Tuesday, May 31, 2005

That Old Familiar Fold

Sitting on the back porch of my sister’s house in Augusta on Friday evening I paused, stood, paused again, then leapt headfirst into a pond of Evan Williams (with a splash). Not the best swimmer, but indeed a studied drinker, I dogpaddled to the rim, hoisted myself clear, and shook like a Labrador. I then toweled off with a fine La Flor Dominicana Ligera, the thick smoke settling above me like a headdress. Finally I began to relax.

R. drank wine. Bo drank Crown. LL. drank beer and finally took a single brief dip in the Evan Williams pond. Emerson ran through the backyard with beautiful abandon. A happy child “playing swords” and drawing in the dirt. He is at his most when outside. The Boy soaks up the sun and moon and emits the collective energy in bursts previously unseen in man or child.

We shared dirty jokes and caught up on local politics. The racial divisions that created Augusta have apparently run even deeper in the eight years since I left—this is incomprehensible to me. We talked music and baseball. R. and Em played “jail” in the bed of Bo’s F-150. I took several more dips and adjusted my headdress.

I had forgotten the comfort that can come from being around people.

Augusta is a strange animal for me. It will always be home. And one of the best things I ever did was to leave it. I never cared for it while I lived there and being gone allows me the honor of appreciating it to a certain degree. It’s nice to be homesick now and again. And it’s nice to be welcomed into the old familiar fold of conversation, family, and friendship. Those are things that should never be taken for granted. Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of returning to Augusta. It may happen one day—I would like the Boy to be closer to family. But my gut tells me it isn’t likely. Part of me, I think, needs the ego boost of visiting. To be so well-received with the boy in tow is almost disarming. We are treated like royalty and it feels good. The dinner table is always plentiful. The drinks flow freely. And the love we show and are shown is sincere. It’s everything home should be. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that.

As talk and drinks continued, Friday turned into early Saturday. Finally, goodbyes and goodnights were bid. Folks went where the early morning required. I carried a sleeping Emerson to his bed and lay down next to him. I watched him for awhile and then also drifted, looking forward to the hangover of Home that surely would greet me in a few hours.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Blue-Eyed Wonder! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Reunion for a Nostalgia Whore

I’ve always been a bit of a nostalgia whore. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to romanticize the past and thus recreate my own history. That’s not entirely true, of course, but accurate enough. Until recent years, I always had trouble living in the present. I either looked to the future and how things would be so much better or I yearned for the past (which I never enjoyed at the time). It is likely that I saw myself as something of an enigma, when actually I was simply stupid. One of those “just can’t get comfortable in my own skin” kind of things. Never content or happy because I never figured out how to be either. We make our own happiness. Or we don’t. It’s a work in progress for most of us I think.

This year was to be my 20th high school reunion. While I can not explain it even to myself, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. My 10th reunion was nothing of greatness. Actually, it was only remotely enjoyable. But I like ceremony, and reunions bear that suggestion. Twenty years. Well, Christ! That’s something to celebrate. Who got fat? Who is bald? Who didn’t make it? Are any of us successful? Ten years ago I was voted most physically changed (hair to my ass and multiple earrings). Today, I look more my age and would likely be voted nothing more than present.

Well, as best I can tell, there will be no such formal 20th high school reunion. It would have taken place this summer and, from my radar screen, summer appears but a blip away. I am disappointed to say the least. But of the bad habits I’ve shed since those days, apathy is apparently not one of them. If a reunion was so important to me, then I should have stepped up and done something to make it happen. But I didn’t.

On this subject, I received an e-mail last night that made me smile. My friend, Scroggett (Phil), offered a solution to this problem so simple I should have tripped over it months ago. It boils down to Fuck a formal gathering! Let’s get our little clique together this September in Augusta and make our own reunion. There are many people I wouldn’t mind seeing. But the truth is, our clique was fairly small and extremely tight. I think it’s a great idea. The names that come immediately to mind are Phil, Rob, McDowell, Chris, David, Woo, Bobby. I could see the list growing or staying just like that. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to it.

