his face into mine, in a friendly sort of way, to let me know he’s the last to get any individual attention. My Gentle Giant knows the others must be loved too, but he thinks he’s special. He knows he’s special. He knows that he’s the dog that sleeps by my side and the dog who, in the middle of the night when I awake and need a touchstone to make sure I am still sane, Lucas will be that dog.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Used Car Salesman's Wife




I knew a used car salesman who would never sell a car that was worth more than a few hundred dollars. He would sell quick and cheap transportation to those desperate enough to buy from him. But if he had a price on a car that read “500 down and 100 a month” that meant he paid five hundred for it. Whatever the down payment was is what he actually bought it for and the monthly payments were profit. Usually, there was something wrong with the car, something that would show up in a month or two, and if the person he sold the car wasn’t making payments he knew he would get them to come back anyway.

Human beings are, by and large, susceptible to advertising. Worse, the deeper they invest into the concept the harder it is for them, as a whole, to resist the idea that they’re really believing lies and for someone else’s profit.

Our local grocery store has weekly sales that drop the prices on some products but what they don’t tell you is they have raised the prices on nearly everything else. But you knew that. You know they aren’t going to lose money to help you. You know they don’t know who you are, or care who you are, or even so much as give a damn if what they sell you is poison. Right before and right after any big sporting even they’ll sell soft drinks and snacks dirt cheap, hoping to pump more High Fructose Corn Syrup into your system, setting you up for an addiction that will include nearly every product they can put on the shelf.

Moreover the idea of spending money to save money is more than a little skewed. You save money by not spending money. Saving money by spending money is akin to bombing someone to keep the peace. What they’re actually doing when something is on sell is not charging you the whole amount on that product, or merely wounding you instead of killing your budget. It’s like someone shooting you in the leg and telling you how much better off you are than a head shot.


Last night I ran into a guy that has been in and out of the gym scene as a trainer as long as I’ve been in Valdosta. He’s a greying and tubby guy, not the kind you’d see as someone physically fit. He talks a mean game of it but then again, I’m immune to that sort of thing. Not only have I known him for a very long time, I know his wife. Now she’s the one in the family who is the most fit and most dedicated to the idea of being fit. She also makes more money than he does. She’s hard working and dedicated and he talks a lot. He’s managed to sell himself to one gym after another in town and people keep buying into the spiel.

But stop and think about what I have written about this man so far. What do you think he’s really trying to sell here? If you know the type like I know the type then you realize what sort of person he is and what he is really doing. Yet there really isn’t any sort of societal remedy to this sort of thing because we’ve bought into the idea that selling is good and the market will take care of itself, which all the evidence in the world points in the opposite direction. Truly free markets will lead us to used car salesmen and High Fructose Corn Syrup. It has.


Even the idea of a gym has its used car salesman type approach to it. Think about it; you sell one hundred memberships in a month and if you really thought those people were going to show up you wouldn’t have any room in the place at all. You know, you truly know, about ten percent of the people might show. They’ll wear out your treadmills but you have the other 90% of them paying for that wear and tear without even coming in more than once or twice a year. Gym lose money on dedicated people and they make money on those people who have a membership and use it as a sort of , “Tomorrow I’ll eat better and go work out” thing but they rarely do.

Grocery stores have to get you into the building but gyms only have to sell you the idea that you ought to show up. Regardless of what a gym might show you or tell you in an ad, the truth of the matter is you have to get off your ass and work out to get anything out of it. That well-built blonde on the billboard is some model they hired to pose for the ad. The real truth is you’ll be working out with a mother of three that needs an hour of alone time and wants desperately to fit into jeans that she was wearing a decade ago. She could give a damn less about you, doesn’t care how much you can lift, and isn’t impressed at all with the sounds you make. This isn’t a commercial; it’s real life, and real life means there are a lot of people there just trying to get through the damn day. They aren’t showing those people in ads, are they? They certainly haven’t told you that you are one of them.

You are. So am I. And likely, even those women who pose for ads are really just trying to get through the day without getting too caught up with what’s being sold and told versus what we all know reality looks like. To be part of the process is not to be immune to the process. To be immune to the process doesn’t mean you can escape it entirely.


