My grandmother had a patch of watermelon, the most beautiful watermelon patch. Called it her pepo patch. Pepo is just a fancy word for watermelon. The patch was to the back of the property, where the soil was most fertile, but that was also by the alley, which wasn’t paved but of loose pebble, tar. During watermelon season, when the sun’s hottest, this particular alley would soften to cookie dough. Since back where I come from alleys are a legitimate thoroughfare, this one, at least, was busy. Quite. Wheels of various vehicles would kickup a dusty-pitch and cover the watermelon. But no matter. My grandma kept them clean, waxing each one with a special mixture I remember having the scent of tonic water.
One morning early, when on a visit over the 4th, I was pulled out of bed to help tap the watermelons, which I had never done before. “No,” my grandmother said, “not like that. You don’t beat on them. Be gentle. Like this,” and using her thumb she administered a series of thumps. (My father is a doctor. I’ve seen him do the same thing the same way but on a stomach to determine swelling among organs.) “You see? Thoughtfully, scientifically. And you listen,” she said, “use your ears.” When I asked what exactly I was to listen for she responded after a while I would just know. “And your eyes,” she pointed. “If butts of the watermelon are yellow it’s no good.”
But she suspected it was the no good Carter boys who were stealing her watermelons. “They’re so clever, and right beneath my nose, too.” She didn’t like it one bit. She came up with a plan to deter Calvin and Franklin. “I’m going to scare the wits out of them,” she said to me, her eyes wide open, and together we took a drive uptown, first to the Ben Franklin for posterboard and paints, and then Ed’s Hardware. “Edward,” my grandma said, “a post. My grandson and I are going to need something strong to hold our very important sign.” I watched Edward take a long length of post to the back of his hardware store, where he sharpened one end, like a pencil, with a bandsaw.
Back at the pepo patch, with a sledgehammer my grandmother pounded the sign deep into the source of the earth, a good five feet, maybe more. “There,” my grandmother said. “That oughta stop the little devils!”
It wasn’t right away, but soon later, maybe the following weekend, maybe the weekend after, someone had snuck into the pepo patch and posted a sign of their own. At one end of the patch was the sign I helped my grandmother build: ONE OF THESE WATERMELON INTRODUCED WITH DEADLY POISON. And at the other end in response: NOW THERE ARE TWO.-9 March 13
Louise Perez, or Misses Louise, was my fourth-grade teacher at P. Clark Elementary, the oldest institution in Dutton. P. Clark was two-story, brick on the outside, deep hardwood throughout, which the city would never erect today, not for a town with as much land as Dutton. Why build up when one can build out. There was much talk about demolishing the school, because of its age, its materials. Some community members called it ugly, said it leaned, was a fire hazard, but I never did agree. I thought it was magnificent. Calvin the janitor with the smile was everywhere but no where at all. More on Calvin later. For now, one last bit on the school before I move to Miss Louise, and that is the Gymnasium, which outside the Cafeteria was the largest room at P. Clark, and doubled as the Theater. The Equipment Room in the Gymnasium didn’t just house basketballs and hula-hoops, jump rope and wrestling mats, but costumes and backdrops, battens of lighting and folding chairs, Romanesque designed columns of paper mache, milk crates painted blue, red, white, black, and Polka dot. But beyond the general dimensions of the Equipment Room was a small door to the back no one knew a thing about but me, and behind that door was a secret hiding world into which I stole away as often as I could.-7 March 2013
The arriving guests I surveyed from the balcony at the Community Centre. The Kjorstad’s I could hear but not physically locate. Georgia’s voice, or Georgie by her friends, is really her laugh. It’s deep and goes off like a machine gun. John, however, smiled not laughed. His voice you might say was a real voice- loud when it must be heard, monotone so as not to spark jealousy. Feeling quite spruce in the tux I had on loan, which fit nicely by the way, woven with a touch of spandex for maximum comfort, I rubbed the cuff links, I straightened the cummerbund, and automatically I fished out from the breast pocket a stick of chewing gum, left behind by the person who wore it last. The tux belonged to Kenny Satrom. I assumed it was his. As the flavor of the gum worked on my salivary glands I rolled the foil and the paper wrapper of the stick of gum into two little balls, set them on the railing of the balcony, and gave each one a good twink. Bombs away, I had thought. Bombs away.-5 March 2013
Olvera street is a sliver of a street located downtown LA. Though you wouldn’t know it, as soon as you step outside Union Station you’re basically looking at it. Hidden between restaurants, stores, a church, it’s there, just on the other side of Alameda. Paseo Del La Plaza and a large tree marks one end. At the other, a plaque commemorating a sandstone trough once used to feed crushed acorns to all the hungry working quadrupeds.