High school was a strange time for me—as, I suppose, is most any time in a man’s life. And I look to it with like manner. Retrospect? 2020 hindsight? Dare I say, nostalgia? I made some of the best friends of my life during that time. But the education I received was mediocre at best. I spent much of my senior year partying with those friends—usually at Rob’s house in Evans. Then I had to tell most of them goodbye as we headed to different colleges/universities. I loved a girl then and sometimes I dream of her still. We went our separate ways too, our friendship not surviving. We had senior cut day and took pictures that I keep to this day. We shot fireworks inside Rob’s house one night. We glued an evil teacher’s door shut. We played pranks. We prepared for life after high school. I suppose in a way I still am.

September will probably happen. At least I hope so. I’ll certainly make the commitment as will Phil. We’ll get the word out and see where it takes us. Drinks and dinner and laughs. Phil has always been the most dependable one when it comes to photos—and God knows I love photos. I’ll look to him to capture our fun and excitement, our serious moments, our reunion of friends. I’ll return the favor, of course. And we’ll look to someone outside of the gathering to take a group picture. I’m anxious to see where we’ll go. As Phil suggested, The Partridge Inn and Vallarta’s? Metro?

I haven’t even let Phil know how pleased I am over his idea and here I am, returning lustily to my whoring ways.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pride and Impatience

With games at 10:15a and 2:00p today, the Boy’s soccer season officially ended. Sweet Fucking Mother of Christ, thank you from the bottom of my Tabasco®-warmed heart.

I’ve never been a soccer fan per se. I just don’t get it. Just as some others don’t get baseball or boxing (heathens all of them). But I found out some time ago that the local league allowed/encouraged three-year-old kids to play. I did the math, sized up the Boy, fudged some numbers in my checkbook, and signed him up. It seemed a right smart move all those months ago. Organized sports would allow Emerson to experience a sense of camaraderie, learn a different type of discipline (one that comes from having teammates depend upon you and vice versa), assist in lessening the deficit in his hand-eye coordination bank. Etcetera, etcetera. Soccer was to be the perfect introduction of my son to the world of competitive sports.

I was wrong. And not just a little wrong. But the big, hangover kind of wrong where you realize too late that five Woodfords on top of several draughts on top of an empty stomach was simply not a good idea.

Emerson took to soccer in much the same manner I might take to clogging or celestial navigation. It was a poor fit from the beginning. But where he is concerned, I have always been optimistic. Positive. And I presumed he would grow to like the sport, the commingling with new kids, the eager reinforcement of ideals and discipline from his coaches.

This did not transpire.

There are no words or actions that could possibly convey the love I have for the Boy. Simply put, he is the light by which I look upon the world. So the frustration—dare I say, the anger—I felt each week as I stood, paced, held my head in my hands, and seethed on the sidelines as seven young boys played their collective asses off at the game of soccer while my Boy either stood at the opposite end of the field making faces, playing in the dirt, playing inside the opponents’ goal, sitting down, standing on his head with his skinny little ass swaying in the air, or pulling his shorts up as high as they could go was, if not foreign, then hypocritical. To calm down I reminded myself that he is but three years old. But you see, every other kid on that field was also three years old and they somehow managed to recognize the game, kick the ball, work together, and score goals—every single week without the help of Emerson who actually saw substantial playing time.

The most frustrating thing for me was to watch him run around on the field acting retarded. I mean really retarded. Had any mental health institution representatives been on hand, they would have sheepishly turned away, being forced to acknowledge, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think there is anything we can do for him. Good luck, Mr. Ryan.” The clincher is that there is an honest to goodness retarded kid on his team (if not retarded, then very, very “Rain Man-ish”—only without the personality). This kid ran circles around Emerson. He would hang tough, score a goal, and kind of stand there rocking back and forth looking far superior to my little monkey who would be lying down making dirt angels at the other end of the field. I could almost hear the voices in his head saying, “Yeeeah…Yeeeah…definitely better than Emerson…Yeeeah…” But three-year-olds are a forgiving clan. They operate largely on autopilot. So my kid is not a soccer player. There are worse things.

I think what bothered me more than Em’s inability to take part in the game(s) was my inability to be okay with it. It is such a small thing, isn’t it? Why would I expend that rare commodity of energy fretting it? But we are who we are and we do what we do. And we try to figure it out as we move along.

