Friday, October 26, 2012

Easy is the Fall



                                            The Trailways bus drove out of Tallahassee in the darkest hour of the morning heading west. The bus's seats were full, so some quiet folk were standing. They were neatly dressed and faces clean on their way to work. The bus stopped here and there, discharging these slow moving, friendly souls in front of flat, elongated buildings, mostly without windows.
  Florian Obumsalin sat in the rear of the bus, in the back compartment, which was several feet higher than the front compartment: this bus was called a scenic cruiser. He was a long way from home, a long way from anyplace he knew about, and he was on his way in this bus to somewhere, he was unsure where. He was a young man, just twenty, and he was afraid that he had lost his way. In a time in his life, sometime, something had happened, and he had lost his way. He thought that somehow if he could find that time, and get back to it, he could right it, and find his way again.
  The bus slowly proceeded out of the darkness deeper into the countryside. A pungent dawn rose over the great flatlands. Piny woods, harsh and fervent, prickly as a porcupine's back, imprisoned the road. Hellacious little cabins, half broken in the morning but not quite broken, stood in the dark clearings. Grey headed black folk, sitting on porches stained white, but any color except white, watched this whizzing passing with grave indifference.
  Now only a few people remained in the bus. After awhile the motion of the bus drugged Obie's eyes so that the monotonous landscape slowly disappeared. Then the strong voices of two black women sitting in the next row behind him began their domination.



********************

  "Now, you live down near the airport, don't you, Perl? That place they call Wildville?"
  "I do."
  "Then you must know Barney Slocum."
  "Sure. Who don't? What a wild bunch they are! A wild bunch from Wildville!"
  Laughter transcended the road noise.
  "Wasn't always so. Barney was once a nice fellow. So were Jed and Louis. I myself could never quite take to William, though. He went up north, Richmond or Raleigh, one of them. You could never quite pin him down like the other boys. He meant to please, but you always knew his mind was elsewhere, usually on himself, his next drink, his next woman; a slim to the hips boy with spindly little legs to stand on.
  "Now Barney, he could talk. He had the gift of it, swept you right off your feet. Ain't much at all like he is now, heavy mouth, face groaning. How he got that way and took to drink, I was once inquisitive. Lord knows, I was married then, four of my own, and about as slowed down as you can get without stopping. And my ways about town, as they say, were all in a different direction from Barney's for some years. But years do pass and mama gets out more, by-and-by. My husband, Eddy White, you know him, don't you? the electrician? Used to work for the water works?
  "Lately on Saturday nights Eddy and I have been inclined to tip a few at the Social Club? On Beach Boulevard? Eddy knows how to dance, that's why I married him, but back when my man Barney, Lord, he was put on this earth to dance! Jed, too, though not so much Louis and William. We weren't but old kids. When Barney would strut, usually with that little brown girl lived on the Crescent, Jamaican, I believe, Molly Lafleur, and myself on occasion I don't mind saying, how he'd light up the world! As if the strands tying him to earth were entranced to release, and all the hunger and joy flowed out. He had the joy and the light that was all his own, his own particular. Certainly that should protect you from whatever to come, that skill, that presence of being, shouldn't it? I mean, a holy man is always holy, isn't he? How could a man blaze the way he did, then one day cross the street an angry decrepit old fool, all closed in, not even seeming to remember what once was? So dead to what he used to be so feeling about?
  "He left home and wandered, Loo, didn't he?" Said the other woman, Perl. "Didn't one of them, besides William, leave home? Louis, Lord knows, has been around and kicking for since I can remember, but didn't Barney go up to New York or Boston for a time. I believe so."
  "Well, I sure wish it could be something simple. Left home. A squabble with the law. Ruined by the riots. Lost in love, that would be a good one. Something simple a person could explain to herself. Anyway, one Saturday night me and Eddy were down the Social Club. There was that little lady singing, Katy Gibb, you heard her? My, I'm proud knowing she came from my home town. Eddy and I were kicking our heels, when who do you think walks in, sits in the darkest corner? Left his usual haunts on Green Street near the overpass?"
  "Barney? Hard to imagine. They let him in?"
  "Oh, all cleaned up. Fresh out of the detox. He's sitting, drinking CoCola. What a surprise! So I turned over my Eddy to Marlene Randall, and I couldn't help myself to walking over, arid bones creaking. You know the way he is, I was more than a little worried about what he and I would say to each other. Well, he didn't look too bad; not like usual, not like a stray dog. He even smiled a little as I sat down. Surprising how, now he was sober, he could help me remember. Skinny dipping with Clyde Banks, teasing Bob Smith, the motorcycle man with the limp, Hank Bonney, and all the dancing and singing and playing guitar, especially dancing, Molly Lafleur, Mary Lou Banks, Duke Henry, Alice Carr. It was the life we had. We talked for the longest while. Still had his teeth, the faintest remembrance of the grin used to light up the empty spaces, and the colorful twang in his speaking voice which'd lift the worries off your heart. Lord, it was all almost there, but hollow, as if just a matter of habit. I can't tell you, I got surpassing curious. I don't remember he had any great attachment to anything growing up, not even beer. If he'd been on something, or truant that way, wouldn't I know about it? At least back then; before when he went away. I grew up with him! He was the strongest of us all! Didn't even like putting himself up to a boyish risk. Just straight and hardy. What happened? Why? I'll tell you what a desperate craving I had to ask him why. Why Dick True? Slowest, lowest, most lovelorn of all us poor souls is in the Legislature and not Barney Slocum? Why Ted Lovell, with two left feet and matching brain, owns the hardware store and the shopping plaza it's smack in the middle of? Frank Parsons, God, he sucked his thumb and drooled till he was near sixteen, who's on the TV every night now telling us, not me, I can tell you that, who knows him only too well, telling us what's true? Why? I wanted to ask, why not Barney Slocum? And now this man, still handsome, I ain't saying he wasn't, slim to the face and quick eyed, though generally more baleful, sort of, than I remember from before. Baleful, now, not glowering or mean like, more watchful, observant, oh, but still handsome, not with the pretty used to be, but grown up and keen.
  "We talked for the longest while, telling each other this and that. Turned out he had been married to a girl in South Carolina. Pretty little thing, younger than he was, but didn't work out. Said he spent fifteen years in the Marines, injured in Korea, hung out for awhile, then rotated out with a pension. That surprised me some, 'cause I couldn't remember a time when I didn't see him at all, maybe not often, but never not at all, or didn't seem like, and never once saw him in uniform. Never even believed him to be the type. But what does a mother know about these man goings on?
  "He'd traveled, been to Europe, Japan, Australia, Lord knows, places I don't know how to dream about. Alaska! But wouldn't that make a man happy, knowing he'd had some staying one place and some not staying at all? Certainly wasn't the end of his life, not this man sitting in front of me now, though not forgetting how many times past few years I had seen him squatting half asleep in a tattered pile of shit. How it burned in my mind! We continued to chat, but no way could I get myself up to ask him, 'What happened to the dancing man?' No way!
  "And just as I was about to give up, because the conversation had slowed, I was starting to notice my Eddy was dancing maybe a bit too close to Marlene Randall to suit me, all of a sudden he catches my eye and says, 'My soul got up and left me.'
  "Dumb as I am, how am I supposed to take that? I thought his wife left him, soul meaning an endearing sort of term for wife, because the real meaning was more distant and terrifying than I wanted to come upon just then in that place. I'd have chided him one way or another, 'Well, women being so fickle, some men might call that a piece of luck,' I might have said, or something to that affect, but his eyes were so sad and far away, finally I said, 'Soul?'
  "'Yes,' he says, 'my soul went away.'
  "'No,' I says. 'No such thing ever happened.'
  "'Yes. Sometimes that can happen, you know. You blow it. It can happen in a few days, a few minutes. I blew it. I went to New York, and I learned false steps. I knew they were false, but I learned them anyway. I was hungry and I wanted to make money. Then my soul went away. I couldn't do anything any more but the false steps. So I wanted to die, I  was so ashamed. I could not go home. I could not even kill myself.'
  "'But God wouldn't do that,' I says, 'would he?'
  "'I don't know about God,' he says. 'I only know about my soul, who went and left me. Oh, I felt so empty. There was nothing that could please me any more. And all the steps I did embarrassed me so because the falseness was in them. Still, the falseness is in me. I can't move a step without feeling it. I walk down the street false. I am banished from myself.'
  "Well, I was scared, Perl, wouldn't you be? Him looking at me so earnest like. I wanted to leave, and then I didn't want to leave. So I said to him, 'Won't He ever give you your soul back? If you are good?'
  "'I don't know, I am trying to be good.'
  "'But where did it go? Back to heaven?'
  "Imagine me asking a fool question like that? But I couldn't leave. I felt he'd be hurt. So I couldn't. But every fool question has a fool answer, and this was one I had to listen to.
  "'No,' he said, 'it fell in love with another body, a student of mine, who could not learn the false steps I was trying to teach him. He didn't refuse, he wanted to, he tried, he just couldn't. So my soul went into his body. I did everything I could think of to win my soul back. But it would not come back to me. It would not. This boy, whom I had been teaching was a thief, born without a soul. He was evil. He was scarred. He was full of revolt. I hated him because he had no style, didn't even know what style was, and yet I was empty, and he became full.'
  "By that time, Perl, I had fallen in about to my neck and sinking fast. What was I going to ask him next? What did it look like? He has to be rational enough to know he'd put a serious damper on things…"
  "But maybe he did see it," Perl said.
  "No, who knows why it is one man with problems falls while another man with even more problems don't. I tell you, it's a mystery to me. Fallin's easy."
  "But this soul business, going from one person to another and all that, if he actually saw it, that'd tend to set you back. Would me, anyway."
  "Oh silly! No man ever saw his soul, not even Barney Slocum, less he was crazy. Besides, if it did ever really happen, it would damn sure scare me into fear enough of the Lord I'd sure as hell straighten out than end up worse cracked."
  "You got no way of knowing, Loo. You remember Angela Berry up Harper's Well. She lost her oldest boy to pneumonia, I believe, the very glint in her eye, and she took to drink. She never drank before in her entire life. And you with four all growed and husband healthy as an ox. How would you know?"
  Loo carried on in a deep voice about the strength of her character, before she finally admitted softly, "I been lucky."
  Perl laughed, and said finally, "Thank God for you, girl."