What with Chinese New Year now over, and Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day tomorrow- Monday, February 17th- everybody’s spent, vacationing away for the long weekend, whatever, it’s been quiet in LA. Yesterday, as I lay on my bed, the window open, the curtains pulled back, the sun on my face, a breeze as soft as an island breeze came over me. The neighborhood dogs were mute, the crows had nothing to caw about, no youngsters revved their car engines, so in a way it was perfect, yet it was conflicting, divine and lonely at the same time, like I was the last man standing, and for a second I thought that perhaps the breeze coming over me wasn’t truly as soft as I had thought it to be. As I lay there with closed eyes I envisioned myself the commander of a submarine deep at sea while the rest of the world choked in the cloud of invisible radiation spread out by some unfortunate event. Being the commander, I could maneuver my way up from the fathoms as I pleased, pulling into one bay or another to spy the scape with the periscope for life.
Confetti in the form of pastel-colored punches from good times over the long weekend held downtown filled in the cracks of the walks around Olvera. A shiny black party bus parked momentarily and spilled out drunk ladies and loud music. There was also laughter. Referring to the open public washroom directly below the Paseo De La Plaza, one of the ladies spoke: “That’s too far and I gotta pee real bad.” She squatted in the dark between closed tourist booths; her compatriots lit cigarettes and stood guard. A mother watched with folded arms as her two children palmed and played on a statue of a man named de Neve, Filipe de Neve, whose involvement with southern California is connected to both Los Angeles namesake and establishment. What drew de Neve to the area- his men, his supers- mid 18th century was simple: water. -17 February 2013
Yesterday I spent the day walking east on Sunset Blvd from Hollywood, and once I reached Union Station, and took the subway back to my apartment for a rest, I went out later in the evening and walked some more. It was, after all, New Year’s eve, and where I reside Hollywood Blvd cross streets such as Highland, Vine, Gower are usually alive and booming with all kinds of commotion. I was curious how much more commotion there’d be in the final hours of 2012. Plus, after my rest I still had the legs for more exercise. I never tire of walking, at least not in LA.
It’s 8 miles from Hollywood to Union Station, and if you start out in the morning, say around 10, and stop a couple times for a washroom break, a cup of coffee, a browse through WACKO, you should reach Union in the early afternoon. A broad stroke in terms of neighborhoods is as follows: Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park, Chinatown. Along the way you’ll cross the 101 and the 110. You’ll brush shoulders with Silverlake Reservoir, Echo Lake, which has been drained and under construction for over a year, and Dodger Stadium.
In Hollywood, on Hollywood Blvd from La Brea to Gower, and on Vine from Yucca to Sunset, sidewalks are lined with stars and the names of the famous icons of cinema, TV, radio. Some are living, Tom Cruise, some dead, Marilyn Monroe, some are funny cartoons, Mickey Mouse, but not every star holds a name. Here and there, the unoccupied, and vacancy is a heavier thing. That is true. For example, rural North Dakota. The red and yellow picturesque farmstead barns from last century lean to the ground, not being brought down because of termites, harsh winds, freezing cold, but vacancy infrastructure is attacked when not in use. No children swing on the beams in the hayloft, and there is no hay, no tools clang to the wall, no livestock low, and no hand touch the wood. Not always is vacancy lonely. The design of the empty stars is to keep the rest of us dreaming that one day it will be ours.
