Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Reflecting Pond

I’m thinking of taking Emerson to the zoo tomorrow—on a visit, not as a donation. My stunted memory reminds me though that the zoo’s exhibits consist of a meerkat and a pigeon. Hardly seems worth the price of admission. But I have a coupon so what the fuck, eh. He is always so appreciative to go anywhere. He is on my mind constantly it seems. More so lately than usual if that is possible.

Daycare issues weigh on me heavily but that’s a rant for another day. His behavior has been all over the map. He is at once (and most often) the sweetest child to have ever graced this earth; and then in the pre-blink of a tired eye, a new entry in Webster’s beneath the word “Difficult.” Complete with his own illustration. I guess that makes him…oh, I don’t know…a three-year-old. Often when I get on to him or correct him, he throws up his perfect little hands and says, “That’s it, I’m outta here!” You try to keep a straight face when he does that.

Next weekend we head to DC where he will visit his Nana and get to see honest-to-goodness dinosaur bones at the Smithsonian. I am excited for him. That Boy does love a dinosaur. We’ll also show him the Hope Diamond and Archie Bunker’s chair—but I’m not sure he’ll have the same appreciation for pop culture as I do. I also want him to see the Lincoln Memorial. And the Reflecting Pond. I imagine he’ll look a little baffled when I tell him this is where Forrest Gump reconnected with his Jenny. But that’s ok. He knows his Daddy is a little odd. He is an especially good traveler and I expect it to be a good trip.

….I am more tired than usual tonight. The obvious solution is for me to go to bed—it is late. As I always seem to misinterpret the obvious, I mix another drink (Evan & a splash) and fire up my second cigar. A Gran Habana Corojo #5 to follow my Gispert Corona. At times I am so wise that it hurts me where I pee. It would just be sacrilege to waste this delightfully mild Tennessee night. Thus far, I’ve only had to smack the shit out of one wayward June Bug. It is bliss to me that they are elsewhere tonight. I will instead accept the occasional moth with indifference. The break in battle gives me more time to ponder the aging Jeep. I am fairly confident that I’ve narrowed the source of daily antifreeze puddles to a failing water pump. This is fine, because upon researching the problem, I found that most auto repair shops in Nashville are simply giving those away to nice people. I’ll take the Jeep in on Monday. “Hi, Guys,” I’ll say. “I’m here for a water pump.” Pause. Closed-mouth smile. “I’ll be paying with my rock star good looks.”

Hell, they may even throw in a tank of gas.

In truth, she is a good Jeep. She has simply had the misfortune of being burdened with a neglectful owner. Someone should have warned her before she entered into this relationship. You know, he can’t even change the oil, don’t you? Won’t even rotate your tires consistently—you could do better! That same someone should have had a similar conversation with my house. You know, he’s not even going to address your roof, eaves, or plumbing issues. To be forewarned is to prosper.

That’s just like me though. To focus my waning energy on such things when the night is cool and comforting; when I have a stocked humidor and liquor cabinet; when others have real problems. I kick myself in these weak moments. Fact is I have a Jeep. I have a home. I have cigars and whiskey. I have a Boy who knows he is loved and who loves me equally. I am going to DC in a week. My Boy will see dinosaurs, Goddamnit. And I will see our nation’s capitol. And a baseball game.

When no one is looking, I will dip my toes in the waters of the reflecting pond, and in my mind’s eye swim the breaststroke end to end. I will touch the hand of Lincoln. I will smile at strangers. I will drink Makers Mark until my head clears. I will hold Em’s hand and pause on Pennsylvania Avenue. I will bask in the DC heat. I will take him to the Wall and to the soldiers who fought in Korea. I will buy him something from a street vendor. I will watch him take it all in. And I will come to the realization that I am the luckiest son of a bitch in the world.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Internal Blinds and Whatnot

In the few moments I carve for myself each night, I tend to be so wired with obligation that I am unable to lower my internal blinds. I manage a couple drinks and a cigar, but my mind won’t slow to enough of a trot for me to actually relax.

Tonight I picked up Bukowski—a vile treat of a man—and couldn’t even make it through a half page. I picked up Hemingway’s Stories, leafed quickly, and put the volume back. These are pieces I adore. Pieces I so look forward to revisiting. But Nada, as Papa might say.

