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There are some jobs you just donít want to face. I suppose they are different for different people, and they can be simple things. Some are almost universal, like scraping ice off your car window in the morning and many a small fortune has been made by recognizing these. I seem to have difficulty with international shipping. I donít know what the problem is. It is no harder to ship something to Bermuda than it is to ship it to Ohio, but when I am asked how much to ship one of my amplifiers to France or Taiwan I freeze.
This will be the second time I have bought this house. The first time I bought it, twenty some years ago, for about the same price, my thinking was that it could be easily sold if it came to that. Several years ago, I gave it to my ex-wife as part of a divorce settlement which even she called ďmore than generous.Ē I agreed, but didnít have the psychic energy for a fight. Now she is leaving for Australia within a couple months and it cannot easily be sold. Her company may be kicking in some money too, I dunno.
The coat was beautiful. David and I had wandered into a clearance sale at Eddie Bauer. We were walking dinner off in the mall because I wasnít dressed to walk outside. David, more rugged and out-doorsey, shrugged and insisted on walking in the mall. Thatís where we found the coat. Goose Down, originally $250, marked down to $150 and now 40 percent off. But it was a whitish color, and it had a goofy animal fur around the hood. Hey the dead rat thing zips off! Arenít you allergic to goose down? Lookit these pockets? Ok, I didnít get it.
I had lunch with Susan. I got there early and it was cold in the restaurant. I really didnít want coffee, but I ordered it anyway just to have something warm to wrap my hands around. I told her about the coat as we talked. She grinned and said, ďMichaelís going to go buy a coat.Ē ďI donít know,Ē I said. ďIt was nice. I was wearing it in the store and it felt like I had a heating pad on my back. Itís been so cold this winter and I gave away my goose down parka several winters ago.Ē
After lunch, I went to visit Harry who owns Audio Dementia. It was difficult being surrounded by all those lunatic fringe audio toys, but it was also nice to see Harry. I was thinking about driving to Ann Arbor to get the coat on my way home but as usual Harry and I got to talking and the day got late. Did I know there was a Magnum update for my Cronus? Well now I do. For $600 it turns it into a 90-watt amplifier. I dunno, is the KT90 really an audiophile tube? Depends on the circuit I guess.
So I am sitting at home sorting out my evening. Five degrees and going down. It is really cold. I get in my car and drive to Ann Arbor and walked into Eddie Bauer. ďWhereís my damn coat?Ē ďWe saved it for you.Ē I put it on and wore it home. My daughter called to say she wasnít taking the piano if I was buying the house from her mother, that it didnít make sense. I told her about my new coat. I got home and wanted to knock on doors at random just to show people my new coat.
Itís not a good thing
Iíve done what I could.
But thereís no way to keep the peace.
You keep pulling me from my sleep.
Something beyond my brain
Still watches you move
Listens for your breath
Waits for your smile.
Itís a place:
A place where you sit enthroned,
A place immune to any number of
Broken vows, hearts, or minds.
I knew you were gone
Long before you said goodbye.
But this was immaculate
Welded in hell; in paradise.
Touched by the cold hand of night
How can someone so gone
Keep tugging at my side?
I dreamt the jellyfish last night. Walking under water, slowly breathing water, taking long slow strides and bounces and clearing their tentacles like bead curtains, I wondered at the absence of stings. This morning, as I looked out the window I was surprised to see them hung in the trees, collapsed and dangling in the rain, crushed on the ground, jellyfish of all sizes. Several joggers had stopped to look at them, arms at their hips. As I turned, I saw one marooned wet on the carpet, tentacles drying and curling and flowing down the hall back toward my bedroom.
I was listening to Gato play this morning as I fixed my breakfast. This was Gato as a young man, a recordingóa device allowing us to ignore the passage of time in partial ways like pictures and books. Well, I have listened to Gato play many times and I have also listened to Gato play as an old man. There is a difference. I find I prefer listening to the young Gato, even though there are times when he goes deep into the land of fusion and I have to pause whatever I am doing to hold my breath.
