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JTLF-1 Just wanted to be recognized as unique in some way. Just. Perhaps JTLF is an acronym of some kind. Just Try. We could all try, but there is something JTLF-1 wants us to try. Just Try Listening. I put that in there because it is time for a verb. It is not required, but it seemed right. Unfortunately it leaves me with one word. Just Try Listening For. The “for” might be understood here. Little flavored words like prepositions often are. Just Try Listening for Friends. It is good, only a little disappointing. Yes, it is a good start.
JTLF is not comfortable. He was just fine. He was living in a soup of delight. But now something - someone else has entered the scene. There is now a JTLF-1 and JTLF does not quite know what to make of this. JTLF-1 is ambitious and has already decoded himself into something more meaningful it seems to JTLF. It never occurred to JTLF to decode himself. He was just JTLF. He made music. But he is not sure, and JTLF-1 is getting all the attention. JTLF leaves his piano to look closer at the scene around JTLF-1. He feels small.
It was to be a seated night, the worst kind it seemed to me, as we filed into the chapel, taking our places in the pews. The Choir was already unwinding, off key. I was not entirely sure how I had been convinced to make the two-hundred mile drive to this place. There was the engraved invitation. I was taking a slot in this pew, standing, not sitting, and out of my mouth and mouths of others the chant was lifting from the small choir, finding the correct notes spreading a light through the room. It seemed to be rising.
Wait for me, she said. Did she say that? Did she ask me to look away? I think she said the words. I think she said she did not want to say the words, did not have the right to say the words, and then I think she said them anyway, and sometimes over the distance and static, I could swear she was saying “Pray for me,” and not “Wait for me,” and I am thinking this is not a Wait up guys kind of request. This was something different and maybe even she didn’t know exactly what it meant.
There was a suggestion, a suggestion that hope was gone, that the threads in the suit had worn too fine to hold the web together. There was a thought that someone had given up that final breath, had actually forgotten that hope existed. But the lie was in the suggestion. Hope is never gone. It doesn’t matter how wasted you look or how wasted you actually are. If hope feeds you, it will sustain you through full-bearded icy winters of starvation. If it is hope that kills you, hope will live in the vapor of the grease spot you leave behind.
“Do you want a medium to talk to him and see what he wants?” I was asked. I was shocked. No, I did not want that. I knew what he wanted. He didn’t speak to me. He didn’t have to speak to me. I knew what he was about, what he was for, what he was bringing. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t want some medium person gobbling around him, demeaning him, possibly hurting him. I did not want any unintended consequences. He knew what he was doing. If he wanted a medium, he would have brought his own.
The slow light is not any slower than any other light. Its speed is approximately 186,000 feet/second, just like the rest of the light zooming around. It is the color and density of the slow light that gives it its name. It is a bluish color and it appears to have a lower density than regular light. It can be as bright as regular light, but the overall effect is as if someone changed the contrast setting so that some things that were not noticeable before now stand out in a kind of naked relief, startled to be suddenly exposed.
I shouldn’t have looked. MJ wanted a chore to earn ten bucks, so I sent him up on the roof to clean out the gutters. Then I went out to circle the house with a garbage can to catch the debris for him. “You’d better come up here and have a look at this, dad,” he said. I climbed the ladder. Twenty-one hundred square feet of shot shingles. I needed a new roof. But I’m lucky? The first contractor submitted a very low bid. It’s a good year to buy a roof, he explained. “We’re just trying to stay alive.”
I’ve lost my timer again. It puts things to a momentary halt in my brain while I realize I’ve never really lost my timer. I have too many of them. They are merely in another room, most likely the kitchen or bedroom, the last two rooms I was active last night. I also have a timer built into my computer here, a little program that does the same thing for me, so I am never for long without my timer. What is the deal with the timer? It keeps me from getting lost into any one thing for too long.
The second roofer showed up in a white Ford F250. This one was much younger and had been recommended by a commercial roofing vendor. I liked him because he was willing to re-cap the chimney himself without making me hire someone else to do it. He also understood the value of my paying cash, and while his estimate ran higher, he beat the other buy by a 100 bucks chimney cap included and charging me half the cost for any roofing boards needed. His proposal also included peak venting for my roof. All together, a much better deal, I thought.
