Summer is here and the excitement of the spring is over. All time has slowed its pace. Three square meals a day including the critter crewe. Afternoons awaiting the mail to be inspected and declared fit to read. Little projects fill the void that was the office. Swat at the mosquitoes and read in the dark.
But it is calm
Inside the DVDs flow from one season to another. Wonderment of a new chapter at a push of the button satisfies immediate satisfaction. Stores of colas, chips and paper towels maintain a balance.
But it is calm
The dog days of summer are supposed to be quiet slow hours of heat and sun. The big projects, painting, organizing, cleaning, building are on hold. The critters are caged or under covers. Cold drinks and fire food supplemented with light shows of sports fill the daze.
But it is calm.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Begins with the usual wake up call to breakfast at seven for oatmeal, soy bacon, water, sliced orange, and instant coffee. Channel 12 is holding on the television so the most professional broadcast is now available. Traffic reports of wrecks on a background of computer generated streets, weather forecasting the incoming heat, sports touting the upcoming metal monster drive fast and turn left and the first round pick of the VCU b-ball play (Yeah us!), and the constant chatter of Farah and Mikey.
Enough of that stuff, out for the morning ride before it gets too hot.
Start at Broad today and work backwards. The quiet-time. Weaving back and forth on familiar roads, passing the removal of the Thomas Jefferson tennis courts that I don’t remember being there when I went to school so many years ago, but we had a tennis team so? Passing by lawn care trailers and the smell of freshly cut yards, waving to the Puritan delivery driver, checking out the young smiling going to work driver, pressing up hills that leave no quarter, checking the glass from an vehicle light that met a bad faith in my path and hoped for the air to stay firm (more to come…), forgetting to number the fewer houses for sale on my journey and many have “pending” or “contract” on the signs giving a feeling that the recession may be changing (at least in this neighborhood), seeing the packing of towels and lawn chairs into the back of black hatch tops, passing a women running with a twin carriage full of babies and a pink plastic helmet riding behind her as a mobile monster approached, the parked earth digger which had closed the street the day before with a crew trying to patch another hole gone wrong, pass Mr. Curley’s car with “I Love Trains” on it, up the final hill and back around to listen to the dirty stories being passed back and forth from ladder climbers.
Two bottles of water and a wet red shirt were consumed.
Decided to do the daily adventures early so a quick wash and change, back on another bike and out the fence, but this would be an ardent adventure.
What’s on the list to do? Cup hooks, check; grocery list, check; and checking on the next series of DVDs.
I decided to go to Barnes and Noble first, since I did not bring the C.A.R.E. packages and had already written the bills, so I skipped the new Pleasants hardware store on Patterson and turned right pass the incomplete real estate snafu Monument Square. Someone is losing his or her shirt on this project.
Going down new street things felt right with broad paved road and bunnies hopping. Then the even pavement changed to grey gravel! (Gravel -The worst fear of a two wheel traveling devise).
Turn on the busy Libbie and ride the block of health care buildings to the entrance. A sharp turn to the right through the smooth even ramp, but something didn’t feel right.
Gliding down the Limit 25MPH smoothness, the ride felt wrong. Pass Pet Smart I could feel the hub of the wheel. “Another flat!”
Climbing off and walking to the lockup spot, I was on a mission and could not be denied.
Once inside the pleasant un-crowded bookstore with Michael Jackson songs wafting though the ceiling speakers, I walked back to the DVD area.
Forgetting to put on my reading glasses, I glared at the rack of television series through the darkness. My quest was to find the complete series of “Dark Shadows”, the original vampire story from the mid-60’s that held every imagination. I had grown up on Frankenstein and Dracula, but never was interested in the TV version, on late night replays of the old classics with Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi.
After several searches and assistance, there was nothing I could find to satisfied my needs.
Press up the hot pavement to lock around a post and venture into Target in search of cup hooks. I’d already struck out once, so I was wary of the find. Forgetting where the “hardware” section had moved, I wandered through the store; pass people with screaming kids, big boxes, and lost expressions. Aw! “Home Improvement”, that’s what I’m looking for. There was one pre-wrapped package with one hook, and then there was one with two. I was amazed. Maybe I should have gone to Pleasants hardware after all. I thought these things were easy to find, but the grocery store didn’t have them, so I continued my search. Aw!! Gold hooks, copper hooks, and silver hooks in two sizes were found. Oh no, too many choices. Grab the small size and the large size and get to the check out before my luck changes.
