tom’s party

after donna began swimming with WH2O sometime back in the last century, i signed up for a season.

i had always thought of myself as modestly athletic for a wan canadian, but after a year or so i remember staring across the blur of limbs churning up the water in that tiny pool, dolphins in a bathtub.

across the line a hand went by, an elite swimmer, slipping silently through the water.  just unbelievably fast.  i had learned enough to see that now.  i finished the workout and quit the team.  never made it out of the slow lane.

still, i stayed with WH2O longer than i had a right.

because there are so many people i like gathered in a single place: handsome jim and owlish jay, tardy neil, lisa with her towering babies, jessica and maru and lindy and errol, my favorite african american.  where was hairless matt, looming chuck and paolo and wily steve?  have i left anyone out?  well everyone, really.   for nearly twenty years.

so the party was, for me, a kind of closure.  good to see the team so strong and lively, still bursting with unnatural good health.  ‘lovely to see you,’ i greeted tom wilson, ‘you know, alive.’  because once i ran into him walking his dogs in griffith park and he had that unmistakable gimlet of the reaper gleaming in the corner of his eye.  clear now, sickness gone, he lives to cry again.

tom’s party was a gathering of the originals, the pioneers.  funny, irreverent, sarcastic, clever, vulnerable, seeking, searching, coached and coaching, trying to get better.  they were there at the beginning, they are there today.  they are a family, the only swimmers i know who shower in their bathing suits.

because they took me in.

i love those guys.

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small engine repair

behold the humble coleman generator, picked up on craigslist for a song.  as miserably loud as it is weak and unreliable (insert grimacing self-portrait here).  designed to charge our cellphones when THE BIG ONE comes.

when i heard president fuckface was sending an armada of warships to north korea, it seemed a good time to head out to the shed, slosh around my secret cache of fossil fuel, dust off the lowly coleman and brush up on my survivalist skillset.

tried tugging on a rope starter lately?  it’s like the hoola hoop, or doing a front roll.  used to be fun.  now about five tries had me wheezing against the force of that massive Briggs & Stratton piston.   i leaned hard against the beemer to think things over.

the words of slingblade came back to me: aint got no gas innet.

looked like paint thinner.

first i choked myself half to death trying to get a siphon going, then the thought struck, brightly but stupidly: i’ll just flip it on its side and let the old gas flow out.

when i came back all the gas was gone, but now a line of muddy oil was dripping out the throat of the potmetal carburetor, the toppled coleman lying prostrate over a dark puddle slowly expanding across the pavers below, just like a driveway shooting.

threw a wrench on these fancy high-tech drain bolts – one on each side! – and out came a bubbling crude so ancient i swear i spotted a few flecks of dinosaur carcass floating around in there.

fresh oil and gas, she was all worked up and so was i, sweating like a racehorse in the midday sun.

sawing at the rope starter i was drawn into a childhood memory of the time my brother and i found an old outboard motor abandoned by the road and carried it home like it was made of gold.

we took it to the cottage and spent the entire weekend taking turns hauling on the rope.  together we rope-started our little rowboat all the way around the lake, two times.  but we never got a kick or pop or spark of life out of that miserable engine.

so there i was huffing away, eleven again, accompanied now by the first stirrings of shooting pains along my left flank.   more beemer leaning hatched another idea:  starter fluid.

please understand: the opportunity to blast three blocks up to pepboys is what makes ownership of a 180-horsepower aprilia so practically appealing.   i mostly want my experiences intense and brief these days so i can get back to napping.

home with my little spray can of explosive, i began with a dash straight down the barrel.  pss pss tug tug.   and then, just at the dying spin of the seventh pull, a tiny detonation, the faintest little kick of life.

another hit of go juice.   first rip, it started, stalled.  more fluid: same thing.  and again.   it would run on the starter fluid, but wasn’t picking up any gas from the tank.

 

little bit of a sweat now.  i fired it up and, just when it was about to stall, zapped another charge of starter fluid down the bore.  it coughed like a kid on strong whiskey, then kicked again.  but it stayed alive.