Take a deep breath. Look around you. Who is it you are? Who are you trying to sell yourself as, even to you? We live in a universe of ads and commercials. Don’t buy into it. And don’t sell into it, either.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Woman: Of Oceans and Mists



There’s a twin layer of fog in the front yard, the first being a few feet off the ground and the second being a little over head high. They both seemed to have lifted off the ground for no good reason at all for there is no other fog for them to join. I see bright stars overhead right now and the horizon is clear. But the yard fog seems to be local, interested in my property only, a weather event held for a purpose; this cannot be true.

The road is empty as I leave early in the morning and there is another twin layer of fog near a bottom and my truck slips through it as if I am entering another world and leaving mine behind. Did that not just happen? Even now, I wonder what it took for there to be two layers, not just one, and by what device do they hang so, suspended water particles and air, cooled or heated just so, to create the fog, create the gap between them, and why at this moment is the temperature just right for all of this, as I ease through a morning that is unborn.

A woman is on my mind and I wonder about where she is and if she is awake at this point in time. Very few people are and I wouldn’t be if I had a choice or better meds. At three this morning I woke up and sleep got up and left through the front door as if she wanted nothing else to do with me. This is not the woman’s fault. Or maybe it is.

A man can be moved by a woman, like the ocean is moved by wind, or gravity, or by some unseen force deep underwater, and that moment be towards that woman, but it doesn’t have to be a tsunami or a hurricane. It can be a gentle wave pushed up on short to retreat far from its destination, like a glance across a room or a compliment on the way she carries herself, to let her know you’ve been watching.

That may be all, ever, that we know of one another, the wave upon the shore, the compliment of a notice, and like someone walking barefoot on the beach, she may feel the water at her ankles and smile, but still keep walking. There isn’t a rejection here or a revulsion, just a meeting of flesh and water, and flesh is water, and the passing of time, and time passes.

When you meet someone, or see someone, or you read something they wrote or you see a photo of that person, you might think to yourself that you feel something, and that feeling means you know something about that person, and you do, and you don’t. It doesn’t matter when you’re alone with them because they will sense that feeling, that you know them, that you are interested in knowing more, and maybe they’ll enjoy the sensation and the attention, but then again, maybe they’ll consider it an intrusion, you will never know, until that moment.

It cannot be called back or regenerated, like that wave that kisses the ankle of a woman walking in the surf, she might remember it not at all if it was too slight, and she walks away from the water if the wave washed upon her too hard, but if the wave slips over her feet at just the right moment, leaving tiny shells between her toes as she walks, giving her pause to glance down at the multicolored wonders in the sand, then that was perfect, but there is no way to create that moment it either is or it is not and it will be or never will be, and like the fog in the yard, if you do not walk out into it, and breathe the fog in as you walk into it, you will never know what it was like to be there.

That simple step toward water, lapping at the edge of a beach or suspended above the earth, just over head high, to look at clear and cold stars in the sky through a personal veil made of billions of tiny drops of water, which might look like stars themselves, is a step towards something. The need, the urge, the compulsion to feel and experience something different is the same longing to tell a woman she has beautiful eyes which may well be true yet for a man to say that to a woman is to ask her to feel the water and to look up at the stars, and at that moment, she decides what she will see and she decides what she feels, or she cannot help what she sees and will not disallow what she feels.

It is no wonder we are fascinated and compelled by water, be it the endless ocean or the mist. Mostly, more than anything else, we are a liquid people, made of water, with the properties of the substance in our veins, endlessly flowing, following currents, and being part of a crashing wave or merely a fog. This is who we are in at the essence. We join in with others and there will be a river heading towards some destination and there will be those that fight the current and those who will facilitated it. But we are water, mist and ocean.

My day begins soon and I must leave this place of stars and fog and beaches and ankles. But the woman is still there, as certainly as the blood in my veins carries water, and I wonder if she wonders if I am not deranged by these words of mine, that flow from my thoughts like a spring in the desert? It matters very little. For her feet will feel the water and she will walk through the waves, and perhaps, she will offer a hand, so that we would walk together. The ocean will send its endless waves, large and small, and the morning will lend us her mists.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mosquitoes Drive Fords

Cruise control is one of those things I said I would never own up until I bought a truck that already had it. Once I discovered the joys of cruise control I’m not sure I could ever go back to using my feet the way I once did. Cruise control means never having to look back at the cop on the side of the road. Set it and forget it! I’m a fairly slow driver to begin with and cruise control means no matter how far I go or where I go I am going to know how fast I’m traveling at any given moment.

The downside to all of this is I have discovered more morons on the road than ever before, and we were not running short of them.


There I am, not in a hurry, really, but I decided to stretch things out a bit. The speed limit is sixty-five so I lock down at just a hair below that. I’ve got a jump drive in with nothing but Beethoven and the sun is shining and the weather is nice and it’s just a great day to be on the open road, is it not? The first distraction from this is a mosquito that has found its way into the truck somehow. It’s a wily little devil and no matter how much I open the windows or close the windows or spray the interior of the truck with napalm, I can’t seem to kill it or get rid of it. I have both windows open, the defroster going full blast, and I’m trying to flush the thing away from the dashboard with a sock I pulled out of my gym bag in the back. I can’t imagine how this looks from the side view; a man with both windows down flogging away with a sock while going down the road. But that’s the problem. I look over to my left and there is a car there. Remember, I’m locked down at sixty-four point eight nine miles per hour. So I have a couple of questions here…

One, if you were going slower than I was going how did you get beside me? If you were going faster than I was, why are you still beside me? But there this guy is, in a 90’s something Ford and he’s going down the road, side by side with me, and he doesn’t seem to realize that this is all sorts of stupid all at once. My choices look like this; I can keep holding hands with this guy until he does something about his own brain farts. I can slow down and hope he maintains speed, or I can speed up in hopes that he stays put. Right as I have decided to slow down another truck gets begin this guy and pushes him faster. Does this solve the problem? Hell, no, this makes it infinitely worse.

The Ford guy realizes there’s someone behind him and speeds up just fast enough to get about five feet in front of me before he cuts me off. I have to hit the brakes which knocks off my cruise control. I drop back one hundred yards or so to be shut of them both, figure out Ford Moron is actually doing about sixty-five, and I lock it down again.

But Ford Moron isn’t maintaining his speed at all. He’s slowing down, speeding up, slowing down, and speeding up again. I finally have enough and push it over to seventy miles an hour and try to pass him. He speeds up.

Now I have him. I push it over to about seventy-five and he creeps up to that speed just to stay up with me. I hit the brakes hard. He passes me and I can see him look at me like I’ve lost my mind. But now I’m back down to fifty-five, and he’s way ahead of me. I can ease it back up to a nice speed and still have Ford Moron up there ahead by a mile or so, right?

Oh no, that would make life way too easy. After a couple of minutes I realize that Ford Moron has dropped down to about sixty miles an hour. He’s found someone else to attach to and he’s shadowing a Chevy the same way he was irking me. The guy driving the Chevy is trying to shake him the same way I was by speeding up and slowing down, but guess what? It’s not working.


I decide to Kamikaze this thing. I’m going to crank it up to EIGHTY MILES AN HOUR and get past this guy forever. I’m going to blow past them both so terribly fast that… the mosquito attacks me, coming out of the sun so I can’t see it, and it hits me in my ear canal, like the thermal exhaust port on a Death Star. For all I know this thing is carrying Ebola, West Nile, Malaria, Marburg, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Beri Beri, Scurvy, and toe jam. It. Ends. Here.

I pull over to the shoulder of the road and use the sock as a flail. Someone in that truck is going to die. One of us is not getting out of this alive. It’s me versus one of the most deadly pests known to humankind ever. Never has a simple white tube sock changed the course of a man’s life as it will today.

Finally, I wound the monster and it dives for the floorboard, hoping I won’t follow but the sock is without mercy. The sock now has the smell of blood, death, and the YMCA on it. The mosquito takes a direct hit and tries in vain to gain altitude. Die! Die! DIE! I wish I had a toothpick to drive through its heart.

 I have to find a taxidermist to mount this thing on a board or under crystal. But life must go on, I do realize that. I head down the road again, the body of the creature slung loose into the wind for its brethren to find and to wail over. Let them be warned. Make your speed six-five, Mr Sulu! Six-five Aye!

There is a car beside me. Traveling at the same speed I am. Must. Restrain. Sock.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We Are The Colored People.