My Boy is no soccer player. The fact is indisputable. But you know what—he stuck with it. He went to practice each week. He showed up (at least physically) to each game. He went out there and he had fun in his own unique Emerson way. He did all I will ever ask of him which is to march to the clichéd beat of his own drum. I most certainly respect that. And I recognize that any problems I have with his level of participation are my own. To be sure, I have my expectations of him. And in agreeing to go out onto that field when he clearly did not want to and to make any attempt to kick the ball when it came near him, he satisfied those expectations. A remarkable feat for such a young boy.

There was only one failure this soccer season and that failure was mine. My failure was in the ever so slight embarrassment I felt as he stood half a field away from his teammates doing pirouettes, playing in the dirt, making silly faces at the heavens. And while I never lost my enthusiasm or ability to encourage, I probably didn’t praise him as much as I could have. And I’ll likely regret that for a while. For he sweated and he ran and he tried. I know grown men who have yet to do that. At three years, he has an enviable leg up on the elder population.

It is 1:00 in the morning. The Boy is sleeping. He is sweaty as he most always is in sleep. And he is nothing shy of perfect. I was impatient with him today, a product largely of my own fatigue. But just before he finally gave way to sleep he looked at me after story time, and a sip of juice, and all other stall tactics and whispered, “Daddy, I love you so much.”

And I you, Boy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I Feel Old

I feel old.

Not old like “Hey Kids, get the fuck off my lawn!” old. But old like I’m falling apart. Just heavy-headed, hip-back-head hurtin’, what was I going to say next, Oy Vey old. But I’m not that old. I mean I’m too old to join the Girl Scouts but not too old to appreciate a little cookie now and again.

So what gives I wonder. It can’t be a mid-life crisis. I’ve been in the throes of that since my early twenties and this is different. It shouldn’t be a real health event. I just had my yearly physical with Dr. Jellyfinger and all signs point to not dead. I’m svelte, wealthy, and a sharp dresser so twenty pounds too heavy, broke, and slovenly shouldn’t play into it. (Actually, that may play into it just a little).

Maybe it’s just the blahs. I’m extremely frustrated over the new series “This Old Clutch.” The auto repair shop assured me they could look at the car Tuesday morning and then give me an estimate. The tow truck (as arranged by the shop) showed up at my house around 1:00p. They didn’t touch the car yesterday. I called to check a few minutes ago. They still haven’t had time to look at the car. Meanwhile, I’m spitting up $35+ a day to drive around in a menstrual-colored Ford Taurus. The mere site of it is enough to stop the flow of traffic. And, though this is simply the Pilot episode, it looks as though it may get picked up as a full summer series.

That’s it—frustration and the blahs. As long as it is not an impending stroke. (See if I put that in print, I can stave off a real stroke. It’s like a reverse mojo thing). Hypochondriasis runs in my family like so many springs. I’ve always done pretty well at not releasing my paper boats to those springs so I try not to think of things like stroke or tumors or cardiac events at 3:40 a.m. Well, I try not to talk about those things. They seem all too possible and in that sense all too apocalyptic.

I’ll place the onus on my Boy. He can rid me of the blahs if anyone can. He can certainly make me feel younger. Just last night before we went to his first baseball game, he wanted to argue in the car. He wanted to take his toy sword into the park to show his best friend B.:

Me: No, Boy. Toys aren’t allowed in the park.
Em: Why?
Me: They just aren’t. It’s in the rules. No toys.
[This continues for some time]
Me: Emerson. I said, No! I’m sorry, Buddy, but No!
Em: But I want to, Ryy-ann!!! I want to, Ryy-ann!!! I want to, Ryy-ann!!!
Me: (To self: Try not to laugh).

Actually, I’m not nearly so sorry as to put such a burden on the Boy. But then again, he needs no such charge. He youngs me up every day. Just the opposite of what one might expect. He is an exhausting and utterly delightful person. Last night at the game (Nashville Sounds), he spent two full innings acting retarded, making faces, trying to climb on the visitors dugout, trying to make a sword out of a corndog stick, and screaming at the players to “Go, Bay-beee!!!” We spent the next four innings at the onsite playground where he had an absolute blast. His smile is worth a thousand strokes.

