Tuesday, May 17, 2011

two vacation days dawn cool and glorious, whereas mid-may in this area is usually steamy, already unlivable. i don't know what accounts for our luck; i for one am so exhausted from the previous term, that all i can do is take a big fat cup of coffee, go out on the porch swing, which is now under our garage eave, and sip it slowly. let the world roll on down the river, its relentless crest disrupting life all the way down to the lowest bayous.

our local county seat, a town about a quarter as large is ours, is on the big muddy river (not to be confused with the mississippi, which it is a tributary of) and thus is flooded; about a week ago the road from the old highway that we take, into the town, was covered by a couple feet of water; now, the water is a couple feet below it. in grim fascination i am drawn that way as know how devastating and sickening a flood is; maybe 5 or 10 percent of the town's lowest residents are under water. sometimes i have only the thinnest of excuses, like the fact that its mcdonalds, of the six or so in the area, has the best play structure. it's an opportunity to take the young guy and cool off a little, drink a shake maybe or watch him make friends with a fairly diverse crowd. but actually this town is dying; many of its beautiful old buildings are vacant, including the regal huge laclede hotel; it seems as if the lawyers and the judges are the only ones who remain, fighting over what's left of the property, and constantly putting young men in jail for meth-related (probably) murders and crimes...in any case, in spite of the fact that it has maybe four times the number of pretty old houses and buildings that we do, it doesn't seem like people are actually enjoying the environment, of course this could just be that the river is thirty or forty feet too high. in any case it all comes together in this one interior hallway of mcdonald's, where unhappy people tend to congregate and scowl at us as we walk by, and my usual patient nature, whereby i would say hi to these people, regardless of having virtually nothing in common, gives way to a certain impatience with the scowls and the occasional disrespectful burp. must be all the good nutrition; most of them are a hundred pounds overweight, and make a guy like me, only thirty over, look like a steel rail. this is our world. the play structure is friendly enough; most people with kids have the same benevolent need for a little rest as i do. the manager of the place is nice enough too, and there's a whole, light-filled dining area that i never explore, but i'm sure it has a completely different feel to it. it's just that you have to walk through this interior hallway, you have no choice, you can't go around; and, it's a kind of regular problem.

the morganza spillway is opened up, flooding the atchafalaya, the vast lowland bayou country that supposedly, by allowing itself to be flooded, will save the larger cities like new orleans. we'll give the river what it wants, say the engineers, who scramble around trying to figure out what's best, and i'm sure, using the best of their current abilities to save as many lives as possible. there's been a little too much rain up this way, for a while, all spring; it floods all the low spots, and shows no signs of stopping. lots of crops ruined, and barge traffic was stopped today which puts a huge burden on the transportation system of the whole country: no telling how much corn, and oil, and beans, and all that stuff, generally goes up and down the river in better times. the system is busting at the levees; yet another megathousand pound barge might break the whole system. they made the right call, i'm sure; i wouldn't want to be responsible for the kinds of disasters that ensue when they don't.

at home, the cool weather and the rain has made garden, flowers, onions & leeks, bloom like crazy. it's a wild jungle of green and maybe the poison ivy and the stranglevine families are doing as well as any of them. they'll work to reclaim young trees and bring everything down into a wild smelly strangle of poisonous stuff that gives you rashes for months just for breathing it. yet it has the same red glow in the morning sun, the same vitality; it wants to live too, and live well, and spread. i spend my time with the onions and leeks; i weed them, pick and cook them, and i might work to propagate them a little, so that i'm a kind of onion farmer; but, i'll have to let someone else at that poison ivy, namely my wife, who seems to be able to handle it ok. i seem to get rashes from just looking at it, might even get something from sitting here writing about it, though by now it's what, five or six steps removed. time for another cup of coffee: break is just starting, and i'm thinking about my novel.


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