********************

The Trailways bus sped west on the road to Mobile. Obie listen to the women's soft whispers which slowly died out. His body became numb so that he could hardly move, hardly even lift a finger. But his mind roved all over his life. They were not dreams: memories changed, reduced, simplified; he was not so much asleep as in a trance. The dark fecundity of the coastal wetlands, the vibrations of the bus over the uneven highway entranced him. They were voices! Voices as if from a jukebox in a tattered cafe. A metallic arm slid up and down a stainless steel rail that snatched at random any record--he had no control which--, flipped it onto a turntable, and he must listen, he must listen. And there were voices played back, and he blushed in anguish.
  Oh God, I have seen cruelty, that I have seen; but greater than any cruelty, I have seen compassion, and so I was amazed.
  "Barney married again," said Loo. "Sweet little girl from Baton Rouge. Pregnant last I saw. Then one night beat her near death. When you fall, where's the stopping? When you falls, you fall."
  Both women got off in Mobile besieged by a human tide of happy family.













Thursday, October 25, 2012

Authority


                                                 I ran into Jerry Hatcher at Upper Pemigewasset Camp in late summer of '78. With him were his two sons, Clive and Wayne, who at twelve and ten were just old enough to hike the trails on their own. Doctor Williams' two beautiful daughters happened to be there, too. But they were outdoor women on holiday. They graced the trails in hiking boots, fashionable jeans and plaid shirts. Jerry was on vacation from painting; he was doing the other thing he loved to do: writing a poem. He worked on this poem almost all the time. Yet he was patient with me. He turned up his strong-boned, hoary, emaciated face and calmly gazed toward me.
  I said: "What I think is that the world outside myself is real. That is what I'm interested in, the outside. But if the outside is real, then inside my mind, what I am thinking—I mean the activities of mind itself—must be unreal. Reality can't be two places at once. It has to be one place or the other. How can it be both inside and outside at the same time?"
  Jerry said: "No! I have tried to show through my life's work that the workings of the inner, the perception and mechanisms to the living inner power or mind, or whatever you want to call it, that is the real. All the outside, except what we experience directly, which is hardly anything at all, if you think of the big picture, lies as obscurely as the whisper of a rumor in darkness."
  Next day I tagged along with Clive and Wayne. Their father stayed in camp, working on his poem. We hiked around the mountain through the tall trees into a grove of white birch. The trail passed a waterfall at the base of which was a large pool. The crystal water shimmered in the airy light of the birch grove. The beautiful Williams sisters had arrived before us. I sat on one of the boulders beside the pool. The thought of swimming in the same water with them was perturbing. The situation seemed too idyllic, too full of human warmth, too full of the something that perturbed me. It wasn't real enough, the real being, shadowy, dark. But the two boys quickly stripped down to boxer shorts and dived in.
  The girls teased the boys, who were practicing swimming in great seriousness. Grasping the boys' ankles as they swam past, they abruptly ducked them with loud shrieks of derisive laughter. In the sunlight of the very hot day the water sparkled. The turmoil of the stream rushing into the pool got mixed up in the turmoil of my heart. The girls wore oversize tee shirts; and the sun clung on them as if amused, because they were very lovely.
  I was thinking; and I suddenly remembered what I had not told Jerry. If the world outside myself were the real, then I must be hardly a speck of dust! Time and change in a universe that appears to be infinite roll onward, and with them, a speck of dust "blowing in the wind", as the song went, was I. I dreamed of being an artist, but where would I find the mettle to feel worthy? Where would I find the mettle to shake the truth out of illusion as artists must?
  The ladies spied on me in my somber bemusements. They splashed water at me, and they mumbled to each other tales about the holy saints. Saint Francis and laughter got mixed up in the rushing water. "Wasn't he the one who flogged himself?" I heard. "He must have been a gruff and grumpy one."
  So I did not go in the water that day. I walked back to the camp with the boys. Jerry turned up his eyes toward me from the paper that lay on his Holy Bible. The paper was covered with small, neat handwriting. I complained to him how tiny I felt in this huge universe of many constellations, time warps and black holes. "That is a problem," he said. "It's worth thinking about."
  Then the Williams sisters walked by, making merry the trail.
  "Gosh, aren't they beautiful," I said.
  "Oh yes," Jerry said. "They favor their mother. But I think they have freckles."
  "They don't have freckles! I thought artists were supposed to be far seeing." I couldn't help laughing. I had nothing against freckles, but they didn't have freckles.
  Jerry said, "Yes, I believe they have freckles. I'd paint them with freckles, anyway." And he bent down to his study again.
  I sighed. The evening was sultry. I went to sit under a tree beside the river. I dreamed long about stories that were often exceedingly scummy, but they captivated my mind so that in them I was lost. Should the Williams sisters pass by in the dusk, I prepared a charming quip. I could almost see their campfire through the trees. I knew that their mother disliked my uncouth beard and dirty hands, my rags and mud splattered Jeep. "He shows no respect," she had grumbled. Doctor Williams attempted to encourage me along. But I did not want to teach. I worried that I must lead a genuine life. I simply could not believe that books could tell you everything; I could not believe that books told you much of anything. I distrusted books; I distrusted everything with which I had no personal experience. I worried about this all the time. I was convinced that there was already enough opinion in the world without me adding to it. I had met kindhearted and gentle souls while I was teaching, men and women ambitious toward scholarship. Even Jerry, who was quivering over his poem. But none of it was real!
  Then suddenly I heard Jerry's voice. It was dusk; the woods were still. "Paul, Paul, where are you?"
  "I'm almost exactly in front of you," I said, laughing.
  "Oh yes! You're right here. Listen to me. I've written my poem." He stood, leaning over the paper. It was as if some magical confluence of the universe were gripping him. He cleared his throat, trembling with joy. He read in a stern, clear voice in which I heard genuine authority.