The Express Line was empty, including the woman who stared off into the distance not acknowledging my existence or the sound of the hooks on the conveyer belt.
“Oh” she finally turned to her task and slowly rang up the $6.00 purchase.
Next was the walk up Broad Street to cross in lunch hour traffic to the bicycle shop.
Dragging “Big Blue” into the swinging doors and over to the repair area, the young tattooed lads in cargo shorts and dark t-shirts viewed the familiar friend. “Back tire” I pointed and they smiled. We’ve done this dance before.
“Would you like us to put the Teflon tire protection in this time? $7.00 for each tire?”
“Sure, let’s try it again.”
I wondered around the store sweating a sad I could not find “Dark Shadows”. Checking out gloves, bright day-glo yellow jackets like the t-shirt I was wearing, and bags until the repair was complete.
“Throw in a couple of bottles and racks, it’s getting hot out there. And I don’t mind advertising you guys.”
“And we thank you.”
Back on my wheels, the next venture was the Kroger experience. The daily request was for bread, milk, eggs, and beer. The usual request.
Then up the hill, mail the bills, around the video truck looking into the pipes underground, and home.
Phew! This was enough of a day, so it is time to rest and listen to some tunes, but please not the Jacksons.
The trashcan is full of cans of beer piss and newspapers soaking up the constant call.
Spider webs rake the ceiling while smaller bugs swing back and forth.
The fan continues to blow from the left, the evening breeze.
The bulletin board is full of “to-do” list. A calendar, bills to be paid on Friday, 3-d glasses, magnifying glasses and single bicycle gloves to be investigated and maybe order online.
The moth continues to fly about the light. The television has been turned off after “This Old House” relieving the viewer of the icons death toil. There will be more tomorrow.
Today’s accomplishments were to go to the grocery store twice, take an extended ride, read the newspaper, drink beer, eat crappy fried chicken, listen to some self-made music, pound but miss the dreaded moth flying about, stuff some envelopes with gifts for others, contact the unemployment office finally with the required form to get another boost to my checkbook, clean my fingernails, discuss the tax letter saying I’ve paid the taxes, but they were late, but I do not owe any money, even have a .74¢ credit, loved the internet working fine for the first time this week, listening to the nasty conversation of the roof builders on the corner, watching the young girl walking this morning without a smile , listening to the banter of the witches talking about breast feeding and Lady Guinevere riding naked, swatting little bloodsuckers and looking out for grey runners, the night ends with silver bullets, heat, music and insects.
The extra hour rest this morning did not bring relief for this and tomorrow will be hotter.
Is this what life will bring?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The room had become comfortable for the five occupants. Perhaps it was the wine but each had accepted the other and the conversation continued.
“Do you remember the housing melt-down?” Dexter started.
“Sure. That was a mess.” Ike answered.
“That was THE start. The market went down with the bad loans. People had overextended themselves.”
“I always lived by a pay-as-you-go policy.” Ike chirped as if to get a winning approval smile from the others.
“Fine, but so many others didn’t. This caused the banks to have debts they could not recover.” Dexter stood and started flipping though the books on the walls.
“Then everyone got sick!” West chimed in.
“What?” Ike confused response.
“Not too fast,” Dexter turned and continued his story. “So as we know the economy cracking up under the pressure of bad loans and the fear of a run on the banks. Companies were laying-off employees to reduce cost. There was no employment for newly graduating students. People stayed at home to keep cost down and waited for a recovery.
“And don’t forget the digital snafu.” Newton shyly whispered taking another slip of wine.
“Ah, the digital change over.” Dexter stopped searching for a book. “The government needed more air bandwidth, so they announced the analog television signal would be changed to digital. They sold boxes to convert the older televisions to accept the new signal, but the day the change over happened…..”
“Riots in the streets.” Newton added.
“It seems the digital signal was not strong enough and people lost there ONLY entertainment…. television. That was the last straw.” The tall blond turned back to his book search.
“Foreclosures grew and some… many just walked out of their homes and wandered into the emptiness. Companies closed and the government could not print enough money to help.”
“Abandoned homes started to fill neighborhoods. They became crime havens with roving gangs of homeless. Homes started to burn, either by their former owners or in anger to the financial crisis. Cities started to burn and that fed the fever. The whole country went crazy. ”
“Then the illness came.” West spoke up.
“Please continue good sir” Dexter bowed to West placing another book on the shelf.
“The A2O2 virus had started the year before and was picked up by the medical community” West continued sitting up, “It seemed to start in Mexico, but it didn’t matter. It spread like wildfire.”
Ike and Ginger stared at each other in bewilderment.
“Television talked about the A2O2 everyday on the news while all these unemployed people were sitting at home watching. Reports of growing numbers of deaths on the nightly news didn’t help matters and the panic grew. People would wonder the streets in mask and gloves. The pandemic created a gigantic fear factor. Then the television went off the air so no one knew what was going on. The Internet was full of lies and roomers. . The hospitals started flooding with cases. We were all overwhelmed. There was no vaccine so all we could do is cope.”
“So everyone died?” Ginger questioned with a wine burp.
“Not so fast little girl, the story continues” Dexter placed a restful hand on her shoulder.
Ike filled Gingers glass fascinated by the tale being presented to the couple. “Please continue.”
Newton returning from the kitchen with a plate of raw seafood said, “ It was panic time.”
“People started going crazy!” West added in a calm medical manner. “They had been kept at home watching this crazy stuff on TV and then everything they touched turned them sick. They went to the grocery story and the carts and the cereal boxes and the bottles of milk and the frozen packages were all contaminated with the A2O2. It was everywhere. Even in the money.”
“Wild man” Newton added.
Ike was not charmed with the comment. “So where did everyone go?”
“Man, it was wild” Newton turned chomping on a crab leg. “It was like a bell went off.”
“It spread” Dexter calmed the conversation. “It was like a wildfire.”
“Like a wildfire!” Newton agreed.
“Suddenly on April second, 2009, the world went crazy.” West explained.
“Crazy?” Ginger questioned.
“Crazy! The whole world went mad. It was as if no one had anything left to lose. Neighborhood on fire emptied into the streets screaming. Mobs formed and started looting. Cars were left on the roads as people ran for whatever safety they could find. Banks and other symbols of the establishment were burned to the ground. Anything that represented wealth were targets,” West continued.
“Yes, we know” Ike sighed.
“Oh, really?” Newton seemed to perk up.
“Please, continue” Ike interjected.
“Well the few that could get television reception, the news showed the rioting and then they went off the air, so people used their own devises to communicate.” Newton added.
Dexter continued the story, “The Internet was good for a while, and then that went down. It related the whole world was intertwined in this mess. Everyone all over the planet was broke, mad, sick, and dying. That was went it really went bad.”
“Where were you?” Newton asked the bewildered couple.
Ike shyly responded, “ We left our home and boarded a cruise ship for open waters.”
“Ah, the sea” Dexter smiled.
Ike seemed perturbed with Dexter’s remark replied to West, “ Where did everyone go?”
“They did the same thing as YOU did! THEY WENT TO THE WATER!” West shouted.
The room’s atmosphere chilled as the conversation halted on the shout. What was the meaning of the statement?
“The water didn’t seem to be affected by the A2O2 virus. The fish were somehow shelter by the water.” Newton calmly broke the tension while picking up the empty platters.
“So the water shielded the virus? So the fish are immune to this virus? “ Ike asked.
“Seems so” Dexter replied opening another book and studying the scripture within.
“But you guys are here?” Ike ‘s volume increased. “And we have seen other humans?”
“And we saw a bird this morning?” Ginger added.
“We were on the base when the order came in that we were being shipped out” West broke in. “ I was in the supply depot. I became distracted by the list of pills and prescriptions and stayed to organize the orders. Time passes quickly and when I realized the time, I went to the outside. Everyone was GONE!”
“Gone?” Ginger asked.
“Gone. The base was empty. I wandered around for awhile hoping to find someone, then walked to the beach thinking I catch a ride.”
“There was not a person in sight. Only vacant cars, trucks, buildings, and a hot highway.” West responded.
Newton suddenly entered the conversation; “ It was the same for me.”
“What?” Ginger asked.
“I was in an airplane hanger. I was working on a solution to air draft through a video simulator, when I fell asleep. I guess I had been working on these projects for hours.” Newton paused and wiped his glasses. “I went outside and everyone was gone. EVERYONE!”
“What… what did you do?” Ginger questioned.
“I did the same as everyone else. I went to the water. Wandering to the ocean I met West and then Dexter” Newton softly remembered. “ That was when we realized WE were the only ones left.”
“Dexter? Where did you come from?” Ike changed the subject.
“Me? I was in the library doing research. Hours pass like minutes when you are engulfed in a fascinating adventure of research and study. I had a special corner where I did my study. No one would ever bother me there, so I continued to complied my notes until I was so overwhelmed with information I placed my head on the table and slept.”
“And?” Ike added.
