Black Friday

I am going to buy some shit today. I am going to buy some neat, local stuff. I am going to buy some stuff from great, big companies that make beautiful and well-designed things. I’ll buy stuff from giant, soul-sucking corporations, too. I am going to Etsy my ass off, Amazon my brains out, and get my zen on at Zappos. I am not eating leftovers. I am consuming like a champion. I am going to have a smile for everyone I meet. Bang those UPS trucks up to the dock, baby, lift those doors and bring the dollies. Open your arms. It’s Christmas, see? Bake me some toffee and bring me a $5 coffee. You want to party with me, and I want to party with you.

Leftover husband skills

There was a girl I was interested in
but I’d forgotten how to flirt
and all I could remember how to do was
offer to carry some of her old things away.
She put me off and finally said OK.
I lent her my leftover husband skills,
put an old bathroom sink in my truck and hauled it off.
We went for ice cream and I never went back again.
It didn’t mean much.
She was just a friend.

Last week, I went to see another girl who needed mulch.
She grows daylilies in her flower beds
and out back by gardens in black plastic pots.
I told her I didn’t think it was enough, but
fifty bags of cypress was all she bought.
I lent her my leftover husband skills
and put the bags around her beds, but
she didn’t ask me to stay and spread.
She handed me her weed eater, said
she couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
I put a new line in.
It didn’t mean much.
She was just a friend.

Tonight, I saw a girl named Jen
with a bookcase from Target, the parts piled in a corner
because her camlocks were cockeyed and half screwed in.
She’d been in tears because she couldn’t assemble it herself
even though once she’d built an IKEA shelf.
I lent her my leftover husband skills
and tightened everything down,
lined up the particleboard and put the pegs in.
Her printer wasn’t working, so I talked her through that.
It didn’t mean much.
She is just a friend.

I saw a movie the other day
about divorced couples and the messes we find ourselves in.
The husband sneaks back to his old place at night
and waters the rosebushes out of mind, out of sight.
He couldn’t stop worrying what he’d always worried about.
As I watched the movie, I worried about him
lending leftover husband skills like an alcoholic habit.
You could see how silly it was to live like that.
I thought he would, but
he didn’t get his wife back at the end.
The credits rolled.
She was just a friend.

The Dad I had

My Dad wasn’t that great.

He wasn’t. He hardly ever grilled steak. He never took me to baseball games or explained the split-finger fastball while we watched them on TV. Football? Nope. He did not teach me to throw, how to change the oil in my car, or fistfight without getting clobbered.

Dad was pretty much an isolationist. I have few memories of visitors at our home, except for visits from his brother, who would only stay a few minutes, then leave. He always parked his car where he could get away quickly. Uncle Ark would say things like, “You are no bigger than a pound of soap after a week’s washing.”

I pestered the shit out of Dad to take me someplace and teach me to swim. It always seemed he couldn’t. I could tell he was putting it off. Finally, he took me to Dawson Springs, and he gave up. He said, “I don’t think you’re going to learn to do this.” He was right; I never did.

He did not teach me to drive. I learned from a cousin on my Mom’s sister’s Opel Cadet. I drove into a ditch the first time I tried to turn and downshift at the same time.

Dad stayed in the garage a lot. He liked to fix things, and would get on kicks where he was into découpage, or making doodads out of plaster-of-paris. For a while he was into making these little miniature chairs by cutting tin cans into strips and curling them with a special tool that looked like a screwdriver with a slot cut in the end. He would stay down there for hours. I used to go hang with him and pepper him with questions. I don’t remember anything great he ever said, any pearls of wisdom that I took into adulthood. I can’t remember anything we talked about, really.

He didn’t laugh a lot. When Dad got older, he was uncomfortable with his age. I went into radio although he’d advised against it. He said I did not have the talent for it. I spent nearly three decades proving him wrong. When his radio career was winding down – it never was a business in which one could age gracefully – I thought he seemed uncomfortable with tales I would tell of my own career. That’s an awful thing to say, but I could feel it. He had regrets, it seemed to me. He seemed sad.

Dad had no business sense whatever. He was terrible with money. He would forget to pay the light bill. He did his bookkeeping from the visor of the family Ford. Every few years, we would move to another small town where he would get better pay.