The Unity



                                                  It was dark in the Logan Airport Lounge. It was past eight o'clock by then. He had not noticed the waitress patiently standing there. When she said, "Sir," he started as if she had woken him. He settled on a Heineken dark. But he didn't drink any. He sat in a corner near the window staring out at the moving lights on the flight line, the big planes taxiing and taking off. The colors of the lights shifted and the lights blinked. Inside was the hush of the big noise of the planes. Sometimes the hush became a big noise as a plane accelerated down the runway. He waited. He hardly looked up as a middle-aged woman approached. She was well put up for a working girl. She took care of herself, and she didn't get her clothes where ordinary people got their clothes. She looked around nervously before she sat down. He hardly looked up as she sat down.
  "What are you doing now?" she said.
  "I don't know."
  "You don't know?"
  "Well, I know, but I doubt you'll understand."
  Then the waitress came by again. He didn't look up at her either. Her name was Sharon. She was a very pretty young brown girl. Sharon wore a white outfit. The top was tight around her throat and the skirt went down to her knees, but her arms were bare. They were round and handsome looking arms, and she had a big smile. "Can I get you anything?" She said.
  The well put up woman politely took care of it. She had to take care of everything with him lately.
  "Just an orange juice for me. Max?"
  "Another dark draft, I guess." He gazed at the earlier dark draft, which was still full.
  She looked up at the waitress, who nodded and walked away.
  "Do you want to tell me why you're here?" She was not angry; there was no anger in her voice. She would try to save that till later.
  "Plane leaves at 9." He shrugged.
  "Where is it going? Can you tell me that?"
  "Mexico. I was down there for a couple of years in my younger days. I liked it. And I think I can live there for awhile without working. I've taken leave from work. They seem okay with it. I don't care. I'll just get another job if I have to."
  "Max, why did you call me at work and tell me to meet you here? I want you to tell me really." She felt very cool. There had always been this childish side of him. She was quite used to it by now. He would sit quietly for a long time, dreaming, and when he came out of it, it was usually with some ridiculous notion that he never acted on.
  "Because I'm going away for awhile, and I wanted to tell you so you would know."
  "This is all news to me," she replied. "Would you like to talk about it?"
  He stared at her for a long time, as if it were a question so weird and outrageous it was almost unbelievable.
  "Now what?" She said, puzzled, when the stare didn't pass.
  "We're not?"
  "Max, there's a kind of detail…missing…"
  "I've told you I want to go to Mexico. There are places in Mexico where you can live without spending…a lot of money? And my thought is that with your job and the money I have tucked away…we could split that, and you should be able to get by for awhile."
  The big roar of a jet blasted the window and he said something else. But she couldn't hear. It was probably like money is not important or worth worrying about, or something.
  The young waitress, Sharon,  came with the drinks. She put down doilies and placed the drinks on the doilies. Then Max followed her hand and arm up to her face. Her hand was large and brown almost boyish but very graceful.
  "You walk attractively," he said.
  "Thank you, sir."
  "Are you an athlete?"
  "Oh yes. I play tennis as much as I can."
  "Drinking is bad for the wind. Lose your wind, life is harder. Never lose your wind. You know?"
  Sharon grinned at him. She had good teeth and no signs of braces or caps or anything ever having been wrong. She didn't say anything. Just smiled. Then she said, "Anything else?"
  "No," the woman said, "good."
  While Sharon walked away, he almost smiled. Then he turned, stared out the window at the flickering lights on the runway and across the river toward the jumble of East Boston.
  Sharon stood at the bar where she waited with the bartender. She had been friends with the bartender for a long time. They had gone to Chelsea High. They had both been dreamers. He dreamed of being a writer, and she dreamed that she would one day become a professional tennis player. She told him at least ten times a night how she wanted to go to Jimmy Connors where she might be able to turn her Massachusetts State Championship into something important. He told her at least ten times a night how he wanted to be a student in Frank O'Connor's writing class at Harvard. That's why they were friends since childhood, because they were dreamers. And when this strange man who didn't know her from Eve said to her "You walk like an athlete" she had to tell her friend the bartender. He stopped washing glasses for long enough to say, "Well you do. You walk beautiful, Sharon. I love watching you walk. Makes my little heart go pit-a-pat." And her grin spread from one side of her face to the other.


