Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Writing and Possession and Writing

For Cathy

You sit down across the table from someone and the way they’re dressed, the way they speak, the way they position their hands, and certainly their eyes tell you something about who they are. Your mind subconsciously surmises things about this person and it depends a lot on your mood, too, and where you are. What you’re doing, when you first meet someone, even if you aren’t aware of it is creating fiction. You are creating a character for a storyline. The more the person speaks and interacts with you the less fiction there will be, at least on your side of the equation, but until you get to know this person you’re going to rely a lot on the notions that come into your head from what you see and hear about this person.


Let’s further supposed that this person is a man and you’ve been warned about him. He’s a bit on the lecherous side, you’ve been told, so there are little things about him that advertise this to you. Is it really him or is it suggestion? He’s overly friendly but so are most Lab puppies. He’s a toucher but then again there are people out there who are just like that. Later you discover that there’s a rumor he’s gay and you wonder how the hell all that got started anyway, but remember, most of what we see in people is fiction we’ve created.


Now sit down with an empty chair and begin to write the person who was never there. For what reason? For this reason, for the reason of explaining fiction, and how we react to people, describe the man. He’s thirty-nine but looks young for his age. He works out but eats poorly so he’s a little too heavy. Outgoing to the point it puts some people off, let’s call it six feet two and two fifty pounds, blue jeans suggesting causal but a nice shirt that tells us he has some money and perhaps some cultural experience beyond the norm. Short hair, long hair, ah, pony tail braided with a small silver napkin holder at the end, quirky as hell, but still within the parameters of not outright weird, but gracing the edge.

He’s right handed and his left hand has a burn scar that looks like he might have held onto the hand of the devil for an instant too long and you wonder where that came from, don’t you? He has jet black hair without a trace of grey at all. He keeps that left hand in his lap and speaks with his right, but not to the point of distraction. The waitress knows him, calls him by name, and seems to like him beyond the idea of just getting a tip, and that’s important, you know, how people treat wait staff. He tells a joke, leans into the table, brings the left hand in to speak with it, too, and the joke is just off color enough to make you laugh without being so far off the deep end as to embarrass. Okay, he seems to realize there are boundaries here.

You know this place, you feel comfortable here, mostly people here know you by sight and you know the bartender, but it’s a bit early for him to be in, yet. He walks in and you smile, wave, and he smiles and waves, back, your new companion follows suit, but as the bartender slips around the bar you catch his eye and he yours. He shakes his head at you and frowns. There’s the first hint that something isn’t right with your new person, or perhaps it’s just something personal with the bartender. How do you find out?

You ask him how often he comes here, what he likes about the menu and wine list. This is comfortable territory and the fact that he knows wine well enough to pronounce the names right is a plus. There’s a bit of a wine snob there and you guess he’s not the type to drink straight out of the box. He tells you they have a drink here that is only for those with a ride home already, and this is a slight gambit here, the beginning of a serious flirt, the hint that one night you will have a ride home, and you like the way the idea was presented. But the drink is made of burning rum that heats up the fruit in the drink and it is very tropical and very exotic, and the conversation turns to the beach and the conversation, despite the misgivings of the bartender, has a nice easy flow to it, without any dead space.

The lunch crowd is beginning to filer in and the young waitress is strongly suggesting something off the menu. Two people with no food is two people who tip lightly, and she smiles as if to suggest she’s like something to happen here. It might be rude to ask about the scar, you realize that, or it may open the door to personal questions, and you aren’t sure about that yet, but food would be good if you’re to have an early drink with this person. The bartender’s judgment is a weighty thing. You know him from way back and you know him to look after female patrons.

This is a place known for having great food even though it’s a really small bar and your new found companion suggests their chef salad which is a favorite of yours to begin with. That’s one of those connection things that people like in other people and he expertly tags a wine that would pair with it perfectly. A very young kid from the local college has been hired to play piano for the lunch crowd and the young man looks like he’s ready to fall apart from nervousness. For all you and your companion can tell, this is the boy’s first time seeing a piano, and you feel sorry for him as the first few attempts at coaxing music from the keyboard sound remarkably like someone who plays the radio well moving up to the next worst instrument available. You and your companion trade glances and you can see it in his face, too. It’s painful to watch someone flounder about so poorly. Who hired this guy? Why would they?

The kid stops, his face as red as the flag from the bartender, you still can’t get past that, and the kid digs a box out of a bag and your companion whispers, “Hari Kari?” and you giggle despite the awkward boy’s dilemma. Yet he pulls out a metronome, and sets it swaying. Suddenly, the obdurate piano keys bend to his will, there is a slow progression of a song, the notes you know belong together are almost there and then he hits it, he takes a deep breath and his eyes sharpen. He watches the metronome and forgets where he is. The piano goes from a wild beast tossing him about to a sturdy steed he rides like the wind. His face, once a caricature of some long lost comedian now looks nearly predatory. He plays soft music but it has the edge of being expertly performed and the lunch crowd, and you, are captivated.


The lull in the conversation begins but is filled with salad and wine, really good wine, and the music is perfect. You feel a connection with the young kid behind the keyboard now, he overcame his nervousness and triumphed. Your companion expertly nails the composer of a classical piece you’ve never known the name of and his hand slips across the table to hold your and this is one of those moments where your emotions are tossed as completely as the salad’s different components.


So we know who you are here; you are the woman in the restaurant. Your role is fairly passive but you’ve met someone, and his role is more active. We know very little about him, so far, and we know there are minor characters in the scene. But all of this, each and every part of it, is fiction to the degree that the pieces of all of this in my mind, have laid it out in a very short story that may or may not have somewhere to go.


Still with me?


If I decide to take this story forward I then have to decide what to do with each character. The Young Piano Player, for instance. At first, he was a bumbling young man about to make a fool of himself in public. How would have felt if he had simply burst into tears and ran off the stage? Conversely, your companion’s remark about Hari Kari could have been much more deeply cruel and where would that have left your mood? But the food, the wine, the music, everything was as it should have been, and the setting for evolution of this story remains.

My part in this, is to negotiate with the characters. I have to decide if your companion is true or not. Does he know the piano player? Will he reappear? What of the bartender? So many lives here with so much going on and I have to get the best out of all of them and make sure their lives matter to you.

It’s a form of possession, both ways. I have to be those characters and I have to allow them to be themselves inside of me. The story will dictate who is who and oddly, they take on their own lives, without my urging and sometimes without my consent. Yes, without my volition and beyond my direct control, characters do form.


Possession, without the side of pea soup, and with great background music.

You now know more about me than you ever have before.


Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Lost Soul

The man is an older man, twenty-five years more than I’m carrying if a day and he’s driving a car that has seen its better days, too. He stops in front of my house, sits there a while, then backs up and pulls in behind my truck. He seems lost. He backs up, stops, parks the car and just sits there for a while. He opens the door and struggles to get out and stares at my house as if is a hallucination.  The dogs alert on him and I put the entire pack out. Every else may be, I believe this human being to be harmless, in as much as one of them can be.

I meet him in the yard and he’s looking for a man I knew many years ago, one of the first people I met in this area, and the man died about ten years back. The Lost Soul is shaken by this news. He tells me my house wasn’t here the last time he was here and that he’s sure I’m wrong about the man being dead, because he spoke with him, wait, it was, Sara’s granddaughter graduated from Georgia that year, that was 1999, and there was that Timmons boy that she was going to married, he got killed in a wreck in 99, too, broke her heart, but she got married about, let’s see, that was…

And he does this for fifteen minutes, connecting the dots and talking about people that are gone or going and he retraces his past back when he last spoke to someone he was in the Army with and suddenly he realizes that it’s been over seventeen years or so, maybe just sixteen, but surely someone would have called him. He looks at me as if he’s trying to figure out who I’m related to out here.

I tell him I happened upon the place and it was for sell and none of the family out here wanted it. That’s the short version of the story and it is true. The Lost Soul tells me to wait and then tells me to follow him and in his car he has a photo album. There’s dozens and dozens of photos and he shows me the man he’s looking for much younger and he’s trying to convince me that someone I once knew and someone he once knew very well, isn’t dead. His withered hands tremble and shake as he turns the pages and jabs a finger at a photo of some young man in a uniform that was once not a Lost Soul.