He was really skinny, with big hands. He never, ever wore shorts, or had anything like a tan.

At the end, he was wiring houses, crawling in attics in 90+ heat. He became ill, and died at age 60 from pancreatic cancer. It went through him like Sherman through Georgia, as he would have said. He was dead in a month. He asked to return home for the end. A day or so later, he woke up, looked at Mom and said, “I’m not going to make it,” and died right there.

He was my Dad, and I loved him.

He bought me albums and 45’s on the radio station’s record store account. I had more music than anyone. We always had an amp and a turntable and some speaker setup he’d cobbled together. Other kids had dads that did boring things, like sell insurance or plumbing. Mine was a top 40 DJ. He liked Sly and the Family Stone and George Carlin before he had long hair. He gave three checkmarks (his high rating) to “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot” on Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffitti.” Yes, he listened to it. He took me to my first concert, Chicago in Bowing Green, Kentucky. He thought the B-side to to “Everyday People” was as good as the A-side. It was called “Everybody is a Star.” Beat that.

He wrapped Christmas gifts like it was the most important thing in the world. He went nuts with it, all on Christmas Eve after I’d gone to bed. The next day, there would be presents halfway out into the living room floor, each one a masterpiece of ribbon and wrapping paper. I take pains wrapping gifts to this day.

The only things he never fixed were automobiles. We always had crappy cars. He once bought a ’51 Dodge hearse as a second car. It was enormous, with a giant chrome Ram’s head on the hood and fold-down seats. He ran a stop sign in a rainstorm one night, hit a Toyota and crumpled it like tin. No one was hurt. I wanted him to get the hearse restored, but he never could find the parts or anyone to fix it. He sold it for a couple hundred bucks. It used to sit behind a soldier’s dive bar outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I’d see it when I drove by and think it was a shame we didn’t keep it.

Otherwise, though, Dad was handy as hell. He could drywall, build a cabinet, turn a lathe, or stick his hands in a live broadcast transmitter and fix it without getting electrocuted. He built furniture and remodeled the inside of the house on odd whims. He’d fix anything for anybody.

He kept his shoes impeccably shiny, and had shelves full of them. He liked colorful shirts.

He never yelled at me or my sister. He worshipped her. One time we were walking in the Big K department store in Madisonville, Kentucky and Bobbi saw a Coke machine and asked, “Daddy, can I have a Coke?” He replied in his voice, deep as whale shit, “Daughter, we have Cokes at home.” Not missing a beat, she asked, “Can I have a Dr. Pepper, then?” He smiled like a sunrise and caved.

He taught me to read, and basic math by kindergarten. He read books all the time, with the radio station on in a little white plastic earpiece and the TV on at the same time. He never, ever mispronounced a word, or let any of his announcers get away with it. He claimed he’d read the dictionary cover-to-cover. His vocabulary lent credence to this.

He rebuilt the control rooms in almost every station he worked. He’d make it easier for the DJ’s to start the turntables, and organize pie charts for music format clocks. He could talk a song intro without stepping on the vocal with no headphones on.

He once got into a heated argument with an owner who wanted the announcers to stop reading “bad news about the economy” because the owner thought it would discourage business. Dad was really angry about that. He thought it was unethical to edit the news over money. He later quit. He didn’t like that owner very much. Neither did I; I worked for him later.

And even though Dad said I wouldn’t ever be any good at it, he did give me my first job in radio. I played recorded church services on Sunday mornings, then later worked doing overnights six days a week for $75. I got angry and broke the station’s headphones one night, because I’d made an on-air mistake. Dad could have fired me for that, but he didn’t.

Later in life, he stopped being an agnostic, and he and Mom went to a little church down the street. He fixed stuff, and made sure the little P.A. system worked. Everyone loved him. When he went to the hospital, and the doctors gave him the bad news, he held his dignity, did not complain, and kept his spirit the best he could. I didn’t visit as much as I should have, because I did not know what to say. I remember just wanting to get away. That was very selfish. I didn’t have any tools to deal with death, so when I got the call the morning he died, I just pushed my face back into the pillow for a few minutes before my girlfriend told me to get up, you have to go join the family. That was 16 years ago.

