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The lake is cold. Diving deep takes my breath away, my chest heaving, and I need a moment, treading water, before starting my swim. I start for the island, head up every third or 4th stroke to make sure Iím on-course. Goddamn its cold--giving me an ice cream headache, making my stroke stiff. The water comes from the lake upstream, from the bottom. Where else in the world can the air be 110 and the water 60? If my wetsuit still fit, Iíd be wearing it. What a fool Iíd look walking to the shore in black rubber.
Bats are buzzing my head at dusk. I am standing out front talking on my cellular in the twilight looking out west through the dark oak shadows. Bat wings make no sound. But it is kind of unnerving because they turn and roll so quicklyózipping about the sky chasing mosquitoes for dinner. Iíve heard if you ball up a T-shirt, throw it high into the air, bats will zoom to the flying object, then get caught when the shirt parachutes open floating to the ground. Bats dive-bombing my head still. Perhaps it is the cellular signal thatís attracting them?
Frog lives in the bathroom now that all that winter rain has gone. The property now is a desert of yellow grass. Frog alternates from the tub to the toilet. In the mornings, Frog is usually hanging out near that overflow drain at the tub bow. I put the plug in while showering and keep pushing Frog into the water even though he climbs up the tiled walls. Frogs really do that frog kick youíre supposed to do in breaststroke. It seems frogs canít right themselves when upside down and hold their breath not only float, but also play dead.
I run along a trail cut close to the water. There is a rope swing. Last night, after work, I heard the voices of two girls. Oh please, oh please. Are you going? I asked. But they had jeans on and screeched that the water was too cold. I imagined all the way back how it would have been if the water wasnít too cold. Heck, it happened 24 hrs ago and Iím still thinking about it. No, go ahead, bra and panties are just like a bikini. Now Iíll run after work every day, if only for another view.
And so it snows. To see the sky change right before the snowfall: suddenly flat, right on top of you, and how the air seems not so cold. Sure it has dusted, but not the big helping served up today: starting at 8, it snowed heavily for 2 hrs. Big fat flakes blowing into the windows. Several inches, I think. Dawg and I went for a long walk round the property-everything quiet and clean. I got a good fire going and made tea. Then I realized I was snowed in. So I stayed put in my now more mtn-like cabin.
Recumbent bicycle fucks. Jogging these past few weeks along the bike trail I have seen those folks who ride bikes óexcuse me: cyclists. Non-impact, non-aerobic: you look like sausages stuffed into your Lance replica jersey. But then there is Recumbent Cycle Guy: I could do this, keep up, and lay back all the while. A friend points out that the land speed record for a bicycle was on a recumbent. Did he have a belly, queer orange flag, and one of those little rear-view mirrors on his helmet? Tomorrow, Iím gonna bolt from the bushes and push that fucker down.
I bought a red hat today. $1.40 at Walmart. Red with white stripes that I will wear in just a few weeks when I am running and the weather finally turns-though tomorrow it is supposed to be 70. I think I spotted it in the jr misses section, but I was lost- I donít go to department stores often. I really like it. In fact, I am wearing it now. And donít give me shit about Walmart, I lost my job two months ago and needed some new undershirts. Iíve got time now, you see, to go through my dresser.
She had the light brown hair, skin, and eyes he had recently grown attracted to recently through French movies. He imagined the sun kissed the bridge of her nose leaving freckles. He had yet to see her smile, but that makes all the difference, doesnít it? Where had this girl come from? She was not trying with clothes or a particular haircut, simply letting her natural beauty out. For so many semesters he did not understand why he wasnít attracted to the same blonde from the bottle and frosted lip gloss sorority girls he was told to be attracted to.
Coming out of the bar, theyíre stumbling together, into each other. The sky is orange to the west. She wants to ride by the Capitol to the bridge- chasing the sunset, a beer buzz at their backs. Címon, letís go see. He had only put the cable back into his bag before he spied her white skirt billowing behind in the treed shadows. He caught her at the roundabout. She had her head down, just above the basket, legs spinning like a wind-up toy. She shouted: Youíre late, then was somehow slingshotted out of the circle and on down ahead.
I thought your dog was brown with white spots, my buddy says. We are standing just outside my front door in the cold trying to snow rain, smoking cigarettes. It is 11 oíclock. In fact, my dog is white with brown spots. His name is my name too, just by coincidence. I got him at the pound some 45 minutes away for 15 dollars. He farted all the way home and this is one the favorite memories my daughter Lily and I share. Oh dog! weíd shout then roll down the window. It was trying to snow that day too.