The man’s aunt is still alive, still spry at over ninety-five years old, and he shakes his head and tells me that she died several years ago, and he went to the funeral, it was a nice one, many people there, many people he knew was there, and he remembered it being at the church, and I tell him that was her husband and he looks at me as if he remembers, nearly, and he looks again at the house and looks around as if he ought to see something that he knows.

We go inside and he’s thrilled to meet the dogs and the dogs seem to realize he’s a Lost Soul and Lilith sits beside him and leans on him. The Lost Soul tell me about a dog named Betty who looked just like this one here but… He looks at Lilith and puts his hand on her head and she allows it with a lot of grace. Tyger Linn takes a step forward and looks at me as if to ask me what is wrong with the Lost Soul? Why is he hurt? Why is he sad? Why is this happening? The Cousins keep their distance, seemingly understanding that this is a human that needs some room right now. Now, the man seems even more lost than before and whatever else I can or cannot do for him I cannot allow him to leave on his own.

There’s a nephew of the dead man somewhere around these parts and I leave a voice mail for him. He won’t answer his phone directly but he will get back to you in his own time. He is not a young man either anymore. I make sure the Lost Soul is comfortable and I give him a bottle of water. Lilith licks his hand as if trying to heal it.

The Lost Soul tells me that they had to walk from one train station to a place where there was a man with a wagon pulled by a horse to get back to this farm, so very many years ago, and there in the dark they could walk by starlight because there was nothing else to walk under and no one ever thought anything about it at all. The night was cool and they smoked cigarettes as they walked and he quit smoking, wait, and he’s off connecting dots again with people being born and dying and living and not living, and he narrows down his kicking the habit back to when Nixon was president and after Johnson and before Reagan was shot.

He remembers where he was when JFK was murdered, and it’s an odd thing because he uses that term, “murdered” and it’s not a term most people use when describing the event. There’s a sense of decency about him that he hasn’t lost and someone has murdered someone it ought to be put plainly. But then he remembers he quit smoking and tells me that it was much harder than anything else he did, but he hesitates and he looks at me as if there was something else, but he rather not talk about it.

The phone rings and it scares the living hell out of me because I’m listening to the Lost Soul and I tell the nephew who is here and he says he’s come get him. They talk on the phone and then I talk to the nephew who says it’s okay to let him drive down to his aunt’s house. The Lost Soul leaves, and he leaves three or four times, telling me he has to go, but connecting the dots with this departure or that one, and I let him wander the past as he will.


It takes a full acre for him to back up and turn around but he waves to me as he pulls away. He sits in his car for more than a few minutes halfway up the driveway and I wonder. But just as I am about to walk over and see if he is okay, he pulls away and I watch him slowly pull into my neighbor’s driveway. Maybe seeing someone he thought was dead will make him less of a Lost Soul, or maybe it will make him more of one.


Take Care,

Mike

Monday, July 20, 2015

Your Butterfly, Your Dream.

Dreaming is a sure sign that we are never truly aware how much of sanity is just some sort of mutual agreement not to question it. You know the thoughts you have while you are dreaming belong to you and yet because you’re asleep you feel no responsibility for them. Yet deep down inside you have to own them. You have to realize that who you are cooked that stuff up for you to smoke and there for a few moments at night you were banging away with some woman who wasn’t your wife and you sure as hell aren’t going to tell her when you rolled over and got things cranked up it was because your mind was out in adultery land dancing away.

So who are these strangers who inhabit our dreams and for that matter, who are these strangers who crank up the shows at night? There you are, at work, and let’s say it’s your job to figure out all the expenses your company has created during the month. You pull up invoices for this and that, and oh damn, that jerk in the motor pool forgot to submit the fuel consumption again, just use last month’s as an estimate and straighten him out later, and mother of dog, who in the hell approved the new laptop for Tommy? And you stop and realize that you haven’t seen a memo on this and Tommy is stupid enough to go cowboy on you and buy a laptop and try to get it approved later. There’s a process for red flagging things like this and you realize that this is going to get back to Tommy but damn, if you pass it on it will make you look like you approve of it, and damn, eight hundred dollars for a laptop? No, thanks, Tommy! So you keep going and you realize that there’s some expenses out there that are questionable, but not to the point of a laptop and there’s something going on because the secretary down in maintenance bought four staplers, no, wait, that’s the same invoice four times, damn echoing email, but you understand all of this as part of your reality at work. It is, in its own way, cohesive, except that Tommy is about to get his ass fired for losing a laptop, especially when some stripper down in Florida starts sending out nudes of herself on the company system.

You get called into the pre execution meeting about the laptop and you show everyone the invoice for the laptop and how you flagged it and everyone is sitting there all pissed off and you realize that had the chick just not sent those photos everything might have been okay, but damn, where did some loser like Tommy find a woman like that? And what in the hell was he doing down at Fort Walton Beach? But the execution committee wants facts to back up the firing and you have to print out the paperwork you’ve gotten for it.


That’s all bad enough, really, and you don’t want to be any closer to ground zero than you already are but Tommy confronts you about it, tells you that it’s your fault his purchase got flagged and you tell him it’s an automatic computer thing for anything over five hundred bucks, which he isn’t sure he buys into or not. Tommy clearly is on the way out anyway because he’s been bitten hard by the idea that a man who had enough cash to get the attention of a stripper for a weekend might be able to keep her. Before you can stop him he slips a thumb drive into your computer and there she is dancing on top of bed in a hotel room and you realize that if a man is going to take a bullet for a woman this isn’t the worst he could do.


Later that day, Tommy is gone and gone as in it is over for him, and maybe he’ll drive to Florida to try to find the woman but you get an idea. You crank up the presentation program for the company and include no one but Thomas A Galleon and hit the return button. There’s a pause and suddenly the screen opens up to a room with clothes everywhere and bottles and candles and suddenly there’s the woman, still half undressed and looking at the laptop screen and she’s looking at you as if she has no idea who you are, and she doesn’t.
“Hello?” she says and sits down, nude from the waist up, and plops the laptop in front of her.
“Hi!” you say and you had no idea it would work but it did and now you have nothing to say. The tattoo of a butterfly is right there in front of you and it is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life.
“Who are you?” the woman asks and she shifts around and there’s a flash of ink and breasts and you realize now the rabbit hole Tommy fell down into has opened up in front of you and there is nothing you want more than the dive in head first and burst into flames on your way down.

“You know the guy that left his computer at the joint?” the woman asks, “I brought it home with me. Is he in trouble over this?”
“He got fired” you tell her and you step towards the rabbit hole, “what’s your name?”
She holds the computer up to her face now and is looking at you, examining what has appeared in her world. You can tell she’s getting bored but maybe there’s money to be made here. There a flash of metal as she licks her lips.  “If you want it you can come and get it.” The woman tells you.

So there’s the story of a man with a stable job. You know that part could be true. We’re capable of having jobs like that. But you also realize it’s fiction, created by me, and you realize that fiction is created by people like me, and that it’s coherent to the point you see the plot forming. All of this came out of my mind, but your mind joined in. The characters were invented by me, but they were filled in by you.

That butterfly is all yours.


The question I have now, is how much responsibility do you own for the butterfly? I suggested it but did your mind fill it in? Did you see her room? Did you think about her name? Did you wonder what Tommy looked like?



How close to dreaming is what you and I have just been doing?



Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Coffee with Ellen Brody and a Cast Of Tens.




Even as my dreams go, it was weird enough. The dreamscape was a very wide river, but it was a salt water river. The ocean was rather long than rather wide. There was no main channel at all but a series of sandbars and deep rifts between them like water braided to sand. I was swimming upstream, against the tide of the river, and I saw the fin of a small shark. I realized where there was a small shark there was room for a much larger one. It’s an odd feeling, this species of fear; suddenly the food chain becomes very personal. Such a small predator, a three or four foot long shark is in an instant not some academic study on a nature show or a video, but part of a much larger dynamic.