I had a little over seven dollars left on the Borderís gift certificate you gave me for Christmas, and I spent it today buying a new red coffee mug. It was one of those thermal travel mugs sans handle that I favor. I had lost my other one, no doubt leaving it somewhere. Bringing it home, I washed it in hot soapy water as instructed. I made up a fresh pot of coffee. I had already had enough coffee today, but it was cold. I was cold, and I wanted to try out my new mug. It works just fine.
Lita was reading early that morning when the buzzer went off to her apartment. She put down her book to let in whoever it was, wondering if it was a neighbor who had locked him or herself out. She opened her door a crack, listening as the footsteps came up the stairs, paused on the landing and kept coming. It was a FedEx delivery man with flowers. She argued with him for a moment. They couldnít be for her. But he had her name, and she took them inside, setting the box on the table. Then she opened the card.
Reading the card, the box of roses fell into place for Lita. Of course. He had sent them. Rather than come, or call, or disrupt his life in any significant way he had decided to show his affection by dumping a box of roses on her. This was a token of his love. She looked at this token. It was a longish cardboard thing. She touched it. It was cold from having been outside. She considered how it would look, open and arranged in a vase in her apartment, a lonely gaggle of showy heads slowly wilting in the quiet.
Lita sat back down with her book, smoothing her robe beneath her. She didnít look at the book. She looked over the book back at the box of flowers. They were supposed to make her feel loved and special; she understood that, but something was wrong. They made her feel empty and cheated somehow. The box was a cruel trick sent by some other person, someone who hated her, probably his wife gloating that she had him and Lita did not. He would never do something like this to her. He would never leave her alone with a cardboard box.
Itís a lovely day if you like cold. The sun gave up two hours ago, and now the sky is a dull color. You can hear the drone of the snow bees as they pass the building, ten floors up. With their characteristic black and yellow stripes, they seem out of place since they are the size of beagles, but you leave them alone and they leave you alone. Thatís the story. You hear other stories though. They say it is impossible for them to fly, against all laws of physics, but they said that about the smaller ones too.
I went to talk to the apartment manager today. ďWhat can I do for you?Ē she asked with a smile. ďIím glad you put it that way,Ē I replied. I told her I was buying a house and would be leaving before my lease was up. I wanted to know if there was an option for buying out the lease at a reduced rate. The answer was no, which was what I had expected. I had already figured that into my calculations for the cost of the house. She said they just wanted a 30-day notice and all the rent.
I already own the house Iím buying. I do and I donít. When I got divorced several years ago, I gave it to my ex, along with contents. New life; new house was the thought then. It didnít keep me from missing the place that had been my home for twenty years, the place I had practically rebuilt myself, and the place where my children grew up. But my ex has taken a job in Australia and needs to dump the house quickly. Would I be interested? Would I? A punch line from an old joke leaped into my mind.
The house Iím buying comes with my youngest son, Michael Junior. Like many 20-year-olds these days, Michael is having trouble finding his economic adult self. He was a little startled when he realized his mother was moving to Australia and selling the house. He had lost his job just a week earlier. He seemed to be re-assured to learn I would be the new buyer. I think Michael needs his father right now. Iím not thinking too much about the part where his father needs him right now. Thatís a story I donít think I could fit into 100 words.
The spoon withers every time I try to eat corn flakes. I donít understand. I like to eat corn flakes, but I cannot because the spoon melts when I try to scoop a bite out. My spoons work fine with anything else. I can eat oatmeal, eggs, or even soup, but every time I try to eat cornflakes, the spoon just globs up and becomes non spoon. I have tried different spoons with the same result. I even had my neighbor watch, because I thought I was going nuts. She saw the same thing though. She thought it was funny.
I have been going through things in preparation for moving to the house. I know people usually move everything and then when they get to the new place they either throw away things or never unpack half of it. I wanted to be efficient, but I am beginning to see the sense in the ďnormalĒ way of doing things. Although I have lived in this house before, I donít know exactly how my stuff will fit in. I donít know what I will need. I might give away a humidifier only to find I need it for a spare bedroom.