There’s a burger stand on Hollywood Blvd- there are many, but this one in particular got me thinking about something not in any way associated with hamburgers, fries, shakes, or New Year’s for that matter, and that is cassette tape. The portrait of folks gathered outside this burger stand, the way a young lady buried her hand in her fellows back jean pocket, a dangling cigarette, the shine of a combed black coif, and I swear a whiff of Brut cologne, brought me back to my youth, to Rumble Fish, a life I wished I could have had, and Stephanie Jacobson, an older classmate of mine who wrote her name in permanent marker on the inside of my jacket cuff at Viking Elementary. But cassette tape, back then the medium on which music was presented, would on occasion be caught on the evergreens, the trunks of berm trees, Tootsie Roll colored streamers in the wind and sun, and sometimes, though this was quite rare, in the construction of the sparrows nest. – 2 January 2013
“Look who,” the woman says, the owner and matron of the house, Mrs. Haskill, Jane, to the figure at the door. Hazy but cloudless, particles from the tilling of the wheat fields just beyond here rest in the atmosphere, and there is no wind. Fire alert today is in the red. Smokers beware! Lovers, both sunset and rising moon ought to be quite spectacular this evening.
You already know how hot blacktop can get when the temperature is above 90- a bona fide hot plate. Today you could fry a couple of strips of bacon and eggs if you wanted, but farther up the street, on Cherry Ave, the least busy of all the nearby perpendiculars. But to walk barefoot down the driveway to retrieve the weekend mail would be ludicrous. You’d surely find yourself making a beeline for a surface of security, the lawn, for there’s nothing more discomforting than blazing blistered soles, not even a sore back. Solar rays radiate off buildings and windows. There’s no escaping that lucky old sun. Best just to stay indoors. Yet while adults remain comfortable in their basements, under their swamp coolers, linen robes, cocktails, kids of the neighborhoods test themselves and each other by rolling on the sidewalks to see how long they can take the scorch. Some will fag out from the play, some will run jump in their pool, but only one of each coterie will take the cake. Earlier, yesterday, a female high school student went sunbathing on the roof of her car, a light blue hand-me-down Olds, and got the third degree because it was vegetable oil she used, not suntan lotion, to attract the sun beams. Segments of her back skin stuck to the metal. Kids have always been this careless. Playful screams and splashings, a reminder of youth, from little voices of indiscernible sex, create a pinball effect of sound, first here, then there, their vocalizations bouncing through the hedges, between houses, down 17th Ave So. canopied so lovely in Elm trees, the top of every other one decked in cadmium leaves, not green, a sign that yes, even Clastorville, an ideal, is still susceptible to the plight of Dutch Elm. It is 3 o’clock on a Sunday, and by now the body should feel lonesome.
Intrinsically, never expecting a response, Mrs. Haskill will always call attention to the weather, no matter whom with, no matter what system, a stranger, a friend, a lover, hail, blue skies, snow. To the figure she says, “Hot enough,” unlatches the screen door, and watches the figure slip by and sit down at the kitchen table, neither taking his shoes off, nor wiping them on the piece of jute mat just inside the door. Mrs. Haskill smiles in her heart. Like old times, she thinks. But hasn’t he got the right? After all, this used to be his territory, my daughter used to be his girl. What, two-three thousand times, I’ll bet, when waiting for her, I’ve granted him entrance, and he’s never had the wherewithal to take off his shoes or dust them. Totally predictable. He’s older now, a grown person, 35. Too late now. And besides, it isn’t an inconvenience for me. There’s no dirt on a day like this. His shoes, they’re clean enough. And good lord, we know each other too well. Like soldiers we are. The war dead and gone, nary a word we speak, yet each of us knows what the other one is thinking. I’m supposed to demand my battle friend remove his shoes before entering my domain? Well I won’t. His calling today is not queer, and why should it be, because of time? Time’s irrelevant. He hasn’t left my heart and I’ll bet I’ve not left his. Anyway, I’ve been expecting this. He hurts. His heart, it aches. His back, it is hunched. Can’t you tell, world, a broken man when you see one? Christ in a rubber suit, the poor boy, he is still ruined by my daughter, and now he comes for answers.
