onsdag, maj 31, 2006

Korean Whiskey

Last night our party drove a long way through Seoul, passing through many of the neighborhoods I'd marked in a Lonely Planet guidebook as places I'd like to see. We did not stop in these neighborhoods, though. We kept pushing through traffic until finally we had hopped on some sort of ring road and drove outside the city. I did not catch the name of the place we stopped. It had a number of high-rise residences, but all in all there was much more open land. We turned off onto a rutted, narrow lane that led back along a plant nursery and vegetable gardens. At the end of the unpaved road was a two story house, the facade of which was mainly window. It gave the place the look of a television show set. And there was something of an alpine cut to it, right down to a steep angle over the foyer and stairs. In America, I suppose we would have walled it up with half-timbers.

What followed was an amazing, quite lengthy dinner in traditional Korean style...with a few modern upgrades--largely for safety, since we ate barbecue that was cooked in three small grills set in our long table.

We took off our shoes before entering the room. In the opening moments, we all stood at our places and nodded and shook hands. There was a general agreement made to remove our suit coats, the succss of which seemed to depend on everyone complying else we were all going to have to wear them. We shed them. We sat cross-legged on gold cushions. Something in the range of ten small dishes for sharing were set out at three or four places along the low table: sweet pumpkin, green onions and white onions in what seemed to be a spicy vinegar and soy sauce, green leafs with a mild chili dressing, etc.

Two waitresses worked the room. They brought hissing coal buckets and set them in the grill wells in the tables. (For a moment I thought this was truly dangerous for all of us, then realized that the "coals" had cored centers in them for distributing heat; hence, this was an electrical device.) They began putting meat and mushroom pieces on the grill. All the while, our party continued its conversations, pausing here and there to discuss things with one waitress who we discovered was from the same part of Manchuria as one member of our group. He, Jonathan, poured her some Korean whiskey (a rice wine, really) and made a very gracious toast to her in Chinese. His father died just last month, so the Manchurian reminder touched him.

Plenty of the rice wine went about then. The evening was quite spirited, well-fueled by the Korean love for toasting. It's something we all ought to do more of: open recognition of why we are glad to be with one another. There we were, the nine of us (one Chinese, two Taiwanese, four Koreans, a Turk, and one stupid American) raising our saki glasses and calling out toasts, sometimes for the group to hear, sometimes just one on one. If your eyes met with two people who were making a toast, you joined the toast. Also, to make a true toast to someone, you finish your shot glass of saki, turn it over (above a rag) to let any wayward drop fall out, then wipe around the rim with the little cloths you're provided. (Some people just used their regular lap napkin.) At this point you pass your glass (please do not pass your GAS) to the person you are toasting. They hold it forth with both hands and you fill it with saki while saying a few good things. Then you nod and the recipient will raise the glass and nod, perhaps adding "Cheers" or "Happy Days" or whatever it is you want to close with. If you have another glass in front of yourself, whether full or needing to be filled by you, you may drink that with them. They might even offer you the glass they'd previously drank from.

The Chinese custom is to drink the shots all the way. The Korean custom is to drink as little as a sip. However, the longer the evening progresses, the more likely it is that larger amounts will be consumed per toast! Sometimes deals are struck in which someone laughs and says, "Okay, we just do half. Okay? Only half!" which is their way of saying they are getting drunk but fighting onward.

The meal was perhaps only two hours but felt like four. Time wasn't really important. Such a good time, lots of laughing. With all the spicy food and saki, and the open grills in the table, by the end of the night we were all dabbing our brows and laughing heartily.

A taxi van arrived to take half of us home, and the other half climbed back into the car we'd arrived in...only now it was driven by a driver employed by the restaurant to shepherd home people like us.

Quite late, then, a group of us stood outside the hotel talking. The streets were packed. Traffic was knotted. We wandered into the 7-11 and bought Gatorades, water. I still have a lemony-lime fizzy drink called "Amino Up!". (It's quite good, actually.) All in all, a great time.