Still life with white shirt. Itís a menís dress shirt she has cut off the sleeves and the collar. She hasnít buttoned it up, so reveals tan lines down the front. Careful not to get caught looking but she is not paying attention to what I am doing, perhaps not even to what I am saying because for the last 15 mins I have been rambling on about the new to me Velvet Underground record I bought and have been playing non-stop for the past 72 hours. So I stop talking and just watch her behind my new black sunglasses.
Why do you always shower here? she asked under covers. He set down the tea. What? I mean, most people just want to get out. I know I do, when yíknow, I do. Do you mind it? No, not really. I have listened though, to see if youíre going through the medicine cabinet. He laughed at this. It is odd though. I like your place, it feels good. Ok? Suit yourself. He rose trying to hide both himself and his self-consciousness. Now I am going to take that odd shower. After he shut the door, he heard the pillow hit.
Self-consciousness is forbidden knowledge a professor had said. Donít go in that room! he shouted. Yet I did not want to give up. Why should I be considered weird just because I am looking for my Self? But not everyone puts it foremost in their life, she said. To you itís the most important thing, little else matters. Certainly not anybody else. Doesnít every person want to know who they are? I think the answer is no. It might be a bit sad to you but its not really living is it, just being inside your head all the time.
On the trail next to the river, he jogged slowly, the silty dust created small puffs behind him. A small turkey was startled ten yards ahead of him. Pullet. Keeping this same distance the hen lead the way down the path looking for an escape- her head flitting to either side. The dried grass created a border to the trail, so on they jogged, the bird too keeping the same easy pace, same personal space. Small nervous clucks. This went on for several minutes before another path intersected and she turned off. For the next three days, they jogged together.
He ran through the sand to a beach area then stopped his watch. It was still not yet noon, but he could hear the boom boxes putting out the classic rock out to the river. Coming down the levee he could spy the people through the cottonwoods- a whole gang of them. Some had beers and he could smell pot. And they were all smiling. In their cut-offs, girls with what looked like homemade tops that did not cover themselves too well, long hair and hanging boobs. He felt out of place in his running shorts, but nobody was looking.
He pushed the pace. He actually sprinted across an imaginary finish line. He made his way towards the river then lept off the bank into the dark water. He stood, feeling the gluey mud bottom, allowing the river to cool him. The current pulled slightly, but could manage if he leaned into it, like walking in the wind. No sound now, but for his racing heart. He tried to calm it with a few slow deep breaths. He stood for several minutes until he started to get cold, then plodded back - his shoes squishing out water, picking up sand.
She is talking about Pittsburg. Dark hair, skin a yellowish brown that has not seen the sun, dark circles under her eyes and surprisingly two streaks of gray in her hair. She moved out here after a year in Philadelphia. I realize she is talking about Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, not the one across the bridge. I slept on some couches, but had to find a place- I know what its like to have somebody staying for too long. My ex-boyfriend stayed for six months. I decided it was easier to move across the country than to get him to move out.
We talk about music, exchange favorites. My exís band is getting quite popular, she says. Later: Oh, this is them! This is my ex-boyfriendís band on the radio. She starts bobbing her head to the music. I look down at the grease pool on my slice of pizza. Iíll leave you two alone. I get another beer. She tells me she likes old rock. I really like to turn up Led Zeppelin and take a bath. Smoke a little pot. I could spend my day off just doing that. I never really got Led Zeppelin. You must not smoke pot.
Iíve never eaten here, she says, only to go. She walks by twice a day. The pizza guys check on us, her. Extra napkins, ask about the pizza. I grab another two beers, Iíll drink hers before it gets warm. I want to ask: Did you bring me here to get their attention. I want to: wave towards the back. These guys all seem to really like you. She pretends to not listen. Later, she goes into the bathroom, returns with fresh lipstick. I had a good time, she walks away down the block. Inside, there were hi-fives all around.
The guy from Philly? Oh no, not him. You mean this is a different ex-boyfriend youíre talking about now? Look, I think Iím just going to walk myself home. As opposed to? I feign some sort of surprise Well, usually weíd walk to your car, then drive back to my place. Oh, well- I uh, Iíve never done that before. We hug awkwardly, then she steps back out of reach. She smiles and tosses a I had a good time over her shoulder as she walks down the block. Halfway home, I shout: I donít even have a fucking car!
What are you doing later? she asks. Shit. Why is she asking me that? I let it flow, awkwardly. Some friends are getting together for a drink at ten. Actually, weíre trying to get these two people together: a girl from my shop and a roommate of another friend of mine. I make up some story involving the property, something about the goats. Later she mentions the drink meet-up again, but I have already decided there is no fucking way I am gathering at some dive bar with art babes. She already thinks I am square, I can feel her.
