Behold our chariot. With the help of the gods, it shall carry us to that far-off shore. That wond'rous Beuhlah-land where everything has a place and everything fits just right. I think they call it a...home. [Hot damn, I've been waiting for this since March.]
30 July 2008
Pork chops and marinara sauce. The Kali Yuga protein blast. This is what we ate for dinner last night. As we ate, we watched an episode of Deadwood on the laptop, which was perched on the radiator. It was a li'l piece of heaven.
It is now 6 p.m. and I’ve been awake for thirteen hours. Today we loaded up the trailer with our possessions, stacking everything about ten feet high and lashing it all together with rope. Our rig is parked out front right now. It looks like the Beverly Hillbillies are in town.
Ella is napping. While her ma and I loaded the trailer, she spent the day with Allen, across the hall. I stopped by to check on her at one point and found them both dancing to Tina Turner.
Today was a good day. It was Day One of moving. Tomorrow the adventure continues, as we rise n’ shine early to drive our Beverly Hillbillies-mobile approx. one city block to our new home. What a ridiculous amount of labor and exertion just to move one city block.
Today it occurred to Janelle & me that we’ve moved four times in the last six months. Go ahead and consider what a pain in the arse that is. But don’t think that it’s all bad. We’ve actually pared down on a lot of things in the process. Plus, I’ve become handier with rope and knots. I’m also better at driving enormous trucks pulling continent-sized payloads behind them.
It’s fine. It’s worth it to go through all these gyrations and pirouettes. Somehow, they’re an appropriate reflection of how committed Janelle & I are to the Adventure. It’s tossed us around, jumbled us up, and caused us to learn to ask for help in forty-one ways. But, you know, if you believe things can work out, they can. Tenacity is a virtue.
29 July 2008
This is a cicada shedding his sleeping bag. Not exactly beautiful with its two bulging eyes, stubby, stumplike thorax, and wicked, clacking little wings. Then there’s the “seething multitudes” factor. You know, that factor that graces everything truly abhorrent: “There’s millions of ‘em, too. Just seething around.” You find this in cockroaches, mole rats, Renaissance Faire character actors, grubs, and especially fireants when you step onto an ant bed, exposing the ardent, evil queen ant and her unholy, winged, bi-sexed minions. Your skin crawls. You feel a retch coming on. If you’re at all inclined to do so, you’ll take an imaginal, macroscopic leap into outer space, where humans must look the same way: writhing and crawling all around one another in mammalian gloom, hell-bent on some universal dread purpose and collectively droning, "Must live. Don’t know why. Must live, though. And shop at Wal*Mart for everyday low savings."
But this here cicada stands against all that. He’s not writhing at all. I know, it looks like he’s wriggling out of his former exoskeleton with the glee of a teenage life sentence shedding her prom dress on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. (And who knows, maybe she was a tax consultant in a former life, if such things exist, and she intuits that now, in her nascence and inexperience, that perhaps the pinnacle of life could indeed be reached on a riverbank, as the moon measures itself out in quarterturns, off and up in the Kali Yuga stratos.) But no, he’s deader than a roofing tack. Only reason I know is because I’ve been waiting for him to eclose for damn near half a day. And last time I checked, Ma Nature’s a little too experienced to make eclosing a harrowing, all-day deal.
Cicadas. I love their drowsy, a/c electric weezy-weezy song, which brings me a continental comfort same way as the coo of the dove. But they’re stupid enough. Globular, dumb, intent on multiplication. Who knows what killed this one. Maybe something scared him to death. Maybe he saw yours truly rounding the bend and said, “Oh shit. I can’t handle this world of quivering meat, personality, and cruelty.” But if I cd, I'd clack my wings back, google my eyes and say, "Aw, but it’s orright, Li’l Dead Guy. Maybe the reincarnation myth is real, not just be-deviling metaphor. An’ maybe next time around, maybe you’ll get born with jus’ a little more moxie."
He’ll need it. ‘Cause this here life requires a little bit of moxie. Hard to get very far without it. If you're a cicada, at least.
28 July 2008
Yesterday we went to interview another child care provider and hit the jackpot. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but, then, these days I don’t have much time to sit around pondering the essentials of fate and fortune. Just gotta roll with it. Interviewing people to help raise your child is freaky-deaky. I’ll say that much. And when it’s the right person, you know it. You know because your stomach isn’t tied up in knots.
Across the street from the daycare provider there was this truck parked, with a nice long trailer attached. The wife, nipper and I walked over, knocked on the door, and said, “’Scuse us. We hate to bother you on a Sunday. But we’re moving in two days and we were sorta wondering if we could give you some money for the use of yr trailer for 2 days, instead of giving it to the U*Haul corporation.” The lady who answered the door said, “It’s my husband’s trailer and I can’t speak for him, but I’m fine with it. We’re going to a Cubs game next weekend and I’d love to be able to get a jersey.” (In her eyes, staring beyond us, suddenly I saw twin Cubs jerseys flickering and dancing.)
We worked it out. Basically, it came down to her and her husband wanting to trust that we still live in a world where people can be free and irie and borrow a trailer without, I dunno, stealing them or destroying them instead. I guess they’ve been burned in the past - so there was some trepidation. We agreed to give them whatever they needed to feel cool about us – names, numbers, a deposit, a signed agreement etc. In the end, though, as always, it was Eleanor who opened up all the doors. “You seem like such nice people…and that Baby Ella of yours is too cute!” It is thus that, on a lazy Sunday, we scored: a cool place for Ella to be while we're at work and a way to make our next move feasible.