“When I awoke, I rubbed my eyes and walked through the empty building full of the most wonderful, exciting, and revealing words anyone can find. I moved into the outer world to find silence. Every human had disappeared.”
“As the three of us stood on the beach watching the last of ships lose themselves at the horizon; the power died.”
“And that was how many years ago?” Ike asked, hoping not to get an accurate answer.
“After we found this place and realized we were not sick, we started looking around for the basics. Food, water…” West continued in a logical manner.
“… And books” added Dexter.
“The necessities of life.” Newton returned from the kitchen area with two more bottles of wine.
“Allow me” Ike grabbed one bottle and with a quick twist removed the plastic cover. Then a thrust from his knife into the cork and another twist reveled the liquid shared to all.
“This is really strange,” Ginger questioned.
“The wine?” Newton asked.
“No, what is going on here. Have you every seen anyone else?”
Dexter walked over and sat on the floor. He placed a slice of paper in the book and closed the cover. Quietly picking up another filled glass said, “ We looked. Up and down the beach. We went inland, but everywhere we went was empty.”
“Empty?” Questioned Ginger.
“Just as you have seen today. The entire population of every country had boarded ships and gone to sea…. Or died.” Dexter voice dropped off and he took a long gulp of wine.
West changed the mood, “Light a few more candles Newton.”
The sun had set and the group was wrapped in darkness except for the corner of the room lit by a few wax light sticks.
Dexter had vanished into the darkness as the others resituated themselves for the evening. Ike looked worried about the revaluation of the demise of the country, but kept a smile for Ginger who was filling another glass of wine.
“Go ahead, we have plenty” Newton smiled checking out Ginger’s curves.
“What a minute!” Ike cried out, interrupting the mood of relaxation. “This A2O2 virus that swept the country? Why were YOU guys spared?”
Dexter walked back into the room and sat crossed legged on a pillow staring at West.
“Science seems to prove the A2O2 virus only had a brief, but deadly lifespan. By the year 2010, the virus had mutated and died or become harmless.” West shrugged, “ I have no proof of this, but it just stopped.”
“But no one knew that because they had all vacated the premises.” Newton smiled with another bottle of wine glaring at Ginger.
“What about the rest of the country?? Those who could not get to the sea? What about Kansas?” Ike slurred having another glass of red.
“We don’t know,” responded West, “Unless they came this way, we have no communication with anyone. You are the first people we have seen in… oh…. ten years or so.”
As Ike and Ginger sat looking at each other in a stupor haze of wine and wonder of an unbelievable story presented to them, Dexter offered a silver case. With a knowing smile he opened the case to show some tightly rolled cigarettes.
“Would you like a recreational cigarette?” he smiled a broad knowing grin.
“Does everyone just get high now?” Ike grumbled knocking over his glass of wine. Ginger moped it up with a towel she pulled off a chair. Newton enjoyed her every move.
“What about the animals?” Ginger questioned the drunken trio. “We saw a bird today.”
“Some animals survived because they were out at sea or on far away islands, but for the first year or so there were nothing but carcasses laying on the ground. There were no insects so the bodies just rotted under the sun into mush. “
“It wasn’t pretty and very smelly, but we three could not bury all of them” West added. “Thank God for the rain.”
Ginger eagerly grabbed the lit cigarette from Dexter and took a long toke. She turned to Ike who did not looked interested, so turned back to Newton who smiled and received the gift.
“Let me see if I understand,” Ike over spoke to the group, “ everyone in the country… no in the world…. Realized they were in immanent danger if they did not except to the seas? So everyone, except for you three and a couple of others who seem to be immune to this A2O2, climbed aboard any floating fixture and paddled out to the open oceans.”
Dexter puffed with smoke coming out of his nostrils, “ Yes!”
“This is crazy,” Ike slammed his hand down, “The entire world can NOT run away from a flu. We have medicine, doctors, scientist, the military, the government… there must have been something done…. Something to stop this.”
“It is estimated,” West stopped the tantrum, “ that 30 to 40 million people died due to this virus. It was fast and devastating.”
“What choice did people have but to run away?” Newton asked smoke blending into his curly grey hair. “You’ve seen the results.”
“Now what?” Ginger slowly lifted her droopy eyelids to look to Ike for an answer.
The room grew silent. As the flames on the candles flickered in the sea breezes the five figures sat in complete quiet. There was no answer to the question.
“Let me have a hit,” Ike reached for the silver case which fell to the floor.
