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Aug 30, 2006

When No One's Looking

I let my mind wander to the point where when indulged in the middle of some effortless task such as walking to grab a pen off of the kitchen counter I will double back in my tracks, halt, forget what I'd come for and quickly readjust the allocation my brain's resources so I can once again recapture what I'd initially attempted to accomplish. Focused on a wayward thought it might be interrupted and lost into a deep well because of a faint, familiar smell, or the foreign creak of these walls.

When No One's Looking I still have no shame in commenting on the curious, the strange, the unknown, whether they are borne of external stimuli or cultivated from the base of my brain where thoughts, dreams, realities and possibilities are all intertwined; all set upon the top of a body that must learn how to be controlled. Humans: might we be tiny, delicate gods who've forgotten that very fact?

When No One's Looking I will speak aloud to myself. In joy, in despair, in melancholy. At home, alone, in my office within earshot of the colleagues, but then the head might walk elsewhere when it's taste sensors relay the message that screams "hey son, your coffee tastes like shit," and I want to rise and wrangle up a fresh cup but the task at hand, at least at this point, is more immediate and demanding.

When No One's Looking is when I turn my eyes outward and shut off the mental processes so I can absorb: the fat, green oak leaves waving in the wind like thick-fingered hands. Or how the other day in a slight rain the drops graced the elm leaves and made the quietest "pat" sound that awarded said leaves a faux-fleshy quality, like when a drop of water hits the centermost part of a cupped hand.

When No One's Looking is when a man cries. For those loved, for those lost, whether here or now elsewhere, and for a world that must be sifted through in order to find that patch of sand where true assimilation takes place.

When No One's Looking it is easier to walk against a boisterous wind, being tossed this way and that, stumbling a little, but still moving forward. No one there to catch you if you fall, and no one there to laugh if you do.

When No One was looking at a child in a dark bedroom, the child nevertheless relentlessly hid underneath his covers, afraid of the witches and demons and other monstrosities that lurked and schemed just outsight the thin fabric of the red plaid comforter. The child felt that if he couldn't see the evil, they couldn't see him.

Fifteen years down the road, he learned to walk everywhere with eyes wide, and shut.

Aug 24, 2006

From Songbirds to Garbage Trucks

Went to the President's picnic last night at the college; no, it's not THE President a.k.a. "the G-Dub Allstar." They wouldn't dare let me near him.

This president's picnic was a lavish function with drinks, food, and fun for the families of the institution's faculty and staff. Mainly it offered me a nice opportunity to reconnect with professors I studied under whom I hadn't seen for most of the summer; it also gave them the chance to exercise the metaphorical squeezing of the cheeks that always takes place when the college hires a former student, like turning ten all over again.

The scent of grilled chicken and pork wafted through the groups of people chattering away underneath the great, white tent. Wasn't appealing to me in the least, and I waived my right to a well-rounded dinner. The skies, they churned and rumbled, teased about rain, but never released.

Popped some Excedrin first thing this morning upon my rise. Woke before the chirping alarm, feeling good, and oh do I love how that feels. Decided to treat myself a bit and hit the snooze since I was so early, something I regretted. I wasn't late for work, but I was roused from sleep by a large garbage truck emptying the dumpster right outside of my building. Windows open, this mechanical noise assaulted my ears and traveled through the delicate canals to send auditory shockwaves through my brain. Enter the headache. How disturbing, and ugly, I thought. Just plain nasty. I can't say that there is a worse sound to wake up to. Just like a tank, minus the squeaky treads.

And what a contrast, from the country to this. I remember nights (mornings) where I'd first be getting to bed around sunrise, and the songbirds would lull me into a deep, restful sleep. From songbirds to garbage trucks.

When the truck pulled out, left, the absence of those songbirds is really what rang the loudest. Later, on the way to work, I passed two dead skunks, one with guts completely exploded out its ass-end. Further up the road, closer to the college, I spotted what looked to be an entire family of possums, mowed down by some great machine, most likely driven by a student.

Such pollution, such destruction wrought by the mechanized vehicles of human convenience. I'm going to need a camping trip, soon, and serene, just to maintain my sanity.

