Sitting on the shuttlebus in Philly
surrounded by the businessmen in their
coats & ties & aftershave, I'm wondering
- once again - what makes the world go 'round
(it certainly ain't love): it's money, for
all but a few, because that's how, for now,
one's personal well-being is measured.
But that could change...
What if one's personal well-being became
entangled in that of the whole world -
and every single person in it?
What if, some years from now, it got to
the point where ignoring the needs of one's
fellow human being - even if he or she is
halfway 'round this smaller & smaller
globe - what if such hardheartedness became
widely recognized as psychotic?
That would change things, wouldn't it...
Just used my private automatic flush-baffler:
an oddly-blue sheet of paper folded in half &
fastened to the tiles on either side of
that "little electronic eye" by yellow
Sat for a moment at Gate C-30, writing
these lines & watching the not-quite-alternating-
but-blinking-out-of-sync red lights on the doorway
opposite. "Sync & Swim" the radio announcer called a
demonstration being given nearby, as Nancy
was driving me to the airport.
In the plane now I want to get down
here the three USAir Express planes we
glided by on the shuttle and the oil slick
colors & shapes shining in purples & greens
That lightening that blew out all Crystal's
electricity next door - and maybe her TV,
as it did ours - the other night
scared the shit out of me...
but figuratively (I'll get to this in
(just a minute...) -
it made me jump
as if it
right behind me.
What a place this world is...
Minnie, our new kitten - our other
neighbor, Michel, the Frenchman, told
us "GiGi" was "Uncle Tom."
"You ought to call her Minouch," he said.
I guess that's her name now, tho' he also told
us that they call "Here, Minnie, Minnie, Minnie"
in France the way we use "Kitty Kitty" here.
Katie loved saying, "Minnie, Minnie, Minouch"
when she & Ellie met Minnie for the first time a week or so back.
Anyway, Michel's cat Lita (I always wonder if there's a "Lo"
on the front) has been laying in wait
for little Min. And twice now I've had
to take Min down to the utility sink &
clean off her rear end - after
hearing her & Lita screeching at each other.
The captain just came on to announce that we're
pulling off the runway for 10 minutes due to the
heavy traffic in the NE corridor this morning.
No - now we're #3 & about ready to go.
I've sent the kids CD off to the
manufacturer. And I'm taking my first shot at advertising
- in the parenting publications
that have sprung up all over in recent years.
Also finishing up Barb's book. (She's gonna
be at this Conference too, it turns out; has invited me to
go with her looking for new churches to personify:
"steeplechasing," she calls it.)
I wasn't expecting anything but our book
to come out of these years & this work, but
it turns out, I believe, that Barb has
"come quite a way," as "they" "say..."
After many, many seemingly unending phone
conversations - during which I didn't get
to say too much - Nancy happened to mention
that Bill S. uses a song to signal
Barb that it's time to end the conversation.
A song didn't strike me as something that would
fit my - shall we say - personal style. So
I came up with:
"Say Goodnight, Gracie..."
Barb would laugh, say, "Goodnight, Gracie"
and we'd be able to hang up.
Now we're past even that:
the other day she made a remark about herself -
something about being able to talk
indefinitely on useless topics.
Certainly the topics are not useless: she
goes back again and again to what happened
to her at M.
It's just the regulating...
Every once in a while she'll stumble onto
something that's not on the tapes we made -
and I'll ask her to write it down & send it
to me. But for the most part she's rehashing.
So - I'm hoping with the book published with her
drawings she'll be on her way to making a real life for herself.
We're having - it seems - an early fall this year
and for the first time in a long time
I had that going-back-to-school felling - of things
changing, of something new & exciting coming.
Will I be tackling the NE dairy farmers'
situation in a new incarnation as a journalist?
Or will I concentrate on the short stories about
the farm next, with work on that private project on
Guess I'll be finding out pretty soon now...
Oh - time to wrap this up & meditate us in
(I like to help things along all I can - if it does
indeed help...) -
we're about to land at Providence.
Up at 6 - on 3 hours too little sleep in a cheap Nashville hotel room -
to catch a flight home.
After the coffee and food that summer cold seems finally to have gone -
the suitcase, which the airline tagged "Heavy," is now manageable.
"Yes," I tell the desk clerk, "Leave it on the credit card," and watch
his hands, the nails clearly polished again, do their work:
stamping, tearing, handing back.
But the patterened burn marks between the knuckles and the wrists
are covered this time by the sleeves of his stylish blue suitcoat.
Thinking of these lines on the drive to the airport
and the lines in my own song:
Daybreak and sunset
That's about as clear as the day gets you know
It's all these times in the middle
Make you think it's nothing but riddles and woe.
Now, driving into the rising sun, what's clear once again is
how baffling this all is...
"Thank you for the tip,"
says the man who checks my bags and ticket curbside.
Why does that last phrase, those last three words -
his naming the bills and the act of my handing them to him -
stay in my ear?
Is it just because I'm so far from home?
Or because he happens to be black?
Is this way of speaking idiosyncratic to this man?
