Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 AM

James sleeps, or an approximation of such. His routine calls for him to roll over every thirty or so minutes, shifting the weight from one shoulder to the other, sometimes jostling himself awake momentarily, bumping himself from a dream state into an almost stupor. An annoyed almost stupor. Particularly if the dream was saucy.

This morning we will leave the pirate's music off, better to hear the grunts of the eighteen wheeler shifting gears somewhere below and out of view, perhaps a food truck making commissary delivery to a nearby hotel, or maybe a long hauler resuming his journey after a night's sleep at the La Quinta. Maybe he had himself a girl and a bottle, a quaint notion that is less quaint in the actuality than in the notion, many of these truckers beyond gross in both appearance and disposition, some also very simpleminded, and pity the poor thing that earns a living lifting her skirt for the likes of them. So maybe it was merely the appeal of a hot shower and fresh sheets that attracted our trucker, no one here cares if he had a drink or two, surely he's sober by now, and so he has refilled his thermos with coffee and is off to other parts, his noise now replaced by the swift chopping of air coming from the transport helicopter descending on the hospital across the street. It is clear now why they call them choppers, such beautiful vibrant sound as they cut and carve the air. And in the background plays the soft steady pulsing of vehicles on the interstate, as unnoticed and constant as a lung filling and emptying.

No doubt the sounds are lovely but it is the sight of the lights that demands one get out of bed to witness. At least one not named James. If we had time to count, surely they would number a million or more. Such extraordinary simplicity. Nothing more than little blinking dots spread against the horizon and settled along side some fatter and brighter ones, a few fuller and more constant ones, all strategically placed and not just randomly scattered so that there remains sufficient darkness to accentuate the brilliance.

Santa Rosa Street cuts through the heart of this canvas with an empty stillness that grounds the whole scene, makes it somewhat believable, and the only light permitted to shine on this stretch are the three traffic lights that alternate between red and green whilst nary an automobile trespasses. This beautiful aberration can not last more than a minute or two. Then I will look and see the headlight of that first vehicle accelerating in this direction, into this captured stillness. And I think that will be okay: the lone traveller offers its own resonance.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

After Hours Online: an interview excerpt with Dickie Short Arms

Dickie Short Arms, owner/operator of Dickie's Joint (also: Place, Spot, Game, ____), the longest tenured proprietor of record in the Tri-State area:

AHO:     It has been too long since last we talked. What have you been up to?
Dickie:   What the fuck you think I've been up to? Biz-niz. Or are you wanting to ask about my love life?
AHO:     Business is good?
Dickie:    Yeah. What the fuck. You gonna get off the bullshit and on to the questions at some point?
AHO:     Sure. Apologies. Last time we talked you told us an anecdote about a lad named Longfellow - well readership has persisted in inquiring after him - do you have an update? Has he been back again?
Dickie:    They all come back again.
AHO:     And? Did you again turn him away or was this time different?
Dickie:    I let him in.
AHO:     Why? Why was this time different?
Dickie:    Look, I ain't nobody's mother. I did the kid a solid once and I figure that's once more than anybody can reasonably fucking expect. Capiche?
AHO:     Of course. You're a business man. First and foremost. So what happened?
Dickie:    The kid sat at the bar and drank the expensive shit. Neat. He wanted his whiskey neat.
AHO:     I trust he didn't create a commotion this time with a quill or something equally silly?
Dickie:    This is funny. Well, it wasn't so funny at the time but now looking back I guess it was. See, he kept fucking telling Louie, Neat, Neat, Neat, like Louie's hearing impaired or something. And now Louie's looking like he's gonna blow. Exasperated, I think would be the word.
AHO:     I believe so. Louie is the bartender and he is exasperated understanding the drink order?
Dickie:    Yeah. And it then moved to the Whats, a sure sign that Louie's gonna blow. What, do I look like a slob or something? What, you worried I'm gonna spill your whiskey? What the fuck, what you trying to say here with this neat bullshit? Louie, I say finally after the kid don't straighten Louie out on his own, he don't want no ice in his drink, that's what, you fucking moron. The kid was bright enough to give him a good tip and not look at him for awhile. Just drink and shut the fuck up.
AHO:     And was that the pinnacle of the boy's evening?
Dickie:    Pinnacle? You trying for a literary award or something here?
AHO:     In the many interviews I've conducted it seems that often the first details volunteered are the most memorable. What else happened?
Dickie:    Kid sat and drank and minded his business. He seemed to be thinking or wishing on someplace else.
AHO:     That's odd.
Dickie:    Odd? I would give you a good fucking crack if you were here in front of me.
AHO:     Why?
Dickie:    For being a stupid fuck, that's why.
AHO:     Please explain. If you would. For the readership.
Dickie:    This aint hard. They come to Dickie's to be someplace else, to be someone else. What's so odd about someone sitting at my bar wishing they didn't have to?
AHO:     I see your point. So the boy didn't partake in the ladies or the gambling?
Dickie:    I didn't say that. I said pretty much.
AHO:     Well, tell us the rest of it.
Dickie:    He got it all. Once he got a little whiskey in him and snapped the fuck out of it he got busy doing what you're supposed to do at Dickie's.
AHO:     Can you expand on that.
Dickie:    Nah. Let's not romanticize the boy's perversion. Some shit is better kept under wraps. Use your fucking imagination.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