So once again we prepare to move (again), for what will hopefully be the last time for a while. I no longer hate moving, for it has at last beaten and broken me. There are no more illusions. I endure it, lean into it, and ask it for mercy. I also drink café au lait while I hatch our moving plan with a ballpoint pen. That is all.
27 July 2008
(1) Is your chin a work of art?
(2) Has your chin superceded you?
(3) Has your chin let you down?
(4) Are you in fear of your chin?
(5) How many chins do you have?
(6) Are your chins and shins locked in competition?
(7) If you begin a question with the words, “a chin…” you are one letter off from beginning said question with the Arabic name, “Achim.” What is your response to this fact?
(8) Chins were invented by Amerigo Vespucci in Springfield, Mass. in 1891. (True or False)
(9) How does your chin influence your political affiliation?
(10) If you do not approve of the one currently issued, what kind of chin would you most like to have? If you do approve, please explain your latest nightmare.
(11) If the chin is the seat of the soul, what is the seatbelt?
(12) How many chins equal an arm?
(13) If you were a famous celebrity chin, which would you be?
(14) What if you had no chin? How would this affect your usual daily routine?
(15) Is your chin:
(c) of no use at all
(d) a helpful place to store small objects.
(choose more than one, if necessary)
(16) What if chins went extinct?
(17) Is a chin sentient?
(18) How many nerve endings are in the human chin? The wolverine chin?
(19) Does the chin seek to unite? Or cast asunder?
(20) How does a chin persist?
26 July 2008
I am looking through a peephole, at the depressing history of the American Frontier. Outside, on the pedestrian mall, a local man is doing sing-song covers of Bob Dylan tunes, except he's out of tune. Earlier today we interviewed a daycare provider for Eleanor. It was horrendous. "We just pretty much keep the t.v. on all day long here. I go crazy when it's just, you know, quiet." That is all.
25 July 2008
My dad was in ‘Nam. When I was a kid, I asked him if he ever killed anybody and he said, “No. Of course not. I was an aircraft mechanic.” Later on, though, he told me that from time to time he had to fly in cargo airplanes that were stacked to the ceiling with corpses in body bags.
When his tour of duty was up, he came back to Harris County, Georgia with a few Chinese, Japanese, & Vietnamese phrases on his tongue. Germane stuff that, in English meant “come on, let’s go” “what time is it?” or “thank you.” He also came back with a pachinko game, some cameras, and the paintings pictured here, which, for the longest time, lived in a paperboard courier's scroll. They now hang on the walls of our little sublet, attached with push-pins I bought at the corner store. In six days, they’re coming down. And we’re moving out.
Yesterday, at the library, Eleanor and I found a cool grandma and grandson playing. They were both Chinese and didn’t speak English, which made me feel like I was in a Jim Jarmusch movie. Especially since the little boy was only two months older than Eleanor, so Chinese Grandma and I tried to communicate, more or less successfully while the nippers nipped around the library. She was a sweet-looking woman, seventysomething, with soft eyes and a warm countenance.
At one point, while we rapped, her grandson brought me a toy and I said, “Shay-shay nee” to him, which means “thank you very much” in Chinese. Grandma looked at me, bewildered, and struggled to say, “How…you…speakeh…Chinese?” I tried to explain, but couldn’t. Then she rapid-fired three or four sentences in Chinese and I shrugged my shoulders and smiled like I’d just invented the lightbulb or something. She seemed to get it: “This cat only knows how to say two words in my language. Oh well.” So I sat there, feeling the pain of not being able to speak Chinese…
Anyway, about the same time, the grandson reared back and clocked Eleanor on the nose with his tiny paw, for no apparent reason at all (kids this age are highly unstable, like a molecule that desperately needs an electron or two. To wit: Eleanor has been known to randomly bite faces, dive off beds, and eat non-food items).
So the incorrigible Eleanor was fine with it, and didn’t bat an eye. But Grandma was mortified. She quickly bundled her grandson up in her arms and started lecturing to him in frantic, whispered bursts. He looked confused. Eleanor looked confused. And the whole while I was saying, “It’s okay. She’s fine. Don’t worry,” knowing that my words sounded something to her like, “Blah-blah. Bleh-bleh. Blah-blah-blah.” She whisked the boy away, around the corner while Eleanor followed them, holding out a wooden toy as if to say, “Wait, don’t go. I was having fun with you.” I ran after Eleanor, and saw our Chinese Grandma disappear around the corner, towards the main exit.
”We just lost our friends, Eleanor.” Maybe they’ll be back another day. Until then, all we can do is say, “Shay-shay nee for the good times we had.”
24 July 2008
If anyone tells you this world isn’t bizarre as hell, don’t believe them. They’re probably trying to sell you something. Like toothpaste, maybe. Or a laptop. Anyway, this brontosaurus lives on Dodge Street, in front of an old Sinclair gas station. The only other place I’ve seen a Sinclair brontosaurus like this is Boulder, Colorado.
The Sinclair dinosaur is about as close as a petroleum company can get to outright acknowledgment that petroleum is a limited natural resource made up of ancient dead plants and animals. There’s no tiger in your tank, in other words, but there’s trilobites and pteradactyls. I think about that every time I drive up Dodge Street and see Mr. Bronto checkin’ out the scene. I imagine a zoo full of weird, archaic life forms compressed and reduced to a stringent goo that gets processed into fuel, then combusted in an engine.
It’s a curse. It’s a blessing. But being a human means having the most superior consciousness of all the beings on the planet. Which means that it’s our lot in life to be in constant perception of a place – this solar system - that’s so weird and unpredictable that it gave rise to us when it could have just as easily gotten along fine without us. And the existentialist Sinclair Bronto sings, “Whatever you choose to do with that awareness is up to you, daddy-o.” And I says back to him, “Whoa!”
