Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Fidgeting Fiddlestick

I always know that after a night of heavy drinking...

...I'll find you in here.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Sailboat Story

I’ve got to tell you about Peter. My new assistant. Peter. Did you know that the name Peter means something like ‘rock’ or something like that. I think it’s Greek. Ha! All Greek to me, at least! Anyway, this boat is fabulous Royce and it’s what reminded me of this story. You see, I was in the office the other day putting something down on paper about someone I can’t really talk about…Rita Sanders Dillon…when Peter came in. It was right after the weekend, I think. It might have been a Tuesday, but I’ve been having such long weekends lately it’s hard to keep track of anything. Ha! More wine, if you have a chance, Marshall. So, Peter comes in to make me coffee or whatever the publishing house sent him to do and he’s walking with a bit of a limp. Now, I would never pry into anyone’s business, but I’m concerned. So I go over to him and I ask, “Peter, what’s wrong?” and the poor boy bursts into tears. I mean, he’s crying all over his desk, and this is a big boy. He’s like a Brazilian-Russian-Philipino-whatever, six foot three and built like an ox. Now imagine this man is just weeping in front of you. I didn’t know what to do. What would you do? Well, I know what you’d do Nancy, but I would never tell Royce. Oh, you know I’m just kidding. So he’s crying and sobbing and finally he starts to get out what‘s bothering him so much. It seems that he had been visiting some friends from college down on the coast of New Hampshire for the weekend. A house full of mid-twenties coeds; wouldn’t you just love to have been a fly on the wall? Anyway, on Sunday afternoon they all went out sunning on a sailboat just. like. this one. They found some lonely cove somewhere, dropped sail, and laid out. So, a few beers later somebody gets brave enough to start skinny-dipping and soon enough they’re all in. At this point in the story, I had to go get a drink of water. Ha! I mean, wouldn’t you? So, they’re all native in the water when Peter decides he’s going to go show off. Not that he’d need to after dropping his shorts I think, but it’s not my story. Thank you, Marshall. This wine is great, Royce. So, apparently he climbs up to whatever this hook thing is here on the mast and, being of super sound mind, jumps off, catching his ankle on the rail on the way down! He showed me the bruise. It was as big as my fist! So everybody swims toward him, rushes him back on deck, people are crying, it was very dramatic. They’re all so concerned about Peter that they haven’t noticed that no one ever dropped anchor and so they drift out of the cove and off to sea. Now by the time anyone has got any idea of what’s going on another girl at the back of the boat passes out and hits her head! So now half the people on the boat stay to help Peter while the other half run down to make sure this girl’s okay and nobody’s in charge of the boat! At this point I don’t know what I would have down if I were there. Probably sit and watch the naked kids run up and down the boat. Ha! So, Peter, after being fawned over by nearly-naked, post-college, hot cakes, pulls himself together enough to notice that the girl at the back of the boat is not doing well. Apparently she was an epileptic and had a pretty nasty seizure after the fall. By the time they got back to land it was too late; she had died! Peter was just heartbroken! He said he knew the family and had been involved with the girl and it was just devastating! Can you imagine? How horrible for everyone! So I asked Peter, I said, “What can I do? Is there anything I can do?” because what else can you say? At first he couldn’t think of anything, but he finally got up the courage to ask me for a few days off at the end of the week, for the funeral. I told him to take the rest of the week off, but he wouldn’t leave. He said it would be too much time for him to sit around and think about what had happened. Can you believe that? I was just blown away! You never think tragedy, real tragedy is going to happen to people you know, but there it was, just inches from my desk. So, anyway, that’s my sailboat story.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dear Decrepit Layabout

Please take a good hard look at these boats.

Now take a look at the squalor in which you reside.

Just one more way that I have a more vibrant life than you do.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Valid Question

Where is, well, I expected you to ask where. I mean why wouldn't you?

Let me try to explain:

I look at you and I see danger and excitement. I stare into your eyes and I want for more, and I'm a guy who's never wanted much of anything other than a decently made sandwich now and then.

I want to do things with you that I have never even considered doing--things so far-fetched that they seem practically fictitious. I want to explore the world with you. I want to go to the Netherlands and hang out by some windmills. I want to take you to Italy and take one of those goofy-looking photos where we're standing in front of the Tower of Pisa and we're leaning with it at the same angle. I always found those so irritating, but when I think of you I somehow find it a necessity to my life's completion. I want to go to the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels, and maybe you'll try to steal one of the furry hats that the guards wear while I cause a diversion, and we'll meet at a pub afterward and take turns trying it on. I want to head to the middle of the Colosseum in Rome and have an epic tickle fight.

I want to ride elephants with you through India, and pretend that we're in The Temple of Doom the whole way. I'll even wear the bomber jacket and hat.