I want to write a paper on A Day’s Wait—a stunning, upsetting four-page story of H.’s. I want to do it because I love the story and because I’ve never heard another soul discuss it. But I won’t. I don’t have it in me yet. I’ve pondered it off and on for 20 years. I’ll get to it in time, I suppose.

I have a scheduled visit with my kidney guy tomorrow. Maybe I’ll tell him about A Day’s Wait. He’ll slap the x-ray of my tattered bean up on the board and before he can say “Hmmm, well…” or “Lookin’ good, Ryan,” I’ll hit him with the straight right of the story—“See, the Boy thinks he is dying. But he’s not!” My doc is a prince of a guy and will indulge me for a moment, may even smile faintly, pause, and finish with either “Hmmm, well…” or “Lookin’ good.” Every urologist I’ve had has been a punless prick. This guy is no exception. Except that he is an extremely likable prick. He has always treated me with measured decency and sincerity. He is a surgeon too, so his ego is boundless. I think that is necessary in a good surgeon. He is confident and skilled. Perhaps he will want to hear my take on The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Perhaps not. A $25.00 co pay only gets you so far.

Well, to hell with literature. Maybe I can entertain him with Tales of a Leprotic Jeep or The Little Central Air Unit that Couldn’t. Or how badly I want to return to Sydney and scream “Top O’ The World, Ma” from the Harbour Bridge. Maybe I’ll tell him that John Prine is coming back to the Ryman on October 1 and that I am little kid excited. Maybe I’ll tell him how I missed the recent Mark Knopfler show and he’ll write me a ‘scrip for Demerol to ease the pain. I suppose he’ll want to hear about my nightly battle with the Goddamn dive-bombing June Bugs. Surely, he’ll have time and an ear for that. Maybe even a remedy. He is a doctor. Maybe I’ll tell him how last week Emerson and I saw a doe and her fawn emerge from the neighbor’s yard and then surreally jog across the street and fade into the hot day. Or he might be interested in the birdhouse Em painted or in Em’s struggles at his new daycare—his forever new daycare. Or I could tell him how I dipped my finger in unidentified animal piss this morning thinking that the rear axles were leaking fluid again over the wheels of the Jeep. And how I washed and washed my hands and the smell never left. And how my insane habit of touching my face left my scruff also smelling of said animal piss. Maybe he could fix that. Or I could tell him how M. and I cried at work today because we laughed too hard. How M. pretended that he caught polio from the 3rd floor toilet seat. He’d like that story I bet. Or I could tell him my favorite joke ever is a knock-knock joke about an impatient cow.

You know, on second thought, I’ll just let my guy do his job. He is busy for a reason. Because he is the best. If he asks whether or not I have pain, I’ll Hemingway it up and say, “Oh, you know…once in awhile. Nothing of real consequence,” which is true. I’ll return to work, try to stay late and make up some time. I’ll go home and hug the Boy. I’ll feed him, bathe him, and tell him stories about pirates and giants. I’ll embellish the stories with added swordplay. I’ll watch him sleep for awhile.

Later, I’ll return to the mercy of the June Bugs, cursing their inaccurate accuracy. I’ll mix a drink. Clip and light a cigar. And begin again.

All in a day’s wait.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Friday Evening Recap

The temperature dropped to 113 degrees this evening, so the only logical move was to gather the Boy, some ice water, a blanket and head right to the Red Caboose Park for live music and play. By the time the music started, a cold front had swept in and the temperature dropped like a Frenchman’s rifle to a brisk 110 degrees. I was fretting the lack of sweaters for Em and me but we huddled and persevered. Actually, it was good to be outside, good to be with Em, and good to sweat. Nashville hot will never be even remotely comparable to Augusta hot. I whine simply for the sake of whining—it was not that bad. A couple people did collapse, but I figured Fuck ‘em, stepped over them, spread the blanket, and turned Crazy Ass loose to run like the wind. By Friday, I am typically spent. Today was no different. It would have been easy to plant Em in front of the television, sit amongst the refuse that defines my living room, and play slug for the next five hours. How in the fuck though, I wondered, would that benefit either of us? So Caboose Park-bound we were. The band was just terrible—really. But we enjoyed every song they played. It was hot and relaxing. And Em had a blast. He didn’t ass-out until near the end and I was able to be patient and fix that. It was a good couple hours of music, the Boy dancing, running and rolling, and of rough horseplay. I liked being focused on the music and on us, being able to flip that paranoia switch that occasionally sticks and forget about the dozens of folks behind us.

