Beer Cans

In the wilderness of insobriety, the landscape was dotted with beer cans. Scattered about a small existence. Standing in miserable chaotic rows. Stacked in columns of twos and threes. A sad, and dark forest. With aluminium foliage of whites, reds, and silver. Here and there a few standing in clearings. Lonely by themselves. Some partially crushed, teetering on edges of tables and desks at odd angles like some Suessian topiary. I would usually be found hiding amid the copse in the corner of the stoop.I would perch there, in the cool shade of numb inebriation, bitterly caw at the world.

 

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A Guy Named Sleeve

I knew a guy named Sleeve, once. For a short while. Not long enough to say we were ever friends. There are times when companionship is close enough to settle on. When the journey has your the soles worn thin.

We met while taking brief respite from our respective paths down the road. It was the early fall, the forest somewhere in southern Illinois. A time and place where no one used their real name. Usually they called themselves things like Blue Tick, and Wildfire. There was a half Chinese man that insisted on being called Chink Bob Lee. About a dozen or so scrawny tattooed rednecks all going by Ace. They all wanted to sell you a zippo lighter, or throw in on a keg.

I was Saint at the time. Still am, sometimes, I’d guess. Depends on who you ask. I was running away from my life to figure it all out. This wasn’t the first time. I wasn’t the only one. I never asked where anyone was from. It was just something you didn’t do. So I never knew what happened in Sleeve’s past to drive him out. I did know he missed home. I heard him say, more than once, he could never go back.

We both settled into a temporary routine. Working makeshift kitchens in a transient town. Full of temporary people. I guess that’s everywhere, when it’s all said and done.We wound up talking a lot. Scrubbing pots after servings. Smoking pot before. Long conversations on short subjects.

His high pitch gravelly voice stood every nerve on end. Especially when he laughed.Truth is, I found most things about him annoying. His twitchy mannerisms. A second hand, jam band sense of style. Patchwork corduroy jeans, an old Jesus jumper, and a beard trimmed into a neat, thin ring around his face starting and ending in a grown out bowl cut. The whole package put me in mind of a Henson creation on a meth binge at a Phish concert.

We really didn’t have all that much in common.

Not much but tired feet, a few months of bad nutrition. Awkward conversations over near tasteless boiled coffee. A few hours wasted on micro dots, chasing nothing through quiet nature in the middle of the night. A few more with a loud handle of whiskey.

The rest of the time spent gathering firewood. Cooking meals for layabouts and bliss cases. The time came to move on. I headed south east. He headed, somewhere else. Never asked where he was headed. Never really cared. We weren’t really friends after all.

It was nice to have the companionship for a while though.

I suppose.

 

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Clean

Sometimes I just sit there, huddled at the bottom. Leaning forward, my chest pressed against my knees.  Listening to the soothing white noise of the droplets crashing against the vinyl curtain. Rubbing the warmth into my head and neck. Trying to massage some semblance of ambition into my body.

If I can just scrub hard enough I might wash away the doubt and fear. I might rinse away the filth of the worry, and shame, and guilt.

I look up and let the water run across my closed eyes.

If I just stay here long enough I might come clean.2047183582_3503e149ab_z.jpg

Image Credit: Shower by Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Well Wishes

I woke up this morning without noticing the change. I knew it happened, but it didn’t click.

I arrived in my confident lateness. I went about my routine as if nothing had happened. A cup of coffee, a bit of straightening up.  Barely noticing empty spaces on shelves, or the absence of the small red box where her possessions were kept.

When I opened the journal where, as formality dictates, we forecast our days.

There, in the margin, neatly written was a final message to me.

The weight settled as I read it.

“Good luck, I am happy for you.”

Laundromat

Always thought the laundromat would be good for writing. In a dark poetry, seedy underbelly, Tom Waits kind of way.

But, there is scant sad beauty to be had in that one sock left behind at the bottom of the machine.

The dryers aren’t hot enough to burn away your sins. Not at six minutes for a quarter anyway.

It’s been weeks and I have yet to hear any secret, sobering wisdom from the mouths of crazed junkies, if I’m lucky enough to find one.

Shame how life won’t imitate art.

Guess I should be used to disappointment by now.

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Useless Update about a Plant

Henry, my desk plant, was repotted today as it was getting a bit root bound in the small terracotta I had initially used. The blue-grey plastic one Henry now resides is nice but I feel it may not match the rest of my desk decor. My wife has advised that Henry will definitely outgrow the desk plant status eventually anyway.

Such is life I suppose.

On the issue of Henry versus Henrietta, other than the fact that it is an asinine question in the first place,  it turns out that Henry is a plural noun.

With two smaller plants becoming evident now that Henry has had a chance to stretch out a bit.

This is very important information because I am amazed I am actually able to keep the damned thing alive and, I thought I’d share it with you all while I wait for the child to get out of her chorus practice.

One-tenth of a Photograph

If a picture is worth a thousand words, is that a metered transaction?

