Sunday, December 16, 2012

Suicide to Try

It was the smiling that got to him most, big white toothful smiles completely undone by the look in the eyes above them. He knew that look, that unmistakable anxious hostility. It was a look he grew up around, first as a kid then as an adult. Usually accompanied by soothing messages meant to reassure. Big promises, bright futures, contentment beyond imagining. He saw it used against his family when he was small, saw his family turn around and use it against him. He knew these people, you couldn’t trust these people. It’d be foolish to even consider it.

As a young man you could always just pick up and run away, which is what he would routinely do. Just pack up his things in an old army bag and go. He ran away to Oregon and back, ran clear across the ocean to Spain. He used to pride himself on his inability to tolerate such conditions, couldn’t imagine ever becoming the type of man who would stick it out. He used to have nothing but contempt for such men. Now he couldn't run, he could barely walk. They were stuck together, him and these smilers, at least for the time being. No choice either side. But you couldn't trust these people. It'd be suicide to try.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cars, Then Airports...

New York City, 1967. Parents just kids themselves, Brooklyn Department of Welfare, Groovy Murders around the corner, Newark Riots across the river, it was the Summer of Love. Lexington, Kentucky, 1969. Long dead family faces. The first man on the moon, long southern vowels, Pasadena Drive, my grandmother's sewing room, the smell of gasoline and WD40 and the Ranchero parked out in the grass, led astray and wandering lost on the UK campus and my parents scared and furious when I got home. Mom shaking. Mom screaming. A dead snake in the water-fountain, Dad filming it with a little handheld Kodak. Our dog getting hit in the mud. Joe Cocker and Jesus Christ. Pullman, Illinois. Oak Park, Illinois. The drive up to Seattle, 1977. Little Bighorn, off the interstate, hills in mountains in barren grasslands. Rodeo in Cody, windstorms in Cheyenne. Small clusters of tombstones, defensive twos and threes, English and Irish names in Montana dirt. Beware of snakes. They buried them where they fell, the guide explained. They found a group here, a lone straggler there. Most unrecognizable, after that much anger and that much sun. They dug a hole, they dropped them in. They buried them where they fell. Driscoll, Benson, McClarke. Bellevue, Washington. Speedboat races on the lake, Olympia beer and dirt bikes racing around the foundations of new apartment developments. Flashlight wars, BB guns. Kiss Live and Evel Knievel in the Kingdome. Mount St. Helen's. Used to catch garter snakes in the grass and they'd piss in our hands out of fear. Used to jump off walls for the hell of it. Jump out of cars for the hell of it. Drop bikes off of church roofs for the hell of it. St. Charles, Illinois and long walks along the railroad tracks. Acres of corn. Kane County Fair. Old army jacket and jeans, hiking boots from Sears. Scraping ice off the kitchen window. Bullwinkle. Oatmeal. Hot, then cold, then gone. Westwood, New Jersey, 1983. Midnight movies, cars and diners, sexy mysterious Jewish girls in tight denim skirts, kids getting stoned in the playgrounds. Waking up in Bill's house, shaking. Glen Rock, New Jersey, but I was already gone. Washington Heights. San Anselmo, California. Hoboken, Brooklyn for a little while, back to the Lower East Side, three blocks from the start. East Village, fires in the lots. East Village, strange girls from Texas. East Village, apocalyptic rooftops. East Village, Allen Ginsberg ogling Jeff Buckley through that one wayward eye. East Village, cold broken glass and exploding televisions, Pete Missing and a handful of mushrooms, New Year's Eve. East Village, sweeping out the synagogue. East Village, complicated conversations on fire escapes, then gone. Gone to Dublin. Still gone. Gone still.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Powder Blue Buick

They used to travel all around Central Kentucky, by the time I left. Used to pack up that one powder-blue Buick they had, head out along the highways from Lexington to the latest funeral, white haired Pastor on the hillside and the sliced ham on the table. They spent the last twenty years burying almost everyone they knew. Family, then friends, then the sons and daughter of friends. They outlasted everyone for a while, for a while it looked like they would.