 

it took a couple minutes of coaxing before the brave little coleman took its first faltering steps, gathered, and began drinking on its own.

just to be sure, i plugged in a hair dryer and when i clicked it on high the little engine bucked hard for a moment, like it had received its first solid kick in the nuts, then settled into a hot and deafening idle, weaker now, but steady.

when THE BIG ONE comes that will sound like sweet music echoing among the ruins, the only gas-powered 82-decibel hair dryer in all of los angeles county.

coupla giant dogs, tuned-up racebike, water tablets and my faithful Briggs & Stratton.  do your wurst, hideous trumpman.  we’ll be fine.

 

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back door dog


what is that pounding, scratching, what is that infernal gallumphing at my back door?   what could it be, to make such a ruckus?

ah, yes.  i do see.

it seems the gusman has completed his morning tanning session, and is expressing his desire to re-enter the house.

with any ‘normal’ mutt i would simply drop what i am doing and trudge out to the back, cursing.  stupid dog.  but that’s not necessary in gussy’s particular case.  because he is so wise, because he is gigantic, because – well, just wait…

yes, please hang on just a sec;  there may be a brief moment of silence, a pause that ushers in the strange, desultory rhythm of canine dialectics.   you may hear another scratch, tentative and probing, or perhaps a plaintive bleat.

but then the unmistakable groan of poochmass rising on its haunches again; a more precise clawing toward a goal, a giant paw directed by some mystical mutty purpose…

augustus has learned to work the handle.

one more thrust and the door bursts open, slamming against the wall and the great beast is in, striding for his food bowl or his blankie, or perhaps a slobbery snack of biscuit…  who among us may comprehend such things?

i do know that just the other day i was out chopping kindling in the back, heard a sound inside the house and turned to see gus, reared up and staring at me through the window from the inside.

when i called he lowered himself rather clumsily out of sight.  a low bark came through the door but it seemed more playful, more a beckoning come hither than your classic cri de coeur chien.

i gathered up my stack of firewood, began climbing the porch steps and, just as i approached the door, my fingers on the handle, a giant paw burst out through the filthy cat hatch below and yanked the door open with such force i felt the porch slats shake.

inside the dark gargantuan lay stretched across the floor with a calm and regal grace, softly ushering me inside as if to say:  welcome, puny human friend, welcome to our humble manlair.

ever since he arrived, for some reason, donna has questioned the weight of gus’ intelligence, his drive, his gravitas.   perhaps it is his dark bedroom eyes, the sheer expanding length of his warm and loamy flank, or that, months after his fixing, he still wanders around the house with giant dangling horse boners and a clueless, cross-eyed look.

that’s my boy.  i know his furrowed head and kingly brow, broad and warm as ancient summers, contains unfathomable wisdom.  and i know that gus is more than merely handsome and strong and gentle and shy and sometimes a bit of a worry wart and a nervous nellie.  he is also, quite frankly, a genius.

so when the urge arises for the giant dog to wander out and bask in the sun again, i can just stay put, sip my coffee and wait those few delicious moments before i hear the back door being ripped from its hinges.

the dog can let himself out.

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statue of limitations

dsc_4551finally slogged through my first ‘real book’ in about twelve decades; chandler’s long goodbye.  mainly because i know the movie which the neighbor down the street says was a travesty because the book was about friendship and, after a lifetime of test-to-fail relationships, figured maybe i better give it a little peekski.

and i did put in an honest hundred pages or so (over the course, of course, of several days) before drifting back into orwellian trumpery whereupon donna picked it up and actually read the damned thing.  then we streamed the movie, which didn’t hold up so good, as chandler would say.

asked the better half when she was finished;  so, did he kill his buddy at the end, just like in the movie?  you have to read it, she said.  god i hate that.

was it about friendship, i asked?  and she says yup you guessed it; read it for yourself.

so i did take it into the bath and soldier my watery blues through the last chapter – about five pages of fairly large type and short sentences, right to the bitter end.

ray chandler?  what a fag.  what a gyp.  some private eye putzworth.  talk about sexual undertones; after about eighty pages of tough-guy preening he falls hard for this dude and the force he encounters trying to deny it to himself lights up the literary firmament.

come to the final scene which requires some actual writing and the guy falls flat on his fat pipe-smoking face.  can’t draw a scene to save his life, despite all the great liner notes about his genius and control from famous writers everywhere.  nope: next stop flopsweat city, chokesville station.

well, you could chalk it up to the state of male friendship, i suppose  – that neverending steel jacketed pile of fruity macho oneupmanship that feels ancient and unavoidable as the druids, now that they’ve had their day.  if two guys were ever to actually meet on equal terms, the universe would explode into little fiery bits.

and dames, well chandler reserves his special brand of numbskull dorksmithery for women.

early in the book he goes on about blondes for two pages or so and you can bet the average five year old knows more about blondes than this wretched old wanker.   o the subhumanity.  everything he says sounds stolen out of a comic book then shamelessly ‘molded’ into his own ham-fisted fauxnoir patois.