Must get dressed. Must deliver a speech at the conference soon.

mandag, maj 29, 2006

Goodbye, America

Off to Asia, friends. Seoul National University Co-op Residence (May 30 - June 1), Savoy Hotel (June 2 - 3) in the Myeong-dong district of Seoul, the Tong Mao Hotel in Shanghai's Pudong district (June 4 - 7), and god-knows-where on June 8 in Seoul. Somewhere very near the Incheon Airport.

General Macarthur made what has often been described as a daring landing at Incheon in the early months of the Korean War. I hope for a soft one.

fredag, maj 26, 2006

Six Pack 2

The basic storyline to Kenny Rogers' 1982 racing film SIX PACK is a down-on-his-luck, somewhat dumpy racer (Rogers) finds success and family when a group of six orphans with above-average mechanical skills becomes his pit crew.

I've thought for a good spell that it was high time for a sequel to this film, one that would follow the now-grown pit crew. Then I saw a photo of Kenny Rogers post-plastic surgery. Jesus Christ, Kenny. You took it too far, dude. What happened to the Gambler? The Gambler would have known what to do. He would have told the Nashville engine to go to hell.

So now I'm thinking that Six Pack needs to be remade...with Toby Keith as the driver.

Agreed: Ford product placement will be inevitable.

People I didn't realize were in the original Six Pack until I visited IMDB.com:
1. Anthony Michael Hall
2. Diane Lane
3. Erin Gray

Web site that weirds me out:
Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers

What We Ought to be Entitled to:
One Toll House chocolate chip cookie for every toll-free telemarketing call that interupts my day. I'll be diabetic in a week.

onsdag, maj 24, 2006


Within moments of walking into Duffy's, a small, northwoods bar in Madge, Wisconsin, a bar my family has lived alongside for almost 80 years, I was mistaken for a driver of some sort. Trucks? Race cars? One never knows. "Who do you drive for?" she asked, smiling, brow furrowed as she inspected my AMSTERDAM track jacket. "No one," I said. "But I shopped at Target." She said she preferred Wal-Mart. I let it go.

Later, this same woman would pull me into a dance.

The Duffy's excursion capped off a very welcomed, very successful cabin work weekend, and not just because most of the work was done before I got there. A cord of wood was chopped, which is a fearsome amount of wood, please know. The new pile is taller than a number of us. The hill was raked and bi-weekly lawn mowing was scheduled with a mentally challenged man who speaks, I have to say, very much like Arnold Schwarzenegger, right down to the pointing finger.

"I don't need to call you," he said. "I don't need to bug you. 'Hello? Mrs So's-Your-Name?' No, dat's not me. I just come and I just mow da lawn, ja."

Indeed. I even shoehorned myself into some hip waders and sallied into the lake with my uncle to adjust one of the piers. At the evening's dinner, I was awarded Best Figure in Waders, or something like that. Very aerodynamic.

And then Duffy's happened. This townie bar goes back to the 1850s and has even been recognized as a historical site in Wisconsin, which may well be the town of Madge's bid to get one square inch recognized in the registry.

Duffy's interior is apt to cause the sort of visual overload one experiences in Vegas or while watching Japanese anime. There's just no compare. It's loaded with fishing rods and reels, for starters. But this isn't a novelty collection. No Applebee's or Bennigan's template governs the placement of this stuff. The reels hang from the bar, they're pegged to posts. (You have to hunch down to see the bartender, actually, there are so many reels.) They hang on the walls and sit on the fireplace mantel. In the room with the pool table, a skeleton couple in wedding garb watches from a cutout in the wall. Posters--Lite boob girls on an '80s sports car, William "the Refrigerator" Perry, etc.--paper the ceiling. Old traffic signs, old joke signs, old beer cans. Hanging above the mantel is a large curled piece of wood one cannot help but see as scatalogical, yet two googly doll eyes have been glued to the end of this double-bent pooh dawg.

Letters spelling NO can be found hiding throughout the place, a reminder not to touch the visual assault.

