I knew I was tired last night when I saw a beautiful photo on Facebook of a young Loretta Lynn, her guitar across her lap, reading the paper. Darling picture. But some guy was commenting on and on about how he felt so betrayed and heartbroken that she was a Trump supporter. It was jarring, Loretta fresh as a mountain daisy and here’s some whiny little nothing of a fuck complaining about her backwoods politics. Shut the fuck up, I said poetically, and leave the politics be for a minute and just dig Loretta Lynn. I was tired, the little editor in my head had clocked out hours before and so I posted that comment. Boom. Then I added how much I couldn’t stand you little keyboard warrior fucks whose notion of the Resistance was whining on Facebook and giggling at Alec Baldwin’s Trump impressions on SNL. Boom. Well, not boom. I hesitated before tapping the enter button. I mean I really like the lady who posted the photo and maybe the whiny guy was her boss or something and besides, I was being a tad on the extremely rude side. I get that way sometimes. Perhaps you’ve noticed. Words, you know, they can hurt but sometimes they are so much fun you forget that you are directing them at ordinary mortals and not other people who write words like they breathe air. So I deleted that comment without posting, backspacing the letters out of existence into nothing, like those thoughts that pop into your head just for a second and disappear never to be remembered again unless you write about them the next day. I think the moral of this story is that when we start insulting whiny little fucks just for being whiny little fucks then the terrorists have already won. No, that moral was two presidents ago. I don’t know what the moral of this story is. Though at the time I was too tired to care anyway. Instead, I pushed the keyboard away, fell asleep on the couch and woke, hours later, to the sound of Sonny Rollins, but I already wrote about that.
Passed out on the couch and woke up sightlessly dreaming, hearing only Sonny Rollins. The Bridge. Came to just as he’s heading into his first stretch and it’s Sonny on the radio, but not The Bridge but softer, as in a morning sunrise, and I draw the curtains closed, turn off the lights and post this.
No TV till middle of week. Will have been three months. Been really nice. In the meantime I watched a zillion movies off these Mill Creek fifty flick box sets. All Fyl’s science fiction flicks now. Lots of incredible obscurities I’ve never heard of. The heat wave gives me the excuse to lie about digging the mad monster get ups and occasional mind fuck plot devices and not think that I should be doing something else, even though I should. A breeze blows through the room with the hint of distant fires. I sip coffee and think about roasting a sweet potato for dinner. I love this weather. The laziness, the torpor. It’s a dry heat, like Noel Coward.
I spent the best years of my punk rock life working for US Borax. We had Boraxo up the wazoo in those days. Since then, I’d completely forgotten about it. The feel of it, grainy, like fine gravel, and stuck in the crevices between your fingers. We had whole cases of the stuff in the office, hundreds of cases tucked away in the basement where I worked, and little sample packets of Boraxo scattered throughout the above ground floors from the lobby to the executive suites in the vast US Borax world headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. There were fine secretaries, too, and I was a twenty something Mensch and easily distracted. Now strange sensations swirl about. I’m not sure if this is nostalgia, a flashback or maybe allergies.
(To be perfectly honest I have no memory of writing this, and am just as confused as you are. I found it in the drafts folder.)
Downtown memories: A legless old guy in a wheelchair selling crack in front of the LAPD station on Skid Row. This was back in the early 90’s, in the middle of the afternoon. There is no circadian rhythm on crack; night time, day time, it’s all one hustle. When the traffic light turned red all the walking skeleton crackheads rushed up to the car with the filthy bags of crack they’d hold in their mouths, and he came wheeling up with them, spitting the bag into his hand and holding it up to the car window. His bloodshot eyes were frantic, pleading. I politely declined. A police car rolled by and all the crack baggies disappeared back into their mouths and the crackheads began spare changing. A guy behind me dropped a dollar into a hand sticky with saliva. The crackheads converged on him like it was Night of the Living Dead but the light changed and he zoomed way. In my rear view mirror I caught a final glimpse of the guy in the wheelchair looking hopefully at the oncoming traffic. There was a pathos there that seemed to elevate him above the garden variety skid row crack head. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad shtick after all, selling crack with no legs. After all, I remember him all these years later, remember his face, his eyes, his humanity, while the others seemed no more alive than zombies in a horror movie.
It’s very nice down there now.
