The January of summer

IMG_5406I cooked a chili and thought about starting a fire inside. July is the January of summer, right smack in the middle, that can last as long as you want it to depending on your attitude, and whether or not you have to work. With Dawn gone this week and me alone with the kids, I’m spending more time in the garage for some reason, perhaps it’s the primitive quality I identify with, some part of myself I’m trying to preserve from domestication. It’s webby in the corners with Native American masks too spooky for the inside of the house, posters from rock concerts and ticket stubs I saved, even a utility cabinet that has clips of female models tacked up, Chinese throwing stars, African fertility figures in various poses. Music sounds best in the garage, which makes me wonder if that’s the reason many bands started that way, or if it’s because they weren’t allowed inside like dogs, for fear they’d pee on the carpet.

I dropped the kids off at Sunday school with Beth and wondered what I’d do with myself for a couple hours, drove to Seattle’s Capitol Hill to an antique store called Area 51 looking for a floor lamp, a coffee table. I hadn’t been there since 1999, when I got the infamous rust-colored shag rug for a new apartment I’d rented, the last of the bachelor pads, a gas-powered fireplace that lit with a garage remote control from the 1980s, a big beige button and a thunderous woof like a guard dog when it fired.

When the guy unlocked the door at opening I recognized him immediately, the same one who was there in ’99 and I told him that, and what I’d bought then, the shag rug, a string lamp, a three-headed hydra floor lamp in pea green from the early 70s, a glass dining room table with baby blue cushions on the chairs — but he cut me off and said people from that era hate the store now, they complain how it’s changed: and if you were a musician would you still be making the same music you’ve always made? And I wanted to buy from him but couldn’t once I saw what it cost and figured out what they were doing, buying expensive stuff for new and marking it up even further, stuff made to look like it was old when it wasn’t but boasting rare, reclaimed species of wood, all of it with clean lines and demure palettes, daintily tied price tags in triple digits, some even more. It fit the neighborhood clientele now, a put-on, overpriced, but I guess you have to conform to your surroundings if you want to stay in business.

I met the girls back home and drove to the Value Village where we bought a lamp for $70 with fake crystals, a candelabra of sorts, that looks campy like something you’d see in a bistro near a theater district, with lots of shit hanging from the ceilings. And I paid Charlotte 50 cents to clean the folds and cracks around my ears which is a steal because she really gets in there, would be good as a hygienist we joke for her laser focus on small spaces: marvels at what she finds on her finger tips and the towel, admonishes me. And I probably looked like a dog while she cleaned me with my ears folded back flat in submission, nervous and wincing. When she’s telling a story she flares her nostrils in time with the rhythm of her speech, they flap and flare with the peaks and valleys in her voice and eyes — they’re like punctuation marks, her nostrils. When last we counted, she had like 49 plush animals with names for them all and remembers where they came from, has that manic imagination of an only child I can relate to, when you’re in exile with yourself. She hands me a cat and I fake-pet it like a Bond villain on my lap whispering in its ears, leering.

The kids insist Ginger responds best to commands made in German, in forceful, staccato tones: “Nein Ginger, komme, jetzt!” And the day ends with another slaying, a baby bunny Roxy brought in and dropped in the utility sink, too slick for it to crawl out, utter terror: and I caught it in my hands but it was like a water balloon slipping out, and dropped it in the bushes out front where I thought it would be safe but of course it wasn’t: and the girls shrieked while I sat in the garage trying to write, Charlotte sobbing, and I explained it was natural, that rabbits were like chickens or I don’t know, good food for owls and eagles: and they conducted a ceremony with some stones on the hillside for it, and Ginger paused over the corpse and peed on it, and when I let her out before bed I heard her chewing it, and it sounded just like someone crumbling a newspaper, and I thought I should check on it before the kids get up in the morning, and when I did it was gone.

Categories: humor, musings

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17 replies

  1. Love your description of the store and the man running it, how they’ve whacked the prices up because the area has improved. And the description of the bunny in the sink – ‘a water balloon slipping out’ – such perfectly chosen phrasing, Bill. A great write, as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh boy do we have a rabbit problem at our house. They moved into the space underneath the back porch where the groundhogs used to live. Our indoor cats watch from the screened in porch while rabbits eat everything and my husband threatens to trap them and from there it’s unclear. The precarious balance of order and nature, particularly rabbits. The garage part was cool, like what you said about music sounding better there and garage bands.


    • Better to have bunnies than possum I think. Had those in our West Seattle bungalow in a place like what you describe, but what was good about them was our weird-hick-musician-ex-logger neighbor Curry, who’d imitate how they bare their little teeth. Glad you liked the garage part, it’s a special place. I’m heading down there now to make more potions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a pretty great man cave/garage you have there, Bill. Like one of those strange, one-of-a-kind anthropological museums in a little town. I can imagine your music sounding great in there.


    • That is a beaut of a simile you got there man, thanks for sporting me one. The music does sound terrific there; it’s calling me now. Thought about you actually when I put on a Stones bootleg-thing, the fact they were your first concert, made me wonder which record. I had some bootleg by the great post-Punk band The Fall on in there yesterday, a very boozy recording, in and out of focus. That’s when the kids’ shrieks started, the maimed bunny.


  4. I’m glad I was clearer of head today reading this one. There’s a lot to chew on. And, yes, I thought that sentence before I actually *thought* that sentence but let it go anyway.
    We have neighbours on one side we rarely interact with. Maybe it’s a language thing. Friendly and good people to live beside, but we just keep to our own sides. The things that have drawn us together have involved gardens, shared trees and overhangs and animals, often birds. This season, we have a pair of merlins nesting in our shared tall pine. The babies are born and one has fallen out of the nest. It’s found a perch and the parents continue to feed the fluff ball — a very aggressive looking fluff ball. Anyway, the point is there are feathers all over the yard from their kills. We fret about the cats as predators but bird-on-bird kills, even more savage, well, that’s… natural? We pretend not to feel bad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Makes me think of Franzen in Freedom, his rant on cat-on-bird kills. Before you went ‘off’ on him, maybe? Yes, thanks for partaking in the Billapalooza as it were. I have more coming, requiring more clarity of head. I like your images of the shared pine, the merlins. Here, we have to put pine cones in the hanging basket by the back door to keep dumb birds from nesting in there, making it impossible to water (not impossible for me, impossible for Dawn to fathom).


  5. i have a couple of bunnies in my front yard who are oblivious to me, and just hang out with me like i’m snow white


  6. You summed up Capitol Hill perfectly, it was something with actual grit. Now the grit seems to be imported. While I like it there, I have a feeling it won’t be long until it will have pushed out all the grit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t get there as much. And Ballard? Forget it. Maybe an unfair comparison, but it’s one of the reasons I like Portland so much, it still seems like itself. This story’s been spun a million times, a million ways. Makes me want to move to the country, where things don’t really change. I guess that’s the appeal for me, with the country.


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