Showing posts with label moving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label moving. Show all posts

16 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots -- Anticipation

I was traveling when my wife and got together. Our courtship was one of distance and of patience: letters, emails, phone calls when a charged battery and available cell towers permitted. The pattern of my leavings started even before that, though, back when we were still just friends, still in our 20's, both of us, I think, still searching, though for very different things. I remember going to tell her I was going to drop out of college. It was a deliberate trip out to see her. I went alone because anything I said I only wanted to say to her. She greeted me in a gorgeous sun dress and when I told her I was leaving, the light left her face like the sun disappears behind a storm cloud.  

But because our courtship probably would not have existed without my leavings, they have been a part of our relationship from the start. 

She knows I have to go from time to time because the ticky-tock thing in my gut won't stop long enough for me to stay home like normal people do. I call that behavior normal because it is the most common, and for those who choose it I say have at it. I love my wife and I love my home -- Louisville, Kentucky breaks my heart like no other place I have ever lived. But still, when the wind kicks up, the current shifts, and urge to go sweeps up upon me, it's bad business to ignore it. And though I've written about it before, I feel like I need to reiterate: traveling as I do is not the same as a vacation. It's true that I often visits friends when I travel. But a vacation is, by definition and practice a respite from normal living to go and do something outside of the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine for the purposes of being able to reintegrate back into that same routine with renewed vigor.

I decided that was bullshit 20 years ago, and life has done nothing to change my mind.

And while it's true that I love being home when I am home, I always feel like I'm in between trips. No matter how present I try to be, no matter the fact that I love my life, my wife, our home, and the grand art we are creating in building our life together, the fact is I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to better perfect my pack so that when I go, I'm as streamlined and prepared as possible. I buy clothes based on durability and utility (pockets).  It's not even an active thing on my part. It's just how my brain is wired.

So when the wind kicks up... I go.

But I always know the way home, even if it's the long way.
Please check out my work for sale on Amazon.  

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11 January, 2010

Value-Added Tax

“How much you lookin’ for?”

Not even a Hello, or a Hi how you doing. The fat man behind the counter of the Maxed Out Pawn and Retail shop wasn’t looking at me. He was looking at the guitar I’d come to pawn. It was a left-handed folk-style acoustic, and I’d been lugging it around from place to place for 15 years. The last time I actually played the thing had been maybe 10 years before and even then it was simply because I was bored and just picking around. No particular tune; I had hadn’t even looked at music in so long I wasn’t sure I remembered how to read it.

I knew the fat man was the manager because the other two lackeys deferred to him when I offered them my guitar, along with some other things I didn’t need anymore: some DVDs; a few video games; a PS2 with two memory cards; a coffee grinder; a portable radio. It was time to move and I needed some more cash to make that happen; the job I’d gone to Arizona for had run out and it was time to get before things got worse. The business cards next to the register were engraved with the fat man’s name: Abe Azumouthe, Manager. He was bald with a comfortable man’s paunch and a neatly trimmed salt and pepper Fuck You goatee that barely disguised his lack of a chin. His eyes were heavy lidded and dark and his name made me think of an open air market in Tangiers, though I had never been there in my life.

“70 bucks,” I answered, trying to sound confident. After all, it WAS a left-handed guitar; 20 years ago it had cost me almost twice as much as the right-handed version of the same guitar. I knew it wasn’t a Name Brand and that I wouldn’t get what I knew it was worth; so I lowered my expectations to what I thought was a reasonable price. I tried to meet his gaze and show him I was somebody worth taking seriously, but he never once looked me in the eye. He wasn’t avoiding me so much as refusing to acknowledge my physical presence.

He arched his left eye-brow a little, but he didn’t let go of the guitar. “70?” He shook his head. “For a used Korean-made acoustic?”

