Monday, December 31, 2012
I saw two guys this morning, sitting on a loading dock behind a grocery store. It is cold this morning in Tallahassee. Their breath rose from laughing faces, protected deep within hoodies pulled forward against the wind, white aprons fluttering. I saw this scene in my periphery as I turned onto Lafayette street. The sun was breaking across their cardboard desk, and one of them tapped the ash off of a cigarette. Before that ash could flutter into the parking lot I was transported back to all of the places where I did not work when I was working.
At the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant we called it "Lopez" as in, "Meet me at Lopez in 5, I just need to drop off these Mudslides." Lopez was where the broken chairs would go, still serviceable, but unfit for the general public. A wooden slat fence separated Lopez from the restaurant deck on the bay, where tourists sat disappointed over sweaty grouper sandwiches, cold french fries, and a million dollar view. At Lopez, a server could smoke a cigarette and spy on their tables. Dishwashers could bum cigarettes from servers, and managers could tell everyone to get back to work before smoking a cigarette. A Great White Egret we called "Guapo" served as the bailiff at Lopez, and he worked for leftover calamari and sweet tea-soaked lemons.
At Little Baja, the NW UNITED STATES LARGEST TERRA COTTA IMPORTER we had two places. On rainy, cold Portland days we would sit in a 15 ft. travel trailer around a space heater, playing chess and thinking murderous thoughts about customers who summoned us out to dicker over the price of a cracked chimenea. On sunny days, we sat in a private Shangri-la hidden within a maze of strawberry pots where smoke could waft and dissipate through a thousand cupped holes before mingling with the Burnside air. They still use a slogan I coined, "WE GOTTA LOTTA TERRA COTTA." I never see a royalty check.
At the Tallahassee Rock Gym it was all down time, but at sunset we would step outside to lean on the rail and watch the colors spread over the oaks beyond the train tracks of Railroad Square. We had a worn-out hoop in the corner of the parking lot and there really wasn't much to keep us inside monitoring the boulderers and nose-picking children instead of playing a heads-up, elbowing round of every man for himself twenty-one.
In Barcelona, I took breaks between explaining the difference between "make" and "do" to drink wine and eat tortilla de patata at a place across the street called Bar Michigan. They liked me. I believe they thought I legitimized their American bent. I never told them I was from the South, and had never been to Michigan.
Friday, December 28, 2012
The longer you go without pushing the words out the more they get impacted in your mind. With all of the cheese and yeast bread consumed over the holidays thoughts get sluggish and it takes more effort to plop out a healthy sentence or two.
Exercise helps promote a robust flow of buoyant vocabulary that effortlessly floats onto the page.
I am thankful for a reunion ride yesterday that got three of us out and churning up the hills of the Miccosukee Greenway. To be riding at all was enough to stir movement in my thoughts.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
No writing means no riding, as the two are, for me, a self-sustaining perpetual motion machine. the holidays are just tough, and although we had just the right amount of Christmas, the whole season is a careening asteroid bent on destruction of the normal and healthy routines that keep us balanced and well. There is really no solution, just endure and survive.
This little scribble is a step in the right direction.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
My paternal grandfather, Ollie, whom I called Papa, lived in a little enclave of a trailer park for all the years I remember. It was a community on a little lake, with a pavilion where people gathered to fry bluegill, crappies, and bass the residents caught as they enjoyed their retirement. Papa was an anchor in that park for a lot of people, so I remember him driving friends to the doctor, fixing lawn mowers, and generally holding court on his front porch where he sat on a slider, legs crossed and usually smiling. I remember him as a happy guy, clever with his words and hands.
His part-time job in that park was taming squirrels, who would one by one learn to trust him and take peanuts from his fingers. When he sat out on the patio, the squirrels would gather about the edges behind ficus trees and hanging ferns, twitching their tails and sniffing in anticipation. The park, the squirrels, My papa, and his frost-blue Buick all lived under a dome of oaks and tall pines.
I think this is one of the reasons I love Munson Hills so much. It smells like I remember Charlie Oaks Trailer Court smelling. The squirrels that live out there are mythic in size, equal parts bold and elusive. Big bull grey fox squirrels-- as big as cats- rule alongside the Pileated Woodpeckers who coast between the trees. Last Sunday I got to ride out there with a long-time friend who moved on from Leon County to greater things. His name is Mel, but that is not his real name of course. There are no bike trails in Singapore, where he lives today, and yet he rode like it was 1991 when he was known for pedaling hours beyond the rest of us, and into neighborhoods and land we never saw.