I want to find one of those ancient, overgrown temples in southeast Asia, like, one of those places in Cambodia that the jungle has been retaking for the last thousand years, and I want to sit next to a tree as the tiny arrows of light shine on us through the dense canopy of vegetation and we feel those little spots of warmth, and if we line it up just right we can have our lips meet inside of one and have our kiss seem that much more supernatural. I want to wake up seeing the stars of the Southern Hemisphere through the trees. Have you ever seen the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere? It's totally foreign! It's really amazing how these infinitesimal blips of light form these, I don't know, unnoticed patterns that we would never realize make up what we consider home until we look up and they're entirely reconfigured. But I digress, I want to play with monkeys on the temple steps and you'll comment on how they could be like our children and I'll roll my eyes, but I'll really be thinking one of those "maybe someday..." thoughts. I want to track our way back to civilization alone through the jungle and I want to save you from some kind of great beast, like a tiger or a panther or something.

I want to take you to the movies and miss half of it because we can't keep our hands off each other. I want to walk the streets of this town in the middle of the night in a heavy summer downpour and push you up against the security gate of some closed-down storefront and kiss you as the water slides our cheeks and those drops hang on our noses, refusing to fall and tickling intensely. I want to have lazy evenings with you where we cook dinner and talk about our days. We'll team up washing the dishes; I'll wash and you'll dry and we'll leave the water running and the sink half-full to run into the bedroom where we'll stay until we find it difficult to walk.

That's what I want. All of it, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, and I understand that might seem strange to you. I know I just met you, so all of that probably seems way out of left field, but the way you were looking at me at the end of the bar, well, I was hoping you'd feel the same way. I want all this to happen, but none of this, not one bit of it, will ever take place if you don't get out of here with me right now. There's no rain-checks, or exchange of phone numbers or falsely serendipitous encounters at the same damn bar some other night. So when I asked you if you wanted to go somewhere and you asked "where?" I understood that you might have expected me to suggest another bar or a park or some equally asinine nonsense, but the only real answer I have is "Everywhere, to do everything." Does it really matter where we start?

Are you coming?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Tedious Vagrant,

The roots of the tree are deep.

Your words are not. Be the tree.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing


A stocky man in a beige trench coat and a dark Stetson hat smokes a cigarette on a metal bench on the side of the road.

‘You should never make fun of anything that you don’t understand.’

I always thought I understood those words, but no matter how many years I cling to this flailing dirt ball of a planet I still manage to find my foot in a far-too-familiar place, lodged securely between my tongue and my teeth. In my line of work there is plenty I don’t understand. I have seen and done things that are squarely impossible. The trick is to never let anyone else know that you don’t know what they’re talking about and the best way to do that is to keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to master that concept either. That’s why I’m at this bus stop; waiting for a ride that’s two hours late and wondering why I ever even left my apartment. But I know why. Deep down we all know the reason for the things we do, even if we don’t want to admit it. A woman goes shopping for expensive pearls because she doesn’t know if she can be pretty without them. A man kills a younger girl because he’s terrified she’ll never notice him. And me, I’m just curious. It’s not a sense of civic duty or a generosity of spirit or any of that blah blah blah, but a need, a burning desire to know. How else would these crazies get me out for this crap? Dr. Lombard would have been up the creek but for fate or karma or whatever lousy god you believe in that threw him up on my door, and here we are.
He walked in like a shadow afraid of the sun, pale as white marble and fidgeting to beat the band.
“Detective Harrison? Detective…Harrison?”
“It’s Lou,” I said. I hate it when people think they’re doing you a favor by spelling out your whole name. “What do you want?”
“Oh. Yes. Right. Well, I’m actually here because I was referred to you by a colleague. A Dr. James West…”
“James Westner, I remember,” I do remember. That damn doctor had me running all over South America looking for lost Incan gold. “We never did find much gold, but I hear that the Incan library we turned up is keeping him plenty busy.”
“Yes, quite. It is actually on his recommendation that I’m…”
“Curious though, I read in the paper that the doctor found that library all by himself. I could have sworn I was there with him, but what do I know? The paper never lies.”
“Oh…well…I, uh…” Dr. Lombard turned whiter, if possible, and nearly split down the middle before I offered him a seat. It took him a few minutes to calm down, but after a snifter of brandy he unloaded his whole suitcase of problems. It sounded complicated, but it boiled out that somebody somewhere found a real old scroll that everybody else thought never existed. It was by a guy named Hesiod and it says that the Titans, not the ones from Tennessee, but the things that made the earth, never left. It says they just lied down on the ground and became cities. Dr. Lombard thinks they’re about to wake up, starting with San Francisco. Now, I’ve been at this a long time, but this one took the cake.
“So, you want me to go to California and make sure that the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t stand up and start walking around? How did you get a PhD?”
The doctor stood up from his chair in a prissy huff and started gathering his things. “So I guess you won’t go then?”
“Oh no, I never said that. You got the green, I got the steam. And I would love to ride one of those cable cars again.”
So here I am; waiting at a bus stop for a greyhound to take me out to the “Golden State” of fine wine and Rice-A-Roni. I don’t imagine much will turn up, but a paid trip’s a paid trip and I know some people out there who can tell me if this is a spool worth unwinding. So, I wait...

A newspaper blows by the stocky man on the bench with the headline ‘EARTHQUAKES RATTLE SAN FRANCISCO: TURBULENT TREMORS LARGEST ON RECORD’.