Tuesday, September 30, 2014

raise high the rooftop, ye carpenters

Today's quirky urban surprise in Syracuse: a crew of bearded men, each wearing a blue shirt and a straw hat, rebuilding -- actually adding on to -- the roof of an unsavory commercial building, an entity that seemingly sells cigarettes of questionable origin and caters to customers who are decidedly not refugees from Neiman Marcus. Are the rooftop carpenters Amish or Mennonites? They work steadily, quietly (in terms of no profanity, no shouting), and diligently. They make use of a chainsaw, possibly plugged in (which makes me wonder about their embrace of the uses of electricity, or not, according to their religious tenets). They work on the A-frame skeletal structure that will support the roof extension. And as they work, a clutch of neighborhood regulars (or bus stop patrons) sits on a retaining wall across the street, one of them with a tall boy (presumably a beer) in a paper bag. These wastrels watch with idle amusement. They do not know what to make of this foreign activity that goes by the name of "work." The rooftop workers seem to be oblivious of their audience. They are fully engaged in the task at hand. The viewers get their fill of free entertainment, just another uncounted hour of just another day absent of ambition, cognition, and fruition. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

check swing

A player (rookie catcher Andrew Susac, of the San Francisco Giants) checks his swing. He holds back. He has a second thought, within a nanoseconds-limited cage. He reconsiders, and halts the muscular force of an intentional swing. In unintentionally casting his batting fate to Fate, Susac in turn receives a gift from the baseball gods and goddesses: the baseball sails over first base, ricochets off the leg of an umpire, and Susac finds himself on second base. A rally ensues. This is so not Western. In the Western world, will prevails. Will and willpower conspire to conjure results. Or so we are told. But in this instance will was thwarted. Willpower wilted. And the results were better than expected or anticipated.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

arriving at the ultimate

The signs say PLANET SELF STORAGE. I wondered: Where indeed is that planet where you store your self? Do you store your old self in hopes of finding a new one? I suspect it is a planet without a name, perhaps not yet discovered. If you store your self on this planet, is it like a pawn shop where you can get your self out of hock in exchange for a metaphysical fee? Perhaps I am wrong, and the signs refer to Planet Self, where everything but self is stored there, in bins and large portable containers waiting to be pried open as the performers do on those faux-reality shows. Old bureaus, photos, silverware, eight-track tape players, magazines, moth-eaten fur coats, 78 rpm records, diapers, corn husks, rusty fenders, baseballs, petticoats, linoleum, gold bars. But no self. Self is the name of the planet, and it is the only celestial body in the universe called Solipsism. No, that's a stretch. Then again PLANET SELF STORAGE may be a coded message, a preachment to get right with the cosmos, figure out whom to serve, what to keep, what to let go. Naw.

Next door to PLANET SELF STORAGE is ULTIMATE ARRIVAL. ULTIMATE ARRIVAL may be the key to the riddle of PLANET SELF STORAGE. Or else it's a merely a tease. Because down the street a bit further is the GEM. And the GEM may be the answer to all these conjectures, though I forgot what they are.


handicapping perception

The Silverado pulls up into the handicapped parking spot to my right. The truck is big enough to eat my Rabbit in one gulp. The very truckness of my neighboring vehicle arouses an undercurrent of resentment. Its intimidating presence summons an echo of the grammar-school bullying I sometimes endured. (No, it doesn't. That's overstated, too overt. I only say that upon reflection afterward.) Instinctively I look for, and find, the handicapped parking tag hanging from the rearview mirror. Legit. (Isn't that grand of me, to approve?) The driver and the passenger in the back seat look whole and fit and able. They don't look handicapped to me. You're right. Maybe the driver or her passenger who loom above me are legless or eyeless or paralyzed or subject to seizures or handicapped mentally (does that qualify one for the parking privilege?) or dually addicted to drugs, alcohol, gluten, and trans fats. Maybe the vehicle transports someone in a wheelchair who is at home or at a rehab facility. Maybe. And what is it that really nettles me, anyway? The fat, gas-guzzling vehicle? The perception of entitlement? The appearance of injustice? Why should I care? Why should one who says he espouses the simple life, who asserts all manner of progressive values, bother to notice this harmless status, alleged or posed or sanctioned or otherwise? Questions worth pondering. Answers pending.

A few hours later, up at the University, I saw a Mini Cooper (or is it Cooper Mini? I always forget) drive by. I spotted a handicapped parking tag. A young driver, perhaps a students, zipping down the street, seemingly "whole and fit and able." Ah, what about her? What about that sporty car and its occupant?

And what about me?

Same self-imposed questions worth pondering. Answers still pending.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

white canvas

As is the character in the latest book by Haruki Murakami, am I colorless? I think not. In fact, my lack of colorlessness, my heated hues of opinion, bias, prejudice, and passion, often define me, not in ways I always prefer. Such is what it is, what I am. No, not colorless. Not colorless like Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, a fictional character who saw himself, at some point in his life, as drab, background, plain, unnoticed. A white canvas.

