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I am slowly building myself a schedule for the evening time, the time after I come home from work. The work time takes care of itself. There my brain is involved in a multi-way struggle. It is trying to sort out the people and the work and trying to understand which it should focus on. It is focused on the intricacies of the work itself, on how to do it, how to do it quicker, how to do it better, and asking itself whether it should be focused on the work in this way, questioning the value of the work.
I am slowly building myself a schedule for the time after I come home from work. At first, I didn’t have any energy. I would come home, sit down, and go to sleep. Now I find I have more energy, and I am getting things done. I find I still want to rest a bit when I get home, but afterwards, I am good again for a few hours work on the house and writing and so on. At the rate I am going I will soon be doing pretty much what I was doing before I started this job.
The heat of July is beginning to bore in and the boom boom for the weekend started days ago. The grass has stopped growing, and as long as I do not make the mistake of watering it, I will not have to go out in this heat and mow it. There is plenty of work to be done inside. The new door needs painting. I am behind on my vacuuming and the carpets need shampooing as well. There are a dozen other indoor projects that need my attention. This house is lucky to have me to take care of it.
The skyrockets splay at random in the sky along the road as I drive home in darkness from the Emergency Room in Ann Arbor where I have left my friend after being sent there by the first Emergency Room we went to. It was ok. I volunteered to spend the day driving to, and waiting in emergency rooms. I knew what was waiting for me there. I knew it would not be only the interminable wait, but would also be the memories sucked out of my brain where they should have been left sleeping. The fireworks was an unexpected bonus.
It is Monday and this is the real holiday of sorts. I am wondering whether today is a holiday in Canada or whether they got their holiday last week. Somehow it sticks in my mind that they get their holidays a week early. I am wondering at what point I became aware of Canadian holidays. Was it when I spent summer vacations in Goderich? Or was it later when Canadian holidays became a confusing point in time for me such that I never really understood when they were. It was as if an entire Country were trying to confuse me.
A silver bubble wobbles to the surface of my mind and pops, throwing cool drops of moisture on my face. For a moment I watched it work its way from the depths, and I could see myself reflected on its surface. I could also see a thousand other human beings there; men, women, and children. I could see that there was not too many things special about me, that much of what I knew, felt, experienced, or suffered were reflected in their lives too. It seemed that each one of us was a slightly un-focused reflection of all the others.
I was in the garage, sorting through the impossible amount of stuff there, looking for contact cement to replace a piece Formica I had knocked off the front of a kitchen counter while cleaning this morning. “It must have been ready to come off,” observed my mother as I was talking to her on the phone. “Otherwise you would never have gotten it off.” She was right of course. I spent an hour looking for the cement and didn’t find it. I did, however, find the clear silicone caulk I need to repair the grab bar in the shower upstairs.
I have learned something about myself working at the factory: I like to work. This is not new knowledge. I have experienced it before. I have just never made that observation about myself, and now I have to recognize this is true and reconcile it with a lot of conflicting observations and paradoxes I have stumbled over in my life, including my own occasional suspicion that I was lazy. But this doesn’t wash with the person I observe working at the factory, the person who hustles simply because he loves to be doing work and to be doing it well.
My pay for this week has skyrocketed from $20 to $75. On my way home I give John a lift. John, like me is being evaluated. I suspect we have little in common. John seems to be outgoing and makes friends easily. He lives in an apartment on the east side of town. My apartment had been on the west side. Somehow, the west side seems more comfortable to me. I don’t know why. John and I talk a lot. He actually shares very little about himself. I share a lot, much of which he says he does not believe.
I take a B&O turntable off the shelf and hook it up. I have been looking forward to using it. It is an elegant little piece of hardware. In the basement, I find that my vinyl collection has been severely decimated, but I find a promising disk and bring it upstairs. Unfortunately, only one channel works. I switch the wires at the pre-amp and the problem switches channels. The problem is in the turntable. When I bought it, it worked fine. A wire must have pulled loose in transport. An hour later it is in pieces on the kitchen table.
The turntable is still in pieces on the kitchen table. The problem is in one of several places. One is still a fairly easy fix if I get to it. I am juggling the value of the turntable against the effort to fix it against my desire to have one. My daughter Amanda calls. She was coming to town today and we were going to have lunch, but her plans have changed, so I am invited to Lansing for lunch. Lansing is a packing and moving scene. She and Alex are heavy into it. They are leaving on the 7th.