As I’m writing this out I’m in Starbucks and there’s a couple here with not one, but two screaming kids. The kids are ready to go somewhere, wherever it is the family is going but the parents want coffee, need coffee, and the kids are acting up in order to get the show on the road. There’s way too many people here right now but I’m waiting on someone.

In the saltwater river I swim to a sandbar to take stock of my situation. I have a long way to swim. I can swim from this sandbar to the one dead ahead, and damn, I ought not use that expression, or I can stay closer to shore and kind of crab my way along. Either way I have to cross over deeper, darker water, beautiful that it is in a greenish blue sort of way. A school of small fish spook me because as one they look like a much larger creature and adrenaline floods my body. But if the smaller fish are moving that slowly they are not being chased. I head towards the sandbar in the middle and cross through a channel that could hide a whale.

“If you can’t be quiet we’re aren’t going, I’ll take you home right now” the father is saying to the kids and even I don’t believe him. The mother is cradling her coffee in both hands and sipping hard. The kids both look a lot like her in a way I really cannot define. It’s the skin tone, I think, like a natural tan, but the hair is fair and curly. Dad is as dark as his unshaven face. The kids are marginally under control which is to say they haven’t started a fire yet. One of them, the youngest, which looks to be about three, nearly collides with my table and the father once against threatens to take them home. There are many half naked people here in swimsuit attire and flip-flops. There are also people in here in pajama looking pants and tank tops. There’s a local water park a couple of exits South of here and I wonder if there’s some event there. It’s odd to write out a dream where I’m swimming and so many people have showed up as extras.


Meanwhile, I’m on the sandbar and I realize I’ve made a mistake. The next sandbar is close but the water is running swiftly through the channel between them. But if I can make it to the next island it looks a lot better from that point on. There’s a bend in the sea river and if I make it to the next sandbar I will be able to see past it. A small fishing boat drifts past me and the fisherman in it tosses a lure nearly at my feet. He’s with a woman who is not fishing but sunning and I wonder if they would give me a ride back to wherever I’m going. They drift close by, then slowly away and I lose an opportunity and I feel it. I feel isolated and alone and exposed. I look downstream and I realize I could backtrack and find a safer route. I choose to swim the channel.


“Jaws” came out during the Summer I was fifteen. The movie didn’t scare me at all but the book was made totally of the awesome. Most people who have never read it do not realize the wife of the Chief of Police had an affair with the shark expert. It was a torrid and incredibly intense scene in the book. The children scream about something and the chain of thought is broken. Ellen Brody, the woman in the book, might have looked like the mother of these two screamers. She looks a little like Lorraine Gary who played the part in the movie. The same skin tone, the same eyes, yes, but this is a woman who looks like a car who has been pushed the point of homicide but is hiding it well. She’s drinking her coffee and letting dad try his hand at child management and he’s failing. I wonder what that’s like for a woman, to know, really know, that her partner can’t handle kids in public. He’s trying to herd them into chairs but he can only catch one at a time. Ellen catches me looking and I wonder what she’s thinking. I wonder what women think men are thinking about when they do get caught looking, but in this case, I don’t see her syncing my thoughts about Lorraine Gary.

I’m not a great swimmer but in the dream I make good time. Something brushes against my foot and I swim harder. I feel it again and keep going, trying not to panic, trying to keep it smooth, and the shore comes at me slowly, thirty feet, twenty five feet, twenty feet, fifteen feet, ten feet, I try to stand but it’s still too deep and I realize there’s a ledge here, and I scramble ashore spitting water out of my mouth and feeling scared. I go to the middle of the sandbar, with its thick soft sand squeaking under my feet, and breathe. I feel safer here and as I look upstream I see a giant bridge. There! That is where I have to go! I’m shaking with fear. Something in deep water, unseen and unknowable, knows I am here.


Dad herds the two kids out and Ellen takes her time getting her stuff up. I look again, this time really looking at her, and she looks back, an eyebrow arches, and she looks away. There’s a black tattoo on her forearm, a symbol of some sort and I won’t ever know what it is or why she got it. The kids dart out of the door as dad holds it open and people are coming in so they’ve managed to gain separation on him. He holds the door for everyone, and Ellen goes out in front of him and as she’s walking to the car she look at me through the window. Dad is behind her so he cannot see her flash me a smile, that smile,  before she heads towards the car.


I’m swimming to the next sandbar and suddenly my foot hits the bottom far too soon. The water is draining out of the river as the tide goes out. The next sand bar is connected to the one in front of it now, and I can run between the two. I run hard, knowing I can gain time on my feet that I cannot in the water and the waters recede faster and faster and I run faster and faster. It’s an ungodly speed, I’m flying through the shallows now, sending water up in tiny sheets as I run.

Tyger Lynn barks, maybe at me because I’m dreaming, and I wake up as dawn is peeking into the window at us.


Ellen and her kids, and her husband, and her ink, are gone now. Her twenty second affair with me ends with us both agreeing to go our separate ways without comment. I will miss her, of course, and I think it is a shame she’s bred to the wrong man for all the wrong reasons, but she thought she saw something once that might still be there.

Somewhere, I file away the scene to use later, finish my coffee, and wait.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Death of a Dog





There was a very bright flash of light followed by a clap of thunder that rattled the house. The lights flickered then died. Tyger Lynn wanted to go out and bark at all of this and I let her out. Everyone Lilith and Tanya stayed with me on the sofa. Tanya has learned to give me space while I’m writing but she has also learned that crowding me may mean more pettings. She doesn’t understand how I can man handle her with just one arm. The truth is I was used to navigating the sofa with Lucas who was about eighty more pounds of dog. But Tanya has learned, had learned, to share the sofa. She had learned to share food. She had learned to go to her crate without being told. She was learning some manner in public.

But there was the attack on Lilith that left Lilith with a serious gash on her leg. We came home from an adoption event and Tanya was always ramped up when we got home. I had to grab her by her hind legs and swing her around to get her to come down off of Lilith. And there was the time she attacked Tyger Linn and I had to drag her out of that fight too. There was always some triggering event, and after every adopt event I would force Tanya to stay away from the other dogs until she calmed down. Last week I took her straight into the house with the other dogs and let them all out into the yard and Tanya was okay. I thought we had turned a corner of sorts. I thought she had come down from where she was.

There were two trucks out here last night, men talking to one another just outside the fence, and all three girls were pretty excited. I put Tanya in her crate until the lights were back on and the guys were gone. I had let Lilith and Tyger Linn out. Tanya seemed fine. She was happy to get out of her box and when I let her out she didn’t seem ramped up at all.

I heard the fight and I wondered if it was coyotes. It didn’t occur to me that it was my dogs. I found Tanya on top of Tyger Linn and tried to pull her off by her collar and it didn’t work. I grabbed her hind legs and pulled but she wouldn’t let go. I grabbed the water hose and it seemed to make her madder. There was blood everywhere. I went back into the house and got the shotgun. I really didn’t think I would have to shoot Tanya but I knew the sound of the gun might be enough. They were still fighting but Tyger had managed to escape and get about halfway to the house. I put the barrel down as close to their heads as I could and pulled the trigger.

A twelve gauge is a very loud gun and up close it’s even louder. They broke up the fight and Tyger Lynn ran for the house. I tried to grab Tanya to keep her from going after Tyger and she lunged at me. I kicked her, hard, as hard as I could, and I screamed at her, “NO” and Tanya lunged at me again, and I kicked her again, and I screamed at her and she came after me again, and I dropped the barrel of the gun down and I killed her.

The blast tore a hole through her but she managed to run towards the house.


I went inside and Tyger was hiding under the table. Her neck was a mess of small homes, torn flesh and blood, so much blood. I clean her off and gave her a bath. Shew as covered in dirt and blood. She sat in the tub and trembled and let me clean her off. I got her out of the tub, cleaned her neck off and she ran under the table again.