The very well put up woman, Nancy, who had come in and had sat down with the man sitting by the window, was in no hurry to pick up the pieces. After all, she had married him almost twenty years ago because he had silences. He had told her once that when he was he couldn't remember exactly when he was eight or nine or ten he decided not to speak, and for a long time, almost a whole year, he didn't speak at all. He was surprised at how easy it was for him to do. But his parents started to go batty, and he felt sorry for them, so he decided to speak again. So she waited a couple of minutes to pick up the pieces.
  "Details? Max? Like your sons, Steven and John? They need their father."
  But he didn't move away from the window.
  "It's getting to be winter." She continued. "Aren't you proud of how well they ski?"
  "They ski well."
  "Of course, Steven will have to leave Phillips and go to a public school." She made this sound very, very important.
  "Ah, I don't believe in private schools. I don't like the way they act around everyday people."
  "They are your sons, Max."
  "Borrow. I'll pay everything off eventually."
  Then she said a little more loudly, "What are you doing?"
  "They've got that pond. Just let it be."
  "You say to me borrow, you'll pay it back, and then you say you're going to Mexico so you won't have to work?"
  "Yes. Just let it be. For awhile."
  At the end of the road their house was on there was a pond. To the boys that pond was a big biology experiment. They both knew all the names of the plants in detail, the fish and where they were. With their father they developed theories about this and that. They had purchased a kit to analyze water samples, and then another kit to analyze the soil. It was all very scientific. She heard them arguing about ferns and which fish was which. They often came back from the pond soaked and muddy.
  "It will give them the real." He said after awhile. "They will have it all their lives."
  "The pond will not teach them how to act," Nancy said.
  "Hell, I don't know how to act. Do you think I know how to act? That's why I'm going away…to learn how to act."
  "What? I mean adult. Grown up?"
  "Huh?"
  Sometimes a fog, a haze would come into her head when she talked to him. She shook her head. "Max, don't you love us? Won't you miss us? I mean your boys? They're your sons."
  "Don't you understand. Everything is miss-matched, out of kilter, empty. There must be some way to get back that feeling of completion. To move it back in place. You know? That's why I've got my books, The Bible and the Talmud like I've been reading. So I'm going to get into shape to study…" he held out his arms as if to push something away "then I'll find the unity, and…"
  "Why do you have to go to Mexico to read?"
  A jet started blasting and he said something and he raised his eyes to watch the young waitress walking by.
  So the uproar of the jet ceased, and he said, "She has little explosions in her ankles. Young I guess. Remember how we were? We could hike all day. Remember?"
  "Sure. But we grew up. We got older, and life is not all walking in the woods or playing tennis. It is responsibility, and so on."
  "That's right. And when I get this unity in my head…you'll see, it will be better."
  "Unity?" She said. She didn't know whether to laugh or scream. Max was big city. They complained about everything. She had grown up on a dairy farm in rural Maine. If it didn't bleed why worry about it. But they had always shared the outdoors. They had hiked in the Skagit and the Bitterroot. Hardly just kids, no money.
  "You don't have to be flip about it," he said.
  So she did not speak for a long time, then she drank some orange juice. She looked out the window. When she was finally ready she said, "Unity is only another word. There are other words like family, for instance."
  "I knew you wouldn't understand, but why should you understand?"
  "Okay. Suppose I don't understand. But why do you have to go to Mexico? If you want to take an extended vacation…"
  "I can't think around you!"
  "I don't know what that means."
  "It means that you aren't…thoughtful…superficial…I don't know." His voice trailed off into silence.
  "Even if I were as you say, what difference would that make?"
  "Huh." His eyes, dull and lackluster, returned to the window, focused out.
  "Okay, Max. Suppose it is true, superficial me. I don't see why you have to go two, three thousand miles away, whatever it is, because why not take like a sabbatical leave right here in Lynnfield. Your boys…I could say to them, your Dad is wondering, and life is short, and it is important, and so on. They are so looking forward to skiing with you this winter. John has made the team at school, they have both been jogging all summer and they love skiing with you."
  "I don't have time. I want…I want to think, dammit." He had raised his voice. He turned to look at her but didn't. "Why should that be so hard to understand?"
  "Max, I get it. Okay! I'm just curious about Mexico."
  "How many times do I have to explain to you about Mexico?"
  So she became silent. He had turned away and was staring out the window again. She watched him but there wasn't much to watch. She was afraid he'd simply cease talking. He was almost at that point when she might not find out anything more for a long time. But she had so much more to ask. She waited for him to appear calm. Then she said, "Did you talk to somebody about this Mexico thing? Eddie…"
  "No!"
  "Well then somebody?"
  "No!"
  Well now the silence. There was a very odd stillness that had come over him. A diaphanous shroud of stillness. His face actually changed color. He always had a healthy color, which was now pallid.
  "I have to go now," he said. "I'm sorry that you don't understand. I just wanted to make sure that you knew that I wasn't…missing."
  Then he left. He always carried a fat briefcase, and recently he had started to take a small knapsack full of books with him wherever in case there was a free minute. She paid the waitress. She hardly noticed the waitress, she hardly knew what she was doing. He had not drunk any of the beer at all. He rarely drank, even when the world around him was getting sloshed. She was thinking about his not drinking, and she didn't remember walking out to the parking garage. Sitting in the car, she had a splitting headache, said, "Oh no" over and over, thinking about the boys. They dogged his footsteps. He was an encyclopedia of information about nature. He knew what fish did what. He had skied with Karl Schranz. She waited till a little past nine, went back to the lounge, fully expecting that they would meet and they would go home together but he wasn't there.
  She went up to the waitress.
  "The man I was talking to? Did he leave, I mean get on a plane."
  "Yes ma'am. You were with him by the window? He was boarding on 23, which goes to Mexico City tonight. I noticed when I was walking by. Are you all right?"
  "Yes. I'll manage."
  "Please sit down. Can I get you something?"
  "No thank you. You're very sweet. I'll manage."
  Sharon watched the older woman walk from the bar into the lobby and sink down the escalator. Her shoulders were bent as if an old woman. But Sharon was really thinking about how she'd do when she got to Jimmy Connors. She admired his hard passing style so much! She had a backhand; she could always count on that backhand. And she was working with a coach out in Brookline on her serve. She was plenty strong and she thought she could drill a hard baseline drive with either forehand or backhand. She told the bartender, "At Jimmy Conners I'm gonna be tough." He laughed. "Yes, I know."
  The well put up woman, mother of two boys, hardly remembered driving home, but she did make it. Max had always been a dreamer, but he had never disappeared like this. She didn't sleep at all that night. Never bothered to go to bed. It was raining through the dawn.
  "Mom, you don't look so good. Where's Dad?" Steven said.
  "I'm not sure, but he's okay."
  "Wow, he's not like missing?"
  "No."
  After breakfast they went out to the pond. John took a fish net. They came back soaked and muddy and happy. But after awhile they were less happy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crossroads


"And I'm standing at the crossroads, believe I'm sinking down."
          --Cream  '68



