Saturday, November 24, 2007

Curved Space and Electromagnetism

I come in one driveway, the soon to be ex comes in the other. One of his headlights is out and I tell him so. He's into brightly colored geometric patterned polyester shirts these days, for 2 reasons. One, he's not living with me anymore and he can, and 2, he doesn't have to iron them. I believe somewhere in his consciousness, there's a whole London Mod thing going on. His stepfather was a hipster type. Engaland swings like a pendulum do. I've seen this side of him before, like a beat down herpes virus that can only muster the chutzpah to break out every ten years or so. It will visit more frequently now.

This kid, ours, whatever, he's around somewhere. I can't hear him but I know. I saw him slink in, dreading the whole family dinner thing. Oh, he'd hate it much more if it didn't happen. Certain things are just supposed to happen. The laundry gets done, the refrigerator is filled, the electricity flows through the wires, lighting bulbs, powering computers. And Thanksgiving dinner appears on Thanksgiving. Even if he doesn't feel like eating it, it must appear. It's the way the universe works. It's curved space and electromagnetism.

But I begin to question his presense. Maybe it was yesterday I saw him. Of course, he may have crawled under the carpet in his bedroom. He may have disappeared into a space behind the wall, like the little girl in that old episode of The Twilight Zone. One minute she's laying all comfy in her bed, the next she's been sucked through the bedroom wall and into another dimension.

So I figure I'll go get the mail and think it over. The geometric polyester shirt and its inhabitant have headed to the kitchen with a bottle of 11 dollar wine. He won't even miss me.

In the old days, I never forgot to bring in the mail. These days it happens all the time, primarily because there are bills to contemplate paying. Not that I actually have to pay them, though that's coming; it's contemplating paying them I can't cope with. The soon to be ex has been doing it for so many years I may have forgotten how. I think I can write a check, stick it in an envelope and put a stamp on it. I sort of believe that one day I'll be able to go out and earn the money to back up the check that goes in the envelope with the stamp stuck to it. Someday I might even be able to understand automatic withdrawals.

Anyway, the problem with being an efficient, competitive guy is that mere mortals routinely defer to your superior ability and before you know it, you wind up doing everything. No wonder the marriage blew apart.

Then again, it could have been some universal force. Something like curved space or electromagnetism.

But the point isn't the mail itself, it's what's in the mail, which is a report card. It's not so hot all around, but the stand out is the "C-minus" in European History. C-minus you see, is the new "D." I don't know what calling it a C-minus instead of a D is supposed to do exactly, except reinforce the idea that the kid's not below average. The Lake Woebegone Effect. I don't think it's at all like electromagnetism, but there it is.

"I thought you were doing better in this class!" Me, huffing and puffing. "A "C" is like a B-minus, but a C-minus is a "D." "You got a "D!" You've never gotten a "D" before.

"I did bring it up!" He protests. "He hasn't read the notebook yet!"

I have a feeling the notebook was probably actually due about 2 weeks before he handed it in. "Did he have time to read it?"

"How should I know?"

"You know," I say. "In the real world, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If Dad has work due, then he has to have it in on time or it can be fucking Einstein and it won't matter."

"I know! I'll bring it up."

He doesn't know. He just says that. Teenagers know everything.

"You got a "B" in Graphic design!" (N.B. remember, a B is now a C-plus.)

"I'm never going to do well in that class. I try my hardest."

"Fair enough. But European History... do you even breathe when you go into that classroom. Because if you breathed, you could do better that a "D."


"Whatever the fuck!"

The next morning, he's all nice. For a minute, he's lulled me into complacency. Maybe he feels bad because he's slacked off too much. Maybe his conscience is bothering him for fobbing me off a million times and not doing his work.

"Did you ever cash that 50 dollar check?" He's talking about the one from his birthday, a month ago. I haven't."


"Will you?"

I'm cleaning the pool. See, in a week I'm going to lose my right arm to surgery. It will be back after awhile, but I'll be off line for six to 10 weeks. I've got to do all the physical work now that I can. And the fucking Desert Broom has clogged the pool filter. Again. "Yes."

