Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Holding the cigar in his lips and cupped hands he lights it with the match, moves his lips like a swimmer drawing breath and soon the blue clouds emerge and wreath his head like father Christmas. The air is so still the smoke rises slow and curls.
He passes the match box to dad.
Dad takes a wooden briar pipe from his pocket. At home in Iowa he has a pipe rack with a glass humidor in the center filled with luscious smelling tobacco. I like to stick my head in the humidor and inhale the tobacco fumes and the brown apple core that he keeps at the center of it. From another pocket he takes a red, flat, flask shaped tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco. The shape of the can is made to fit comfortably in a jacket pocket or a desk drawer. He flips it open with a thumbnail and shakes out some tobacco into the bowl of his pipe while Uncle Joe watches his motions like a cat watching a bird. He presses the lid closed, and put the tin down on a little table on the porch next to his rocking chair. The cicadas fall silent, holding their collective insect breath for another aria as Dad tamps down the tobacco with his fingertip, glances at it, measuring it against some interior knowledge and puts the pipe stem in his mouth. He takes Uncle Joe’s matchbox and pushes open the little drawer and shakes out a match. He cups the pipe in his hands and his brows frown with anticipation of pleasure, yes, but also of meditation, of conversation. Of some chat about Grandpa’s health and the rumors about why Aunt Florence didn’t show up. He strikes the match on the box and holds it to the bowl and moves his lips, differently from Uncle Joe and goes on frowning. Pipe tobacco crackles when air is drawn through it. It’s not like cigarettes. It more like autumn leaves piled, jumped through and at last set afire and carefully attended.
From my pants pocket I take out a glass vial filled half way with cinnamon oil I bought at the pharmacy. There are wooden toothpicks soaking in the oil. I unscrew the top, handling it like plutonium, and remove a toothpick and put in my lips. Its sweet and it burns my tongue.
I’m thinking about Dad’s pipe as I’m driving my wife to work at Macy’s. After I drop her off, I’ll go off and work on my writing because Saturday morning is the time I set aside for doing the blog post here. Why is it pleasure that is so often postponed or moved back into a corner? Why does pleasure need to make an appointment?
We’re driving too slow because of a guy on a bike in front of us. It’s a whip thin speed racing bike with a zillion gears and four hand levers. It has an insectile modern creation, ascetic and sternly utilitarian, not like the bulky, curvaceous pipe work of my first bike. The rider is wearing a yellow, tight, shimmery spandex T shirt that grips his body like a superhero, aerodynamic I suppose, and black spandex riding shorts that grip his ass like a matador’s suit of lights, and probably show off the outline of his balls when he walks in them. The old bull fighters used to stuff a well shaped handkerchief down there to impress the ladies in the stands. Maybe he does that too.
He has high tech toe gripping, heelless riding shoes that have never trod the earth, and military issue shooter’s sunglasses beneath an egg shaped, goblin pointed bike helmet that makes him look like the creature in “Alien”. He’s doing about 20 miles an hour in 45 mile zone. He lifts up on his toes as he pedals, maybe so we can admire his ass.
At the mall I drop my wife off and turn around and head fast to the Starbucks at the Barnes and Noble. Fishing through my book bag near the driver’s seat I take out a bright green capped tube and drop it into my shirt pocket. I dig under the seat and find a battered red tea tin I’ve had for years, and from my book box – my portable book library which I always keep in the back of the van - I take out a pack of Biscoff cookies and put two cookies exactly in the red tea tin and stick it in my brown leather bag among the mouse cables and extra laptop batteries. I dig around some more and find my legal pad and choose a book of Anais Nin stories and I’m off.
As I walk away, I wonder - did I lock the van? I think I did.
I go back and check and hit the button again just to make sure.
I’ve got my wallet, bag, notebook - okay. Half way to the Starbucks, I stop.
Did I lock the van? I think I did.
But . . . fuck it.
In the Starbucks Morgana the cute barrista calls out with a big smile. “How are you Mr. Garcia?” No one ever calls me by my first name. They look at my face and call me mister. It makes me feel lonely.
“Okay, so far. Day ain’t over yet.”
“Same old stuff. Thanks.”
At the cream and sugar stand a woman has an anodized aluminum water bottle with a screw down lid and belt clasp. She unscrews the lid while I wait. She wipes the rim with a napkin while I wait. She wipes the vacuum seal with a napkin while I wait. She removes an internal water filter and sets it down on a napkin, rinses it with a little water and I marvel at the complexity of a water bottle composed of four pieces of three colored devices with a philosophical slogan and a little Grateful Dead bear and a screw down vacuum sealed lid, while I wait. She shakes out the filter and examines it. I lurch across her arms and glom a couple packets of sugar and she jumps back.
A slug of half and half. One pack exactly of raw sugar and a yellow pack of Splenda. Stir with wooden stick. I usually drink coffee black at home. Can’t drink Starbucks black.
I always sit at one of three tables in the far rear corner because I want to Drukken myself.
Drukken is an old Yiddish phrase for a concept developed by a habitually persecuted people living among their oppressors. Drukken means to make yourself small, to make yourself so insignificant in a room that people will forget you’re existing in the same time and space with them. To will yourself to disappear like a cockroach in a silverware drawer. In the far corner I throw my invisibility cloak of solitude around me and Drukken down.
The brown leather case was given to me on Father’s Day in Panama. It’s battered and scarred and was my companion for fifteen years in three different countries. It has soul. I take out the laptop and set up the battery, wireless port and the mouse and fire it up. It takes a long time to boot up this old thing. Sometimes you have to boot it twice.
While I wait I scarf down a Biscoff and wash it down with coffee and open the legal pad to a blank yellow page and take the green plastic tube from my pocket. I open the tube and shake out a fat black J Series Esterbrook fountain pen with a 9668 Broad General Writing Rigid nib with the celerity of a Zen rishi conducting a tea ceremony. This pen is one of my “old ladies”, about 60 years old at least.
Fountain pens have as little in common with modern ball point pens as briar pipes have to do with cigarettes. Like a pipe, a fountain pen is a lifetime companion. It is language’s lover and thought’s companion. They aren’t meant to be thrown away. A fountain pen, well loved and maintained serves the imagination forever.
I begin each writing session exactly the same way. The coffee. The Biscoff cookie. The legal pad. Unveiling the old lady, taking her in my hand and leading her to the bed of foolscap.
Shall I write with the cap on the end of the Pen? Or without the cap?
Let me search my mood.
With the pen cap laying on the keyboard and the capless pen flying in my fist over the legal pad, the old lady would feel light and frisky, with quick hands, curling toes, eyes squeezed shut with the intensity of pleasure and short gasping squeals evoked by pinches and kisses, and probing tongue. She would be small breasted and fragile of hip requiring presence and consideration of mindful making.
Writing with the cap on is an old lady as jolly wench, bawdy, bouncy and hefty in the hand, with expansive breasts that spread out and sway like ocean waves with each squeal of the bed.
This time I put the cap on the end of the pen, which I usually don’t do. It changes the balance, shifts the feel of the grip back towards the web of the thumb and the heft of the pen from a Wakizashi to a Katana. Today I want that hefty Katana feel. I want that fat lady feel.
I begin dumping words, shutting down the world, drukkening my self tight. Becoming invisible until I cease to exist, even to myself.
The desktop is ready and the hard drive spin has settled. I cap the fat lady and put her away with a sated sigh, examine what I’ve scribbled and begin from the top of the page.
I’m about ten years old and sitting on a porch in Liberal Kansas and Kennedy is the President of the United States. . .