On any TV show, in any language, when cops get on big motorcycles, they play “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf.
He was American, that much was obvious without a second glance. That was not surprising in the least in a place like this. The second glance, however, revealed him to be much more foreign. He didn’t fit in that brash place filled with chrome and white oak, a constellation of halogen lamps in nouveau deco nouveau fixtures shining from every direction, removing even the hint of a shadow. He brought his shadow with him and settled it around himself as he sat. I watched him. He was not there by choice. His eyes tightened when the coffee grinder ran, and when the steam valve was turned on to foam up someone’s latte. I had never realized what a noisy place it was until I saw him wince and felt the needles in my own brain.
He brought with him darkness and smoke, late nights with bleary eyes, lost nights wondering what the fuck you’re doing there and why doesn’t anything make sense. He was a creature of the night, of last call and dark secrets, and he had come up to the light. His right hand, I realized, was playing, quite of its own accord, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, his fingers brushing the table with gentle assurance, the tendons standing out on the back of his hand. I watched his fingers draw the graceful, deceptively simple lines of the song. He did not play with precision, but each time his finger touched the table I heard the note, and when he struck harder I felt that too, and it was beautiful.
It wasn’t until later it occurred to me to be jealous. I am a piano player. When I saw him I didn’t know what he was, but I knew he was not a musician. But at that moment his fingers played and I was the instrument.
I am suddenly conscious of the telephones all around me. Mingled with the sounds of labor-intensive coffee there is a constant background of ring-tones, of chatter with people who aren’t there, conversations between disembodied and placeless people. Their voices are as bright and piercing as the place they are in. None of them see him. None of them will see the shadow in their midst, as if unseen, it didn’t exist. I try to convince myself that their brittle happiness is more forced, more strident that usual due to his dark presence, but I know they’re always like that.
His fingers changed their pattern; it took me a moment to recognize WoO 59, generally known by the much more romantic title Für Elise. Still just the right-hand part; his left hand was motionless, clinched white-knuckled around his forgotten mug. Between his hands was a slip of paper, smudged and creased, lying flattened out the polished table. He never took his eyes off it. His lips worked as if he was sounding out the words written there, but as I rose to get a refill I saw that the paper was blank.
While I stood in the short line I looked back at him furtively as he sat hunched forward, long stringy hair unwashed, beard too long ignored, clothes slept in, his right hand playing music he had never heard, his left on the verge of shattering his mug. He was not just a creature of the night, of the underbelly of the city that I visited for gigs, he was some mad demon prince of that realm and his presence here meant the end had finally come.
He caught my glance when I came back to my table, next to his. He looked at me through red-rimmed eyes, pulled me in despite my urgent desire to escape. I had looked at his paper, and now I owed him an answer. His right hand had reached the roller coaster moment in the music, his fingers playing the two notes back and forth, more and more slowly with increasing urgency. His voice carried a sadness that made me feel a hundred years old. “There’s nothing there, is there?” He asked.
One time, maybe a year ago, I was walking in Mira Mesa and I was at an intersection with a couple of bicyclists. They were wearing white short-sleeved shirts and dark, narrow ties over dark slacks. “How you doing today?” one of them asked me.
Just because they’re recruiters for some organization I have no interest in doesn’t mean I should be impolite. “Not bad,” I said, which was close enough to the truth. “How are you guys?” Well, of course they probably get treated pretty rudely much of the time, so the moment I didn’t shut the metaphorical door in their face they launched into their pitch. We’ve all heard the pitch, and generally we all deal with it by ignoring it. I was nodding politely when one of them said something like, “If you accept Jesus into your life you will never be alone again.”
I couldn’t conceal my reaction. “That sounds horrible,” I said with a visible shudder. I don’t think I offended them, at least they probably weren’t offended until later when they had time to think about it, but the one-sided conversation came to a crashing halt. No one had expected that reaction, least of all me, and the sincerity of my sentiment was beyond question. I wasn’t trying to put them off; I was truly horrified at the thought of never being alone.
Holidays act as an aloneness amplifier. Sure, I like being around family for the holidays, but as far as solitude bang for buck goes, you can’t beat Thanksgiving and Christmas. You are aloner on those days than on any others.
I went out walking today, in the sharp cold sunshine. I thought of buying a scarf, it was a good day for one, but much like my days on the road there are times when motion will not yield to practicality or need. Where I went was unimportant. My intention was to find a nice spot to grab a meal, but nothing appealed. Well, that’s not true, many places looked interesting, and tasty, and warm, and friendly, but I found a reason to pass each one by. On my return I went to the store and bought some supplies to construct a modest Thanksgiving meal here in the apartment. Spaghetti. I also bought some cold cuts that might be turkey, but I haven’t tried them yet.
