Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Root, Structure and Truncated Meaning

I live in a small community in the South once fabled as a cherished and tucked away retirement and holiday Valhalla. Long ago in the days taken from Nabokov Chevrolet cross country family vacations, sleepy homes and motels nestled in the balm and bougainvillea along cobbled streets and avenues numbered for the ease of tourists and newcomers. As the heat of the days bleached bricks, though, they cracked to recover less and less frequently by repair, and the prevalence of greed and banality which crept through sidewalks elsewhere overcame like Kudzu the easy ways of this town.

There are porches dotted about on which seersucker suit coats hung in pre air-conditioned breezes with sounds of groaning wicker rocking chairs and clinking mint juleps caught in their folds. Remnants of that, and that thinking, can be found; in the furniture and golf clubs one comes across at tag sales, or unexpectedly Sunday shuttered storefronts. And today, astoundingly, a gym of adolescent boxers barked at by aging men in Wal-Mart sweats as I froze half seated on my bicycle to peek through an emergency door.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just outside Georgetown Connecticut there is a small mill left over from the days of last century’s industrialization. There you will find a business owner who, noticing in the late fifties a trend towards large steel and glass corporate architecture, specialized in the small orders of plate glass those buildings would require, and that larger producers would be loath to supply. On most days, were you to drive down the slender cobblestone lane beside this factory, you might pass by and observe yourself doing so in a mirrored plate glass panel tilting against the building waiting to be shipped.

Even as they hung on my lips the words struck me like handfuls of pennies thrown against a mangled dimestore concertina’s bellows … “excuse me Sir, may I assume it’s my hat and newspaper you have about you”? But the yelling and screaming afterward seemed easier to assimilate as the face under my visor somehow held me accountable.
But I sat still.
Because in the end I was not leaving without my cap and paper.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Only Buy Used Potato Peelers from Left Handed People

I just got my first email from a right wing nutbag celebrating the accomplishments of the bush administration. Of course she's someone who’s become quite well to do working for a contractor to the U.S. military so things are pretty rosy there. I, on the other hand, recently left a job where I was responsible for phoning the inhabitants of inner city Florida, the ranks of which are recruited for military service in the Middle East. This is what one guy who still had hands left to pick up the phone had to say:
I was a sniper over there. When people think of snipers they think of someone lying on a building top with a rifle. What they don’t realize is that you have to silently fight your way to that position. I just spent four years sneaking up on people and killing them with a knife while muffling their screams. Or getting ambushed by combatants trying to do the same to me. Do you have any idea what a scene it is when my kids jump in my bed to surprise me first thing Saturday morning? I’m not a human being anymore. My job is gone. I came home to a drug addicted wife and soon I’ll loose my kids to homelessness. Everyone I speak to from my service days is going through similar stuff. Why are you calling man, what are you selling?
I guess when you’re snuggled in expense-accounted digs snacking on freedom fries next to the fire you don’t have to worry about your wife hitting the pipe thousands of miles away or some guy who may be walking around the desert with the rusty blade that’s going to scrape against your vertebrae as it passes through your jugular and trachea. Healthcare isn’t an issue when you’ve got a cushy gig like that and you sure don’t have to worry about its obsolescence. All you have to do is make sure you don’t stop and ask the guy wheeling himself on the sidewalk why he’s rattling a can for your spare coins.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I used to think I had a drinking problem, but I’m starting to doubt that now. Don’t get me wrong: I was drunk a great deal of the time and consumed, daily, amounts of liquor that would send others to the hospital. I was unproductive, slovenly and hopelessly maladjusted. But still, I’m not sure I had a problem.

Now I work almost every day as hard as I can to accomplish as much as possible. I live a tidy life dedicated to improving my lot, attempt to be kind to others while managing my affairs in a responsible fashion. I maintain positive relationships, keep my eye peeled for opportunity and strive to display virtue to all around me. And for almost two years now this attitude has kept me in the exact same oppressive, grinding poverty experienced while drinking.

Two days ago I was faced with a decision: wether to risk seven dollars on an enterprise that could help me bring things around. Seven dollars. I weighed the decision very carefully and examined all it’s possibilities. I applied effort and enginuity into surveying its possibilities and decided to roll the dice. By that time though, hours later, the opportunity was gone.

If I were smart enough to drive a large National bank into failure I would have been compensated with hundreds of millions of times that seven dollars. If I were nakedly aggressive or unscrupulous I would have had thousands of times that seven dollars. Or if I poured myself into a meaningless, socially detrimental occupation I would have had a hundred thousand times that seven dollars. But I am just a worker so I don’t really even have the seven dollars.

When people offered their sympathy for the horrors I used to endure I would glibly reply that all was nothing six or seven martinis couldn’t fix, though sometimes now I think those words may have been profound. The martinis didn’t make anything better, but they made me feel better, and either way two years later I still don’t have the seven bucks to change.