What I share won't come from after dark but rather the quiet before the light, warm morning kisses, and the cold grip of the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yield of Dreams

Granted, it has been more than a few years since I studied a driving manual.  When we moved to Oregon in 1995 we had to take the written test to get our Oregon licenses.  (Not so when moving back to NM.  What do they care?  We were shocked…maybe too strong…perplexed…flabbergasted, is closer, too it) when our Kid recently becoming seventeen, was not required to go in for either the written or the driving test before she was issued her full-on drivers license.  At fifteen she did the drivers-ed course and got her “provisional.”  But, really…just off you go!)  Perhaps, I should ask her, or look through her manual from her driving class if she has kept it.  (And, she keeps every book.)  My query is: when did yield, as an obligation (a law?  Can you get a ticket for not yielding?), go out the window?  Is it not in the books?

Maybe it began as a reverse courtesy from professional truck drivers.  Their big rigs are going along in the slow lane and see a car approaching the highway on the entrance ramp about to enter their lane.  If the passing lane is clear they will move to their left allowing a car to smoothly transition onto the highway.  In effect, the truck now has yielded to the car.  That was nice of the truck driver.  But, what began as an accommodation has now become an obligation.  Drivers entering from an on ramp expect - demand - that those on the highway move over to allow a smooth segue, saving them the inconvenience of having to tap their breaks, slow down, or even, gawd forbid, stop all together.

This can get tricky when you are in the slow lane and there are cars on your left or that are over taking you in the passing lane, making it difficult, if not impossible, for you to move over.  The car zooming up the entrance ramp may not be able to see, indeed, if they are even looking, cars in the fast lane preventing you from yielding to The One-Who-Should-Be-Yielding.  When that happens…you, with the rightful right of way, have to break.  Or, it becomes a game of “chicken.”  We know that is not good.  (See Rebel Without a Cause.)

Another thing drives me nuts.  In this scenario, I have yielded to the entering and, sometimes, oblivious vehicle.  Now, I, the conservative driver, am in the passing lane trying to get up to a speed I didn’t want to be doing, while “Speedy”, the alpha-dawg, has come onto the highway and into my vacated spot in the slow lane.  Slow is not in Speedy’s vocabulary.  If, there is another car in the slow lane, the one I was behind before I moved over and is in front of Speedy, our lead-foot is now trapped behind it and hemmed in by me.  I can’t get into the right lane again because Speedy is racing beside me, shooting me dirty looks, and there is now someone on my ass in the passing lane.  Speedy is not grateful that I ceded my lane position (like I had a choice?), rather, he is pissed off that he is relegated to the slow lane.  What does he expect me to do?  Disappear?!  He is mad at me; I am mad at him.  Not good.

Sometimes, what we perceive as doing the “nice” thing can be a problem.  Rather, we should do the right thing.  But, don’t expect it in return.

Anon, James

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things That Go Bark In the Night (Or “I’ll Take Manhattan”)

When you lay your head down to sleep, a peaceful night is wished for.  My apartments, in various neighborhoods and boroughs of New York, were surprisingly quiet.  Granted, I was a sounder sleeper then.  But, other than the moil of a garbage truck once a week, a siren now and then, or the temporary occurrence of a jackhammer, the city was hushed.  It did sleep.  (Ah, wait; there was the nightmarish period when the car alarm was first developed.  Calibrated to go off from the vibration of a fart, they would continue to blare until the owner was alerted.  The schmo, apparently sleeping blocks away out of ear shot, rarely showed up to turn it off.  Only very, very gradually, some two hours later, with the battery running out of juice, would alarm grind down into a weak, pulsing keen.)

Dogs are the alarms of country dwellers.  Rest assured that if an escapee from the nearby penitentiary started down our long gravel driveway (or, less sensationally, the UPS guy), our dog would give him what for (he barks like a hellhound) allowing me sufficient warning to leap from bed, grab my Blackthorn (Irish walking stick) and do battle in the buff.  If a pummeling weren’t enough of a deterrent, the sight of my flapping nakedness would make the rounder exeunt.  (The convict, not the UPS guy.)  There would be little point to sic the dog on him, as he would run up to the fellow, growl, sniff his crotch, and lick his hand.  Coyotes howling near the house will set our dog baying, as will sirens.  (We live within sight of the rural fire station.)  Outside of these scenarios our dog naps.

