On the first day of summer I took my morning walk beneath a marine layer of clouds. The cool onshore flow was back, making the trees swish. The blackberry vines were starting to bud out with their green, knobby fists and in a couple of months they’d be hanging low, ready to eat. It reminded me of the time I did a section of the Pacific Crest Trail with Brad, in the deep forest of the North Cascades when we split up and I was on my own, and happened upon a bear near a blueberry patch and tried to scare it off, but it didn’t leave as quickly as I hoped, it just vanished in the brush and stopped and I couldn’t see it, I knew it was still there, waiting for me to pass. And then in the middle of the night I got spooked by the sound of something and broke down my camp and fled, running a good four or five miles through the valley in the dark, feeling like the forest had turned ominous with the look of the moon, like it had become inherently evil even though I knew it couldn’t, the only evil was in man, and I was the only one around for miles…suppose I just had the evil in me to deal with.

On my drive to work I slipped into a stupor at the wheel. I’d come to a lull with my project winding down and no others yet assigned. In my first two months on the new job, I’d written a couple speeches and a technical eBook about machine learning. I’d gone through my own metaphorical forest of fear with both projects, and come out OK. And there was more darkness and bears up ahead, but I tried to keep the fear at bay.

Lily and I went out to dinner and sitting across from her, I thought she looked different. She was changing every day, and many days you don’t notice. My eyes were burning from fatigue and when I got in the car and looked at myself they were puffy and swollen, receded in my face.

I took Charlotte to meet my hair stylist Donnie and afterwards, we went to the bakery and the record store, just like last time. I bought a Snoop Dogg CD and one by A Tribe Called Quest, and chatted again with the effeminate clerk about Brian Eno. And then we drove to the Hard Rock café to watch Lily perform with her School of Rock band: and while she was on stage singing, I realized I’d seen at least four of the bands they were covering, all in about a mile radius of where I was now watching her sing, before she was born.

And then, because I now have a Mercedes-Benz, I played the Snoop Dogg CD loud with the windows rolled down looking disaffected and cool, and got aggressive and ‘east coast’ doing an illegal maneuver to get on the I-5 onramp, using the bus lane to cut in front of another driver—and then like any good, middle-aged white boy I drove home to the suburbs thinking about what I’d cook for dinner and if I had time for a nap after I picked up the dry cleaning—

And I started taking the bus to work, the first time in years, and sat looking out the window at the developments, the fake names on the monument signs like Heritage Hills or Summer Ridge, and so on…the bus zooming past all the stops (no one rides the bus in the suburbs), wondering if it made me feel younger or older riding the bus again, disaffected, wet from the rain.

Mom says she has the high-functioning anxiety too which makes sense, and why her brother (my uncle) has a hard time sitting down and just keeps polishing things, it seems. Like there’s something beyond the dirt or disarray that needs to get fixed but just can’t be. And she’s got a tic that’s started with her mouth and me, my right eye: and I imagine with the tic and my one arm longer than the other one in the morning with my coffee walking to the lake and shuffling, with my shirt on backwards and my eyes rolled back, I must look like the undead.



Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. I love riding the bus. LOVE it. Or the tram, if there’s one around. At UT the tuition covered all city buses, so I took the bus even when I had a car, and sometimes I didn’t even get off but went around again. Once I got on a bus just to see were it went. No, not weird, not me. Not at all. By the way, that Eno kept me up, man. Filled my brain with visions of potential Nat Geo docs on the Milky Way, or something.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know how people camp. ESPECIALLY camp on their own. It sounds uncomfortable and terrifying. I’m barely a man at all. If the apocalypse ever occurs, my family is sunk. I can’t help them. I like how you tie-in your work project. It’s Metaphor Wednesday.

    The suburban developments in New Jersey all have rustic names that conjure the woods or rolling hills. The irony is that all the woods and hills were leveled on account of the development.


    • Metaphor Wednesday = “Mittwoch,” in German, or mid-week, or hump-day, and the day I’m told the Germans in my mom’s neighborhood make love. Hump day. Get it?


  3. i kind of like riding on the bus. feels like i’m less removed from the world around me. take things in firsthand. yes, the development names always blow my mind. they all seem kind of the same and very ambiguous. never really define the place they are naming – oak crest, boulder ridge…


  4. Love reading this amazing account which is so engrossing. I enjoy sitting by the window in the bus and admiring the scenery. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting cruising through this post, slipping into a Mercedes and a comfortable stupor, the day just tic’ing past. On a long bus ride, when it’s direct, no stops, I always feel like the bus is also transporting the atmosphere from where I started. So I arrive in Albany in a pool of stale Boston air, still in Boston mode for a while. Like buying fish for an aquarium, that travel in a bag of water from their pet shop. Enjoyed reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lot to unpack in this one. I’m writing this en route to the airport, flying solo to my childhood home, probably the last time before they put it on the market. I’m in the school van, and the driver, my son’s age, has the satellite radio on an 80s station. “A Sort of Homecoming.” I’m time-travelling. I’m keeping my eyes open for bears.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘Just keeps polishing things’. That really struck me and I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll keep rubbing until it shines through.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: