Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Then Static

The rain fell. It was something like the 109th day or 119th straight day of rain. There was only so many indoor activities a person could handle. How much coffee or beer can a bladder handle? And there was the statistical inevitability that one would have to go outside eventually, if nothing more than to buy more condoms.

When Jill took off out of town there were any number of directions she could go. The only direction was back, there was no going back. No going back to September, no going back to the one “should I stay or should I go” September.

In September the days are still on the long side. In September the place is freakishly dry. In September the radio waves translate into warm weather rock n roll even when the car is pointed south along SE 82nd Ave. In September, the views out the car windows are of the porn shops and the lingerie modeling houses, affectionately known as “whack-shacks”, the pawn shops and the convenience stores. In September, a normal person would hardly see these places, and a normal person would shudder at the thought of going into one. Come the 109th or the 119th straight day of rain, a little porn, or better still, masturbating while watching a lingerie model gyrate to the rain on a windowpane seems quite reasonable.

Jill turned the radio dial to a familiar station, an old friend of a radio station, and headed west on Hwy 30.

The meandering course of the Columbia River moved through old logging towns where illicit drugs and country music has moved in, there were ample places to stop: Sauvie Island, Scapoose and any number of roadhouses. But on the 109th or the 119th straight day of rain being an out of towner was not the best thing to be. A daytripper looking for the way the world was made was not ideal either. In fact, stopping for gas and sundries somewhere before the largest Sitka tree on Earth somehow seemed suspect, this would not have been the case in the summer, not even in September.

Over the hill into Astoria, the darkness of day turned to timid gray. A timid gray without the normal moss and mold greening winter rain. The radio reception failed. In the moment before she could turn the radio off, the static broke briefly for a communication transmission from a river's barge. Portuguese? Russian? Then static.

The rain slowed. At the junction of Hwy 30 and Hwy 101, there were images of Carter. Carter was too sweet, too young, too perfect to model lingerie for the hard-up, the social awkward, the fetishistically broken men. Still, Jill wondered how wonderful it would be to see Carter naked, or nearly so. And no matter what Carter did or did not do, it was not Carter's fault.

Had it been an accident, or a coincidence that led her fiance to Carter's lingerie room, that may be one thing. But Gary knew Carter, he knew her as the girl who lived next door. Worse still, he knew where she worked. He deliberately went. Carter collected her pay. He concluded the session with a relaxed sigh and a paper towel Carter waited until he zipped up his pants before saying, “You tell Jill, or I will.”

Carter told Jill on the 109th or 119th day of straight rain. He had behaved better than most, she explained. Jill listened, and considered the bus outside on the street splashing the puddles of rain. Dirty puddles under dirty wheels.

In Astoria, Jill parked her car. She shut off the ignition and listened to the engine cool; click, hiss, click, click. Rain, small rain collected in force and tickled the roof and windshield of the car.

When she opened the door, a seagull screeched overheard. The seagull was a nearly welcomed change from the crows and pigeons of the city.

She walked down the old docks and looked past the river to the trees of Washington on the opposite shore. She squinted when tears began to well up in her eyes.

Monday, April 28, 2014

April Showers

It's raining here today. For most, a rainy day makes for a melancholy day. For me, this just isn't the case. There may be a number of reasons for this. Truth be known, I have lived in this incredibly sunny place for most of my life. Sunny. Everyday, sunny. There are often days that there is nothing more than blue sky, deepest of blue zeniths and clouds those silver-lined reprieves from the sun do not exist. For most people, this sort of environment is perfect. When I push through the hordes of sunglassed people I know how happy they must be to live in this perpetual sunny day.

At the onset of Umbrella Factory Magazine a friend of Janice's said that there would (or could?) never be a literary movement in Denver because it's just too sunny. I remember laughing at the time, after all, this is a funny statement. But now, I wonder if it's true.

Yet, what I see around me is so much more than a lack of a literary movement, or any movement for that matter. What I see disturbs me, and I wonder if it's all just a symptom of the times or maybe it's the sunny days. And even today, a day of gloom and rain and nowhere can I imagine the flowers of May that'll spawn from the showers of April.

Admittedly, I have not been writing this spring. I have kept up on the poetry project I set about doing last winter. I'm nearly 2/3 the way through it. I have carried my notebook with me everywhere, but I haven't added much too it. This sort of thing happens from time to time.

What I have been doing is reading. Daily. I read in the afternoons when son naps. I cannot begin to explain how peaceful this is. I stretch out as soon as he's down and I start to read. I drift in and out of thought, and in and out of sleep. It's refreshing both physically and mentally. It's quiet, and when it's over and my son wakes up, I feel like a new man. I read at night after work and before bed.

Perhaps it's the disturbing Friday character in J.M. Coetzee's Foe that gets me to thinking. This character is black, tongueless and a recently freed slaved of Robinson Crusoe. I wanted to talk to someone about it. I guess because I drew the conclusion that Coetzee is a South African and the very notion that he'd have a tongueless character in a book published in 1986 really made me thinking deeply about the characters. Or perhaps it is summed up like this, I finished Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road yesterday. I'd been tortured by it, delighted by it, stirred to tears and sadness by it and know of no one who has, or is, reading it. I have found plenty of people who have seen the movie. Somehow, it's just not the same.