I knew I had to bury Tanya. I knew as long as she was above ground I wouldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, and it had to be done at night. I went and got the wheelbarrow and the shovel and thought about calling someone. But close to midnight no one is there. My crazy little girl was torn up bad. I had done this to her. Her face was contorted and covered in dirt and her blood and Tyger’s blood. I went back inside and got a wet towel to clean her face off. There in the light of the flashlight she look like the girl I loved. She looked like she was asleep.


This is the third grave I’ve dug this year. The dog of my heart and his companion are buried in the woods outside my home and now, Tanya, the Destroyer, lies cold in the ground.


I’m good with dogs. I can solve any problem. I can take in any dog, right? I can take the crazy little girl and teach her manners and because I love her I can save her. That’s all arrogant bullshit. I fucking failed Tanya. Now she’s dead.



What have I done?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Dollar Store Tag Team Scam Artists and Potted Boot String Adventure.





I broke a boot string at work today and stopped at the nearest Dollar Store to get a new pair. I would have liked to have bought only one, but I know better than to ask. The great thing about Dollar Stores is that they have practically everything. The downside is it’s like looking in a junk drawer in the kitchen for an ink pen that isn’t dead. But I managed to find the shoestrings, and the bootstrings, right there between the plastic yard rakes and the canned meats. I’m guessing they’re all made of the same ingredients. Dollar Stores fascinate the hell out of me. There’s nothing in those places that cannot be bought at better quality nearly anywhere but there’s furniture, and tools, and food, and clothes. And people shop there every day. Uh, I’m in one at this moment buying something instead of going to the trouble to go into town to get something better.

Okay, that was unpleasant, shall we move on?

I’m fifty-four. I’m bald. When I’m in public people tell me that I grit my teeth and clench up so as to look like I’m about to start speaking in tongues or selling Avon. I’m in work boots, one of them loosely connected to my left foot, and work clothes. No woman I’ve ever dated has told me I look sexy when I dress for work. Functionality over fashion. I’m a Utilitarian on a tight budget.

“I’ve never seen a chair like that,” a woman gushes as me, “have you?”

No, I have never seen a chair like that because unless I’m planning to give Tanya a giant plastic chew toy I wouldn’t go looking for a chair like that. Frankly, it looks like something someone would find in a low- rent- three- dollar- cover- first- drink- free- strip clubs. It’s sort of round and cheesy looking and instead of a cushion it has wide netting and the first thing I think is, “No way in hell you can change a light bulb with that damn thing, hell no!” but it’s on sale for seven bucks. Be still my beating heart! Uh, wait, there’s the woman.

She’s younger than me, but who in the galaxy isn’t, and she’s smiling and petting my arm and smiling and what in the actual hell does she want? She’s like a waitress getting bonus points for selling sugar cubed sized desserts in a restaurant. I’m sorry, maybe this is why I’m still single; I think a woman smiling at me and petting me in a Dollar Store is up to no good.

Here we go: There are two women and two small children. The woman speaking to the cashier has three piles of stuff on the belt and she’s trying to pay for three different orders. Only one of those has been rang up but she doesn’t have the money to pay for it. The cashier look at the woman, frowns, looks at me, stares at me, and then says, “You need five more dollars and forty-one cents, please” but she says this with the tone of someone just about to take the nametag off and walk. The woman trying to pay for all this keeps sifting stuff from one pile to another and I wonder if she really thinks that changes how much money she has to pay versus when she has on hand.

The Gushing and Grinning Arm Petter, flings herself into action! “Don’t you worry none baby I’ll help you and them young’uns out! And she begins digging through her purse. My inner Grammar Nazi loads the Luger and prepares to commit suicide. Petter digs and digs and she’s telling the other woman she knows she has five dollars, and she’s pulling out pennies, and dimes, and a three pack of condoms, whoa! I didn’t see that coming, no pun intended. And all the while the kids are putting more stuff on the belt and the other woman is telling them not to and the cashier is looking at me like she’s going to spit or go blind.
Then the first woman asks Petter how much she needs and they start counting. They both stop, look at me, smile, and start counting again.

I’ve just hit a toll road.

This is the deal; I can make up the difference in their sale, I can give them five bucks, or I can wait them out, which they seem perfectly willing to allow. I go sit in the net chair and start reading my latest Kindle book on my phone. The cashier delivers a crushing blow to their quest, “Look, you can’t stand here all day long now. What do you want to put back?” This is a tone of voice that suggests that it’s about to be a very short day. And then the two women get serious about it. Most of the junk food goes and they keep the shampoo. I wait until they’re out of the door before I move.

“They do that every fucking time they come in here” the cashier hisses at me and then is horrified that she has just cursed aloud.
“How often does it work?” I ask.
“Nearly every time.” She relied. “That one you were talking to usually gets some guy to pay for half her stuff.” and she’s ringing my bootstrings up and looking at the two women in the parking lot. “Them kids ain’t even theirs, they just took up with’em here.”
“Wait, what?”
“Them kids hang out here all the time and them two will bring in when they come in so’s people will help them out.” The Cashier looks pissed. “One day Ima gonna call the lawman to’em.”
“Call DFACS” (The department of family and children services) I tell her and I can see the suggestion take hold.

It is time for me to leave this place.

The two woman, ostensibly separate in the store, are handing the kids treats and getting into the same car. Petter smiles and waves at me and I wonder if five bucks is really worth this much effort and deceit?

But I am standing outside a Dollar Store with bootstrings that might have been potted meat tomorrow if I had not bought them today.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Ink, Therefore I Am.





With everything that is going on with Tanya the last thing I need to do is import drama. And there are other things going on with my family that needs attention and hopefully resolution will be found there soon. I’m about to inherit my older sister’s two Weimaraners so I’m going to have two large dogs again, which is a great thing, but the two Pibble Princesses are going to have to learn to share me with Canine Cousins. Oh, and I do have a job that would really like for me to focus on work at least eight hours a day or so.

I decided to get a tattoo using the pattern of the snake that bit Tyger Linn. I went back to the place that did my last one because they do good work. The downside is I don’t remember the last guy who did the last one and I wind up talking to this really young guy whose portfolio isn’t exactly brimming with breathtaking works of art. He seems intense and excited about the project so we make an appointment for Sunday afternoon at two.

I’m on the way there at one thirty and he sends me a text wanting to back it up to three. Hmmm, well, okay, so thirty minutes later he sends another text backing it up thirty more minutes and I tell him that’s out of my time frame. I can devote a half of an afternoon waiting on this guy but he texted me back saying he can do three. Okay.

At three I’m there and he’s not so I sit around and talk to tattoo people which is always, always, always a good time. You either have tattoos or you don’t. There isn’t a middle ground. You either understand why people get them or you won’t. And here we go.

People ask me what my tattoos are going to look like when I’m seventy and I ask them (a) who really gives a damn what they look like at seventy if they make it there and (b) who really looks good at that point anyway? People point out that tattoos are permanent and what am I going to do if I change my mind? “I am alone here in my own mind. There is no map. There is no road” ( Anne Sexton) That was the last tattoo I had put on my arm. That quote is me. It will always be me. It has always been me. They aren’t putting anything on me that wasn’t always there anyway, just not visible to the naked eye.

You sit down and ask someone who has never had a tattoo of they want one and most people have an idea, some sort of yearning, but when it gets down to the skin, the most frequent answer you get from bare people is fear. “What will other people think?” That’s also permanent. That is also something you have to live with for the rest of your life.

But it is a hell of a lot harder to remove.

Sit down and ask someone with a dozen tattoos if they regret it and wished they had never done it and you’ll never find remorse. You’ll never find someone whose body is a canvas for one of the oldest form of art our species has ever known and find someone who would rather be invisible again.

I want to wear that snake pattern on my arm and I will. It’s a symbol of who Tyger Linn is, a dog with a past and now a future, whose instincts to hunt cannot be denied. I wish she wouldn’t hunt and maybe I can affect that, but this pattern teaches me that there are forces beyond my control. Tyger Linn has to know hunting is dangerous but she is driven. I didn’t move out into the woods to declare on nature but that philosophy doesn’t affect nature at all. Venomous snakes will still arrive as they will and the consequences of that is something that I will wear, also. That simple band around my arm means I acknowledge that I lack control of some things in my life. I accept this as a part of my life.