Technically, it’s not Thanksgiving here anymore, but It’s still Thanksgiving over there, and it’s an over there holiday. So happy Thanksgiving, everyone, everywhere. May you find yourself in good company and high spirits. I know I am.
So lazy, in fact, that the list is a short one today. But as a Special Holiday Bonus I’ve included a special section on cooking. As usual, words I don’t want to attract attention from the search bots are obfuscated by using spaces.
- “v a l l e y of fire”, fault, map – one of the most eye-catching episode titles gets more than its share of hits: Through the Val ley of Fire to the B o s o m of B o b b i
- electromagnetic launcher coil projectile – linked to my Get Poor Quick page, which includes a really bad but sexy-sounding idea for a reusable space vehicle
- smoking glass whore san diego – linked to main page.
- fun things to do when your drunk – My drunk? You know, I have a lot of suggestions, but really, you shouldn’t have to come to me for this.
- human b l i m p – granted, my story was about human-powered b l i m p s, but heck, close enough. (By the way, apparently BASSCAR is already taken.)
- who reads E U L A ask google a rhetorical question, it retaliates by sending you to me.
- half squirrel half girl – came to the main page
There were the usual queries about bars and the dog in the movie Half Baked. Squirrel violence was of course a theme, and links to references to various bars around the western US. A new addition to the list of usual suspects is H i g h w a y 60.
What does it say when every Sunday and holiday sees a surge in queries about how to c o o k e g g s? I imagine it goes much like this in countless households across the free world:
Man: No honey, seriously. I’ll cook up a nice breakfast for you.
Man: Sure. I didn’t starve before I met you, you know.
Obviously, they both think, regarding his belly, but neither says it out loud.
Man: How do you like your eggs?
Woman: O v e r e a s y.
Man: Me, too! That’s great! Instead of going to the kitchen, he goes to the office and sits down in front of the computer. Lord, I don’t ask you for much, but please let there be step-by-step instructions for cooking eggs the way she likes them.
Luckily, man finds my page on the subject. There’s no page better (in my opinion), but it just scratches the surface. Alas, man doesn’t know that toast takes surprisingly long compared to the time the egg is in the pan. He doesn’t know the pros and cons of leaving a few crispy critters from the bacon in the pan while he cooks up the eggs. He doesn’t know about controlling the perimeter of the egg as it drops into the pan, and the crucial role pan heat plays in that. He doesn’t even know if she likes her eggs sprawling or contained. There’s not much I can do for that individual but tell him the first rule. Don’t flip too soon. If I wasn’t so behind already, I’d devote a chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel to cooking the perfect o v e r e a s y egg.
In that context, I am the Lord’s cruel tease. Man will read my episode and think he’s got it well in hand, but in the end it takes practice to get the huevos just right. The pan is never the same temperature twice, so I can’t say exactly how many seconds to wait before the flip. You just have to feel it.
Back at Roma, belly full, glass full, novel almost to 50K, and the local news is on the television behind the bar. I have a theory. I think every local news broadcast around the world really only needs to be produced once. You have a pair of talking heads, one blonde with a frightening amount of makeup, the other a distinguished-looking gentleman with just a little gray at the temples. The glamor and the stability.
It’s the holiday season, so of course you spend five minutes of the broadcast showing people putting up trees and other decorations. There is the shot of parents hiding the presents, another shot of the kids finding them. Some guy is droning on over the whole thing. Blah, blah, blah. For this spot language matters not at all. You’ve heard the same crap year after year. Finally the tape is over and we find ourselves back in the studio. The blonde turns to the gentleman and says, blah, blah, blah. He chuckles and says back, blah, blah blah. You could use Charlie Brown wah-wah-wah dubbing and then use the same clip the world over. No one would even notice that it was not in their language.
And now, the sports.
You don’t have to be assaulted by crowds of little people, accused of manslaughter only to be instantly acquitted because the victim deserved it, then snared into a blood feud with the victim’s sister, to know that you you’re a long way from home. Sometimes the signs are more subtle, but they add up.
Take being locked in the building. Any building manager that would change the locks without warning so that his tenants could not get out in a fire would be arrested in the US. Here, people just shrug and go find the guy to get their new keys. Apparently it’s not that uncommon of a circumstance.
