Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lights.



I left there because the lights were bright but they were never bright enough.

From the side of Monte Sano mountain, you could see them. The grid of Huntsville, laid out, north to south. The only place switched off was the Arsenal. That was the only darkness. That, and the fields just beyond the city, far in the distance.

I only saw those lights twice a year. Coming back from my Aunt's house, over the mountain, on Christmas Eves, when we'd just spent time in her Coke themed house and dug through stockings and played in the insulation in her attic and riding itchy, over the hill, everything was illuminated for seven hundred vertical feet until we were driving back in the mundane. The neighborhoods. Just wanting to make it to bed or Santa.

That put in nugget in my heart and in my eyes and the one thing I want is a view of a city and the sparkle of progress and the lumen and I want it all and I want it there when I close my eyes. I would close them and rub them and the city would come to life in the space between my lids and my brain.

And tonight, after the worst outbreak of tornado in over thirty years, the city is dark.

But it is burning in inside me. And I needed to get it out.

Sorry I've been away.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book sale.



There was an old house.

No more than four blocks as the crow flew. Probably six as the fox ran.

It was filled with books. It was also a library.

The Houston Memorial Library.

I don’t know what I was to memorialize there. Maybe a confederate general.

They had book sales every now and then. Those sales felt the best when the fall light was coming in the widows. Cutting through the dust on the glass case. The case that had guns. Knives. A leather kidney shaped canteen. We’d have walked over crunching the magnolia leaves that covered the sidewalks in orange and brown herringbone. After the rains, we’d slip on them.

You could see out of the back to onto the side of a ranch house. The jilt of seeing a sixties car port while rocking on creaking floors with water stains made me think, for the first time, that there are two worlds. There’s this one, the one I’m in, that makes sense. And there’s that one, the truth. That heraldry has tawdry neighbors. And beyond the discolored drapes there was the truth.

As mom would look for books, I’d pretend that I was, too. That I read. That I was planning on having a hundred books of a hundred pages and a hundred bookcases full of words. I’d pull out one with a great spine illustration and Look at this one and my mother, bless her heart, would never be frustrated or short and would always tell me That looks really neat, Micah and I’d buy it for a dime and it would sit on my shelf and I’d never open it.

But if I did, I’d smell Houston Street. Fall in Alabama. Knowledge.


I miss that smell.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Walking.




I walked home from middle school.

Every day. Three miles or so. With my saxophone always and another kid named Clay sometimes.

I'd learned about entropy by walking along the train tracks. Because train tracks have already chosen the easiest path for me. I didn't have to make any decisions. Just walk in the center. Move if there comes a'train'a'runnin. Avoid eye contact with the two bums who might be along the route.

Once a girl from our middle school was raped by the tracks. Behind the Kroger. She said it was fine until they started taking turns on the evening news and I have no idea what happened to he after that. I don't even think I knew what rape was. I learned that from the tracks.

I learned that tar melts in the Alabama sun and it sticks to your shoes. Then, to your carpet.

I remember that smell of the wood. Tie after tie of hash marks. The days getting shorter and the tar sticking less.

When winter came, the world was no longer hidden past the trees - and I was no longer protected from heckling high schoolers who drove TransAms and wore RayBans.

They could into my tube.

Until I stepped onto the other side of the tracks. When the train came'a'runnin'.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Game.


We'd lobbied for months.

A NES. That's what we wanted. We were young. And late to the game. Every other kid had one. We didn't. They were one hundred dollars. To a kid, that might as well be ten dollars or a thousand. We had no idea of what money was or where it came from. But we were well aware of the results.

A Nintendo. That's what you bought with money.

After the other kids having them for years, we finally got one. It was on a Sunday. We must have gone to Roses or KMart and walked in with a wad of cash that my parents worked to save and out with a box with pictures of gameplay, pixelated worlds of tomorrow. We imagined how much different our lives would be, there in the midde seat of our Dodge Caravan, hugging the box that held life, promise, cords, drving back home.