A few months back, I took home some stuff Mom had kept in “Dad’s closet.” We were moving her to Nashville. She’d sold the home she and Dad lived in, and they were going to raze it to put up a convenience store. There were some papers, including a letter of reference from a radio station general manager in Cadiz, Kentucky, who said Dad was a hard worker who did “a great job with ‘the spots.’ ” There was also an application for unemployment compensation. That hit me like sock in the jaw. I realized then that Dad had worked a lot of jobs, worked hard his whole life, and had sometimes struggled to raise his two kids and support Mom after she stopped working. I remembered what the father of a best friend said to me at Dad’s funeral. He said, “Art, Bob was just dealt a bad hand.” I didn’t know what to make of that, and often I still don’t.

That was my Dad. He wasn’t that great. He was just a guy doing his best, like all of us. He was the Dad I had.

Rest well, Bob Wicks. I agree with you on that B-side. “I love you for who you are, not the one you feel you need to be.”

Aged to imperfection.

I am leery of reunions. I am especially leery of rock and roll reunions, those “let’s get the band back together” things. They usually mean someone needs money for a liver transplant, or wants to relive a time that was and isn’t anymore. Mainly, though, it just freaks me out seeing people age. I prefer the delusion that becoming less young is something that happens to other people.

So when I started seeing posts in my FB feed from Tommy Womack that there would be a pair of Government Cheese reunion gigs in Bowling Green and Nashville, I surprised myself by buying tickets. I think maybe the Ambien had something to do with it; the interwebs and sleepy pills are a recipe for the arrivals of all manner of shipments – both physical and virtual – on my life’s doorstep. The next morning my inbox reminded me I’d made a cash commitment. I was ambivalent.

Saturday rolled around, and I was still on the fence about going. The show was billed as one of two shows in the “25 Year Reunion Tour,” a wee bit of irony from a bunch of guys with a catalog of tunes never lacking for wit.

For readers who are saying, “Government Who?” I will offer a brief bit of unauthorized background. The Cheese was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky around 1985, and had a ten-year career playing clubs, making a few records, and living the rock and roll dream – not the one you used to see in album cover liner notes, but the real one, with drunks, destroyed bathrooms, shitty PA systems and Motel 6’s where the light was not only not on for ya, but busted out by whoever was there last night.

The late 80’s and early 90’s were a bit of a glory era in Nashville rock and roll. Reigning supreme were Jason and the Nashville Scorchers, who later dropped the “Nashville” from their name. Their gigs at the old Cantrell’s were legendary. I was there one night when the toilets in the mens’ room got all smashed up, and the floor in front of the stage was an inch deep in you-know-what.

There was also The Questionnaires, Walk The West and In Pursuit, and some others that aren’t coming to mind, not because they weren’t good (ok, some of them probably weren’t), but because I spent a lot of those years about half tanked at the Gold Rush. I was particularly a Questionnaires fan, even though Tom Littlefield of that band took delight in telling me how much I sucked because I worked at a commercial rock radio station that played Journey and REO Speedwagon records. Guilty as charged. Tom never was very subtle.

Government Cheese was a bit on the periphery of the Nashville scene. Part of it was their Kentucky roots, I think; and the other part was because Nashville club audiences didn’t quite know what to make of them. I’m not going to trot out a bunch of pseudo-rock-journalist cliches to try and describe their music. I’ll just say they were loud, fast, quirky, clever and twisted. “MaMaw Drives The Bus.” “Fish Stick Day.” “Camping on Acid.” And a cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” that was 100 times better than the original. I loved them.

The gig was at The Rutledge, a fine live room and bar on 4th, about two blocks from the object of Littlefield’s hatred, WKDF, where drummer Joe King (AKA Joe Elvis) and I worked before consultants wrung all the life out of it and Journey gave way to George Strait. Over the stage was the banner from gigs of years past, the words “Government Cheese” in zeppelin-shaped letters being pulled on a string by a strung out, tongue-out freak carrying a sign reading, “I am a rock and roll fool.” Some nice 80’s era punk was blaring on the PA, and somewhere a fog machine was making the obligatory smoke in the can-lights over the stage.

