Wednesday, August 27, 2008
So, today, I'm checking my email, and I see that, apparently, I CCd myself on the email reply I wrote... you see where this is going, don't you?... And right there, in the middle of the email I say "There's only one other job I'm waiting to here back from right now..."
Ai Dios Mio!
I sent a quick note to say I was mortified at having done that. It was something they may not have even noticed had I not pointed it out, but on the other hand, I guess it shows that I did spot my own errors.
Monday, August 25, 2008
“O Rose thou art sick! The invisible worm, that flies in the night in the howling storm: Has found out thy bed of crimson joy; and his dark secret love doth life destroy.”~Wm. Blake
A tiny corner of freshly hung wallpaper was peeling. Not really enough that anyone would notice – about half the size of a postage stamp – but Ken McFarland made a mental note to tack it back in. The paper was a pale blue, with yellow bands and delicate red roses. He’d seen it in Paris on his way back from the war, and it was so cheery to look at that he’d purchased a twelve inch sample from a Parisian decorator and brought it home with him. Here, on the Georgian Bay, people didn’t have much use for the French – at least not their Quebecois neighbors. They did, however, consider anything coming out of “Gay Paree” as the height of fashion and culture. He himself was quite pleased with the way the paper brightened Mrs. Hugel’s parlor.
Dan Lethbridge waddled into the room, struggling with a five-gallon paint bucket in each hand. He set them down with a grunt.
“You’re late,” Ken said. “Again.”
“You know how it is,” Dan said with a shrug and a grin. He put his hand into his coat pocket, rummaging around until he produced a bag of tobacco.
“You remember Wayne Orser, eh?”
“That crazy bugger that’s the skipper on the Simcoe Maid?” asked Ken.
“That’s him,” Dan replied, as he began rolling a cigarette. “Some summer people give him a case of whiskey for running furniture out to their cabin on Little Pine Island.” He laughed again and, striking a match on a side table, lit the cigarette and took a long drag. He blew the smoke in a thin stream towards the ceiling. “So Wayne fires up the Maid last night… and we take the whiskey and a couple of sweet dames up to Penetanguishene for some dancing… and such.”
“I’m surprised the boat’s not laid out on the rocks somewhere,” Ken said, chuckling. “As I recall, Wayne has enough problems steering without adding booze and girls.”
Dan removed his coat and hung it over a delicate-looking chair before heaving himself into the same. Ken winced, half-expecting the chair to shatter. He glowered at his assistant. He’d just as soon be rid of him and his carelessness and boozing. But, they had been in the 19th Infantry together in France, living side-by-side in a muddy, rat-infested trench near Ypres for nearly a year. Dan had saved him – as much from himself as from Kaiser Bill’s boys.
He unrolled another length of the paper and held it against the wall, lining the pattern up with the one he’d just applied. Pulling a pencil stub from behind his ear he marked the trim lines and laid it on the table. He applied a coat of paste and carefully placed the top of the paper against the wall. He smoothed it from top to bottom with a broadknife.
“If you’re just going to sit there, you might as well run over to Gianetto’s,” Ken said. “Get us something for our lunch. Some bread and cold-cuts. And Coca-Colas.” He handed Dan a half-dollar coin. “Bring me the change this time.”
“You’re peeling,” Dan said, pointing to the corner of wallpaper Ken had spotted earlier. It had peeled back so that it was barely hanging on by one edge.
“Christ,” Ken muttered. He lifted the stepladder with one hand and moved it beneath the recalcitrant paper.
“Get going!” he growled to Dan, as he climbed the ladder. He touched the wall and the paper gingerly. There was a bit of tack there. It should have been enough to hold, but it wasn’t. His hand shook as he dipped the glue brush in the pot. He applied some to the wall behind the paper, carefully brushing to the edges. He smoothed the paper back onto the wall and frowned. Once paper came loose like that it seldom stayed. He hoped he wouldn’t have to put up a new roll. He didn’t think there was enough, and it sure wasn’t available locally. Not even in Toronto or Ottawa. Maybe in the States, but he didn’t even know where to begin there. Mrs. Hugel loved his ideas for decorating her house and had spent a small fortune buying the paint and importing the paper.