That’s good for a dose of young. Suddenly, I don’t feel old anymore.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Surety of...

I found this blurb on a three-year-old disc. This was an apparently aborted attempt at beginning a short story. It reads amazingly similar to a Blog entry, no?

3/31/02 1:38 AM

He knew little beyond the stinging surety of his unhappiness.

He found pleasure in simple things—whiskey, cigars, his son's smile—but felt destined to be outwitted by happiness.

Random car lights splayed the occasional patterned chaos through the kitchen window, lighting on the dining room wall, filtered through the hard coming rain. Emmy Lou Harris' heartbreaking voice and the rattling of ice and glass were the only two things heard between rumbles of thunder. Ray thought once of turning up the heat but didn't want to get up and so didn't.

He felt like a character in a Raymond Carver story most of the time. In his mind he but existed in the moment, and then just barely. He awoke exhausted and remained as such until the wee hours of the next morning. The lack of sleep affected his thought processes, his cognitive skills. His conversations were lately interrupted by awkward pauses because he'd either lost his place or simply misplaced the next word necessary to carry the on…

I like to believe that my “characters” (wink wink nudge nudge) are a bit more upbeat these days. Poor Ray seems damn near suicidal. He may have pulled a Hemingway before finishing that last thought. I have boxes full of shit like this. Slips of paper, blurbs, things overheard. Nothing, however, that is fleshed out and complete. What is it with me not being able to finish anyth…

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hobos, Clutches, and Sharks

Uncle G. came by last night to do laundry and join us for dinner. The grilled chicken and boiled rice turned out well. I hadn't seen a lot of twenty-seven year old guys laundering sheets so I accused G. of fucking a hobo on his. I told him that his sheets now smelled like wine, dirt, and semen. In typical Ryan fashion I just wouldn't let it rest. (I'm a terrier like that.) I was showing real concern and counsel by asking him over and over why he was fucking hobos.

No one thinks I am as funny as I do.

So the Honda's clutch is officially gone. M. picked Em and I up on Friday (and again today), helped with the whole daycare and getting to work thing. We made the cutest gay couple, working together fastening Em into his car seat and dropping him off at Temple. Emerson heckled us from the backseat of M.’s car most of the way—“Rock ‘n Roll, Bay-beeee!” and “How’s it goin’, Dog?!” Thanks to me, he ends many of his sentences now with Baby or Dog. It just cracks me up every time. If he had a crueler sense of humor, he would likely be lambasting me over the price I’m paying for a rental car and the cost of the tow to the shop tomorrow. I think they are having a special on clutches this week, so with labor it should come to just under the price of a three-bedroom home in San Francisco. Rock ‘n Roll, Bay-beeee!

On Saturday, Em and I walked down to the small neighborhood park and took a brief hike on the trail through the woods. He wanted to show me the spot where he and Aunt R. scared up a wild turkey a couple weeks ago when she was in town helping out. We saw the spot, some deep deer prints, and a bunch of bugs. Em got tangled up in a thorn bush but managed to survive. A few scratches on his legs but no worse for wear. He asked me the rest of the day, “Daddy? Who put ‘dose torns dere?” Even with a bum wheel, he managed to play his whole soccer game at 2:00p. Well, that’s partly accurate. While everyone else played soccer—kicking the ball and whatnot—Emerson was a shark. Quite literally. Arms spread straight out by his sides, running in a zigzag pattern, he swam by us on the sidelines with deadly stealth and exclaimed, “Hey Guys! I’m a shark!” When he wasn’t a shark, he stood inside one of the goals, with his head stuck through the netting making the most retarded faces at nothing in particular. I saw some poor sot behind the goal with a camera trying to help out by giving Em an exaggerated (albeit unenthused) thumbs-up sign and then looking away awkwardly. I mean, really, what the fuck do you do? I do love that Boy so.

