The concept of the drive-thru is beautiful in its simplicity. First for burgers, then donuts, carwash, and now in our clean cars, we sit for precious (monetized) minutes waiting for a macchiato – extra sweet.
I was a mad-hungry freshman, rubbing last night’s party from my irritated eyes. The fall of 1969: Saturday morning, leaving McDonald’s with my breakfast, I stood on the paper-strewn corner kicking aside shredded protestations for peace. I waited for the light to change, barely noticing the air until I opened my mouth and stuck out my greedy tongue for a salty-sweet hit of those fries. I didn’t get it. Just a bitter sampling of leftover mace, telling me that this was the intersection that ended a peace march the day before. Mace had been successful in dispersing the peace-mongers.
It would be years before I would connect our drive-thru lives to the forces behind the mace – that clung to the air that angered me for not tasting like fries.
Converting my guilt to shame.
Six months into Covid – it is a Saturday morning and I’m driving mad and unmasked to the store. According to county health officials, this epidemic was going to be a long haul. I live in a blue state but in a red county where obedient people listen to a president (who likely failed chemistry) wax poetic and pathetic about science. I turn into the shopping center parking lot, halted by the line of cars patiently waiting for a turn at the Dunkin-Donuts window. Not me! I pull out of line, opting to circumnavigate the deserted K-Mart building, creating a lateral line of attack on my destination. I wait for a few shoppers to withdraw, increasing my chances of surviving what I’m sure will be a pandemic—four people exit. The coast is clear – I don my mask and make a beeline to the front door, where I grab a cart. I breathe shallow dizzying breaths – as I study the store’s arrangement. I am cautious as I approach the domestics on the left, where, after a brief reconnaissance, I make my way out of the Finger Lakes, grabbing a few bottles of good whites. I stand for a moment in the archway leading to the reds. I know the need for urgency but linger anyway at the mercy of ratings. I am deaf to the sounds of my bacchanalian brain stuttering at the sight of French, Italian, Portugal, South African, Spain, and Venezuelan reds– mesmerizing blood-shot pinwheels in a firefight – hand-to-hand combat for space in my cart.
In my obedience to Doctor Fauci’s biblical warning that this plague will be a long haul, I fill my cart – my private Arc – two bottles of each.
My Spectrum service is broken – I mean down, not working, caput, fin, nothing. For almost ten days, I’ve watched a platoon of Spectrum trucks trace and retrace the road in front of my house to no effect. My hope for a temporary outage had sprung eternal. But now I see the drive-bys as a ploy –like a Russian May-Day parade – a show of strength offering hope where, only a few know, there is none. The outage has been long enough for me to finish Johnathan Foer’s beautiful five-hundred-page tome on love and Judaism. And long enough for me to fear my unread emails growing to legion; so many requests for my dollars to save dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, and sometimes people. Should I worry?
Spectrum seems not to worry. The billing department is sanguine, telling me I will be reimbursed ten dollars for every four hours I’ve been without service. For the first week, Spectrum outage was never, like it is now, continuous. It was more like three-hours of outage interrupted by twenty minutes of service. Even if I had the internet’s stupefying privilege of a misinformed populace right now, I could see the hand of capitalism slapping me in the face with “free enterprise.” I am free, I’ve surmised, to go without or pay dearly. I know where I, the consumer, stand. I even know where I’ll fall if I tumble down my stairs. I may or may not survive Spectrum or my fall – who knows? My cellphone won’t – having been rendered useless in an emergency because of this Spectrum outage.
It has occurred to me
I may not live long enough
To love my neighbor
We may all perish if we don’t learn (quickly)
To love one another
And maybe this is the deficiency – like the dinosaurs
That will bring about our extinction
Not the express train –
Quick-trip to decay
We’re on the Limited;
Confined within limits
On life’s platform
Brief recognition vanishing outlines
Illuminated windows, They stare ahead
Silhouetted profiles against flashing light
Glimpsing the gold coins of
The Paradise Express
We remain for the day
As we see ourselves
Age and wisdom
In separate cars
On that same track
A landscape of
Happiness builds a fast fire
Underfoot the running child
In fields wild with flowers
Laughing, some unknown joy,
That life will be good
Happiness forces arms open
Nothing but youth
Before receding to the corners
Beaten back by the collected ticks
A clock and a heart weary
Holding happiness at bay
The thumping hush
That muscle upon which
Nothing is lost
Rolling and dipping
Tethered calmly against
Winds of age & change:
Flying its own kite
We live so long – hopefully long enough
To know life is enough
All we should want
The rest is fearing
The opinions of others
We are old enough to resist
Know there is great pleasure in GO!