23 July 2008
The same I did to them, baby,
I can do to you.
‘Cause I’m a Fujiyama Mama
And I’m about to blow my top.
This is The King, back before he was The King. Back before Vegas, Kabbala, and the Nixon affiliation…when he was just a crazed rockin’ polecat makin’ hot amor with the five elements in the guts of Tennessee. This photo is the epitome of whiteboy badness. (If you happen to be a whiteboy ISO The Badness, study this photo and adjust your life accordingly.) This photo, btw, comes to you courtesy of the local library…
Boy howdy, do I luv the jee-dee Iowa City Public Library. Coming in from a soultry midday bike ride, it’s like a socialist utopia in there. The a.c. pumps rich n’ even, culminating in a hermetic, soothing environ, where everyone – staff, gutterpunks, & collegefolk alike - is glad n’ irie, free-loading on: the printed word, internet vibrations, audio-visuals, and even toys & wall art…’cept they ain’t freeloadin’. They’re gettin’ somethin’ back for what they put in…which is that tasty moment where socialism shines in the eye of Thomas Jefferson. I think libraries, along with writing programs, should be the epicenter of the apocalypse. They’re that worthy of total honor, love, and ar-ee-ess-pee-ee-see-tee.
If the apocalypse happens while I’m checking out Dave Eggers’ latest fiasco, some Buddy Guy discs, and a little Borge thrown in the mix, you won’t hear me complain. I’ll ride that thermonuclear bullet into the Heart of Darkness, happy to have watched “King Corn” on DVD, courtesy of the I.C. Public library. (They also have a badass children’s section as well.)
Right now Janelle’s putting EB down & I’m listening to Rhino Records’ “Rockin’ Bones: 1950’s Punk & Rockabilly.” Certain cuts off this 4-c.d. box set have captured my heart and soul. And if you’re part of my posse, sooner or later you’ll get a mix tape from me that utilizes a track ‘r two from this dee-lightful edition. Perhaps it will include “Fujiyama Mama” by Wanda Jackson, followed by a snippet from an original broadcast by Iva D’Aquino (a.k.a. “Tokyo Rose,” an AmerAsian scapegoat into whom all Japan-loathing blames were driven just a few years before white girl rocker Wanda Jackson was stepping to the mic).
This just in: If the apocalypse happens while I’m making you a mix tape, we’ll all go to the Pure Land/Heaven and stack dominoes while Roy Orbison and Borges play shuffleboard under the moonlight. Yipee!
Today Janelle has a full day at the clinic, which means that I have a full day with La Nina. She’s teething pretty hardcore now, which means that the poor li’l gal’s in a foul mood. I don’t care, though. She’s my huckleberry. (By the way, I can’t allow myself to accept that we’re putting her in the care of a complete stranger once school starts up…It just ain’t right.) Anyway, since today’s a full day for La Familia Atomica, enjoy this platter of photographs from the last four or five days of my life in Iowa.
In other news, I need to close my bank account. Because there’s no Wachovia Bank in Iowa. And also because two nights ago I learned that, due mostly to an oversight, dumb luck and some evil/normal banking practices, I had bounced three whole checks. My oversight was about a $50 one, but the fees the bank assessed went ahead and sort of raised that amount…like, considerably. “Man alive. I haven’t done this since college,” I told Janelle, sinking into a bowl of Puffins & feeling like a sucka for flaking out and accruing all the various penalties and whatnot.
I got on the phone and spoke to my bank’s late-night CSR, “Vincent,” who had a thick Southern drawl and zero “customer service skills,” which actually made him seem normal and human/e. “Well, man, they really get’cha with those fees,” he told me, “but, uh, I think I can reduce those for you a little…you know, since you called and all.”
The juggernaut known as Wachovia has plagued my ascent from broke grad student to psychotherapist to broke grad student fairly well. Well done, Wachovia. I will miss your riveting monthly statements…
22 July 2008
Each morning, I start my Iowa City day by taking Stella & Eleanor for a walk. Stella pees and does her thing while Eleanor points to the phenomenological world and says, “See? See?” As for me – I read the paper. Just the headlines, mostly, unless I read something unusually interesting, which is rare.
I don’t know how my Secret Ritual happened exactly. It began a couple weeks after we moved here. But I do my Secret Ritual on these morning walks as well. It’s completely pointless. I don’t even know why I do it. I just do. There are other things I could be doing during the few minutes it takes me to execute my ritual, I suppose. I mean, I am a busy man. But for whatever reason, I do this instead of yoga, prayer, or balancing my checkbook.
Basically, I decided one morning that, instead of bringing my newspaper all the way back home and into our recycling bin after I had perused the headlines, I could leave it on someone’s doorstep. I guess I happened to be at the intersection of Lucas & Jefferson Streets when this occurred to me, ‘cause that’s where I dropped my first paper. A ritual was thus birthed.
The house on the southeast corner of Lucas & Jefferson is an old lofty flophouse with white slate paneling covered in grime. It looks like it hasn’t changed in sixty years or more. An old demented t.v. antennae is perched on the roof like it’s keeping an eye out for the Commie Invasion. There are about eight different entrances and mailboxes, giving one the impression that the landlord rents solitary rooms to individual tenants. Bathrooms, I imagine, are shared. On the front porch, by one of the many entrances, a yellow porch light is always shining, no matter the time of day. There is an ashtray and a cinderblock. The ashtray is always full of gnarled cigarette butts and gum.
One day on a walk around the block with Janelle, a few days after we arrived in town, I noticed this old house. “Lookit that house, man,” I said to her, “it’s ancient.”
