things i know very little about

Repost: Closed for the season



[July 23, 2016: Can’t muster the time or energy for new posts, but I have been scanning my old ones. I re-read this the other day, and it’s really good, if I do say so myself….]

Yesterday ended up being a fantastic day.

Saturday I spent the afternoon playing golf and it went long. I walked with a couple of friends and the pace was excellent but then we ran into another group as we made the turn. As is our custom in winter golf, we decided to join up–to form a sevensome.

Returned home later than I said I’d be and well, hey, some amazing college football on, and then got a call from my friend John, back in town after two years in South Sudan. Could I meet him and his wife for a drink? How could I not?

So Sunday dawned and Heather was exuding a serious “you’re not holding up your end” vibe. She made it clear that it was a day to “do something with the boys.” They wanted to fish, and I was totally OK with that, had only the best intentions.

But then my neighbor Dave came over to move some of my hay around and I asked him if he would take a quick look at my rickety old ’88 Chevy Cheyenne. The serpentine was off and there was antifreeze everywhere. I was in a panic about being low on firewood and being without the truck for the three or more days it would take in the shop. I was (typically) focused on the wrong problem and was fretting about the tensioner, but he saw immediately that it was the water pump. “You just take the cowl off with these bolts here, and then the pump unbolts down there, and … aw, hell, you don’t have the tools. You want me to help you?”


I did what I could to assist. Holding this. Pulling that. Using my longer reach to get at places he couldn’t. Picking up bolts as they fell through to the ground (he hated bending over). I was apprehensive about working with him, having witnessed his volcanic side when he worked his cattle. But I really admired the way he worked on cars. Our ratchet sets had similar sizes missing, so there was more than a little improvisation. He got frustrated but usually chuckled at setbacks. It brought me back to the days of helping my dad with his car repairs, minus my dad’s (rest his soul) bellowing rage.

I was ever aware of Heather’s own simmering anger, as the job went from “just half an hour” to an hour, then more. One o’clock. Two. Three. Daniel, my older boy, kept asking When are we gonna go? Almost done? He looked disappointed every time, but it was a fine day and the three of them has a rambunctious Hunger Games-inspired game involving tobacco sticks and handcrafted bows and arrows. They were fine. No one got hurt. When Daniel came along to the parts store to pick up the pump, Dave grunted a few little things to him about beer and girls, and made a crack about the cologne the clerk was wearing, which made Daniel smile in a way I was unaccustomed to seeing.

Finally, job over. The last hose clamped, a couple of gallons of antifreeze poured through a funnel made with a Mountain Dew bottle, and the truck starts right up and is running fine. “You don’t owe me nothin’, Tim. But I do have a couple more lists of songs….” That’s how I’ve been repaying him for his help with the cattle and the hay and now this. Burning cds for him. Totally inadequate, but he seems to appreciate it. His taste is Skynrd-ish country, but he is (as he says himself) very particular about what he wants. “Rollin’ with the Flow” by Charlie Rich and Reba’s “Fancy” along with Jamey Johnson; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band along with Craig Morgan; Allman Brothers along with Travis Tritt. I burned an extra CD of things I thought he’d like from my collection but he said he couldn’t get into it. I had to admit his playlists were better than mine.

It was time to fish. We loaded the poles and tackle into the Subaru. With the late start we didn’t go to our usual Garrard County spots. Instead we went to the Chimney Rock marina on the Mercer side, just under the Kennedy Bridge. The boys handled their own snags and tangles without asking dad to fix their lines. It was not a good time of the day or the season for catching anything, and they were content with the few nibbles they had. It was a lovely quiet December afternoon. Everything some muted shade of blue, brown, gray–the sky, the cliffs, the water. Chilly, but no wind, and we were alone. Someone who worked in the Marina entered and left the office a couple of times. Maybe to keep an eye on us. Above the Marina an animated sign kept flashing the same message over and over. “Closed for the season. See ya in May….”

It got cold in a hurry when the sun went behind the cliffs. I had promised to let them fish after dark, but when I said, “Five minutes,” there were no objections.

The three of us then indulged in our shared passion for Long John Silver’s. “We’ll pretend we caught this fish,” I suggested as we gobbled down the tongue-burning flounder. Usually the pickiest of eaters, they were insatiable, and I had to go back up to the counter twice for more.

At home the boys and I played Texas Hold ‘Em for about an hour. Lila didn’t want to learn how to play but she did want the boys to do something else, and got into high pestering mode. Theo reached the end of his attention span, and wandered off. I had incredible cards, the kind you never get when playing for real money.

Just before bedtime, Daniel announced that he had uploaded a clip to Youtube about Bongo, our Boston Terrier we had just recently put down. We all gathered around my laptop to watch his touching, loving collection of still photos and video snippets going back to Brooklyn days. When it was over all three kids were bawling. Theo rubbed his face against our new dog Elbee’s back and sobbed, “When are we going to get a new dog?” Elbee picked her head up with an indignant look, and that made up all laugh.