Ken held the edge of the wallpaper down, smoothing it with one hand while the other balanced the brush on the top step of the ladder. The paper seemed to adhere, but when he pulled his hand away the paper coiled back. Beneath was ragged red flesh, twitching blue nerves, a muscle in spasm, watery blood pooling. Frantically, he slapped the paper back up with both hands. His pressure was so firm that it tipped the ladder onto two legs. The brush slid to the edge, tipped precariously, then fell to the carpet. Sweat burst out on his forehead and hands.
“It’s O.K., Kenny. Hold it tight. He’ll make it. He’ll live. Just look away,” he whispered hoarsely to himself.
“Kenneth? Are you alright?” asked Mrs. Hugel who had slipped into the room to inspect the progress.
“Medic,” he mouthed silently. Then, aloud, “I’m alright, Mrs. Hugel. I’m alright. Just a little problem with some paper that doesn’t want to stick.” He coughed. “Humidity, I’d venture to say.” He turned his head away from her, squeezed his eyelids tight. Blood trickled from the seams of the wallpaper.
“Well,” chirped Mrs. Hugel, clapping her hands together, “it certainly is looking wonderful. Better than I could have hoped!”
Were it not for the blood, this news would have better than Ken could have hoped for as well. Mrs. Hugel was the heiress of a shipping fortune and easily the most influential woman in Simcoe County. Her recommendation would carry weight with the other ladies around the Georgian Bay. He could see plenty of new work on the horizon.
Even without Mrs. Hugel, he had done remarkably well as an interior designer, drumming up more business in the small town than he had expected. The jobs were starting to roll in. First one. Then another. And another. They kept coming. He should have come here after Paris. Toronto was a mistake. Too big. Too many reminders. Three kids. Though they took pretty good care of themselves, and his sister, Maude, had been a great help. But, after his beloved Annaliese had died in ‘27, it was so hard to go on. The dreams kept coming and he had a devil of a time with the drink. Maude was often forced to send Earl – at eight, the oldest – to the bar to fetch Ken home. It was better here in Midland, where he’d grown up. He was off the booze now and there was a woman from the Baptist church – an Englishwoman, recently arrived – that seemed to have taken a shine to him. He thought of her and smiled.
His ears began ringing. Low, almost imperceptible like a wet finger on a crystal wineglass. Then it grew louder, becoming a shrill whistle. He fell to the floor in a squat, arms wrapped around his head. The shells were falling forward of his position, maybe a hundred yards, he wasn’t about to look and see. Subsequent rounds marched towards him, screeching like eagles, as the Boche artillery adjusted their range.
“There’s the kettle!” piped Mrs. Hugel. “Would you and Mr. Lethbridge care for a cup of tea?”
“Yes. Please,” said Ken. “That would be nice.” Jesus, he thought. Couldn’t she see the blood? Didn’t she hear the explosions? Couldn’t she smell the death?
“None for me, please,’ replied Ken. “But Mr. Lethbridge usually takes several sugar-lumps in his.”
Mrs. Hugel stuck her head around a corner and bellowed down the hallway. “Alice!” A uniformed maid appeared, the weary look of one born to servitude in her face. “Yes, Mum?’ she said in a West Irish brogue.
“Bring Mr. McFarland and his associate some tea. Sugar in one. And bring a plate of the shortbread Mary baked this morning.”
“As ye wish, Mum,” responded Alice as she turned and headed to the kitchen.
Mrs. Hugel turned to Ken. “Marvelous work. Just marvelous! You’ve breathed new life into the place.” She waived her arms expansively, then spun on her heel and strode off.
