Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pious Portland

Steve and I went to Oregon last weekend and found religion.

Steve would definitely be a casual visitor at this establishment, especially since it is open 24- hours. He's had a small shrine of devotion, albeit forlorn and oft ignored, admiring Elvis since he refused to let me re-gift a two-foot tall plastic guitar full of popcorn with a sticker of The King across its front. 

He insisted that no one at my work's White Elephant Christmas party two years ago would be as deserving as he of such a treasure. So I relinquished it. Upon Steve's closer inspection of the guitar, he found that the lid of the guitar has a slot, implying its use as a coin container. 
Seeing as he prefers piggies over original rock-a-billies to stash his cash, Steve instead created a Compliment Elvis Guitar. 

For over a year now, this plastic guitar has collected a handful of thoughtful notes and praise from a few appreciative visitors, but not enough to give proper honor. The guitar, as of yesterday, has a new home in Steve's studio where he teaches guitar lessons. While the musical environment may lead those present to great appreciation and an increase in compliments, why limit anyone? Feel free to add your adulations here. Here is a baby picture to get you started:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A day in the life in which Maria is absent

Since Thursday morning Maria has been off and gone to the state of Arizona for the wedding of one of her friends, which makes Arizona a state worth visiting, and which leaves me since Thursday morning without Maria, and I will be without Maria until late Saturday afternoon. During this three day interim I am expected to entertain myself to such a degree that Maria's absence is to be minimal and unnoticeable. I am to wake up with such fervor for life and the day and ready to carpe the diem that I do not notice the empty pair of sandals that wait on the bedroom floor. For anyone else this may be an easy feat, where the day's tasks are executed independent of whether Maria is present or not. For myself, who loves Maria muchly, and who finds that anything I may ever do to try to distract myself and forget her absence, such as reading a book, watching an old movie, or playing guitar, is marred and made ineffective solely by my knowledge that if Maria were to be with me as I read the book , watch the old movie, or play guitar, the activity would be much more enjoyable just because she was there with me. 

Being without Maria turns out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and she turns out to be a lot more miss-able than I, the one who has to collect her five or six jackets that are placed (scattered) throughout the house and hang them up in the closet each day, had expected. If this were a "Married with Children" episode and I a more pleasant version of Al Bundy, I'd be thrilled to have a couple of days to myself without that harpy (that's Al speaking, Maria) telling me that somebody, somebody, should really think about fixing the dining room chairs. I'd sit on the couch, watch a football game with "the guys," and extend after-dinner dessert hour to anytime I feel like it. In my mind I had a list of things I wanted to do that I hadn't really been able to do because Maria was around. The items on this list wasn't anything sinister or extravagent; just finish two or three of those books on the shelf, and maybe watch an old horror movie that she'd refuse to watch. 

Things I do hoping that they will be more fun than having Maria around:

1) Listen to the Rolling Stones' "Aftermath."

2) Listen to the Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet."

3) Watch "The Hustler" with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason and wonder if Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason made all those pool shots themselves.

4) Watch an episode of "24" only to find that it's tough to only watch one episode of "24."

5) Watch an episode of "M*A*S*H" and laugh as Hawkeye tells Colonel Blake that if he thinks he's a good surgeon now wait and see how good he is two or three wars down the road.

6) H*A*V*E  F*U*N  T*Y*P*I*N*G  I*N  T*H*E  M*A*S*H  F*O*N*T.

7) Growl and cough along to Tom Waits' album "Rain Dogs." Gargle thumbtacks and cleaning products to achieve a more faithful imitation. 

8) Run and jog and jog and run as though I enjoy either running or jogging, which I don't, really, even though it is a summer goal to get to a seven, on a scale of one to ten, one being David Bowie and ten being The Rock (Maria tells me that I am currently at a five, although I suspect she's being generous).

9) Try to do yoga and meditate along with the early morning elderly woman on TV who is on a mat on the beach somewhere, but the Lotus Position is just too hard.

10) Watch at one in the morning what looks like Oprah's version of "The View" because our bedroom is too quiet without the steady sound of Maria's breathing and her consistent attempts to cuddle with me, which don't last long because it gets really hot and I can't sleep and after ten minutes I gently roll her over and maybe kiss her on the head or on the shoulder and she falls back asleep immediately and I lay on my side and wonder if I believe in luck. I also wonder what's the big deal with Oprah: she doesn't seem that interesting.

11)I read in Brian Doyle's The Wet Engine and I read of how the English novelist Thomas Hardy wished that his heart be buried in a small English town, and that the local veterinarian took Hardy's heart out of his chest, postmortem, of course, and placed it in a box and this box he placed on the table, planning on sending it off to that small English town, and that when the vet returned from going out she found the box but not the heart, and found her cat picking its teeth, I suppose, and the vet shot the cat and buried the heart in the cat in the ground in the small English town. And after I read this I laugh out loud to myself (for who else?) and search the house for Maria to tell her this story and to read it to her so she could laugh out loud for me and maybe we would laugh out loud together.    

I admit, with a guilty heart, that I was secretly looking forward to doing these things, and even considered making a fort out of blankets and a table and sleeping underneath. After Maria left me with a kiss and departed in a screech of angry tires, her window rolled down and her hand waving backwards to me, and after I worry about all of those nuns and school children who will be using crosswalks that day, I commenced with the festivities, thinking that this is the way to party. After about an hour or two of watching a Van Damm movie, I realized that none of this was going to work. Lying on the couch and staring at the TV screen didn't seem relaxing, and neither did reading a book or listening to music. My proposed leisurely schedule became taut with anxiety and a grating boredom. I felt like that guy in all those Greek myths who's in Hell and is always thirsty like just crossed the Sahara thirsty oh please give me something wet and no matter how much water he drinks the dryness in his throat doesn't go away rather it gets dryer and dryer to the point that he wishes he was born without a throat, I suppose. Basically the world just didn't seem as bright. I opened the shades in the room, and that didn't help either. 

I have always felt that I am the conductor of my Happiness Train, to make use of an entirely trite trope that sounds childish and also like the title of a hippie-rock song from the sixties, the title track of a Strawberry Alarm Clock album. As conductor of this Happiness Train, I choose what fuels the machine and keeps it going. I shovel in what the engine needs, what I deem appropriate to make the wheels turn and whistle blow. As I extend the metaphor even more, and as you begin to think of just how lousy this metaphor is, and you try to imagine me in pinstripe over-alls with one of those little caps that train conductors and taxi drivers wear (or that taxi drivers appropriated from train conductors as though taxi drivers evolved from train conductors) and as I pass you with my Happiness Train you motion to me to pull the cord which controls the train whistle, and I do, because I was once like you on the ground watching the trains rolls past, and you wonder again how much more overtly sentimental I can get before you stop reading this altogether or I get embarrassed and mention that "Die Hard" is one of my favorite movies. And you are also surprised that I look that good in pinstrip over-alls.

So at nights while Maria is away and not with me and I make up her side of the bed as though she were there probably wearing one of my shirts and probably it being the Motorhead one because she would never dare to wear it outside in public in front of people and I think about her and where she is and if she is thinking the same but about me and I say her name up into the fan that oscillates above my head hoping that the word and its five little letters (my most favorite letters) make it past the fan blades and into the night air and catch a faithful wind and somehow make it to Maria in a place far from here.