I met some old cohorts from the KDF days. Most looked well and healthy. Squeegie wasn’t drunk yet, and Buddy is a chiropractor. Write your own joke. On my way in the door, I wondered if the audience for a Cheese 25-year reunion would send me screaming; I was surprised at how well everyone looked. They looked like, well, like adults, but mostly cool ones, ready for a good time. Yeah, there were plenty of bald pates and droopy boobs, but all in all, folks were upbeat, smiling and ready to rock. There was no air of decrepitude like the time I went to see The Long Players do “Revolver.”

What I didn’t know was that “well and healthy” did not extend to the linchpin of the band: Tommy Womack, who, as much as anyone “is” Government Cheese, is Government Cheese. He was somewhere offstage, hydrating. We learned that his appearance that night had been cast into doubt by a roiling stomach-flu-something-or-other and a pit stop that very afternoon at the Southern Hills ER. He relates the story here better than I can tell it.

The band walked out. There was an extra guitar player. Is that, that, Warner Hodges? Warner Fucking HODGES? I was caught halfway somewhere between incredulity and delight. Warner was (is) the guitar player for the aforementioned Scorchers. I used to drink (among other things) with him in the old Gold Rush days. Here’s what you need to know about Warner: he is a guitar god, a real one. Yes, rock and roll is full of ’em, but Warner was zapped by lightning and spanked by a fretboard from the minute he started breathing on this earth. Anybody who has ever seen the Scorchers knows how otherworldly, loud, frantic and powerful he is. The rest of you, well, shit. Go see him if ever you can.

And off they went. And off and off and off. They did the Cheese hits. Yes, by God, there were Cheese hits, even if your lame ass missed them from ’85-’95. Those songs came back to me, pop! Crack! Kick! I wasn’t the only one, not by a long shot. A look around showed the packed house still knew the words.

Tommy was still wearing his hospital wristband. He looked a little dazed at first, but with Tommy, how can you tell? And the rest of the guys… well, these were not guys trying to recapture anything. They weren’t nostalgic in the least bit. They were in the moment, the three-chord, turn-it-to-11 NOW. Tommy posted on FB that it “may have been the best Government Cheese gig ever,” and he should know. It was certainly the best one I ever saw. They are better players now, even if they had, as Tommy put it, “a few train wrecks” and Skot and Viva almost injured themselves in a frenetic crash on the stage. (For a second, it looked like Skot had broken his nose.)

The addition of Warner gave the band a whole new magnitude of kick-ass. What was even better was he’d been called in last minute, when it looked like Tommy was going to be all IV’d up and in the hospital for the night. I shook hands with Warner during a break and he said he didn’t know any of those songs; they’d called him in a panic in the afternoon, and he’d been through one soundcheck to learn what he could. The guys said as much from the stage. They smiled and laughed a lot. I told Warner, “You guys look like you’re having fun.” He said, “It’s SUPPOSED to be fun.” ‘Nuff said.

Listen, the thing, that thing? The magic and electric thing that is live rock and roll? I dunno if I can add anything to that. But I sure did feel it Saturday night. I remember thinking, “Every kid with a fucking guitar should hear this.” It wasn’t a clinic; it was just real. They were tight and they were sloppy. They screwed up and they were perfect. They distorted and they rang like iron and brass. Skot was wearing a Ramones t-shirt, and he and his bandmates did Joey proud. My ears were ringing on my way out. The radio in my car sounded like it had a blanket over the speakers; my midrange was temporarily shot, like it’s supposed to be after a good show.

Confession: I left before the end. I don’t stay out as late as I did in the 80’s (or 90’s and 00’s, for that matter). I am a rock and roll fool, but not so much past 11:30. By the door, I was standing next to the swag table, looking at the t-shirts, black with the old stenciled logo. A gruff, loud voice said, “You need to get you one o’ them.” I turned. It was Tom Littlefield. I didn’t recognize him at first. When I said so, he flipped me off and stalked off toward the room, where the Cheese and Warner wailed on into the night.

Thanks for a great night, guys. You haven’t aged well; you are well.

Rock on.

When legal writes weather alerts.