Can you?

A quote from Anne Sexton and the pattern of a venomous snake and I assure you, it will not end there. None of the three tattoos I have are visible when I wear long sleeves but that will change. The ink will flow again. There’s no reason for me to waste any part of my body when there is something that that needs to be revealed. Perhaps the face of the Loki Mutt on my right arm, perhaps the pattern of a Diamondback intertwined on my leg, Rhiannon’s image on my calf, and maybe a quote from Carl Sagan somewhere there’s room for it.

There are two reactions to all of this; acceptance of the art or rejection of the art. It is really quite that simple. When I’m seventy I will regret the love I have lost, I will regret not treating people better when they were here, and I will certainly regret missing Jimmy Carter by a hair when I tried to choke him when I was thirteen years old.

But I will never regret the time I spent writing. I will never regret loving someone even if I got hurt. I will never regret a dog. I will never regret what love brought or what it didn’t bring. And I will never regret allowing my body to express my spirit and soul.

You either get that or you’re a screen without a movie, a canvas without paint, a page unwritten, a song unsung, an instrument muted, and an expression unseen.

I won’t judge you for what you choose not to do. It could be you do not think you have anything to say, and that’s fine. But when you see someone walking around as a living breathing work of art, don’t judge that person as someone who is wrong, but rather someone whose skin, is singing the soul’s song.

Take Care,

Mike


(By the way, if you're a decent artist I'm still looking for someone to draw the snake pattern for me)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Eyes of the Dream

The dream began with a makeshift bridge over a small waterway. There was a crocodile, ridiculously large, that lurked about it and the makeshift bridge was considered only partially safe. I tried to cross the bridge and the crocodile rose up to grab me but instead its head became wedged between two supports. The bridge was ripped away from the banks of the waterway but the water was too shallow for the crocodile to submerge while wearing the bridge. People were shouting for me to jump and swim for it while other warned me to stay put. I looked into the eyes of the crocodile and saw a very evil type of humor looking back at me, as if the dream itself was totally happy with my predicament.

The dreamscape shifted. I was at work but I have no idea what sort of work I was doing. I had to get my employees together and couldn’t find them. I saw one leaving in a truck and I realized that we were working out of an old gas station. I went to the side of the building where I saw him leave and there was a door. The building was totally white with no contrast of any sort. The door was white and everything glistened as if it had just rained. I put my hand on the door to open it and the doorknob was wet in a gross sort of way. I opened the door and it looked like a bathroom inside, or where a bathroom might have been, but there was no sink or toilet. There was nothing to indicate there had ever been anything installed in the room at all. It was smaller than any room I had been in, as far as bathrooms go, and it looked like a very small closet. Above the door was greenish frosted glass paneled that could be cranked open with a long rod. The glass above the door is from a place in my life that I cannot remember and I wonder why it’s in a dream now.

The dreamscape shifted again, and this time I was outside of a large building with someone from work with me. He was running a test of some sort that made no sense at all to me and the way he was running it made even less sense. There were work things going on that were all skewed and backwards as far as order of operations go and the machinery was very strange. Everywhere I looked there was all manners of machines I couldn’t identify but the people on the machines were familiar. He dreamscape shifted rapidly and without warning; we were all in a parking lot beside a school, we were on a narrow street in the city near run down building, we were back at a large building were we had begun and there were many people walking toward the building.

I realized I was nude but it didn’t bother me. (It usually doesn’t in dreams or in real life)

The dreamscape shifted to the inside of the building. There was a trial going on but the judge hadn’t arrived yet. A female coworker of mine was there and she told me the judge might not like me showing up nude. We went to this room to the side of the courtroom where there were piles and piles of clothing all jumbled up together. The judge came in and sat down while I was hunting for clothes and he engaged my coworker in small talk. I found a pair of jeans that fit, some shoes and socks, and a shirt that was actually mine years ago, a running shirt from a run called the “Hog Wild Run” in Dothan Alabama. It was a five mile race and I remember the last part of the course included a very steep incline into the parking lot.


But then the dreamscape shifted again but I was wearing the same shirt. I was with a friend of mine and we were in a gas station that was also a store. We were buying cases of soft drinks, which I do not drink, and for some reason the owner was there speaking to us about the ingredients of the drinks. But then I was outside of the store pumping gas into a SUV I had never seen and the pump counter was delineated in fractions of gallons. The pump was working so slowly, as in a ten of a gallon every few seconds that I gave up and hung the hose back up.

The dreamscape shifted again and this time there was nothing familiar. I don’t have any words for what was there but the same people in the last dreamscape were there but nothing else was the same. I felt very lost and totally confused. A black German Shepherd walked in front of me and I looked at the dog’s face and it had the same eyes as the crocodile did.


Then I was back at the gas pump as if I had never left. I went inside and the owner was really mad at me and demanded that I pay her back the money that I owed her, I told her that I did not owe her any money and she threatened to call the police. My friend who was there told me that I did owe her money because I had stocked the drink machines incorrectly and it had caused her to lose money. Of course, I had no memory of stocking any machines at all and said so.

I know I know the woman in question, the owner of the store. She was someone from my past and even as I write this I can very clearly see her face in my memory. There was something between us, some tension and unresolved issues, as if we had been caught in the act of love making on the beach and hadn’t the opportunity to finish what we started. But in the dream she was wearing very dark sunglasses, the type with dark green lens. I handed her a small roll of bills and she smiled and started to take the sunglasses off. For some reason this made me thing of the crocodile and the GSD and I knew her eyes would have that wicked glint in them.

I awoke and dreamed no more.

Take Care,

Mike 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Heat Walk




As soon as I hit the trail I knew the humidity was ramped a bit. It was only ninety-one but if felt a lot hotter. The air hung with a stillness than suggested death. Optimism seemed nearly suicidal but I’ve been out here before. I’ve dared the heat of July to kill me every year that I can remember and this year will not be any different. And ninety-one isn’t within ten degrees of where this month might take us. Yeah, this is just a warm up for the big event. When it hits one hundred, that’s when I’ll get out here and we’ll see if I can take it.

No, really, that’s my plan.


Doesn’t seem all that smart, does it? This is a piece of the world that is part power line right of way, mowed once a season, part private property that I know better than to be on, and a piece of an old roadbed abandoned years ago, and walking it in the heat of the day, the hottest part of the day, isn’t what most people would call fun. I’m not sure I think it’s fun, either. But I do know that it strengthens my ability to stand the heat. I can feel the work out in my legs. It an eleven kilometer  plus journey than I can knock out in two hours and a piece, depending on how good I feel.

I wear long sleeves year round. People ask me what sort of sunscreen I use and I tell them, “Cotton”.  I’m covered from head to toe with sunglass and a wide brim hat. I can feel the heat pounding me in the first one hundred meters and I wonder if it is really hotter than Siri claims. The sleeves of my shirt and the shoulders begin to feel blistered. Ninety-one isn’t as bad as it was last time at ninety-three. But it feels hotter. It feels a lot hotter.


People laugh at me when I show up with long sleeves and jeans while everyone else is stripping down to shorts and tee shirts. Worse, I intentionally buy my shirts a littler larger so they fit loosely. The sleeves of the shirt I’m wearing now go down to where my fingers begin. I’ve been known to wear gloves in really hot weather. I really am the whitest white person you will ever see. And I’m easily seen, too.

Not that you’d want to.


The vines covering a small ravine tempt me to go around but I go over, leaping, in as much as I do leap, and landing solidly, thank you good boots. They really need to mow this thing. I can still navigate the wooly scrub as well as anyone but the briars and vine tug at my jeans and feet. This is the part where I lose the most time. Six and a half kilometers an hour is my speed over even ground and this isn’t.

