Friday, August 24, 2007

embujen, embujen! is a song we hear a lot around here, where dora is one of our two-year-old's favorite movie choices. we don't get television, but we do watch the same movies over and over; the five-year-old has been running through batman movies. in the dora movie a passel of young children yell embujen! repeatedly as they push a large boat into the sea. it just goes to show, little kids can do anything if they put their minds to it...and if they unite, in spite of racial and language differences. and, if you hear a song a dozen times or so, it tends to stick in your head. one little fellow on the show, tico, speaks only spanish, but it's ok, dora translates for him. my five-year-old, who comes home from a bilingual kindergarten class, is trying to adjust to the fact that these languages are used by real people also. he gets mad at me for singing in spanish.

at work, it's endless politics, a deadly time-eater (embujen!). but part of the emotional rubble. a good point of the new term: i ride my bike a lot, in spite of the heat. i have more time freedom; i might get my swim more. i don't have to adjust to being around, teaching 18 hrs/wk; i've been doing it all summer. many of my students have one foot in academic classes and don't complain about being in my class. new students are in town- many come from chicago, and haven't experienced this heat before (i remember moving to kansas and having the bright sun press my eye-pupils so far closed that it hurt -embujen!- here, the humidity does the same thing). i'm beyond complaining about it, though...but i have taken to removing most of my clothes whenever i have to ride in it. and i've noticed some leaves falling, dead early- they couldn't take it.

would like to finish my wal-mart stories- one for each month, like haiku- but, i've taken a breath, made progress on some other things. zeitlich kein marmota, as the yiddish speaker might say in argentina- i won't translate this, but i'll only say: pace yourself. bring water. don't fall asleep while swimming, or riding a bicycle...and, love your family......embujen!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Inventory- a wild crime story from a big-box, discount retail chain....enjoy! Comments welcome, of course.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

here's an ongoing drama for you, shows a little how obsessive a person can be. about a month and a half a go, i noticed that our new newspaper, the st. louis post-dispatch, was running a contest, printing money every day in denominations of 25000, 50000, and occasionally 250000 and one 500000, called millionaire bucks. i faithfully cut out every single one that i could find, and i admit that i usually use only one eye, and am a-d-d on top of that, so it's possible that i didn't see every one, but i saw almost every one a person could, who got the paper every single day from early july to today. and i'd saved six million, three hundred fifty bucks, figured i could get something in the bidding which started today but will go on every wednesday for about two months. eventually they'll have such things as a hummer, a jeep cherokee, a honda and sliding porch door which my wife has her eye on, but today they only had $500 in savings bonds, a jeweled pendant, a bunch of little stuff.

it occurred to me about halfway through, that i would ultimately be competing with entire church groups in st. louis, that the baptists for example would want the hummer, who knows maybe the methodists would go after the cherokee or the honda. anyway as a single free agent i would have very little chance unless i teamed up with someone, so i asked my barber the other day and she agreed to cut some bucks out of her post-dispatch as soon as possible. this also might make me better than the average single-free-agent, but might not be enough for the hummer. boy was i right about that. this morning i was way low in the bidding for everything; by 10:00 6.35 mil was not enough for anything but a tattoo and an oil change. everything else was way high. bidding for the $500 in savings bonds was at 50 mil. for a $10 gift certificate at a bar/pub called the dubliner, bidding was at 25 mil. where did people come up with all this money?

from the barber i heard a story about a woman who played a similar game here; won two cars, one in each year; but did it by buying entire stacks of newspapers at half-price from a convenience store that had regular sales. do people actually do this stuff?

i got started because i liked the newsprint on my hand from thumbing through every single paper. reminded me of my paperboy days, which were many, and which were very peaceful in their own kind of way. there was actually two sets of them; in the first one, i delivered pittsburgh post-gazettes for 42 cents a week to about 55 customers in a hilly suburban neighborhood that included an old-folks' place and a weird little enclave in a wooded area down by the highway. in the second set i was a bundle-dropper for the des moines register, dropped whole bundles of papers on street-corners, and drove empty streets in the middle of the night, also filled up vending machines using red slugs that were shaped like quarters and opened up the machines gracefully. every morning i'd get that ink all over my hands, i'd have the black hand and the inky smell, but i'd be a little awaker than my friends, and then, i saw a lot of unusual stuff, humans being unusual inhabitants of the wee hours. once in pittsburgh i saw this intense meteor shower; falling stars filled the sky for an entire forty-five minutes, but i was the only one who saw it, nobody else was up. it was so intense, at one point i just laid down on some grass and watched it.

