Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Territoriality, Part Two

Skies suddenly cleared and in twenty-five minutes, sand was underneath my feet.
I planned to finish my Jack Reacher novel.  But the sun was warm, my mind distracted.

A blog entry entitled "Stains" was  rough and unpublished.  I didn't like the ending, dark and depressing, a mood apart from my usual self

Lying there, I came up with an alternate ending, lighter because of its references to popular culture. 

Well, I thought in my head (which houses my most defective organ), why not provide both endings, let the reader make a choice? Brilliant! 

And all was good. I returned the unopened novel to my pack and headed out.

Twenty yards before I get to my rope, an unpleasant surprise.  Some geezer landed awkwardly on the beach, huffing and puffing. 

I noticed his vest, blue, short and bedazzled.  He's about my age, poor guy, and judging from his bad fashion choices, is an elephant seal docent looking for something else to rant about.

Not that I've got a particular grudge against volunteers.  God knows, I've spent hundreds of unpaid hours in that thankless activity, though mostly in a national park setting.  But to stand like this guy must in cold and constant wind--without even a port-potty to piss in--all because you're A Friend of the Elephant Seals?  Well, I just don't get it.

I mean, how can you wax enthusiastically about a behemoth male creature that does little else but lounge and hump?  And how about the females?  They give birth, immediately hump some more, then abandon their offspring.  Sorreeee!  Watching elephant seal behavior is too much like interspecies voyeurism.  I bet internet porn portrays better values.

Nonetheless, facing this stranger upon my beach, I brought my happy muscles to play and attempted a smile.

"Hi" we said in disturbing unison.
"How you doing?"
"How's it going?"
Damn! Was there an echo in this canyon--maybe one I hadn't noticed because talking to other human beings down here has never been my primary reason for coming?

He seemed nice enough, though.
But I could sense those recent blog ideas, momentous as they were, slipping right out of my brain, and irretrievably absorbed by sand and surf.

"Well, I'm on my way out," I said.  "Hope you don't need my rope 'cause I'm out of here."

I waited a two seconds for his response.
See?  I can be quite charming when I want to be.  At about four seconds, he answered. 

"Hey, well, no. Not a problem, man."
"Good.  It's a little slippery, I know, but it can be done.  Well, take care!"
My rope and I departed like smoke in the wind.

Crossing a field to my car, I saw a late model, red Toyota pickup.  License plate "7X..." something or other.

Now I had to drive back in the morning just to make sure his truck wasn't still there.

But again, that's just me--always looking out for the other guy.


Been cleaning carpets lately.

Carpet soil, I've noticed, comes in three categories:

1. The mistakes you remember--oh, yeah, what was I thinking?
2. The mistakes of others, no idea how or when they happened.
3. The wear of life--too many people walking the same route for too long.

Lately, stains seem darker.  I walk into a room and my eyes are immediately drawn to them
Guess I could avoid looking down but then I'd worry about tripping.

So clean the stain, right?

I've spent a lot of time on my knees doing just that. The results are never satisfactory and only three outcomes can be expected:

1. Nothing.  No brand of cleanser  or any amount of scrubbing will remove it.

2. Yes, the stains fades, maybe to the point where others won't see it.  But YOU know it's there.

3. The stain totally disappears, which is worse. It leaves an overly white border against the background dirt, a constant reminder that something particularly bad happened there.

Seems futile doesn't it?  Like trying to undo time.

                     *                      *                    *
So get a new carpet, silly!
basic replacement really isn't that expensive.

But everyone who's been there knows how much hassle it is.  You've got to move out the larger pieces, often quite heavy, and turn your life upside down for a day or two.

Easier just to live with stains from the past.

So that was my first version of this weird homily, essay, whatever.  Carpet cleaning for dummies, depressed dummies I thought.  Actually tempted to substitute "sins" for "stains" in that last line.
Get a grip!

I really didn't feel that depressed (or guilty) when I wrote it.  Carpets are cleaner now and what else are you going to do when you're at the coast and the sun won't shine?

So I wrote another ending, lighten it up.  From the triple asterisks above consider this "Soprano" ending.

In the perfect Jersey intonations of the late James Gandofini, playing Tony Soprano:

"What're you going to do?"
(with that cosmic shrug best achieved by true Italian-Americans).

Should your name be Christopher Soprano and you hesitate, you might also hear:

"So take out the f-ing carpet!
Get it done."

"Yeah, yeah, Tone, I got that. And basic replacement, well, that's not a problem.
But everyone says it's a hassle. You move out all that heavy shit, you know, then everything is all f-ed up for at least a day or two.
I'm not sayin' I like it, but sometimes you gotta live with your feelings, you know?"

Tony would then say to his nephew, Chris:

"Do I look like your mama? You got feelings, go talk to a shrink--I'll give you a number.  Meantime take care of business--and fuh-ged-about-it."

(Now Tony never exactly said those last three words, but James Gandolfini could convey them with a look.  Good advice, really, but hard to follow)