There’s this weird theory roaming around in my head, staying in the corners of the round room and pretty much being elusive as hell but the walk brings in closer and in focus. I was in bed with a woman who was telling me about a friend she had that was deep into doing psychotropic drugs. The person in question was really very stoned one night and was with her husband who was equally wired. The odd thing is they began to see shapes and patterns on the wall and the ceilings.  They talked about what they were seeing, you know, like people cloud watching, and it was a fun thing to do. At one point the guy was telling his wife about this painting that he had seen that was geometric and wild looking and suddenly it appeared, to both of them, on the wall. They talked about how it would be better if this part was wider, this part wavy, and they had a great time with it.

They were telling my friend about this and she laughed at them and told them they were both gracing the edge. They swore it as real and my friend told them, “Okay, let’s go.” She took the guy in one room and the wife in another and had them draw out what they had told her about. It took a long while but at the end of the experiment the drawings were strikingly similar.

I hit the three and a quarter kilometer mark in just over thirty minutes and I am pleased. I drink just enough water to wet my mouth and I realize the ice cold water is now kinda warm. Siri, how hot it is? 92, Mike, HOT!

Well.


There’s an old church, maybe unused, with a tiny graveyard, still in use, and all I can really see well through the underbrush is a man using a hoe to weed around the back steps. But no, I stop and wipe the sweat out of eyes and there is no one there at all. Keep moving, just keep moving.

They theory comes back with the conversation I had with the woman. She told me she thinks that some people are really in tune with one another and they could likely pull that off without drugs. It’s why some people, she smiled at me when she said this, are better sex partners than others. But the conversation turned serious. She asked me if I thought people in general gave off some sort of vibe and I agreed that it had to be true, considering the brain runs off electrical energy. Ah, she said, so this is why some people are more, and she stopped, searching for a word, with one hand in the air, and I will always remember how she looked at that moment, “More charming” and I thought she had something there, as well as other places, too. She told me she thought everyone’s brain operated at a certain frequency range and when two people had that part of the range to themselves it was love at first sight.



The part of the journey I hate is being close to the homes of people. But no one is outside. A dog might bark and lo! Two rat dogs give chase to me but they’re very small and very mouthy. But they aren’t dangerous to anyone wearing boots and I outwalk their death threats.

The next thirty minutes pass and the idea has now gotten intermingled with the woman, and I wonder if she’d answer the phone if I called her. I’m halfway there and already I am delirious, it seems.

There is a slight rise in elevation, the last part of the walk that is anything to mention. It takes fifteen minutes to walk it and then the home stretch. I call my ride and she arrives as if she had timed it. “I knew you were on a fast walk today” and I hit it right at two hours.

The downside is now, over three hours from the walk, I am tired, I have a headache, and my feet hurt. My skin feels baked.

Siri tells me the high today was 94.

Wimp.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shopping With HAL 9000




Believe it or not, your microwave oven has a fuse. And just like any other fuse on any other electrical device, these fuses can burn out. Now, why they burn out like the AE-35 Unit did is the matter for serious debate. Okay, it’s not a matter for serious debate because we’re talking about a microwave not a spaceship. But at any rate the AE-35 Unit fuse in my microwave popped and I had to find a replacement fuse. Until I did I drink not only leftover coffee but cold leftover coffee. That idea didn’t appeal to me much. I had to go shopping.

The first thing to be done was finding the fuse. Of course, it might not be the fuse at all but fuses are the cheapest repair that a man can make on a microwave and it doesn’t require any special training or any special tools. Or so I thought. I get out the screwdriver set and behold! Even though I have a screwdriver set with eleventy billion types of driver attachments inside not one of those tips fit the screw heads on the back of a microwave.

What the actual fuck?

It seems the screw heads have to have a “security tip” screwdriver to get them to turn. The head of the screw has a monolith inside, tiny yet powerful enough to prevent the entrance of a screwdriver tip. Sort of a screwdriver chastity belt monolith. There will no penetration for the duration.

Oh, I forgot to mention something here; I went online and looked for the AE-35 Unit fuse and no matter what I searched for or how I searched for it, all I could find was the fuse holder. That told me that, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus but I had no idea what species it might be. Cover me, I’m going in!

No, you’re not, you need the security tip screw driver to get inside and that means two trips into town!

Trip One:  I had zero idea as to how to describe the Chasity Belt Monolith Screw Head to anyone. So I go into one of those warehouse hardware stores where there’s an even fifty-fifty shot of (a) finding an employee to begin with, and (b) finding an employee who knew what he or she was talking about. I went into this same store carrying a pressure switch for a well pump and the barely legal young female who spoke to me was hired for her looks, clearly, for she had no idea that water came out of the ground. You mean you drink water than just came up out of the ground? Really! That’s gross! I would never do that! But instead I found a guy who not only knew what I was talking about, he also knew what to call it. It’s a Security Screw. That sounds all the world about sleeping with someone that works for the IRS, actually. But I got the security screw adapted tip and opened up my microwave.

Cue Space Odyssey theme music.


You know, I was surprised to discover the fuse pops right out. There wasn’t any tiny strands of barbwire around it, no Chihuahuas with spiked collars standing guard and not the first hint of a red eyed disembodied voice saying, “I’m sorry Dave but I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” . But the success in this mission was followed by….

TANYA THE DESTOYER!

I’m trying to read the tiny writing on the fuse with a magnifying glass when Tanya jumps up to be petted. Even the worse dog I have ever shared space with needs to be loved so I take some time to let her know that even if I do want to sell her to the nearest Chinese restaurant about three times a week, I still love her. I put the magnifying glass and the fuse on the coffee table and after a while, let the dogs out. I also forget that I something made of glass where Tanya could get to it.

The next morning I find the magnifying glass on the dog blanket. The handle is dented. The fuse… it’s not to be found which means Tanya has eaten it.

It’s too late to induce vomiting so I as the Bible says, “This too shall pass” and I look forward to trying to find which pile of poo is hers, and if it has the fuse inside. Right as despair hits I think about moving the sofa to look under there, and lo! There is it! But this leads to…


Trip Two: The most damning of all human habits is thinking that just because something worked the first time that means the second time it should also work. I went back to the Hardware Warehouse, holding my fuse out in front of me like Diogenes, and discovered that there was a very young woman with what looked like half a Volkswagen was cut into pieces and tossed into her face at random points. Seriously, she looked like she had gone bobbing for apples and had gotten razor blades instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but you just don’t think to see it at a hardware store.

“I need a new fuse for my microwave” I told her.
“Duh!” she replied, “Microwaves don’t have fuses.”
“So where did this one come from?” I asked, hold my AE-35 Unit fuse out to her.
“Does that go to the little light thingy inside or something?” Metal Mouth replied.
So away we go. We go to see Ray, who is the end all and be all of knowledge. Ray looks at the fuse in the same manner someone might hold one of those blue jellyfish in Australia that can kill in a matter of minutes.
“That came out of a microwave?” Ray is fascinated. “Wow!”  Okay, Ray looks like your average South Georgia redneck. I’m beginning to wonder here. I pass a chimp on my way out. He's going in with the leg bone of a pig. I run. 

Exit, Stage Left.


Trip Two, Act Two, the scene where the Wanderer enters a strange place.


At the other Warehouse Hardware Store in town, there is a guy in a store uniform talking to a woman. She turns and sees me and, cue trumpets, waves me forward. Ready for this? She not only knows WHAT the fuse is, she knows WHERE they are kept and then leads me to the Promised Land.

Less than five minutes and five bucks later….I can haz fuse!



The bad news is that once the new fuse was in place the clock tell me it’s this time:


I half expected it to start singing, 'Daisy" 
Which at the end of the day, may mean it is time to buy a new microwave!

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Summer Comes




July and August are the two hottest months of the year here in South Georgia. It is not a question of if triple digit heat will set in but only a question of when. With luck we’ll have fewer than three or four weeks where the mercury rises to the point of boiling over but I remember back in 2007 when it hit the upper nineties and more for nearly two whole months. It was a hellish time where even inside with the AC on it felt hot and sticky. I remember being outside one day near the middle of July during this time and someone said, “You can sure tell them days is getting longer” and there is no environmental condition that can’t be made worse by ignorance.

