I’m on the elliptical trainer,

headphones tuned to the Pointer Sisters station for the past twenty years, and, at the end of my workout, I’m thinking three-minute cool down, and a new voice comes on. I check the phone and it says, “Bonnie Tyler.” It’s in hyper overdrive, and this isn’t what I had in mind for a cool down, and I’m thinking “Meatloaf.” Turns out her writer/producer, Jim Steinman, also wrote and produced for “Meatloaf.” Tyler has two of the best-selling singles of all time. Welsh singer. Not a household name.

Winter approaching and it’s a beautiful sight—

thistle husks bristle tall and crisp. On the other side of winter’s rains, fallen seeds will come alive, tendrils rise and lush green stalks offer up bulbs as big as your hand and burst open with the most seductive eye-shadow you’ve seen. It’s unearthly, the violet blue that unfolds from those fists. Today as I approached on a bike, I stopped for a pic. For years, my running gate has been slowed with the allure of this patch. Just up the hill from here is where Janey and I harvested pasture patties in fifteen large black garbage bags and stored them in our garage. Another story.

They’re nearly exoskeletons,

these well worn, snug-fitting gloves with their double density leather, petroleum-based palm pads and carbon fiber armor at likely impact points. Following crashes, the folks at Z Leathers who made these gloves ask that riders send their gloves back to them so they can see how the gloves fared whilst the rider was (hopefully) skidding along on their butt or (hopefully not) tumbling ass over tin cups. This particular pair never got stressed to that point, but with tens-of-thousands of miles behind them on the Guzzi and the Ducati, they’re well broken in and can probably start either bike by themselves without me in them.

It was in art school and Bob and I worked at the county hospital.

sunsetThis night, he was in the other building and I’d done a lot of clean up and heavy lifting. But, I was twenty, so no big deal. Things had settled in the ward as they do (ebbs and flows), so I went to an open window and leaned at the sunset. A minute later, Mae leaned next to me. One of the nurses, young, beautiful, black and there were lines drawn. There was a dance coming up at school in a couple weeks, and I was thinking should I ask her. I asked, “Where do you live?

She said, “Queen Street.”

I asked, “You got a ride?”

“Yeah I do. You want one?”

“Yeah, I got no ride.”

Looking through my way old sketchbook:

Wings

She soared low through the trouble, the tangles and the roar and had a better look – to see closer for herself. She would take word back, everything seen first hand, and the others would intervene on Earth and make it better. The rumors were true. Down here was chaos. A black man murdered by police, a child pepper-sprayed, an old man run over, people shoving and being shoved, attack dogs and and there was tear gas. She turned and adjusted her wings to ascend and was caught in the power lines for a second, broke free and something tore at her wing. Then another and she was being shot. Tangled in their net, they cut off her wings. She saw the people closer than she had hoped to, and smelled them, and heard their words aimed at her, “Elitist. Snowflake, and don’t bring your progressive ideas here.” They propped her up and made a video. “We got one!” Those were the last sights, smells and words she would know. Without her wings, and within minutes, she would die.

Four years ago I visited my sister a few miles beyond the village of Trout Run, PA. Hers is a rural address overlooking a beautiful valley and lake.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERALong day of travel, nine at night, and I had a taste for a few beers. I went down to the quiet village and found the local bar. The place was hopping. Pool table, music, animated customers at the taps and I was looked toward once, then ignored by all, including the bartender. They nailed me as a flatlander. Dang, people still smoke here. Loud women and huge guys in flannel and boots, some with knives on their belts. I wandered down to the take-out cooler. Lotta Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, Coors Light (If you can imagine.) and all alone and way up there at the top of one of the coolers partially obscured by the door was what looked like a sixer of Lagunitas. Boom! I went back down to the busy end of the bar and waited. When she determined I had groveled long enough, the bartender asked, “What would you like?”

I said, “A sixer of Lagunitas to go, please?”

She said, “What? A six pack of Margaritas?” Big laughs all around.

“No, the beer. You have one six pack.”

She looked confused. She scratched her neck on the way to the cooler, and I shadowed her on the other side of the bar. I pointed.