Fuck. What did he know about value? So what if it was a Korean-made guitar? Brand new that guitar was 200 bucks; and yes, it had some wear and tear, but looking at some of the other instruments he had for sale, my guitar was in as good a shape as any of those. The problem was I looked desperate; there I was, lugging a bunch of shit into his store and it was crystal fucking clear that I needed the money. It was close to Christmas, and I thought maybe that might inspire a little empathy on his part; but it was nothing doing. Good ol’ Abe Azumouthe didn’t give a shit about Christmas, me, or the fact that he could charge three times what he paid me just because it was (after all) a left-handed acoustic. Maybe if he’d been a lefty, he would have understood how rare it is to find anything made for us; scissors don’t work. School desks are always backwards. Doors always open the wrong direction. Erasable ink always smudges. Even spiral back notebooks are made wrong when you’re a lefty. And some desperate left-handed bastard would walk into his store, see my guitar, and pay whatever he had to pay. Just because. Just like I had.

His two lackeys – who looked like they worked there to get good deals on pawned instruments and studio equipment – didn’t look at me either. They were pawing through the rest of the things I brought. I looked at them. Come on, I thought. You guys know how difficult this is; you know it’s worth more than what I’m asking.

“60.” I thought if I came down, I’d look reasonable. Ok, so I wouldn’t get what I wanted; but I figured I could get something – enough to get me where I needed to go. I still tried to look him in the eye, and he still denied my existence while he ran his sausage fingers up and down the fret board and along the body. Him doing that gave me the willies; it made the hairs stand up on my neck and made me a little stick to my stomach.

It hadn’t been an easy decision to sell the guitar. I deliberated for a week, but I had been thinking about it for more than a year. I mean, it wasn’t like I still PLAYED the thing. I hadn’t played the guitar seriously since I discovered I lacked not only the talent, but the long fingers that make for a kick-ass guitarist. I could pick around on it okay; I had a bit of an ear for music, but was by no means a prodigy. And since I’d been (un)fortunate enough to actually be around people who not only had the raw talent, but they had the KNACK for it – I understood all too well what my father had tried to tell me when I first told him of my intention to be a musician. A rock star, I told him. I actually told the old man I want to be a rock star. He didn’t laugh; that wasn’t his way. But he did tell me he didn’t think I could do it. That was the first time he’d ever told me there was something I wasn’t good enough to do; and I never really forgave him for it, even after I stopped playing and carried it around – some memento mori of a dead dream.

The fat man came back with his offer. “20.” His fat lips wrapped around the number like one of the expensive fat-cat cigars he probably smoked when he wasn’t ripping people off. The bastard was waiting for me to answer the insult; his lackeys were busy playing one of the video games I’d brought – one with an orange bandicoot trying to collect magic icons to save the world. That had been one of the few games my daughter liked playing when she used to visit; now she was too busy on the other side of the country with high school and a predatory looking boyfriend who tried to talk to me on the phone once. He asked me my name, like we were going to be friends. “My name is Rhea’s Dad.” For some reason, both he and my daughter found my answer hilariously funny.

I wanted to rip the plump  lips off ol' Abe's face and ask him how much he’d give for them. I tried another tactic instead. “It’s a LEFT-HANDED guitar. They’re pretty rare. Most people just re-string a right-handed guitar and end up destroying the bridge. 50 bucks.” After all, I told myself, money is money. All I needed was enough cash to get my ass out of the desert outpost that was Phoenix, Arizona. The land of strip malls and strangled palm trees had lured me with the promise of a job – a job dependent on the ballooning real estate economy. Phoenix was the fasted growing city in the country, and people were talking about it growing beyond Maricopa County and stretching as far north as Flagstaff and as far south as Tucson. People were moving in; houses were being built. People moved their families and those families had kids who needed teachers at state schools with an almost affordable in-state tuition.

When the balloon burst, the fall out wasn’t immediate. It started with small budget cuts: limiting printer paper and freezing pay rates. Then came furloughs. Then pink slips. The university let the part-timers go first, and then increased our class sizes. There was talk about increasing course loads, cutting back the pay. There was talk of limiting our contracts to a semester by semester basis. Then the talk stopped and these things happened – all while the department chair went on sabbatical and the university President received $10,000 bonuses for saving the university money. I decided to get out before the balloon burst in my face.