Mailer famously said the only character a writer cannot write is one who is smarter than himself.  well in that case guys ought to just give up trying to write about women.  when a woman character comes up, just write ‘woman’  – don’t go on and on about it.

women are just like guys only moreso.   hey don’t let the floppy bits and skinny guns fool ya; the force is strong in these lumpy ones.   chicks are both literal and symbolic, dusted with a tinge of the eternal.  born to own what men desire, their world lies far beyond the feckless feverdreams of your average subterranean horndog.

sex?  more deeply obsessed and insatiable than mankind may possibly imagine.  money?  venomous as starving alleycats.  power?  just because they can sometimes pretend to work together for twenty minutes doesn’t mean it doesn’t corrupt.  more.  thoroughly.

look: ‘mystery’ writing should be mysterious.   that’s why you can get more riled up looking at a woman’s face than peering into her private parts.  their faces are their private parts.  the rest is just for show, or not.  at least they don’t write crappy novels about friendship, or maybe they do.

trust me: no woman can ever be a friend to a man, or another woman for that matter. again, it’s the sex thing; it’s all they ever think about.

c’mon, ray.  every tough guy knows that.

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fey times

capturejust kept my more or less continuous appointment with the urologist.  for the past two years she has never missed an opportunity to rail against trump.  but today i find her strangely subdued, almost content.  she has a sad little sideways smile.

i’ll be alright, she says, this isn’t going to change my life.  my taxes will probably go down.

sure, i wanted to say; you’re white, you got health insurance and a pile of money.   you’ve worked hard.

i’m sure you’ll be alright, i said.

i once acquired a definition of ‘fey.’   came from the vikings.   now these guys loved to fight; fight fight fight allatime.

the word ‘berserk’ is also from those same loveable vikings.  it’s the state of mind you get in when you’ve committed so much mayhem (prob also a viking word) you become insane with bloodlust and do the kind of terrible things that probably make you a legend for at least a couple generations in that fucked up, pre-truth society.

fey is kinda the opposite of berserk, a strange passivity that may overtake a man or an entire army without warning in the midst of battle.  after a certain amount of hideous bloodshed, a fey may suddenly descend upon the men, rendering them helpless against their enemies.

of all the terrible fears in combat, the vikings believed the worst was to look around and see a fey look on the faces of your fellow soldiers, for then you were truly doomed.

doomed, my fey urologist.  doomed, the new york times has gone fey.

me personally i myself am tending more in the berserk direction, but i can feel the fey coming on.

can’t stop watching the news, the gathering atrocities, feeding the delicious rush of fight or flight.  don’t tell me to stop looking, i’m having the time of my life.

it was all in network years ago, i tell myself – pallid whispers in the night.

well, alrighty then:  but i am going to look the goddamn thing in the face at least.   and call it what it is.

terror.

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reveal

riding a motorcycle fast on a mountain road
you go where you look
eyes on the reveal

the reveal is the very edge of the road as it twists toward you
instant the present becomes the past
that moment the curtain parts before the careening scroll of life

with practice you can peer just a millisecond beyond the reveal
crane your head into the bank of the turn
past the shadow of rock

there’s a moment of reveal in everything;
sudden connection in the mind
instant understanding of a relationship
going back as far
as you can remember
a facet turns and glints upon the world
and you see it as it actually is

chill from a passing look
the sun on her neck as she turns away
catch in her voice
the way she says
everything she means to say and everything she says
means nothing

go careening where you look

to see her as she really is
the mind, the physical person
the way she laughs
her realness coming
still limping from the accident
toward the realness of you
straight off the bus from portland

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1962

capturei saw it first as a child in miami beach, where my parents had taken us on vacation to visit our grandparents at the vast and luxurious Gordon Hotel.

out on the sand and in the lobby, tables of ancient oldsters flaunted wizened flesh, glossy with suntan oil, liver spots falling out of paisley swimming suits.  it was wild.

but the women were doing all the talking. the men were silent, hidden under sunhats, sleeping or worse, while their wives and sisters gamboled on.