This, pasted from the Weather Channel site and the fine folks at the National Weather Service. It’s the best example of how to say “we don’t know diddley, but we are not sure how to admit that.” Attorneys take years of deep schooling to learn to write like this (caps are theirs, not mine):

issued by The National Weather Service
Nashville, TN
3:26 pm CST, Mon., Jan. 24, 2011



I think I would like to go
See the ocean for a while,
Wear sandy khaki and a holey tshirt
And smell the salty air while winding down the sunset.
I’ll sit and get that “what are we gonna do now?” feeling
Before remembering
That I don’t have to do anything.
I can watch the waves roll in,
Take a walk with you,
Eat or make love or fall fast asleep –
Anything completely offhand, unplanned,
While the water froths
and palm fronds hiss above the ice cream sand.


Some of you may remember knowing a few families who used to send out an annual story of the year at Christmastime, usually personally delivered by a real-life postman in ear-muffs. You’d know it was from “The Lawrence Family” because the penmanship on the envelope was in the same flowing script every year, one of a score hand-addressed by say, Mary, who went on to work for a healthcare company, printshop, or ad agency. “Susie finally wedded Max in a rainy ceremony in June and the cake turned into a soggy mess, but we all had fun anyway, except Martha, who broke her hip. Heather took second place in dance at the state competitions in Chattanooga. Daddy succumbed to cancer but his memory lives on in every ornamental cherry blossom in the springtime.”

Then there are the rest of you, who have never seen or received one of these, but still know hundreds, if not thousands of Lawrences, by post, tweet and “like,” their dance trophies, wedding and funeral bouquets fluttering and sparkling like droplets in the clouds of our digital days.

They are all good and always have been, these sharings great and small. I do not write to compare eras of giving; giving just is. And if the ubiquity of connectedness seems to have rendered the moments less meaningful to some, let them be forgiven for missing the calligrapher’s pen and the heft of a letter-opener in the hand.

Being one to have found joy both in a mailbox at driveway’s end and a pocket-screen during lunchtime at Germantown Cafe, I offer a few random reminisces from this year. Some I’ve written about already. I’m going to leave a bunch of stuff out, some intentionally and some not. Don’t try to parse importance by the completeness or order of the record. Miss Mary was a better writer; I am just sentimental.

I’ll start with #thesituation2010, as we tweeted it. Snow in Nashville is a big deal, and we had some snows last winter in which even Yankees could spinout and lose a fender. Yanks always say we don’t know how to drive, or fuck-all about salting roadways, and they’re right. Big whoop. We made soup, tweeted, and pretended we were living on crust of bread and such for a few fine days before a glorious spring arrived, on time, and like clockwork.

While we were arguing over the #situation2010 hashtag, Haitians were digging out – are still digging out – from the horrific earthquake of January 12. Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent piece about Why the Revolution Won’t Be Tweeted, and he may be right; however, the fact is that many folks of a certain younger age learned, as I did, of the disaster on Twitter or Facebook. Within days, we’d texed a zillion dollars in contributions, which has to mean something, even if Haiti remains one of the world’s most truly god-awful places on the planet. Help is help; I haven’t the moral acumen to judge, but I can pray, and send money, so I did.

Someone said during the year that Nashville’s seasons have been ice, flood and hell; May brought the rains, and the Cumberland and its tributaries hopped out of their banks as easily as 1,2,3. Like every flood, it seemed like a suckerpunch after the destruction was wrought. Prefab buildings shared freeways with sputtering cars, and the Schermerhorn’s pipe-organ was wiped out; but the fact was, it started like just a really rainy weekend before we all started noticing that uh-oh, did they just say the levee at Metrocenter could be compromised? My memories are still of the laughing 20-somethings jumping off the backs of trucks rolling down my street, leaving bottled water on doorsteps because we we were suddenly on water conservation measures, and running downtown Monday morning, seeing Ghost Ballet all awry in the waters. Anderson Cooper came, and everybody had the “big media is ignoring us because we have redneck accents” blues up until that point. Then we got all feel-good because he said on primetime CNN what we already knew, which is that we man-and-woman-up when we need to, thankyouverymuch. There was no truth to the rumor that lady 30-somethings were sending panties up to his room. I think.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention Christy Frink, who started tweeting during the flood what she could gather from her living room, which is also the HQ of the Nashvillest blog, a labor of love if there ever was one. (She and Morgan Levy do not even accept Google ads on the site; they just do it because, um, they want to.) It became apparent that even the mainstream media was getting its news from a lady in pj’s, banging it out on the internets. I’d see it in my stream, then some bedraggled reporter on Channel Four would say five minutes later, “We are getting reports…” Christy was the defacto media center for all things flood. I think she stayed awake for four days on nothing but Cheese Nips and coffee, and if you wanted to know if the levee was holding, or if your aunt’s place in Bellevue had made it, Christy had probably posted it from her orangy-yellow stained keyboard. I had the honor of meeting her for the first time later in the year. Listen, if I was 20 years younger, she wouldn’t have a chance. I’d follow her around like a puppy.