Yesterday, the two of us went to the Caboose Park. He lucked up by finding the kids who live behind us. The two girls are older (8 and 10?) and are so nice to him. They were there as part of a soccer party but were kind enough to include Em in their running and playing. It was truly a delight watching my three-year-old lead a pack of ten kids in a perfect line over obstacles and mazes, through jumps, and up ladders and down slides. It looks as though he may end up with his mother’s leadership skills. Let us hope. Although exhausted, he wanted to argue all the way home that he wasn’t tired and didn’t need a nap. He was so very alert, in fact, that once I finally convinced him that he had to use the bathroom, he staggered over to the shower, pushed back the curtain, and started to undo his pants. I stood looking at him while he yellmuttered, “I’m not tired!” Pause. “Don’t pee in my shower, Boy,” I said. The surprised look, slow recognition, and beautiful sheepish grin that followed made my entire weekend.

So, we’ll see what this week brings. Rental cars, and clutches, and another soccer game. The regular grind of the grind I suppose. And like every week prior, I’m sure to find potholes and gems alike. It has already started well. I mean who else can boast of a young son with natural leadership ability who thinks he is a shark and pees in the shower—from the outside? I’m a lucky man.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

And Good Health to All

I had my yearly physical on the 4th. Always enjoyable. Dr. E. is nice enough. He wears cowboy boots and his hair doesn’t look quite natural. But that’s okay. His office is convenient to where I live. The tests were fairly inclusive. He did bloodwork, chest X-rays, an EKG, checked my reflexes, and stuck his arm up my ass. Whooo! I walked around feeling soupy for the rest of the day and kept checking the internet to see if a picture of the event had been posted. I thought he should have at least offered to take me to lunch after that, but no. Ah, the violations we abide in the name of good health.

I called an automated system for my lab results this morning. As best they can tell, my liver has not fallen out. I’m not sure how that can be, but I’m glad to know it. They said nothing of my kidney other than the test for function was fine. That’s another one I’m not convinced of and so will follow up with Dr. K. in a month or so. I’m due for my six-month with him anyway. Unfortunately, my cholesterol is back up—total 253 with LDL being 171. So it’s back on the Lipitor for me. And of course I’m fretting the $30.00 monthly payment more than I am the aggravation of taking a pill every day for the next several months. Lipitor has worked well for me in the past so I have no real reservations about giving it another go; but I don’t care to take something for an extended period of time and will make a concerted effort with diet and exercise. The Evan Williams/Splash of Coke and Miller Lite curls apparently have not done the job. I’ll have to sit down with a cigar and a cup of salt tonight and work through this thing. What could be affecting my cholesterol so?

But I do have Em to think about. So it may be time to start taking this health business a bit more seriously. At least until he can join me on the porch for cigars and whiskey. Another year or so?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

And We Moved On...

My office building is a relic of no particular era really. In summer, the heat blows freely. In winter, the AC is potent. I’ve seen people on the second floor bundled in sweaters, and draped in blankets, while, on the same day, the fifth floor occupants, barely clothed, are bathed in sheens of perspiration. Climate control my ass. The past two days though have combined to bring a previously unheard of consistency to our little parcel in Metrocenter. A blown AC unit is the apparent culprit. Fucking sweltering—on all five floors. The Powers convened yesterday and appraised the situation:
Vice President: “I’m hot. Are you hot?”
Assistant Vice President: “Yeah. I’m a little hot, I guess. Especially if you are.”
Vice President: Well, it’s a little warm. Let’s give it a couple hours and see if we’re still hot.

They closed the office at 1:30. I went for a beer and then home.

When I arrived at work at 8:00 this morning, I was back aboard the slow train to Haiti. The lights were dimmed in an attempt to stave off the heat. While that may appear clever, it’s not as effective as you might think. The Powers reconvened:
Vice President: “I’m hot. Are you hot?”
Assistant Vice President: “Yeah. I’m a little hot, I guess. Especially if you are.”
Vice President: Well, it’s a little warm. Let’s give it a couple hours and see if we’re still hot.

They closed the office at high noon. I went for a beer.