After I finish dismantling the pool, I head out to the Circle K. Okay, the machine charges a 2 dollar service fee, but it's convenient. That's why it's called a convenience store. When I get back, I give the kid, mine, whatever, his 50 bucks.

"How about allowance?"

Well, it's after Friday, so I guess he's owed that too. Even though I had to remind him to bring the recycling bins in, twice. I lay another 20 on him. "Don't spend it on drugs," I say.

"I won't." He's convincing too. But then it doesn't take much. Anything but that "fuck you" attitude makes me roll onto my back and pee myself with joy.

How I long for the days of Lego and Dinosans.

Monday, November 19, 2007


The Buddhists say you can't step into the same river twice. Some of them, those Zenny ones who think they're really clever, say you can't even step into the same river once, since by the time you get the other foot in, it's already a different river. Zen Buddhists? They're mostly mean. They get off on fucking with peoples' heads. You wanna meet a nice Buddhist, you gotta go to the Mahayanas.

In any case, the Zennies are confusing the water in the river with the river bed.

Metaphysically speaking, I only know what it is like to be a rock in the river. Water rushing by, changing and re-shaping me and everything around me without giving two shits as to whether we want to be rearranged or not.

Last night, a friend in LA sent me to his website, asked me to listen to a tune. It took me awhile. He's got a MAC, I've got a PC and everyone knows what kind of trouble that causes. But finally I found a format that would work and listened to the tune. I recognized it; it made me cry. But I had no idea what it was.

He said it was a melody I'd written 25 years ago. Man, I hate time. It is the most goddamn powerful force every spawned by physics. The egghead crowd-- you know the ones- they get their pithy articles published in the New Yorker, are forever saying droll shit like, "time is what keeps everything from happening at once." Oh, how clever. Ooooh, let me wrap my mind around that one.

Later last night, I woke up and remembered the first verse to that 25 year old song. "Winds that say your name. Colors that don't ever change. I stare at the night. Wishing you could somehow make it right. But Venus it don't rise any more. And I sit back and wonder what I ever came here for. To the Milky Way."

Kind of cute. Kind of sweet, right?

And it reminds me of that old joke. Guy number one says to guy number 2, "Where'd you go to school at?" Guy number 2 says, "Wherever I went, they taught me never to end a sentence with a preposition." Guy number one says, "Okay, where'd you go to school at, asshole?"

I think about love sometimes. About youth and the things that go with it. I think about laying on a diving board at 2 AM, looking at the stars not wondering so much, why is there something rather than nothing, but, "why isn't there more?" Why was it, I wondered, that there had to be millions of light years between stars, blinding me with deep purples and blacks, when they could all be closer together, illuminating the night sky like a never ending fireworks show?"

The answer of course is, they can't. Not and keep the rest of the shit from flying off into nowhere or imploding like a suicidal poet.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween Night

So this kid, mine, whatever, he's sitting on the loveseat like an ugly girl waiting to be picked up for a date. Says he's going trick or treating, only he doesn't have a bag and as the silver pick up truck pulls up on the side street-- it never comes in the driveway-- he tells me it doesn't matter as he dashes out the door. Part of me supposes he's going to get a bag somewhere else, but given that he doesn't have a costume, the bigger part of me knows it's bullshit. That he's not going trick or treating at all. He's going somewhere with the guys in the silver pickup truck. The brand new one. The driver's parents bought it for his 16th birthday, on account of being blind, deaf, and dumb, to who their own kid actually is.

Which is the neighborhood dope dealer. I've been soft peddling it in my head, but there it is. This little wanker, he avoids my eyes when I look at him. This kid, mine, whatever, he sidled up to the passenger window of this truck yesterday, maybe the day before as well, like a snake crawling up the backyard wall. If I'm cool and flat enough, the wanker, the one with the silver pickup truck, will like me, thinks this kid. And that's all he really wants of course. Same thing every teenage kid wants, to be liked. To fly under the radar 24 7 and still be noticed for something ineffable yet at the same time solid.