It is not the There
But the trip
The memories will come years later (if at all)
With its uneven ruler
To defend life’s
On this last day of 2013 I am weary of new year’s resolutions – you know those promises we make to ourselves that have a shelf-life of twenty minutes – sixty if I’m lucky. I awoke this morning considering the flexibility of certainty – the same type of certainty that has always been ascribed to death and taxes.
What follows are the few things that have proven true – for me in 2013.
What I know:
I know that I expect decency in ostensibly educated people and am sorely disappointed when decency becomes a foreign country these individuals are afraid to visit. And one would think that after a few years of this forehead-slapping frustration I would know better but…
I know that truth is an illusive landscape that when strung together with imaginative prose can provide cascades of honesty regarding the human condition. I’m sure it’s called good fiction and until I am told differently I’ll go with that.
I know that memory can be resistant to logic. A sweltering heat can rise from this terrain erasing any tragedy in the offing. Reality is the thief; the mugger in the dark, “hand over your memories and no one gets hurt.”
I know that as tragedy strikes good friends, I am left in awe of the strength that can reside in the human heart. A heart so rent with grief that one fears for the possessor of this roughed-up organ. But no, it is as if internal forces dedicated to battle appear overnight to slay grief in its cradle.
I know I will never sing as well as I’d like to. I have a lovely, talented friend from high school who possesses a beautiful, forceful voice. She has sung her way around the world and now for reasons (she believes) stronger than her voice she says she will not sing again. This makes me sad. I am one who has had many dreams of opening my mouth and having some beautiful, if not tuneful, music exit. I used to like the idea of karaoke but I’m afraid of being seen as part of the legion of the sad, unfulfilled and lonely lip-synchers moaning about lost loves, chances, and continence.
I know that youth is what sticks even when we go unrecognized at our reunions.
I know that a good memory can be a serious design flaw
I know now that some song lyrics mean different things depending on the amount wine ingested.
I know that some songs only make sense after three glasses of wine which is too bad when two glasses is all one can tolerate.
I know there are drinks (famous writers/drinkers of hard liquor have told me) one can order by fingers – like ordering two fingers of desire to open one’s emotional house, a brief and tragic three dimensional cut-a-way: here I am at my desk, that’s me tossing and turning in my stone sleep, there I am turned away from prying eyes – my face unrecognizable – even by those who love me. Wine is my vehicle of choice as I search under the weight of desire?
I know that living in the past can be an addiction; the monkey on one’s back that pushes us beyond mirrors and reality; that cruel beast that wraps his hand around the slender stem of that third glass of moscato – too sweet to do any good.
And lastly –
I know too that, even as it seems our souls are sewn from the same cloth, they are held together with a mere thread of memories; a heartbreaking slight-of-hand that can bind us to decency or doom.
Have a wonderfully truthful 2014
No “why?” of golden age
At peace with my life-sustaining
Looped desires on fixed stage
No things to want remaining
Labored fact, age doth bring
Leaves Chronus parsing truth
Calypso discovered not a thing
So danced a dance uncouth
Bacchus, saw life at its brink
Threw up one hand in despair
The other offering the drink
To Aphrodite goddess fair
Mount Goddess’ sacred doom
No matter the hue and cry
Answer found not in any room
The fact: we all must die
Lucidity, blinking and broken
Declares his life a night,
a forgotten dimension.
So fast, where
Did it go?
He is still outside
The forest of human
Following the script
Of human hand
That began in sand and
A hand that sent him to war
To the hearts of those
Who would wash his sluggish body
Wrinkled, tissue depleted
Immobilized by an angry destiny
And landscapes of untold design
And still he wonders why –
The three letter
Through the looking-glass question
Whose answer awaits in the forest
Where the path – trodden slight –
Will call – he is moving there
To that forest where flowering
Dogwood bloom in wait
For his steps light and inoffensive
A child in this fractal world
Enfolding unto himself the same
As we’ve always known
Even as he is resorbed
By nature – that path
He will trod, swaddled in linen
Looking ahead in painless