Since we are both in dire financial straits, it made perfect sense for M. and I to go to Jonathan’s and drink our lunch. Actually, it was a good move for my mental health. Two-for-one draughts are rarely bad. Today, they were particularly good. And M.’s company was more needed than I realized. We shot the shit about this and that. Marveled at the beautiful bartender. Tried to behave. Moved to weightier subjects without getting too philosophical. A friend of ours from work recently suffered a devastating loss—the bone-deep kind that could make a sane man not. We touched on it briefly and moved on. Though it was nearly tangible, by moving on we could pretend it was not there. And that’s what we needed to do if for only today. Our talk moved to finances and character assessments of each other, Harley-Davidsons, Ferraris, guitars, The Cohen Brothers, Days of Thunder. We touched upon it all—to include a mutual and unattractive penchant for self-loathing. And we moved on. We finished up with a hefty shot of Woodford. In the splash of a glass, our bartender had become even more beautiful. We settled up. M. picked up his Taylor that he’d brought in from the car (to protect it from the heat) and we strolled the narrow hallway to outside, me behind him. I’ll have to tell him tomorrow how very Nashville he looked carrying that guitar case as naturally as someone else might carry a laptop or a twelve-pack. We said goodbye without shaking hands and were gone.

The Honda clutch-slipped me to Green Hills and Uptown’s Smoke Shop where I laid out more money that I don’t have. I’ve heard Uptown’s referred to as one of the premiere smoke shops in the country. I’ve been there many, many times and don’t doubt it.

L. picked up Emerson from daycare today. I know that pleased him. They went to McDonalds. I was lying down when he came in. His smile washed over me as he said, “Hi, Daddy!” I thought about my day. The stifling heat of my office building. The rare leisure of sitting at a bar in the middle of the day. Drinking beer with a friend whom I respect. And I thought of my other friend from work and of his loss. I drew Emerson close and held him a little tighter than usual.

He’s a patient boy and seems to know when I need to do that.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Even More Random Again

Em went down around 8:30p. I am back after an attempt to wind down on the front porch. A couple tranquilizing drinks and a sublime Cuban cigar— a Cohiba, compliments of Ken. (Any cliché you may have heard re Cuban cigars is absolutely accurate.) My head is still so Goddamn full I want to scream, but the cigar, the drinks, and a very well-written New Yorker profile of Sonny Rollins have chipped away ever so slightly at that pressure at my base. My days tend to run together and as I type this I realize that I literally cannot remember yesterday. That’s not good. I recall caring for the Boy and that he did not nap but I am drawing a collective blank beyond that. Hmmph. On Friday, L. returned from two weeks of business in Panama City. I went out that night. The Jeep’s wounded sound system (a tweeter fractured by Techno, of all things—Paul Oakenfold—on my way home from Daltons and Tokyo take-out) supplied me with a semi-rush of the Hoo Doo Gurus, Candlebox, and something else. I found myself at Dalton’s. Draughts and Woodford. I tried to not pay attention as two waitresses had an exchange. The Basketball game was on every television and I stared at it without seeing it. The elder waitress, a tall blond with a lovely turned up nose was, appropriately, the aggressor, and appeared to come out on top. I’ve seen her there before. She is attractive and out of place it seems to me. I’ve no idea what her place may be. I then hit Jonathan’s. A full house and not one soul behind the bar. My impatience allowed me less than five minutes before I left—drinkless. I climbed in the Jeep, opened the sunroof, and let the Gurus take me across the street to the Bellevue Sam’s. I end up there on occasion and I never know why. The bar is clean but reeks of vomit. I’ve never understood that. It is an uncomfortable place and I never enjoy it. Yet I go. The tall bartender was on X. Dutiful, but grinning like a fucking idiot, doing shots and giggling with the waitresses. She did her job though, and mine is not to judge. I ended up at The Pub. I had not been there since long before Emerson was born and have no idea why the Jeep took me there. The crowd has always been unappealing but the drinks always stellar. I drank too much and that is likely why Saturday is a blur of a blur.

I grilled today. Tuna steaks and Ribeyes. Happy Mother’s Day. The day saw daiquiris and cold, cold Corona and lime. Playing “swords” with Emerson. He will someday fence with the best of them. Sneaky fucker will smack your thumb with the stick/sword if you aren’t careful. Quick to make amends with an “I’m sor-wree, Daddy” before getting you again. He loves the outdoors. I do my best to get him outside and run him.

Uncle G. is in D.C. this weekend. He’s helping Nana get moved in. She got gone last weekend and it does seem different. She’s on faculty at George Washington. Good for her, I say. Vanderbilt never did right by her in my estimation. She has bettered her station and...well, it was just a good move for her. G., Em, and I sent her off with a nice dinner and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.