So there we were, the six of us overwhelmed by this place. A good vibe was in the air. All the townies were in good spirits. The old woman in the pink cashmere sweater with the pink pelt-like collar came out from behind the bar to clear empties, then mildly chastised me for saying I was finished with my beer before the can was fully empty. She set it back in front of me. "We don't waste good booze around here," she said.

The night progressed.

"Folsom Prison Blues" came on the jukebox. The old man with the massive mutton chops came out from behind the bar armed with what seemed to be a wooden pogo stick on which he'd pegged baking tins, two bike horns, a bell. Two twanging springs ran along the side. He thumped it in line with the song's rhythm, then lost the rhythm and freestyled, howling a bit, pointing at a buddy and lip-syncing with an angry expression.

A thin man with a luminescent face and wearing a cowboy hat appeared at the table, somewhat reminiscent of the cowboy in MULHOLLAND DRIVE. He asked if he might show the ladies what was in the homemade wooden box he carried. We all sort of paused and ascertained that the box was not attached, say, to the man's pants, and nothing living seemed to be clawing at the inside of the box, so we nodded. He held forth the box and Jerusha reached up and slid...back...the...lid: A mouse. A plastic mouse leapt out and grabbed her finger as the man in the cowboy hat made a gibbering mouse sound through his front teeth. I noticed that he had a very recent, very severe scar along his pinky. I wondered if it stemmed from earlier versions of this contraption.

He said he liked to show the box to new people, or married couples you know are in love but just bored. He liked to see people laugh. And, true enough, after we did, he went away.

When "Bony Fingers" came on the Rockola, the bar went nuts. We were getting up to leave, and as I was first out of the booth, I happened to turn right into the frenzy. The woman who'd earlier noticed my Amsterdam jacket--"Who do you drive for, honey?"--grabbed me and propelled me into a clip-cloppity hoedownish dance, oft broken up by us all raising our hands and shaking our fingers as we joined the chorus, "You work your fingers to the bone, and what do you got?" (Two or three stomps.) "BONY FINGERS!"

As we whirled about the small space, a man with a thin face and tall, bristle-thick mustache kept crying "Grab her ass!" He added, "Grab her ass! She's my sister, I would!" I want to say my dance partner called him Travis when she told him to shut it.

When the song ended, we hugged. She thanked me for dacing with her. And as we all collected ourselves and headed out, a large man in a Harley t-shirt who had been dancing alongside me stared down at me and said, "You know what you got when you leave here?" I looked at him blankly. "BONY FINGERS!" he cried and laughed hard turning back to the bar.

tirsdag, maj 23, 2006

And another thing ...

Mischa Barton is glad to have been killed off on the OC. She's also quoted here as saying she might go to England and take an acting class. She adds, "Sometimes it's nice to go back to your roots." Uh ...

Crickets chirping. A dog barks in the distance.

By the way, Mischa: I think you fancy yourself as the rich man's Rebecca Gayheart. However, when she left 90210, she was shot in the head by her mafia father's men who were actually trying to kill Dylan, played convincingly by Luke Perry. That's so much cooler than a character dying in a rolled SUV.

I'm just saying.

Drinking Games

I'm very late in posting my write up of the trip to Duffy's on Saturday. That's forthcoming. Seriously. Wednesday morning, at the latest. But it'll be worth the wait, I think. I hope. It was such a good time.

In the meantime, I'm wondering if any of you can think of games that, like a drinking game, penalize the loser by making them do the one thing they set out to do. You lose a drinking game, you have to drink. Only people wanting to drink play drinking games.

All this is in my head because of this photo at an Icelandic blog.

Maybe I need to be more competitive to understand how these things work.

fredag, maj 19, 2006

Last Gasp

I'm trying dearly today to sign off on my last article for my former employer, but am having a devil of a time getting photos in from the article subjects. This is perhaps the freelance aspect I detest most. I detested it just as much when I was a magazine editor. I just don't understand why a mag, other than out of laziness, demands that the article writer find images that are to the liking of the editor and production department. The visual element is not the writer's bag, baby. The writer should share the sources with the editing and production teams, who then ought to work with the article sources to get the material. The impact of the layout is the mag's job, not the writer's.