My Darling, who cannot tolerate excess noise while sleeping, has trained our dog, as best she can, to come into the house at night to a cushy doggy bed and to keep his trap shut.  Why can’t our neighbors keep their dogs inside at bed time instead of allowing them to roam, bark, howl, yap, and woof until dawn when, assuming their watch-dogging is finished, they go to sleep?  There is one - anonymous - quadruped, with a sharp, rhythmic bark.  After we’ve hit the hay, arf he goes.

Arf, arf, (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause)…[keep in mind: sharp, cracking barks]...arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf.

Is it finished?  Has it finally shut up?

Arf, arf (pause) arf, arf, arf (pause) arf, arf,…ad infinightem!  (How come these dogs don’t get hoarse?) 

We can’t go to the neighbors to complain, as we can’t be sure which dog(s) are barking.  We have our suspicions.  But, the blameworthy are fine neighbors who husband their property, keep to themselves, and most of all, are good about taking in for our dog when we are away during the day and a thunderstorm hits, for example, which spooks him.  If we carped about their nocturnal bĂȘte noir(s) they likely would forego their hospitality.

We are not going to leave this home and community for the peace and quiet of New York City.  Nor will we complain to our neighbors about the all night barking.  I don’t sleep well for a number of reasons and if it isn’t the dogs that wake me up, something else will.  Our teen progeny sleeps.  Period.  But, my Darling is the victim here, and I do feel badly when she is tossing about the bed in frustration, closing the windows even on a hot night, and covering her ears with her pillow.

There is one bright spot in the issue: she is the one who really wanted to live out here.

“Tell me what street compares to Mott Street…”  Or should I say Mutt Street?

Anon, James

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Autumn's Tale

“I’ve drunk deep and seen the spider at the bottom of the cup.”  A chilling pronouncement made by King Leontes in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, after, like Othello, he erroneously accuses his wife and Queen, Hermione, of infidelity.  This play is listed as one of his comedies.  (The tragedies and histories have light comic moments, so turn around here.)

I wake.  It’s 4:15 – 4:30 AM, and I am parched.  In the dark, I reach for the glass of water I put by the bed every night and take a sip, two.  I get up, quietly (my family refers to me as the “panther” I am so quiet.)  I leave my sleeping Darling to go into the office across the hall to write.  I crank up the computer and while it churns to life I bring the glass to my lips I have brought from the bedroom.  Floating, face down is a fury moth about the size of a nickel.  I have drunk deep of moth water.

I am not really a squeamish person.  I grew up on a farm, with livestock, attended a little one-room school with out-houses.  Little huts out back with a bench that has an oval cut out and everything plops down into a pit.  If you peer through the oval, and how can you not, you see all the floaty things you might expect.  I lived in NYC for 20 years starting in 1970.  Times Square was disgusting, then, subways were also kind of out-houses, and were the roaches, the rats.  I drove a taxi, worked in restaurants.  I dated a nurse; she told me things.  One summer, at that one-room school, my friend and I pried the heavy cement lid off the well with the hand pump where we got our drinking water.  At the bottom of the well is a soup of bloated carcasses of rabbits, beetles, mice, and snakes.  I have drunk deep and seen the snake at the bottom of the well, Leontes, you big baby.

There is the moth to consider.  And, just as I am writing, the table wiggles in vibration of hitting the keys and the water in the glass sloshes and he/she has started to flutter in the drink.  It’s doing the butterfly.  Mostly, it is quietly floating, acquiesced to fate.  Exhausted?  It may have been in there all night, attracted to my lamp as I read.  When I turned out the light, perhaps it became disoriented and fell in.  I could extract it…and then what?  Resuscitate?  Put it outside?  Squish it in a tissue?  We live in the country and regularly dispatch pesty things, like flies, certain spiders, millepedes, and moths that may eat our wool clothing.  But, it seems crueler to leave it in the glass to perish.  Shades of Abu Ghraib, Gauntanamo. 