So the landlady, a few weeks ago, said how about we switch this ancient stove of yours (from the 1980’s) for a newer one sitting in the garage. Gnarly beast, a beautiful black (clashes dreadfully with the white tea kettle) and burners that would shatter your toes should you decide to drop one. Hip electronic controls, big billowing blue flames, it was obviously state of the art a decade ago. Certainly the newest stove we have ever had. We’ve always lived in ancient East Hollywood or Silverlake places, funky cool and archaic, with nearly but not quite antique appliances and the kind of kitchen cupboards and doorknobs you see in 1930’s movies. I like to pretend that Carole Lombard opened my closet door and giggled. One place even had a Murphy bed that kept the neighbors awake all night. We have a new fridge, tho’, the old one died and none of my desperate YouTube inspired repairs worked. Had to buy the damn thing. It’s white and clashes dreadfully with the stove but the freezer is so cold our ice trays have shattered in my big dumb gorilla hands. Only three feet from the ice age hell of the freezer is the oven. This oven is hot. Incredibly hot. I took out some leftover pizza from the freezer and the slices were hard as rocks, like carefully painted concrete models of pizza. I put them in a pan, frozen solid. Turned on the oven. Slipped them in. Twenty minutes later I smelled the acrid bouquet of cindered pizza dough. Pulled open the oven and there were two slices of pizza, hot as hell, beautifully blackened. Now, our last oven would have taken an hour to take pizza from absolute zero to a zillion degrees. Maybe an hour and a half. This took fifteen minutes. I had no idea the goddamn thing was nuclear. We ate the pizza anyway. I like burned stuff. As I singed my fingers on the plate that had turned molten from the pizza sitting on it I looked at the latest junk mail from the Neptune Society. For a few grand they’ll burn my corpse to a crisp, much like this pizza, then pour the ashes in an urn and pay for a pedal boat on Echo Park lake for you all to scatter me about during the Lotus Festival fireworks. Five thousand bucks. I have to pay that, not you, and I won’t even be there in corporeal form. I don’t mind paying for the party, but five grand is a lot of dough. Dough. I looked at it on the plate before me, thoroughly cremated. Our oven is certainly hot as Hades, hot as anything the Neptune Society has. We have lots of vases, too, all kinds, some decidedly urn-like. And think of how much beer you can get with five thousand bucks. That is a beer run. So the hell with the Neptune Society. I mean for five thousand bucks I can donate my body to the Mars Society and Elon Musk will name the first Martian shopping mall after me. And then there’s the Uranus Society, but damn if I can think of a joke.
When I was a kid in Maine as soon as the snow melted in March or April the asphalt in front of our ancient school was covered in crudely chalked circles around which bunches of kids crouched over with intense concentration. Marble season. Everyone brought out their pouches–some leather, some knitted, many passed on from their parents or grandparents–full of their prized marbles. Clearies. Cats eyes. Boulders. Some new. Some antique. The hustling was fierce. I was nearly cleaned out my first week. Us out of staters were at a real disadvantage around the downstaters. They played for keeps. Keepsies. But I got better and ended up spring with more marbles than I’d begun. I even won some antique marbles, from the 1800’s. I remember they made a more musical tink when struck by a good, hard shot. It took a while to master such a shot. It was all in the thumb, it had to flick like a spring, quick and hard. Come May and warmer weather the marbles were put away by unspoken agreement and we all went running off in all directions, exploring the woods, picking blueberries, getting into trouble. Come the cold weather, stuck inside again, I practiced my shot. Practiced all the long, long winter. I was gonna be ready for my second marble season. I was going to be as good as any Mainer. Come spring I was going to be a terror on the playground. Instead, just after our second Maine Christmas we moved to New Jersey. I don’t remember anyone playing marbles in New Jersey. Instead there were riots. Just blocks away Camden was burnt out. I figured when we moved back to Maine I’d pull out the marble pouch again. Instead we moved to Massachusetts, out on the outskirts of a small town, with no sidewalks or driveway or anywhere to do any serious marble shooting. It was a long, cold Massachusetts autumn. The moving truck showed up when Dad was at work and mom was at the store. I asked if they could come back when my parents were home. I remember how surprised my folks were that we were moving, the company had forgot to tell us. An early freeze had left the ground rock hard, entombing toys. We moved before the ground thawed and headed back to California. They played marbles in California, played all year long, but not with the feverish intensity there’d been in Maine. All these Maine kids stuck inside all winter suddenly outside basking in fifty degree warmth, playing marbles as if it were life itself. I’ve never again witnessed anything so desperately in earnest. Never experienced anything quite like that competitive fever of marble playing that consumed me for a few weeks in Maine. Every kid in school outside at recess on their knees in the chill spring wind concentrating with an absolute intensity on two tiny little glass spheres, their’s and the one they want so badly to own. A flick of the thumb, the snap of hardened glass striking glass, the cheers and curses–shucks, darn, heck, hell. You’d pick up your hard won marble and hold it up to the light and a little galaxy of blue or pink or green or yellow revealed itself in swirls of cosmic dust and air bubbles like planets. Every marble was like a cosmos. We were hip to the cosmos in Maine. Small towns with a zillion stars overhead. Moonless nights of near total darkness, and on special occasions the northern lights flit across the evening sky like magic. Coming home after dark by the light of fireflies.