In exchange for any old photo, should we expect, in return, the appropriate number of words?

Should we count every very and like?

Could I get two selfies and a haiku as change, for a landscape?

Does the value depreciate? If you hear, “Dogs playing poker,” do you have that image in mind? Is there need to detail the placement of the chips, the color of the table. Has familiarity reduced the painting’s value to three words?

Then this notion probably isn’t worth one-tenth of a photograph?

Pancakes

Pancakes.cooking-933208_640

She wants pancakes this morning.

Of all the concoctions breakfast has to offer, I find pancakes the most objectionable. Arguments about the health benefits of the meal go out the window when the word “cake” becomes entangled in the discussion. It is the cakes part of their name that draws interest. They would hardly come into consideration if they were called panbreads, which is what they really are.

The sickly sweet smell of them. The toasting flour as the batter hits the pan. The caramelization of sugars. I can see myself clearly on the bus, when I was barely older than her. Covered in vomit from a morning meal of pancakes and orange juice. Waiting morosely to arrive at school, so that my father could come bring me home. I still remember the sugary and acidic taste in my throat, and the look of horror on the face of my friend Brian who had made the poor choice to sit next to me that morning. His parents would have to bring him a change of clothes. I would be shunned for weeks afterwards, such is the way childhood goes.

Edges bubble as the first side is nearly done. Water evaporating, escaping the batter. The staggering recollection of countless hours spent sweating over that damned cast iron griddle, crafting these foul things for the masses of the ungrateful neurotics that came to eat brunch every Sunday over that three year period. Each man, or woman, bringing their own ideals of pancakeness. Just slightly off that mark, even once, too dark or not brown enough, too few blueberries or too much whipped cream, they would be sure to send their waiter back with the appropriate reprimand. From then on I would receive weekly reminders, as their tickets came back with little notes on them, listing my past transgressions against pancakes.

My wrist twitches in practiced motion and the wretched thing flips easily. I stare absently for a moment at the golden disc, listening to the wet batter on the other side sizzle against Teflon. I think to my friends who are celiac, or have some other dietary intolerance towards wheat, and others only refuse it because of some fitness or health craze as well. What do they all do about pancakes? Are their lives blessedly devoid of these, things? No doubt there is some convenient solution involving sorghum, or sweet potatoes. Somehow sweet potatoes always have something to do with it. My friend who is doing Atkins or some such mentioned something about psyllium husks. I somehow doubt I would find pancakes more appealing if the word husk became involved.

Lifting up the edge of the cake with the edge of the spatula, to take a small peek at the underside. Knowing it will never brown up so nicely as the top. The pan tilts to let it slide on to the plate hiding the first and slightly misshapen attempt this morning. The landscape of each one dotted with semi melted chunks of chocolate. A pat of butter placed on top, allowed to melt completely before serving them. She likes butter on her pancakes, provide that she can’t see butter on them. She beams at me as I place down the plate. I watch as she swirls syrup on them, until I tell her that she has enough.

I walk back into the kitchen knowing she’ll add just a little bit more.

I don’t like pancakes very much. Instead I’ll just overthink myself some scrambled eggs.

Just a Brief Word | Happy Monday

I expected to return to this space over a week ago. However, the move that was scheduled for November ended up taking place in January. I could probably spend several posts pissing and moaning about how annoying it has been to be living through thcoffeeandjournale holidays in a half packed state, but I won’t because it is boring. I will say that I did plan to get more writing done than I actually did over my break. Actually I did get quite a bit of writing done, if you count the humdrum of my dutiful entries into my handwritten journal, most of which are also quite boring but there are a few pieces that might be worked into drafts here and there.

I have been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, keep from getting sucked into the internet and visual media since the turn of the year. This is largely because I kept finding myself just staring at Twitter or Facebook mindlessly refreshing the screen, and too many hours wasted on the Tube just looking for nonsense to watch. So I’ve been catching up on a bit of reading actual books, in lieu of internet binging. Most notably I have been enjoying Horoscopes for the Dead, a collection of poetry by Billy Collins. As always I’ve been dabbling with a bit of Pratchett as well. Other than that I’ve been doing a little light reading on the technical aspects of writing, but I really have a low vexation threshold for that. Mostly because I find it tedious, unimaginative and, well I guess Raymond Chandler summed it up best when he said, “The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.”1

Anyway reading print books is still difficult for me since the soberness, so it is slow going but steadily improving.

Mostly I am writing this to check in so that I don’t neglect my space too long, and to let people who actually read my what have you that I’m still around.Taking a break every now and then is all well and good, and I do have a lot of personal work to get th
rough. Still unpacking and all. I do suppose however, when you find yourself making a second rubber band ball it’s time to start writing again.

rubberbandballs

That’s all for now.

Happy Monday.


  1. He also said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” Which is a reasonable solution to many aspects of life.2 
  2. Viva la footnotes! 

Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.