The sun rinses the lawn as I throw back an Ativan. Something has come to visit me. I had thought perhaps the med increase would spare me that, but no. I wonder if, in fact, the med increase is going to do any damn thing at all, and that thought alone seems to bring an army of ugly goblins with it, so I shut it away, leaving them milling about in a dusty coral complaining about working conditions and seniority. I’m thinking about the other world. All I have to do is define it, name it, and step into it.
I’m not sure. It’s been three months since I moved into the house. My initial impression is that the house is too big, too much for me. It needs too much care. Too many things need to be done and I am left overwhelmed with a smear of incompetency rather than a clear sense of direction. This is not my memory of my relationship to this house. I used to know how to take care of it. I think I have been taken by surprise by the extent to which it has been let go. I need a new plan.
Thoreau suggested that a farm or a house was lucky to have someone to take care of it, that it owned you, rather than the other way around, and there may be some truth to that. I suspect that the real truth is somewhere more in the land of the symbiotic as I watch the motorcycle owner polish his chrome, or my neighbor mow his yard. Yet I know that there are some homes that have gotten out of balance, eating their owners alive and then greedily looking around for more. Perhaps some parents are that way too, and children.
My son and his girlfriend have left with ten dollars to get something to eat. He asked for five. I suggested that if he cleaned the kitchen I would give him ten, and he seemed happy with the deal. His girlfriend seemed to go sour after that, but they did leave finally, arguing painfully about something they could not quite define. I suspect she was unhappy that I got him to clean the kitchen. That wasn’t the way she wanted it to work out. I could see that, could see him dancing confused at the end of what she wanted.
When I gave the roofer his $3300 cash deposit, he seemed eager to show some good faith in return, so as he stepped into his Ford F250 he said he'd have the dumpster delivered the next day, describing how it would be positioned in the driveway so as not to block any of the garage entrance. That was five days ago. I have not heard from him since. The dumpster was delivered, and it sits in my drive way blocking the entire garage entrance. I am thankful that my car was not in the garage when the dumpster was delivered.
My son has gone to visit his paramour at her work place this morning. Their dog, sensing that he has been left alone begins to bark and bounce in his kennel, wailing in grief and ineptitude, knocking his bony head against the ceiling of the thing with every bark. Occasionally he will pause and whimper for a while. He adores them. This is why dogs have earned such praise, for this loyalty. These two people don’t deserve this loyalty. The girlfriend, the owner, ignores the dog, and the son doesn’t like him. I will take him some water soon though.
The roofers came early today scaling the walls, and pounding and chopping the roof with serious intent. A work radio floats above them with a song that I cannot make out so much as a genre for. After an hour some of them leave, but at least one returns to work directly over my head, throwing lines and seeming to be working a large screw. Perhaps this is some new roof that will be applied by spells rather than buy gun and nail. No doubt it will come with the same 30-year guarantee written in ink that fades after ten.
My son announced today that he had registered for Fall Term at the local community college. I am unsure how to take this news. Just yesterday he had asked me to help him register on the internet and to go with him for the personal part, and I was sure it was a red herring to swerve us around a different conversation we were having. So of course I readily agreed. There is no quicker way to dispose of red herrings than to simply eat them. Now, what is the worst thing that can happen? He decides to actually go?
In the study
my desk is a four-square beat chunk of industrial oak,
squatting in the corner
like some poorly domesticated fusion reactor.
Steam leaks from the top
while inside the drawers
a frothy mass bucks up
and splatters against the walls.
Paper, diskettes, and binders litter the carpet, creeping toward the door.
Or breaking from the top,
a small object
hits the floor and scampers off.
you hear skitter;
small voices giggling
but when you get up to check, they are all asleep,
while from the poetry room there is a quick movement,
a rush of air.
Stepping into the poetry room
you turn on the lights,
but there is nothing but the papers littering the shelves,
or one drifting lazily toward the floor.
My daughter finally called the exterminator.
After a quick inspection,
he sat down with us soberly.
Looking hard at the table, he said,
"You didn't tell me it was poetry."
"The ad said you could kill anything," she quickly responded.
"Yeah," he nodded,
"But you got a mean case."
And he looked at us meaningfully,
"And I got family."
--that, as if perhaps family were yet another kind of infestation--
The exterminator agreed
To take on the Poetry room.
The trucks arrived in the evening.
Stainless steel nitrogen-refrigerated tanks.
We were advised to spend the night in a motel.
No, he wouldn't take a check.
He wanted cash,
We found our money on the kitchen table,
When we came home the next night.
The power was out;
The air filled with a sweet mist.
He was gone,
And later would not answer his phone.
