I’ve been experimenting with drugs for our pets, for a 14-hour international flight next week where they’ll sit in the cargo hold while I read a first draft of my memoir on the plane. I crush the drugs, dilute them in a plastic dosing cup and fold them into the wet food for the cats. The dog just swallows the pills whole.
I sit and watch, and wait. We note how the fog makes the tree tops mysterious, how I never noticed those trees until just now.
Ginger looks quizzical, eyebrows shifting to and fro, eyebrows tapping Morse, her face long and conical, an Indian petroglyph now, sand-colored, flickering. She yawns and puts her head down, looks sad. Sometimes I have bad dreams too, Ginger.
It was 1987 and The Cure had just put out Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. We had that tape and one other, John Denver’s Greatest Hits Vol. II: we had those two tapes, my dad and I, for a drive across the U.S., about 7,000 miles, maybe more. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
The year before, we’d done the trip with my dad’s brother Jim and my dad’s colleague Hartman. Hartman had a first name but everyone just called him Hartman — that was a Pennsylvania Dutch thing, to just use the last name.
The four of us camped and tooled around the American Southwest, looking at petroglyphs and cooking hot dogs over the campfire, boiling them in canned beer, farting.
Hartman took me aside and told me a story about a time he was hitch-hiking as a kid, some really bad thing happened, something that kind of defined him that he needed to tell me (a 16-year-old) for some reason.
Perhaps he hadn’t told anyone else, it was his darkest secret: he got picked up by some guy who wound up being terribly odd, took Hartman to his house, then when Hartman woke up the next morning he had put something in Hartman’s mouth and made him keep it there.
Hartman was a state champion wrestler with thick calves and an erect, military posture. He always wore a well-rimmed cap, sometimes chewed an unlit cigar. He surveyed the area before we camped and often went ahead by himself, to scout the trail. For some reason, a rift developed between my dad and Hartman and there was a lot of the trip the two didn’t talk, it was beyond me, perhaps they were concealing something.
Hartman and I were in Rocky Mountain National Park philosophizing about nature and God and the wonder of things, and Hartman said I was pretty wise for my age: Imagine how wise you’ll be someday when you’re old as me? Probably a lot more so.
The vet’s eyes are disproportionately big and she talks with a squeaky voice like a character in an animated film, one of the characters you can’t tell if you can trust yet. The drugs don’t seem to be working on the cats: they should be seeing clouds, she says.
One of the cats (they are sisters) is being restrained by the vet’s assistant, who’s got her fist balled up on the cat’s neck, but the balance of power is shifting like grains of sand through a stem, and Roxy’s eyes are going blank, that center in the brain that’s instinctive, that says KILL — and she breaks free and spins in the air and it’s so fast no one saw what happened, the vet’s assistant is just covering her arm and turning red now with anger or embarrassment, perhaps at me laughing: but I wasn’t laughing at her, I was laughing at Roxy’s face. Or maybe I was. The vet with the big eyes says we’re just going to waive the temperature check and I nod, yes. Deep down, I’m proud of Roxy for bucking the system.
On that trip I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but don’t remember any of it, didn’t understand a word, just thought I should read it while we’re driving out West. I try On The Road but can’t get through it, there’s too much to see in the trees, outside of the book.
My phone makes chimes and I reach for it instinctively, just like a rat would for more sugar, to tap the feed bar. I’m half-way through Brave New World, to see what a 50,000 word book feels like, how it flows, since that’s the length of my memoir, or will be when the first draft is done, next week.
He wrote the book in 1931, when they still hyphenated to-morrow. Tomorrow (the future) was made to look a terribly confined, fractured, vapid place driven by industry, the need to control, to manipulate our thinking.
Tonight, Anthony and I go see the band Wire in Seattle, the band known for angular guitars: angular guitars best described as herky-jerky, inspiring an agitated, nervous feeling that makes you just want to jump backwards in the air, spin, cut something, feel alive, overcome by the anger and lust in it.