not that clipping all these little millionaire bucks is going to bring back any of that. i have absolutely no use for a tattoo, especially if i have to go to st. louis to get it, and at this point, it doesn't look like i'll get the hummer either. doesn't matter though, the family just got a new van, a kia, which is cheaper, good on safety, plenty of room, and, made in korea, so it reminds me, kind of, of another time in my life. don't know what i'll do, or even if i'll bid for anything, before it's over, but now that the barber is in on it with me, i'm sure i'll try for something, and if i'm crafty, maybe i'll get something. i think i'll skip the oil changes at the car dealerships though (these seem to be plentiful, and almost within reach for my measly 6.35 mil. the problem with those is, they change your oil, but you're standing around all these new cars, and next thing you know, you're going home with one. free oil change- hah! one thing i'll say about this van is, we really did need it. and it was clear- i wasn't going to win the hummer. the thing about a tattoo is- church groups don't want it. the people who do, don't read the paper. that's the kind of thing i need to shoot for. it isn't over yet- another factor is, all prices are inflated, on the first wednesday, when everyone has been sitting on their big piles of millionaire bucks for a month and a half.

even on a normal night, i always saw a lot of stars. city lights, street lights, house lights, were mostly turned off at five in the morning. birds would be singing away, but shut up as i walked by because they knew i wasn't going to stick around. i was free to more or less live in my head, which made walking pleasant for me, for years, and made me sensitive to the kinds of stuff i saw that was alive, in the grass down by my feet. the inky hand was actually not a bad thing- it had a distinct smell, and feel, but it washed off easily, it was a connection to the passing nature of the days' events. i kind of miss the tribune, actually, which stopped delivering in southern illinois, and represented a more refined view of life, but a much more raucous city, chicago. it's ok, we're here now, and need a paper every day, and, we get to st. louis every once in a while, if i win something up there, i actually have a chance of picking it up. in our new van, no less. on one of these trips where i'll be taking folks to the airport- my wife & little boys, going to california for a wedding; my oldest son, going to france for the fall. the world's events continue, at breakneck pace. the deer watches silently, from the edge of the wood.

Friday, August 10, 2007

ok so i'm making more out of this heat than it is, sure, it's 98/98- 98 in the shade, 98 percent humidity. before airconditioning folks here sat around in the shade and drank ice tea all afternoon, did all actual work in the early morning, and then had all social life at night. afternoons were pretty much shot, with the sun beating down and pressing on your eyelids. nowadays we hit a blast of cold air when we come into a building, where they have it pushed down to fifty so that'll compensate for the fact that we've been out in the sauna. then you get into your car, and it's twice as bad, because even if the windows are open, the sun's been coming in, and turning the sweat you left on the seat, into dry heat. so you crank the airconditioner and off you go. the kids, belted in the back seat, squirm knowing that they're in a tenuous position, in an oven and unable to move.

so i play bluegrass or african music with the cd player as i drive, and try to see through the sun's glare, or better yet, avoid the roads entirely and stay home, or in the office. it's not that it's hotter than usual, it's more that i've become wimpier than usual, less tolerant of the fifty degree jump between refrigerated buildings and the outdoors; less willing to suffer so much just because i have errands to do. it seems inhumane, being forced to stay indoors in the summer, getting high bills, reading a book, being unable to work outside, all that stuff we should experience in winter but, in an ironic twist, don't. so i get another gig in cobden, this one at the yellow moon again, and go out there, to a small town on a large railroad track, a kind of extreme version of what carbondale is, only it has a lot of apple orchards around it, and some hills. i play the train song, twice, second time on demand, and tell train stories as are buried in this blog, deep inside. and, lo and behold, upon coming out of the place, in this small town, there's the train. and, it's finally a very nice temperature. about eleven at night, and it's beautiful out. so i roll the windows down, drive slow, and take the backroads home, by the jesus es el senor church and the migrant labor camps. there are tons of stars out there, more than i've seen in years. you can smell the grass and the fresh-cut hay which i'd seen- one of my kids called them round-circle hays. deer off to the side of the road, giving me the eye. the only other people on these roads are usually going pretty fast, but tonight there were only one or two; it was a pretty nice ride home. sometimes i feel like life here in the summer is a pressure cooker- see how much of this you can take. students come back in august, so they paint dawg paws on the streets (my kids call these clues, since a dog paw is a clue on a blues' clues video that we watch)- and the sign-dancer has a hard time standing near a rock at the bottom of the hill on main, where the street comes out from under the trees and onto a great wide straightaway with nothing but the glaring sun, a burger king, a gas station and a parking lot. the pizza store is genius, hiring that sign-dancer, because he's the only life in the whole town that's not hidden behind shut-up windows and blasting air-con, he's the only one you can count on actually being out in the street, and you wonder how much he's suffering or even if he's going to get out there and do his sign-dancing thing on a day like this. but hey, everyone else just keeps on keeping on- the garbage men, the mailman, the construction workers- even the kids, they think this is normal. and they might say: dad doesn't like going outside to play baseball in this kind of weather- which is true, and unnatural, if you ask me- but even that's normal. yet playing baseball on thanksgiving or new years, that would be normal too. and they call this season, with the students coming back, fall- that's because, if you go out, and you forget to drink a lot of water, or, if you lose your balance- that's what might happen to you. but hey, what's balance when, it's middle of summer, and you can't even go to the park- the slide will burn you- the little rocks on the ground are too hot to step on- well, yes, you can go there, but only in the middle of the night. you just don't see anyone around in the middle of the day- and if you do, you know they're desperate- because what, you think people would walk in this stuff just for the sake of walking? in the summer?