To say otherwise is, in my less than humble opinion, just laziness in publishing. Plus, I always found sources more agreeable to contributing if the editor showed some interest in them. For trade magazines, your rep is your lifeblood. Your interest in your field is your rep. End of sermon.

Gastronomical Update

We ordered a suite of pizzas last night at Punch: the Vesuvio, the Milanese, the Margherita, and the Toto. The Toto, with its goat cheese and garlic shavings and arugula, was the hit (though I was partial to the crushed red pepper spiciness of the Vesuvio). Props to the waitress for the Toto recommendation. Washed it down with two Moretti's and had tiramisu for the chaser. Lovely dinner.

This morning I took my folks down the block to Bon Vie for righteous coffee and some awesome breakfast. The place was packed and spirited. I discovered that scrambled eggs with sweet potato, parmesan and carmalized onion is, as they say, where it's at.


Down about Arsenal losing to Barca in the Champions League final. Up on the greening of the ivy on the neighborhood buildings. Ambivalent about the family reunion this weekend. Stoked for the Asia trip. And very intrigued by the idea of visiting the velodrome in Blaine after reading Jana's blog.

I find this anecdote hilarious.

torsdag, maj 18, 2006

I Might Never Cook Again

Too many fine things to maw down on in this here world. T and I hit Kahn's on Tuesday afternoon for a little Mongolian barbecue. Outstanding. Though I'd worked for years close to it, I'd never gone. As Bugs Bunny might say, "What a maroon!" The joint fascinated me. You get a bowl. You go through the buffet line and fill your bowl with raw meats, vegetables, noodles. You add your sauces and oils. Then you bring it to the kitchen counter where they overturn the bowl's contents on a searing round cooking iron. As the cook adds more oil and pushes your food about in one of the iron's quadrants, he asks, "You want peanuts?" I did. He added them. When it's all ready, he scrapes your food onto a plate, off you go. If you've the extra scratch, you can drop a tip in the basket on the counter and ring the gong, to which the cooks will cry out, "Thank you!"

The gong is extra fine for the Costanza types in this world who worry about a server not noticing that he's tipped.

Wednesday, the good eats kept coming. Ate lunch with J at Big Bowl. (I'm all about bowls.) Spicey yellow curry, homemade ginger ale with a true ginger bite, and good tales. I learned the basic difference between traditional and nuevo tango. I learned that women in Victoria's Secret call employees into dressing rooms to tell them whether the underwear fits them right. I find that odd. Not shocking, but odd.

And Wednesday night my parents came into town so we all met down at the Puerto Azul, Saint Paul's outstanding Cuban joint. I just might kill for the mango salsa chicken. Really. The spicing is perfect. It's got good heat but it's mellow hot. It's the sort of warmth that just seems to radiate through one rather than scald the taste buds. Served cleanly on a plate with a berm of rice separating the chicken breast from the black beans. Just gorgeous, all of it.

Check out Cool on the Hill's Puerto passage.

I've yet to have plantains as good as I had at a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida (Thank you, Peggasussers!)--When was that? October 2004?--but Puerto Azul is awesome. It makes me sad to see slow nights there. Our table of 6 was one of maybe four tables at 6:30. I think maybe a 2 top came in after us, but that seemed to be it. Please, all of you, wherever you live. Visit Puerto Azul. If you can't make it, just send me your cash. I'll dine there for you and write to you about how awesome your dinner was.

Hungry for better food writing? Please give an eye, if not two, to the Bloated Belly. Sometimes I wonder whether Harold is a real person or just a narrative device.

Ate leftover curry for breakfast. Am thinking Jay's Cafe for lunch. ...

onsdag, maj 17, 2006

Waiting for Godot to Improve His Driving

To judge by the way it is so often driven, I'm thinking that VAN is an acronym for "My Driving Sucks." I've been nearly side-swiped or t-boned not once, not twice but thrice in two days by these beasts.

Urges in passing: Suddenly want to reread Ethan Frome. Wish I knew more about Christa Wolf.