Ken stood shakily. It was quiet again. He looked around the room. More wallpaper was peeling, hanging limp and lifeless from the walls. Blood oozed from the open wounds, pumping sporadically from severed arteries. He stepped back and turned, looking for a place to vomit. He backed into a chair, tipping it over. Bending to set it upright, he found Dan’s coat lying underneath, the neck of a bottle poking out from an inside pocket. It was filled with a tawny liquid Ken knew was the leftover whiskey from Dan’s night of carousing. He started to reach for the bottle but pulled up short. He stopped, knowing he had to act quickly.
Ken picked up the broadknife he used to hang the paper and ran to the worst of the casualties. With care he smoothed the rose-festooned paper back into place. First one. Then another. And another. They kept coming.
“Good Christ, McFarland!” Dan shouted as he entered the room.
“Help me, Dan!” Ken yelled. The paper had gotten out of control. Great shreds of it hung to the floor. Pieces of it clung to his own skin. There was paste in his hair and his mouth. Ken would no sooner fix one and another would fall. It came off, sloughing, like sheets of skin torn away from flesh. Dan set the groceries on a table and picked up a pot of paste and a brush. He stepped in and applied paste as Ken smoothed another piece into place. Even as he did, another section would curl up.
“It’s no use,” he cried to Dan. “I can’t keep it together.” The paper peeled everywhere, exposing gut and lung and brain and heart. Ken retched. He ran. The whistle and blast of Boche artillery seemed to come from all sides. He was wading through bodies and what were once bodies, wiping his face in a frantic gesture with his hands as he tried to remove the smell and taste of decay and seared flesh that hung in the air. He stumbled through the trench toward the aid station bunker, knocking Mrs. Hugel’s maid, Alice, to the side. The tea cups smashed to the floor. At the door, another round from the Germans’ “Big Bertha” howitzers screamed in, the explosion blowing a massive wall of the dirt toward him.
He lay on his back, stunned, the weight of the Earth holding him down. Light streamed in from holes in the ceiling, illuminating the carnage. His face was inches away from a wounded soldier. It was Mrs. Hugel, a large portion of her jaw and throat missing. His own head held firmly in place by a long timber, Ken could not look away. Mrs. Hugel’s throat wound was gangrenous, blood and pus leaking through the bandages. The rancid-flesh stench made Ken vomit again. The weight of a hundred pounds of dirt on his chest did not allow his body to heave properly, and he began choking on the bile his stomach churned up. His legs were free and they scrabbled at the air, seeking purchase, trying to run. The artillery barrage continued, pounding the world. He pissed himself. He heard unrelenting screaming. It was his own voice, his own scream. It seemed that months passed before a violent blow to his face stopped the bawling.
Dan slapped him again. “Kenny! Jesus Christ! Stop it!”
Ken looked up to the underside of a golden maple dining table. Chairs were strewn about on their sides, one lying across his stomach. Dan grasped a handful of Ken’s shirtfront and pulled him upright. He slid a knee up behind Ken’s back to support him. Ken closed his eyes.
He felt Dan’s arm around his head, pulling it back to rest against his chest. Dan stroked his head and whispered “shhhhhh.” Ken heard Mrs. Hugel murmuring to Alice and the other house staff. He heard a thoop of the stopper being pulled from the bottle of whiskey. He smelled the smoky peat aroma, the soothing fumes of alcohol in his sinuses. Felt the cool edge of the bottle pressed against his lips, nudging against his teeth as Dan tried to pry them open.
“Take it, Kenny. It’s alright,” said Dan as he tipped the bottle. Ken accepted a swallow. First one. Then another. And another. They kept coming.
