Good

Darien is standing just outside in his sweats when I go out. He’s shuffling between his feet to stay warm.

He asks me how I’m doing.

I answer him automatically, “I’m good.” I hear my answer at the same time that he does and realize it may not be honest. “What are you up to?” I ask him.

“I’m waiting for some friends. I don’t have a doorbell, so this is how I have to do it.”

His phone number could easily be programmed into the front entrance intercom — he’d just have to look up who’s job that is. But I don’t point that out because I’ve already mentioned it to him a couple of times.

He asks about my Thanksgiving and I roll the answer around in my head a few times before giving it. I reframe it to avoid allusions to things that weren’t Thanksgiving that might betray the good charade. I settle on, “I had dinner with friends.”

“So the usual,” he says, “Just at a different place.”

I ask him, “What did you do for Thanksgiving?” and his answer flashes into my head before he gives it.

“I went to my Grandma’s.”

When there’s a quiet patch in the conversation, I tell him that I’m heading off.

“Alright.” He holds out his hand for a buddy handshake — a cross between a handshake and a high five. I swing my hand out and reach for his, and I give him a little more shake and a little less five than he’s expecting. He adjusts his clasp to compensate. I turn away from the handshake and walk into the street. A car is coming around the traffic circle, so I dodge quick to the other side to beat it.

Hey There!

A packed van slows down for the stoplight by the Community College. The front passenger-side window rolls down and a guy sticks his head out and yells out to an attractive girl who’s walking past: “Hey, we’re signing to a major label today. Want to come? Have you ever been to the Columbia Building?”

Strike Me Down

These are some of the blog entries that I’ve bookmarked in the “struck me” folder that I’ve been keeping off and on since March. There seems to be a fairly high ratio of death related entries. Rather than attributing that to some sort of death fixation, I’ll assume that death related articles are simply more fundamentally charged and likely to cause one to pause and think.

mike.whybark.com: Spaulding Grey at the Comet
what’s up, pussycat?: Moving On
Open Brackets: Appropriation
Erik Benson: post-redesign funkiness
Oblivio: Escape
eclecticism: The need for speed
In Passing…: 2 April 2004
Eeksy-Peeksy: Vertebrating
Open Brackets: Picturesque
onepotmeal: Upper management
bhikku: womad nomad
burning paper: “your name here”
Everyday Matters: Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
onepotmeal: Lockout
Super Special Questions: ETHIOPIA 5: Bahar Dar: Awesome
Oblivio: Pavement
mike.whybark.com: Cafe de Paris
Open Brackets: Hand Me Downs
Eeksy-Peeksy: ITRW
geegaw.com: first day at home

Ash

My family stopped at a park or a rest area somewhere for lunch and my mom went off to gather Mt. St. Helens ash from the shoulder of the highway. It seemed unlikely to me that after so long, there would still be piles of ash just laying around in the open air. I expressed my skepticism to one of my older sisters, and she pointed out the gray powdery soil in the area around a drinking fountain where the grass had been trampled away. “There’s ash right here.”

The picnic had to have taken place in the early eighties — only a few years after the eruption. My mom was gathering souvenirs of a recent event. But to me, Mt. St. Helens was a historical event. The eruption had happened in my lifetime, but I didn’t remember it. Besides, there had been a filmstrip about it at school, and those filmstrips always seemed outdated.

Later, my mom seperated the ash into little plastic baggies that she labeled with fortune cookie-sized strips of paper. She passed the baggies out to the kids in her Camp Fire group and to relatives in California.

We Don’t Want Your Nuts

["Keep Drive Way Clear" sign]

We were just walking out the door, and the squirrel was foraging in the little patch of landscaping past the mailboxes. The squirrel would have gone unnoticed, but it jerked into motion just as we walked past. It spiraled down the tree trunk and scrambled across the ground, disturbing a flurry of leaves. Then it heaved itself over the ledge, pitched itself across the parking lot without touching the ground, and dove between the wire’s of the neighbor’s fence.

I had to replay the scene to figure out if we’d been doing something alarming enough to cause the squirrel’s to react in such a panicky unsquirrellike manner.

[low sunset brightened clouds]

It’s the Alternator

My car stalled out in the middle of an intersection after limping up the steepest part of the hill, through five lights, and around three turns with a failing battery. (I avoided signaling the turnes.) Two short pushes landed the car in an illegal parking space that was marked poorly enough that I could have defended against a potential parking ticket. The first push was orchestrated enthusiastically by other drivers and passers-by. But it took some effort to gather support from a second group after the flush of excitement over clearing a blocked intersection had passed. Samantha came along with jumper cables, and I chased off a carload of aggressive drive-by mechanics who wanted to do some cheap work on her fender. The jumpstart gave the car enough juice to get around the corner and into the first position of a parallel parking. We backed it in with a push but weren’t able to push it forward to line up with the curb. A group of girls was walking by and I asked them to help. They agreed and one of them yelled, “Girl power!” before pushing her shoulder up against the truck. The car rolled right into place, but only after I remembered to take the parking brake off again. It was actually a nearly perfect three-point parallel parking job, except for the getting out and pushing.

Today I went to the auto shop across from my parked crate of plastic and steel. It’s a small garage, but they had ten cars packed in there. I handed over the key and point out where the car is parked. I don’t envy them having to wiggle it out from between the cars that are parked tightly in front of and behind it.