just another case of the nothing-in-particulars (the dusty smell of old metal and hot water)

It was official last night: You could hear boiling in the radiators while the gremlins in our hundred-year-old pipes did their initial mischievous clanging and a final inspection revealed no toy trucks, MacBook power cords or drapes in danger of forge by the finned hulks sentineled about the house. No leaks, either. It would have been nice to make it to the end of the month before firing up the stove but a heap of deferred maintenance means the house is currently a sieve owing to decaying window caulking in high, scary places along with crooked sills and missing shingles. I’ve always taken a certain pleasure being on display at night for nosey dog walkers or wayward tourists hopelessly lost after a long walk in the Arboretum (baffled by where the real top of the hill could be) but come November the blinds and drapes get tucked cozy to keep the outside out.
Febraury 2018 - Radiator-8-2

Last week in the grocery store a bent-over, feisty old lady shuffled after me like an octogenarian Ms. Pac Man. This commenced after she tapped me on the back of the arm, offering a matronly how-do-you-do and explaining her eyes were starting to go south (macular degeneration) and since it’s getting trickier choosing (stuff is going south or long rides from there) I helped her in Produce.  She seemed a little off her rocker (forgive me for sounding like an ageist jerk but I had the intuitive sense she had always been bizarro) and while weirdos don’t faze me, small talk with strangers is not my forte and she seemed disappointed yet determined to adopt me as hairy hunchbacked companion and indeed did I have the distinct, out-of-body sensation of mute fairy tale creature reunited with the resident forest godwitch come to benevolently touch him on the head with her wand. Watching her wave handfuls of greens underneath her nose for antteatery whiffs or stare sideways through melons like peepholes in a motel room door brought waves of recollection……… years ago in Willamette Valley country I was acquainted with a retired Lockheed engineer also clinging to self-sufficiency in spite of similarly deteriorating eyes and I remembered what a frustrated, ornery fucker he was when it came to favors (we volunteered together a few times a week and I weathered Jekyll and Hyde swings since I was a kid who knew nothing and feared [or stood in awe] of the man, having been made privy to credible Flash Gordon sort of rumors involving his ideas which had changed the course of history). For the rest of the day I wondered if I’d ever see this woman again and how on earth she got to or from the market.  The boys and I have been on our own an awful lot and when this happens, life feels exceptionally fragile and every sunbeam and dark cloud take on exhausting gravitas.

Regarding less weighty matters, I was relieved to finish Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, my copy being the twentieth anniversary edition featuring a never-ending epilogue of cringe-inducing backpatting along with bonus where-are-they-nows. Bouton was ahead of his time for a jock but to distance myself from a detestable sort of hyper-masculinity of sports writing I dove into Stacey May Fowles’ Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game that Saved Me.  It was grating at first what a sentimental shill she could seem for Major League Baseball but there’s more than meets the eye and it was a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, I’ve exceeded my quota of sports-related books for the foreseeable future. In between Ball Four and Baseball Life Advice I read Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and The Tripods books by John Christopher (my mother had reminisced to me recently about reading this young adult series and I found it predictably cheesy but enjoyable).

Several nights ago on the way to the Central Library, an excessively above-and-beyond field trip for a fourth grade school project having to do with medieval castles, the Ramones (requested by the boys) were vibrating from the speakers but all the better to drown out the inane banter from one of Adam’s yakkier pals. Following Beat on the Brat a few tracks later was the song about sniffing glue and it dawned on me that a line could be getting stepped over.  Speaking of glue, Adam wore a brown ensemble to school, several weeks ago: Brown shirt, brown pants tucked into scuffed-brown cowboy boots because he’s assistant administrator for a group of seven of the smartest, nicest boys in the fourth grade who’ve formed the National Security Secret Club (the boys are heavy into unicorns so it’s not bad as it sounds) headquartered in a den burrowed out of wood chips under the playground’s catwalk or slide, I’m not sure because he was unforthcoming with the coordinates it being a secret club. Your guess is good as mine as to what purpose this fudgily-bureaucratic sounding club could possibly serve and I couldn’t help good-naturedly razzing Adam that he resembled a zookeeper, my only recommendation for the club being the boys switch to more upbeat, less authoritarianish colors.  Unfortunately, he (and me) got in hot water because dressing up like a grocery sack for picture day at school is a surefire recipe for retakes and furthermore he origamied his shirt collar dracula-style (repeat of a past prank which was not well-received despite a thousand watt smile) and tonight he and I naughtily reminisced with satisfaction about this during penmanship. While I’d rather be chatting over my last cup of tea with him about geography or natural history, cursive is considered expendable by the school district these days so I’m having us work on it hard now before other things become more important.

Lately, I’ve grown more consumed than usual with the idea of teaching the boys as much as possible before I die as they’ll be needing to take care of their mother when I’m gone. At least one of them will have to pull down a comfortable salary if she’s to remain in the city unless she opts to live out her days quietly on the Peninsula in which case one or the other (or both) boys will need to not mind the periodic long drive out to Port Angeles and they’ll have to be good with their hands for fixing problems such as under the kitchen sink. Last weekend, Adam installed the new tire on the old wheelbarrow. This weekend we’re clearing off the work bench so he can start on his model kit (a classic Dodge number). I’m a little worried about fumes from the glue.

postscript: I’m still here (with run-on sentences, dangling participles and such). These particular musings were borne from a gloomy, rainy evening last October and although I’m making it my first post of January in the new year, I’m backdating it to eliminate confusion. I’ve never really known how to start back up after these extended lay-offs.  Still, when I crank up the dusty WordPresser the warm, fuzzy feeling comes back.

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