Albuquerqueños love their royalty, there is no doubt about it. The city was named for the 8th Duke De Alburquerque of Spain. In 1660, he financed an expedition up the Rio Grande in search of the 19 lost cities of brass (the seven cities of gold, nine cities of silver, and thirteen cities of copper having turned out to be total busts.) As the legend goes, the expedition was seeming fruitless when, one day, coming up a draw in La Cañada, the explorers, Captain Guillermo Cuatro y Griegos and Don De Tredonmé encountered a glowing white oak. Albuquerque. The name comes from the Latin: Albumen = white and Quercus = oak. This is where the original Spanish city got its name. The pair took it as a sign and immediately wrote to the Duke. Years later, the surviving members of the team returned to spot of their vision. What they had originally taken to be a white oak, was in fact a sickly cottonwood covered with pigeon droppings. Recently uncovered writings by Tredonmé indicate that this tale was a fabrication. In actuality, it resulted from the fact that due to an incident with close-proximity cannon fire, the two were more than a little deaf. Tredonmé writes:
“Captain Griegos and I were wandering up a ditch and were mitad-en-el-bolso from a cask of brandy we had tapped into. My companion was attempting to regale me with stories of his days at court with the Duke. Of course, due to our hearing impairment we could barely understand a word each other said.
“One day when we had ridden into Albu –” he began.
“Que?” I said, not hearing him.
“Que?” he said.
We were laughing quite hysterically -- the... how do you say, snot? Snot was coming out of our noses, and decided that we would call this new place, Albuqueque, meaning White What What."
In the year 1798, the Duke’s heirs were granted the right to rule the property in perpetuity. In theory, the title transferred to the United States when it took over, but, in 1957, the world court overturned previous decisions and returned rights to rule and collect taxes to the 23rd Duke, His Grace, Juan Luis Carlos Adelberto “Chato” Limon y Mas Cerveza de Alburquerque. Naturally this went over like a lead balloon with the general public and so a “bloodless coup” was staged. A puppet ruler was put in place – a regent given the title of "Mayor."
Although mayoral elections are held on occasion – no specific time is set, they just happen when the incumbent falls out of favor with the Duke. Elections are based on a rigorous test involving running, jumping, shooting, feats of strength and prestidigitation. The winner then undergoes a painful and humiliating initiation ceremony that makes the Masons look like a pack of college frat boys. “Quiet Dave” Silva, a mayor in the 1960s, got his name after his tongue was cut out for revealing secrets of the brotherhood.
Contrary to popular belief, Albuquerque’s nickname, “Duke City” comes from its former AAA baseball club which in turn was named after a dog owned by former Mayor Enrique “Ricky” Saavedra, who named the dog after the late John Wayne. Wayne – whose Christian name was Marion – received the "Duke" sobriquet while working on the 1947 John Ford-directed motion picture of the life of the 19th Duke de Alburquerque, "I Knew I Should Have Taken a Left Turn.".
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Most of the areas where there was mud left no opportunity to cut around -- you had to go through it. The mud was very clayish, and jammed up my rear derailleur so I was stuck in granny gear. At least I could shift around on the front derailleur, so I had a little variation. Along with the mud, the rain (and some horses) had loosened up the sandy patches, so the low gears were called for most of the time. I didn't go all that far, but I was pedaling hard most of the time to keep upright. A pretty good workout all in all.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I’m dying. I’ve been dying for about five or six years now. Maybe more. No, I don’t know what from. I can just feel it. Brain tumor. Heart disease. Borderline stroke. Something common. Not one of your hideous obscure diseases. Hopefully not from anything embarrassing either.
I haven’t told her because she’s the type of person who’d expect me to do something about it. I’m the type of person who’ll just let it go. I’ll bitch and moan, for sure, but that’s as active as I’ll get. I’ll intentionally let it get past the point of being able to do anything.
I should have told her when we met. She’d been divorced for a couple of years. Been busy raising up a couple of kids single-handedly. We both needed each other, just someone to cling to in the darkness. If she’d known then, she might not have let me in. I’d felt so good then that I thought maybe I wasn’t dying – maybe it was my imagination. But lately, it’s returned. Crushing headaches. Tight breathing. Dizziness.