While wrestling with the Boy, entertaining the Boy, and keeping an obscenely overbearing eye on the Boy, I noticed a couple things that gave me pause tonight. I acknowledge that I am as flawed a man as you will likely encounter. But one decent characteristic of my being that I will allow myself is that I am keenly observant. I notice things. Another quality (if I am being honest) is that I am innately capable of minding my own business. I adhere to a strict code (my only one really) of To each his own. Granted, this is hardly a groundbreaking philosophy—you may have even heard of it. While I have heard many people claim the same, what I typically find is that to each his own for most folks means “I don’t care what anybody believes or does as long as it’s the same as what I believe or do.” With a hint of arrogance I can say with absolute candor, I actually do believe in and follow the motto.

A couple—younger than me—set up shop a couple yards to my right. They had a cute boy of their own, maybe eight months younger than Emerson. The mother was attractive and attentive; the guy attentive as well but kind of nondescript. They had a blanket and snacks and an appreciation of poorly done cover songs. I sensed the boy to be hers and not his. Ten minutes into the show, two older women and a brood walked up and sat their folding chairs directly in front of this young family—literally two feet in front of them. The Caboose Park is fairly spacious. Many, many prime spots affording great views of the stage were available. But these folks chose that spot. The people truly seemed void of malice. I don’t think they surveyed the grounds and said to themselves, “Now there’s a nice couple to fuck with.” They were clearly just fucking oblivious. To anyone and anything but themselves. As a constant observer, I marvel at such things. For my abilities (limited they may be), I cannot fathom that level of cluelessness. It is a difficult thing to abide. But it was not my dance and therefore not my business. I did not so much as exchange a knowing glance or shrug of the shoulders with the couple and child as they patiently picked up all their shit and moved several feet behind me. In the big scheme, it was hardly a big thing; but just another of the daily occurrences that baffle me. A total lack of common decency and consideration.

Some things, apparently, I will never get. Sigh.

This is simply one of a few such things I noticed. But, as it should have been, my attention was focused on a rambunctious, sweaty Boy named Emerson. On his exploits and explorations. His occasional attempt to extend the boundaries that had been placed before him. His sometimes hilarious internal conflict with said boundaries and how he might circumvent them without falling to the wrath of his father. On his beautiful and utter lack of self-consciousness. On his Navy Seals/Special Ops/Green Berets ability to meld into the very scenery he inhabits and then appear behind me to tackle me without warning. Stealthy little bastard.

So I repeat: To each his own. My own and I had a great balmy time tonight.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Reese Witherspoon Meets James Brown

Reese Witherspoon just telephoned. It seems she’s leaving Ryan Phillippe and is interested in getting together. “I’ll drop the kids at my parents,” she coos. “We can go to the Sunset and you can pretend to interview me.”

I have to lay it out for her. “Reese, Baby! You’re short and all—and you know how I like that—and I love that thing your jaw does, but I’m kinda holding out for Ashley Judd…Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am well aware how much smarter she is than me, but I got game, Reese, and letters after my name.”

She sweetens the pot. “I could get you into movie premieres. And I know some people at Miramax looking for a writer.” Her voice is that wonder of educated Southern. Fuck! She has the short thing, the jaw thing, and the brainy lilt thing going on. How am I going to talk myself out of this? I’m thinking, Man, I bet she would take me to the Palm. I’ve never been to the Palm. I pause. I am floundering. I regroup… “Reese, isn’t your brother kind of a fuck-up? I don’t know if I can risk him sullying my good… uh, well, my family name.” Pause… “I know, Sweetheart. I love my siblings too, but they don't sneak into folks' homes and fondle sleeping women. Without an invite, that just isn’t cool.”

I have pissed her off, I can tell. I sense her sulking. Silently. I go on, “And I don’t need to be looking over my shoulder, worrying that other Ryan is going to go all Cruel Intentions on my ass. I’ve got responsibilities, Reese.”

