Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts

04 June, 2018

It's all casual along the dirty, sacred river

Mick Parsons, writing, Louisville, violence
I spied the end of a sex transaction while walking to the coffee shop. As I rounded the corner from my street to the main artery, I saw a young man trying to simultaneously pull up and snap his jeans while walking nonchalantly. He did neither of them very well. The girl he was with was short, blond, and far less concerned about being seen than he was. Then again, her clothes were in place and walking seemed far less of an issue.
The young man noticed me and tried even harder to look like nothing was happening... at one point, even trying to put his arm around the girl, who, to her credit, could have cared less about the appearance of things. They continued to walk together, but it was hard to imagine them being a couple. He was very tall and dressed like an extra from a late-90's gang movie. She was very short by comparison.
And except for his failed attempt to look like she hadn't just serviced him near a busy street corner in between acts of the torrential downpour, I probably wouldn't have noticed were it not for the fact that, at a distance, she looked underage and it was a little early for the street walkers in my part of town to be out and about. 
I'm being unfair, I know. They COULD be in a relationship. But the fact is she was far more interested in her sucker than she was in him -- and in my experience, even a quick oral cop in the late morning between consenting adults will most likely include just a little post-glottal tenderness. 
This wasn't the blog I intended to write today. I had something else in mind, something having to do with this dog issue on my street. One of the houses on my street had a husky tied out without shelter all day yesterday -- a day with weather ranging from hot and sunny to torrential downpour. After trying unsuccessfully to find anyone home --or, at any rate, anyone who was willing to answer the door -- I called the city, which, with its usual bureaucratic ineffectiveness, did not come.  At points the husky was pulling on the VERY short tie out she was on and making that high pitched whine that only Huskies and German Shepards seem to make. 
Casual cruelty and abuse offend me more deeply maybe than intentional cruelty and abuse. At least when someone is intentionally evil, deliberately cruel and abusive, the direct action to correct it seems just. There is an intelligence -- albeit a disturbed one -- at work when cruelty is committed in a deliberate manner. I could even make the case that cruelty in the name of passion -- maybe not deliberate, but focused and full of evil purpose all the same -- is at least understandable, even though it is abhorrent. 
But casual cruelty is not deliberate. It's rooted in ignorance, and the educator in me still likes to think that ignorance can be educated and eradicated. And I know enough about this neighbor in particular to know that there is nothing deliberate in the aforementioned cruel behavior. Some people just don't see dogs -- big dogs especially -- as anything other than a soulless animal, something maybe pretty to look at, but in the end, not human and therefore not entitled to being treated with love and dignity.
At some point in the afternoon, some of the neighborhood kids checked on the Husky. Not long after, she disappeared -- and so I thought maybe either the city came and picked her up -- she would have found a home in no time -- or maybe the owner thought better of his or her cruelty.
The husky was back out early this morning. At an appropriate time I once again walked over to try and talk to someone at the house. Once again, no one was home - or no one answered.  I once again called the city. Sometime later the husky was gone again. And I hope to God that someone came and retrieved her.
There's no accounting for the humanity or lack thereof here along the dirty, sacred river -- or anywhere, really. One of the things I love about living in Louisville is that when you strip it to the bare bones and look at how it functions -- and in some cases, doesn't function -- this town is just that. It's a small town with some tall buildings and the growing pains of a mid-sized Midwestern City in the process of redefining itself. 
But when you look at the bare bones of a place like this, it's hard not to notice that while many of the things that make it a small town still exist, there's a malignancy growing there, too.  Live here long enough and you start to find odd connections between the seemingly disparate people you know because they either went to the same high school or grew up in the same part of town but never knew one another because they were bussed to different schools. Locals give directions based on non-existent landmarks.
But that casual cruelty -- which isn't absent from small towns, either -- grows on the bones and spreads with startling innocuousness. 

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09 July, 2012

Clock Watching In The Time Zone Continuum - A Poem

Seven minutes until the hour and the 12:01 to Kansas City
hasn't boarded yet. The driver announced a delay – some
“beer problem” he called it. Jefferson Lines – the great
Western Carrier from Minneapolis to Sioux City, Rapid City,
through Bozeman and Billings and west, until Seattle –
can't keep to a schedule for shit, and a drunk with a weak stomach
is one more reason to shave 10 minutes off a 15 minute smoke break
in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace.