I smell ham right now. Mmmmm… ham. I can smell the ham because my window is open. It’s really quite chilly outside, but it’s nice and toasty in here. In fact, it’s downright hot. There is no temperature control in the apartment. In the true collectivist spirit that reigned when this building was slapped together, everyone freezes or bakes together. I guess the man with his hand on the dial down in the boiler room likes his toes to be toasty.
And speaking of buildings, there’s a dead rooster on the little balcony outside one of the landings.
I have to say, everyone I’ve talked to has been very friendly – or at least they sound friendly. For all I understand all the things they say, they could be cursing at me from behind their friendly smiles. When they discover I don’t know what they’re saying, that doesn’t stop them at all. On they go, discussing the weather or, well, whatever. Once NaNoWriMo is over, hopefully I’ll have more brain to devote to learning czech. The guy at Roma Pizzeria has taken it upon himself to teach me one new czech word each time I go in. Last time it was “Dobrou chut” (bon apetit), which I already knew, but I didn’t know how to tell him I already knew.
One time on late-night television, Letterman or something of that sort, Tom Hanks was interviewed. I guess at some point in the past he was in a movie where a dog was a major character. I remember if vaguely; I believe the dog’s slobber was as much a character as the dog. Tidy people forced to live with big sloppy dogs is a Hollywood staple. Not as common as the fifty attempts each year to recreate the odd couple with guns, but there are obviously many producers who read Marmaduke and somehow haven’t realized that the implicit punchline (Boy! That’s a big dog!) hasn’t changed since the first frame was drafted many years ago.
This has nothing to do with what I intended to write about tonight, but if Marmaduke were to choke to death on Garfield’s corpse, the world would be a better place. I know, I don’t have to read them, and I don’t, but my newspaper is paying – giving someone else money – to put that crap in when their whole business is selling space to other people. But enough of that.
I guess the Hanks-dog movie didn’t do so well. So there was Tom, sitting smugly in the guest chair, and rightfully so as I think at that point he’d picked up two oscars in a row, lovingly bashing on Gary Sinese for dragging him down, and the dog movie comes up. The Hankster said something like, “We forgot the hollywood rule. Never kill the dog.”
I just got done watching The Road Warrior. There is only one line I would change in the whole movie. He comes staggering out of the tent and says “I’ll drive the tanker.” There’s some argument, and then he says to the leader, “I’m the best chance you’ve got.” That’s the line I would have changed. ‘Cause really, he doesn’t know how tough the others are, and he’s pretty banged up. I would have written, “They killed my dog.”
I had a housemate once, one of the lowest people ever to walk the Earth. Listing his sins would have to be a whole nother episode. But when I list his sins, the one I finish with was, “and he’s mean to his dog.” Truly, some of his other, um… habits… were more despicable and more harmful. He was a blight on the planet. But his poor dog’s brain was entirely dedicated to pleasing him. I’m digressing again.
In Road Warrior, the bad guys kill the dog (whose name is ‘dog’) in cold blood, while Dog is defending its master. (Incidentally, the dog in question bears a striking resemblance to John and Janice’s dog Jesse, but with a lot more tail.) In that same movie, there is the amazon warrior, up on the tanker as it blasts out of the compound. If I’m not mistaken (and when was the last time that happened?) her last line was “I was wrong about you.” I have seen the movie more than once before, but my reaction every time her body is torn from the barbed wire to bounce across the highway, transfored from being a warrior to being a traffic hazard, has always been the same. “They can’t kill her!” They killed her, and left her on the side of the road for the buzzards to clean up. Not even a pause in the pacing of the film to let us feel the tragedy. Just another casualty. You wonder how she lived so long, being so brave.
The title at the top of this episode promised you an accident of fate, and looking back I may have oversold. But, when looking up the name of the warrior woman, who had a fierceness but carried a lot of freight when she said “I was wrong”, I ran across an actor whose name is… Boulder Road Warrior. Now I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that’s not what his momma named him. The name of the movie he was in was Twister:A Musical Catastrophe. Yeah, I’d change my name, too. Possibly I’d change it to Joe Blow or something like that. Boulder Road Warrior. Imagine you’re casting a film and that name comes across your desk underneath the head shot. There’s an agent crying to be fired.
In one of those Lethal Weapon movies they kill the girl, and wasn’t he the guy in payback, where they kill his dog and his wife? The dog is a much more sympathetic character, but you know sittin here typin I have to take my hat off to Mel, that he turned what for Tom was a Hollywood mistake into a great role. More than once.
Gotta sign off now, I’m playing the soundtrack to Get Crazy, and damn if it ain’t the best movie soundtrack ever.