Down Time


    Ideally this post would flog Properly Stirred, the 2013 Slow Boat Media short-story compilation. The three interludes feature Paul Knox, a man who enjoyed his pleasures (okay, more than his fair share of pleasures), yielded to the demands of age and status, believed himself to have contentment, then got bushwhacked. 

    Better than a redo, Knox reverts throughout Properly Stirred. While not indulging in irresponsibility, he must no longer conform. Paul Knox has achieved an enviable state. He’s been released. And he returns to situations and conditions which had earlier occupied him to happy ends.

    But Properly Stirred will be dealt with thoroughly in later, more leisurely posts.

    Quarropas, New York, is no longer my home. Melancholy should’ve weighted my departure. Rather, necessity has robbed any poignancy from the parting. Those who’ve noticed the press release datelines heralding these dispatches, observations, harangues, now issue from Las Vegas. Nevada, not New Mexico.

    Las Vegas. Certainly one of the nation’s sunnier spots for shadier people. Maybe I’ll run across several. On purpose.

    Calamities not of my making forced this transcontinental uprooting.

    Two years ago, Mugwump, my former employer crapped out. Through willful neglect. Through almost criminal irresponsibility. From any self-control.

    Nearly recession proof, or seemingly recession proof, the enterprise’s prosperity vanished the instant 2009 ticked into 2010. At least that’s how it appeared. I still don’t know how one can be fat and solvent at 11:59 p.m. then one minute later plummet towards flat-busted.

    Collapse Mugwump did. Loca and Fea, successors to Blowhard, the founder, destroyed in several years what had taken him decades to build. In doing so his daughters managed not only pissing away their patrimony, but massively disrupted employees’ lives as well.

    Blowhard, Loca and Fea. The weeks leading up to and the move west have renewed my reflections on those self-destructive imbeciles.

    After chronicling the Mugwump splatter in 2011 and publishing Green Venom, a handy compendium of their stooge-slapping antics, this precinct pretty much let them lay. What else could be said? How much more can these dead horses be beaten?

    Anger will restore nothing. And as John Lydon listeners know, anger is an energy. Why waste much on those dope-smoking, coke-fiend alcoholics?

    This January mother died. She was the last person with whom I could exchange unquestioning unconditional mutual support. Once our extended family blackened Quarropas sidewalks. Now we crowd the city cemetery.

    Were it not for mother, I would’ve bolted Quarropas shortly after Mugwump nosedived into Gold Coast Connecticut two years ago. But she needed me. Being needed is among the strongest incentives existent, no?

    Our blood was thinning. Her friends, long-held acquaintances joined during the great internal migration from the rural South to urban North, were disappearing one after another. (Or using the unvarnished vernacular she shared with father, “Those people are dead and gone.”) Strangers as all began, their similarities enabled them to surmount alien environs by bonding with near familial associates.

    The absence of so many trusted faces doubtlessly intensified mother’s own isolation. 

    My parents came up, endured and thrived under tribulations this generation and subsequent ones will never know. Maybe Latino immigration into El Norte is the closest comparison possible. In venturing into the unknown, they burned their boats the same way I burned mine.

    Actually I thought plenty about mother and father on the ride west. Skip any sentimentality. When they spoke of their grueling early lives, my parents did so matter-of-factly. They’d emerged from the bottom and despite arbitrary impediments firmly established themselves in the middle class. One can only imagine how much farther they could’ve risen had they half my advantages.

    Sometimes on the quieter July and August nights leading up to turning my back on Quarropas I’d recall hearing mother reflect on her life. By this time infirmity and decreasing drive shortened excursions outside her apartment. The TV served more for noise than distraction. Talk about being alone.

    She orated not so much for my benefit but rather to finalize events in her own mind. Her voice solidified those lost times in manners incapable through contemplation. She testified.

    Mother’s soliloquies answered plenty of questions I never thought to ask. Nor might not have dared. She presented information that belatedly backfilled decades of unknown history. Not secret. Just unrevealed. Don’t know where you’re going without having known where you’ve been, can you?

    I read an article somewhere stating DNA retains accumulations since our prehistoric pasts. Even before human remembrance. On the mitochondria maybe. Our ur-memories. All the way back to the moment when men first stood upright. Abbreviated bits of humanity funneling and forwarding into the collection we now call ourselves.

    Pushing west certain stretches of America lent themselves to pervasive wistfulness more than others. Radio dial fumbling around St Louis and, surprisingly, Denver, further eased my physical transition by homing in on blues stations.

    Too bad none of those turntables spun Good Rockin’ Tonight. The Wynonie Harris version, not Elvis’. 

    Other stretches redefined grinds. Particularly Kansas from the K.C. city limits until the Colorado border. That was four-hundred miles of ‘I should be flying over this instead.’ The one constant? The farther away I drove dissipated the pull of what had been “home.”

    If I ever become a parent, I hope my pass-along contributions will have been hearing the carillons and train horns which punctured Quarropas’ cityscape. The jangling bells of sunset always reaffirmed tomorrow, while homeward-bound commuter rail wails lacked the mournful or forlorn dirge of freight or Mystery Trains.

    These are about the only threads I might’ve borne along which could also be unconsciously forwarded.    

 

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