Friday, September 29, 2006

an anniversary forgotten

Doing sit-ups early this morning in the spare room, I happened to glance at the Bob Marley wall calendar. It was still on July. I stood and flipped the pages to September. And then it struck me. I'd forgotten -- again. The eighth anniversary of my last drink had come and gone three weeks earlier. It was the second time I'd overlooked the ocassion. I'd missed year six, too.

When I think about my drinking days, I vacillate between feeling I've truly liberated myself from a once-messy and nasty problem (and that maybe I could even have a beer or two, after mowing perhaps) and feeling like a hard-hearted prick still blocking out the sound of the wounded and bitter hearts strung to my back bumper. I'm not sure I'll ever reconcile these feelings. Perhaps part of me never wants to; the warring sides somehow keeping me human.

A couple years ago I delivered an essay at the KGB Bar in New York prompted, in part, by the first time I forgot my last drink. As penance, I re-read the piece this morning. Here's a link for the curious (you'll be directed to my essays page; it's the third piece down, called Afterlife).


Thursday, September 28, 2006

a construction zone less traveled

Driving the Route 7 construction zone north of Middlebury this morning, I had three cars behind me, lights on, none ahead of me. I passed River Road and cruised down the long hill, over the New Haven River. When I checked my rear-view a few moments later, the cars had vanished. I was alone. Instantly. And completely. No steamrollers or flaggers either. No double yellow lines, no broken white lines, the passing lane was gone. Only a black spill of fresh asphalt under my wheels. No cones or signposts. No rules. Had I missed a detour? Was I not supposed to be here? Where was everybody? I gripped the wheel tight. When I reached the top of the hill, I was relieved to see a few pick-ups at the Mobil station. A man pushing out the door of the store with a gallon of milk. No idea that just a few yards away lay the terror of total freedom.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

five-cent review #2

(reviews in five sentences or less)
J.R. Moehringer’s memoir The Tender Bar

Boy with a bar for a father. Time and drinks pass like water. Scores of memorable lines such as: “A man with a forehead so large and blank that I felt an urge to write something on it...” Vivid metaphors do most of the work. Joseph Mitchell should smile.

Monday, September 25, 2006

five-cent review #1

(reviews in five sentences or less)
Bob Dylan’s Modern Times

First blush: Love & Theft, part II. Seventeenth blush: shoulder to shoulder with Time Out Of Mind. Only Dylan could triple-rhyme “sons of bitches,” “orphanages” and “religious,” and somehow make their meanings rhyme, too. Each word that paints his dark joy sounds as though it has lived in his mouth for centuries, just waiting for this dusky moment to pop out. Alicia Keys should be humbled.

Friday, September 22, 2006

a bar bug (revised for alias802)

Went to pick up a take-out order at Tully & Marie’s. On the bar next to my food containers was a cocktail napkin that had been unfolded and shaped into a tiny dome. Each corner was twisted into a point and the middle puffed up. I figured a bored diner must have just left. The bartender rang me up and then pushed the napkin sculpture away with his fingers. To my astonishment the thing scurried off, moving erratically about the bar as if powered by blind miniature legs. Could there possibly be a mouse under there? A large beetle? The bartender nudged it on the other side and it scuttled back. “How’d you do that?” I asked, feeling five years old again. The bartender waited a moment, then lifted the napkin. “The irregular shape of the lime,” he announced with a ringmaster’s flourish. On the varnished surface lay the small green swollen fruit. He flicked it and I watched the lime lope and waddle down the bar. "Old bar gag. The kids love it." He dropped the napkin back over the lime and let me tap it – paper and fruit transformed into creature by my touch. “Electronics crash and burn out,” he said. “But the bar bug has staying power.” Maybe it was time to start drinking again. Or have kids.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

a thin line

Outside of Middlebury, a flag woman walks from the fresh tar of the Route 7 construction zone wheeling a small pop-handled suitcase behind her. The day is done. She reminds me of a stewardess expertly rolling her case through an anonymous airport terminal. One takes flight, the other sticks to the steaming ground. Both have a similar look in their eyes, essentials close at their heels.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a fleeting sign

Driving home through Charlotte on Route 7 last week, the car ahead of me suddenly veered off the road, down the grassy ditch and into the speed limit sign. A surprise attack. The weathered sign went down in a violent flash. I saw the sedan stop in my rearview. A man got out, inspected his front bumper then drove off. The next day, I saw that the sign hadn't actually been flattened. Only knocked back into a crooked angle, the perforated length of steel wrung and twisted in the opposite direction. The sign numbers now stared down at the grass like a pair of bruised and swollen eyes, a face turned away from the road in humiliation. Today the wounded sign was gone. And another gleamed in its place, completely dumb, far more willful.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Welcome to what i saw today mark II. Hope you find this blog easier to navigate and interact with (that being said though, avoid viewing in Explorer if possible, the display comes off a little funky in that browser; Mozilla Firefox is best, and free). For those who have me linked or bookmarked, please note the slightly different URL. And if you ever get nostalgic for the old days, just click on old blog & archives under links. As always, thanks for stopping by, comments welcome.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the burden of self improvement lifted

In Vergennes, this week’s Victory Baptist Church sign: “Normal is just a setting on your dryer!” It took a while for the message to worm its way into my brain, even an inspection of my dryer dial this morning. But to my relief, I finally got it. I also let the dictum free me from the pressure to be delicate, and less dry. And to at last quit the backyard where I work on my extended tumbles.

Monday, September 11, 2006

a post-industrial message

Down by the waterfront, across from the dog park, an old Dumpster sets against a stone wall. The wall is speckled with graffiti like “Matt reads playgirl. what a fagit.” Other sentences snake along the stones with their bloated letters and lack of surprise. Walking the path today, I saw a man lean his bike against the Dumpster. He pulled back one section of lid and peered into the small dark cavern. He pulled back the other section and seemed to recoil. He jumped on his bike, empty-handed. When I approached the steel green container, I saw what had spooked him. Spray-painted on the underside of one of the steel flaps: “Jesus wasted his time on us.” Revealed like a fortune cookie.