There on the dusty sandy-carpeted floor sat the silver case with an inscription on the cover. “Manard”.
Ike and Ginger stared at the case and at each other as Ike inhaled. The mysterious trio stared at the case then each other wondering what the interest was with the inscription.
Blowing smoke into the room Ike asked, “Where did you get the case?”
“We do scavenger hunts on the beach,” Newton puffed.
“Yes, we found it on the beach” West agreed.
Dexter just smiled; smoke wafting around his long hair. He just sat with a knowing gesture to the others.
Ike was too tired and drunk and high to continue the inquisition, so he lay down on the floor, put his head on the pillow, and closed his eyes. Ginger realized it was her call to cuddle next to him. The two became as one on the soft pillows.
The clink of empty bottles rolling across the floor were covered by the breathe of candles being blown out.
“Sleep well” Dexter whispered to the pair as the mysterious trio disappeared into the darkness.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Dexter turned inland followed by the two pack mules, leaving Elvis on the beach. Through the shadows of the towering hulks of concrete emptiness, the three shuffled on the sandy sidewalks.
“We are right over here.” Dexter pointed to a small weathered house on stilts next to a glistening pond.
“Ow!” Ginger cried out. The three stopped. “Sand spur! Damn!” Ginger raised her foot to pull the small shell from her foot.
“Why don’t you leave your packs down here?” Dexter said pointing to the vacant parking deck under the house.
Ike paused and looked around questioning the offer.
“They’ll be safe,” Dexter said spread his arm around. “Do you see anyone around?”
Ginger and Ike agreed and lightened themselves of their burden.
“Watch your step.” Dexter warned as he ascended the rickety steps leading to the abode.
The shuttered simple domain had few amenities. The ocean had taken its toil on the wooden structure through the years. Shingles were missing from the roof while others flapped in the breeze. The splinted deck showed the wear and tear of years mistreatment. Once painted white, the one story building had been sand peppered to its grey asbestos siding.
“I bring guest,” Dexter announced to the darkness inside swinging open the squeaking screen door that was the only filter from the outside world. The wary travelers followed.
The temperature dropped 20 degrees once inside. Their eyes adjusted to the darkness. As they scanned the large room they began to focus. A table made from an old wire spool used for telephone lines rested in the corner. It was covered with candles of every size and shape. A dusty mirror rested against the wall to amplify the light. Two windows at the far end of the room were covered with some sort of woven cloth letting in some light through torn weaves. The room had a musty yet smoky smell. A huge red and white oriental carpet covered the floor. Crate furniture were scattered with towels and blankets covering the arms and a scattering of pillows.
“So who have we here?” came a voice from another room.
Two men walked out of the kitchen area to meet the visitors. They were anything but threatening. One wore hospital scrubs and the other cut off jeans and an army green t-shirt that had a faded image saying “Frog Hollow Day Camp” on it.
“This is Ike and Ginger” Dexter proudly presented the pair placing his book on a makeshift bookshelf lined with hundreds of volumes.
“Hi!” Ginger blurted, “I’m Ginger Bonneau and this guy is Ike Patterson.”
“THE Ike Patterson?” the man in the t-shirt laughed and approached the couple.
“What?” Ike looking astonished replied.
“Just kidding” the thin mustached man with thick glasses laughed circling around the pair, as he looked them over.
Ike and Ginger, not knowing what to make of these comments, stood still and watched as this observation took place. Dexter stood in the corner enjoying the interaction.
“Don’t pay him no-mind. I think he is half thick anyway,” the other man said stepping out of the shadows. “My name is John, but they call me West.”
“You can call him Mike,” the other man laughed.
Dexter coughed and joined the others placing his arm around the shorter man with well-groomed hair, “ This is ‘West’. He was a medic with the navy before….”
“Yeah, before….” Said the t-shirt man still circling the new couple as if to size them up for a meal. “Before what?” his head turned back to Dexter with a puzzled look.
“There’ll be time for that Newton.” Dexter scolded.
The thin man who had been circling the couple stopped and stood up straight adjusting his glasses. “Excuse me for the weirdness. We don’t get many visitors.”
Ike and Ginger relaxed and smiled.
“My name is Newton. West and I belonged to the Navy before….. well you know.”
Dexter stopped the introduction, “NO! They don’t know.”
The room grew silent and tension overcame all.
Dexter broke the tension. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes, what kind of welcome is this?” West broke away from the arm of Dexter and walked back into the kitchen.
“Before WHAT?” Ike picked up on the conversation and pointed to Dexter for an explanation.
