Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Breathe

Lately we've had a heat wave, and the campus is strangely quiet.  Maybe it's the approach of finals, but no one seems to be out, even at Noon.  The streets are not crowded, Sproul Plaza is not crowded, and there doesn't seem to be much traffic either.  It's almost as though the old place is tired and sagging.  Or maybe that's just me, and I'm projecting.

As I wandered back from the taqueria at the end of the Noon Hour I was struck by the torpor.  Telegraph was thinly peopled south of Channing Way.  Here and there a grimy, gray green street person mooched along; a blotchy-looking dog quickly sniffed it's way up the gutter, avoiding the sidewalk and looking sidelong at passersby.

I started to imagine I was in some broken down burg somewhere in the Sonora Desert.  I felt the electric twang of the heat, and smelled the dry earth smell.  I walked east, then north, coming to the edge of town and a small hill, topped by an abandoned shack with a windmill sitting next to it, completely still.  I climbed the hill and sat on the stoop of the shack in the foot and a half of shade it provided on the windless day.  The wood was dark gray and pitted from sand storms.  A small sand colored iguana disappeared in between slats in the wall.  Black and copper rocks lay strewn around the area in front of me, and in the distance stands of saguaro and yucca broke up the emptiness.  Grey blue mountains swam in the distance behind the heat waves.

Land that had once been roamed by the Apache now was the home of no one in particular; a few ranchers, and a few survivalists, and still even a few Apache.  Occasionally, the husk of an ancient miner in a slouch hat would wander into town and sit down in the dark of the tavern for a few cold beers and a sandwich.  He would nod hello but offer no words.  Had he forgotten how, or did he just not want to bother anymore?  No one could ever remember where his claim was, and no one alive seemed to know his name.  He'd rise up from his bar stool, pay his bill, croak his thanks, and shuffle out, looking yonder from under the brim of his hat as he headed back to wherever he came from. 

For sheer impenetrable quiet, the desert on a still day is unmatched.  If you sit and stare at it long enough, and say nothing to break the silence, strange things begin to happen.  I sat and stared and began to see the earth breathing.  As I gazed out across the plain, it rose and fell with perfect, peaceful regularity.  With every breath the earth relaxed under the Noon day sun.  I leaned back against the closed door of the shack and the hard wood seemed to give a little and the desert whispered in my ear that it was time for a nap.  There's no job to go to, no need to be anywhere.  You've worked long and hard and life is stressful.  Stay right here and breathe with me.  You won't regret it.  No one ever does.  Breathe.  Breathe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I Keep on Going

I've turned a corner, crossed a bridge, and left a thing behind; pick the platitude that works for you.  I had a week of stay-cation last summer during which we could not travel because Dr. Professor Wife's professional schedule.  I thought about saving the vacation time and returning to work, but I still needed time off.  I badly needed whatever tiny amount of rejuvenation I could get.

I had visions of lying in a pod surrounded by a soft blue light with no discernible origin while my cells were individually revitalized and my blood replaced like some kind of upscale high tech version of Keith Richards.  I settled for sipping coffee and watching my dogs sniff around the garden in back.  I read a lot of things printed on paper, swam when I wanted, walked around San Francisco; in essence enjoyed myself immensely.  I was fully rejuvenated.

The trouble was, and still is a little, that I could not snap back in at work.  I had so effectively removed myself from it that I could not fully engage with anything there.  This went on for nearly two months, and it was only just after Halloween that I finally was able to fully focus on any given task other than chatting with students (which is what I do best anyway).

I have retirement on the brain.  I want to launch into the world after the Big U and do whatever seizes my interest and refuses to let go.  I want, I want, I want . . . but I can't yet.  I need three more years of dealing with that badly run clip joint before I can sneak away during a summer when no one is around.

I am fully convinced that there is no going back.  I will never again be deeply interested in the details of administering the cogs and switches of high end graduate education.  I'll keep up in order to make sure I can deal with the changes, but only enough for that.  My interest in it is on impulse power.  I first noticed this change back when I wrote that my main reaction to people coming by for help was "What the fuck do YOU want?" instead of "How can I help you?"  It hasn't changed much.  I used to welcome visitors and now I just want a nice quiet day with minimal interruption.  That's a bad sign for a career people person. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bloated Nazi Turd

Hair longs to escape
Red face bloats with booze and hate
This man runs for Prez

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Up in the Morning With a Twinge

I'm a cranky old man in dirty old jeans,
What does it mean?
The hinge in my back doesn't work,
In the morning when I irk.
The knee joint needs grease,
East Bay grease when I get a piece
Of the cold morning
Of the dark blue dawning.
Would someone offer me,
A mug of strong black coffee?
No chance for that dance,
Get it yourself, you cranky old elf.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For Jack on 46

A bottle and smokes
Coleman Hawkins between tokes
A night lasts forever

Monday, December 15, 2014

Late One Tuesday Morning - V

Bill unwound the story, at first attempting to paint himself as a wounded party, but then he glanced at Dan Rather and knew immediately it wouldn't do.  Without knowing exactly why, Bill just told the truth, admitting he'd been dogging Miss Boyle for weeks, with no success.