When I make my tea I’ll toss it out the door, water and all.  My Darling will say, “Oh, for gawd’s sake, why didn’t you just kill the damn thing.  It’ a moth.”

I feel benevolent.  It has suffered enough in my Kingdom.  As Portia speaks in
The Merchant of Venice:

It started flailing again.  Maybe, in your soggy state, blessed moth, you will become a bird’s breakfast, fattening it up before migrating.

Anon, jas.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Libby Got Married

Libby B. got married on Saturday.  (There is a Victorian charm to her name and a kind of Lizzy Borden menace.)  She and her lover Laura, both in their late twenties, held their wedding in Manzanita, Oregon, a tiny, and, as yet, unpretentious village west of Portland.  (Libby, who has read my writing, hates the overuse of commas…sorry Sister.)  I admire this young woman in countless ways, from her comfort in cat-eye glasses, the curves of her body, and the Betty Boop bow of her lips, her challenging hair which she undauntedly styles into a colorful statement.  (She is a hair care professional.)

There is something spirited and sexy and unafraid about women who grow up Texas, big man/land/steak country.  Ann Richards, my Mother.  (Yes, my Mother was sexy…like Barbara Stanwyck.)  And, Libby.  She faces off life with a calm and stillness which allows her to take in more than most of us.  And, she practices the kind of loyalty which can help you know friendship.

Coincidentally, see the movie The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko.  (Sounds like she may be of Mexican/Russian ancestry?)  A well-tempered movie.  Extraordinary in that regard…not genius…but all elements are working with no let down or third act “what?”  How refreshing.  It features four (or more) amazing performances.  Watch Annette Bening sing a Joni Mitchell song.  (Watch Annette do anything, is my advice.)  She gives the kind of performance that can be uncomfortable to watch, it is so raw with truth.  A standing ovation for Ruffalo, Moore, and, in particular, Mia Wosikowska.  (Watch her in In Treatment.)  These are brave, subtle, reverberating, powerful performances…and likely to go unsung because of the courage it takes to deliver with such restraint.  And, this is a comedy, but take a handkerchief.  The director is a wonder.  (She is not from Texas.)

The parents are lesbian.  They are a normal, conflicted, loving, troubled couple.  Everyone has some trouble in the movie which is what is so interesting, edifying, and satisfying.  (Look up Catharsis in a Thesaurus.)  But, the trouble has nothing to do with anyone’s sexuality.  The trouble comes from being human.    This is a movie about a family.  What’s the fuss?  Let it be.

Libby got married on Saturday.  I don’t know what the same sex marriage laws are in Oregon, a soulful state with legalized euthanasia…but they are hitched, now.  Mozel Tav, girls.

Anon, jas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Blahg...?

Well, yes.  I have spent my time in efforts, alternatively, asserting, bruising, burying, stroking, my ego, trying to rid my id of its right to party. Phui. (It's the way Rex Stout, mystery writer and creator of Nero Wolf, spells it.)  It has been a struggle to reach out to the world, and some of this will be about that, I expect.  Some of this is that.  I have never written in a diary; talking to myself...it doesn't impel me.  Nor would it anyone else, I suspect. I like what Oscar Wilde's character, Cecily, I believe, says of her diary, admittedly, a complete work of fantasy: (I paraphrase here.)  "I always take my diary with me when I travel.  One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

I am not a sensational person.  But, some might say, I have experienced some sensational times.  When I was an actor I would translate characteristics I observed.  Now that I no longer act, the urge to express those observations, and the need to keep my imagination flexible, is paramount.  It is where my sanity lay.  (Is that correct usage?)

But, now, as I put above somewhere, the warm kisses are awakened, and I am wanted there...after all...this is not about me.

Anon, jas.