Why can't I have a rocket launcher behind my headlights?
-Spyhunter cK

mandag, maj 15, 2006

News Briefs

1. Fame

As I walked into the post office today, a man in what appeared to be a FedEx jump suit passed and called after me: "Hey, man! Hey, man!" I looked back. He said, "You look like John Lennon, dude." He nodded and smiled.

I've a haircut scheduled for the end of the week.

2. Toys and Bombs

Watched MUNICH and A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, the former being about the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team (1972) and Israel's assassination campaign in its wake; the latter a kid's film, an Edward Gorey-esque black comedy about orphans and an evil count. MUNICH includes a toy maker character whose toys suspiciously resemble the Rube Goldberg-like inventions of SERIES' Violet character. Both films worth it. It's definitely recommended that one follow MUNICH with some escapism. The film is crushing.

3. A Letter to the People of Wisconsin

On Friday night, I sat in an hour backup along I-94 just north of Menomenie. One hour to travel 10, maybe 12 miles. How did you let that road fall into such disrepair? Dear Wisconsin: Someone BETTER be voted out of office. If we don't vote those dudes out for corruption and general incompetence, can we at least agree to vote them out over roads? Please?

4. Bjork, My Secret Girlfriend

Hoping to see DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 this week.

fredag, maj 12, 2006

Five Things I've Learned as a Freelancer

When life got at fictional him, Ishmael went to sea and was nearly killed by a whale and captain, both of whom had significant problems with just letting go. When life got at young Christopher McCandless, a real person, he gave away all his money and went into the Alaskan wilderness. He died four months later of starvation in an abandoned bus. Feeling a little less adventurous than those gents but more than a little burnt out after five years in the same brown cubicle, I simply decided to stay home and make a go of it.

I've learned a number of things. Hold up your hand, friend. I give you five:

1. It’s incredibly easy to rack up $150 per month just in communications costs. Landline phone, cell phone, high-speed internet: the necessities. The additional business costs exceed, in some months greatly, anything I ever paid in gas while commuting.

2. A fast laptop computer is one’s lifeblood. It allows you to work outside the home when you start feeling a little stir crazy. You felt that way before; you certainly will now.

3. The soap Passions is just awesome right now: a mermaid, a Davinci Code-like subplot involving an Omega Monk, numerous witches, a child character who speaks in thought bubbles. This is the sort of white noise I hunger for.

4. Free wi-fi is a gift from the coffeehouse gods. A fantastic way to begin the day is to work in public for one hour. Get up at a normal work time. Shower. Dress (in different clothes each day, hello). Be among the people, but work. Remember: Though coffeehouse people are creepier than bar people, do not make the bar your office.

5. Working as a freelancer for your former employer feels something like trying to “just be friends” with an ex after a very bad breakup. Oh so many hurt feelings.

Being independent isn’t a choice to make rashly, though most of us happen into it to our own surprise. The risk feels great, it’s something of a high (so long as you have genuine ambition), but you must always keep in mind that you have just now made yourself a business. Repeat: You are a business. You have to operate your life as such.

And, really, do the dishes already. You’re not that busy.

Like Whiskey in the Jar

Many of you have had moments of well-lubricated epiphany during which you suspected that whiskey and cigarettes were connected so far back they nearly preceded time. Sly Civilian, who I found dropping righteous tales at the Garage last night after my publishing dinner, knows this well.

Preach on, sC.

tirsdag, maj 09, 2006

Messages from Anear

Ate a late lunch yesterday (2:30 - 3:15 ) at my block's local. Buffalo chicken and two Arnie Palmers, quite good on a late spring, rainy day. Got caught in a heavy white-drop downpour on the way home but it was just a block so I walked at a leisurely pace, happily bedraggled. I'd overheard some really fun stuff at the pub; I'll get to those in a moment.

Now, waiting for me on my answering machine was a voicemail from my former employer, a company that has since blacklisted me from working with them as an independent contractor and put out a story, it seems, that I was canned last December. They've suggested to people in the industry that "a change was needed" so I was replaced. Was a change needed? Yes. That's why I quit. I gave them a two-month notice. I honored that, worked with the new guy. Left them industry crib sheets, inside information, all that. I even worked for them on a series of contracts this year. Everything was amicable...until three weeks ago when I was abruptly blacklisted. Why? One does not know.