This, of course, is impossible. But this kid, mine, whatever, he doesn't know that yet. And this night, Halloween, he gets into the truck with no hesitation. No sidling required at all.

Seven, 8, 9. Late by my estimation on a school night, but what do I know? Ten, 11, long past the time the sweet goblins and ghosts have been tucked into their beds. But this kid, mine, whatever, is nowhere to be seen. At least not if "nowhere" means our house. He's definately not to be seen anywhere around this particular nowhere. I ring the cellphone and after 4 or 5 rings, no one picks up. The next time I call it goes straight through to voice mail. Same the next time, and the next time. I leave a text message. Says, "Call me." Nothing. This kid, mine, whatever, he has checked out.

I worry. The last time this happened, he got his father evicted from his apartment. Long story, but believe me when I tell you, it has something to do with the wanker in the silver pickup truck. I don't know if he had the silver pickup truck back then. Probaby, his parents bought it for him as a reward for getting my husband thrown out of his apartment. "Aren't you clever, little no-eye-contact-wanker." "Here, have a pickup truck and while we're at it, let us light that bongload for you. The fact that you exist, sure enough, is proof positive of our parenting skills."

"Here, maybe you can run yourself over with this shiny new pickup truck. And while you're at it, go ahead and run over this kid, her's, whatever. The one that sidles up the side by the passenger window like a cobra stoned on Mexican dirtweed from Guadalajara."

Parenting has very low standards these days.

Me, I'm trying to keep cool. Reading a page turner by Greg Iles, a capable enough page turner writer I guess, but no sense of humor at all. How do such people survive day to day, that's what I'm wondering. Don't they know that what they're writing is trite? That all the death and rape and sadism has been done a million times before? So what if they come up with a new way to kill people. Death is boring. So fucking boring. Death is the most boring thing ever. There's so much of it around. Mud is more interesting. Dirt, dust, laundry is more interesting than death. I could feel more stimulation watching motes change trajectory when my eyes blink, than I do hearing about more death.

I ring the cell phone again. It's 11:35. This kid, mine, whatever, answers all chirpy-like. Hi Mom, what's going on, having a smashing game of pingpong and drinking Mountain Dew spiked with cough syrup, thank you very much.

Course by now, I've left several nasty messages along the lines of, "this turning off your cellphone doesn't work at all. If you don't call me back in 15 minutes, you're losing it." The 15 minutes has long since passed. He's already lost it.

"Do you know what time it is?" I say.

"It's Halloween!" he says.

"On a school night! You still have to get up in the morning at the regular time."

"Okay, I'll be right home."

Minutes later, a truck pulls up in the driveway. I want to pull down my boxers and moon all the little bastards, but of course that will only get them all worked up and they'll never go away. Eventually, after much gay banter, no doubt along the lines of, "you're so busted, dude," the truck drives away. This kid, mine whatever however, is nowhere to be seen.

Close to midnight and I want to go to bed. He's sitting in the gravel on the driveway, and when he hears the door open, gets up.

"You been smoking pot?" He's got no candy. Not a Snickers, not a Butterfinger. Not a candybar to be seen.


"What the fuck? You said you were going trick or treating. It's nearly fucking midnight!" He's slinked in, is pouring apple juice from the pitcher, cap pulled low over his brow. "Who were you with?"

"Perry." Perry the wanker. Perry the Pear. Perry the punk with the sway and the dough. The cut-off kid and I don't give a fuck. Not anymore than I give a fuck for scabies or a persistant case of ringworm.

This kid, mine, whatever, he says he's sorry. Comes over and hugs me. He never does that. I can count the number of times he's hugged me on one foot, even if I'd blown 4 of my toes off with a pistol, I could still do it.

I figure he must be on acid or something.

Greg Iles is waiting in the bedroom, with his flat dead prose and his hundred ways of killing somebody. He ain't much, but he's all I got.