Not much has changed in the kitchen. Same linoleum, same wooden-legged table, same custom cabinets, same landline, same kitchen smell of anise and lavender and, oh yes, banana bread. The chair the figure is seated upon creaks with age when shifting for comfort. It is rather olden, belonging to Mrs. Haskill’s father, Duane, and before that, Mrs. Penelope Ann Monsebraaten, Duane’s mother, whose wealth procured the construct of such a set by a high-end furniture outfit in Chicago, and who while in her possession sat upon each chair an equal amount of times because she was so in love with it all. Mrs. Penelope Ann Monsebraaten, a curly-haired lady, tall, a large rear end, after her passing, Duane, whose wife died when her foot doctor’s assistant administered too much anesthesia, put the table and chairs, along with everything else in the estate of Mrs. Penelope Ann Monsebraaten, in the climate controlled storage facility downtown Clastorville. That was 1960 something.
The figure is tall but gaunt, handsome but unkempt, smart but quiet, nervous but a master concealer, and right now he possesses a mouth so dry and a heart suffering from what seems ages of triste and too fast and too hard a pounding. Mrs. Haskill knows. She sets an aspirin and a glass of ice water before him, and a small plate of assorted short bakes.
Mrs. Haskill opens the freezer of the fridge to return a filled ice-cube tray, she finishes washing a dish and pats her hands dry, and the silverware drawer is jutting out, so she pushes that back in with her hip. Still donning her red with white trim apron, she plainly says, “Now I’ll let her know you’re here,” and leaves the kitchen completely.
Clastorville is nicknamed the Magic City because in 1909 the railroad built it overnight. Inhabitants from that bygone time, if they’re still living, and you wanted the history firsthand, you’d want to check the old folks homes. There are two: Craft Manor and The Delores McKester House, a scary blonde brick structure down by the river. The downtown has survived dozens of floods, two of which were destructive, and one utterly destructive- three of the best buildings on Lansky Ave also caught on fire and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Downtown has survived the strifes and booms of the national and local economy. Like any city during the recession, Clastorville was just trying to get by, but unlike most cities it had its rails and crops to fall back on, because no matter how down and out a group of people get there is still money for trains and food. Sure, people in Clastorville scrimp and save during hard times, but that’s also just the way of the culture. The city is strong, business is good, people are healthy, and it’s been that way for a while because people plan for the worst. No one will ever out flash his neighbor. Like today, right now, the kids and the hot cement and the pools, well, every house has a pool, just as every sidewalk is hot, but all pools are the above ground kind.