Nashville cleaned up, the waters receded, and the city rebuilt and rebuilds; Christy took a nap, and suddenly it got hot. Stupid hot. Circuit breakers and AC compressors arced and stalled; repairmen were revered when they came to our homes with “the parts that came in.” We all complained, sweat into our sheets, and the snows were a distant memory.

Somewhere in there, the Old Spice guy showed up. An overnight sensation that took six months (hardly anyone remembered Isaiah Mustafa’s Super Bowl debut), an old-guy brand (or more correctly, the ad agency of an old-guy brand) did something obvious: they put him in a studio and shot him doing funny video responses to fans, and then tweeted them. He was all the rage for a while, and made us laugh. It was hailed as the big online marketing success of 2010. I think it was, too. The writing was stellar, and I am told Mr. Mustafa is more fun to look at than me. I concede.

I started online dating in the late fall. I was sheepish about it at first. Everyone is. My divorce was final in February, and I thought, OK, I’m not having any luck at the Hot Bar at Whole Foods, so I signed up as a signal of openness to the Universe. The Universe responded, with some very interesting people. One girl looked like a model, and kissed like you fantasize models kiss; she also told me she’d killed a man. (She said it was an accident, but I wasn’t taking any chances.) Another had me walk Ganier Ridge at Radnor to see if I was really “athletic and toned” like I’d said in my profile. One guy she’d done this with had almost passed out. Ganier is hilly. She is an energy healer, which means she can cure what ails your chakras without even touching you. She never mentioned if she knew CPR.

There were a couple of others; lovely ladies, all, with whom I was beginning to wonder if “chemistry” was a myth, and the fireworks on Love, American Style (if you don’t know this 60’s reference, brush up) was really meant to be replaced by something more, ah, 50-something; something acquired, something not-dazzling-but-very-nice-enough. Then I heard these words, which have changed my life:

“Would you like to see my daughter naked?”

This was Judy. We were in the Frothy Monkey on our first meeting, having that awkward, get-to-know-one-another conversation where two folks are sizing each other up, getting used to one another’s voices and thinking, “I wonder what he/she looks like in better light?” Fair disclosure: one of her three daughters had posed for Alan LeQuire. If you don’t know him, he’s the artist responsible for the Athena in the Parthenon, and Musica in Buddy Killen Circle. Judy had said in her profile she possessed “a wicked sense of humor.” She’d also blown off my initial email contact because she thought I was a smartass, a liberal, and also because she was dating some other guy who was tall and had really big feet.

We ended up talking into the night, and walked up to Blind Pig – which has a hamburger about 10x better than that ostentatious Burger Up place up the street – and closed it down, talking about spirituality, statuary (sorry, sculpture) and our past lives, until the chair legs were up in the air and the Sunday night shift guy was thinking, “Sheesh, leave already.”

There’s a lot more I can say about Judy, and 2010. But I am winding down, and I have gifts to wrap. I will simply say this: I am blessed. I understand grace better than I ever have, which isn’t much, but a start. I am grateful for granddaughter Verdoodle being healthy, and laughing a lot on the rare occasions when I see her. I am grateful for new friends and the rekindling of old acquaintances that have become friends; I am grateful for the ornamental cherry-trees in Germantown, and for positive and helpful people that have been put into my life. I can run six miles, and do an unassisted pullup. I’m happy and sappy, the kind of sappy that makes cool people roll their eyes, wear aviator sunglasses and derisively use the word “pollyanna.” The sun is out, and I have heard it may snow again on Christmas, the first time for Nashville in some statistically unlikely number of years.