Strangers chit chat to pass the time.
It was 106 in St. Louis yesterday. Be 110 tomorrow.
Full moon madness brought to full fruition by the heat.
The western lands are burning.
(The Kentucky Hills are, too –
but no one notices when poor folks
go up in smoke.)

No storms predicted southbound.
But north of here, tornadoes fomenting,
and the rain is never enough anywhere
in spite of the prayers offered
by lips too parched to articulate
highfalutin' words
from a centuries dead faith.

Ten minutes to after the hour.
The bus to Kansas City rolls out
nine minutes late –
in spite of passengers bum rushing the door.

I want to smoke; but the night air is a wall of heat
93 degrees in the city –
and it's after midnight
and I am tired.

Eighteen hours to Cincinnati
via Chicago … where I have no friends...
then Indianapolis, which is kind to no one
with the smell of the Ohio River in his veins
then Dayton, where the alien bodies are kept.

Tomah, Wisconsin. It's 3:40 in the morning.
I am smoking in the middle of a McDonald's parking lot,
debating about buying coffee I know
will not satisfy and hoping against hope
I might get some more sleep –
that, not surprisingly, does not come.
The bus smell of salty grease,
burnt and watered down coffee,
and heat lamp cooked ketchup for miles
deep into the Eastbound darkness.

Chicago terminal 9 AM. Enough time to find my line
and pick a good place. There is no solace among the familiar faces,
the red shirted station attendant will not answer my questions.
I am surrounded by mothers traveling with children,
beat cops and private security pushing off the ne'erdowells,
(I have a ticket. They can do nothing to me.)
Passengers and travelers jockeying for a better position in line
hoping for whatever their definition
of a good seat is, praying
they will not have to sit next to anyone
and risk the conversation
or the potential body odor of someone
who has not had time to brush his teeth
or put on stink covering deodorant,
or to even change his clothes.

They do not know that traveling is as dirty as it is glorious:
that the world rubs off on you – whether you like or not –
and that humanity is glorious and smelly and crude
and honest and ugly and beautiful
and does not care whether you care or not.

We crossed into the Eastern Time zone around 10AM.
Taking note of the time on my cell phone
(which insists on counting for me)
and changed the time on my wristwatch.
I prefer old clock faces to digital time,
the sweeping of the hands lends the passage of seconds
a more poetic feel. Digital clocks tick fast
and no one notices until it reads the hour
they are waiting for:

Go to work.
Start work.
Finish work.
Go home.

is a sweaty hour at the gym.
Salvation is Friday cocktails with the women from the office,
when the office shrew will let her freckled tits hang out
and maybe not object to a casual grope,
but living to tell the revised tale to her husband:
though the other women will not forget
and will find some way to mention it
in some secret interdepartmental report.

The clock face lends the passage of time,
which sometimes passes too too fast, just a smidgen of grace.
(Which a vagabond needs in these interesting times,
in the parlance of the ancient Chinese proverb.)

Indianapolis is a quick change, not even time to get fresh water.
Just past the halfway mark, another 8 hours to go,
though it is, I know, only 90 minutes straight to Cincinnati down I-74.
The cafeteria window is closed for lunch
and none of the vending machines accept loose change,
and the drink machines all have signs warning me
they are not keep anything cold enough
and that I buy at my own risk.
Even the water from the fountain is warm
and tastes like old minerals.

We got off schedule somewhere between Indy and Gary,
there was no time to stop. And no one wanted to, anyway.
Smokers only get bitchy on night buses, when they can't sleep
and the drivers are sourly and unsympathetic.

Down I-70 into Ohio. Outside of Clayton and Englewood,
the landscape started to roll more
the way it does in the southwest corner of the state,
formed by receding glacier that formed the riverbed
and the seven hills. An hour and twenty minute layover
and an hour bus ride down 75, into the city
via the Norwood Lateral, Gilbert Avenue,
and into one of the main arteries downtown,
next to the casino being built
(that has already collapsed once).
Construction is ongoing, the Hamilton County Sheriff
needs a solid retirement plan, when graft and petty racism
run out.

The bus rolls in at 8:30 – a full 10 minutes early
(slower holiday weekend traffic). I step off the bus,
into the humid Ohio Valley summer air,
and hold my breath for moment
giving my soul a chance to adjust
to the stark change in scenery.

THANKS FOR READING. Look for a post about the trip from Minneapolis to Cincinnati in the next day or so.

And if you LIKE what you read, please (purty pleez?)