It's not a clue I'm looking for - I gave up on that long ago.
Of course I listen for words - that's who I am.
And I would register the phrase regardless.
But this morning it resonates...
Below, the woman begins looking the car over
before I've even pulled fully into the return space.
She's entering something into that computer-transmitter that's
smaller than a breadbasket - and looks considerably heavier too.
When I ask her to ask that her company send me a receipt, she says,
"I'm gonna print you one out right 'cheer."
"Will that thing make me another cup of coffee too?" I askher.
When she smiles, her teeth are bad.
You see this in this state the way you see a few cars still on the road
But inside I skip the coffee - and the line - and at the security table
take out the computer & the diskettes & the tapes; empty my pockets in...
put my bag & the computer case on the belt; stop
for a second as you would - completely - at a Stop sign
(why do I do this?
\Is it just to signal the attendant that I'm about to come through?
\No, that's not it exactly...);
\and walk through the metal detector.
At the table on the other side, a line of computers:
the gray one next to mine seems to have been abandoned.
"Do you get to sell them, if no one picks them up?"
I ask the uniformed lady
who has picked this one up and is looking around.
She laughs - but Nancy might tell me I'm a bit manic today.
It's not true.
Today I feel that the writing has finally begun.
Maybe Dr. M. has straightened me out,
taken me off the seesaw,
given me an even keel - to work from.
And now I'm working...
I've put down about twenty-five lines here when a woman
who's stopped just in sight around the column I'm sitting next to
decides to speak to me.
She's very sweet - an older woman (older than me at any rate)
with a paper and a plastic card.
At first I think she's trying to compare the number on the card
with the one in pencil on the paper -
she doesn't have her glasses, that's the problem, she says.
But no, she needs to dial a number on the back of the card.
"1-800-975..." I begin to read,
and her eyes shift into remembering mode.
"How 'bout I just dial it for you," I say.
There was no way she was going to remember...
"That would be so nice of you..."
I put my papers in my book and my book in my bag
and pick up the computer to follow her,
Commenting, "I'd be lost myself without my glasses..." -
to settle in for a walk with her to wherever the phones are...
but they're just on the other side of the column.
I'm noting her maroon slacks and white top and the green vest,
gathered at the back, the inside of which matches the slacks
and, after I've punched in the numbers
and she's nodded that the call's going through
and I've taken my seat again and gotten out these pages,
when she comes by again and pauses to thank me one last time,
as she walks away I remember the matching outfits of
a squaredance troupe I saw once at another airport
- and wonder if this woman has left a group to find a phone...
In the bathroom the godforsaken automatic flush toilet -
what purpose is served by a potential spritzing of the privates...
The name on the metal wall of the stall above the paper:
"I N K"
done in block letters and in perspective,
as if seen from above and slightly to the right...
...that much-touted new airport in Denver
with the indecipherable array of signs at the main entrance...
...the movie review I heard a day ago in the car,
something about "the wonderful but harmless fun at
the expense of a retarded man" -
is there a way I can talk to T. about addressing
this sort of thing in the media?
- maybe invite her to write as-told-to pieces for the New York Times...
...the Casualty and Insurance Tower I drove by
built by this odd hoodwink: making off with people's money
by convincing them to bet on a personal disasterous future
and then using that money to invest...
an incredible concept...
In the plane I hear one flight attendant, a woman, say to another,
also a woman, "Yeah, I go to Beijing..."
I miss the how-often part, but a moment later I hear,
"The Chinese are always one step ahead of us..."
How does she mean this? In what way are they "one step ahead of us?"
I suppose I'll never know what she means, I'm thinking,
when I look up to see, coming down the aisle a young man in a bright
yellow T-shirt - with a chest-long wispy black goatee,
of the kind you use to note on old Chinese men.
This young man is now sitting one seat over by the window.
He pulled the shade down fully immediately he sat down -
listening to a CD through earphones and alternately
gesturing in the air and tapping his fingers on his knee.
I have to look at the safety booklet to find out that the plane's a
Remembering Nancy tearing out single pages from two in-flight magazines
which displayed the various planes in that airline's fleet.
I wonder what she wanted those pages for...
No, he's not Oriental, after all, I see now.
I suspect he may be learning sign, but have no desire to ask -
maybe it is just music.
The woman from the seat in front of me stumbling
from the aisle back into her seat in the only "turbulence" of the flight
...remembering the pilot I heard on the radio at home
talking about what the word really means...
The young man takes his headgear off and orders a 7&7 -
and he wants his ice in the plastic mug he has brought with him...
This trip has put me even more solidly at the edge of the group of monied
writers I'm trying for.
But more it has put me on this track. The only track for me...
When I get back that part of my body will harden to slide up into that
part of Nancy's body. I wouldn't change this for the world
but isn't it as
strange as everything else?
It all fits together: the flight connections and the physical ones and the words
and the music - or it doesn't.
It's all coincidence. Or it's something
It's all potentially
eventually decipherable or it's not
- being created as we search it out, strive to get to the bottom.
Maybe we're as close to the bottom as we're