“Okay, whatever,” she said.

Back at the busy end, I paid and left with the beer and my life.

No answer to her knock. Sloshing traffic and hammering rain – gutters full and coming over the walks.

images-1  Okay, this is cool. Place is dry, I’ll chill ‘til it slows down.  Knock again in a couple minutes.

She leaned her bike, pulled off her bag, sat down and got comfortable with her back against the door. She reached in, grabbed a cracker and scooped it across the tub of frosting deep in her bag.

The door imploded, “What the hell?!  Get the hell outta here.  Get it?!”

Sarah tumbled back onto steel-toed boots.  She jolted to her feet, fumbled with her bike, caught her bag in the handlebar and that perfectly frosted graham plummeted down the racing gutter.  He was six-foot-six, his hair in blue curlers.

“I’m here to pick up a package, I’m from a messenger service – Lickety-Split.”

“Yeah?  Well we ain’t got any and we ain’t interested.  Like I said, get the hell.”

“No, I’m supposed to pick up a package here, this morning.  Someone called from here.”

He slumped, “They don’t tell me shit, ‘til too late.”  He slammed the door.  She heard the bolt jam home.

And?

She hovered clueless for a full minute, slipped into her strap and turned her bike toward the storm. She grabbed at her radio to call Alex. A woman opened the door.

“You’re the messenger? How old are you?  Bring your bike in here, I have something for you.”

“Yeah, well, okay…I’m eighteen.”

“Right, and these tits are real.”

Sarah rolled past her into the dim lobby and swung her bike around.  The acid woman bolted the door.

 She was tall, Chinese, mid-thirties and as tired as her robe. She grimaced as she limped past Sarah. She lifted a hinged portion of the countertop, ducked under and lowered the top back into place.  Below the counter, on her haunches, she fiddled with something there in the dark, cursed and, releasing a long breath, stood up and edged what looked like a small shoebox in a plain brown wrapper onto the counter.  She pushed it toward Sarah.

“What else you got in that bag?”

“My stuff, food.”

“Dump it out, there on the table.”

“Why?”

“Just dump it the fuck out, okay?”

“But…”

“You can put it all back in, but this goes in first – in the bottom.”

Sarah squirmed out of her bag, opened the flap and turned it up.  Out onto the table tumbled her wallet, the second Croissan’wich, the box of grahams and the blue and white cylinder of vanilla frosting.

“Cake frosting?”

“It’s really good on graham crackers.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to try that.

This leaves here today and never comes back and you were never here.”

“Sure, right, what is it, uranium?”

“We square on this? You were never here.  I don’t exist.  This club don’t exist.  Be bad for you if it did.”

The woman limped back to the door, slid the bolt and the storm nearly sucked her away. Stretching, she reached for the handle, looked back at Sarah and jerked her head toward the street, “Out.”

Here, she had dated. Tried dating. Gave it a good try, and it was awful.

images

Men who seemed smart, accomplished and charming turned out to be full of themselves and desperate to regain lost ground—lost hair, lost muscle. The head of the chamber society, the dentist, the district attorney and they had gone to movies, concerts and art openings. These men could not stop talking about themselves in the car on the way to dinner, during dinner and driving her home. And they were horny. Dropping her off, and no way was she inviting him in, the dentist had leaned across the console, opened his lips in a contorted way he must have thought to be sultry—something was going on with his fingers below his seatbelt—and with the teeth and gums he was flashing she was about to be consumed by The Alien. Startled, she jerked back, hit her head on the window, and she may have been out for a moment. Regaining herself, she opened the door, got out and looked back in at the sheepish man behind the wheel. “Please, don’t! Don’t call, don’t…and please…just don’t.” She closed the door.

 

It’s Saturday night under the lights,

Speedwayand it’s Speedway Racing in anywhere, USA. It’s cold, the motors are revving and riders are nervous and so are girlfriends, husbands and wives. Riders get screwed up out there at 100mph and go over the fence. Crippled and retired pros help tune the bikes and give advice to young riders. But when it starts – and it’s going to goddam start – it’s all hammers and chainsaws.