So. Love to you all, and joy and peace as the year ends and the elevenses begin.

See you at Frothy.

The Bitchy, The Bored and The Blind

It was the First Saturday Art Crawl. I have to say that the art wasn’t that great, but the people watching was. There were varying degrees of genuine hipness, faux hipness, feigned indifference, and the plain old lost. Sometimes at the Art Crawl I wonder, in which category am I? Then I look at a black-and-white lithograph of a 50’s TV set with an insect on its screen, and remind myself not to worry about it.

I was with three ladies, one of whom was having PMS (I know this because she kept saying so), another who was really jaded about the art (which was OK, since most of it wasn’t good), and a third who is a clothing designer, a really nice girl who couldn’t see very well because she had lasik a few days back. The Bitchy, the Bored, the Blind, and me.

We ate at Koto, then walked over. The girls kept tearing through places, and I tend to saunter, and look at stuff, even bad stuff, because it’s an Art Crawl, and I’m not that jaded about art yet. And I would look at the women. I’m newly single. They would spend about 5 minutes in a place, then be waiting for me on the sidewalk. Then they’d give me a hard time, after Bitchy had already texted, while I was looking at the insect TV piece, “Are you still in there pretending you are interested in the art just to make us wait?” Finally, I offered, “Ladies. You do live here, right? How separated can we get on 5th Avenue? It isn’t Disney World.”

In the Arcade, a pie throw. A guy in a suit with oversized statement frames was sitting in a chair, and you could donate five bucks to something-or-other to throw a pie at him. Bitchy wanted to have a pie thrown at her, instead. She said it was her birthday, which it wasn’t; her birthday’s Tuesday. The statement-frames guy said he’d throw at her, but he missed on purpose. Good thing. Sticky hair does not sound like something to add to cramps and a headache.

We took the shuttle to the Estel Gallery, even though it’s a six-block walk, and at one point a car pulling a trailer with a giant red rooster strapped aboard went by. Bitchy said it was the best art all night.

We rode the six blocks back to 5th, because Blind said that walking in her boots would make her feet hurt. I had complimented her on them earlier. She’d explained to me that they were extravagantly expensive, and that leather from Chinese-or-Indian made boots was inferior, and would not break in well. I guess maybe hers weren’t Italian, after all. As far as that goes, I bought a pair of boots last week, and on the insole it says “John Varvatos • USA.” On the inside of the tongue, though, it says, “Made in China.” I wonder how well they’ll break in, now.

The evening wound down. Bored could not remember where her car was parked, and Bitchy insisted on driving her to it, so we got caught in downtown traffic, amid the subwoofers and “No Cruising” signs, which obviously do not apply to Saturday night. I was sitting in the backseat with Blind, and I wanted to flirt, but that did not seem appropriate. She’s moving to Seattle, anyway. Her last gig was at Ambercrombie and Fitch, designing “active bottoms.” I am not making that up. Active bottoms. I asked her to explain, and she looked at me (I guess she was looking) and said, “Sweatpants.” So now you know why Ambercrombie and Fitch stuff is so expensive. They were paying this one woman six figures to design sweatpants.

Bitchy’s headache was really getting to her a bit; she laid on the horn and backed a guy up at an intersection with a glare and the sheer dint of will. We finally delivered Bored to her car and escaped the traffic, and Blind went to the front. I was disappointed. I sat quietly alone until they deposited me back in Germantown.


The evening cools. The closet door needs oil, scraping in the track.

They are all there, orderly (somewhat) on the hangers. Their pockets are time capsules. They greet my fingertips with faded bits of February: a forgotten pen with a scribbled note to buy soap; a dinner receipt from a restaurant that has become a fusion something-or-other; a candy wrapper or popcorn kernel from a chill night when a flickering screen was all that kept away an unwanted solitude.

Hello, autumn. Hello, sweaters and jackets, coats and cardigans, which give my hands their old homes again.

Hi, Verdoodle.

Dear Vera
Will they take you to the park on this fine day?
Will you hide behind a tree and giggle?
Will you find a rock and hold it out for Mom to take,
or just give everyone a smile sweeter’n cake?
Today’s another day you may not remember:
the fresh fall air, the twigs in your hair,
or thoughts from your Pops which are following you there.