early in the a.m. these tunes were static on my AM battery operated converter modulated transmissions diverting my attention sending me back in time messages from an earlier epoch here to overwhelm with memories locked inside an electromagnetic realm before the term classic rock was coined hearing these lyrics unchained melodies a little bit of history repeating our thoughts enjoined releasing restraints inside my mind we got nothing but time precious time who is that? you mean when is that? a rhyme thirty years ago I can tell you no you can’t you died in ’95 let me google now you are coming alive through my devices despite my resistance refusing my attempts to process you out of existence
There is a chance you may never read me; or maybe, you may be an “alternate universe you” following an “alternate universe me.” You see… In 1998, I almost fled the country. No, I was not an escapee on the run from the authorities.
I was planning a bicycle tour around Europe; or at least as many countries I could see in three summer months. (I told everyone I planned on returning… Really?) I spent a long, cold winter in New England planning it out. Planning my route. All I really knew was I had no doubt.
I took the steps to obtain my passport and looked into open-ended airline tickets to Heathrow Airport in London, England. They didn’t have such a detailed website back in the day. I didn’t even have a bicycle at the time but that was a minor detail. I had plenty of loot and I had done my research, one pixel at a time served over our dial-up modem. I did learn how to and how much it would cost to pack and ship a bicycle and all the gear by airplane. I’m not sure if Rick Steves had a travel site back then but I had his book.
I really did want to travel through the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) from Folkstowne (Kent, England),to Coquelles (Hauts-de-France, France.) at 160kmh/100mph. That was about as exciting as the world got in the 90’s. The “World Wide Web” did have a large amount of information readily available even 30 years ago. I found the prices of Eurail passes and schedules and I could bring my bicycle on board and tons of stuff I should have put in a journal years ago.
My itinerary was rather vague. My planning did extend beyond entering France at blazing speeds but now I think back and maybe I didn’t want my 4 years of high school French going to waste. I couldn’t speak much, but I sure could, “Parler Vous.”
That is how most of my travel plans begin; more of a direction than a destination. You know, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium…. Belgium? Of course Paris for the wine… Um… The Louvre, Eiffel Tower…. I even researched Hostels. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in there but I am sure I would have fit in there.
After visiting REI websites touring checklist, I found I would have been woefully unprepared for a bicycle tour. I figured, panniers, backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cooking device… Maybe some food? Hydration? A flat tire would have left me stranded and dead. (Are you reading this?) I imagine I imagined France had Perrier pumping stations and raven-haired maidens offering platters of bread and brie every 20km/12m along the county roads? It seems I would need a travel van following me with a pair of assistants for a weekend trip from reading that checklist. I was planning on months. I think part of my plan involved asking farmers if I could set up a tent in their field. Comment dites-vous? Puis-je dormir sur votre fille (If you are reading this; I did not die in that farmer’s field.)
Who am I kidding? If you’ve read my blog you know where I would end up eventually. The beach! Côte d’Azur! Maybe somewhere close but less expensive. Drinking some fashionably unfashionable, RED wine, laughing my ass off while pissing off the locals with my stupid, “Quel fromage!” jokes. (ohhhh… Mon petit beaujolais…) Later stumbling home alone at night to write, “Postcards from the Edge.” (I love you Carrie Fisher)
If you are reading this in English, you know who I am. If you are reading this in French, I don’t know who I am. (Unless you are reading a translation; then none of us really know who we are.)