stick men gone

I see some small amiss outside my window this morning. The automobiles seem to proceed, which implies purpose. Surely they move as they always move, excepting, of course, for when the Settings have been unnaturally adjusted, and it is just the observer who this morning sees differently. But I feel quite the same as yesterday. Both mornings I creaked out of the bed, complained about the ache felt, washed my face roughly with hot water and no soap, brewed exactly the same cup of coffee, fiddled about the kitchen whilst the coffee dripped, avoided my stretching and breathing exercises, felt equally guilty about this avoidance both days, and finally sat down with the coffee and the expectation that nothing outside my window would interest me enough to assign words. Perhaps the cemetery lot. I grow more and more fond of the cemetery lot. I always feel that if I stare long enough it will give me something.

But this morning I need not fixate on the green lot because it seems the traffic on Santa Rosa bustles. The automobiles gather in clusters at the various cross lights and then flow in bursts of acceleration, as if launched, like the starter's pistol has sounded and they have begun a race. Strangely they do not jostle. The cooperation of movement reminds of a dance team, well practiced and choreographed. Each member has an acceptable position and each has quite mastered it. The unison is compelling. Beautiful even. And now I will contradict this analogy as this dance seems more natural than described. Maybe the movements mimic a herd. Vibrant is the one word that sticks. Like the antelope then? I have only seen pictures. Splendid creatures. And outside my window are only machines. Powered by fumes and directed by the mostly absent and unaware. A grand silly notion then to assign such vibrancy to such ordinary landscape no matter how romantical one might feel.

Funny: the clock on my wall, between the windows and above the WALL STREET sign, is pounding this morning. I never notice whether it ticks or not. It is just there. And I like how it looks. But this morning the Pandora went off some time back, the one hour used up, and I did not notice the absence of music and I did not notice the silence and I did not until just now notice how loudly this clock does its work. Tick Tock, tick tock. Like a nursery rhyme.

There are other noises. Suddenly. I rarely hear anything in the morning but what I pipe in. Music mostly, sometimes chatter. Now someone hammers. It sounded at first as if someone knocks on my door. My pulse quickened. Who at this hour? And then the shifting grinding gears of a large oversized vehicle. Out of sight thankfully. Can I hear the traffic on the highway, the steady drone? I strain and am unsure whether I do or do not. I picture the sound and wonder if I merely create noise to fill the expectation? Have my ears become as uncertain as my eyes?

Frost said good fences make good neighbors. In my particular case good glass makes good fence. I need not explain all the advantages of keeping my windows closed. Sure, I could open a couple and be assured of hearing the whole world outside my window. What an idiotic notion. The sheer volume would make it indecipherable. Anyone with a beating heart would fail. And this before the odor that I won't bother to catalogue. This is an urban domicile. Sensory offenses abound.

Yet all things considered it is a lovely morning. The vehicles continue to surprise, to push on in concert. And I see human forms walk about the sidewalk. The sex and age indeterminate from this distance but this morning I find no stickmen. These are distinctly three dimensional forms and at this very minute I can see two of them connected, walking at a recognizable pace, a distinctly human pace, comfortably, hand in hand, a lover's gait. They walk away from my building so I see the backs of them, their outlines from the rear. They head west, towards tonight's sunset, towards a future I can't immediately fathom. Does this make me "in the present" or just unimaginative? As I watch them walk they cause me to feel feeble: it bothers me that I can't decipher him from her, whether they just begin, or are soon to end. It bothers me that I have no words to properly describe them, to offer them about themselves. It bothers me that they are out of my reach. And this last bothers me most: I can not steal from them what they must know, re-package it, display it, call it mine own. I will admit this much, and with a requisite amount of shame. But also I know that should this happy couple stop sauntering, pause for just a moment to turn their collective head to face in my direction, they would see their own reflection in my window and nothing more. They would not see me at all. And then they would likely complain about the distraction and the unpleasant glare from this morning's sun, now shining fully.

And so I keep the windows shut tight because I do not want to hear what the couple has to say. I know what they will say. And it will be base and uninteresting and likely offensive. I can do better. Except when I have nothing to say. And nothing to see. And when I will not listen. But that is not today. Even if today is the same as yesterday have I not just proven today is better? So when I get around to it I will give them a better conversation than the one they are having. Unless they now walk in silence, in which case I will give them a better silence. And I am happy to do this. But I must admit that while it feels good it also feel weighty. Like an obligation. A responsibility. A solemnity. How silly of me to feel these feelings, no? They will be gone from sight soon enough and then will be fully mine. Ownership transferred. It seems then, I fret for no good reason this morning. No good reason at all.