”Yeah it is,” Janelle replied, waving to a Townie girl, maybe twenty-two, who was perched on the cinderblock underneath the porch light, chainsmoking the sunset away.
”We used to have siding like that on our house, when I was growing up.”
I remember that siding well because, as I grew older, it started to give way and crumble. I once lost control of a basketball, which banged against the side of our house. In an instant it smashed two or three slabs of siding. They crumbled to the ground and made a sound like Moses himself had just stumbled on a tombstone and dropped one of his prized earthen tablets.
21 July 2008
Images from The Road. Images from the Land O’ Corn, Quixotesque windmills standing taller than you could imagine, amidst old barns and homesteads and seas and seas of genetically modified corn. Driving through tall corn an hour or two before dusk, you can get fairly mesmerized. That black loop of highway spreading out before you, the radio crackling. First your baby drops off to sleep, then your wife. You’re the last man alive on Planet Corn now. The lake water is drying in your hair.
Yesterday, on the way back from the in-laws’ lake house, we stopped to gas up at a little gas n’ go outside of Paxton, Illinois. A car pulled up just as we did, and a sun-drugged family stumbled out of sedan doors slowly creaking open and you saw their feet first, light and furtive against the pavement as if testing its density/ability to support an individual human’s weight.
A line forms in front of the men’s bathroom. I have my shades on, as does the fella behind me, an older Black man with an S-curl and a thin moustache that makes me think of Chuck Berry. “How you?” I ask him.
“I’m all right. Could do without this drive though. You?”
”About the same. Where you headed?”
”Back home to Memphis. We come up through here to Milwaukee over the weekend for a funeral.”
”Sorry to hear that. How far’s Milwaukee from Memphis?”
”It’s a long way off. Maybe fourteen hours.”
A flush issues from the toilet behind the closed bathroom door. It’s a one-seater. No urinal. The wait is endless. Momentarily, a giant will emerge, except he’s just a huge, swollen overgrown kid in shorts and a shirt. Probably the victim of some kind of glandular disorder. Towering above me, he says, “Excuse me, sir,” in a warbly soprano voice, and slides between me and the Chik-O-Stik rack. He could crush us all, but he’s gentle as a hen.
”Safe travels,” I tell Chuck Berry.
”Yeah, you too.”
Outside, a group of bikers on Harleys stomp around, grinning wildly about esoteric biker things only they could comprehend, strapping on bandanas and shades, adjusting mirrors. Getting ready to posse up and get back on The Road, which I’m happy to report is still The American Road, where America continually intersects with itself in novel ways, via gasoline engines, kismet, deaths in the family, and natural wanderlust…a need to see that black ribbon unending, and a view of the world unpackaged and unavailable for sale, distribution, ransom, or consumption. Nothing is owned, really. We only sell and buy the illusions of ownership. That’s what The Road told me yesterday anyway. I dunno though. It might have been The Corn.
20 July 2008
I recommend this camera. It’s a little Canon mini. What’s cool is that it also records little movies. It’s just a matter of time before somebody does a feature-length digital film with one of these. If they haven’t already, that is. I would like to watch a lo-res digital film about NYC-style bodegas. It would also be cool if Rosie Perez or Darnell Martin could make an appearance.
19 July 2008
The Foxhead at break of day. It’s basically just a hole in the wall. Across the street is John’s Grocery, which is an NYC-style bodega/grocery store. They have a deli in there, and a really nice wine section as well. A few weeks ago, me and some townies stood outside John’s and watched the sunset crack open across the sky like a day-glo turkey egg...
At night, the Foxhead comes alive. You better bring cash, though, if you want a drink. No plastic, no checks. Cash on the barrelhead only.
18 July 2008
Today we’re on the road again, crisscrossing the cornfields, racing the freight trains. That said, here’s some Echinacea for you – found growing in a hearty clump outside the Senior Center here in town. When cousin Lesley took this photo, I was sick as a dog with a summer cold. Pointed to it and said, “This here is a medicinal flower,” trying to instruct like I was the Edward Abbey of Iowa City. Lesley: “Then maybe you should eat some.”
17 July 2008
I tend to not be starstruck. Like, in general. And so yesterday, when I saw the Famous Author coming out of the grocery store with her significant other, I did not have the urge to snap a photo, rush over, and introduce myself as "a huge fan." Famous Authors do life the same way the rest of us do: with as much dignity and courage possible in the moment at hand. And yet...they do spin wheat into gold, don't they? And so, from that point of view, HAWT DAMN. It was cool to see the Famous Author, clutching her groceries, pushing a cart, and squaring off with the hot afternoon sun.
I registered for classes yesterday, and some of the classes I'm taking are taught by Famous Authors. This is a surreal fact...yet not. And so. To sum up: My "new life" in Iowa City is nowhere near as surreal as it was ten years ago (not that surrealism is what I want from consensual reality). Yet, it continues to rise to the bar set by my recent experiences...which is to say that it's as weird here as it is anywhere else in the End Times. Cats and Dogs sleeping together. Clouds raining down ball peen hammers. Famous Authors purchasing tofurkey cakes in the middle of cornfield America, swiping their debit cards just like anyone else.
16 July 2008
On the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a great read. It’s a handbook of rhetorical terms, mostly in anglo'd Greek. It’s going to aid me in my quest to become an even more semantic emm-eff. And I’m thinking about structuring my Rhetoric classes around it. Each day we’ll dig on a new word and, like a gaggle of untrained jazz musicians, riff on it in a most high-context, loosely associative fashion like we’re all high on tea. I dunno if this would actually “work,” but then again I think it probably would.