She gets pseudo-defensive and stands up for her children’s father. “Ryan wouldn’t do that. And besides, he’s out with Penelope Cruz tonight.”

“Cool,” I say. “I respect that. But I got things, Reese. Things. Em’s daycare issues. I got Jeep and central air issues…” My stomach growls and I remember that all I’ve had today is a pack of Tropical Fruit flavored Skittles from the vending machine. I think maybe the Sunset doesn’t sound so bad.

Eminem style, I snap back to reality and glimpse the fringe of my senses. “How did you even get my new number?”

“Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter, and I met for sushi the other night. And, of course, your name came up.” She is coy.

I lapse into smartass mode—I can rarely help myself. “Okay, let me picture this. Sandra was all sing-songy—‘I met a tattooooo-mechanic!!!’ and Helena, still bitter, was humming the Oompa Loompa song and says, ‘Hey, Ree, you should give other Ryan a call.'”

Long pause. “Were you spying?”

I laugh. She laughs. We are both thinking bygones.

I say, “You know, Reese, I’m kind of spoken for.” (All the while wondering just how close she and Ashley Judd really are).

“Yeah, I know,” she says. And then there is silence. I hit my Evan (with a splash), take three long draws of my CAO Gold Double Corona. We each wait for the other to speak. Being a gentleman of sorts, I go. “Reese,” I say. “I have more issues than National Geographic.” Studied pause. CAO draw. “Now just isn’t a good time for me.” Studied pause. CAO draw. “Give me a couple months. Let me coax Em into his fourth year, fix the Jeep, rebuild my A/C, hard-polish my temporal lobe, and get back with you. Maybe we can go to Las Palmas or something. Have some cheap Mexican. You know, rent Pretty in Pink or Breakfast Club. I’ll read you a Raymond Carver poem. And if you like that, then one of his short stories. If that works, we’ll hitchhike to Augusta. I’ll take you to the Lake and then the Fox’s Lair. I’ll get Roger to play Rocky Raccoon for us. It’ll be bittersweet, but I think you’ll approve. You can be perfectly short and set that beautiful jaw into a perfect pout. No one will recognize you in Augusta. I’ll even introduce you to James Brown. It’ll be nice.”

I’m feeling it now. Rolling with it. There is another long pause. I hear background noise. She starts to speak then stops. Then she whispers, a little panicky. “I have to go. I think Ryan is home.” She disconnects.

On the porch, the CAO is but a glowing thumbprint, the Evan is a dollop of water. A long, slow train whistle teases in the distance.

Fade to black…

Friday, July 15, 2005

On Becoming a Blur

I need to go on a bender. A good ol’ fashion three-day drunk. I want to barhop, hear live acoustic music, be by myself, talk to strangers, ignore strangers, and watch people from the security of a bar mirror. I want to pretend not to notice the pretties as they carry trays of food and drinks to the other people, as they mull over an especially tedious tab, as they talk amongst themselves, and sneak a smoke down a long hallway. I want to feel the cool blast of artificial air that circulates over some bars. I want to feel that sweat-inducing stillness and heart-racing closeness that you find in others. I want to go more than an hour without the knowledge that it’s about time to get back. I want to flirt and be flirted with. I want to bask in the moment when there is no flirtation, but a Woodford and a cold draught in front of me all night. I want to drink without the effects that are sure to follow. I want to participate in the ceremony of drink—it is one of the things I like best. I want to hear E. say, “Hey, Buddy…” and smile and stick his hand out for me to shake in the milliseconds before those drinks appear. I want to rearrange the drinks and their order in front of me. The draught goes on the coaster on the right. The Woodford to the left. I’ll taste the draught first and be nearly overcome by its iciness. The cold will coat my throat and ease into my chest, a tempering reverse of the whiskey to follow. I’ll wait three minutes. I’ll pick up the Woodford with my left hand, handle the rocks glass, and transfer it to my right. I’ll appreciate the smell first—kind of a singed caramel. I need to hear Irish music at Mulligan’s where I’ll have a moderately cooled Harp and warm Jameson. Perhaps a half-hour of chatter up the street at the Beer Sellar—watch the punks shoot pool and the beautiful women in the booths. Maybe I’ll head to the Saucer where I’ll be disappointed but will have a beer or two regardless. I’ll go to the Station Inn for some Bluegrass—maybe Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will make an impromptu appearance. I’ll circle back to the Ryman and drink from my flask on the front steps. And then on my three-day bender, I’ll go to the dozens of bars and haunts I’ve somehow missed since moving here. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the perfect one. The one that reminds me of home. The one where the bartenders always call me by name, always know what I’m drinking, always know whether I want to talk or be left entirely alone. The one where the jukebox plays songs like Act Naturally, Well Alright, Rocky Raccoon, and everything John Prine ever sang. For a price, I’ll sit there and think I’ve discovered my personal soundtrack. Yeah, a bender will at least mask what ails you and I’m ready for some masking. I wouldn’t mind just a little time to be a selfish prick. A little time to pretend that Jeeps never need repairs; that central air units run forever; that bank accounts are never over-extended and funds are limitless; that a man can disappear, or become a blur and shelve his responsibilities without anyone getting hurt.

