Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Slipping His Moorings

Last week on my walk to work I finally encountered a individual I'd been avoiding and ignoring for weeks as I walked past his truck. Every morning I've seen him sitting at the wheel of a small white pickup truck, parked across from a small city park in North Berkeley. The truck has a bashed tailgate and the bed covered over by a blue plastic tarp, lashed down with that weird plastic rope. The passenger side is piled with white plastic garbage bags and green canvass haversacks stuffed with various things. I have seen him shaving in the rearview mirror, and emerging from the public toilet in the park. Sometimes he writes vigorously on a clipboard. In other words, it looks like he's living out of a pickup truck with no shell.

This particular day, he happened to get out of his pickup just as I walked by across the street and glanced over. He looked right at me and rather than just brazen my way past without betraying any recognition, I was compelled by some weird impulse (guilt, probably) to greet him by name, walk across and offer my hand. I later temporarily regretted that move, but I assume that people will recognize me just when I don't want them to. I seem to recognize nearly everyone I've ever met in my life, so I assume others do too. Not that I'm necessarily recognizeable, but I just figure people remember faces. Anyway, I felt like I couldn't decently just blow by and not say hello, and I confess to being curious. His fate has been a mystery to some of us over the years, and certain of my mates have been urging me to talk to him and get some gouge.

He looked at me for a minute, clearly not recognizing me right away, but then said, "Hey, I know you!" For a moment, everything was quite normal, though it quickly became clear he hasn't been doing well lately, at least on the economic front. His voice was much deeper, but he basically hadn't changed his appearance from late teenage years. His face was more lined, and he wore wire rimmed glasses instead of the Buddy Holly specs he used to have. Otherwise, he was exactly the same as when I last spoke to him, probably 25 years ago. He even dresses exactly the same: jeans, white t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a blue jacket over all. He looked clean, and he didn't smell bad (which was an improvement over his teenage years). He was clean shaven.

We exchanged the usual "How ya' been" pleasantries, and I betrayed little of my circumstances, seeing as how 25 odd years is a lot to cover in a few moments on the way to work. Then I asked, "How 'bout you? What're you up to?" This opened a deep, dark can of worms, as I should've known it would. He didn't really know where to start. He kind of waved a hand at the truck and said "Wellll, politics, bad's been tough."

"Oh?" I said, immediately thinking I should've just said, "Well, endure, and live for a better day!" and headed down the road. However, curiosity got the better of me and stayed to listen to a long, monotonic dissertation on his brother and family, the machinations of his mother's conservators, one of who has a mind smaller in scope than his, and how the bastards just don't understand deep down how valuable a guy like him can be. Each thing led to another tangent, and his tale grew more branches than the surrounding redwoods. At some point I had to start detaching. I launched a few verbal cues for ending the conversation, but they weren't picked up. He was rolling and he had much to say. I think maybe it had been a while since anyone had asked how he was doing. I remember mentally shaking my head, thinking that he's had it, he's drifting and can't find the pier. At his age, no one will hire him for much of anything that pays a living wage, and I got the impression that his claims of computer expertise were possibly unsupportable, but that's hard to say. On the other hand, he was always kind of a personally grandiose individual, perhaps in reaction to the knowledge that he was ridiculed widely, even by some of us who purported to be his friends.

I felt real sympathy for him, but also a revival of the grinding irritation that he used to engender when the gang used to hang out. His innate pomposity has survived the years, but it's joined by a pathetic, apologetic self realization that he annoys people. Deep down, he's a nice guy, and always was. He used to compliment us in a genuine, unaffected manner, mostly just because you should compliment your friends. He was doing his best in the face of some serious social handicaps, and couldn't bust out of his retro-conservative mode. I remember him becoming enraged and stomping out of the house when he saw the Beach Boys on a TV show, and they all had beards and long hair. Incidents like that kept us shaking our heads. We all wondered what had become of him. I used to see him at a distance once ever five years or so. There were rumors that he was keeping bees for some old guy who was keeping him. That came from his brother. We chuckled cruelly over that, but who really knew the truth? We were wrong to be that way, and we probably all knew it, and hopefully we've grown a bit since then.

Eventually, I had to say goodbye and get to work. I interrupted a long description of how city governments work with a overly obvious glance at my watch and said "Look, I really gotta be running along. Good to see you, and I'll probably run into you again sometime." He began to apologize and I just held up my hands and shook my head and said, "Not to worry. No problem. Hang in there. OK." I turned on my heel and strolled south. He headed back to his truck cab.

I will undoubtedly see him and talk again. Not for any great length. However, now I'm interested to see which way he'll go. Will he hang in there, will he endure and live for a better day? Will there be a better day for him to live for? I hope so. He deserves it as much as we all do.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pride goeth before a fall, I hope.

This whole story is a perfect illustration of the kind of political arrogance and swagger that just annoys me to my last nerve. It's smug posturing on a grand stage. Rove is affectionately known as "Turd Blossom" by Gee Dubya. I think they should drop the "Blossom" from that, to make it more fitting, you understand. With any luck, while not the whelp of a beaten cur, this is the sniping and whining and strutting of one who sees the unraveling of an agenda. The Bush Administration has ridden on the wings of this kind of crap for years. Now perhaps the wings are beginning to melt in the heat of a continuous stream of bad news. There will never be an apology from this vile scumbag, as there will never be any public owning up to reality by Dick Cheney, et. al. Still, I remain hopeful for some kind of payback for this kind of thing and the lies and double dealing these swine have troweled out for the last five years.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Mother Ocean

Well, Daring Dayton finally made it into the ocean. In Pacific Grove, CA there is a wonderful crescent shaped beach protected from the wind and weather by Lover's Point. Toward the end of a long stressful day, we wandered down there for a half hour of sun, sand, and collllldd-d-d-d ocean currents.

At first, he played with the sand in the time honored fashion: thrusting his little hands into piles of it and making fists full of sand then hurling it into the air with a yell. Mommy and Daddy stood around with cousins and felt vaguely envious. We weren't really equipped to get fully into the beach scene, but Daring Dayton was wearing his jams, and and had bare feet so he was set. We waited to see how long it would take before he headed toward the waves. After about five minutes of sand hurling, he stood up and stared at the ocean and shreiked, just on general principle, then wandered toward the surf line. I wandered over there with him and he had his first experience at running away from the half inch deep foam. He was into the game from the start, shreiking and laughing and sprinting at top speed for the dry sand as the sets came in. For me it was no game since I still had my shoes on. At some point, curiosity took over and Daring Dayton lived up to his name as the edges of the northern Pacific Ocean washed over his feet. The look of alarm was immediate and classic, but it was quickly replaced by a grin, as he proceeded to pound the water with the flat of his hands and get completely soaked. By this point my shoes were off and I was fighting the urge to take off my shirt, hand my wallet and keys to my Wife, and hurl myself into the drink. The water was calm, and the waves were cresting at about 6 inches. Perfect. However, I limited it to bare feet and nothing ever felt so good in living memory. After a day of toting around the effects of a recently deceased uncle, letting the salt water wash over my toes, and watching Daring Dayton laughing and yelling and splashing and falling over was all I could've asked.

We regretfully retrieved the tyke after about 20 minutes because we had to get back to Richmond. He was soaked and had weird little black sand particles plastered to his skin and his diapers were full of sand, but he was blessed by King Neptune and he was Salty. A perfect end to our little vacation.