"Hell, I'm just a creepy old shit after all."  Bill had no thought of fishing for a compliment, there was just no other way for him to put it.  He grabbed at the proffered smoke and lit up again without thought, following his first lungful with a belt of his bourbon and water.

"Now just hold on there, Dude!"  Dan sat up, put down his drink and grabbed his guitar.  As he strummed absentmindedly he spoke further.

"How old are you really, Bill?"

"55."

"Heh.  You ain't old partner."  This last to a vague set of chords that sounded like "Paint it Black" played as a Spanish ballad. 

"You married, Bill?"

Bill just looked sidelong and nodded ruefully.  He'd forgotten all about her.  Christ!  The job seemed like no big deal compared to that.  It hadn't occurred to him that by the time he went home that day he'd be reeking of booze and tobacco. 

"Not gettin' any at home, huh?  She been through the big change yet?"

"What?"

"Menopause, Man!  Has she been through that?"

Bill had to admit he didn't know. 

"Well, come on, Brother.  She's is your wife right?  How would you not know that?"

A good question, Bill thought.  He didn't have a good answer.  How could there be a good answer to that?

"I dunno.  Just haven't thought about it.  She kinda lives her life and I live mine."  Upon hearing himself say that, Bill felt an unpleasant heaviness descend upon him.  Years with that woman, and he hadn't once wondered about things that she might struggle with.  Was it him, or them?  Did he just not care about her, or did he just not bother because he was so concerned with himself? 

He looked at Dan and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.  There was just nothing to say.  Dan stopped strumming and took a drink, cocking an eyebrow at Bill over the rim of his sierra cup and staring at him for a minute.

"So, basically you've been blowing off the Old Lady and chasing young skirt and acting single when you're married."

Bill nodded, strangely lightened by Dan's words.

"Bill, that makes you different from almost no one.  Honestly, you're not really in that hard a spot; not if you think about what some people have to go through.  I mean, you didn't get caught doing this gal on your desk, by the boss, or your wife.  You didn't lay hands on her against her will.  You haven't lost your job . . . yet.  Sheeeit!  I could tell ya stories that would make you glad this is all that's happened to you."

Bill poured more whiskey.  Something about this guy prevented him from falling into the yawning pit of despair that beckoned, but he didn't expect to be too impressed.  "Do tell, Dan.  Honestly, though, that's what they all say.  There's all kinds of ugliness in the world, people die in wars, get mugged, get sick.  How does that ease my troubles?"

"Think about it a moment, Bill.  You ever wonder how people like me end up wandering around, no steady job, no fixed residence, no phone, no credit?  I didn't start out like this.  I had it all going on, a solid career in the United States Navy, good pay, nice pad in Coronado when in port.  Girls comin' and goin'."

He paused and stared out at the water for a moment, slowly shaking his head.

"Well, what happened?  You get caught shagging the Admiral's wife?"

"Nothin' quite that simple, friend."  He stopped again and took a sip from the cup, and stared at Yerba Buena Island, then turned to Bill.  "It's what the Navy did to me."  He stared for a minute at Bill for effect, which made Bill nervous and he gestured with his cigarette for Dan to continue.

"Well, I was on a Seal Team for a while and that just kind of takes it's toll."

"Iraq?" asked Bill.

"No, I was spared that, if spared is the right word.  We did some work around the Horn of Africa and North Korea and the South China Sea.  Mostly just blew shit up.  Probably killed a few Chinese commandos.  Definitely killed a few Somali pirates.

'That just wasn't enough, though.  I mean, I volunteered and went through the training and all that stuff and didn't mind that ops, but there was never a break.  Never a break.  They pushed and pushed.  Seemed like we'd land in San Diego or Florida then get shipped right back out a week later.  When my enlistment ran out I just walked and I just kept on going."




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Somewhere

Somewhere there's a little sister who does not torment her older brother.

Somewhere there's an older brother who does not shower verbal nastiness down upon his little sister.

Somewhere there's an older brother who does not worry that a mother's love for little sister does not mean that she has less love for him.

Somewhere there is a house with an hour in which no fights occur between big brother and little sister.

Somewhere there is a calm evening when peace reigns unruffled by the slightest cutting remark or snarky retort.  

Somewhere children play happily together, even older brothers and little sisters.

Somewhere kids go to bed on school nights before 10:30.

Somewhere there's a place where nerves and muscles go slack.

Somewhere there's an hour on a sofa with a book that belongs only to me. 

Somewhere there is good sleep with no CPAP.

Somewhere there's a day without exhaustion. 

Somewhere there is love without fear.