The moments we steal with cameras and pens

The hot tub smells not altogether good when it’s been left a while without its chemicals. I come home to find it gagging on a Barbie doll one of the kids put under the lid, legs sticking out, choking. Hair tousled, bare-breasted, one arm in the air like ‘olé!’

I carry Ginger across the threshold of the Petco to have her nails done. She’s what the vet calls ‘an exceptionally timid dog,’ and gives us the number of a dog therapist to understand more. Like the vet who suggested we brush our cats’ teeth because they have bad gums we ignore this advice, we have a shred of common sense. Street smarts with vets.

We’re afraid to trim Ginger’s nails because I can’t stand the thought of cutting into the quick and having to use the stick to stop the bleeding, it freaks me out. And I stand in the Petco with Sweet Home Alabama playing, feeling really unemployed now for the first time on a Thursday morning with no one else in the store, discovering they sell hooks you can use to pick up your snake, which makes sense, and I can see Ginger through the glass in the grooming room as they’re filing her down, and for a moment I realize I’ve seen this before in a dream: Ginger’s eyes locked on mine, waking up shaking, my hands gone numb.

I turn the hands back on my watch, flying out of Newark. The sun is a red mess with an open seam spilling over the horizon. I sit there blank in the window, flying right into the sun, wondering will it freeze or like go in slow motion because we’re flying into it and time is going backwards sort of, the way a day can go on forever when you’re flying out west.

And there’s no one else on the plane it seems. They had the gall to leave early, they were waiting for me when I got to the gate a half hour before and for once they were glad to see me and called me by name, welcome aboard.

The steward is gay-upbeat and loves his job, loves tending to the guests, positively huggable. Makes jokes about putting white wine in my cup after it’s had red, knows I don’t want my receipt.

The city is the color of white zinfandel and the roadways become Christmas light garlands, embers in the snow below. Passengers with laptops, hands marionettes dancing on the keys, legs bouncing. The new natural posture of man.

The sun hangs on and thins out below the cloud deck, then fades. I picture scenes of my family below, vignettes of them in their rooms as the camera pans: my grandmother in the corner with the TV, ads pivoting on a station that features just ads, it’s come down to that.

I have a dry, unproductive cough that might be from the baseboards and the spiders burning off, ingesting their proteins in the air my dad thinks, which makes sense.

I take a personality assessment with the outplacement service based on theories by Carl Jung that categorize people into four groups and I know the ending, I’ve seen it before, I’m a Feeler, and I answer the questions as such. I don’t really care about logic or planning or analysis: I want to get inside people. And I know how those in charge feel about Feelers, they could give a shit.

I sit with a girl whose position is being eliminated, she has about two months to find something else and she’s been with the company about 10 years, and she says to me, Your genuine nature is going to allow you to do whatever you want some day. Because it’s so hard for us to be ourselves for some reason, though we’re our greatest asset.

They’re auctioning off our friends’ house nearby and across the street, they rented it out to a young couple with a dog, head lamps on rummaging around the yard now, probably stoners. I want to get them a house-warming gift but it’s so hard these days because you can’t assume people drink coffee, alcohol, take gluten, or get enough light for most house plants. We’ll give them a card and have the kids sign it.

The sun can make you believe in God or think you’re a poet when it sets like this. It’s hard to watch and not be distracted wanting to recreate it.

I talk to my mom in Germany from the Newark bar and Eberhardt gets on to say the plane is leaving early but I say his English is shit, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Categories: travel

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18 replies

  1. “The city is the color of white zinfandel and the roadways become Christmas light garlands, embers in the snow below. Passengers with laptops, hands marionettes dancing on the keys, legs bouncing. The new natural posture of man.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A post absolutely full of beautiful imagery, but I particularly like the Barbie in the hot tub from the first paragraph, celebrating her own demise (Olé!).

    Great stuff, as usual. Beautiful and heartbreaking.


    • Hi Karen, thank you for sharing. There’s something about those Barbie dolls that sends me to a different dimension. I won’t go on about it, but there’s a cluster of them ganged around the guest bathroom, just sitting there in the dark with their eyes wide open.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jon. I really dig your About page, and it’s nice to meet a fellow PNW type, who likes moss. Go Hawks brother! I’m looking forward to spending more time on the peninsula as the year wears on. So many hills, so little time. Enjoy your day and I’m glad we met. Go teach English; people need to understand the difference in usage between ‘good’ and ‘well.’ That drives me nuts. Cheers, – Bill


  3. Wonderful capsules of time and space. I’m not a believer in angels by any means, but I’ve always sensed there’s something to be trusted in strangers who offer encouragement.


    • That’s lovely, how you put that. It was an odd moment by the way her eyes locked with mine, all kidding aside you satyrist. Poor, poor Tony. You can just tell he really enjoyed skewering that poor louse. “Something to be trusted in strangers who offer encouragement.” I’m going to put that in my pocket. Have a great day my friend!


      • FYI, read a truly disturbing passage last night, a horrifying shift in tone that I wasn’t prepared for, and just before I turned out the light, no less. No wonder this book gave you nightmares.


      • Yeah, watch out: I recall two passages like that, one on top of the other. As if the one wasn’t bad enough, he comes up and kicks you again. It’s perverse, but that’s part of what’s driving me to keep going (not just to keep up with you, which I can’t), but to get to those bad patches and see if they’re as bad as I remembered. It’s akin to a route on a mountain where things get hairy and you can’t quite remember where.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Is ‘Feeler’ a nice name for a gossip or a busybody? It’ll be pretty sweet if you can work that talent into a paying gig.

    In a plane with it getting smaller and smaller out the window is the best way to view Newark.

    Your tags sound like a word association test I took in a therapist’s office when I was 20.


    • You’re going to bring out the east coast in me, which is like a strain of VD that never goes away and is unflattering, especially in print. Feeler: yeah, I sound like a fucking DB there I think. Thanks for calling me on that. Now I feel odd. Because I’m a feeler — like when I called you fuckface and sat there wondering if that would be OK or if I shouldn’t have.

      Newark…well, it’s good access to the city. Got to love that air tran thing. My tags are an idiot’s tea leaves. Sorry I made you look.


      • You feel old because you *are* old. You’ll get no sympathy from me. I’ve got you licked.

        You called me fuckface with a sly wink and a twinkle in your eye. I can spot the difference a yard away.


      • Hold on, I said I feel odd which is different from old, in this case. I have to tell you though, you have the absolute best moniker I’ve come across. Just seeing EXILE ON PAIN STREET makes me happy every time. It says so much in so little a space. Who needs kitchens. I’m going to put on some Neil Young and lose myself in Monopoly with my kids now: suck them dry like husks, that’s Real Estate mister. Peace out. Nice to have this exchange with you, fuckface.


      • It’s derivative of Charles Bukowski’s first book, At Terror Street and Agony Way. Hard to top that. All I can do is imitate it.

        Clean your kids out. Show no mercy. Consider it a teachable moment.


      • Ham on Rye for me! Thanks, had no idea.


  5. The sun can make you believe in God. 😊


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