The word metanoia is in there. In the context of rhetoric, though, metanoia means, “redefinition,” “backtracking,” and/or such and so on. I like that the Greeks invented rhetoric. Of course, they got it all from Indian philosophy and discourse. But it’s cool because Greek words make you sound hipper. “I hate to tell you this, Bob. But I might have to engage your claims with a bit of casual metanoia. You see, Krispy Kremes aren’t merely the best doughnut. They’re the only doughnut. So you can keep your tired-ass Munchkins and get the hell on.” Yup, nothing like a little Romanized Greek to bring out the Socrates in us all...
Anyway, today I shall attempt to register for classes with the Writer’s Workshop. I tried to once already today, but when nobody answered the telephone, I checked the time and realized that it was only 6:15 a.m. “Slackers,” said I, and got back to reading “Runaway Bunny” to EB. Tomorrow we head out for another weekend adventure…this time to my in-laws’ lake house south of Champagne-Urbana, where frivolity lays in wait like a Krispy Kreme doughnut in a microwave oven. So, anyway, today is all about tending to some gentle wolves of minutiae before we leave town. (Time is accelerating now, you see.)
15 July 2008
Today we read our damned lease and discovered that, in 2 weeks, when we move, we actually will be homeless for one full day and night. This is because we have to be out of our current apartment by 8 a.m. of July 31, but can’t move in to the new place (exactly 1/2 block away) until August 1. I’m really, really tired of being displaced. Really.
My man Ryan knows what I’m talking about. He and his good gal crossed the nation and lived six months trying to make a life on the East Coast, only to be rebuked by the weird, institutional gods of destiny. They then had to pack it all up again and haul freight back across the country. At last they’re in good ol’ Berkley and life has returned to the way it should be.
Anyway, these 3 photographs are from our recent sojourn to Chi-town. At Millennium Park, there was a scourge of human larvae screaming and shrieking and writhing underneath a big fountain, which gushed right onto them at recurring intervals. Basically, it was a Blakean masterpiece. We pantsed Eleanor and tossed her into the fray, and she made us proud by rocketing around in total wonderment, pulling braids of unknown kiddos, laughing like a baby hyena, and monkeying around with strange soulmate kids who picked her up in their slippery arms and said, “Mama! Look!”
I tossed my wallet and keys into a pile by a bush and said “I’m getting under that fountain. Anybody who takes my wallet and keys can have ‘em. I won’t be a slave to my dumb attachments today!” We then leapt into the fray too and I got good and soaked by a pack of gleeful six year olds who attacked me with total vicious abandon. Up on the hill, that weird bean-shaped sculpture (see yesterday’s post) vibrated and shone like a prophecy, reflecting modern man back to himself while God watched complacently and finished off a rib plate with fries.
14 July 2008
Today is my Ma’s birthday. She’s at work right now, so I can’t call her to say “Happy Birthday, Ma” or sing the Birthday Song Redux that’s taking the nation by storm, even though Ella’s asleep now and I have a minute or so to catch my breath and reflect on something other than sippy cups and teething.
Ma works at a dentist office. She’s pretty much worked there for thirty years (maybe more. I lose count). She does the books, deals with the insurance, billing, and so on and is, in general, the office manager royale. She’s very good at what she does. (If I ever tried to manage a dentist office – not that anyone would let me - I’d sink it within the first week of the fiscal year.)
Some times, throughout the day, I’ll be in the middle of my sippy cup and wild fatherly, writerly where’s-all-this-headed-oh-wait-I-forgot-I-don’t-care-anymore life and BOOM I’ll think, “I wonder what my Ma’s doing right now.” Usually, this happens in the middle of the day and so I immediately think, “She’s workin’” and start to have visions of my Ma multitasking, dealing with an irate patient, filing tedious forms, or trying to convince an insurance company minion of something obvious. But then for some reason I think of all her internal organs working together in more or less perfect, clockwork symmetry and time. Rhythm of blood, pulse of respiration, quiet marrow at the core of things.
Our jobs, our roles, our hang-ups and obsessions – they’re real enough. They exist, I mean. But it’s all so interdependent on social or personal illusions, fads, fashions, cultural contexts, layers of meaning, etc. And I dig intersubjectivity, but the real truth of the matter is that we’re delicate organisms imbued with a sophisticated, orderly, expert arrangement of interlocking physical functions, all the way from the sub-molecular level up to the gross manifestation of an ear, say, or an eye. Basically, we lucked out just to be here is how I feel. And if you want to say, we’re blessed, I’ll go along with that too. We’re blessed homo sapiens scrounging around in the Kali Yuga, looking for something Real.
And so anyway, it’s liberating for me to remember the miracle of my Ma in her office. Because that helps me deal with the fact that being separate and far away from somebody you love is a painful fact of life. Can’t erase miles, you know? Can’t compress the whole world into one easily navigable borough at the slightest pang of longing. And who knows? As far-out and unlikely and otherworldly as life is on this planet, maybe our thoughts really are powerful. Maybe homo sapiens is magical.
So often what I’ll do is imagine photon rays of extravagant props and love extending up from my shoulderblades, ascending, and riding the airwaves from where I’m at to where she’s at, from my heart to hers, from my gut to hers, nothing but marrow-deep vibrations of connected, cool, serenity and warm vibes. That way I don’t feel so far away, and that way I can stay connected to her. Cause, you know, she’s my Ma. I do this same type of thing with my friends, too. They never know it, though. I like to think it helps. So bear that it mind. Next time you feel like an existential window just opened up to let in a little fresh air – maybe it’s ‘cause we’re connecting…out across the plains.