                                           I was going solo then.  I often ended up marching out of the mountains through Meredith. I'd come out of the hills on Route 25. It came down a steep hill into town and turned right along Meredith Bay. Coming down the hill you'd think you were going to fall into the bay. Then at the crossroads 25 collided with 3. At the crossroads, I'd hope to hitch a ride. The ride'd take me southeast along Lake Winnipesaukee to Alton. I usually had good luck at the crossroads. It was October 1962 and I was waiting. I had been in the mountains for a week. But finally, somebody stopped.
  A young man was driving. On the front seat between him and an old woman sat a young woman. Tucked in sideways beside me on the back seat, as if holed up in a basket, lay a baby.
  The young man was debating with the young woman about the tail lights on Chevys. The young woman argued that in '57 square tail lights changed over to round. The young man didn't know when the change had happened, but he doubted it was '57. His Bel Air was a '58 and it had round. If it had happened in '57, he thought he'd have known about it. It must have happened in '56, or earlier than '57.
  While they were debating about the tail lights, the baby yawned contentedly and wiggled against the swaddling blankets.
  Now it was becoming too dark to figure out which tail lights were round and which were square. The darkness fuzzed them out. So they gave up debating about them.
  The young woman turned around toward me, and she said, "Where are you going?"
  "Back to Durham, eventually, I hope."
  She said they lived in Rochester, which was where they were going.
  Rochester was the next town from Durham. I knew that if I could not get a ride in the dark, I could walk to Durham from Rochester. "Thanks," I said.
  She propped up an elbow on the seat back and studied me. Her skin was fair, but pale, and tightly drawn, as if she were tense. High cheekbones set off a strong, handsome nose. Her eyes were dark, but glimmered as if she wanted something she was unclear about.
  Then she said, "You must have been in the mountains camping. We go backpacking a lot, Scott and I. We love the mountains. My sister lives in Center Harbor. Is that baby bothering you? He was sleeping, but I guess he is awake now. It's wonderful around here, I think. It's something about the mountains and the lake. My sister says when there is a north wind, the souls buried around Squam Lake rise up and flip-flop in the wind like old, dry oak leaves. They chit-chat, too. She can hear them. Then the north wind goes away, and they drop back to sleep. My sister lives right on the lake, and she can hear them. That baby is hers. We're going to take care of him for a while, till she gets her head together. Look at that baby! He has her eyes. If that baby is bothering you, my mother will take him. Look, he's yawning, not a care in the world."
  She smiled at me and laughed. Then she continued, "If you are going to Durham, you must be a student. That's where my sister went to college. But she got pregnant. And then she left school. How do you like that? Now she's up here, trying to get her head together. I don't care. We'll take care of the kid. But I don't think it's good to raise up a kid without a father. She says it was a boy who did it, she won't say who. But I think it was that teacher she was always talking about. She used to come over to visit me with a boy. But if it was that boy, why would she be acting the way she is? I swear the teacher has something to do with it. But that can't really happen. It must not happen. So it must be that boy she was going around with. But why wouldn't he do something? If it were him, I know he'd do something. Darn, I can't remember his name. He was a regular, nice boy. I know he'd want to do something."
  Then Scott said, "Because probably he doesn't know where she is. Most people probably wouldn't know she was laying in on Squam beside an Indian burial mound, digging for artifacts, where the north wind blows the souls around like oak leaves."
  "Why wouldn't he know? She must have told him. She can't keep her mouth shut. That's why I say, if it were the boy, he'd know and he'd go see her. He'd worry about her, and visit her, because she'd tell him."
  Then, turning, she raised herself onto her knees, and extended herself over the back of the seat, and she swept up the baby into her arms. She pressed him close to her, adjusting the folds of the blanket. A moment later the old woman turned and the young woman laid the baby on her arms.
  "But if it were that teacher," she continued, "she wouldn't want to create a stir. She'd be afraid to tell him. And why should he care to find out? You know what I think? I think she should go right back there, and start up again next year. That's what I'd do. I wouldn't be the least bit afraid. I'd be proud. And anyway, what is one baby more in this world? Isn't it true, Scott? Right?"
  "You'd have to be really up tight, I think. It's a piece of good luck."
  "And do you know why?" The young woman interrupted. "It's because they have to sacrifice. People see sacrifice as being a big negative, as something that can ruin your life. I don't. I think sacrifice is wonderful. It is good for you. I never would have thought Nonny would act this way. When she was young, she was the first one to give. And now..."
  Then Scott turned away from his driving for a moment, and said, "Stel, maybe the guy would just like a lift, and not a sermon."
  "But I could just scream."
  "Why? The kid's here, the kid's fine. So what? You know what she could have done."
  "That's right," the old woman said. "I'm glad. We've got another member of the family. A boy, too. I can't wait to see Papa's face. So calm down. And leave the young fellow alone. I bet he has got his own problems."
  But Stel shouted, "When it gets to the point where digging up old indian artifacts is more important than your own flesh and blood, then that sure makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
  She seemed embarrassed by her outburst, and she tried to smile. Her eyes flickered; she turned away, tucking herself in beside Scott.
  They tried to guess what make of car, Ford, Chrysler or GM, was coming toward them by the look of the headlights. She usually had it figured out way before the car came into the light while it was passing by. Scott couldn't figure out how she did it.
  They left me off only a few miles from school. I was not in any hurry. Small, ragged clouds amplified the crystalline sky. Trees groaned, tugged on by the wind and the lowering moon. The firmament was bursting with starlight.
  The road that led into Durham was empty. I could almost hear my heart pounding. I'd wait. I'd wait in this place of shadows, the dark space. The cold had come.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goats from Another Planet



                                                 Once upon a time on the planet Astra Funari there lived a very strange animal. There wasn't what you'd call a specific name for this animal. The Funarians called it "thingy". (The Funarians had just started to watch TV and their vocabulary had become limited.) Thingy was a stalwart, clever creature who could reproduce three, four, five other things at a time like clockwork every spring. Soon the broad plains and distant mountain ranges of Funaria were crawling with great herds of the voracious, fun loving little devils. You can imagine the Funarians didn't like them much. The Potentates of Funaria were men of the athletic persuasion. It was hit, tackle, block, run, crash, bang, boom all weekend. No time for anything weird. One day a herd crossed the playing field hopping and skipping thereby interrupting the 'Canes and the 'Noles at a critical juncture! The head Potentate, this was in the first Millennium, was much put out, and he banished them from Funaria forever.




  If you look carefully you can see in their clever, eager faces the wisdom of the great Odyssey. Being banished from Funaria they rock-and-rolled through the universe on great mother ships. Another Millennia or so they happened upon Earth, which reminded them of their distant memories of Funaria. They had been much tattered by this journey. My theory is that they fell through a black hole, and as they fell, tumbling upside down, backwards, forwards and every other confusing which way, there was an information loss. The coding that was lost had to do with a certain prominent body part—the ears. This forlorn and lonesome creature landed on a farm in Oregon without ears! They say she was partly Spanish. (And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.) Eula Frey, who owned the farm, was breeding Nubian and Swiss stock. Her excellent bucks took immediately to the little devils. She named their off-spring LaMancha. She remembered the name from some book or other that she had read in school.





  Now the same thing that happened on Funaria is happening on Earth. Year after year the LaMancha breed has become increasingly numerous. Some Earthling weirdos even like 'em. They are my personal favorite. LaManchas' small ear is their predominant characteristic. Their ear, minus the appendage to whirl around, is like a glorified hole in the head, and their faces are cute, intelligent. My theory is that they have to pay attention because no flaps can drop down to cover the holes, thus preventing, as in young college students, any sound conveyed knowledge from entering their brains. They are, therefore, the perfect sponge, the perfect spying machine. What's to stop a rumor from making it in? People who do not know goats wonder if their ears have been "docked" or cut off. But they really lost them in the great Odyssey when they got sucked into the black hole. The characteristic then established itself in Mrs. Freys' herd. Incidentally, that realm of Mrs. Frey's herd in Oregon has always been a location of extra terrestrial activity. And so it is to this day.
  LaMancha is rugged and efficient. They'll browse outdoors all day; they prefer brush but they are not particular. In winter, if appropriately fed and watered, they never complain—I at least have never seen any sign of complaint—, and even in the coldest weather they will produce milk efficiently. They seem more friendly and curious than the other breeds. They are energetic, inclined to show interest in the two-legged animals on the other side of the fence. They kick up, catch their forefeet on the fence, extend their necks and take a gander at anybody going or coming. Their stare is half in wonderment and blank fascination. I think they are a little neurotic. Their intention, I imagine, is not to lose an instant of the comedy transpiring before them. I have often wondered, as they stare at me, on which side of the fence the animals are. They rise up from their afternoon nap, saunter nearby, crane heads up over the fence, stare. Last I knew, I was the herdsmen. But these fence standing wonders from another planet often persuade me to doubt myself.