The Big Greys were either out in force, or one was following me, as I sighted at least five in our 8 mile cruise. I stopped at one point, dumbfounded at the nonchalance of one particular squirrel stallion, shimmering black stripe down his back, with grey wispy sideburns. He rooted and picked over acorns not 20 feet away. I whistled a long, low note and he spun to face me. "Hey old squirrel!" I said, and my words echoed back off the packed needle floor. He wandered a little further off as Mel approached to find me standing in the trail, resting on the bars. "Are we almost done?" he asked, ready to put this ceremonial roll in the books.
"Yeah, just one last little hill that goes a bit further than expected, and we're out of here. "No reason to hold back, so just charge it and get yourself good and winded."
I wanted a picture of that squirrel so bad, but he wouldn't stand still and I'm no photographer. More often than not, as I'm slowly learning to get used to it, you just have to appreciate that you were there for the moment at all.
Friday, December 07, 2012
"Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away".
When I was a breakdancer (1985-2001) there were a few moves that separated the players from the haters. First there was the windmill, and later, the flare. There was no getting around it, these were compulsory skills if you hoped to compete. I practiced the windmill for hundreds of hours. I had a permanent bruise on my right hip for my entire sophomore year of high school. By my junior year I could take flight. Now, at 42 years-old I can still feel the allure of dropping a hand to the floor and launching my legs into the air- letting the centrifugal force carry me over from chest to shoulders until the momentum takes over like a perpetual motion machine, which is when you can let go and grab your crotch like the real pros.
The flare, borrowed from gymnastics, is responsible for ending my career. The same stout, squat thighs that distribute pain throughout the peloton now betrayed me back in those days. I was forced to accept retirement and hang up my sneakers.
The slam dunk. The ollie. The wheelie. The curve ball. the back flip. What else?
There comes a time with all pursuits when you are confronted with your limitations or your growing edge. It takes a while to find out which it is, and often there is pain involved.
I watch Huck Shins drop a double flight of stairs, narrowly avoiding crushing his head on a concrete berm, and laying sparks across the corridor from his chain ring kissing the corner of a step. In spite of those dramatics, his performance was exhilarating to watch, but I was never truly worried. In contrast, when I watched Tommy Torso line up form a jump on the Cadillac trail I knew it was a bad idea, failed to stop him, and watched him swim through the air and popcorn down the trail before coming to rest with a bone poking up beneath the skin of his shoulder. He met his growing edge, or his limitation it would seem.
These are hard moments and bitter lessons.
I once wanted to be an artist, but drawing the human hand proved too much. I play some guitar, but scales confound me. I may get a little air, but I'm happiest with both tires on the trail.
The rarefied air may be sweetest, but the air is pretty savory just beneath it.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
This story finds the writer walking up and down the block with a zip-loc sandwich bag full of water. In the other hand is a leash. At the end of this leash is a diminutive dog, an apricot poodle-cocker-spaniel mixed breed, commonly known as a poodie-cock.
The writer is menacing the poodie-cock with the zip-locked baggie of water, this water-bomb. The writer has no opportunity to explain this to approaching walkers, who are pressed into service as necessary distractions. The walkers approach. The poodie-cock coils to unleash a withering bark, but a-ha! Pre-empted by the writer with a swift trebucheting of the shoulder the baggie explodes on the pavement next to the dog and the writer utters his disapproval with a gravelly, ominous baaaaaaaaa!
Just days prior to this moment the writer was pedaling a bicycle furiously across lands known and unknown, absolutely crushing the pedals towards the earth when this same baaaaaaaaaaa! escaped his lungs in a wheezing deflation like a piano falling to the earth, or a water buffalo felled by a bullet. Then all went quiet. The writer gazed up into trees, now in light fall colors, beset by a sprinkling of stars or flashes of light sprinkle-sparkling around his vision as though he were wearing goggles and swimming in a bio-luminescent tide. Toes move, then ankles, knees, hips- Oooo the hip! Then tender ribs accordion a breath and bloody elbows prop the writer prone, a thread of drool descends to the cinnamon dust and lifts again as the wheezing writer regains his senses.
The world is so quiet and calm after a crash, like a period on the end of a rambling run-on sentence that just doesn't know when to quit, constantly striving to include one more appositive phrase, which is a description of something already named when you get right down to it, but before the writer attempts to stand he thinks about that apricot dog, and the baggies of water, and of winning the battle for control of the pack.
He brushes himself off, mounts the bicycle again (he is still so far from home) and considers the possibility of writing of himself in the third person, knowing that it is an eye-rollingly dull gambit, but useful and fun all the same.