Speaking of white canvas, over by the Erie Canal trail in Minoa, New York, today I read about Canvass White. Great name. And quite the inventor and among the greatest civil engineers. He patented hydraulic cement. No small invention. Hardly a colorless background sort of guy. Or maybe he was, in his personal life. (I don't know.) Can you imagine, though, how hugely important the Erie Canal was? Sort of like the Internet of its day.

Give a tip of the cap to Canvass White, ye technocrats. Kudos to Canvass White, you bridge-builders, skyscraper builders, and highwaymen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

litteral danger

I walked outside, toward my car. Across the street, he dropped a can in a bag. Flippant, breezy. Careless. Insouciant. Without care. (Etymologically "without sorrow, anxiety, or grief; without burdens of mind; serious mental attention.") In flagrante delicto. Broad daylight. Almost twilight. I changed direction. "No direction home," to use a generational phrase from Bob Dylan. I walked across the street, telling myself silently, over and over, as if it were an incantation, a Roman Catholic litany, "Do not say a word. Don't say a thing." I picked up the can in a bag. Arnold Palmer iced tea. Near it, a Keystone Light tall boy. Not being a drinker, even to pick up that can, with its dregs and alcoholic odor, a risk. I picked it up too. The clutch of three or four bus-stop waiters staring at me, their eyes on me. "Hey," he said. I kept moving. "Hey." I focused on picking up the litter, the desecration of land not considered holy, not considered unholy, not considered at all. "Hey, mister, over here. You missed this. Hey. You missed one." Do not say a word. Don't say a thing. Do not say a word. Don't say a thing. I gathered the detritus. I held it. I stopped. I looked at him. We locked eyes. If looks could kill. I turned and crossed the street, my back to him, to them, my hands now shaking.

some dream

I was at the offices of a local, prominent law firm. I don't know which firm or why I was there. It was as if someone, not anyone visible, but a mere presence, was giving me a tour or introducing me around. We came to a room. Very high, tall ceiling. And very narrow. It resembled a closet. Painted. Simple. Not decorated. The narrow, tall room -- it was hardly a room -- was filled with people. Lawyers and support staff. In fact, I was told, or discerned, that the whole staff was assembled in the one cramped space. All looked back at me. All were silent. It had a whiff of Dante about it. They were just there, employees and partners. Something my host said or did revealed that much. I said, "Why is everyone here? Where is your office equipment? How can anyone work in this crowded space? I mean, I understand you are trying to cut back on overhead, but you are a prominent law firm. Come on." I do not remember the answer and do recall if I awoke then, or later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

in the nick of names

A group of guys I know are big on nicknames. Male nicknames are often half-needling and half-praising. (I can't claim to know a lot about female nicknames.) Of course, I'm known as Pawlie Kokonuts, though few if any of these guys I know tie my nickname to this blog. If they only knew. Nicknames are fraternal (or sororal) signifiers. They affirm identity and ranking. Think of mobsters, gang members, fraternities, sororities, clubs, teams, family members. Nicknames are also terms of endearment. Did Jesus have a nickname among his boyhood friends? Not "JC," because we know his last name was not Christ. Did Gandhi or Buddha or Marie Antoinette have nicknames? Chairman Mao? Joan of Arc? I'll stop with these unseemly speculations. In the nick of time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

self-massage

It pleases, it soothes, me to massage my forehead, that knotted epicenter of tense tightness. I delight in taking a knuckle at the base of my index finger, either hand, and pressing, kneading, hard, into my furrowed forehead. It is pleasure pain pleasure pain. Have you ever done this? Try it.

what if

What if, when my uncle 'taught' me how to swim by casting my boy's body in the deep of Long Island Sound, I did not merely panic and gulp salt water and thrash and somehow rise to the top and stagger to the shore but instead . . . drowned? How would this mishap be explained? Almost as shockingly, I suspect no one else knew the frightening agony I had just endured. Were my parents even there on shore? My brothers? Grab a towel, business as usual. And what if is the same question asked about my younger brother's 'swimming lesson' by the same uncle, in a pool, probably my aunt's. Same question. Somehow we carried on. Am I being melodramatic? Or are these two what-if scenarios replete with infinite implications? Sure could explain my fear of water. That, and my friend drowning when he was sixteen, me fourteen. And I cannot recall if my 'swimming lesson' was before or after my friend's drowning.

I can't tell you why this incident surfaced in my mind recently. It's not like I've been swimming. Boating, yes. Maybe because I'm assisting someone with a memoir or because I have worked on my own memoir. Recollections.

Anyway, glad it turned out the way it did.