I didn’t sleep well last night but I didn’t expect to either. Then Sam woke up around two wanting out, and honestly, the dog is nearly fourteen, I can get up to let him out if he wants to go. But then Lilith and an Owl got into a shouting match at the back of the property and it was an hour or so before I was back in bed again. Lucas has an odd habit of wanting to get on the bed but he wants me to ask him. He will sit there with his front paws on the edge of the bed, and I can turn off the light and pretend I’m asleep and there he will sit until I invite him up. Now, if Lilith jumps up on the bed Lucas is going to claim his spot before she can, but generally speaking, Lilith waits for Lucas.

It’s an odd thing.

So I get everyone situated and I can’t fall back asleep and Lilith really wants to have a few words with that Owl, and I have to tell her, look, I understand you’re just doing your job but Owls have talons. The people who make words up to use in language invented a whole brand new word to describe those things that Owls are packing at the end of their feet. Don’t mess with them. Owls kill things for a living and even if they don’t kill you it still means a mess. And they don’t taste like chicken. Now, I have no idea what an Owl tastes like but Lilith seems to understand what I am trying to say. She curls up in a ball at Lucas’s feet and falls asleep.

Sam has begun this habit of licking his forearms at night. I have no idea why. I’ve searched for some reason he does this and there just simply isn’t one. But late at night it sounds like I’m in the honeymoon suite with two teenage lesbians.


So every year, on my birthday, I do something I normally would not do. Last year, I was dating someone and we went to a really nice restaurant and I spent more money than I had, but it was well worth it. Every once in while you just have to treat yourself to something different. This year I hadn’t planned anything but I was leaning towards going on a road trip. Okay, I’m fifty-four now, impulse control really shouldn’t be a problem but as I was reading an article on who else was born on this day, and I already knew Anne Sexton was, I ran into this quote:


And I knew I had to have it as my own. At eleven in the morning I decided that I was going to get a tattoo. By three I was on my way home with it on my upper left arm.

Now the place I went was full of young colored people, and by colored I mean colorful, who had odd bits and bobs of metal stuck in their faces and none of them was showing fewer than a half dozen tattoos. Each and every one of these young people a member of a tribe that has had members in it for the last thirty thousand years if not longer. Getting inked is not new to me; I got my first and only one back in 1998. So it has been a while and things have gotten a little better since then. The place was very nice and very clean, but oddly, they only take cash. I had to raid an ATM to get the money for it.

Let’s lay it down. It took me about forty-five minutes to get there. It took another ten to find an ATM and get back. I stood around and waited for another five minutes or so after talking to the guy about what I wanted and where I wanted it. Two or three times this voice inside my head said, “Dude! This is permanent!” and that actually is an argument for getting a tattoo, not against it.

You either believe or you do not, or you’re stuck somewhere in between it all. “I am alone here in my own mind. There is no map and there is no road.”
I really do not think I have heard it said any better than that when it comes to how it feels to have creativity in a world of sameness. It’s hard to express how it feels to those who have never even so much as dipped their toes into the ocean of their own mind. I had this conversation with the tattoo guy and he was on board with the idea that tattoos aren’t some sort of symbolic gesture against authority or anything like that; tattoos are walking, living, breathing creations of art that you never have to worry about losing or having stolen from you. There are permanent examples of your soul on display. Do I worry that one day this quote won’t mean to me what it does at this very moment? No, because at this very moment this is who I am and what I am. If I change it is still a picture of evolution of who I am. It’s important. It means something to me. It’s something that I am willing to carry forever.

What have you, what do you own, that you can say the same about? Is there anything you care about as deeply as this?

There are two kinds of people, inked and plain. Colored and plain. Works of art, walking canvases, visual representations of ideas and philosophy and beauty and abstracts and everything that makes us human beings who we are, that is who we are, and then there are those who simply aren’t.

At age fifty-four I have something to say about who I am and how I feel, and the rest of the world is free to read it and ask about Anne Sexton or they are free to make any judgment they want about who I am.

No Coloreds.

When you read those two words which side of the sign do you wish you were on?