Charlie, not Mrs. Haskill, enters the kitchen, just awake from a nap. The figure notices his straight white teeth, his mussy hair, the smell of clean sweat from an involved sleep, the cherry of deep sleep warmth and pillow marked skin only an afternoon slumber can bring. They sit in the quiet. This is the first Charlie has seen the figure in person. Though slowly coming to, naturally his guard down, he is unhappy about the figure’s stopping by but understands why. It was his wife’s first real relationship and the first ones are always a bitch. Even so, who the hell does the figure think he is popping over like this? And why did Jane even let him in? Charlie, talented and handsome as he is, is a dangerously jealous man, and it goes without saying that right now he is jealous, and if he could he’d like to strangle his wife and the figure for having what his mind’s little devil seeds have dubbed a memorable past. “See, the thing about my wife,” Charlie begins, chiseling away the figure’s irises, “is that she is my wife.”-19 September 2012
Outside Brad’s Paint store, my usually haunt when up against an enumeration of home chores or project and I have neither the tools nor the man power, I located four men triggering smiles at shapeshifting clouds in the mid-summer morning sky, a pretty female in a fluorescent orange slip at the bus stop, a fast, revving motorbike, then me, presumably for business, leaning on the 3-foot high whitewashed cinder block divide, parking lot and Brad’s Paint on the one side, sidewalk and bustling main thoroughfare of Cashio Avenue on the other. I asked if they had the desire to help with painting a two bedroom apartment for $300, plus burritos. They all four checked with each other and to themselves conferred silently, no words, only gestures, quite the opposite of convictions I had expected. Other crews I had hired in the past had only been all too eager to get underway, but this, it was clear this crew was in no rush whatever, not to work, not escape a fire should that happen, not save a man blind and deaf from accidentally walking out into oncoming traffic. Behind the wheel of my car, the soft rock station playing low, the engine jerking with the air-conditioning, the gas tank rapidly being depleted of its contents, the highest priced gasoline this country has seen in recent history, I watched them do their deliberation a full fifteen minutes before shifting into first and pulling up right beside them. I was sweaty, bothered, annoyed by the current selection on the radio, and beginning to feel insulted my deal wasn’t good enough. “10 AM, amigos,” I shot to the crew in my Pontiac LeMans, pointing at my wrist; “Time to get to work or what?” The man closet me removed his sunglasses, turned around to face Brad’s Paint, then walked over to my window and stood there, giving me 10-20 seconds of pure brass belt buckle viewing before kneeling, his upper torso, a sleeveless tee shirt, sprouting underarm hair, a gold chain with a cross, each sideburn a trail of perfect penciling dripping down each cheek, such smooth skin, spicy cologne, an Adam’s apple exemplary, brown eyes with yellow flaws. He said, “You’re a real jerk, you know that?”- 15 August 2012
Today is Thursday, or what I like to call tuna salad Thursday, lately my favorite day of the week. Here’s a simple recipe. Ingredients can be purchased at any grocer. No need to feel the pressure of buying organic or shop at the expensive store. For dirt and trendiness will all be washed away when you clean your vegetables and pat them dry.
This will make you 4 open-faced sandwiches and its juiciness will be sure to combat what’s left of the summer heat. 3 stalks, people, of celery, chopped however you please- fine, so fine it’s translucent; bold, each waning moon shape a mouthful, like building blocks at preschool. 2 solid rings of onion, purple or how about Maui. 1 can of tuna, makes no matter what kind- chunk, premium, packed in olive oil or spring water. Just be sure to drain. Here’s what does matter, though, and it’s easy to find- grindable peppercorn and sea salt, and for this I say go ahead, grind a few grinds of each to flavor the batch. 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, and last, a dose of mustard from France.
