Snow has dropped a foot up from the ground and hasn’t moved for days. It’s a frozen, remarkable, quiet softening of routine schedules. We now pass each other slower, sharp and aware, briskly riveted with the barely tenable belief that we as humans control nearly nothing on this habitable rock. This sleepy burg isn’t on the East coast or Midwest. It’s people gathered in a little cliquey city who are now suddenly and glaringly bound to each other as this rare winter crushes through the streets indiscriminately, with stunning, humbling violence.
Bring in the new year with its brutal, sheer fear,
wring out the old year, beat what’s brought us here.
Bury our weary as we parade our cheer,
“Move along, folks, nothin’ to see here.”
Twenty Seventeen doesn’t mean our hands are clean,
in between the lanes and lines, swerving, we careen
into a class divide as colors collide, tweeted and streamed.
Televised destiny, technology unexpectedly
deciding what things mean. Meme.
Ring in the new year! All is wonderful far and near!
We have most of our limbs and beauty we find dear.
Whether we’re alone in a town or among those in your home,
new years appear to be clear only when we shut our mouths to hear.
winter storm warning. what a ring that phrase has! for us locals, a veritable crap-ton of snow dropped in the back yard last night that even has the truck wondering why it sits buried under fluffy white. cars lie empty and cockeyed on shoulders of the surrounding roads, hazard lights faintly blinking while their drivers presumably limped off into the drifts. they say an uber driver will arrive to my door within 20 minutes but i’m unsure uber realizes the hills in which i reside. i have a 4 o’clock shift downtown and the 12 inches of beautiful snow that’s stacked between me and the city is so daunting it’s laughable. a giggle occurs.
off to the clean-cut heroes of my automotive traction needs. on foot i shall acquire chains which i will then slap onto an old little truck and we’ll see just how fast off to the races we can be.
This right leg was broken. Tragically and frighteningly broken. Suddenly stricken and laid up for months.
The churning burn in this belly roiled imprisoned to the sound of moans, retches and grunts.
Bone wrapped metal, screwed tightly down like a wild patient, naked in restraints.
No magic in healing, but a rigid regime to never again be a slave to pain.
watched a carrie fisher stage show and the next day she had a heart attack.
wished for nothing except freedom from a weak link in the chain mail. a chained ankle. now resolved for the year. 2016 was supposed to be a victory lap around 2015 but instead became a mad, tortuous exercise in containing rage and conquering flaws. overcoming impulse and enjoying what’s present. stripped of what powered my brightness and left a quiet heap of madness to be sorted through. like an old box or a ransacked house.
Long before there were any notches on a beat-down headboard or a depraved selection of stories of how the notches got there, before jobs or deadlines, before past due notices and pleading no contest, there were cigarettes.
The second gateway drug after your friend’s mom and dad’s Kahlua and peppermint schnapps.
The daily dope of yellowing fingernails and raspy morning hacks, the hourly desire to tap the vein and choke the throat with that stinky, sweet tightening of every wonderful inhale…
6th grade. 1985. Metropolitan Learning Center. Northwest Portland, Oregon. Off-campus lunch hour. The Gypsy was a vast, dingy, dark neighborhood lounge where filthy day-drinkers and junkies hoping to escape the light of the afternoon often dwelled. In its doorway stood a cigarette machine that had a picture of a Marlboro cowboy corralling a herd of something while gripping a Full Flavor between his teeth. This was the notorious machine where the schoolkids would sneak into the bar’s entryway and stuff the machine with quarters and pull the knob that delivered those wonderful, brightly colored parcels of contraband.
One day it was Reed’s turn to get the smokes. Never having gone into The Gypsy or even began to fathom what a truly legendary dive bar it was, his introduction to such a venue was monumental. His eyes and mind were forever and beautifully wrecked for seeing such dimly lit debauchery thickly wallowing in a cloud of silent drinking and cigarette smoke.
As to not be spotted by the bartender, this child trembling, pushed what he hoped were enough coins into this towering machine. Frantic with nerves, he quickly saw the camel, that universal desert animal, dirty with gold and dust on its emblem and pulled the plastic, crystal knob that loudly delivered the cigarettes into the dispenser.
Reaching in, he snatched the smokes and booked it out the door, panting, dizzy, victorious.
Reed’s friends, standing across the street at the theater doorway, giggled and ran towards him as he swaggered down 21st Ave, the cock of the cigarette walk. He tossed the pack over his shoulder at the bunch and then watched his delinquent pals groan with disappointment. “C’mon, man, what the hell is this?”
“Whaddya mean,” Reed asked.
“Dude, these are straights.”
“Yeah. Straights. No filter. Tobacco in your mouth. Lung burn! Short and not sweet, have you ever tried them? How are we supposed to smoke these? Gross. You smoke ’em, they’re all yours,” throwing the pack back at Reed in disgust.
Be ready to sacrifice yourself to the gods of vice should you choose to live such a life of experience, excitement and excess. There will be a day when you’re compelled to ingest chemicals you’re not confident in. A day when you will be expected to finish off the rest of the drugs, a moment when, you alone, will have to reckon with the fact that your partners in crime will abruptly leave you high and dry the minute you think everything is great.
A month laid up and a year gone off.
Here’s the lay of the land. The splayed wide openness of what I understand:
Horrendous separation and even more gruesome motorcycle crash. At least they were both quick in their bite despite being long with their resolution. All in a year’s work. In a year’s fight, a year’s struggle flush with pain and adventure.
Two dozen feet from point of impact to where my body came to a stop. On a sidewalk. Across the street. Two bones broken poking up through the skin like a splintered tree. Pup tent on a pant leg, picked it up and it was like a sack of broken parts, my boot twisted around like hands on a clock. Never lost consciousness, never forgot who I was or what just happened. Never not knew that someone just broke the law right before I broke my leg.
It takes a certain mettle to deter the depression that wallows in these hollows, this haunt of a beautiful apartment becomes a narrow prison if not checked. Injury that limits mobility and independence will always take the form of an angry, rabid animal that eventually wants to break through walls with its head and roar furiously to freedom. Sequestered from voices, vices, severed from the flesh of society, best leash that beast, boy.
This couch, no matter how nice the leather, there’s a blanket over it. Protecting what, I’m unsure of. Commanding this sofa into oblivion, resting, hurting, healing, watching great television.
Anyone who tells you that life is short are wrong. Life is long and full of beauty and madness. Unless you’re a child. That died. That joke was from Louie CK, who, hands down, has the most poignant and tragically beautiful television show in all of pop culture.
The dog knows. She goes slow, watching my legs, is calm and obedient in the face of my broken, wary gait. Waits as I finally sit down until she ambles up, begging for pets and play.
There isn’t any amount of gratitude that is enough for me to have for everyone who has and still is contributing to this certain convalesence.