Another reason you are reading this (are you reading this?) is I may have ditched my plans for a woman I was in love with the idea of being in love…
There are a million choices I could have made at a million points in my life where I would not have what I have now. I am being provided… I am being watched over…
the equalizer balances specific frequencies within range, converting the integers , leaving the remainders of the tranquilizers buzzing around my brain, sit back, don’t touch that dial, looks like we might be here to get strange, while we ask you some questions that are out of the question, where did it begin, how do you present when they check you in? they say I had it coming, handsome and becoming and proud and don’t say this out loud they will be coming for miles around to surround my sound waves, can you see the waves, can you see the waves of the star spangled banner in a manner of speaking, we are strangling the weaklings, all equal to the sum of our parts, god bless your heart, softens the blow of insinuation in casual conversation, between the two of us, right, you just might share it with another, that’s where the teardrops start… Are you crying for your brothers and Sisters? take turns swinging the Sledge, driving a wedge, coming between us, rubbing against the grain, this virulent strain, half this shit’s gonna be puked up in the bowl, washed down the drain, by my… I… said it before, illegible, inedible, unpalatable, pablum for your babied soul, if choosers could ride, beggars would be deciding the course, of course, I’m petulant and insolent never showing respect but you got me wrong, these are just words I heard in a song, if you add it all up, I guess it could be worse, it could be rock and roll, everything’s under control, got it? get it? got me? coming and going , never knowing, who what, where, when and… can you feel my presence while remembering whence and heretofores and therefores and wherefores and whys, henceforths and hows before you understand the singularity of the now, you got to know before you die, I… I… I… can relate to these relations, the greatest generation never had two nickels to rub together, pulled us up by the bootstraps, lifted us out of depression, coming back from the sick times, we have cars not worth a dime, get back up, now, you learned your lesson, whether or not, it’s true, gotta take what you got and turn it into something, new memories are mightier than the sword, says the savant who plays with words, a harmless idiot, can’t tell he’s insidious, still the blade left hideous scars, tender care will be sent, ailing remedies for your ailments, you got it made in the shade… lying in the gutter, looking at stars
What is the value of the stories I write? Staying awake all night, I still keep talking Telling myself If wishes were horses, I’d still be walking Could I borrow some paint to color my soul? Maybe the Modern Lovers’ were right Pablo Picasso… Was never called an asshole
Credit Where Credit Is Due: (Below is link to live version on YouTube, the way it was meant to be heard)
Creating diversions by casting dispersions Pebbles send ripples across the pond of your mind Was I a serendipitous find? You think I’m eccentric, but our lives are concentric Parts of both axes misaligned
Blue Moon Rising was a dog that only came around once in a blue moon. He was a year old when we got him so we kept the name. I guess we had to keep him too. We shortened his name to Blue and sometimes Blue Moon if we wanted to get him to sing.
We adopted him from a couple who lived in a small apartment. They loved him but they had a newborn and said he had too much energy. I would soon find out they were telling the truth. He was content lie around the house for a couple days (Usually taking up most of the couch or wishing he could get on the bed.) but then he needed to run… And I mean run! If it wasn’t outside than it would be around the house. Knocking over tables, lamps, chairs, refrigerators… You get the idea?
Exercising him was no problem in the summer months. We lived near the beach and that was his favorite place. It was my favorite place also. (In the summer) The best dog toy ever invented was the Chuckit! stick. (No affiliations) It is a two foot long plastic handle that grips a tennis ball. I could “chuck” a tennis ball a country mile with that thing! Blue would get down low and bark at me until I let it fly and the chase was on! He would take off in a four legged dog sprint and almost catch up to it before it hit the ground; catching it in his mouth on the bounce and planting all four paws in the sand, sliding and spinning to a stop and full speed back to me. He was fast!
Like I said, it was no problem in the summer. Wintertime was a different story. He needed an hour of this almost every night to burn off his energy or he would destroy the house. There I would be after work; the only asshole on the beach in February and 5 degree weather with the ocean winds blowing. (That’s minus 15 Celsius for those of you who live in less civilized countries.) Chucking that tennis ball until after the sun went down. The problem came when he learned he didn’t have to go home if he had the ball in his mouth. He knew when I had enough and wouldn’t drop it in front of me. Instead he would go into the ocean and lie down to cool off! I’m about to get hypothermia and he’s too hot! Lying in the water, tongue hanging out past the tennis ball, panting with steam rising off his back!
Well, I’m smarter than the average dog. I started bringing two tennis balls. I kept one in my back pocket until he pulled his trick and I pulled mine. “Blue, Blue.” He would perk up. Suddenly my ball was much more interesting than his and he would follow me back home.
He loved to swim. In the summer I would chuck the ball into the ocean and he would bring it back. Unless he lost it. Then he would swim around until he found it. If he couldn’t find it I would have to throw stones in the general direction. That is when I found out he liked to dive under the water and retrieve the rocks I threw. Yes, he was multi-talented.
He loved the beach a little too much. He had a one track mind. He would pull on his leash almost choking himself. We tried everything but eventually had to settle on letting him pull us around by his harness. If someone left a door to the house open a crack, that was all he needed to make his escape. After a while someone would say, “Where’s Blue?’ Of course he was on the beach. But which direction? I would flip a would walk to the right and look the length of the seawall and then go back to the left. He was easy to find. (Relatively) All I had to do was walk a mile or so until I saw a big dumb dog barking at someone until they threw the ball, Frisbee, stick, rock or whatever he found. “Yes, he’s my dog, sorry about that…”
Sometimes I wouldn’t have to go find him. The animal control officer would knock on the door. He knew us well… “Where was he this time? Sorry… ” Technically he was supposed to be taken to the doggie detention center and we would have to go down and bail him out with a hundred dollars. But come on… Did you see the picture? He would never make it in jail.
