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.

In 1994, I read a few things that would ultimately change my life. I read Eduardo Galeano's The Book of Embraces. I read Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams. I read Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire and I read Richard Adams Watership Down. I was quietly putting thoughts to words, and words to thoughts. I worked at the Colorado Department of Health. I studied biology and chemistry at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. I wanted to be a botanist. I spent my off hours with people who loved me: Lisa and Ryan, Ray and Noel. I spent time with Mendy.

In these senseless ramblings and nostalgic visions of youth, I have to say, I never took myself seriously. I did not take life seriously. I didn't take adults seriously. At the time of Kurt Cobain's death, I didn't take Generation X seriously, or the music or the pop scene or the movies. I did not take any definitions too seriously. All I knew was this, it was good to be alive, it was good to be around friends and it was good to learn and do things.

When I consider that now, I know I must be simplifying things a tad. I also look at the younger people in my life and I wonder why they fret so much, why they take things so seriously. I wonder how many of them will change the course of their lives over a period of a few months because they read something, think something, or just wake up on a whim and go.

I've talked about the aforementioned books often during the last several years. I may even have mentioned that I read these books on Auraria Campus while lounging in the grass of 9th street park between classes while the train whistles of a dead Denver played its fatal 9th symphony like arias of Colfax beyond the fence. I ran with Fiver and Hazel and Bigwig finding a new warren. I wandered the streets of Berne tearing up different timelines, time possibilities, life without memory. I knew that a personal mythology was in order when I met the walls and the dogs and tragedy and embraces in the small vignettes made for me by Sr. Galeano. Reading in the grass at 9th street park I knew one thing had to change.

On dot-matrix printer paper retrieved from the campus recycle bins I wrote small stories which were imitations of what I read. I built small adventures. I wrote desert stories. I fought off the urge to do what my parents told me to do. I fought my Uncle Sam. Fuck 'em. I turned my back on those who demonized Gen-X. I knew the workplace was for nothing more than sneaking poetry in creases in the work day. I knew that what I learned in the classroom was nothing more than what I would learn while thinking about it. I knew that my thoughts needed words and anything I wrote needed thought. I wandered the streets of a beloved Denver before a huge population and lots of money came to take it all away. I met artists, and musicians and carpenters. No one seemed to take it too seriously.

I worked quietly, I didn't tell anyone what I was doing, or what I thought I might want to be. I took my small hours, those early in the morning, those on bus rides, those between classes suddenly seriously. I was writing. It would take years to make anything readable. I didn't know it at the time. At the time, I just felt a compulsion to write.

Botany was out. Science was out. It was a few months before the news would turn to OJ and a car chase. It was springtime. I decided, almost without thought to surrender. I would write, not matter what that meant.

For your consideration, here is something I wrote in April of 1994:

The 6:15

The rush hour traffic whizzed by as the morning fog began to lift. The mornings seemed long, and cold to the four people waiting at the bus stop. As usual, the bus was about five minutes late. The four people waiting for the bus were all regulars. A sour old woman that could never seem to wear anything that matched, who talk constantly, was the first one to get on the bus (as usual). Next, a black business woman climbed on board the dirty city bus. She always seemed cheery. Under her left arm was the daily, and in her left hand she carried a brief case, but in her right hand she carried a washed out fruit juice jar filled with water, and flowers. The flowers were never anything less that fantastic. They were always a combination of wild daisies, snapdragons and an occasional marigold probably picked from her garden. She, and her flowers were the only things alive on the 6:15. Another older woman usually got on the bus after her. She spoke with an eastern European accent. In her face she wore dim wrinkles and sorrowful thoughts. Yet sometimes, a naive little girl could be seen in her. Lastly, a somber business man stepped onto the bus. He paid his fare, walked to the middle of the bus and sat down. He looked about at all the people in the front of him. They were all just as him, going here and there. He sat with his arms folded, and gradually they slipped down to rest on his thin black pants.

The bus moved slowly along the boulevard. The whining hum of the engine eventually lulled the businessman to sleep. Not a very soft peaceful sleep but a painfully forced sleep. His eyes moved restlessly about in his head. Suddenly, he awoke.

As his eyes adjusted to the morning light, he could see that he was the only one left on the bus. And the bus somehow looked different. The windows were so dirty that the outside could not be seen clearly. All the seats were ripped open leaving the metal outline and springs exposed. Time had faded the walls and roof of the dirty bus.

"This is were my tax dollars go?" He whispered softly out loud.

Slowly, he moved his hand to reach for his brief case; however, it wasn't there to touch. He looked down noticing something drastically different. The thinning black suit, and Italian shoes changed into a battle fatigue uniform and dull combat boots. He was puzzled for a moment, and then he looked up to the bus driver.
In a blink of an eye, the bus moved ahead at full speed, and it was now filled with soldiers.

The soldiers, all young, were talking and telling jokes. The business man looked about at them. They were all familiar.

And he remember this bus ride. This was the first day in the war, the first time in combat on the bus to the tactile assembly area.

Of all these men, most of them would be dead, dying in the war. Which was about to begin for them. A useless war fought in an useless place for a dying people.
The thought of these young men dying, hurt the business man deeply. Yet somehow, being on this bus ride seemed relieving. Here only life and death mattered, not time, money, social economics, bank accounts.

Just then, he remembered how the bus ride ended and what was just about to happen. The ambush. He tried to call out to them. They didn't hear. He tried to warn them. He screamed and screamed they just didn't hear him. "Hey guys....Hey..." Then the loud warning reduced to a quiet tone: "Hey... Hey, wake up buddy...End of the line...."

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