27 October, 2009

Rusted Out Minotaurs and Other Mythological Creatures: Part 2 of 7

When I got to the Graveyard the following morning, the first thing Bear asked me was if I brought my own tools. I showed him my tool box and he nodded. I stood there for a minute, waiting for some more specific instructions. Like where to start. He just looked at me. “What’s the problem? You change your mind already?”

“No,” I said. “I, ah, I’ll go get started.”

“Be careful how you stack them parts once you get things apart,” he warned. “I have to sell those, you know.”

I walked down the short hill into the Graveyard, trying to find a good place to start. There was no order to any of it. Maybe once upon a time Bear organized the place – there was some remnant of a loose organizational system. Motorcyles in the front, lawnmowers and bicycles in the back. But that had clearly been a long time ago. There was more rust then anything. Everything was left uncovered and was at the mercy of the elements. The ground was permanently muddy in places. There were pools of spilled oil, transmission fluid, break fluid, and water everywhere. Every once in a while there were things laying on tarps – like he had intended to keep them off the wet ground – but in most cases, the tarps were torn and the pools of liquid simply sat on top. Even I could tell there wasn’t much worth salvaging.

For no particular reason, stopped somewhere near the center of everything. A small pile of five or six push mowers was as good a place to start as any. I found a reasonably clean and dry patch of grass to sit on and started on an orange one that still had most of its paint. The big bolt holding the cutting blade to the bottom of the engine was rusted and difficult to break loose, and so were the smaller bolts that held the engine to the mower base. After wrestling with it for several minutes, I made a mental note to buy some WD40 before I came back. The other mowers were in similar condition. I took them apart and separated everything into piles: a pile handles, a pile of blades, a pile of motors, pile of mower decks, and a pile of bolts. Then I went to work taking apart some bicycles. By the time I finshed, it was midday. There wasn’t any point to doing anything without some WD40. When I made my way back to the top of the hill, Bear was nowhere in sight. I put my toolbox in my trunk and pulled out of the empty gravel lot.

He was waiting on me The next day. “Come on,” he pointed down the hill. Then he led me down into the graveyard, right to the spot I’d worked the day before. “Here,” he pointed to the piles.

“You did this, right?”

“Yeah.” The piles were still neatly organized amidst the rust and chaos.

“Can I ask you something?”


“How am I supposed to sell those parts when they’re not organized?”

I didn’t say anything; the piles looked organized to me. They looked a damn sight neater and more organized than anything else in the graveyard. I considered pointing out that if he wanted them organized a particular way, he should’ve said something. April had warned me against that, though. Bear apparently took a dim view of people arguing with him. So I continued to stand there and not say anything.

“Don’t you know ANYTHING?” he snarled. “Lookee here. You got the Briggs and Stratton parts mixed with the Tecumseh parts. All the bolts are mixed in together. Plus,” he pulled one of the handles out of the pile, “you didn’t take off the gears or choke chord.” He tossed it back in the pile and looked at me like he wanted to spit. “I’m not paying you to half-ass out here. Do the job right or I’ll find somebody who will.”

Fat fucking chance, I thought. “Yes sir.”

He nodded and stomped out of the graveyard. I lit a cigarette and stood there for a moment, considering my options. If I quit my only other option was a one of those plastic name tags, an ugly hat, the smell of canola oil and wilted lettuce. I finished my cigarette, sighed, and went back to the piles I’d made the previous day to begin again.

“You need to watch out for him,” April warned me that night when I told her what had happened. “He’ll make you work and then fire you so he won’t have to pay you.”

“Doesn’t he have to pay me?”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s paying you cash under the table. He doesn’t have to do anything.”
I didn’t show up at the graveyard until after noon; there wasn’t a set schedule and I didn’t feel like waking early. Bear wasn’t around when I got to the graveyard; so I just grabbed my toolbox and headed down into the graveyard. It was Thursday. I was trying to keep my mind on the weekend coming up. April and I were going to be hanging out, as usual. I agreed to go to church with them on Sunday – not so much because I was interested in all the hellfire and holy talk, or even to score points with April’s old man – but because I wanted to see April in a skirt and she hardly ever wore one during the week. Ok; so it wasn’t the best of reasons. But it was a reason; and if I had to sit through a couple of hours of moaning and hymn whining bullshit to get a quick view of her thighs, so be it.