Just a little time. I’d come back, I promise I would.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

To Dance Slowly in a Thunderstorm

So college was pretty much free verse. Any rhyme scheme I danced to was typically lost during a night of debauchery. I eventually mellowed to a point (a caesura of sorts) and lay in an iambic bed, predictable and safe—no less trying, of course, but ultimately not for me. For a time I lived something I coined “iambic free verse.” A life of rigid abandon. Rules without rules. I’ve no idea if such a thing really exists—I am far too busy to Google it. But I love(d) the very idea of it and it seemed to suit me. The manner in which I flouted the rules became a rule unto itself. I took the misnomer and rode it like a one-night-stand that elected to stick around. The act was rarely pretty, but generally satisfying. It was akin to being the love child of Walt Whitman and Raymond Carver. (And the inaccuracy of that simile delights me as it may cause people to pretend to think. Love child of Walt Whitman and Raymond Carver? Weren’t they each their own lovechild?) Indeed and well so. But still, it is my simile and I’m buying into it. A grandiose minimalist I am.

I think it was junior year. After a mutual night class, I huddled with a young student beneath an overhang at Butler Hall during a vicious thunderstorm. Vicious even by my standards. I held her tight as the night erupted and bellowed. As it sprayed and threatened us. Had I been alone I would have moved to the concrete quad and struck a Christ pose. “Show me what you got!” I would have screamed. Because I loved (and love) a thunderstorm. And when you are 20, you have never been so full of piss and vinegar. Until you are 23 and you realize that you know everything there is to know. And then maybe again at 30. But I wasn’t alone and so I held this young frightened girl. And with each lightning strike and each roll of thunder, she clung to me tighter. And I let her. And I held her. And she fell in unfortunate love. We dated for a few weeks and she got hurt. I choose these free verse words carefully. She got hurt versus I hurt her. Both are accurate. In those days, part of my game was the non-game of unadulterated honesty. I don’t date. I won’t call you. But we should go out and have fun. She was young and beautiful and had eyes made of cobalt. She lacked the ability to distance herself—the ability that I had by then mastered and that has since become my curse. And as I say, she got hurt. That was nearly 18 years ago. We were children really. Truth be told, we are children still. I doubt the girl with cobalt eyes even recalls my name. But I would wager that not a thunderstorm passes without her recalling somewhere in the crevasses of her memory a rapscallion of years ago holding her tightly in the doorway of the campus’s English hall.

For me, when it thunders I think aloud. I have not published a poem in six years. I have not written a publishable poem in seven. And I start a non-rhyme in my head.

I have to smirk at myself for applying—metaphorically or not—the notion of free verse to a style of life. Is not freedom from form indeed a form in and of itself? The philosophical cliché, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice? Of course it is. The boundaries may be a bit blurred but they do exist. They are what prevent us from entering total Chaos. This is hardly original thinking and is likely little beyond high school psychology. Nevertheless, it occupies my mind and as such I am thankful for the company.

And so the middle years—like college—appear too to be free verse. My rhyme scheme is internal and I slow dance to the cadence of my own voice. (What is that static?) I slow dance on the vaporous trails of a fine cigar, on the drifting burn of a good whiskey, on the occasional drum roll of thunder and spitfire of night lightning. Sometimes, if the verse is right and it meanders along in total silence—a back roads drive on a cool Tennessee night—I slow dance to nothing at all, as if no one were watching.