The fact fucker shook his roly-poly head, all while still not looking directly at me. Now he was looking THROUGH me like I wasn’t even there, while his sausage fucking fingers fondled my guitar like a child molester on holiday in an elementary school playground. Watching him touch the fret board gave me the willies; the hairs on my neck stood on end and I was getting sick to my stomach. I imagined popping his pudge encased head like an engorged zit. It was less than he deserved.

The lackeys had moved on to trying out a different video game – this one was a game where you car-jacked people and got points for killing cops and committing various crimes. That, beer, and pizza had pretty much gotten me through graduate school. The lackeys were laughing at how hokey the graphics were. I wondered what kind of car ol’ Abe Azumouthe drove. There was a brand new Land Rover parked out front; maybe that was his. After I popped his head like a zit, I could steal his Land Rover and drive my ass back east instead of taking the bus. All I’d have to do is change license plates every so often, and then I could ditch it somewhere in Oklahoma.

“45.” I was getting desperate.

“25.” He was losing patience with me; I could tell. He wasn’t fondling the guitar anymore and his tone, instead of sounding apathetic and heartless, was starting to sound insulted. Like he was saying You wanna come into MY store and get me to over pay for your junk? You’re the loser here; you’re the one who has to sell your shit ‘cause you need the money. You’re a bum and you want me to PAY you for being a bum?

“Come on,” I resigned. “How about 35? You know you’re going to sell it for five times that anyway.” As I looked at him, I imagined him turning into a giant cockroach. I hated cockroaches, ever since I saw those fat water roaches down in New Orleans, a strolling the sidewalks like they owned the place. As far as I could tell, they served no purpose at all. I tolerated most bugs. Flies. Spiders. Even Mud daubers, bees, and those annoying cicadas that come out every 17 years in Cincinnati. But a roach was a useless, filthy bug. And, as far as I could tell, so was Abe Azumouthe.

I took a breath and waited, preparing my next attack. I knew I wasn’t going to be walking out with anywhere near the amount of money I needed; but I wanted him to understand. I wasn’t even sure why I thought it was important he understand. But I thought maybe, just maybe, if I explained that the guitar – my guitar – was the first thing I’d ever bought with my own money. That I spent a summer working a shit job for a grocery store manager who was an even bigger fascist fuck than he was, and that I made weekly payments for 3 months until I was able to get the thing in my hands. That everytime I went to make a payment, the music store owner let me see and touch the guitar – though never for more than five minutes and never if there was another customer in the store. That the guitar – my guitar – had come to symbolize the silence that fell between me and my dad. That the silence that never lifted, even when he was in the hospital ICU dying (because I had forgotten how to talk to him), with my mother spending nights in chair next to his bed, trying desperately to talk him into being healthy again. That I was never able to apologize or tell him he was right. That even if he was still alive, I probably wouldn’t have apologized anyway, regardless of how much I wanted to.

“30 bucks,” Abe Azumouthe proclaimed. “The most I’ll go is 30. Take it or leave it.”

Sigh. “I’ll take it.”

The lackeys gave me another 30 for the other stuff I’d brought. I wasn’t in any mood to argue. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. The manager had moved on. He was talking to a customer, trying to sell him a pink bicycle for his daughter – a Christmas present. His tone was jovial, and he looked the man straight in the eye.

I signed the receipt and another form acknowledging that none of the stuff I’d brought in was stolen. Then I had to stamp it with my forefinger using one of those inkless stamp pads like they use in banks sometimes for people trying to cash an outside check. It wasn’t as humiliating as being fingerprinted – I knew the difference from a run-in with the police in Lexington, Kentucky – but it was just as dehumanizing. It’s so easy to boil people down to their finger print, their social security number, how much money they make. Or how much money they don’t make. I walked out of the store with my 60 bucks and walked back to the apartment so I could finish packing.