April and I had been going out for months – and beyond the heavy petting, we hadn’t gotten anywhere. Not for my lack of trying. But there was always something. An early curfew. A big test. The emergency break in the car. The small back seat. Always something. The closest I’d ever come to anything with any girl up to that point was when Suzie Parks’ swim suit top came undone in the lake two summers before. She was most of the way out of the water before she noticed. (The only thing that saved her was that this was life before cellphone cameras.) It would be unfair to say I was desperate; I’d had girlfriends before and I’d gotten to cop several feels; but that was as far as it went and I was, after all, out of high school and almost in college. The clock was ticking.

It was difficult to think about April’s skirt when I had to actually pay attention to what I was doing and make sure I put everything in the correct piles. I never bothered to ask Bear what would happen if it rained – the nuts and bolts would most likely sink into the mud and the exposed motors would be waterlogged and more prone to rust. I wasn’t a mechanic, but I understood not to leave anything metal out in the elements. I’d left my bike out overnight once when I was younger. It rained that night. When I went out the next morning, the chain was drying out and the tires were waterlogged because the rain collected where I had left my bike. Plus it looked like stray cats used it as a scratching post / litter box. But I knew better than to say anything to Bear. Clearly he had a system that worked for him, even if it didn’t work for anybody else. Towards sunset I packed up my tools and walked out of the graveyard.
Bear was waiting for me at the top of the hill. Fucking great, I thought. He surprised me by smiling. From the look of it, though, he didn’t smile often.

“So how’d it go in there today?” he asked, slapping me on the back.


“Why don’t you come on over and sit for a bit. It was a little hot today. How about something cold to drink?”

It had been humid that day the way late June can be in southern Ohio; I’d brought water with me, but something cold sounded good. Bear directed me to a kitchen table and four wicker back chairs sitting outside the small trailed he lived in. “Have a seat.” I chose the chair that looked the sturdiest and sat down while he went into the trailer and came back out carrying a couple of cans. “All I have is this Hamm’s Ice,” he said, handing me a beer. That wasn’t the first beer I’d ever had, but it was probably the greenest. Even though the can was ice cold, the beer went down sickly warm and left an aftertaste like dirty socks in my mouth. He must’ve noticed the face I made because he chuckled to himself and shook his head.

“So, Kid… how you like the graveyard so far?” he asked.

“I like it fine,” I said, lighting a cigarette to get the taste out of my mouth. I looked aound, hoping a customer would pull in and give me an excuse to leave. Highway 67 was empty.

“There was a time when this was a good location,” he said. “Used to get a lot of traffic out this way.” He took another drink, draining his can. “Not so much now.” He crushed the can and tossed it in a pile of empties next to the trailer. “Recycling,” he remarked, with a chuckle. Then he stood up. “You want another?”

I shook my head. “I’m good.” When Bear walked back inside to grab himself another beer, I looked at my watch. It was nearly six. I could tell him my mom expects me at home, I thought. Then I thought better of it. A guy like Bear McGee wouldn’t respect a guy who ran home to his mother. He came back out and put another can of beer in front of me. Then sat down and cracked his open.

“So,” he said, “Carl says you’re seein’ his daughter.”


Bear smiled. “I wouldn’t worry,” he said. “Carl’s a push over. That girl’s got him wrapped around her little pinky finger.” He took an swig and smiled. “Like she proly has you wrapped around the other one.” He laughed. “I haven’ seen her in a while. I hear she’s all grown, though.”


“Carl says she’s gonna go to college.”


He nodded. “Well, that’s good. I always wanted to go, myself. But it just wasn’t in the cards,” he

shook his head. “What about you?”

“What about me?” I was bus trying to get to the bottom of that can without puking.

“Are you going to college?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. I guess. They’re always telling us we need to think about it. My mom wants me to go. Ape thinks I should go.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think they both sound like the guidance counselor,” I said. “And I don’t like her very much.” When the words left my mouth I immediately regretted them. After all, I wasn’t being exactly honest. I wasn’t so much excited about going to college as I was about the prospect of getting out. But that was something, right?

Bear laughed like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. He nodded. “Yeah, I felt the same way. Fucking people telling you what to do what to do and what to be. It’s all damn useless.”
I nodded and looked down into my can of beer. It was almost empty; but the second was was sitting there, getting warm and waiting for me.

“I think you’ll do just fine here once you get the hand of things,” Bear remarked. “And there’s plenty there to keep you busy. I was wondering, though, if you’d like to help me with something.”