Aug 22, 2006

Woke up early

this morning so that I could take Private Rodriguez to his attorney's office so he could finalize a few things, sign some papers, solidify the ground that he'll walk on towards becoming a military man. Last night, he crashed on my couch once again, something that's happen three times since I've made the most recent move. Hasn't cut his hair in almost a year, and it's becoming a bit unruly, but he knows just how the army will take care of that for him.

Roused by the chirping alarm on my phone, I showered in a mindless haze after starting a pot of coffee. When I stepped out, dried and clothed, Rodriguez lay still on the couch, asleep.

"Good morning," I said in a low, authoritative voice.

He sat straight up on the couch, eyes wide open, bloodshot, full moons with red rivers running zig-zagged; his hair was matted every which way. Might've been dreaming about his future drill sergeant. I turned away from him and poured myself a cup of coffee. Once I faced him again, I saw that he'd dropped right back into sleep.

Same voice: "Would you like some coffee?"

This time he turned, and sat forward on the couch.

"Sure," he said.

I hate these goodbyes. I loathe them. Over a year and a half ago, he and I went through the same thing. It was a choice between staying here, in this city, and continuing to screw things up, or move away, and try a fresh start. I remember dropping him off late at his ex-girlfriend's place the night before he left; we parted with a tearful embrace. We love eachother like brothers, and one is not afraid to let the other know.

The move away didn't seem to help. Survival there worked temporarily, but he found himself falling fast into the same old rut. No job, no income, he had to move back, though he couldn't hold employment here either.

The armed forces was the last option in my mind, and in his, I'm sure. But even with that option the kid needed some sort of motivation. I remember one phone conversation we had once he'd arrived back here, where I'd become frustrated with his bitching and lack of action.

"Well then you get your ass down to the recruiter's office this week," I said. "Get down there and talk to them, don't just talk about talking to them."

Even though I am extremely apprehensive about the entire thing, I also believe that this might be his best option to get him on his feet as well as provide him with a level amount of discipline and motivation. But out of that apprehension came yesterday's comment about him
not becoming a meathead.

Long story short, he went down, and in five hours from this writing he'll be on his way to Milwaukee, and from there, Oklahoma.

He came over last night, as I expected he would, a bit drunk, spewing foolish talk. It pained me to see him this way, but I knew it all stemmed from the journey he'd begin the next morning.

Upon dropping him off at the lawyer's place this morning, since I hate goodbyes, we planned lunch, one final send-off. I took the long way to work, driving by myself in an empty car, the music blaring in the hopes it might clear my head. The route along the lake seemed the most appropriate. The sun's light played on the placid surface of the water, reflecting off of it as if it were pock-marked metal. Clear skies, delicate clouds about the horizon. I'm just pleading to god that there isn't a storm brewing in the distance.

Aug 17, 2006

Revisiting Ladybugs

Tonight, I dine with the Middlewesterner. He is a man that has had great influence on me as a person, and as a writer. In fact, he's probably the most influential person when it comes to me being the writer I am today. The man who I had the least in the classroom when compared to my other mentors, but the man with the greatest, visible effect. The man who helped open my eyes to the little things we as humans too often pass over, and also to pull the lessons from those same things when it appears that there may be nothing at all to see. This blog would not exist were it not for him.

For instance, the ladybugs, those sienna, black-speckled insects that hold onto life each fall by clinging to doorknobs on the exterior of the college's buildings, and squeeze themselves through the tiny cracks in the fluorescent light fixtures; a futile search for that warmth, they get as close to it as they possibly can, even if that same warmth will eventually dry them out, kill them. A search on the micro level for that which pleases, for that which happiness is derived from, even if it will cost a life.

Such has been my own search, though I hope it is old age that one day takes my life, instead of some unfortunate accident or indulgence. Even on that last day I know the answers won't be clear to me, yet, I can look back satisfied, knowing that at least I'd been surveying this world, eyes wide open, for most of my life; the accumulated findings may not add up to a wholistic portrait, but at least it's something that I'll carry with me up to that point, then leave behind for others to scour over. My mind most likely won't be as sharp, but somewhere, deep down, lies the knowledge that none of it--the laughs, the struggles, the confusion, and the epiphanies--has been in vain.