  I remember when we had numerous LaManchas. I used to drive in late in the dusk from work, and the bunch of them would rush the fence. They'd honk at me derisively. I was never sure what they had in mind. I'd wander in the barn, face them down, say "Hi!", throw out an extra flake of hay. When I worked at a home for mental patients in town, one day I brought to the farm with me one of the residents. Our mission was to shovel enough manure in the back of my truck to fertilize the residents' garden. That I should arrive with another body instead of alone got the LaMancha kids all in a dander. They proceeded to jump the fence, as if a mere fence would slow down their curiosity, and soon they were inspecting close up this unusual phenomenon. My wife shouted at us from the front door of the house, "What are you doing to them?" As soon as we lifted them up over the fence and dropped them on the other side they jumped over again. Took awhile till they were satisfied and they stayed put. "Goats some crazy," the mental patient announced, tapping his forefinger on his head.
  There was a LaMancha buck who was an escape artist. Any time I was outside, he'd catch sight of me, and in a few minutes he'd figure out how to get through the fence, and he'd follow me around like a puppy. In fact, I have never raised a more intelligent goat as far as finding ways out of the fence. I'd fix one way so he couldn't use it any more, and he'd just find another way. At a certain point his intelligence led him to become unusually playful. He was pure white, no markings at all on him. Other than the strange bedevilment of intelligence handed down to him from Funaria he was rather ordinary. He was small, too small for us to keep. He went to the auction. His intelligence was a hassle. Even if he had the size and proven breeding, I doubt that we'd have been able to keep him. Sometimes you'd really like to keep a certain buck, but you can keep only so many, and the ones you do keep need champions in their breeding. It is farming; it is hard.
  For the most part LaManchas have finely shaped, well supported udders with well placed teats. A solid specimen will stay in milk for ten years or more. Each spring, when she freshens, a mature doe may bear anywhere from two to four kids. I have heard of quints, but that is unusual. The best strategy is to remove the kids at birth and bottle feed. It is a little more time consuming, difficult, but you can establish a bond with the kids which is very helpful when the milking starts. A half-wild doe from another galaxy is not fun to milk. The milk is unusually rich and creamy. Only Nubians produce tastier milk.
  LaMancha tends to be easy breeders. When you study a certain line and establish it with a certain buck, you can foretell how the breeding will look or whether or not the line will be productive in quality offspring. But they are overbearing. It is one drawback to breeding them. They will run the herd to their liking. If you pen another breed in with them, Nubians, for example, a much more laid back breed, the LaManchas tend to take the polish off the Nubians, and they won't develop the way you'd like.
  This is my wonder: when they have done spying and have returned to their planet, what will they report? I have caught in the corner of my eye many critical glances. I guess from now on I'd best behave myself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Victor



                                        Victor, a guy I know, has died. How many hay farmers do you know who show up to help you load? I never saw him but when he was getting on a tractor or getting off, or tinkering with the infernal bailer, or dragging a tedder around in a big river bottom field on a sunny day.
  His house is a two story colonial, recently built and well kept. You might think of him as a modern Maine Squire. He owns the F350 Diesel, the John Deere tractor. All of his equipment is in tip-top shape. The yard is well kept, too—gardens well tended behind the house. The barn is big enough to cover 20,000 bales. It is well-founded and the roof is metal. The fields are river bottom, tending to be damp in places in Spring, but rich and fertile in late summer. Victor always got plenty of second crop, and in some years a third mowing. He worked at the mill; haying was the "hobby". He was always good for a couple months credit, and if in the midst of a hard time, you should go over, no grudges were held. You paid, and then back to business as usual. Doesn't sound at all like a man who'd one day forget to stay alive.
  There were rumors about family problems. His wife's family included well known local and state political figures and successful business people. So the dangers of marrying from above. What was this farming all about, she'd like to know? She never liked it. The kids were not interested. Why did he give all that credit late in the year? He had bills to pay, too. Wait for X to pay so that he could pay Y? Farming was a dead end; nobody ever made any money at it. It was 24/7 work, and a dead end, even if you were really smart. The farming kids suffered; there was no money for school, no money for the dentist. Even a good-looking kid smelled manure and moldy hay dust. No animals in Victor's wife's house, and muddy boots left outside, please. And just as well the farmer friends chatted on the porch.
  So there was that. The rumor was that she had left. And now he had the bills. You've got bills, you've gotta work, sick or not. That's the way Victor had been brought up.


  This year Spring proceeded into mid-June with a prolonged rainy spell. The fields were still too wet for haying last week of June most places. But Victor, as usual, was the first to bale. The days were now long and sunny; a high bright sky dominated; a fresh, dry westerly dipped across the field, dragging away excess moisture like a sponge. A few days the higher ground was dry enough to be mowed. One more tedding might have helped. But it was late afternoon, and if left much longer in the afternoon, baling would carry on past dark. If baling were left till next day, the cool morning would leave dew enough for another tedding before, finally, baling. The crew was anxious to know what the boss would decide. Victor was lucky to get the crew he had. The afternoon was hot. He put off baling till the last. He had three or four customers on the way. The grass in this high spot was broad leaved, few ferns or stems. Early first crop is nutritious stuff. Victor picked up a handful and it twirled in the steady breeze just enough before sinking. There were a thousand bales. Time is money. He started baling.