Itís been years since I did any serious meditation. Iíve started again, and I donít know why I ever quit. It is so relaxing, I am surprised that it has not been outlawed. I remember doing it before, and having some unique experiences, but I donít remember it being such a simple pleasure. Any minute I expect the authorities to break down the door. ďWe have a warrant for your arrest. Youíve been meditating.Ē ďNo, I was just napping.Ē They are rolling in a portable ECG. ďLetís get a brain wave on him for evidence before he starts jumping around.Ē
We had been coasting through mostly empty space for three weeks when the sounds started. At first Lisa was the only one to hear them and she asked me to please stop playing the space music. But I wasnít playing any music. Within a day Jared was hearing them and by the end of three days, we were all being treated to the galactic symphony. Comparing notes, we found we were all hearing pretty much the same thing, but recordings and sound meters showed there was nothing to be heard. If we were going crazy, we were all going together.
It would have been yesterday, except it was today. And today makes yesterday obsolete. Yesterday is gone, sitting on the back stoop, cracking black walnuts with an iron frog on a cool autumn day. That is yesterday, picking apart those stubborn ragged nuts and eating them until he is sick to his stomach, because they are so rich. Yesterday would then stagger behind a small white block house that doesnít exist today, bare feet cutting grass that is too green for today, his hair parted by a cool wind that is too spicy, too curious, and too familiar for today.
Iím thinking of the shadows crossing the snow in the evening, long shadows, thin and thick, smooth-faced, antlered, following the curves in the snow. They are out taking their evening walk in long silent strides, an entire community on the move with purpose. Yet they carry no signs or torches. They shout no slogans. They are not even noticed as they cross the yards, ponds, and highways. Anchored and restless, they march with a mutual fixed eye, the sun warming their back. We are just too used to them to wonder at their meaning as they walk into the dark.
It is a cool day along the lakeshore. The wind is brisk, blowing away the smell of rot from the beach. There in the muddy sand lay the tangle of things scraped up in last nightís storm, the worn pieces of wood, rope, glass and plastic, all of it torn and polished by the master craftsman before he casually dumped it up here on this rocky strip. Today it will bake in the sun, and by the end of the week most of the wood will have been dragged off for bonfires, but he will have rearranged it by then.
My son calls last night, the youngest one. I canít get to the phone in time to catch the call. It is busy when I try to call back, but he has left me a message. On the message, he tells me he just finished his second day at his new job, his second twelve-hour shift. I can hear the joy in his voice. I can hear him talking on the phone in a car somewhere in the dark of the city, still grimed from his work day, and energized at the same time. Heís proud of his twelve-hour-a-day job.
An email pops in from daughter Amanda at State. The email is unusual. She is a text message kind of girl. In the mail, she explains her cell phone has died and asks if I still have my old one. No, I reply, I have already given it to her brother, and he has already killed it. But I do have her income tax refund and she can get a new phone with that, or I can pick one up on my way to visit tomorrow morning. I already know what the response will be. How much did I get?
The CNET community forum this month wants to discuss the weighty question, ďIs it safe to mount a flat screen over my fireplace?Ē I get this x-rated visual that I quickly banish in favor of the more pertinent one of the TV picture gradually warping and slowly dripping pictal by pictal out the corner and down into the fire leaving an empty plastic rectangle mounted over the mantel piece. What is left, a large flat, leaky aquarium? An ant farm? It is perplexing that in these economically challenging times that there are people who still have such problems to consider.
I am sitting here in my wooly socks and Micky Mouse sweatshirt, listening to Gato Barbieri and watching the sun bounce painfully off the pond below. Iíve got three hours left before work, and about thirty hours worth of stuff to cram into it. Obviously some plants are not going to get watered, some phone calls are not going to get made, and some mail is not going to get opened. These things are not important. I am planted temporarily in this life, as rooted as any of the locust trees standing naked out in the cold, breathing, beating, self-aware.
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