We'll eat at the Thai Cafe in town, maybe have a couple of beers with it. The Middlewesterner swears that he was Thai in another life, an explanation for his penchant for Thai food. As for myself, I am a Thai virgin. I've had Asian cuisine, but it would be ignorant to corral that food into one area; food as diverse and magnificent as the cultures.

I hope this post finds you all well. And Tom, I will see you later this evening.

Aug 11, 2006

Simply an Update

The new job has kept me busy, yet satisfied. Never thought a ten hour day could be fun, or pass by like it was only four hours. Time is sailing by, but it seems to be riding on white-crested waves not so wind-blown and random.

Nearly 90% settled into the apartment. New computer seems able to do almost anything short of dressing me in the morning. The laptop isn't out of commission, only temporarily disabled until I purchase an external keyboard.

Ah, apartment living as a bachelor. It's as I told Steve last night:

"I can go to bed naked, leave the door open, wake up, walk into my kitchen, make breakfast, and no one's there to care."

"Well, if you have the right girl, you could do that too," he said.

"I know, but there's something about doing that without having to worry about anyone," I said.

"True. Yep, you could do that."

"I did."

The move off campus left me no time to really savor the landscape I'd admired on countless evenings. How the corn had been coaxed into growth by the sun's warmth in a matter of months, from sprouts to two foot high stalks. And the clouds splayed across the horizon, backlit by a red-orange glow so diffused yet vibrant that one long glance can turn a man into a believer. Sequinned skies, so bright, so close, so real. A temporary sight, but one that makes me wonder more about the great design, the scheme, and if indeed there is a pair of hands behind it all.

I can't help but feel a loss. Like the first car I ever owned, and then sold: a golden 1970 Chevrolet Impala. Someday, if I can manage, I'm going to get back in touch with that sense of security, swim inside those old memories, renew them as if it were just yesterday when my eyes were opened and I was able see the purpose and beauty in almost everything.

A rumor surfaced last Monday that I might have to be out of the GA house at school by Wednesday. This same rumor was confirmed Tuesday morning, and I had been given roughly 36 hours to vacate. Not my idea of advance notice, but as life is so unpredictable at times, I had to stay in motion with a clear mind.

Aug 6, 2006

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Aug 1, 2006

The Devil's Breath

It is something of a miracle that I am even able to type right now. The temperature outside has finally fallen a few degrees, meaning sleep might be possible tonight. The weather service has issued heat advisories the last two days, and tonight, something unprecedented: they've announced an advisory that will last through the night, up until sunrise where they expect a cold front, and more storms.

The last few days have been oppressive, stifling: ninety five to one-hundred and two degrees, depending where I was. For my international friends in rhythm with the world, that's somewhere in the upper thirties in celcius. The part that chokes is the humidity, right around ninety percent each day, though it ain't rainin'.

And the house. It's absorbed the external environment. It's hotter and more humid in here right now than outside, like maybe someone left the oven on. And the iron. And the other oven. Oh what I'd give for a tent right now, or even a small tarp to spread across the ground.

Can't wait to get out of here. Think I've narrowed down the apartment search: moving back to the complex I lived in with the roommates, only this time, I'm going alone. Called the old landlord up on a whim and told her I wanted a one-bedroom lower and the first month free when I signed the lease. She says ok, and that there's a brand new unit for me with a view of the open field and the sky and the pond without the obstructions of streetlamps and brick buildings.

"So I hope you like ducks and geese and frogs and deer..." she says.

And all I can think of to say stupidly is "Yeah, I'm a nature guy."

I blame it on the heat.

I am typing too fast, an now notice increased perspiration. The coolest place right now is the basement, also not an option. Down in the basement of the house next door, a maintenance man found a dead animal. I'd tell you what animal it was except for the fact that when they found the creature, it was unidentifiable: just a hairy, gooey substance, teeming and pulsating with maggots, and beginnging to ooze out and away from the center.

No shiver from that image runs down my back, as it is too hot yet for that to happen. There's no relief in the devil's breath. It's enough to scatter a man's mind.