You know, I am likely on the verge of an esophageal blowout. Between the Diet Coke, Whiskey, and Tabasco I should have met an unfortunate fate years ago. Excuse me as I mix another drink.

My standoff with the weather appears to have paid off. A stunning 85 degree day today and an evening mild enough to allow drinks and a cigar. My Japanese Maple (in its third year) is heartbreaking in its beauty. Plush young leaves reaching toward anything and everything like a young boy seeing something new with each blink of his eyes. It is aptly named “Emerson’s tree.”

You know, I think I am done. Let me finish listening to Tom Waits’ Mule Variations, drink my drink, iron, shave, trim my scruff, yawn, debate another drink, stand in the kitchen and try not to snack, pet Potter and Cody, sit on the edge of Em’s bed long enough to reassure myself he is still breathing, walk to his door and go back to check again, and get ready for my week.

I have about three hours before he awakens and calls for me. He’ll end up in my bed, sleeping in my crook. My arm will numb a bit but I won’t mind. I’ll take my comfort in the fact that he is safe in my arms, his breathing monitored by me even as I doze.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Faraway Eyes and Nothing Quite Right

I am at the Saucer, snug at the bar. 400,000 beers on tap, the rarest being Zap Daddy from Neptune (alcohol content 27%). Beautiful waitresses saunter and rush, dressed provocatively in Catholic Schoolgirl uniforms—tight plaid skirts and formal white button downs. The Catholic Schoolgirl look never did it for me before. Why now? Neither here nor there, of course. I enjoy the Saucer but also nearly always feel out of place here. Maybe I’m most comfortable when I’m least comfortable. There’s a twist of lime, eh? Perhaps I am so forever fucking far from a comfort zone that I adopt any familiarity I can, wrap my arms around it, and bodysurf it to the nearest shore. Perhaps that’s it.

There’s another waitress. She looks younger than she is and wiser than she should be. If she wore a nametag it would read Sara or Helen or Emily. Her button down pulls tight at her breasts and I try not to notice because I’m pretty sure that I am supposed to. The bar mirror is off to my left and what I can make out of her reflection is obscured by pint glasses. The music is loud tonight and The Stones are telling me about a girl with faraway eyes and that makes me think about the jukebox in Tony’s Pizza where, as a child, I used to go with my sister. And I can hear a baseball game going on somewhere but can spot no television. In my mind I see Sid Bream racing toward home in 1991 and the Braves consummating a miracle. That is one of my fondest baseball memories and I gather it with little effort. I wonder what ol’ Sid is doing these days. I am drinking Arrogant Bastard and thinking of moving to Harp. Two Bastards is usually about as heavy as I like to go unless I have the option of switching to whiskey. SaraHelenEmily squeezes in next to me to get change from the bartender. The waitress station at the end of the bar is empty. When she reaches the fifty toward the waiter, her fingers brush my arm. As she awaits the transfer, she apologizes by putting her hand on my shoulder and calling me “Hon.” “You’re fine,” I say, avoiding direct eye contact. My practiced nonchalance is obvious—and effective. I order another Bastard. Patty Griffin follows The Stones. She begins singing Stolen Car better than Springsteen and I smile and give a little inside. I feel the guy three stools down staring at me. He’s been at it for a couple minutes. Finally, I shift and return the favor. We hold it for at least thirty seconds. A Tuesday night Pissing Contest typically reserved for weekends. This fuck could crush me, but I don’t waver. As I am about to fold, he nods to me and tips his pint glass. I turn slowly face front and drain the Bastard, hold the glass at eye level so the bartender recognizes. Peripherally I see the fuck move away. I know that he may or may not be waiting for me in the parking lot when I leave. Why these things occur both repulses and fascinates me. Only rarely do I play along. But when I do, it is for keeps. The bartender knows I am ready to switch and brings me a Harp. A bartender with a memory is harder and harder to find these days. This one will be compensated. My eyes are tired and I know I need to make the whiskey switch if I am to maintain. The Saucer is not big on whiskey but I notice a bottle of Jack next to a token treasure of flavored Vodkas. I order one and then another. I am awake. Sara (I’ve decided) is busy with table after endless table. I watch her openly now. We will never speak but I appreciate the quick brush of her fingers for what it was. I give the bartender a throat slashing gesture and he produces my tab. I pay it and rise to leave. I see the fucker who tried to front near the couches and feel better knowing he is not lying in wait; I watch my back just the same. I’m too old for this shit. And while I’m not lonely, I would like to have talked to someone tonight. If nothing else, just about the Braves or the unseasonably cool weather or Sara or any Goddamn thing really. On the way home, I slip The Chieftans into the CD player. Then David Grey. Then John Prine. Nothing sounds quite right.