13 July 2008
To get to Chicago, we balled the jack along the vacuous highway 88 that runs right through the endless cornfields of Iowa right into the urban jungle for miles and miles. Along the way, we hit a massive thunderstorm, which we could see hovering above the horizon for miles and miles and miles, like a dark, sinister mountain range of some strange kind waiting to swallow our souls. When it finally engulfed us, it was like driving into a prehistoric ocean. Darkness swallowed us up. Lightning forked all around us. Winds howled. Rain blew sideways. For a few minutes I was certain that a tornado or fangly sauropod was about to start winding our way. But no, it was just a HUGE thunderstorm in the middle of the agrarian truth of America: All things are made of corn.
Back from Chi-Town, which was real nice to get a way to for a few days, Iowa City looks sleepy and collegiate: Empties and sofas in front yards. “Baggo” games on the sidewalks. Cornfed coeds sunbathing in the median of the town thoroughfare, listening to Kanye on their iPods. Cousin Lesley is back in Georgia. Eleanor is bedding down for the night. Janelle and I have big plans to have no plans tonight, and will most likely fall asleep watching Twin Peaks. Chicago was good to us. And that storm – it was amazing. This photo captures the moment perfectly. I’m not sure who took it. Maybe Janelle. Maybe cousin Lesley. But here we were, speeding into the mouth of the Beast, at 80 mph!
10 July 2008
This is Eleanor riding on my back. Note finger in mouth. That means that, yes, Sweet Jesus, another glorious round of teething has commenced. G_d help us. Last night she woke up every thirty minutes or thereabouts, causing me and the Missus to hallucinate and sleepwalk throughout the day. We're old pro's by now, though, so we know that all you can do on a day like today is try and pretend you're a fully functional Homo Sapiens and avoid making any major life decisions. In about four hours, we're driving to Chicago for the weekend. Mix tapes and road coffees...and hopefully the nipper will sleep. (Dr. Desiree crosses his fingers, calls on Saint Anthony, throws salt over his shoulder, bows before Shiva, and tosses a live goat into the mouths of all ancient ruins.)
09 July 2008
This is Jack Micheline, writer of fine poems and short stories. He wrote a short story called “Skinny Dynamite,” published in a collection that bears the same name. Once, on a trip through New Orleans with my man Paul, I discovered an autographed trade edition (prob. the only edition) of Skinny Dynamite. The owner of the bookstore sold it to me for $15 and said that Micheline used to live in New Orleans. He then asked me where I was from. I said “Georgia, but I live in Boulder, Colorado now” (which was true at the time). And he said, “Why in the world would anybody want to live in Boulder, Colorado?” I thought about it a sec and said, “I dunno.” That was a little over a year before N.O. flooded.
Jack Micheline was cool. He was a technically a Beat writer, but actually/technically not at all. Like poet Bob Kaufman, he was one of the Beats that either lacked the skill of or had no desire towards naming an artistic movement, organizing an artistic movement, being the leader of an artistic movement, et cetera. Maybe that’s all a lie, though. Maybe I made that up. But anyway, he wrote something like ten books. He’s got that troubadour vibe. Look at ‘im smoke that cigarette. This guy’s trouble.
He writes like a guy who doesn’t know how to write. Which isn’t to say he’s a bad writer. It’s more like he writes sort of like the way a regular guy talks. Or the way regular guys used to talk, back when regular guys existed. I ask you: What Has Happened To All The Regular Guys On This Earth? Did an entire generation of them disappear? Did some cause eat them? Did a war explode inside their skulls?
You know what I mean- the regular guys. Not the ones that go to Hooter’s. Not the ones that listen to Mos Def. Not the ones that play the bass guitar. Not the ones that bitch about their cubicle/academic/entrepreneurial job. I’m talking about the regular guys of planet earth who wear broken shoes, wink at women they know/don’t know, cuss for no good reason, fight for only the best reasons, drink cheap coffee like it’s going out of style, write limericks on paper bags, burn candles at the shrine of their ancestors, worship their wives/girlfriends/mothers/grandmothers, carry groceries all the way home, wreck bicycles, throw everything away, start over, have a stout sense of morality and ethics which has been tested internally and outwardly (as opposed to spoon-fed by a system of crude politics, sado-masochistic religion, or evil media conglomeration), mingle with his fellow man, toss televisions off the loading dock, get in their boss’s face, piss off the critics, please their crazy uncle in Poughkeepsie by “telling it like it ain’t, but how it ought to be,” eschew obfuscation, burn chaos to the ground, paint-by-numbers-that-are-too-high-for-modern-mathematics-to-contain, always have money for pistachio ice cream, dance ancient dances that come over from the Old Country, eats figs right off the tree, aren’t embarrassed to exist or have a body or set of eyeballs, call their grandma’s every Friday Night to see how her week was, volunteer at the soup kitchen, crack wise and or screams as a means of de-fanging the evil in life, play the accordion (poorly) and know how to fix a broken radio on a Wednesday afternoon.
Maybe I’m writing about something that can’t exist anymore. Maybe the National Corporation got to ‘em all and converted them into human mini-marts. Janelle thinks they haven't existed since the 1970's: "Something lurking in the Eighties musta got to 'em." Perhaps a meteor struck the earth.
08 July 2008
I don't know if I mentioned this yet, but...the only reason that blog entries continue to appear here at Dr. Desiree's Fantastikal Whiz-Bang Pharmacoepia Immaculata n' Thrifty Fun*Pak-o-Rama O' Day-Glo Photos is because I paid the gal who lives downstairs $15 to use her airport signal. So she gave me her password, which was her name + her boyfriend's name + her dog's name. (In case you're wondering, she has long, curly blond hair and owns a pit bull that's uglier than Phil Spector.) Anyway, due to the fact that $15 only goes so far these days, I pretty much have to sit in the stairwell to get a decent signal. I don't like sitting in the stairwell. These stairs...they...emit a foul odor...