The freedom granted by free verse is utterly maddening to purists, those sticklers for form. But to my thinking, the possibilities are endless because the restrictions are entirely self-imposed. And discipline comes from a proper sense of self.

But freefalling back to reality, free verse of the soul exists only in the abstract. We know all to well that restrictions can never be entirely self-imposed. But, oh what a Goddamn lovely thought. In theory. In theory only.

But for now, for my selfish purposes, a man can pen a post, an article, a novel, a script, and use the word “free” too many times to count. Can use it with abandon, let’s say. He can void all segues and touch upon literary masters, youthful indiscretion, self-pity. He can free associate. Bastardize a poetic form (criticize another). He can dance and pretend to make love in a thunderstorm.

He can do all these things and more.

Or can he?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Dead Pools and Cattle Troughs

I am on the porch with an Evan (and a splash) and a Gran Habano Corojo #5. I just had a conversation with myself. The voices and I agree if one more motherfucking June Bug dive bombs me, I am going to track down his nest or trailer or whatever the fuck he calls home and go Apocalypse Now on his ass. Note to Queen June Bug: I am a Thursday night guy with a Saturday night attitude.

Ever had your head so full that you worry your neck simply won’t support the weight? That you’ll hear the uh-oh of a snap, glance in the bathroom mirror, and notice that your poor toolbox of a melon is lying on your left shoulder like a dozing lover? Well, I suppose that happens to us all from time to time. But if it keeps happening over here, I may need to invest in a kickstand. Yeah—I can live with that image.

Last weekend, I participated in the wrongest event ever. Yes, I said wrongest. It was wrong, morbid, surreal, and very entertaining. While my son (clad in Nemo underwear only) swam in an old metal cattle trough in the backyard, I sat around a table with accountants, ad men, school teachers, business managers, housewives, and retirees and lumbered through ten methodical (but exciting) rounds of my first Dead Pool. This was a well-researched draft. ESPN wishes the NFL were so organized. The whole event was (and is) appalling and exhilarating. As one of only two outsiders, we gathered at the family home of a close friend. It was truly an honor to be included as this was a family tradition of sorts. In my experience, families rarely suffer family, much less outsiders.

I arrived in Franklin with a sleepy Emerson. Em saw new kids and a metal trough filled with water and managed to catch his second wind. With 100 “celebrity” names in a folder, I was loaded for bear. The buy-in was $25. We took our seats, touched upon the rules, drew lots, and began. The deal: choose the name of a “famous person” you believe is going to die in the near future. The other participants vote yay or nay as to whether the person is famous enough for inclusion in the draft. Majority rules. You make your case for what constitutes their fame. The vote is final. This continues for ten rounds. The first person who records three deaths wins the pot. This can take three months or three years.

It is wrong and wonderful.

Those who know me would probably agree that I am a reasonable guy—crude, sarcastic, and inappropriate—but reasonable. They also know that my biggest conceptual struggles are death and the passage of time. So it is odd, at the very least, that I would be drawn to such a lottery. I certainly do not wish death on anyone. But as I have always tried to grasp, death is indeed part of the cycle of life. It ain’t rocket science but it confuses me much the same. Maybe this twisted game will earn me some enlightenment. Probably not, but hey… I am not sure if I am more upset over having participated or over the fact that some cocksucker (the other outsider) got my final pick of Hank Stram. Coach Stram passed away two days after the event. Sonofabitch. But truth be told, I adore anything morbid. This doesn’t upset me at all. It is wrong—of this I am certain—but I’ll likely pull through. [My official final list: Stanley Kunitz, Claude Levi-Strauss, William Rehnquist, Oscar Niemeyer, Art Linkletter, Arthur Schlessinger, Karl Malden, Horton Foote, Sherwood Schwartz, and J.D. Salinger].

As the draft ended, I looked up to see my naked, grinning son tooling around a stranger’s house—the pure embodiment of life itself. I do love that Boy. I gathered my list, my notes, my folder, the Boy and headed to the gimpy Jeep. We limped home giddy and tired.

Now, we wait.