Yeah, it is Monday and the turntable is still in pieces on the kitchen table. It was go back to work and already I am struggling with the alarm in the morning. I account this a healthy sign. I broke my record for greasing 240’s today, doing 26 cases in a 6-hour shift. We were peppered with new people today. I have now become one of the established crew. Mary comes over to check our work. She asks John who showed him how to do the 240’s. “Mike did,” he said. Mary grins. “I trained him,” she says with pride.
I recently discovered the TV program “Lost” on Hulu. As I watch season one it occurs to me that most of the characters begin the story lost in some sense. I suppose that makes for good story or real life. A friend told me how the series ends, and I have to admit that that will 1)prey on my consciousness as I watch this and 2)was a possibility I had considered. I wonder about the woman who continually insists her absent husband is alive, and I wonder now if he turns out in the story to be a lone survivor.
I like playing with numbers, and have been a user of Quicken on-line since it was first offered. No, they never did get it to work quite right. Screen scraper programs are not a good idea for production systems; they are better used for prototypes or one-offs. Now Quicken has recommended their users migrate in the next 30 days to Mint. Mint, it turns out is beta-ware that is worse than Quicken on-line was even in its infancy. Scary enough that it is free, it is twice as scary because it tries to offer exotic things while flubbing the basics.
New people continue to arrive at the factory. It is as if a refuse truck hoists its backend early Wednesday morning and deposits them on the loading dock for Cherlise to forklift to the grease patrol tables. They sit there with the fans bellowing and with bewildered looks, already babbling their stories. They need to tell their stories. David is 61 and had prostate cancer. He pees his pants. Cathy is 21 and her grandmother is dying. Greg is 19, weighs 450 pounds and is profusely tattooed. He is telling his story so intensely I cannot make out the words.
It occurs to me that I need to tell my story as much as anyone else in the factory. I just don’t know what my story is. I don’t know why I am here. I remember my first day here. One of the big men approached me saying he had been there for five years. “What did you do to get that?” I asked. “Car accident,” he said. “What did you do?” he asked. I thought. “I don’t know,” I said. “You don’t remember?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said. He was walking away as if I were poison.
I am waiting for my daughter Amanda today. She is coming in from Lansing, and we are going to make the drive to the family compound in Ohio today, returning tomorrow. I’ve spent most of the morning getting ready, thinking about her arrival. She will come through the new door I suppose. I won’t know she is here until she is coming up the stairs though. Each child has a different mode of arrival. Amanda is the stealthiest of the four. She will be leaving for Kansas August 7. This will be her last trip to Ohio for several years.
The turntable is still in parts on the kitchen table. I am in Ohio with my daughter Amanda 200 miles from that kitchen table. Amanda is at my parents house, having spent the night, and I am at my sister's. My sister Sandy has gone out to look at a patient leaving me here with her computer. It is Sunday, and I can hear the church bells calling back and forth across the small town. They stop and a silence falls. All I can hear is the ringing in my ears. I wonder why my brain doesn't mask that out.
I go behind the factory to take my lunch. There is no one there today and I eat my roast beef sandwich quietly. As I finish, a woman in a business suit approaches. She is from the intake side. She has not worked for twelve years. She will have to wear different clothes when they put her in the factory. I tell her it will be ok, even though I am not so sure. I have my reservations about this. I do not know to what extent this is a good thing and to what extent we are being exploited.
The steps going up the hill behind the house disappear into a bramble of black raspberry bushes and then into dense undergrowth. The hillside has gone wild. It is metaphor for that part of my life, the part that might take care of the hillside, but which is just as curious to see what will become of it left go wild. It is a copy of a garden from some book I read years ago, one that I remember only distantly, and one that I am now grown too old and large to enter myself. It is a child’s garden.
I got really tired at work today. I’m still moving though. I mowed the lawn when I got home. I did the dishes and took a shower. Still, I am sleepy such that my brain winks in and out of where I am and the place of the TV program I have been watching. It is an odd program. I wonder if other people are so suggestible that they get lost in books, movies, paintings, or pieces of music this way. I stumble there, and I bruise here. No wonder I get tired, living out all these lives at once.