PLUS, all my neighbors think I'm up to no-damn-good out here in the stairwell with my laptop. But whatevah. Tonight's a Foxhead night, so I have prepared my liver n' kidneys to do what they must, which is to take one for the team. And the team's goal? To say, "Hello Iowa City. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm the Jon*Dog. (Woof.)"
Yesterday I went to see the County Treasurer about registering my 1987 Honda Spree scooter so I can lawfully ride it around town. (This being a legality unnecessary in the state of Georgia, due to the fact that an ‘87 Honda Spree is a most laughable and fairly powerless automobile, if it can even be called one.) This is the sole reason I got an Iowa driver’s license, by the way – so I cd make this process a little easier by being a “resident” of Iowa. And so:
It turns out that since I didn’t get a title when I bought the scooter from Random Joe in Georgia - for $500 - three years ago (from an older guy who bought it twentysomething years ago so he and his wife cd get out of their retirement Winnebago every now and then and tool around the state park campground, who told me when I asked, “Title? Naw, son. You don’t need one of those. Not in the great state of Georgia at least,” and I was like, “Awesome. The less paperwork, the better.”), I now cannot register it & get a tag UNLESS:
I fill out form 1090828AA-G in triplicate and submit it to the Des Moines office, along with a Bill of Sale (which I also lack), whereupon receipt and review of said materials, the state will get back to me with 6 to twelve weeks with either a request for more materials, or to set up an interview with an inspector, who will of course need to see the vehicle in question and rate it for safety and the minimum state requirements, as explicated on pages 3 thru 4 of form 918907097ZZ-A (attached).
If the inspector gives the Spree the thumbs up, I will then be given the opportunity to procure a bond with the state of Iowa (at the price of approx 1.5 times the blue book value of the Spree, which the State will hold in good faith for up to three interest-free years, at which time the bond will be liquidated and the money returned – which is sort of like a savings plan, except that I already have a savings account and it ran itself dry a long time ago. In other words, unless the blue book values my scooter at about the same price as a bag of Bugles and a snowcone, there’s no extra cash for a state-issued bond in my piggy bank.)
IF I rob a convenience store and buy the bond, though, I can then apply for a tag and register my “vehicle,” which, let me just say this again, amounts to little more than a tiny red wagon with a small gas engine attached on the side. THAT is what’s up in Iowa…and it’s wack.
My dad agrees that this is ridiculous and said, “Yeah, ever since nine-eleven, all the various the states and counties and provinces want to be able to track every little thing that changes hands,” which makes sense. But, then, that’s also why red tape is red tape. When a mazelike, money-guzzling bureaucracy transforms simple tasks into something epically difficult and arduous, you know you’re at the peak of civilization. And that’s exactly why my Honda Spree is now in the basement of this apartment building, collecting dust, sandwiched between a washing machine and two ancient ten–speed bikes, forgotten, not unlike the Ark of the Covenant in that last scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Yes, I said it. My scooter is the Ark of the Covenant. But you know what I’m saying: The Taliban would have to be pretty damn hard up for equipment if they were using old Spree parts to make their next bomb.
Of course, I cd always drive the scooter without a tag, but that would make me an easy mark for Johnny Law. So basically I’m effed. To stick with the Raiders metaphor, my scooter is the Ark and I am that Nazi dude who gets his face melted off. Or something like that.
07 July 2008
06 July 2008
I’m down with the quasi-new Steve Earle album…except for his rendition of “Down In The Hole.” (He really shouldn’t have tried to record that. I don’t care how good of friends he was with Townes Van Zandt.)
Anyway, in this photo I give you the Iowa City Jazz*Fest. Yesterday we dug the many groovy sounds of the Jazz*Fest and talked about how sad it was/is that Jerry Garcia died. This after making the acquaintance of a bunch of displaced hipster burnouts sitting in a circle, buzzing along on psilocybin (it would seem) in a sea of Midwestern folks n’ families, working out the archaic issues of Man In Community. “Man, your daughter is awesome!” the Queen Bee chirped, a Marloboro dangling from her lip. These crazee kids were kind enough to hold our spot/watch our stuff while we ducked out, ran errands, got lunch, etc., etc. And the Leader Of The Pack, a funny young shorthaired guy named Ben, kept wanting to shake my hand in some kind of psychotropic ascertainment of Original Okay-ness. I told him, “It’s cool, Ben. Everything’s cool.” He agreed, then offered me a whiskey shot out of a Dasani bottle. “Nah, I’m cool, baby. But thanks.”
Today Lesley watched EB for 3 whole hours while we (me & The Missus) cavorted around on Bicicletas de Amor, hiked in the Midwestern wood, and ate mulberries fresh from the tree while bullfrogs darted from ‘neath me feets. “I hope Ben made it out of that trip alive,” I thought more than once today, then laughed and tossed rocks up to heaven while Eleanor laughed at Beguiling-Crazy-Wicked-Fine Ol’ Mama Earth.
05 July 2008
Our radiator. (photo by L. Rios)
It's 9 a.m. One of the across-the-hall neighbors is awake and heading downstairs with his indolent Rottweiler. I can hear the sound of the dog tags, the leash, the sleepy primary caregiver in flip-flops, and the big canine body tromping down the stairwell. It sounds to me like a gigantic squid wearing Mardi Gras beads is doing the hully gully outside my door.