Alice wears painted eyes to the cinema just for herself. The movies she sees donít matter much. She worries in those few minutes before the lights dim, those long waiting few minutes sitting there on display alone even though she chooses the darkened far back corners. Her hands press out the dress flat along her legs. She sips from a cranberry juice bottle filled with cabernet. Its juice, should they ask. Walking home, she hugs herself tight against the cold. In the cool sheets, she runs her legs to get warm, then touches herself- the end to a proper date.
Army navy surplus cashiers are into Carhartt bondage- you can just tell, what with all that military gear and every color bandana. Hey, Iíll try yellow in my back pocket tonite, you take green. Whatís that mean? Guess weíll find out near closing time tee he he. Big black boots mean something. I wonder what the WW II vets would say if these two cashiers told them about last weekend, down in the big city. Iím just here to buy some dungarees, maybe a beanie, and all I am getting is some black vinyl body suit story from these hillbillies.
Tea, the first cold night, and loneliness are the recipe of our time together. Only now can I look back with fondness: your drafty flat reading next to each other on your single bed listening to movie soundtracks. Grateful for the woman who lived downstairs who kept her heat running most all of the time, even at the slight fog chill. Right now, one year later, I have unknowingly re-created all of those nights with tea, and music, and the cold- there is even another girl here next me as I write this. Sequels really do always suck, donít they.
Walking on a hot summer day with an 18 pack under my arm was not the first foolish thing I was to do that day. On sale, blocks from my downtown apt, in order to save two dollars, I carried this box o beer some twenty blocks. The homeless guy, well I deserved it. First he asked me for change. Then he asked me for a beer. I opened the box and gave him one. So now I got 17, no big deal. But as I turned to leave, I realized the sacrifice I had made: no more easy handle.
You youngsters, said the man pushing the shopping cart, you donít know how much it brings me back seeing you two sitting there like that, making eyes. Oh yes, I remember my first love too. He grinned big, white teeth from under his salt and pepper beard. The boy chuckled. Shopping cart stiffened up at this, like a shock from a light switch. The girl was polite and chose to thank the man and ignore the boyís foolishness. Love donít come round very often, he pushed on. Donít make light, donít make fun- love might be the rarest of treasures.
Alas, Catwoman has used up her ninth life. Oh in real life she was a much greater hero: from poverty, from oppression to the big city lights, then radio, stage, and screen. But to most, she was Catwoman. Iím sure I didnít notice it before, paying too much attention to capes and mad gadgets, but that gravelly purr does something to me now. Who woulda thunk it that words spoken in such a way, in a 60s cartoon show, could do that to a jaded man like me. May Godís great lap be a pleasant place to purr for eternity.
And yet another French beauty to add to my list. But this one, well she might be the best one yet. Of course within minutes of her first appearance of the movie she is naked. A friend of mine hates French movies- naked girl for no plot turn, just to be naked. Its true, I wonít argue. And I too would object if the actresses were not appealing, me oui they are: wonderful natural beauty. Would I ever get to Paris could I stand it? A friend in NYC says French women are not so good looking, but terribly sexy.
I lift the sunglasses up a bit because of the glare. It is sunny and above 60 degrees. It is Dec 29, I am sitting outside reading in the late afternoon sun with a beer and country music. I push the sunglasses up on top of my head where they hold my hair up. I donít think I have ever done this in my life. There are those guys who keep their sunglasses atop- like a hairband. Where did that come from? Circa 1974? I donít think I am pulling it off because my sunglasses do not have mirrored lenses.
I forget about the fog. Every year I do. Morning tea in bright warm sunshine, then driving down the hill I see the grey cover round the bend. I gasp like some summer movie calamity has occurred. It really does look like a blanket from above. Then: cold with headlights on. It certainly has its charm: running on the trail, the fog keeps the wood silent. Under trees, great drips drop down upon you. But the 45 degree wet chill goes deep. Just yesterday afternoon I sat outside in the sun with beer and country music- could have been July.
Jeans with red dirt and chain oil, my head has been under this same beanie for 3 days and nights: truth that I was born a flatlander but I have spent days on end up here on the mountaintop and I am starting to feel good. My friends joke Grizzly Adams or Ted Kosinski, but I am thinking Thoreau, Thos Merton- Jack London! I am grateful to be a fourth generation Californian. Today 12/31 it is 60 degrees sunshine and from the top of the property, up by the well, I can see the white from Christmas storm Sierras. Amen.
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