I am waiting for the computer to tell me what the weather is, although I have a sense it may have rained last night. Computer says it is 81 already, and that it may rain tonight. I would open the shades, but if it is going to be that hot today, I don’t want the house to heat up while I am gone. It seems odd to me how I live my life so much indoors, that the exterior is somehow alien, even poisonous to me. The sun will scorch me and dehydrate me. I cannot breathe the soupy air.
I remember people running from the rain, shielding themselves as well as they could with coats, newspapers (What were newspapers, daddy?), and laptop cases. Yet I personally have witnessed incidents of persons immersing their entire bodies in water with no apparent ill effects. They were, of course, wearing some protective clothing, albeit not much. Even more shocking, I have seen mothers plop young squealing children totally naked into large tubs of water. Yet after as much as an hour of such treatment, they seemed unharmed, a little pinkish or wrinkled perhaps. Maybe we need to re-think this fear of rain.
I am still questioning my own aversion to being outdoors at all. Once I loved being outdoors. I think I actually liked being in the woods. I think I breathed just fine. Is this a seasonal problem? Am I just not noticing that I lock myself up inside with the air conditioner for a particular couple months out of the year, and spend the rest of it outside? What did I do when I had the dogs? I wish I could remember things better. I don’t have to. I write everything down. All I have to do is read it.
My Transamerica annuity payment is late this month. I was expecting it on the 21st. This is Thursday, the 22nd, and it is not here. We are talking weekdays with no holidays. I checked the Transamerica page and they report releasing it on the 17th. It used to post on the 19th. Then it began posting on the 20th. For a couple months they trained me to expect it on the 21st. Now it is the 22nd and I have no payment yet. This is not a confidence inspiring experience. It is not a big thing, but it is annoying.
Why do I write you first 100 Words? You rarely write me back. It is a thing that appeals to the accountant in me, the numerologist. 100 words each day, no more, no less. And I write horrors to other numbers when you are not looking. I have written 20 no end, poured my soul into that number. I’ve written 21, 22, 400, 60 and 601. Building brick on girder on glass brick I have made cities of structures of other numbers when you were so self-important, while you weren’t paying attention to me. And you thought I was faithful.
My sense of time is not reliable, I am told. I will think something happened weeks ago when it is provable to have happened yesterday. This happens frequently, and I am shocked every time it does. Dates confound me. History does not present itself as a timeline drawn neatly behind me, but as a crowded room with the guests milling around, Shakespeare chatting with Nixon; Catherine the Great cornering Taliesin. I am easily fooled about things that haven’t yet happened. Yet I don’t need an alarm clock. I wake up at exactly the same time every morning within 3 minutes.
I consider taking a new track. I tell myself I have become exactly what I have always wanted to be. I am financially independent. I am surrounded by books and music. I have time to write and think. My children are grown and happy, and only occasionally do they call me for advice or money. I seem to be taken care of and protected on a personal basis by some supernatural power that asks nothing in return. I consider this idea; turn it over. It has the weight of solid metal, of a serious weapon. It appears to be anodized.
This Bill Evans piano is difficult music to write to. It has its own idea of where I am. It puts me back into Ohio, walking the railroad grade, my feet navigating the heavy gravel between the ties, my nose inhaling the creosote bleeding from the ties, my eyes taking the glint from the rails, the scratch from the shrubbery below. On one phrase he has me in summer, a knee bleeding from a fall. Another phrase has me there in winter, a wool cap pulled down over my ears, searching the frozen banks for rabbits, my father close behind.
The turntable is gone from the kitchen table. I traced the problem past the large cabling into the delicate angel-hair wiring of the tone-arm. This is not a job that I have the patience to do for a possible success on a turntable that I can buy used for a hundred bucks. I pull the cartridge, which paradoxically is worth nearly that and carry the mess out to the dumper. The table can now be cleaned off. This is the second item of questionable value I have purged from my obsessive collection of audio treasures this week. I’m doing well.
They came yesterday, Lisa and her daughter Zoe, moving their things into the bedroom down the hall, me apologizing for not vacuuming it since the last time they stayed. I had washed their bedding though. Lisa mentions liking the quiet here. She borrows a sponge to clean the tub in that bath I never go into. Zoe wants to bathe. She likes the deep Jacuzzi tub in there. I think they were in some ways more tired than I have ever seen them. Zoe gets new paints tonight and a new car seat. She is also getting a birth certificate.
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