My Doc Holliday story’s gone meta. It had to happen, I guess. If you treat a story like a quest for fire, and you run with the postmodernists, sooner or later your story will go meta on you. Oh well. Worse things have happened.
Last night I was able to see half of Modeski, Martin & Wood’s set at the Iowa City Jazz*Fest. Afterwards, there were fireworks. At one point two guys and a gal, jaded late twentysomethings, came and stood behind me. The guys were each hell-bent on impressing the gal with witty quips about the fireworks, which I would think of as sort of impossible (how many quips can a person come up with about fireworks?). But whatever. What was weird was that one of the guys stole all his material word-for-painful-word from David Cross comedy albums. I guess his posse had never heard of David Cross, because they ate it up like piping hot cheese grits.
It was sort of painful, hearing this “I’m an angry liberal” guy re-tread a comedy album that came out seven years ago in some weird courtship ritual on the lawn behind the old capital building, while pyrotechnics exploded like electric spiders spinning lightning-webs across the sky. He fake-riffed on pretty much everything he could tie into the present moment (fireworks, American flags, Lee Greenwood, patriotism, Fallujah, et-effing-cetera). “Man, I hope this cat gets laid tonight. He obviously needs to,” I kept thinking.
I once met a humanistic genius who said that all we really tend to do, as humans in relationship to other humans, is re-tread the same stories over and over. When you’ve known someone long enough, though, you have to start coming up with new material, because they’ve heard all your jokes and stories and lies and fantasies. At that time, he said, you might start to feel a little devastated/terrified and wonder who you are besides a collection of repeated past memories and association. “Don’t worry. You’re a lot more than that. And if you know that, you don’t have to do the painful, shit-shoveling work of maintaining some fake personality.”
I can see the Rottweiler from our living room window now. She’s peeing where Stella peed fourteen and a half minutes ago. She looks lean and evil, like a fiberglass gargoyle on top of a Bavarian-themed Best Western motel at the far-edge of town. She cd probably take your arm right off without the slightest provocation…and now she sniffs clover…and a dandelion explodes on her snout.
03 July 2008
Eleanor versus the scrambled eggs.
Today the wife and I made it to the DMV (Demonstrative Moving Vortex, Designer Milkcow Vicissitude, Deadly Miss Venereal, Dumbed-down Mosaic Vault, Dishwasher Machine Vent, Dastardly MILF Vehicle, Donut Mouth Viagra, Dewdrop Muffin Vamp, etc. etc. etc. in my brain as we stood in line waiting for our number to be called, with Eleanor writhing around like a minion on ice), where a public servant processed our vital records with efficient gusto and I (happily) learned that my driver's license wasn't suspended when I let my car insurance lapse (again). So anyway, the upshot is that now I'm all Iowa, baby. Word.
The public servant who welcomed us to Iowa was a transplant from Mississippi who clearly missed the South. In some ways, at least. "These folks up here be talkin' about it's hot, but they don't know hot, do they?"
"No, ma'am, they sure don't."
"Just like we don't know what's cold. But this Winter, you'll learn!"
She said she made one Hell of a gumbo with okra and that, if I ever tasted her gumbo, I'd discover that I like it. And I said, "Well...maybe. Only way I like to eat okra is fried."
02 July 2008
Fire Escape & Delectable Salad.
Step One: Construct salad, using only the finest obtainable spinach leaves, lettuce leaves, avocadoes, strawberries, hydroponic tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, pine nuts, and Havarti.
Step Two: Let chill.
Step Three: Emerge onto fire escape with one or more of the following:
(a) hand-rolled cigarettes
(b) book of translations
(c) Hagakure (samurai’s guide to life)
(d) empty mind, free of frustrations
(e) feelings of futuristic nostalgia, wherein the present moment is perceived through a metanoiac cognitive/emotional lens of the imagined future self, thus imbuing the present moment with a feeling of fleeting, dreamlike specialness. (These are the good ol’ days. Them fire escape and salad days. Remember way back when?)
Step Four: Watch sunset disappear into smoky blue skies, exploding into liquid fire that disperses itself into erupting cumulus clouds on horizon.
Step Five: Return to apartment, procuring salad.
Step Six: Consume with family and/or friends
Step Seven: Listen to Charles Mingus live at UCLA.
Step Eight: Aimless bike ride!
Step Nine: Fall asleep putting Eleanor to bed.
01 July 2008
Yesterday we attempted to go to the DMV and get Iowa state licenses. Instead we ended up driving along a rural-industrial highway, racing alongside a screaming freight train, only to end up at a state park halfway between Iowa City and the Amana colonies. The park was actually a nature conservation park, so there was a whole lot of prairie going on. Nice stands of pine and hardwoods as well.
At the crest of a hill, we parked and just looked up and out at the endless blue sky, which is bluer here than it is in Georgia. (I don’t know why. Someone tells me it’s because of positive ions, whatever those are.) But it’s a blue comprised of countless of blues that gently shade into one another in these sweeping, soft transitions you can only detect if you cast your gaze slightly downward and peer at the sky peripherally. Then your rods and cones will jangle together in the perfect rhythm that lets you see teals and aquamarines, jades and indigos, dirty blues and pristine blues. And you’ll sigh. And the corn will hear you.
Yesterday it occurred to me how cool it would be to be Amish, to be surrounded by untouched wilderness all day, far from cell phones and – even more sublimely – people on their cell phones. Just you and the windmills, baby. And at night, you could hear the crops sleeping in the moonlight. And you wouldn’t wonder stuff like “I wonder if the crops can dream,” because you’d know they do, deep in your bones. And sleep would overtake you like a beneficent Samurai.