Blue would freak over “B” words. Of course his name. Blue? Beach? Ball? Bunny? Baloney? You get the picture. Inside the house he just wanted to be loved. If he wasn’t allowed on the couch or bed he would lie next to you and sigh…
If you don’t believe Labrador Retrievers are the best dogs, don’t take my word for it; ask the American Kennel Club. Labrador Retrievers have set a nearly 30 year record as most popular dog. Most because of their temperament. (As long as you don’t take them near the ocean I guess.) They are popular hunting dogs because they “retrieve” ducks from the lake which they love to swim in.
I woke up and looked out the second floor window of my grandparents house. A foot of snow had fallen overnight. The whole world was covered in white. I didn’t need to turn on my A.M. radio to know the school bus was not showing up that day to take us away.
My brother was still sleeping. I slid out of bed and creaked down the 100 year old staircase; running my hand across the Lady Liberty hand-carved newel post at the bottom. She had seen better days, with well-worn, cracked and chipped lacquer but still held her mahogany soul. She must have been a later addition, lifting an electrical socket towards the sky. No need to screw in a bulb, it wouldn’t shine.
Into the kitchen, I dragged a chair across the smooth linoleum floor. I needed it to reach the Frosted Flakes hidden behind the cupboard door. My cousin came in and clattered the bowls. My brother and his sister were always the deepest sleepers. But it wouldn’t take them long. Mom would be last.
I opened the closet near the front door and dug into the jumble of winter clothes that sat in a heap. Everything was mix and match and came from somebody else. If it fit, that is what you wore that day. I found my favorite pair of boots. Ski boots, cross country I think. There were no skis in the house. They looked like a pair of hiking boots with a thick hard rubber, square toed sole. I liked the process of looping the laces around the curved metal hooks. I loved those things. I wore them everywhere that year; even to school; they weren’t shit for keeping your feet warm but I thought they were cool. (I wasn’t cool)
Everyone gathered in the kitchen, hustling and bustling. Putting on two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, a sweater or whatever. Most of us had hats, wrap a scarf around my brother’s head and he’d walk around like “The Mummy.” (Creature Double Feature, Saturday afternoons) We all had good winter coats. One more thing before we were allowed outside. My mom ALWAYS had old household tricks that NEVER worked. This one was to keep our socks dry. Wonder Bread bags over our feet before we slipped them into our shoes. Where did they all come from? How much bread were we eating? Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Then we were out the door, trudging up the hill towards “South Road”. It was the first road cleared in the town however many hundreds of years ago. It was really a one lane dirt cow path through forest. It must have been surveyed because it was straight as an arrow. As far as I can remember we were the only ones who still used it. It was a mile walk through the unbroken snow to get to the sledding hill. Farmer Brown’s cornfield. Yes. That was his name. He would sell vegetables in season and use his tractor to plow everyone’s driveway in the winter. He charged by the job but my grandfather wanted to pay according to how inches of snow were on the ground. After every storm they would stand at the bottom of the driveway and have heated arguments. I not sure who won. I mean, we needed the snow removed and Brown had the only tractor in town but my grandfather was always adamant.
Farmer Brown had an accident earlier in his life. He was trimming a tree limb above his head when the chainsaw kicked back and the chain caught him in the mouth. He wasn’t disfigured but his tongue didn’t heal correctly. It affected his speech and the harder he argued with my grandfather, the louder and faster he talked. Until it was impossible to understand what he was saying. We would mimic him and crack each other up. MMMFFF! MMMFFF! MMMFFF! I guess it wasn’t very funny.
Finally we reached the end of the trail. Our socks already drenched (Thanks Mom.) and our jeans soaked up to the knees. Who cares? We were there! We only had two sleds so the two oldest would lie down faces pointed forward and the youngest would sit on our backs. We would play “Mad Max” and try to knock the other rider off. That was fun.
We were usually the first kids to get there after a storm and we would prepare the runway. Most kids started at the edge of the clearing and had a smooth ride. We blazed a trail from the very top of the hill that twisted and turned with built up banks on the curves. We fucked around and found out one day, if the snow wasn’t deep enough you would just go in a straight line. My cousin met a tree head on. It’s not funny. I’m not sure if we more worried about him being unconscious for a minute or how we were going to drag him back home and explain it to our parents. He recovered and got back on the horse the same day. Maybe that is why the other kids didn’t start at the top?
When the sun touched the tips of the trees on the other side of the road, that was our signal we had just enough time to trek home before it got completely dark. That was when we would notice the temperature. Looking at each other crusted from head to toe in frozen slush.
What a motley crew.
Back inside to sit by the heat and eat and pray for another storm.