It’s a daily mile-and-a-half walk through the woods at Tahoe to the little marina for a six-pack. Some say a mile-and-eight-tenths, but I’m sticking with a mile-and-a-half. I pass this little structure and today got to thinking of who might have built it back there in the 1920s. Somebody’s grandfather, I guess. Large man who ate pancakes for breakfast and kept the doors from blowing open with those same three rocks. Probably didn’t know much about building being the first owner of the marina. Knew boats, not building. But his neighbor up the road did. Ed, a retired man missing a finger. It was Ed for Edwin, by the way – not Edward. Ed knew a lot about building. He and Fiona, Ed’s wife, and she’d been a pretty bride, had built the house they retired in – Fiona being as handy with tools as she was in the kitchen. You could say Ed lost his finger for the love of Fiona. He’d been working at the sawmill when they married and everyone knew you shouldn’t be wearing rings doing that kind of work. But he refused to take off his wedding band. One day a chain snapped and came for him at about a hundred-and-twenty-miles-an-hour. Ed instinctively put his hand up and that chain ripped that ring and the finger it was on right off his hand. Once he was recovered, he went into the construction trade and eventually built the little marina and store. And that’s how he got to know the owner and help him build this little garage.
The six years I worked in a bike shop I became aware of the critical inflections of, “Dude.” Also, I dove deep into bike porn: wheel and tire sizes, mid-compact crank vs. compact crank, SRAM vs. Shimano, number of spokes per wheel and it goes on.
I had been the oldest guy (by decades) at the bike shop for a few years. “Dude” was like ants feeling up each other’s antennae, figuring out the smells and directions and a tribal handshake. Also, truckers hats, flannel shirts, trashed shorts, high dark socks, ride the shit out of your rig and forget about tomorrow.
“Mandatory Meeting,” the bike shop manager said. “IPA’s and pizza.” I rode my bike down to the shop. “We gotta be better, guys. Talk to people and be nice. Somebody has to clean those bathrooms and I’m looking at you, Manny.” Manny flips the bird. “Okay, good meeting. Any questions?” Another IPA and I’ll ride back up the hill and wonder at the young manager.
Recent letter from old time and long lost art school friend, Bruce, aka Fang, and if there are living pirates, he’s one:
“Do you remember why we locked you in the bathroom that night?” He said I then squeezed out of the tiny, and thought to be painted shut, bathroom window employing shampoo lube and Houdini moves and found myself barefoot and freezing on a ten-inch ledge seven stories up. He says he and a couple other buddies watched from his window as I climbed a steep slate gable end onto the roof of the building and disappeared. My recollection of that same night is eating popcorn and watching Star Trek on French’s TV. He wasn’t home, so the door latch broke.
We’re rollin across B.C. in the summer and the top down and the radio on and the wind and I can hardly hear a thing she says.
She’s shouting and trying to light her smoke and the wind is winning and she’s been trying to light this fat screw job of a spliff for five minutes. Three joints into the day, she gets it lit bending way under the dash in some weird-ass Cirque de Soleil pose, takes a huge pull and sits up. “Where are we?” she yells.
“B.C.!” I yell back.
“Where the hell”—The joint blows out of her hand.—“are we going?”
“B.C. It’s big!”
She holds up her fingers like she still has the smoke, then realizes she doesn’t. “Did I just have a joint?”
I pass her my Kool.
Guest writer, Howard Rappaport and remember that name. Writer extraordinaire, accomplished composer and fastidious gardener.
Notes from the Brazilian Embassy
Yesterday I had the same dream where one of my classmates spits a spitball into my ear and I become quite deaf.
D. wants to have a baby next year. She criticizes me for my desires, says that I am capricious and that I desire silly things. But her desire to have a baby–this I told her–is also capricious. It is a silly thing to have a baby, first, because it is economical suicide, plus, you must spend time with the thing, for it cannot fend for itself.
Maurilio makes orange juice for me most mornings. Sometimes I just say “Hi, Maurilio, how are you?” and he laughs, waiting for my request. Sometimes, though, I do not ask for anything, staring stupidly at him instead while waiting for him to react. He usually laughs and says nothing. Maurilio is a simple person. Even while his boss yells at him during the lunch service to hurry up, Maurilio smiles, mostly. Death to him, stupid guy.
Calm, I should remain calm. But this is impossible. I am anxious. I clench my teeth. It is too hot here and all my suits are of thick wool. I drink two or three cups of espresso a day. I gain weight. I need a little dog. I sense this. Not a child, but a dog.
D. is really getting to me. She wants me to decide my life and have a baby. I don’t buy this, I really don’t.
The other day I got into an accident. On purpose. People honking, cutting me off, flashing their lights and out to get me. I have gotten into the habit of slamming on the brakes any time someone honks at me. Indiscriminately. Last week I made my first victim. Bastard honked, didn’t know my policy, crashed right into me–wham!–breaking both his headlights, wrecking the front grill, the hood one big cave-in. I stopped all traffic by getting out of the car and ranting savagely.
The problem: I am in love with Hana. She is young and beautiful and speaks only Czech, German, Swedish and Russian, languages I do not know. She belongs with me, though, and not with her toothless, 83-year-old husband, Vladimir.
Meeting life’s challenges head on, I walk down the narrow embassy corridor, practically rubbing my shoulder against the wall, taking up as little space as possible, so as not to bother anyone. Enter wide-shouldered, ‘I-work-in-the Minister’s-cabinet’ Bernardo moving towards me, not yielding an inch, even though I have given as much as is physically possible. If I give way, I will have to flatten my whole body against the wall. I will be humiliated. He should give way a little. Suddenly, I step away from the wall, strong and determined, right down the center of the corridor. He is much taller and denser than I, my body bracing for the impact–then ramming against Bernardo’s shoulder with the intent to hurt, as he moves his shoulder slightly to lessen the shock of full impact and as I continue upon my way, not looking back, refusing to acknowledge the confrontation.
You remember when you were all about to change the world and what’s wrong with those old white guys in power and didn’t they get it?
Brennan’s sketch in the margins during a too-long lecture in art school.
Then you were in college and you were late for class because you were at the all-night vigil or you were hung over or you just met this guy and your roommate was a total shit and your face was friggin breaking out again. The ancient-lizard-or-wizened-turtle art history prof was lecturing in monotone and didn’t they even have stereo? His frequent coughs were like a sand storm trying to get off the ground and you wondered while he was droning on and on about zeitgeist if you shouldn’t just stand up, take off your clothes and dive out that third floor lecture hall window, and you made little sketches in the margins and they looked like this.
Tomas. First-gen Puerto Rican kid I met in West Chester, PA, and I was his art teacher, and he could draw like an old master when he was ten.
He and his friends showed up at our third-floor walk-up early mornings before school. I’d answer the knock—a toothbrush in my mouth. Tomas, the leader, would say, “We just like to watch you, Mr. Brennan.” They’d line up on the couch, the five of them.
I’d asked if I could draw him, he said okay, and I did—him sitting in the alley behind his house. I went home and painted a narrative portrait. When he saw it he asked, “Can I take it? Show my family?”
“Okay, but I want it back.”
I never saw it again, and that’s okay.