The older women give him the evil eye.
He’s draped open mouthed over the most desirable machine in the gym.
It has been twenty minutes. Unmoving he stares into space.
Many now wish to use the machine, finish their work out, and go home.
Men, in various states of awareness, ignore all this.
His upper body moves enough to stare at the athletic behinds of much younger woman.
They dislike him, the older women dislike him even more.
The women and the few men who are not borderline comatose arrive at a consensus.
The man is a fool, beyond oblivious.
In Sunday’s newspaper there was a test or a quiz. It asked as if it were a bad thing) if you had become your father or someone else. There were several answers to choose from, but I do not remember what they were.
Never became my father, just look like him.
What I became was my uncles. All of them.
My mothers fire and drive, her odd sense of justice.
Her moral code that I live through the shuffled incarnations of
my five uncles. Dead now, everyone one.
The larger than life wildcard, stories full of adventure, who vanished to the west.
The smart and quiet, the resentful one. Self exiled, distant in his anger.
The world traveler! A most accomplished man, who brought home nothing.
Stories he would spin with an elegant ease. So alone in his life.
The youngest one, the damaged fold. Handsome he died so young.
The self proclaimed hero. A bullshitter, so full of himself. People included or
excluded from his ever evolving myth of self at whim.
I stumble through these five daily, like punch-cards shuffled machine quick.
Each with my mothers stubborn optimism, seen through my father’s gentle eyes.
“What do you do in art class detention? Do you have to wash out paint brushes, or sharpen pencils, or what?”
“No, we do those things anyway. It’s like a study hall, only really horrible.”
“So you just sit, or do you have to write the names of the Dutch masters five hundred times or what?”
“Worse, way worse. They make us draw the worst things. Cliche art, completely mind numbing bad. We have to do motel art for one thing. You know, sad clowns and big-eyed kids? They threatened one guy, said
he’d have to do a Velvet Elvis! He got pretty upset, so they let him off with some washed out impressionist seascapes. He was actually shaking!”
“Well what about you? What did you have to do, or don’t you want to talk about it?”
“It was funny. They were real serious and told me I had to draw Snoopy. I knew what they wanted, what they expected. Snoopy on top of his dog house, or Snoopy dancing, you know something like that. So what I did instead was the Snoopy balloon, the one that’s used in the Macy’s Parade every Thanksgiving. All those balloons are stored in New Jersey you know, and only brought into Manhattan for the parade. So what I did was a painting of all the balloon handler clowns trying to get Snoopy into the Holland Tunnel. All these clowns straining away, pushing and shoving on Snoopy’s butt. trying to get him into the tunnel. Every clown had my teacher’s face.”
“Uh-ho…. how did that go over?”
“Good I guess. They gave me a pass for next week to use the 3-D printer in the library. I wonder how big I can make it?”
Juan Carlos didn’t grow up around here. He’s from Guatemala so he knows a lot of stuff we don’t. Stuff like how to keep a nectarine peel in one piece, turn it inside out and make a little nativity creche to hang on the tree. With a Sharpie he made a simple version of the scene inside. That’s so cool!
I closed one eye peeked in to admire his work. There were little shepherds with their sheep, three wise-men with gifts, and a tiny manger. But my girlfriend was Mary and Juan Carlos was Joseph! That’s not cool at all!
You know those little features in big city newspapers called “Missed Connections”or some such? People are always describing themselves and the other party with whom they would like to connect with in terms of their expensive wardrobe or fashionable location. “You in vintage Gucci, I in limited spring collection Armani at the 92st Y members event……” Nobody is ever at Walmart, nobody is ever wearing old gym clothes with mustard stains and a broken zipper. So that is where this piece is coming from.
You – Three thousand dollar MacLaren stroller and sleeping child.
Me – Six hundred dollar car and someone else’s dog.
The light was changing, I rev’d the engine, you flipped me off,
I blew the horn, your child woke crying, the dog went nuts.
Next time, …… coffee?