yet, if you're still, and if you've been here a few of these, you notice that it did turn, it turned just a little, got a little drier, maybe the days got just a touch shorter. it's hard to notice, when it's pressing against your eyelids and it's kind of searing, like a blowdrier or something. like i said, i'm making more of it than it is, because it really never got over a hundred, it almost never does, and, though it's like a sauna, half the summer, around now, it becomes more like a broiler, with the moisture pulled right out of you, and the grass crackling beneath your feet. won't rain again until november, but when it does, look out. by then, you'll have forgotten what rain is. or, what might pile up in your gutter, when you're not looking.

Friday, August 03, 2007

exhausted after a gig at a coffee shop; a long hard week with lots of term papers, about ten left over; putting ad for truck in craigslist finally; and the kind of weather i tolerate, but definitely don't enjoy. the terrible accident in mpls- the town i lived in before moving here- thirteen years ago, anyway, it shakes your faith in infrastructure, if not mindot. makes you wonder, what life would be like if i were on an i-35 bridge every evening at rush hour. i almost took that road, but veered off, to the intersection of illinois 13 & 51, where i occasionally turn left on oneways, at a red light, if there's no traffic, or maybe a train blocking the way down the hill. i loved mpls- almost took it on that summer- but things didnt' work out there and moved here at about this time, 1994. a friend's sister missed the disaster because of taking "an alternate route," which i was into at the time also. any of several bridges across the mississippi were alternate routes. the road to carbondale was kind of an alternate route, if you think about it.

daycare invited parents out to campus lake one day and i took them up on it...upon getting on the bicycle, outside faner hall, noticed all the kids, walking by, holding hands with each other, taking in the sauna/sweaty afternoon heat just like it was normal, which it would be, if you grew up here. tailed along with them until we got to the lake where we went out on a boat for a while. but then, they gave us fishing poles, and, sure enough, elias & i caught one, a little silver-dollar fish about the size of one's hand, greenish-colored. boy, that was a moment- made my day, reminded me of other adventures, other kids, the feeling one gets when something special happens. a guy deftly pulled the hook off the fish & threw him back in- god was smiling on the fish also. two other people were lucky- the worker in charge, who had never caught one, and a little girl, growing up with elias, with her mother. time stops in a small town. takes a picture of a collection of people, along a dock, on a very hot day. soon enough, we go back to grading papers, making batman costumes, turning left on main.

large dawg paws on the streets, as they begin to welcome freshmen to town- we call them 'clues,' being fans of blues clues' dog paw clues. got a clue?

want part of a folk tale contest? informal judges are just as good as the official ones, in that, the more opinions the better. i'm neutral, to tell you the truth, though i've already voted. the method is: distribute 20 pts. among the entries, any way you like, tell me. or, just tell me. it's part of a general campaign to get folk tales on the web, get them collected and organized, begin a process of making a kind of entertaining set of stories to read. i've actually been collecting them, off and on, more or less, for many years.

and, if you read a lot, try nine walmart stories (see template). i'm collecting opinions...other than opinions like, don't quit your day job. i want to remake these, make a book.

in my free time, of course