It happens nearly every year. The long hot days do seem to stretch out forever before us but the truth of the matter is that since the twenty-first of June the days have been getting shorter and shorter. Yet there are those people who can’t seem to disconnect the two ideas of longer days and hotter days. I tell them that the days will continue to lose light and come the twenty-first of September the day and night will even out and past the Equinox then the night is longer than the day, until December. I can tell people this and have told people this, and still I get those blank stares. Inevitably, someone will say, “But it’s getting hotter!” but not smarter.

Not having a television helps, believe it or not. I suspect people begin and end their days with the rising and setting of the television rather than the sun and the moon. I’m usually outside when the sun comes up so I know what time sunrise occurs. I also know when there is a full moon because my girls are Luna based creatures. I can walk in the woods at night during a full moon, except in Summer when the mosquitoes are biting. I’ve done it barefoot more than a few times and I’ve been known to walk under the light of a new moon, trusting my feet and the stars. It’s safer than driving to work every morning trust me, I know.

It’s usually around late August and early September when corn is ready for harvest and that’s one of the events I look for to tell me Summer is ebbing away again. It’s still ungodly hot at that time of the year, still plenty warm, but the light is beginning to give way. It’s like walking up one morning and feeling that slightly less hot feeling in August that dissipates quickly, but there it was. The first half of September has been known to be August Part Two, but the furnace is running out of fuel.

In one month the first week of August will be nearing its end. Odd, isn’t it? The months of August and July seem to terribly long but here we are talking about a month from now. Hurricane season, in all it hell and glory, will be a month away from that. A month after September and suddenly the year is ending. Back when I was a child the 4th of July meant the Summer was only beginning but now I see it as a time where I can begin to see the end of it. Technically, we won’t hit midsummer until the first week of August but that always seems to be where the decline begins.

I have a personal meter for measuring the end of Summer; when the highs for a week don’t reach ninety and when the lows are under seventy. The Eighty-Nine/Sixty-Nine Rule is very unscientific but it does tell me that cooler weather is here to stay rather than just a couple of cool days passing through.

But first we have to survive the next eight weeks or so, maybe even ten. The highs could reach one hundred and five and the lows won’t see less than seventy-five for a while. The humidity levels will soar to new all-time records once an hour every hour until damn near December. At some point the boiling blood and melting metal around everyone will induce at least one person a day to say, “It’s not the heat it’s the humidity” and even the gnats will be sick of hearing it.

The noon day sun will bring the scalding and baking sun every day as if it were ordained, which I suppose it is, and this will happen every day, day in and day out, and even the nights will seem overly warm. The rain will seem to be a little less than liquid for after every Summer shower the sun will return to turn it into a thick vapor that is hard to breathe. Sweat will balance on the skin, refusing to take any of the heat away, and sometimes, when it’s hottest and most humid, a body will sweat even in the shower. Mosquitoes and gnats will seem to form out of the miasma that serves as the air we breathe and it is impossible not to think sometimes that if there is a Hell it has to look a lot like South Georgia in August. Eternal damnation and punishment via heat and torment seems not only possible but downright probable after a month of these conditions. Toss in a goodly amount of wasps hiding in shrubs, yellow jackets hiding underground, grass that needs cutting every other day, and the ever present, never ending, always in your face, humidity, and it’s easy to understand why so many Southern people are religious; Hell happens for at least two months of the year.

It’s been over ninety a few days and it’s hot one hundred a couple of times already but the grinding heat of the Summer has yet to arrive. It will be here soon and I can feel it. I’m actually looking forward to it. There something to be said for surviving this sort of thing.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won. The 4th of July, 2015

The Great Inner Debate as to whether to mow today or tomorrow got sidetracked when it rained at lunch. Okay, tomorrow. But I had Bacon Cheeseburgers for lunch and my body tells me that I have to work out. That means going into town. Going into town after lunch means that if I go to Starbucks I’ll get jacked up enough on coffee that I might not get to sleep until midnight. That means I’ll sleep until eight or so and by then it will begin to get really hot. The heat in and of itself will be a great workout but I have to mow the front and the back. In real heat that’s really pushing myself; it takes about three hours. So when the rain stops it feels cool enough to give it a shot. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to mow I go.

I wonder when mowing became not only fashionable but socially compulsory? You can be fined by your city government if your grass is too tall. That means it’s a law that a city full of people have got to either pay someone to cut their grass or cut it themselves. That means once a week or so, on every little postage stamp lawn, all the grass is going to be a prescribed height.  The uniformity in this is more than a little frightening considering that lawn produce nothing but mower fodder. It’s like that Facebook game, “Farmville” where everyone puts a lot of time and effort into growing nothing at all and then stressing about it.

Lawnville:  the internet craze that’s interactive with your entire body!


There’s a guy I know that has about fifteen thousand dollars’ worth of lawn care equipment. He has a yard that’s maybe a quarter of an acre. He has one of those zero turn radius mowers that he had to buy a trailer to haul it from his house to his dad’s house, and his lawn is a little smaller still. His dad has one of those twin deck eight bladed mowers that won’t fit on anything that didn’t have enough square area for a F-16 to land on at night. I think the blades that go on those things cost as much as my first three cars combined, not that it’s saying much about it.

I remember when one of my friends, who was a lawn person’s lawn person, tried to talk me into getting into the game. He dug a hole in my yard and put the dirt in an envelope and sent it to NASA or someplace. They wrote him back with a fifteen page step by step analysis of what it would take to get my grass as green as that on the other side of the fence. He told me I could borrow his areolater and his dethacher and his motorized spreader. This was exciting. He wanted to take before and after shots, so we could tell how well the fertilizer was working each week and we could…

Dude. No.

He sat in silence and looked at over my wretched, dog dugged yard, with its armadillo scars and its brownish areas and its fireant mounds and looked all the world like a man who had just been told the orphans would not be saved and the nuns would perish.
“The Nitrogen?” he asked, like a man who was asking about the last ditch effort to break through enemy lines to resupply the army.

Dude. No.

It was not going to happen and it still hasn’t. The yard looks very much like it did when I moved out here in 2001. There were no fences and no giant canyons in the yard, of course, but the dogs fixed that as soon as the fences went up. I do better with fences than I do lawns, as it were. My friend has long since given up on turning Hickory Head into Eden but I think he’ll go to his grave wanting to hit this place at least once with some 10-10-10.

All of this, in my opinion, is terribly superficial. We’ve been given land and we’ve been given the time to do something with it and all we can think of is to grow something that needs cutting. We can’t eat it, we can’t feed it to other animals, and we don’t use what we grow. Just like Farmville, Lawnville eats up money and time but it also eats up arable land. I’ve started converting some of my front yard to produce but I think next year I’m going to do a lot bigger with it.


It’s hard to believe that two hundred and thirty-nine years ago, a bunch of farmers and rural folk got together and decided to start a war with the biggest army in the world. All they had was hunting rifles and the idea that they ought to be able to decide for themselves how the government was going to be run. There were to be many years of war, hardship deprivation, but on this day, so long ago, the decision was made to go through all that just to see what was going to come out of all the effort. Farming, real farming, is a lot like that. The idea that farmers began what is now our nation is not farfetched and I believe that if we want to become more independent from the government no longer for the people, we have to start farming again. Whatever else you’ll hear from the Conspiracy Theorists, you’ll never hear them talk about everyone on the same block getting together and growing their own food.

That, my friends, is true independence. And it is interdependence.

Whatever you do today remember the people who started it all were a bunch of people who liked to get their hands dirty. They liked watching things grow. They knew the land and what it was saying to them without sending an envelope to NASA.

I look to the day I can do that.


Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

18





The day I turned eighteen on November the ninth, nineteen seventy-eight, I went and bought by first legal case of beer. With me was the first girl I ever fell in love with, but sitting next to me was the girl I was currently in love with, a redhead of the truest form. Love isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt for her when I turned eighteen but because Alice Cooper had a song titled “Eighteen” I felt connected to a much larger Universe. We dropped my first love off and then my current love and I parked the car in the woods and had sex that causes me to wonder about those of that age I know now. Surely, I think to myself sometimes, that sweet little eighteen year old that rescues dogs couldn’t possibly know the same sort of insane and wonderful passion that the sixteen year old and I found in the front seat of a car parked in the woods on my birthday, so many years ago. Yet I know it is more likely than not, for the drive to love in every imaginable and physical manner is strongest in the young and they are discovering frontiers they never imagined existed. We did. They will, too. I hope they have as much fun as we did that day. I remember the redheaded girl tell me she loved me that day. I think I can remember every time she said those words. In less than a year she would be pregnant and married but not to me. I had no idea of the changes that were coming in her life, no pun intended, but they were a lot more dramatic than those I would see, at that time in my life, at eighteen.



That night I put on my headphones and listened to an eight track tape over and over and over again. Eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, I’m eighteen and I love it.

It’s harder to imagine a more different scene once the next eighteen years passed. I was thirty-six, eighteen twice, and a woman I loved, a redhead of the truest form, had broken up with me. I lived in a tiny apartment with no dogs and a dead end and hard job. I hated the apartment and I hated the job and I hated the idea that I might never leave that place, even though I would in less than six months. I had no idea that my life was about to change and change for the better. I also didn’t listen to Alice Cooper anymore. That was kinda sad because Alice Cooper was really fresh and edgy back in the day. The woman recently gone had found love with an old friend of mine and that made it worse, really, but what I didn’t know is that in about a year I would be dating his ex-fiancĂ©’. There were changes unseen in my life. Much more so than when I was eighteen, once.

To have lived long enough to see eighteen for the third time I a lot longer than most would have given me at eighteen, once. Both of the redheads, of the truest form, are gone, a part of my past that I cannot look back at again, you know. One is a grandmother by now, I think. The other I have not heard from in over eighteen years. I wonder if my eighteenth birthday was as memorable to her as it was to me. I strongly doubt it.

But at eighteen three, ah, now that’s an interesting age. I didn’t realize it until I checked the math today, and no, I won’t tell you way, stop asking, but when I realized that two thirds of my life ago I was eighteen it tickled me somewhat. Eighteen seemed like such a milestone, such a really big deal to me back then. I could legally buy beer! I could vote! Oh boy! I would rent hotel rooms on the beach and I could …

The eighteen years went by.

All the things that seemed to incredible at the first eighteen seemed so, well, ordinary by eighteen, again. I had fallen into a rut in many ways in my life and I remember when I packed my stuff and left the small apartment how I felt like I was leaving a life behind that I would never look back at again and enjoy. I was wrong, of course, because there were many great writing ideas born in that apartment as well as more than a few great memories.

Now at Eighteen Thrice, eighteen years goes by a lot faster than I could have ever imagined. I feel as if right now, I am a better writer than I was eighteen years ago. I have lived with many dogs since then and have loved great ones. The dog thing, I think that was what was missing at Eighteen 2.0. Life really isn’t the same without a dog or three. The time I spent with Bert and Sam and Lucas did not add up to be eighteen, but in dog years it was eighteen many times over. If love is measured in the multiples of joy just those three dogs gave me eighteen million years’ worth.

Pick a random number, any random number, and look back. Eighteen is arbitrary and that’s okay, really it is, for a lot happens, or doesn’t happen, in eighteen years, and that’s okay, too. It’s not those eighteen years that will define you but how you live afterwards, always, the future, not the past. Eighteen will come and go, as we all will, and then one day you will not have eighteen more years. That, too, will be okay. There will come a day you will have been gone for eighteen years. There will come a day that someone related to you in some way will remember you eighteen years later. Or eighteen twice, or eighteen three times or more.

You can only hope that person is grinning when they remember you.

Take Care,

Mike


The Axe and The Dawn (Part Two)




I has an odd night of fragmented dreams but at least I was sleeping. I had worked myself into a state of exhaustion and soreness trying to take down part of a tree with an axe and I thought I did very well indeed. There’s something to be said about the sort of exhaustion that comes with hard work. Saturday, I spent the day at work trying to tie down the end of the month stuff and when I got home I was totally spent emotionally and mentally. It’s hard to get into the shower and wash that away. But spend quality time with some hand tools and I promise that when you finally do get into the shower, sweat, dirt, and maybe a little blood will be all that needs to be cleansed from your soul.

I was tired, really and truly and honestly tired when I woke up this morning but my body felt ready. I had done some Yoga exercises after cutting the tree down and I felt like I could at the very least get the largest piece moved. That sort of thing doesn’t daunt me at all even though I don’t own a tractor and can’t lay hands on one on a bet. If I had to bet I would guess the biggest piece of wood weighs at least seven or eight hundred pounds. That sounds big and heavy but the Laws Of Physics tells me quite a few things about this mass. It tells me that if I can get a lever under it I can move it. It tells me that if I can get a roller under it I can move it. It tells me that if I can get the piece unbalanced I can rock it, tilt it, turn it, and sometimes even spin it around. I’m a very small mammal in a very large world. But there are Laws.

The trick to cutting wood is to cut chunks of woods not pie or wedge shaped pieces. As you cut you’re going to eventually wind up with that sharp angle cut but save yourself some very hard work and begin opening up the cut wide, not narrow. If you go too skinny too soon you’ll wind up with this ravine in the wood when you ought to have a canyon. It look like it’s a lot more work but it isn’t. Also, learn to sharpen an axe and do not be afraid to stop and take the time to sharpen it when you’re cutting. A sharp axe is half the battle. Sitting down with some water and a sharpening tool is a great time to recover from what is really hard work.


Everyone likes their meat with some salt on it and the insects of Hickory Head are no exception. I’ve got a dozen bites in two days and the two on the front left side of my neck look like I was bitten by vampire yellow flies. There’s more than a few welts on my hands and of course there are those obligatory bites at the beltline that leave a maddening itch. Benadryl gel is a magical thing that soothes all bites and stings. But while working in the woods the insects are the toll keepers. Any anti-insect spray is swept away by the rising salt water tide of sweat and heat. They are there like medical students, taking blood samples, giving injections, inspecting the body and all the while feasting on flesh that will take part of the woods away, leaving a bare spot where a tree once stood.

The tree is hollow and rotted down the main branch that fell. I’m pretty sure that if this year had not felled it the next would have. Many years ago, so many I cannot remember how old I was, only that I was very small, there was a tree, a giant Oak, a sprawling and towering creature that seemed unearthly to me. We would only pass the tree on the way to my grandmother’s house and each time the tree was there, timeless and eternal, as if it were some sentinel watching over travelers. One day as we passed the tree it lay split into two pieces as if a giant knife had rendered it. From that point on each trip saw the tree diminished a little more as it returned slowly to the earth. I’m not sure I could find the spot where the tree once stood. I wonder how many others remembered that tree and mourned its death as I did.


I’m always surprised at how well built trees are. There’s solid wood there, tough and rigid, but the limbs are alive and springy, the leaves are as fragile as paper, and the bark as rough as, well, bark. From an engineering point of view there are vast arrays of solar collectors that reach into the sky so very slowly getting higher each year but with the inevitability of falling rain. Higher and higher the branches go, the limbs grow thicker, some break, some are broken, but the trees reach ever higher still, and spread out even wider until one day a small child will arrive and wonder at the magnificence of that tree.

Large or small, young or old, Oak or pine, living or dead, all of the trees I live with leave me with that sense of wonder still. The pine tree in the back of the property is like a column of scaly life that soars above all other trees in the area, slender and curvy. There are Oaks whose branches are equally curved but they more resemble dancers than statues. There are tiny saplings and young trees who are just arriving at the height above my head now, some of them not yet sprouted when I arrived here. I once looked down to avoid stepping upon them as they were still half out of the acorn but now they look down as I walk through their shade. One day, perhaps, there will be trees looking down upon my body as it is lowered into a simple hole in the ground. I wish to return to the Earth from which I came, and I hope to reborn a tree.

Take Care,

Mike