Once all this is mixed fairly, your Jewish rye toasted so the shredded cheese has melted, dress ‘em up, enjoy with potato chips and catsup, an iced elixir with a hint of vanilla.- 9 August 2012
My assignment was to introduce writer-comedian-actress Jen Kirkman to bluegrass great Tony Rice, because they were both good friends of mine, and from there Kirkman, who agreed on this one to take roll of interviewer, would write all about it for the feature in a very cool artist-on-artist magazine. But Rice was running late. Coming from a music festival down south somewhere, there was a delay. His manager phoned a very short yet contrite message, which I relayed to Kirkman in even shorter fashion. (No dilly-dallying with Kirkman.) “Delayed,” I said, which really turned up the gastric juice. “What do you mean delayed,” Kirkman demanded. The room inhaled. “You were on time,” she said, “and damn it so was I,” she added, “while he, he’s delayed.” The freckles on her face, neck, and decollate darkened, not like how a day in sun can bring out one’s freckles, not that kind of darkening, which is to say something expressing something else, but irritation, irritation to the point something becomes something else, and permanently, like how when exposed to heat a crispy can not do a thing about getting back into its original pure white morsel. Kirkman’s hair was curly, big curly, not perm curly, not tight and cute and damaged, but coarse and razor wire swirly. It bounced upon her forehead as a step-child might toy with a Slinky. She wore a sweatshirt with the neckband removed, cut out for fashion’s sake, which, even though she tugged, could not have been looser. I excused myself to remove catering items for the Kirkman-Rice meeting from brown paper grocery bags, to be displayed on two card tables adjoined, because honestly, Kirkman’s nerves were influencing mine. Where the hell is Rice. Bananas, hummus, pita chips, electrolyte water, a party tray of assorted smaller vegetables with shiny white dip, and granola. Rice is vegetarian. I also uncorked a bottle of Sparkling Cold Duck. Kirkman doesn’t drink. Then arrived Rice and the room seemed to regain its oxygen. Kirkman relaxed. I could tell. She deflated some. I witnessed them shake hands, then promptly I mentioned that should they need me I’d be in the next room.- 5 July 2012
I stopped today to pet two very lovable black labs panting in the shade of the brush on my way up the left side of Runyon Canyon. How well-behaved, and what handsome little beasts, I had thought. Their climb I must reward with a few pats. Made me wish I could take care of a dog. Sad, I do not have the space. Made me miss my childhood dog, Cody, a blue-tick heeler, even though Cody only lasted one winter in our household. He nipped our ankles non-stop. If not an ankle then the legs of my mother’s antique furniture. When asked what happened to Cody my mom would respond went to the Halberstadt’s farm where there’s plenty of room run around, you kids stop getting bit, and I don’t lose anymore of my French provincial.
But after I gave both labs at Runyon a dose of love, and commencing the trail’s first of two steep grades, I realized I did not even think to say hello to the owner of the two dogs or acknowledge him in anyway whatever. I couldn’t tell you if the owner was male or female- I just saw the dogs and went in for the pet. That’s all. Now I feel pretty embarrassed about it, and shameful, the level of disregard I apparently possess for my fellow man. I wonder, could it be every time I pet someone’s dog I ignore the owner? If so, that has to change. -26 June 2012
My freezer still contains a couple filets of walleye from the Bemidji Fish Locker. 30 pounds, which isn’t very much, purchased for me by my family when I was in Minnesota last summer. Walleye isn’t dense, not like halibut, but a medium filet is about the same size and as flat as a man’s hands with Marfan syndrome. They don’t weigh as much but they make up for it by taking up space. And yet it has still seemed there’s been no end to the walleye because I have a small freezer. This has made life boring. There’s been no variety: pepperoni Tombstone pizza, bagged vegetables, popsicles, pot stickers, chicken drummies. Finally, though, the voice in my head keeping me at my fish has been waning and now fainter than a jar fly. I no longer have to put a dent in the walleye before I can resume buying frozen foods anymore because the dent is a noticeable one. As I stated, only a few filets remain.
I was instructed to cook up a meal for my good California friends, who, my father had thought, had probably never even heard of walleye before so it will make it all the more special. “Take the filet and a little butter and fresh dill,” my mother had told me, “in a hot pan and cook each side 5 minutes. That’s really the best way, don’t you think so, Jim? And lemon.” “And Grain Belt,” my father had added. “Dad, I’m sure there’s no Grain Belt in LA,” I had told him, and had airports allowed cases of bottled beer past security that’s exactly what I would’ve had to tote back with me in addition to the fish, bottled beer. Two suitcases of ice and frozen fish, my backpack with the computer, my roller bag, and that was enough. “Then find a good Canadian if there’s no Grain Belt,” my father had said, handing me $20; “I like Molson.”
I had checked my luggage the way my father had packed them, crammed with Ziploc bags of ice and walleye, and by the time I had them spied at LAX they we leaking badly on the carousel. At first I was too embarrassed to claim them as my own. The luggage was no longer beige but spotted dark from compromised Ziplocs and floppy fish. Voices in my head had feuded what to do. “Nope. Leave ‘em. Fuck that!” “But what about the luggage tags? Luggage Services will find out who we are and we’ll all get in trouble for illegally transporting walleye. They’ll want to know why we didn’t use a proper vessel. They want to know what we were thinking.” “Relax, dude.” “Don’t tell me to relax- you relax. Don’t call me dude.” “Know how much Luggage Services will care? A big fat zero, that’s how much. They’ll toss the luggage in the trash once the luggage begins to stink like rotten fish and no one’s going to claim them. No, we’re going to walk away from this, tell the old man California loves the walleye, and the next time anyone gifts us fish we’ll make sure it’s packed in dry ice and shipped.” “But you’re not listening to me. The tags are still on the luggage. Address, telephone number, email- they’ve got it all.”
My father had told me to make a meal for my friends and that was a promise I did not honor. In his mind I’ll bet he envisioned a picnic party where I was holding court, all of us raising our bottled beer and forks of walleye, getting stuffed and happy under the warm California sun, but what he didn’t know was I had no friends, just acquaintances that would’ve laughed at the idea of coming to my rental unit for fish and beer, not because of anything that had to do with him but because the people I knew on a first name basis wouldn’t have taken the notion of me entertaining seriously. -12 June 2012
Cheese. Seriously. That’s why she took me out of the Chinatown bar, not because a giant rat nearly ran across our feet, which would’ve lit a fire under the most stalwart and non squeamish to vamoose. I didn’t mind the rat, and neither did she, and she was even wearing sandals, but after a couple Singapore Slings she leaned over and in a mighty loud manner said, “Hey know what this party’s missing? Stinky cheese.” I didn’t know what to say. I took a drink of my eastern cocktail, the wedge of pineapple dangling on the rim for garnish tickled my nose. I did not want to leave. I preferred us the way we were, that Chinatown bar, the dim lights, the cheap golden framed mirrors, the rats and all. “But at this hour,” I said. “At this hour,” she said, “and I know just where we could find us a couple hunks and who knows, dried apricots and skinned almonds.” “Oh, yeah,” I said. “Yeah,” she said, “the fridge at my folks’ house.” – 17 May 2012
The neighborhood cat has gotten into a fight. What once was a scaredy little thing, a parted white coat with pink hide, that you-dirty-rat expression on his face, is rundown and affection-hungry. Only now have I been able to give him a pet. What I’ve been waiting for. The right side of his face is full of fluid, the right eye is rung shut. There is blood. Yet, in the sun, under a car parked at an incline, his hearing is superb. His ears shift. – 9 April 2012
It was a pretty nice day today. Not windy, sunny plenty, blue. I studied the Shasta tangerine I bought at the Ivar farmer’s market Sunday. Shasta, I learned, are grown right here, in the state of California, and are only available in March and April. If you like fruit, and are a fan of citrus, I recommend you this tangerine- they’re delectable, sweet and juicy, and if you’re worried about not being able to tell them apart from the rest, no problem. The rind is a dead give away. It’s orange in color, but softer than a regular orange, I’d say, and burned-bumpy, like how marshmallows bubble when introduced to fire.
The juice from the Shasta, ending up on my hands, reminded me of every tiny cut on my fingers, and it got me to thinking. Why do I still bite my fingernails? Such a bad habit. Ugly. A person could be smart, good sense of humor, nice looking- nice arms, legs, smile, but all that would be a shame if you caught sight of the jagged fingernails. And it’s unattractive, not cool at all, not a manly habit- that’s what my mother would say. Though I’m a very self-conscious person, and feel that people don’t look at me I look at them, I’ll bet many times I’ve been so engrossed in biting my nails I’ve forgotten my surrounding and put on a solid show for folks. I’ve seen people bite their nails. Some get that far-away look in their eyes, some get wide-eyed and darty, the minute nicks stimulating them on a wave of a terrible tangle. Well, I am not without a little nervousness. But still, to feel like my ride isn’t going to come back for me and I’ll be stuck? I’ll have to address that one of these days, but not today, and probably not tomorrow.