Okay, sure. Stop complaining. Be thankful for the sunshine. Join up with the sports culture or the weed culture, because, hell, when in Rome... I just can't. And today, it's raining, and I just love the way it feels. It's feels like a train ride from eternal springtime in any number of directions talking with friends, old or new, and we have conversations about books and art and music and all the stuff we'd just finished learning about in school. It's a rainy day and it reminds me of a time before all of this. It's before the noise and the population and the level of fat became too high. A rainy day sets me to thinking that somehow before all the interconnectedness of digital or cellular technology we were more real. We were connected in conversations of the face to face kind and we could talk about Bitches Brew without being about to hum a single tune. We were talking about Apartheid and how a J.M. Coetzee can craft a tongueless character beautifully articulate.

I read to my son. We have no television at home. We have no radio. We have no computers or internet connection. And the only electronic toys we have were gifted by family members who fear the blacksheep in us; family members with TV and radio and computers and internet and a serious lack of time. In our house, we have all the time in the world. We have all the time in the world to read my son's picture books, even if he likes the same one over and over and over again.

We were reading one of those Little Golden Books that I'm certain was a hand-me-down from my son's cousin, my niece. It was Sleeping Beauty book. There is something strange and rated G and Disney about it. What I got from it was the curse. Some witch got angry and cursed the king's daughter. Well, when she turned 16, she pricked her finger on a spinning wheel and fell asleep. Everyone in the kingdom fell asleep. When everyone fell asleep, the whole place became overgrown. The only thing to wake everyone up, of course, is the kiss from prince charming.

I felt oddly depressed at the end of this particular picture book. I wondered if we, as a society (or perhaps the larger question of the human condition) have fallen asleep. Perhaps the curse is of adolescence and the spinning wheel is something more like the endless anesthesia of technology or the imprisonment of person image, the sheer materialistic fortification that strips everyone of time and color and life. Then I wondered what this prince charming, this kiss, might be to wake everyone up. And outside the rain fell. And thankfully, my son doesn't care about all that. We moved on to the brilliant and playful Sandra Boynton and a follow up with Mr. Brown Can Moo. Somehow the deeper questions of literary movements and the lack of the intellectual in daily life just seem like silly, if not stupid things to think about. When it comes right down to it, Mr. Brown can sound like a cow, he can go moo moo. Can you? He can sound like the rain, dibble dibble dopp.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Botany 3

It was a cranking-busy Friday night, I was standing at the service well mixing drinks. Eric was at the beer tower. People were everywhere. We worked a very small and fashionable bar on Denver's east side Uptown neighborhood. I don't talk about Eric much. At this time in our relationship, we were still very close. Before I go further, I have to say that I am, I was then, and I suspect I always will be an introvert. After being around people, I am very-very tired. And here I was, at the time of this story, working a very crowded bar. I leaned over to Eric and said, “When I get out of the bar business, I'm working with plants. Have you ever heard a plant grow?” He shook his head. In those days, there was something soft in Eric. I loved him dearly. He said, “Yes, once, in Iowa. You can hear corn growing.” And we were off, he delivered beer to one end of the bar and I was off to the other end.

In the summer of 2004, some time after the above conversation, I found myself in Iowa. I did not hear any growth happening as I stood in cornfields.

I don't know much. I really haven't much going for me. But I read interesting books. I write. I have a few books published. I am the two-bit hack I set out to be. I once wanted to be a botanist.

So, what?

I wonder sometimes about the finite time we all really have. In our youth we do not think of the limited time that we have. And even now, in middle age, I still don't really have a grasp on it. But when it comes down to it, botany or not, what difference does it really make. Even if I wanted to be a botanist, I became a writer instead. It was not really something that I chose to do, I just did it.

When it comes to that finite time, what difference does it make how we choose to spend it? The same end calls for us all. In the endless cycle of flowers, leaves, dormancy or the thought, the act, the writing, rewriting, editing and completion why should a difference of activity mean anything, really?

A recent trip to a nursery brought back a rush of thoughts and imaginings. I cannot write to color into the scene. Fortunately I have a Pentax K1000 hand-me-down. What a scene.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Botany, part 2

It makes a small amount of sense that I would think about my youth and the days gone past this weekend. Here we are, April 2014, and we're at the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. Please know that this is not a tribute to Nirvana, to the grunge scene, or to tragic young rock and rollers. Rather, this is it, 20 years ago, Cobain's death was big news, and we were all much, much younger.

In the small years of the 1990s, I have the stretchy memory of how good things were, and how good things were fixing to be. I mean, hell, the wall had not been down five years in April 1994. This was before OKC, Y2K, 9/11. Riot Grrls were everywhere making really fucking cool statements with DIY art and music. Hell, the baby boomers were still young.