  Before I, the last customer, had arrived, Victor had sold 400 bales, and he and his crew were occupied with stacking the rest on the carts.  He had left 100 bales on the ground, which was what I expected to buy. I always buy enough of this early first crop to last till second cut. The goats love second cut. They eat it enthusiastically and waste hardly a shred. Goats are notorious wasters; they pick at the hay feeder like finicky teenagers. But by this time of year they are anxious to get fresh hay. If it is first crop, but just too tough or stemmy, or maybe not exactly right somehow, they will look at me as if I am trying to kill them. But I could tell in a minute the girls would eat this stuff.
  Even then on that day, the first day of baling, Victor didn't look so good. His chest looked beaten down. When he coughed, he hid his mouth behind his fist, and swallowed his breath. First we did the business. I had enough cash for fifty bales. Would he fill up my trailer? I'd pay off the last fifty bales in a week or two. "Sure, sure. Come on, we'll help you load."
  That should be all you need to know. Victor lived his deals to the letter. Part of the deal was to help the fellow to load, not to turn your back and let him fend for himself. So he'd pitch in. "You keep count," he said. Once in awhile I'd hear him grumble, "How many you got?" I often had the feeling I could have said anything, and he'd have said "Yep. Okay." Men tell you who they are in their acts, in how they live their lives. Their words are ninety percent bullshit. This is always true and you can count on it.
  I had heard that he had lung cancer. It was common knowledge by then. But why should I broach the subject? The man was at his work and busy with the thoughts of the moment.
  But he must have observed the curious glances.
  "Doctor says chemo next week," Victor offered. "Next Tuesday. Figure I'll get 4,000 bales this weekend, another 3 or 4 thousand next weekend. Might have to take a few days off."
  "What? Chemo! You're gonna be sick."
  "Gotta work. No money." He frisked together his fingertips.
  Knowing the man, I should have paid more attention. I thought: his body will take care of that, then when his body lets him, the best thing is to get up and get going again, anyway. I personally favor the John Wayne approach to sickness, that you should get the extra-strength Tylenols emailed to you with the germs. But how could he think he'd be able to carry on this summer the way he had previous summers?
  "Naw. Kick up." I said. "The grass will grow just fine. Let the doctors put you back on your feet. They are wonders, them doctors."
  "They're wonders all right."
  "When you feel better, cut and leave it. Can't help but make next year's crop greener, right?"
  "No. Can't let a crop pass. No money."
  Of course, I knew it wouldn't work out. Then I started thinking, me, Mr. Big Thinker. What would I do in his situation? There isn't a heck-of-a-lot of money hanging around in my house. I think there is just barely enough to retire on. Maybe. If I am lucky. I might be able to explore. I shouldn't have to depend on the kids. I should be able to leave something behind. But when the medical bills start tumbling in, I'd have to pay, because that is my habit, to pay my bills. The experts advise owners of underwater mortgages to dump and run. Medical bills can skyrocket to the stratosphere. What do the experts advise for that? What does the cure really cost if two clean-up rags cost fifty bucks? And then the hospitals are riddled with weird bugs. Take a pill, get a shot and wonder. Two years of cancer treatments, assuming you don't catch the deadly hospital fungus, covered with average insurance, the kind you end up with at work, and you could be looking at fifty grand in bills. Suppose the Doctors give you two years. If you are deep into your sixties, why bother? Think about it. Even assuming a miraculously successful treatment, American life expectancy is 73 to 76, the lowest in the affluent world. If you've made it to 66 before you get sick, present retirement age, that means you can figure on, given amazing good luck an additional ten years. Most likely it will be five years. Man, to tell you the truth, before the big bill comes in, that hayfield at the end of the rainbow looks passible for a fellow to drop dead in.
  And thus I was wondering as I was talking to Victor.
  When the other fellows finished loading the carts, they came over to help load me, and Victor stepped aside because frankly he looked like he was gonna fall over.
  "So anyway, I figure I'll probably need a few days after the chemo, then back to normal weekend after next."
  "Sure," I says, "somebody'll wind you up, get you going."
  He struggled not to laugh because it might start a coughing fit.
  "Might not have my usual get up and go."
  "Might not," I says.
  Shortly, my truck and trailer were loaded. I left but parked on a little bluff over the field and took some pictures. I love that field. I could see why a fellow would rather die than stop haying it. The river is off there far in the distance in front of those shady, tree covered hills. Last I saw of Victor, I was driving by, he was staring at his tractor, as if he was trying to figure out where he was. Then he turned around suddenly, walked away, shrugging, and he threw out his arms in confusion and walked toward the house.
  I drove home wondering if life was worth ten-thousand a year. I suppose depending on whether or not you have the ten-thousand. What old man would want to ruin his sons' and daughters' inheritance with a big medical bill? Besides, the wife, whom he had been tied to whether for good or ill for forty years, who had born those sons and daughters, was still alive.


  Why be surprised that he died in a hay field? He went out into the middle of it and dropped dead. The doctors predicted he'd have a couple of good years after the chemo, and so on; the doctors are capable of wonders; a few years, say two, taken one day at a time, is a few days; and each day might have a good use put to it. Was he shortchanging himself? Is it just another case of a man who has worked all his life facing hospital bills which would put him and his family in the hole for generations; just as they were laboriously climbing out? Or maybe he was thinking about the life he would leave that his sickness would prohibit him leading ever again quite the way he was used to. Maybe he just plain didn't want to live that new life. I try hard, but damned if I blame him.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ham



                                                  One day I ended up with a ten years old Hewlet-Packard desktop that still worked. What can I say? I thought the internet had potential. These dumb old computers; the whole world must be doing it but me! I must be a virgin! But there was mystery to it. I hate mystery. So I commenced to take the machine apart. But now that it was apart on the workroom table, I became confused about how to put it together again. Do-it-yourselfer's seem to run across each other in the toilets and way stations of this world. From my do-it-yourself friend, Byron, who assisted me in my confusions, I acquired two 144mb RAM sticks and a beautiful Hans G video monitor. I got the RAM from Byron for no, and the video for ten dozen eggs. This old machine ran fine on Ubuntu. But Byron is impatient with Open Source. Says Byron, "Too buggy for serious work, but enjoyable to fool around with." Byron's habits in computer programs and parts got too expensive for his wife; soon Byron became lost in the spheres of the geeks. This is what Byron told me before he disappeared into the world's shadowy rooming houses with bathroom in the void.


********************


  Go to the dump, Man, get you a junker! Lots of people toss machines that work. I get them from the dump. I had a great time playing with a Compaq Presario from the dump. I put Linux on it, and it worked fine for quite awhile no matter what I did to it. I also got junkers that didn't work, which I tore apart down to the frame, and I popped the rivets on the frame, and then I put them back together. I got these junkers from the dump basically in order to practice installing CPU's. Whether AMD or Intel, CPU's must be installed carefully. You've got to learn your fundamentals. The tiny wire strands in AMD CPU's get bent easily. If you bend a strand and try to bend it back, it may break. Certain CPU's attach only to certain motherboards. The study of motherboards is fascinating and endless. Mr. Jobs was so inclined toward this study; there is testimony about a zen thing. Different mobo's have different sockets, and each socket uses a slightly different approach to attaching the CPU to the board. A slip of the screw driver can damage a board sufficiently that it won't work any more. A few practice runs with a junker reduces the stress. Start your study of computers at zero expense! Go to the dump and pick out an old desktop tower to take apart. The web has numerous sites that will help you name the part and learn the function. You can get into it as deeply as you want. Those old Gateways had some humongous fans. There is a lot you can learn from each different manufacturer. That's how I learned how to build Ajax, my supercomputer.
  Consider your mobo. Your RAM slots, for instance. A full size (ATX) mobo has four RAM slots. Right now DDR3 is cheap. You have to study what RAM to buy because there are all sorts of RAM. A good rule of thumb for RAM is to estimate what you think you'll need, and then double it. If you think you'll need 2 gigs of RAM, then get 4; if you're a gamer and you think you'll need 4 gigs get 8; and if you're like me, and not sure what you're going to do, fix yourself so you can eventually get the maximum that the mobo will support, which in my Ajax is 16 gigs. But even on sale RAM is expensive. If you need to cut corners, that's the first corner you will cut; but it should be the last. RAM is a riot. So instead of buying 4 1 gig sticks, buy 1 4 gig stick. So instead of 4 full slots, you've got one maxed out slot. A gig of RAM costs about the same whether it's on a 1 gig stick or a 4 gig stick. Then if you happen to fall into a few bucks, buy another 4 gig stick. And so on. There is no downside to buying RAM. Buy the most RAM your board can use. It makes everything work better.
  You can get into fans as deep as you can get into mobos. When I was building Ajax I lost my mind over fans. I spent all day for weeks looking at fans. There are fans that glow various colors; there are quiet fans, extra quiet fans and loud fans; there are fans that last forever, and fans that need to be oiled up every so often; there are four wire fans and three wire fans; fans that can be programed to run off the Bios, and that have temperature sensors; unholy expensive fans and fans that cost four dollars; there are big fans and little tiny fans; and lately there are water cooling systems that are attached to a radiator which is, you guessed it, attached to a fan, and so on till a sort of fan madness sets in. I guess this is a sort of zen thing too.
  After you get your mobo and have figured out the fan thing, time to find a case to put it all in. Every once and awhile you'll run across a plain hobbyist's case at the dump. There will be a hole in it for everything. But my mission is to be a high functioning adult. I couldn't explain that to my old lady. Why, why couldn't I explain to her that a grown man has to be able to hot swap hard drives! But what can you do? You can't explain these mission orientations to the old lady, you just get rid of them, or her, either/or. I needed to be able to hot swap, and that's it. The case cost me a hundred, hundred fifty, without going into details. Your power supply...the thing has gotta have juice. Good ones are pretty expensive. Anyway, Ajax's case has green cold cathode's lighting up a plexi window. And the fans! I've got an 80mm on the Southbridge and three 120mm. A 120mm over the copper heat sink is a four wire red LED and the fan in front of the hard drive bays is blue. The rear fan has a temperature sensor. Even on a hot day under a big load the CPU runs around 95 degrees F! You can always use plenty of cooling. I never got into liquid, though.
  Then I screwed my fans in the case, installed the disk drives, the power supply, DVD players. Then I screwed in the mobo, wired it all up. There's a trick to installing the CPU. Line up the hatch-marks and it should fall into the socket. Don't force it. Latch it in, and apply a drop of Arctic Silver to the top of the CPU. It is better to use less than you think you need than more. Drop the heat sink on the CPU, wiggle it just slightly to help spread the paste, and screw down the heat sink and attach the fan. Wiring up all this stuff takes awhile. You want the wiring to look right, as much of it hidden out of the way as possible. Then I booted Ajax. Didn't take long and I had Ajax running great. Time to overclock the processor. I'm always thinking of new ways to get the most out of Ajax.