At home, where I’ve been all night, I watch Emerson sleep. His is a soothing music. The ice in my glass makes a noise. He doesn’t stir. I’ve let him in my bed tonight. In the empty spot. It is selfish of me. But I need the metronome of his breathing, his comfort, to dictate my own just one more time.

If he were awake, I would tell him that the old jukebox at Tony’s Pizza used to offer House of the Rising Sun too. And then I would play it for him.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sophisticated Tastes! Posted by Hello

Impatience & Neon Crosses

In case you are wondering, 17th Avenue South in Nashville—once it has morphed from Music Row—is a one way street. To avoid future looks of absolute loathing and hellfire, either maintain proper direction at all times or simply pull to the side of the road (as I did), depress the hazard lights button, and pretend to fiddle with your stereo while simultaneously reaching for something in the glove compartment until oncoming traffic passes and you can turn around. Just a little helpful (albeit unsolicited) advice from your Uncle Ryan.

There was a day when doing something as careless as going the opposite direction on a one way street would have absolutely mortified me. The sheer humiliation of it all. What would everyone think of the poor dolt who’d made such a blunder? Apparently, I’m older now. And while I certainly prefer not to do stupid things, I accept that on occasion, I will. Fuck, I’m actually pretty good at it. In the past, finding myself heading directly into oncoming traffic would have upset me pretty good. And today, I suppose I was a little embarrassed looking directly into the faces of those people who were simply just not amused by my predicament. However, my reaction was more of the “Hmmph, this ain’t good” variety. Really, what do you do but fix the situation and tuck into the vault the knowledge of this particular road?

Eventually, 17th Avenue South—then 18th Avenue South, then another street, then an alley behind 17th Avenue South—led me to the salon out of which Brian was cutting late today. Me, at a salon—tee-hee! Brian is in from D.C. and a trim was on the books from a couple months ago and much needed. I’m still going longer than I have over the past several years. Yeah, I look a little foolish on some days; a little better on others. Not sure that someone my age should have his hair this shaggy unless he’s in the business. But overall, I still feel more like me.

I had Em in tow. Not my preference—out of courtesy for other patrons—but it worked out better than expected. A delightful lady who washed my hair was smitten with him and talked him up. She has two kids herself and was very kind to my young Prince. Uncle G. rolled in about 40 minutes later looking like shit. I noticed the delightful lady’s knees weaken just a little when he walked in. It happens. G. all but had a neon cross strapped to his back screaming HANGOVER. I’ve been there. But even so, he got no sympathy as he dipped his head backwards into the sink for a good scouring.

That Em was so well-behaved at Brian’s was appreciated. This weekend has been a chore. And not 30 seconds after leaving, the meltdown commenced. When he needs my patience the most is, invariably, when I possess the least. He hasn’t had the best father this weekend to be sure. And that kills me. I’ve been good in spurts—as has he—but that simply isn’t good enough. But at 9:30 he sleeps. I make a hardcore Evan with a splash. I put five CDs on shuffle (Springsteen, Damien Rice, The Pogues, The Waterboys, Richard Thompson). I try not to think about the filthy house or work or ironing clothes for tomorrow or a new clutch for the Honda or the section of fence that has fallen in the backyard or the roof or the elusiveness of spring. I try not to think of anything actually. But I drift back to earlier and wonder how in the fuck could such a big street be one way? Don’t they know people get lost? It’s a good thing I’m older now. I don’t really fret such things anymore.

Oh, and sleep well my Prince. Daddy will be more patient tomorrow.