So here is this message from that company, and the caller is asking me to help them sort some things out for the magazine. WTF? My blood boiled. Just the sound of her totally fake polite tone and drawn out sybillance...GAHHHHHH!!!!! I'll spare you the details (for once).

Needless to say, what I'd like to serve them is a dish best served cold, and I don't mean gazpatcho.

Funniest thing overheard at lunch:

Man enjoying an early, very lubricated happy hour says to his buddy, "I know! I know! You're like, 'I'm looking for a table! Your dick's in my ass! Stop talking to me!'" What? Now I can see parts one and three connecting; and two and three even; but one and two? Never. Judging by the buddy's lack of laughter, I think he agreed with me (though the speaker was really entertained).

Second funniest:

Other man enjoying a well-lubricated, early afternoon happy hour: "I shit you not. A professional bowler got a ball stuck on his hand. I ain’t never seen a thing like that in my life. Swear to god. I was watching it right on the television." What a curious cat. A visual like that, well, yes, you can almost see it spliced into footage of blooming flowers and laughing children as Louis Armstrong sings "What a wonderful world." A bowling ball stuck on a professional's thumb.

Third funniest:

Middle-aged woman in running shoes, white socks, denim shorts, red t-shirt, push-up bra and Minnesota Twins baseball cap is playing a very involved game of pinball with what appears to be a barely 21-year-old boyfriend. He's tall, wears dredlocks. Is quiet but smiley. So she's really into the pinball. She's man-humping the machine with her hips, just driving and grunting. The boyfriend's watching all that contact, jaw unhinged, beer at a precarious angle in his hand. She loses her ball. "Bitches!" she shouts and slaps the machine side. She slaps the guy's ass with the same force as he steps up for his turn and she's walking away, not even looking at him. "Cigi time," she says and heads out for a smoke.

mandag, maj 08, 2006

Some Things I Know

I've nearly forgotten to drink my coffee, per usual, here at the Nina's. The cream has formed something of a cracked surface at the top, very much like a map of an island chain.

Reminds me: At 10,000 feet over Florida, I saw swampland of blue and green tones that seemed to have congealed over the surface of standing water. The whole thing looked like it must be too delicate to support the weight of one person, yet there it was, land. It had the shades of water and earth on a schoolhouse globe.


1. I've developed a sudden fascination with Camper's wabi shoes. The Web page says WOMAN | UNISEX, but I think that's just a polite way of saying "These are women's shoes, dude, but we'll let you buy 'em if you want."

2. To judge by the headlines at this Montana-based environmental site, Montana is very much about methane. I dub thee, Montana: The Farting State. I wonder what that quarter will look like. Raised image of classic Americana children snickering and holding a lit match behind a farmer's butt?

3. At the track on Derby Day, I saw a man at the touchscreen betting machine wearing a glove. I said, "I like the glove for betting. Mysterious." As he walked away, he half-smiled and said, resignedly, "It's for my heart." (How was I to know!?) He and his heart are smart, though, as not long after I discovered that hand-washing in the restroom is a luxury that only about 10 percent of us dudes at the track partake in. Gross. DUDES! C'MON!!

4. How does one establish a dead pool with soap operas since no one ever seems to actually die on them?

5. The Omega Monk rules.

fredag, maj 05, 2006

The Temple

Last night's dream:

I lived in an austere building that ran alongside a Hindu temple. My room looked out on the yard leading up to the tall, imposing gates to the temple. The gates had been closed for a long time and even the people in the neighboring rooms reported that they rarely saw the monks in the inner yard.

Even if I pressed my face against my window, I couldn't see the temple. I was frustrated by this. I considered breaking into a room farther down the hallway but decided better of it.

Each morning people gathered outside the temple gates for something of a mix of prayer and yoga, the whole Sun Salutation progression that begins and ends with the standing, palms together mountain pose. I walked among these people. I knew many of them. I was some sort of outsider but not distrusted.