********************


  So that was Byron's advice before he disappeared into the spheres happy geeks go to. You don't want to make it too easy, Git-Hub! When I built my Ham, I followed Byron's advice to the T.
  Now Ham has 8G of RAM and a Radeon video card. But a family member has extorted Ham away from me! And no longer does Ham run Linux. They have desecrated Ham, who is now running System 7! Now how do people like that guy, the Microsoft guy, what's his name? I don't know. All this came about when I bought a...but that's another story.


If you look close you can see Deb is on the iBook. Still works.

This is my Ham in an early version.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chaos




                                         I met up with Chaos the other day. How could I ever think that the goat kids in the kid pen could get at the electrical wire that is four feet off the ground and behind a big piece of flake board?  But they did, and tugged it down, and they chewed on it, and stomped on it and played with it, but somehow failed to electrocute themselves. I could feel in the heels of my shoes the electricity seep out from the mangled insulation. They left it to me, the guy who shows up every day, the worker in barns, to mend the wires and hang them higher on the wall, and nail another piece of flake board over the wires and move the outlet so that the kids can't put themselves in jeopardy again. You wouldn't imagine they could put themselves in jeopardy again. It would seem impossible, but Chaos makes everything possible. Chaos employs time as consigliere, a dutiful and clever fellow, who happens to be around generally.
  Chaos has many arms and legs, which come at you in a tangle; it's hard to tell where they begin and end. He reminds me of the famous octopus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He's clumsy, he has a talent for creating mysterious noises. He is a wrecker of plans, a wrecker of spells, an instigator. His ability to create illnesses, bruises, scratches, seems infinite. You make the most careful plans against him, and there he is again! No man knows him better than the worker in barns. I expect a conversation with him now and again, and in my opinion all too often. And I hope to receive a round instruction through experience in fighting him off.
  It may take a generation or more to instruct a mind to recognize instantly and to remedy a close brush with Chaos. These people listen to venerable experience; they become wise; they make the grade; they get ahead. As for me, Chaos has me continually buffaloed. I expect Chaos to stop at the barn door, step inward no farther. I plan against him entering and making a mess of things. There are various ways: regular maintenance, caution, care, love. Paying attention! One should pay attention; know where your socks are; know where your kids are. I try but I have been in my life a pawn before Chaos. He fooled with me! He has made me nervous. The wisdom against Chaos never showed up. It must not have. Look what happened! I could tell you stories! Oh my.
  But he doesn't stop anywhere. When a branch snaps in a sharp wind and the goats stampede out of the woods in a herd, what is behind them is nothing and everything, Chaos. Why should they put up a brave front?  Even Pharaoh knew them well, supped on their healthful and delicious milk, sought experienced keepers to maintain his herd. All of these thousands of years have goats flourished not via confrontation but flight. But still even I may instruct Chaos to tone it down. I look around me at this madness of the evening news. Whoa, whoa, whoa I say, which gets me nowhere. There is a larger more emphatic argument. "No man is an island..." We must hang together, as do my herd of goats, or the live electrical cords of this world will snap at us. Sometimes that gets a raised eyebrow.

Chaos will make them squeeze into anything.


They're a lively bunch. See the glimmer of Chaos in the shadows?

  Goats are like children in their inability to take care of themselves. But they are demanding, too. They demand order. They expect the guy who shows up every day, the worker in barns, to provide order, since they are unable to provide it for themselves. But I have found to be true that the greater number of men exist in such disorder that the possibility of order emanating from them toward any living thing is zero. In fact, evidence of orderly work is too often the exception. Human nature, which has lost touch with reason as a bulwark and bastion against disorder, is merely reflecting itself in acerbity. Outrageous statements abound, though they are always false. They beckon to Chaos, who comes in a many armed cocoon of discord. By good fortune there is simple warm affection, which contains within itself a pretend order, a proof of God's existence and love for his creation. Nobody can hate everybody, so everybody has at least some of this human affection in them. Affection and enthusiasm have saved many a barn from ruin, but they do NOT provide order. They permit Chaos entrance through lack of appreciation of the details. In true order Chaos is frustrated to find a foothold anywhere.
  Now, it never goes perfectly smoothly in the barn, as it never goes perfectly smoothly in life. The kitchen in the farmhouse, which has about it many close ties to the barn, may be unaccustomed to the accidents of that bandit Chaos. The strong arm of the housewife will tell the tale. But as I get closer to animals, I get closer to my brothers on this earth—don't ask me why—, so I get closer to the possibility of a wreck. What should I seek to forestall next? I may insist on order everyday, but the barn animals will insist on disorder. Animals like to play. The healthier they are, the more they will butt heads. Men also like to play and butt heads. At milking time the goats will crowd the gate, especially in spring when they are flush with milk. Any loose and pointed thing will eventually find a hide to puncture; any hole in the fence big enough to stick a head through will be small enough to catch it. And there will be a long night and possibly a dead animal by morning. In my comrades on this big barn of an Earth I expect concussions. But also I expect them to tone it down and do the work. Life ain't easy in a barn!
  What is it I hear in the back pasture? A high keening? I am sure Chaos has come around today. I must go look. Did you hear it? Why don't you come too?