When we got home and threw open the van door, the van that had melted suckers in the mats, french fries in the vents, we ran up the porch. Bang. Bang. On the door. Mom's keys rattled as she unlocked the door with her keyring trinket farm that happened to hold three keys.

Our hearts sank.

Dad was watching Sunday afternoon football and nothing would change the fact that the one television we owned - the one black and white box that could unleash our dreams - was not ours for at least one more quarter.

Despite everything in the universe vying against us, we became electrical engineers within seconds of halftime starting. We learned how to connect the cables and find the channels and power up our future. For three minutes we stared at the Super Mario Brother intro screen, imagining all the colors that others saw. We were so moved we never started the game.

It was turned off for the start of the second half. After the game we had chores. We didn't play it that day.

But we'd seen the light. And there was no taking that away.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Television.


For years and years we have one television. It was a 13" black and white in an off black box. It had rotary dials and fine tuning plastic dials three in total and I bet it weighed something like sixty pounds.

There were rabbit ears it they got a great signal rarely and a decent signal frequently and there were times where the satellites would forsake our area and there would be the black and white static like Indians and Cowboys fighting it out in an eternal battle. Why wouldn't you fight if you didn't have any television to watch?

What I remember in particular about those days is if we'd turn the television on and off really quickly, there would be an explosion of light that would start after the power was off. It would get brighter and clearer than the picture ever was and it was a concentration of the finest neutron stars of the galaxy and they wouldn't show up on any of my friend's fancy televisions. But just on ours. And for the 4 seconds it would last, I'd stare into the thimble sized explosion and dream about a place far away in the future where I was important and famous and wouldn't sleep on Saturdays.

I'd think about how to prolong that radiance. How to make it brighter and bigger and to pull it out and to walk around holding my sunshine where everyone saw that I wasn't embarrased that we had the oldest heaviest picture tube in Athens, Alabama but that I had a gift that was better than Dallas.

As the dime sized flicker would fade away, I'd close my eyes and in my head that black and white would still be black and white but my brain would turn it to color and I'd be content always.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Haircut.


I don’t remember if it was once or twice a year. But we’d load up, the four of us boys into Pop’s truck, after taking a picture. The picture was of us all. Four boys with a year’s worth of mangy hair and dad with a beard to match.

We’d drive four or five blocks down to the barber shop by L&S Foodland. Years later I’d work at L&S, which hadn’t been updated since before we were even children. The strip mall the barber shop were in was in disrepair in 1986. And even more so a decade later when I’d push baskets through the potholed lot.

I’d usually walk down to that same strip mall to get beans or olives or whatever else a recipe called for that we didn’t have in the cupboard. I’d pass a laundry mat and dream about taking my clothes, which we hung dry, there to the crumbly laundry mat, breathe in the chemical scent and know once I put them in the dryer they would smell fresh and they wouldn’t be stretched and they wouldn’t be frozen from the moisture in them when the nights got below zero and they wouldn’t be faded and the holes would fix themselves and they would not be hand me downs or inexpensive or practical and the elastic in my sweatpants wouldn’t be broken.

But on this day, my dad would drive. Past two stopsigns and lady pushing her buggy through the potholed lot.

There were two ladies who cut hair there. They would see us running up, trying to make sure we got a seat to wait in that had a magazine. Usually a months old Field and Stream. The barbers were an older lady who was probably in her sixties and a younger one in her late twenties. I’d always hope to have the younger one, who was in my mind the most beautiful unisex haircutter of the ages. 75% I’d end up getting the older one. Who would fidget with my head for 15 minutes as we’d all watch Mama’s House on a 13” television, in a strip mall, watching people walk through the parking lot with their bags full of beans and olives, trying to avoid the potholes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cornbread.


My mother is a great cook. A simple comfort food cook. What she did she did on the cheap and she did well.

I remember that when we'd have leftover cornbread, and we'd not be hungry for a dinner but enough for a snack, she'd pour a glass of milk. The put a piece of cornbread in it. A regular old fashioned corn bread milk shake.

I can't remember how many times I had this. But it popped into my head the other night. Right after we'd made some cornbread, which I subsequently drowned in 2%.