At least my corpse would smell minty…for a while. What started as an impulsive need to finish a forgotten movie treat quickly became more sinister when a hasty glob took a wrong turn and, once lodged, leaked mint ooze deep into my bronchial realms. While thrusting my head under the faucet for water, I heard the Junior Mints box hit the floor and I envisioned my chalk outline nearby.
Earlier in the week, after only thirty minutes of cardio at the gym, I staggered into the restroom and tossed my breakfast with perfect aim. A rare display of athleticism after several weeks and dollars invested in personal training. I breathed deeply afterwards, found my land legs, and departed in quiet defeat.
Eyes now watering from minty vapors rising past my nostrils and into my brain, I saw my guitar on its lonely stand in the corner of my living room. Lessons had been taken. Chords sorta memorized. House of the Rising Sun almost recognizable. A fine layer of dust visible on the fret board in early morning sunlight after months of neglect.
Sugars dissolve quickly in water. Coughing ensues. My chalk outline fades into the floor tiles. Thoughts turn towards paper towels and cleanup. A ravenous coyote will not savor my minty flesh this week.
Thank God I know the feeling of a guitar nestled close, the ring of our high E sounding in the Star Spangled Banner. Thank God I walked on burning quads beyond my physical limits. And yes, thank God I prefer softer sweets.
At 44, with the horizon visible on the horizon, there is no wasteful pursuit except allowing pursuit to waste.
I am sitting under a neat row of industrial light bulbs, glowing loops of exposed filament in wire-framed shades providing no real shade. Coffee and cookie and Whole Foods sushi are making peace in my belly. I’m wearing a surf cafe T-shirt and a blue hoodie and a beard. The hipster serving coffee for Peets ends our brief relationship with a “hey…take care man” with decaffeinated sincerity.
Amazon Books is full of books…and curious people exploring and reading. Helpful people work here. This is a place fueled by data and designed by someone who loves to read. The books…oh the books…are grouped by category but curated by people not publishers.
Two zaftig women sit across from me talking, drinking coffee, paging through a stack for grandchildren. National Geographic, Guinness Book of World Records, “How Things Work.”
I wandered the stacks here for 45 minutes before sitting down for coffee and cookie. The Whole Foods sushi doesn’t seem to object. The New Hardcover Nonfiction was “selected using customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, and popularity on Goodreads – plus books we love.” No lawyer requires this disclosure. But clearly some data geek wants you to know that all basis were covered…no stone left unturned…to bring you the best possible selection known to man or machine.
People are wandering the aisles carrying small stacks of books and smiling. Young people and older people, parents and grandparents. Amazon Books is a place for curiosity. It is not a small independent bookstore for the literary intelligentsia.
I spent the 90’s reading in Harvard Square…a lost Mecca for independent bookstores. I am comfortable here. And those four words speak volumes.
Dirty leaves in bunches for sale.
Mismatched buckets of wildflowers, earth under fingernails and open hands inviting one to taste. People and children alive and shopping free of metal cages and broken wheels, free of screaming and grabbing at boxes of sugar adorned with pictures of fictional beings so many fictional beings line the polytheistic aisle of carbohydrates in that other place.
At the farmer’s market I shop only by texture and color, scent and taste, finding truth in wrinkles and grime.
This is about open space, finding pieces and filling holes. It is about a circle on white paper, brushed in the Zen style by an Asian man in robes kneeling on a pagoda with the sound of water nearby. This is about the moment when space assumes definition, is or is not, by the addition of a single brush stroke. Photos have layers of is or is not. A table is. The space underneath decidedly is-not but we find comfort in that space beneath tables swinging feet and legs below the knee. The circle is a complete form.
At some point in life we focus below the table, on the is not, on the swing of feet, the arc of legs, tracing circles through time and space.
Three weeks into growing a beard, I watched Man of Steel last night while folding laundry and drinking decaffeinated mint tea. There’s a point in the movie when The Man is speaking to Lois Lane and she asks about the symbol on his chest. She remarks it looks like an ‘S’ and he responds that “on his planet it’s not an ‘S’..it’s a symbol for hope.” She persists, and The Man becomes known as Superman.
Superhero’s are in fashion again. At the gym, which I joined to rebuild my body after years of neglect, men and women wear Superman’s symbol on T-shirts and shorts. It’s not just for kids anymore. Now more than ever, we feel the need to tap into something greater. We need to feel stronger and more resilient. We hope.
Yesterday I woke at 5:30am without an alarm and drifted into my kitchen for coffee. I wrote in my new journal for an hour, made a sandwich of egg, ham and cheese before changing into workout clothes. I delivered my son’s skateboard and phone to their mother’s home by 7:30am. Most mornings we would get ready for school or camp. I drove 30 minutes in traffic to my gym and spent an hour pushing muscle and bone through limits. I spent the day at work. Took the car in for an oil change. Spoke to friends and family along the way. Avoided traffic by stopping for sushi. Shared worlds and words with Gabrielle over Skype later that evening after folding laundry and drinking tea.
In the early morning making eggs and lunches, in the creation of art, in showing up for work, in taking care of my children and myself, in helping others, in loving a woman, in making a home, I am a man of steel. Or so I hope.