I’m cut off from the world. Don’t really know what’s going on. I gave up watching television three years ago. Ditto for radio. I just can’t stand the commercials I guess. They just remind me that I’m living in fifth-rate burg like Albuquerque. I burn my own CDs and that seems to take care of any music needs..
I travel a “W” each day. It defines, confines, contains my life. I drive from our little house on Menaul Boulevard, go left on Louisiana, right on Lomas, left on Girard. In the evening I trace the same route back. My life exists in a span of a couple of blocks off of any of those roads. A restaurant. A bar. A different restaurant. The same bar. Sometimes we go across the river to visit her brother and his wife and their kids. And once we flew out to visit her mom in Riverside. When we came back, we picked up the car from the parking lot and drove the W back home. I don’t know if there is anything in the world beyond this corridor I drive. I don’t know if the world goes on. Most days I don’t care. There is a safety in ignorance.
“Hey.” That’s what Martin Gallini said when he phoned me. That’s how he was. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t spoken in at least eight years. Maybe nine. Just “hey.” As though we’d just spoken an hour earlier. Which we might as well have. Despite the distance, Gallini’s life seemed to mirror mine.
He’d left town twenty years ago, a “hop, skip, and an ass-whooping ahead of John Law,” as he put it. That was putting it mildly. He was beyond it debt.
He’d managed to alienate every single person in his life.
The last time we’d spoken, was when my son turned one, and a few months after my marriage to the boy’s mother. She’d been dragging me to church and, though at first reluctant, I found that it was doing something good in my life.
Me and the kid hiking in Embudito Canyon in the Sandia Mountains earlier in the year. There was a notice at the trailhead that mountain lions and bobcat had been spotted in the area and to be careful. Later that day we heard that a young boy had gotten attacked by a bobcat .
These here flowers grew on a plant in our bedroom. I think it's a Kalanchoe, but I'm not sure anymore. This was done with natural lighting. I liked it because the background went black, and the light made the color in the flowers really pop.
This was a tiny weed growing in my backyard. The flowers themselves were about 1/16th of an inch across. I used the super-macro lens on my camera and at 100%, the flower is about 3 inches across. Or not. I could be lying. Who would know? I'll tell you who'd know. Chuck Stinkin' Norris, that's who'd know.
Anyway, I think it's cool that something so tiny and unobtrusive has got such an amazing amount of detail and purtyness. If you click on the picture it should open at full size so you can see the detail. Look at it. Do! Marvel at the fact of the actual size.
I got an email from the UNM bursar's office saying my student loan check had gone out. And then I got a phone call for a job interview for a job I really want/need to get. (It's a tutor/mentor gig that will look good when I apply for a teaching assistantship for grad school. And theeeeeeennnnnn.... I got home from some appointments and dinner to find an email saying that this guy had seen a stolen bike listing I'd posted on the internet, and that he'd bought a bike like mine at the flea market this weekend for $50. I just sent him the serial number, so we'll see.
So, what started off as a dismalish day has suddenly gotten a bit of a bright spot.
Oh, and this picture here is from the last ride I took in the Bosque before the bike got stolen. Here's what's weird, The bike got stolen following a job interview on campus. Tomorrow I've got a job interview with a different section of the same department as the first interview.... and then I can get my bike back? That would be weird indeed.
My main bike got stolen about a week ago and I'm still devastated. Since then I'm reduced to riding a single-speed Huffy cruiser. As horrifying as it is to pass a group of serious cyclists on this thing, there is still something a little redeeming. It's like rain on your wedding day.... No, wait. That's irony. I took the Huffy down for a ride along the bosque trail in Corrales. It actually handles better than I expected, especially in the sand.
School starts up again in a few days and I can't wait. Still, though, I haven't got a job yet, so that is adding to the stress. I can't help feeling that I'm not getting considered for many of these gigs because of my age and experience.