‘say, dad,’ i asked. ‘what’s wrong with the guys down here?  have you noticed they’re all like half dead?’

‘they do look pretty tired out,’ he said.

‘and their wives don’t even seem to notice,’ i said.

‘well, they’re probably pretty tired, too.’

‘they don’t seem nearly as tired as the men,’ i said. ‘it’s like they’re all at the table playing canasta with a corpse sitting there.  it’s kinda ghoulish.’ (note: i may be paraphrasing here.)

‘now paul, that’s not necessary.’

‘but maybe if they took a moment to ask the guy they’ve lived with for eighty years if he’d like a cup of coffee or something, he might actually, you know, turn over and mumble something.’

‘men and women age differently,’ said my father.

‘yeah, i guess,’ i said.  ‘but if they keep getting ignored like this i’m worried all these old jewish guys are gonna rise up one day and vote for donald trump.’

‘don’t be ridiculous,’ he said.

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we shall overcomb

 

walruss

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clockworm

clockworm

it started a couple of months ago.  i must have glanced at the kitchen clock more than a dozen times during the day, but those four straight figures appeared and reappeared, once in the morning, and then when i was heading for bed. 11:11, glowing on the digital readout on the stove. “weird,” i thought, and gave it no mind.

but the next morning i was passing through the kitchen and there it was again, and then again that evening. not 11:09 or 11:13 but 11:11, exactly.  and there it was the next day and the next; twice a day, again and again.

over the next week the clockworm progressed from weird to eerie. by day ten a saunter through the kitchen had become quite seriously spooky.

and then it went away.

on the evening of november 7th i did a final check of the official election projections: hillary 97.1, trump 2.9. the only question seemed to be how many senate seats would turn blue.  i closed my ipad, heaved a sigh of relief, and slept the sleep of the just.

but on election day my games at the Y felt strange and inexplicable. i fell behind, then surged ahead on strange runs i could not control.  the logic of the court broke all loose and disconnected; the ball caromed in awkward, inexplicable angles, my second wind came in hot and rancid, and a deep nausea rose up like a shiver under sweat – something awful was happening, outside, right now, and it had nothing to do with racquetball.

the television in the change room was posting early returns and at the name of trump i was overcome with a wave that started in my feet and tingled out to the tips of my fingers: everything i knew was wrong, the world was on the brink, everything i was would be stamped out, blown away.

over decades the mechanisms have been shunted into place before our eyes; plutocracy, surveillance state, propaganda arm, all three branches of craven government, and giant, raging army with no agenda but fury, bigger than anyone had imagined.  nothing to stop them now.

hope and purpose are illusions, yes. and when i opened my ipad at dawn this morning i saw the numbers again – 11/10. perhaps my clockworm wasn’t an hour but instead a date – a day, a year, a figment babbling nonsense to the void.   if he does half of what he promised, our lives are over.  in two years, i thought, i would not recognize myself.

nothing to stop it, and one more day to go.

 

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bombas

bombas

back in october – the twenty-fifth, as my computer firmly recalls – you changed my order, as requested, from ankle socks to STRIPED QUARTERS, from order # 251305 to #251821, as you so precisely put it.   i am looking at the email right now (well, i’m not actually looking at it now.  i would have to close out of my blog and open my email to do that.  but) i have it in my string; i have you dead to rights. 

so where are my quarter socks? instead i have four pairs – pair? – of the ANKLE SOCKS i ordered in the first place and then changed my mind.

look:  you’re not dealing with a crazyman here.  i’m well aware this is a tiny error which will ultimately be corrected over time.    its very minisculity makes it all the more irritating, however, for the tease of its lack of resolution.  so simple, and yet i’ve been waiting.  i get so little pleasures in my life these days and the power of clicking up warm feet, well, it reminds me of some lines from our neighbor back in ottawa, a poet who lived next door

my pleasures, how discreet they are
a little booze, a little car 

i thought you were better than that.  you and i, we both have the string.

but who can i believe in?  who?  whom?  in whom can i believe?

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