The TV commercial confused me. There were young beautiful people in fluid choreographed motion. Their dancing was perfectly timed, and eyes always connected with the camera.
While in motion they unzipping pockets on themselves and each other. Cooley smiling goofy smiles, flirty smiles, knowing smiles so confident, and like magic personal electronic devises popped from pockets and spun once, then grew on screen. It is unclear to me what these delightful youngsters are selling until a girl with a million dollar smile holds up some twinkling plastic thing, and teasingly calls out “What’s in your technology pocket?” “Oreos” I shout back in a splutter of crumbs.
Coming up from behind it wasn’t until the car was close that I noticed
the figure walking ahead was wearing a saffron robe. A muted curry color
that stood out from the fall foliage more by shape than color. A few miles away is a Buddhist retreat center so he wasn’t entirely out of place on this back road in western Massachusetts. He wore a large backpack. On one side it had a vertical sleeve for his full sized umbrella. I very much wanted to imagine it was a sword.
“Have you ever seen a 50 caliber bullet?” he asked.
“I don’t think so” I replied.
“Here, hold it. Feel the energy inside” he said.
Heavy in my hand all I felt was death.
My job was doing a book cover, and the storyline was about duck street gangs.
The editor said it was an important and very significant part of the story that
the gang ducks “bumped beaks” when the greeted each other and
should be prominent in the illustration.
These were not to be messed with ducks, mean streets suzies and drakes every one.
Gang colors just looked cute, and bumping beaks just looked like kissing.
Fingerless gloves were out, piercings don’t look like much,
and tattooed feathers just did not make sense. Nothing was working.
But tattoos on duck feet look great. Blue and black strong dark geometric patterns. Very tribal, and very cool.
Maybe the author would do a re-write and make them head-hunter ducks someplace in a jungle. The back ground could be lush green , and in the foreground fierce warrior ducks, not to be messed with ducks, hardened survivor suzies and drakes every one.
We’d loose the bumping thing, and give them cool necklaces made of shrunken beaks.
There never seemed to be a real reason why I did’t go to Meyer’s very often. The place was friendly enough, the coffee okay, and the bagels were mostly decent though the selection was limited. It was off a road near the beach so traffic is a pain in the summer. The only other business out that way was the semi-functional hardware store that only sold items that other hardware stores discontinued years ago. Like skeleton keys and illegal drain openers. If I had a dog maybe we would go for early morning beach walks and stop for coffee regularly at Meyer’s, but I did’t have a dog.
What I did have was a need for some old style brass grommets. The kind that were used in sail making years ago and now have been replaced by better and cheaper teflon ones. I just needed to repair and old deck chair and wanted everything to match.
I only needed a few so it wasn’t worth the effort to poke around Amazon for a
them. After a completely uneventful (but successful) trip to the store, I stopped by
The place had a fresh look, not completely different, just not as shabby and run down.
Not the neglected look of scattered week old newspapers. The gum-ball machine for
“Jerry’s Kid’s” that had been empty since the 70’s was gone. Gone too were the two and three year out of date “Fireman’s Carnival” posters, and the framed signed photo of Yogi Berra with the cracked glass. The place smelled great, which was different too. It had the delicious aroma of a bakery. I couldn’t remember the place smelling like anything before, good or bad. So why not? Instead of just a coffee I’d see what they had, some bread maybe or even bagels. The bagel bins were new and so were the kinds of bagel combinations offered. One that struck me as odd was “Bacon Jalapeno Cheddar”. What was going on with old man Meyer? It never occurred to me to ask if Meyer was his first or last name, but he wouldn’t sell “Bacon” anything. The place might be 100% Kosher, but still. Had the old man died or retired? I didn’t see him or his grand kids who sometimes ran the register. Everybody working in the place looked Ecuadorian. I asked a woman behind the counter about Meyer, but she didn’t know who I meant. I asked her about the bacon bagels too, which I noticed they were out of, and she replied “Tomorrow, for you, I save”. So, I’ll go back tomorrow. Maybe I’ll end up getting a dog one of these days.