Always, an old woman led two little girls to a statue of a female diety off to the side of the gate. The old woman would plop down on a bench and nod to the girls. The girls wore peasant dresses, tall white socks, and black shoes with a single strap and buckle. Their hair was pulled back. Each visit to the idol, they would press their palms together and bow hurriedly twice to the diety. And then they'd just stare at it in that unreadable, impassive _expression that only children are capable of.

torsdag, maj 04, 2006


Dear Days,

Are you aware that Passions is kicking your ass? What do you bring to the table? New lives and romances for characters who have been on the show for 20 years. Snivelling teens. Court proceedings that decend upon characters with the swiftness of China's judge-is-jury legal system. And at the end of every episode, you reveal ALL of the plot twists coming up but none of them are interesting! For example, one week Jennifer loves Frankie, the next she doesn't. Repeat. Oooo. Tense. And you now are promoting that Jack is still alive!? Duh. You've already killed him twice before, why wouldn't I think he'd survived it thrice?

But Passions: Whoa. Virtual reality. A Davinci Code-ish breaking into the Pope's secret chapel to steal a chalice. The Omega Monk mystery. Multiple witches. A friggin' MERMAID character!!!

You're getting served, Days.

tirsdag, maj 02, 2006

73 North Oxford, #4

Two springs ago I was laboring through one of what is annually two lung infections. Thank you, asthma. These spells of short breath, frequent but light coughing, and hallucinatory insomnia last between three and four weeks and usually follow either a visit to the cabin or a cold.

Currently, I’m about 11 days beyond a cold, coughing pathetically, but all in all feel pretty good. May’s arrival means I’ve started healthier living. Today I took the first run…and my lungs objected furiously. However, the fire it lit in them is taking care of the weakness right quick. Woo! See ya later, wuss lungs. Now what to do about the will?

Back to it:

So that night two years ago I was feeling especially breathless. My chest had begun to hurt and there was only so much an inhaler ever does for one. We all have our number, and I’m not talking about our SleepNumber. I wasn’t feeling particularly down that day, but for whatever reason I began to think I would suffocate if I went to sleep and I didn’t want to do that without at least a last little attempt to breathe fresh air.

I got up, crept to the porch, and sat there for an hour just watching the neighborhood. A patch of ground fog was hovering about the yards across the street. A dog was let out to piss. A dog was let back in. It was really quiet, it must have been a weekday. Not even a car engine was ticking as it cooled.

It had rained early in the evening and the air still smelled sweet. I felt really alright with it, you know.

No one was awake it seemed save for me and the girl in the apartment across the breezeway. She seemed to be making hard judgments of herself because she was just staring at herself in the mirror. I watched the neighborhood more and thought about how much I loved that second-floor apartment and screened-in porch. I was to move soon and would miss the joint. When I stood up to go back to bed, I noticed that the girl was still staring at herself, only her shoulders were a little lower now. It was really sad.

The perception of truth, I guess.

Back in bed I felt my lungs really cramping. My eyes hurt when I closed them. I thought that certainly I was going to suffocate. I hadn’t even left any fiction in a state that might make me posthumously admirable! Buckets of crap.

Slow breaths. Slow breaths. But why not now? It was going to happen eventually, wasn’t it? Tiny breaths, man. Be calm.

Suddenly a woman, vaguely green-gray and translucent, walked in. She was dressed in something of a Victorian maid’s outfit, right down to the long billowing skirt and apron. She stood with her hands folded at her waist. She stood at the edge of my bed but I couldn’t see her face for my vision seemed to end not far from my eyes, or her head was disguised behind some swarming mass of blackness.

Creepy, yes, but I still liked her. I didn’t mind her presence. It was actually quite nice. If there was anything she could have done to make me feel better, I’m sure she would have done it.

My lungs went on tightening, enough so it seemed the air was starting to crack in them, as it'd been a hard thing all along and I'd never realized it.

The woman's hands remained folded calmly. Now she bent slightly at the waist and her shoulders angled as if she was about to speak from that shrouded face. But I never heard her. I went under and slept well.
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