Tuesday, February 21, 2017

HAPPY B-DAY, AUNTIE ERMA!

I knew who Erma Bombeck was by th’ time I was 9, and I was reading her columns by th’ time I was 12.  A great deal of her humour, which was typically about modern suburban life, family and relationships, went over my head as a child, but what I chiefly remember was my mom’s laughter whenever she read what “Aunt Erma” had written. 

Mom liked a good laugh, but she rarely laughed right out loud when she was reading, except if what she was reading was Bombeck; then she would just *howl* with laughter and often have to reach for a tissue to blot her eyes.  As a kid, I was inspired:  *I* wanted to write like Aunt Erma; *I* wanted to put words down that would make people laugh right out loud or stop and think deeply about the little-but-terribly-important things in life (which was what her Sunday columns were about).  If I AM a writer, I am one because Erma Bombeck inspired me to become one (and later, authors like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Richard Brautigan and Haruki Murakami, continued to inspire me to scribble away).

Mom died suddenly and wholly unexpectedly of cardiac complications on th’ night of March 5th, 1996, a mind-bogglingly 21 years ago this year.  Auntie Erma crossed o’er that same year on April 22nd, just a week past Mom’s birthday.  I remember taking it rather personally, a little bit like I’d lost a close friend right on th’ heels of mom leaving this life, and I remember spending th’ next year reading everything Bombeck had published.

I like imagine that th’ two of them get together e’ery year roundabout this time in a little cafĂ© in Heaven where there’s an outdoor porch and a lovely view, and spring is just arriving in all its lovely splendor.  I imagine they sit and swap stories over coffee cake, and the both of them just laugh and laugh and laugh.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

TREFALMADORIAN MOMENT

Well, it has been a quiet MONTH in Charlotte, NC, my adoptive town…

It’s a damn near perfect day here in th’ Queen City, Palsberry.  In th’ mid-to-hi 70’s, perfect cotton candy cumulus clouds o’erhead in a sky th’ colour a of blue that a child might use to draw the skies of Heaven.  I’m in our front living room, a place more used by th’ cats than th’ humans; a place I tend to just WALK through to get from point A to point B, maybe stopping only to doff my shoes or hang up my jacket or put my keys on top of th’ TV so I know where they are th’ following morning.  Th’ room has 4 big plastic tubs stacked up in front of th’ windows so th’ cats can sunbathe and watch th’ world go by on th’ street, and I’m now seeing why they like it in here so much:  th’ early afternoon sun is streaming through, and Toy, one of our tabby males, is fast asleep and dreaming th’ dreams of his kind in a sunbeam as th’ wind softly ruffles th’ fur on his tail.  As Keillor might say, “it would make the perfect picture if you only had the right camera, which no one in this town has got.”

I’m up to my asshole in work, none of which I want to do and all of which I”m avoiding.  I’ve pulled out th’ ironing board to use as a makeshift table, and it’s got several stacks of ungraded schoolwork, folders and th’ lid of a copy box that I’ve divided up with cardboard into several sections to hold markers, pens, pencils, glue sticks, scissors and other bits of th’ teacher trade, all portable so I can move it around th’ house and store it out of th’ way.  In th’ 70’s weekends were made for Michelob (in that delightful, tear-shaped bottle you can’t find anymore) and now in ‘17 weekends are made for catching up on all those things not attended to during th’ week, including sleep, laundry and, of course, schoolwork.

Adulthood sucks.  I suppose you could say I put it off as long as humanly possible-- I’ll be turning 49 in ¾ of a year from now, so I’ve had a good run, but right now I’d just about kill a man with a ballpeen hammer for just one hour of sitting by Erie’s shores at th’ age of 12.  Other potential atrocities float thru th’ transom of my mind as potential bargaining chips for time travel:  I could murder clowders of kittens with a steamroller for th’ chance to spend th’ rest of th’ afternoon sitting on Erie’s shores at th’ age of 12, and then riding my old silver-&-red Schwinn Outrage 12 speed bike back to 199 Ashwood to have pizza on th’ back porch of 199 Ashwood this evening.  Were Satan himself to walk up and ring th’ doorbell in his best ice cream suit and smelling of brimstone, flap out a contract and offer me to sign away my own mortal soul in blood to spend just th’ remainder of this weekend back Then and There, I would have to give it serious consideration.  It’s th’ sort of day that can cause such longing; th’ kind of day that drums up th’ kind of desire that makes Richard Collier’s desire to go back to th’ early 1900’s  look like a 2 year old with a hankerin’ for a Snicker’s bar.

So, as it always is-- always and always and always-- it’s not a matter even of WHERE, it’s a matter of WHEN.  it’s BOTH space AND time:  even if I had th’ means to jump on a plane and be back in Avon Lake by dinnertime, it woudln’t be th’ same, of course.  I don’t just want 199 Ashwood, I want 199 Ashwood in 1978.  Even if you gave me unlimited funds and said, “OK, you can move back to 199 Ashwood, re-buy th’ house you sold and remodel th’ inside back to th’ way Momsberry Bev had it (even re-installing that ridiculous electric-red and cobalt blue kitchen sink/counter combo, complete with milk choco-brown fridge and Magic Chef oven), it of course wouldn’t be th’ same.  And yet, sitting here, I can hear th’ grumble-thrump of a neighbour’s lawn mower and with th’ next breeze get a whiff of fresh cut grass that, for a Trelfamadorian moment, transports me back to Then and There.  For a sec, I’m not here, but on that almost mystical back porch of th’ place I remember oh-so well and shant e’er be able to get back to…

And maybe that’s what's so hard about all o’ this, Palsberry:  th’ sheer DISTANCE in time and space between then/there and now/here.  I’m over 500 miles from whence i came and very swiftly approaching th’ beginning of my fifth decade here on earth; Mumsberry Bev has been gone from this earth for TWENTY ONE years come th’ 5th of this March, and these numbers are just too damned BIG for me to comfortably grapple with.  HOw could it all have slipped away from me?  Song snippets come to me:  Judy Collins asking “who knows where th’ time goes?” and Garrison Keillor noting “I looked back and shed a tear / to see it in the rearview mirror / I said I’d just be gone a couple of months / and now it’s been almost twenty years…”

Give it to me straight, doc, and don’t sugar coat it for me, I can take it…  Have I failed, somehow??

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Epilogue...

In the beginning, everything was alive.  The smallest objects were endowed with beating hearts, and even the clouds had names.  Scissors could walk, telephones and teapots were first cousins, eyes and eyeglasses were brothers.  The face of the clock was a human face, each pea in your bowl had a different personality, and the grill on the front of your parent’s car was a grinning mouth with many teeth. Pens were airships, coins were flying saucers, the branches of trees were arms.  Stones could think, and God was everywhere.

There was no problem believing that the Man in the Moon was an actual man, you could see his face looking down at you from the night sky, and without question, it was the face of an man.  Little mater that this man had no body, it was still a man as far as you were concerned, and the possibility that there might be a contradiction in all of this never entered your thoughts.  At the same time, it seemed perfectly credible that a cow could jump over the moon, and that a dish could run away with a spoon.  Your earliest thoughts, revenants of how you lived inside yourself as a small boy; you can remember only some of it, isolated bits and pieces, brief flashes of recognition that surge up in you, unexpectedly at certain moments, brought on by th smell of something, or the touch of something, or the way the light falls on something in the here-and-now of adulthood.  At least you think you can remember, you believe you remember, but perhaps you’re not remembering at all, or remembering only a later remembrance of what you think you thought in that distant time, which is all but lost to you now.

---Paul Auster

Report from the Interior