September 1st, 2021
Comparisons Are Odious And Onerous And Overrated
I was driving east on Cuming when it happened. How and from where, god only knows.
But it emerged or manifested out of thin air or chemical reaction as I changed lanes, speeding past the slow car hesitating to merge because of the construction in front of Amateur Coffee. Images gave rise to sentences and then I was writing the thing out in my mind heading south on the 480. It was a hallucination, really. An ethereal reality simultaneously playing out right along with this one where your thumb currently swipes up on the screen in your hand…And just as tangible.
How can it not be. Is it not happening at this very moment as my fingers go to work on the keys? Am I not bringing thought into being before your very eyes much like my fifty mile-an-hour daydream? Can you see it? What was not, is. Maybe not verbatim.
But it’s no easy thing getting phantasmagoria down word for word.
The lush landscape around me mixed with the desert of my past like water and oil as I roiled in the soup signaling for a right turn onto the freeway. The scenes faded as I checked my mirrors, accelerating into the flow of cars, only for them to reemerge as a comparison between drivers from the two places, bringing me back to the origin of the thought.
There’s a lacksadaisical attitude to the average Nebraskan driver, especially when it comes to lane changes. There’s an inability to zipper properly as a lane dies out. Especially on 72nd just south of the 80 where the dullards of Ralston, suffering from myopia, drone their lives out in the banality of suburban life. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this sort of behavior. It’s found in most places, in fact. It’s a haphazardness, as if no one else exists in all the world. A yawning stretch of passivity.
Omaha is less condensed. I’ll give it that. There are far less commuters than Orange County and LA. I can drive circles around this city without ever seeing a line of red lights stacked up for miles on end like a big red slug snail-trailing along the roads and highways. But then again my perception of relativity differs from that of the locale. A fifteen minute drive is a breeze, making thirty a quick trip there and back again. No biggie. No whoop. There’s plenty of open road to go around.
There’s also the obvious difference in climate. While California is dry and arid, Omaha’s air is thick with moisture. Some days it feels like a hot wet scarf is smothering my face. But like the old Midwestern proverb, if you don’t like the weather, stick around. It’ll change. Which is true. And for that I’m thankful. I like variety. A little of this. A little of that. It keeps me guessing. There’s enough monotony in the everyday life. Like tying shoes laces together or hearing the grocery store clerk ask, “Did you find everything alright today?” To which I want to reply, “I have not found my way to Calabria!” (Which is the land of my ancestors) “Nor have I found a way to bottle all the joy contained in bellyaching laughter to use when I’m feeling down!” Only, I reply, “I did.” And move along.
At least Nature knows what’s good for the soul…V-A-R-I-E-T-Y…In case you needed me to spell it out for you. I know I need that sometimes. Someone to spell it out for me. Ask Guff. She’ll tell you. I can be a child. I can be ignorant of what I do not know. Loose my cool in a fit of rage because I don’t understand…Isn’t that weird? To not know something you don’t know.
Makes me think of this seminar I attended once and the speaker drew a pie on a whiteboard with slices cut out of it. An eighth of the pie represented what we know and another eighth represented what we don’t know. The third and largest slice of the pie was what we don’t know that we don’t know. Like a blind spot in our perception because of belief or ideology or idiosyncrasy.
It is the human-like quality to be our own blockade because of who we are.
Not who we can be. I recognize this in myself. I get in the way of opportunity, possibility, connectivity. All because of some interpretation I’ve come to wear around. This mask. This armored suit. This accumulation of past stories, emotions, behaviors. Sometimes they’re not even mine. They’re my parents’. Or that of my parents parents. And who knows how far down the line that goes. Now take that and apply it to everyone. Including the pope. And the president!…That’s the world we live in. Put that in your pipe and snort it.
Now back to Omaha. It’s green. Incredibly green. And then red and orange and yellow and brown with the ground frosted with snow and the sky grey and the air cold and by the time February comes around everyone has had enough of Winter and putting on three layers of clothing just to grab the mail. Spring is a tease not wanting to flash us it’s green things…I get it…I moved here in February. It was negative thirty-five the week I got here. Froze my balls off. Though for me it was only the beginning of Winter. I shoveled the driveway and felt the cold nip at my face and at my hands and in my bones as I drove around on twenty-degree days to pick up furniture with Guff for our new home and enjoyed every bit of it.
California, unlike Nebraska, only has one season. The air like a frying pan over an open flame. Its saving grace being a giant bathtub of salt water undulating along the coastline. I like it here. It’s uncouth. With its fractured asphalt and the way dilapidated neighborhoods bleed into brick and manicured lawns. No stucco or rock gardens. And there’s not a single gated community with the false promise of security (If there is I haven’t noticed). Not to say I prefer crime and decay. But I like to know it’s there.
It’s a good reminder to know a poop-skid is smeared across the sidewalk just around the corner to keep you on your toes.
By the time I pulled off the freeway at Martha I had gotten most of this down….Sort of…Like I said, the words emerged as scenes. This is only an interpretation. By that time my mind had moved on to the people I’ve met and their good-naturedness and the sense of community and support they give here in Omaha, and I began to think of Capitol Bindery and Kevin, always with a cigarette in his mouth moving about the place, starting a task and then forgetting about it as soon as a customer comes in or Joe the old Irishman from Rhode Island, them talking about politics or crazy Eddy across the street or old actresses like Sophia Loren or Maureen O’Hara and I thought about how perfect things align sometimes and then it doesn’t, when, just then, a young man driving a large lawnmower with no shirt and a baseball cap came barreling down the hill towards oncoming traffic, swerved left at the light and cut up past the car to my right onto the freeway exit I had just come down. I turned my head as far as it would go until I could no longer see him.
When the light turned green I made a left with the rest of them towards 24th, then made a right towards Vinton. I parked in front of the bindery. Got out. Went in the place. I drank black coffee and scraped the spines of old books. Sewed on new end-sheets. Glued them. Drank more black coffee. Talked shop with the boys. Then I came home and it wasn’t until much later that I remembered any of this.
September 21st, 2021
Our relationship almost ended before we arrived. One moment we were in complete understanding on the I-70 writing a new contract for our union, and the next it became fissured in a fit of fatigue somewhere in St. George, Utah…
September 15th, 2021
The place is dark though well-lit. The light comes in through large windows facing Vinton Street and then dies out into a darker light that shines down from half-lit fluorescent lights tucked between ceiling tiles…
September 8th, 2021
I was going to tell you everything. How it all happened. I was going to tell you how I came to Omaha, about Guff and the road and how we came to be . . . I really was…