I joined Heather briefly in watching an especially gruesome episode of The Walking Dead, but sneaked upstairs a few times to watch UK-Providence with Daniel. When I went up after halftime he was sound asleep. I turned the sound down. Nine blocks for Willie Cauley-Stein!

I can only blame the fried fish and hushpuppies, but I had crazy dream after crazy dream. In one I looked out the living room window to see a tsunami sweep across the pasture and crash up the walls of the house. Then was back in New York, working again at Harper & Row. I walked around the publicity office but couldn’t find my desk. The phones just would not stop ringing.

New York, City of my dreams

Did any filmmaker do dreams better than Bunuel?


Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.
Calvino, Invisible Cities


I loved this piece about Joe Franklin. In 1988 I was a bicycle messenger in New York. Once, I had to make a delivery to his surreal office. It was in a different building then (West 42nd Street, I believe), but this description is spot on:

It had actually been closer to ten, but not much had changed to alter this magazine’s assessment, in 1971, of Franklin’s then office: “If it were a person, it would be a bum.” The new space had no windows and was filled with ephemera: a “Legally Blonde 2” DVD, six empty shipping boxes, two Christmas stockings, a bar of soap in the shape of a hot dog, two stuffed animals (rabbit, Dalmatian), and a healthy portion of Franklin’s collection of a hundred thousand vaudeville records. Stacks of 16-mm. film reels began on the floor and stopped near the ceiling. “Know who had a desk like mine?” Franklin asked, seated behind several piles that seemed like they might conceal a desk. “Albert Einstein.”


The family and I will be returning to visit New York at the end of the month. Last night, I dreamed I was already there. I was alone on the subway with not a dime in my pocket. The train pulled into DeKalb Avenue and I had a choice of dozens of transfers, none of which went where I wanted to go. I scurried over the overpass and back a few times, and finally gave up on catching a train. Once on the surface a couple of kids tried to sell me pot. I shouted something vulgar at them and ran. They gave chase, and one of them caught up and ripped my pink plaid scarf (actually, Heather’s) off my neck. I jumped into a cab that already had three passengers. Every building in downtown Brooklyn was a high rise gilded in neon like Tokyo or Hong Kong. There were ferris wheels as tall as skyscrapers on every block. Fifth Avenue was all restaurants and bars open to the street, like Broadway in Nashville. I made it home, to our old apartment, a top-floor of a brownstone on Seventh Avenue. The place had not changed. Heather was home but I couldn’t see her, and we conversed through the walls.

In a galaxy far far away

“Reading the news and it’s all bad,” mused Joni in a different context.

Perhaps paralyzed by the cornucopia of awful things to comment upon, I’ve been fixated on some old news the past couple days.

From the Guardian: Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief’s plane was shot down.

Chalk another one up for the conspiracy theorists. In fifty years will conclusive proof finally emerge that Paul Wellstone was offed? That seems to be how it works.

Pretty much completely ignorant of the context and controversy surrounding Hammarskjöld’s crash, I’ve gone to Wikipedia U to get modestly up to speed. So, the Dagster. Congo. Belgium. Lumumba. Mobutu.

Operation Morthor is a name right out of Tolkein. And, to borrow another fantastic reference from pop culture, the Kantangan secessionist rebels, who sound ever so Star Wars.

So there must be an Evil Empire. But there it breaks down a bit. Was it the Belgians? Plenty evil, but facing the twilight of their long, brutal  colonial reign in 1961. Or was it the rising empire, just coming into its Don Draper heyday, whose tension with its other imperial rival gave birth, passively, and actively, to the tragedy of the Congo.

In some respects, Hammarskjöld’s death was just a footnote in the history of the Congo and the entire continent. A white man dies, and gets all the ink. Tempting to think that. But just this small glimpse of the force of Hammarskjöld’s personality leads me to think about what was lost when his plane went down.

To today’s eyes, such idealism in the UN’s secretary general seems to come from another world entirely–from, yes, a galaxy far far away. (See what I did there?!)

Hammarskjöld thought that this was a problem the UN should, and could, solve. He was convinced that this was his job. He thought he could fly in and sort it all out by himself, being fully aware of the Belgian, British and Yankee feathers he was ruffling in the process (and the Russians were no fans either, for different reasons). In 1961 the secretary general took the UN charter seriously. He actually took the side of the developing nations against the might of the Security Council. This stands in stark contrast to the current state of affairs, when the UN’s function is to lend grudging  legitimacy to whatever questionable military operation the US has in mind.

From that Guardian article:

Hammarskjöld was flying to Ndola for peace talks with the Katanga leadership at a meeting that the British helped arrange. The fiercely independent Swedish diplomat had, by then, enraged almost all the major powers on the security council with his support for decolonisation, but support from developing countries meant his re-election as secretary general would have been virtually guaranteed at the general assembly vote due the following year.

Can you imagine? How far have we come from this time, entirely in the wrong direction?

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