I washed my hands, got ‘em all sudsy, then dried them good with a paper towel, and sat on the kitchen swivel chair for a while, letting whatever wanting to enter my head enter my head- people who don’t pick up after their dogs, a parking violation, the man I saw earlier walking barefoot at Runyon Canyon, and California citrus orchards. I went with the flow, stared at nothing in particular out the open window. The window curtains lifted ever so slightly, the hardwood floors cracked, there was an electrical drone somewhere, but that was all. There were no car horns, no birds, no radios, and no helicopters. – 2 April 2012
I’m obsessed with acoustic guitars, just how I used to be. 6 years old and all I wished for was to be able to hold a guitar. That’s me again. Recently I discovered the parlor guitar. Smaller body. Rich sound. Because why do I need a dreadnought? Everybody else has one, that’s why. But check it out. Joan Baez, a parlour guitar. Little bitty thing. Beautiful to look at. Strong as iron. Well-built. Sounds like a dream.
My first guitar was a Kay, mail ordered, my father’s. I still check in on it and give it a strum when I go back and visit Grand Forks. When my grandma Lillian and I would play music together that’s the instrument I used, the Kay, and the action was so bad it took a mighty long time for me to be able to learn bar chords. The strings came away from the fretboard the higher up on the neck, until at fret 10, 11, 12 I had to push down a solid inch to make any kind of sound whatever. Incredibly frustrating thing. The pads of my fingers broke and bled constantly. Play after you get out of the shower, my grandma would say. That way your fingers are still moist and tender and it’ll help you get calloused. It was torture. But it worked. My grandma Lill died a couple years ago and writing all this makes me miss her. We sure had some fun times playing music together.
I own one guitar. That’s it. Two’s too many. I like the idea of two. Or three. But seriously. Who has the time to play more than one guitar? I really have to get to know an instrument before I’m able to move on to the next one, and since a guitar is made of wood and wood has the ability to change that means I’m either in it for the long run or trade the one I own for another. My problem is being able to decide on which guitar to settle. The other day I came across this parlor guitar. Now I’m in a pickle. – 28 March 2012
Back on the east side after being all the way west 7 years. 7 years! Long time. Know what? Feels pretty good. When I came to LA I rented Jackie Jewel’s cottage in Echo Park on West Kensington. Though it seemed a lot longer, it was only 2 years. But I was most impressionable. I have missed the east side.
I’m listening to a compilation Jon Brion gave me at the Fairfax Largo, American Pop: An Audio History. Don’t know which CD’s spinning. There are 9 in the set. Because I gravitate toward American roots music, I have listened to many compilations. Jon’s gift is one of the most comprehensive. Covers 1893 to 1946. Every song is a peak into the window of yesteryear. What richness, what specialness. One artist I knew nothing about, Geeshie Wiley and her song “Last Kind Words.” The guitar playing on that track is certifiable. Try figure it out and you, too, will go mad.
I recently got a haircut. Last week. Got it done at the barbershop in the Farmer’s Market on 3rd. (There’s only one.) I said take some off the back and sides, and some off the top- but not too much off the top. I want to look like Lyle Lovett when I walk out of here. Came pretty close, too. I even have a slanted smile. I got a hot lather neck shave and a bay rum bracer to boot. I think I’ll keep my hair this way for the next while. Tired of length. And there’s something pulling me toward my father’s side of the spectrum. Is there a correlation between one’s outlook on life and tidiness? – 27 March 2012