Take Care,

Mike

My birthday Present to Myself

A quote from Anne Sexton, with whom I share a birthday today!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dawn Of The Red



I’ve never been able to reconcile her recalcitrance when it comes to speaking, at any level for any length of time, about the subject of intimacy, and her ability to express herself totally in the act itself. We’ve never had a verbal discussion about sex without her covering her head with a pillow and singing out loud so she can’t hear me and more than once she’s simply left without saying a word to keep from having the discussion. She doesn’t want to tell me what she wants. She wants to me discover it on my own. “If it’s worth anything to you then look for it” was as much as she has ever said on the subject and that is likely all she will ever say.

I remember as a teenager making out with a girl who wasn’t going to go but so far, and when I slipped my hand down to undo her belt she put her hand on mine, but didn’t push it away or pull it away. She was caught in between one point and another, between the desire to go further and the pleasure and safety of where we were. Her body was leaning into mine and wanted the jeans gone. She settled for allowing me to explore her without undressing her totally, and you can guess where that led. The slippery slope she had allowed me to ease her onto grew much steeper the more slippery it became. There’s a point of no return where the body takes over where the mind won’t go, and in good truth, there’s a good portion of the mind that has done all it can do, and there’s another part of the mind that takes over. Simple, primitive and effective, all the right things in all the right places, pleasure, and more pleasure, and the whole world be damned.

But this woman, young as she might be, is far from a teen. She has two failed marriages behind her, far behind her, and she doesn’t speak very much about either man, except at the end both of them wanted to be married to the concept of a woman and not be married to a person. There is just so many hours in the day two people can devote to passion, even great passion, before they have to sit down and come to terms with the other person outside of gender.

We hold hands as we walk and I’ve learned to interpret her hands as we approach the house. She starts getting sweaty and nervous if she’s thinking about sex. The downside is if she thinks I am and she isn’t she’ll have a similar reaction. If I put my arm around her and she does the same how closely she holds me tells me something about how she feels. If I put my hands on her as we’re going up the steps to the house I can tell if she’s inviting me to kiss her once we get inside, and if a kiss is allowed then she’s inviting me in.

There are times one match is all that is needed to bring forth a conflagration and there are times I have to have more tinder. There is no reason, sometimes, for the fire not to begin immediately, but the fire is not the point. The point here is do I know how to build the fire, do I have the right fuel, is the heat right, is everything ready that goes on the fire. Far, far, worse, than trying to build a fire at the wrong time is trying to build a fire at the right time and ruining it by rushing the flames to a greater height than they are ready to achieve. I’ve learned that infinite patience yields infinite reward and that no patience yields long and awkward silences where anything I say or so just drives her further away more quickly. She isn’t a tease and she isn’t making demands of me. This is just who she is. This is the person that she lives with and I have to live with it too, or I can live without her. Our relationship is more complicated than it has to be on many levels but there are some things about some people you endure because you realize if they change you won’t have the same person to love.

Her fingers are sweaty as we near the house and I ask her if she wants to go sit beside the pond, and watch the sun come up. She says no, and this is her way of telling me she wants to go inside with me. My arm goes around her waist, gently, and she pulls me close. Expertly, even though I am well over a foot taller than she, we scale the steps, one, two, three, and we slip into the doorway without the dogs waking up. The kiss is more than an invitation. Everything she cannot put into words, will never put into words, she can say very loudly with a kiss, one kiss, and it’s a hurricane, an earthquake, a natural event of magnitude now, the unstoppable lava flow, the building of a wave that will devour everything in the world but one moment.


Later, she lies on her side, on hand on me, smiling, her hair wrecked, her heart beating loudly, her breath coming to her in gulps. I lay back and try to breathe. The once chilly air of the room now feels overly warm and moist. We have reached back in time and pulled a primitive and wetter world into the room, and it’s hard to catch the breath. We watch as the rays of the sun begin to nibble away at the shadows and she gets up. She stands the window, and peeks out at the rising sun that is peeking back at her through the Spanish moss. Her red hair is like the sunrise and it reflects the moss, a tangled sort of redness that is hidden in shadow and doubt, She almost never stands fully undressed and I think for just an instant I’ve captured her in one of the most unguarded moments I have ever seen her in. If I watch her, if I keep my eyes open, she will not leave. The sun gets brighter, I blink my eyes, and she is gone.

Take Care,

Mike