So now the desk still steams and fumes
And whimsy skitters the floor.
Not even the pets or the kids
Go in there anymore.
The roofers came at 8 this morning. They fired up their old gasoline compressor and started firing nails into the roof over my bedroom. I was already up, had been for an hour. An odd prescient dream has been dragging me from my sleep early this week, robbing the roofers of their early morning feeding. It is 72 and moist this morning, and the boys are singing as they climb the ladder to work. They say they will be done by Monday, which means it will have taken them nearly a week to do the roof. That’s ok with me.
Something killed under my balcony last night, out on the hill, past the waterfall a little ways into the dense brush. I heard the dissimilar cries as the two animals hit one another in the dark, one a mammal and one a bird of some kind. The initial battle was vicious and noisy, lasting nearly a minute. Then came an almost mechanical cry of distress from the one that went on for several minutes, becoming hoarse, and finally stopping, swallowed by the night and the sound of the waterfall. There was no sound after that. Even the dogs were quiet.
I see the garage sale sign across the road when I go out to get the mail. It is not long before I am tempted to take the walk down the road toward the airport to check it out. It turns out to be one I was at two weeks before. I think it was shut down by rain last week. It has a couple low dressers that tempt me, but for some reason I don’t buy. They are fairly well made and only twenty-five dollars, but my mind is elsewhere. I would need my son’s help to move them.
My primary emotion is fear. I think my son’s primary emotion is anger. If he has a secondary emotion, it must be fear. My secondary is clearly grief. I have had enough acquaintance over the past to recognize it. But it is only anger that would drive him from this house. I am not sure why he is angry. I know we have both been at times over the past few days, and it has been escalating. Neither of us knows what is going on. I think I am the only one who recognizes that a thing is in motion.
The roofers did not come today
It is Sunday
I know where they are.
I saw them in my sleep
Mounting a polished wooden platform
From many directions
Wearing their jeans,
Tossing cigarettes in the weeds.
They took their places
Before a neatly crafted wooden podium
Unfinished, politely weathered,
Behind which stood my father
Wearing his carpenter’s pants
A short pencil behind his ear.
As he looked up the men began to stretch
Arms lifted to the sky
And he said in his old man’s voice,
“Jesus was a carpenter,”
And they repeated
“Jesus was a carpenter.”
I’m running late with my 100 words for this month. Is that normal for me? Sometimes. So to say sometimes is to say yes. Have I been busy? Have I been so busy that I have had no time to report out? Or have I been boarded up in my room in a dull and incapacitating fit of depression such that I could not write? Or was I engaged in activities so nefarious that I could not write them out without exposing myself to legal prosecution? These are only three of the possibilities. There are more, including the real one.
It is now seventy degrees outside, and seventy degrees inside. I have finally achieved a perfect balance with the windows open, the breeze blowing through, the sun shining and the birds chirping. But, of course I have a problem. It is only ten AM. It will continue warming up today. It is predicted to reach 77. It may reach 80 or more. Inside it will get even warmer. I can close up now, and perhaps maintain the cool temperatures until evening and then re-open the house, avoiding the air conditioning, or I can just leave the windows open all day.
The water won’t reach the third floor this morning. My immediate thought was that I did something to the well by chlorinating it yesterday, and I may have, but it appears that the real problem is the pre-filter to the softener is plugged up. Yes, I bypassed the softener and the filter while clearing the well of the chlorine, but the filter is pretty well clogged this morning. So I am going to have to go to the store today and get some new filter cartridges. They are getting harder to find. Eventually I’ll need a complete new filter assembly.
“Dad, we put the TV on mute and it won’t come off. The sound doesn’t work now.” I looked at the TV. I hated the new TV, the 46-inch Sony Bravada that was supposed to be the best of the best. I hated the picture. I hardly ever watched it. I had regretted buying it since I brought it home, and now it was most likely broken. The kids were already gone, leaving me with the “broken” TV. I turned it on. Yep, no sound. I put on a DVD, but the remote wouldn’t work. Someone had taken the batteries.
The month of July is ending rather abruptly for me. It is running out on me, grabbing its hat and coat and running out the door in mid sen. Leaving me with everything to deal with. Yes, July it was quite a party and you had a wild time and it would be nice if you would have stayed around to help clean up some of this mess, but somehow you managed to push the whole pile into August without so much of a glance or balance sheet entry and now I have to sort it all out by myself.
The Tip Jar