On the porch, drawing up a battle plan, I swat June bugs with my notebook. They sound like fucking Blackhawk helicopters buzzing this tool box of mine. I ready the napalm and channel Robert Duval. There will be fireworks tonight.

This mild, lovely July night.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Overheard at the Smithsonian

M. and I bailed from work a couple hours early on Friday. He took me to the shop to pick up the jeep—the one with the ruined back brakes and two leaking rear axle seals. How often do you get a call from an auto repair shop telling you, “Yeah, we can’t fix that!”? But a special thanks to Sevier Brothers on old Hickory for not screwing over the poorly dressed guy with fly away hair. They could have easily sold me a $300 brake job and let the leaking seals ruin the brakes all over again. I never would have known of the pre-existing axle problem. For their honesty and apparent expertise, they will get my future business.

From the shop, I let the hobbled grey Jeep lead me to Jonathan’s. In the cool air of the bar we ordered teeth-achingly cold draughts and sparred back and forth among a pointless boxing match, a race of some sort, a hotdog eating contest, and meandering conversation. All in all, not a bad way to spend the waning hours of a Friday afternoon.

If I were one to notice such things, I would mention here that the bartender owned an exquisite figure. That her expensive breasts should some day be on display at the Smithsonian. That she was so attractive it was difficult to swallow our beer.

If I were one to notice such things.

It is interesting to me how quickly a primal reaction to someone’s beauty can be reversed by watching that person interact with her peers. The inner mechanics rarely match the aesthetics, I find. (Nonetheless, the Smithsonian should be put on notice).

M. is a car geek. A very knowledgeable car geek. When the slate grey Ferrari parked itself by the side glass door, the bartender ceased to exist for him. And, I admit, she ceased to exist for me. There was now on hand a beauty pure and right whose outer and inner attributes matched perfectly. It was utter perfection resting on four perfect tires. When I looked at M., he had chill bumps racing the lengths of his arms. I was happy for him.

At some point, a businessman pulled onto the barstool to my left. Although it was late afternoon, his pressed white shirt was wrinkle free. His tie looked as if he’d only moments before put it on. He was my age. Maybe a couple years younger. He had an air about him that suggested his unpleasantness. Though I profess to never judge, I am human. I had sized him up pretty quickly. Another flaw I admit to. During “Ferrari talk,” I forgot about the guy. Peripherally, though, I noticed him extract a cigarette. He seemed put out that it wouldn’t ignite itself. He asked the bartender for matches and when she brought them, he snatched them away from her without a thank you. I immediately forgave myself for having been judgmental. Cat Daddy was a prick. Soon thereafter, he was on his cell phone—false friendly and giddy. It was then that I noticed a semi-attractive lady on her cell phone not ten feet from where we sat. She was sincere friendly and appeared genuine. As the loud conversations continued for five minutes or more, it became obvious the two were speaking to each other and were meeting at the bar. Oh the oblivion of the masses. The woman stood and walked over to where suit-guy sat. Since the conversation had been played for the entire bar, I said good-naturedly and with a grin, “You guys could have just yelled to one another.” The lady laughed with the same good nature the joke was intended. The guy did not so much as acknowledge my existence and turned his back to me. I have always had the delusion that I am funny. And for some unknown reason, when someone around me thinks that I am decidedly not, it cracks me up to immeasurable degrees. Laughing, I said to M., “He thinks I am hilarious!” Deadpan, M. replied, “Yeah, I can tell.” Maybe because the guy was a pompous ass, maybe because I was tired and thinking of broken axle seals, maybe because I was in a mood—I really was kind of an asshole; and I unfortunately brought M. into that fold as I kept laughing and talking about how funny I found the situation. And while I will get over it, I should have left well enough alone. Why fret someone I’ll never have to interact with when there is beauty afoot in the form of people who will bring you beer and when there are cars you will see maybe once in a lifetime?

We finished our beers. We took a slow stroll by the mechanical Messiah. We said goodbye. I got into the wounded grey Jeep and limped to Em’s daycare where his beaming smile displaced everything female and everything mechanical. He didn’t care about broken Jeeps, or sublime bartenders, or that his Daddy had been an asshole at Jonathan’s.

I know this because he told me so as he hugged my neck and kissed me hello.

Maybe my sperm were broken! Posted by Picasa