I drained the first can and steeled myself for the seond. “What’s that?”

“I need to put up a fence, he said. “Around the graveyard. Just in front. So nobody can see it from the road.”

“Why? You can’t really see it from the road unless you’re looking."

Bear’s eyes narrowed and darkened. “It’s the goddamn Sheriff. He’s been trying to close me down for years. He dropped by this morning and gave me a ticket. Told me people were complaining. Called me a public blight.” He grunted and took a another drink of his beer. “Told me if I didn’t get it cleaned up, or at least get a fence around it, he’d get a judge to close me down.”

“Can they do that? You live here, right?”

He nodded. “Don’t matter. The Sheriff, he’s been trying to close me down for years. Even back when he was just a local cop.” Bear shook his head. “Anyway. I tried telling him about you… about how you’re going through and cleaning things up for me… but that’s not enough. Nope. He told me if I didn’t get it take care of by Monday, he’d come back with a court order.”


“Yeah. Listen, I just need help,” Bear said. “I can get the fencing. I just need someone to help me put it up. Interested?”

“Sure.” Even I knew that Sheriff Tom Ainkle was a pain in the ass. He’d been Sheriff for as long as I could remember, and he was one of the principle reasons why the township was still dry and why the only two non-white families – a black family from Cincinnati and a family of Mexicans looking for work – had decided to pack up and leave. Naturally, though, the older folks and the church goers liked him; and he made sure to exploit that every election season. “I’m in.”

Bear nodded approvingly. He made no mention of money. “It’ll have to be done Saturday. Can you get here Saturday morning? Say around 8? I should be awake by then.”

I nodded and downed the second can so I could get out of there. “I gotta go,” I choked. “Ape’s expecting me.”

“You don’t want to keep a girl like her waiting,” he smiled. “I know I wouldn’t.”

21 October, 2009

Rusted Out Minotaurs and Other Mythological Creatures: Part 1 of 7

“It ain't a hard job,” Bear McGee said to me through his cigarette. “All you’re doing is taking things apart and organizing them into piles.”

Looking around the piles of old lawn mowers, motorcycles, and bicycles, it was difficult to know where to begin. None of the piles were tall – but they covered a lot of territory. Bear McGee’s Motor Graveyard took up every bit of three acres, right next to Highway 67 about ten miles from town in either direction. He’d been in the same location for more than 20 years and lived in a small trailer on the same property. Bear was a tall, intimidating guy who lived up to his nickname in appearance and demeanor. All he ever wore was a pair of faded blue jeans, worn out steel-toed engineer boots, and a black leather vest, t-shirt optional. His beard was as long and knarly and black as his hair. Rumor was that Bear McGee used to ride with a motorcycle gang. I never heard him deny the rumor; but I never really saw him ride a motorcycle, either. He owned eight or nine of them – but none of them ran. Each one of them were either missing a part, or needed some small bit of repair. He used to tell me he didn’t want to work on motorcycles anymore; that it was easier to just pay somebody else to do it. Then he’d tell me in the same breath that all mechanics were crooks and they just wanted to rob him.

“So Kid, you want the job or not?”

I looked around. I needed the job, even if it didn’t pay that much. Bear never brought up money, and neither did I. He was good friends with my girlfriend April’s dad – who, oddly enough, acted like he liked me – so I figured it would all work out. It was the summer after my senior year of high school; in a couple more months I’d be off to college and free of the small town whose borders seemed to close in a little more every day. I had just quit my last job – my second job ever – as a grocery store stock boy because the manager Alice, an aging bar cooz with topographic face and tits as saggy as her jowls, kept trying to corner me in the back room. I couldn’t see myself working at McDonalds, wearing that ugly ass uniform and trying not to spit on people’s food in between cleaning up kiddie puke in the restroom. No thanks. At least at Bear’s I could wear what I want, smoke if I felt like it, and I didn’t have to worry about how I looked. I told him I’d take the job.

He grunted his approval. “Start tomorrow,” he said. “Bring your own tools.”

Later that evening when I saw April, she tried to warn me about him. “He’s creepy,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

She shook her head. “It’s just the way he looks, and… the last time I was there I caught him … STARING at me… you know?” She shivered. “It was just creepy.”

“You weren’t wearing the red tank top were you?” I asked. I liked it when she wore the red tank top.

She slapped me hard on the arm. “You’re disgusting,” she said. Then she kissed me. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”