The sun was setting and Dexter gestured for Newton to light the candles. With the additional light the master of ceremonies offered the new couple pillows and covers to rest on. West returned from the kitchen with a platter of chunks of cheese and crackers. After lighting the candles Newton disappeared into the darkness quickly returning with two bottles.
“White or red?”
Dexter smiled and without looking at Newton, “Yes.”
The group made themselves comfortable on the floor passing glasses of refreshment reflecting the candlelight. Ginger took a taste of the cheese and smiled her appreciation for the taste and the company. Ike smelled the wine and sipped with apprehension. Newton continued to cut the cheese and arrange in order of size and shape much to Ginger’s joy. West sat back and seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
“So tell us about you Ike and Ginger?” Dexter questioned.
The couple looked at each other with the abruptness of the question. Who would be the spokesman for the pair? Since Ginger had a mouth full of cheese and crackers, Ike declared their tale.
“I’m Ike Patterson. We used to live in Virginia at a place called ‘Puppywoods’, but then there were riots and we had to quickly leave. I don’t know what caused the riots but I could see we had to leave. We went to the ocean and escaped on a cruise ship, but it sank.”
“Ah, to the sea.” Dexter whispered, with the assured smiles from Newton and West.
“What?” Ike stopped and questioned the new mysterious trio.
The three smiled and looked back and forth for a spoke person.
Dexter chimed in, “ They all went to the sea.”
“What?” Ike stammered.
“Finish your story and we’ll fill in the gaps.” Dexter mumbled under a sip of wine to wash down a cheese cracker.
“Well the boat sank!” Ginger chimed in, “ I had to swim through shark infested waters to this overgrown island and found this cool old club.”
“Who found?” Ginger sharply turned to Ike. “I found it first buster. You stumbled along later remember?”
“Oh… oh yeah.”
“Then WE found this boat and sailed up the eastern seaboard until we found you guys.” Ginger was proud with her story.
“I see” Dexter acknowledged.
Newton and West looked confused by the quick story, but continued looking at Dexter for clarification.
“How long were you gone?” Dexter asked.
“We are not sure. We met a surfer in Wilmington who thought it was 2020, and then we saw a soldier guarding a Food King who wasn’t sure what year it was. As I recall we left Virginia in 2009. “
Silence drew over the room, as all looked back and forth, each other expecting someone to forfeit a time stamp.
“OK, let me tell you about this mysterious trio we have become.”
The room eased and Newton and West settled into lounging positions. Ginger poured Ike another glass and went back to the cheese platter.
“Newton and West worked on the navy base. Newton worked on planes and computers, while West was a medic.”
“So where is the Navy?” Ike interrupted.
“Everyone was ordered out to sea.” Newton responded taking another sip of wine.
“But we missed the boat.” West added in a comfortable prone position.
“What?” Ike confused by the answers responded.
“Wait. Let me tell you the full story.” Dexter quietly calmed the situation.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The morning ride, which started at 7:30 a.m. and 75 degrees took the usual route from south to north.
The neighborhood was as normally quiet with little traffic and noise. Even the lawnmowers were silent.
Daze from the night before filtered the normal path. The breezes and the shade kept the heat in control.
My path was cluttered with early morning runners. This quiet neighborhood is a haven for running groups preparing for tournaments so I am used to the line of out of shape panting folks crossing my way. Sometimes there is eye candy, so it makes the ride more interesting.
Crossing Patterson a new phenomenon. A yard sale extravaganza was taking place. The posters said “Malvern Garden’s Community Yard Sale” and that is what is. Every block had one or two or three or several together houses displaying their “stuff” on the front lawn for the community to peruse. Metal mobile machines maneuvered in position to get a look at personal belongings laid out on the lawns.
As I waited for the mobile machines to come to rest, a man walking his dog came up to me and said, “ With everyone going broke, the good stuff is coming out. There is a golf bag over there. Titlelist for $40. Even bring out Aunt Sally’s china. What about that side board left to you by your grandfather?”
I agreed and moved on. Every block was more of the same. Plaid pants, dishes, lamps, pictures frames, and blankets. There were closet cleaning items that no one wanted, but I wondered why they did not give them to the Red Cross or Salvation Army and take the self imposed value off taxes.
It was interesting to see an entire community involved in a giant yard sale.
Finishing my morning journey I returned home to the critters enjoying their peanut butter, sunflower seed, and apples as my shirt dripped from the heat and it is only 10 a.m.
It is time for a silver bullet. It is 5 o’clock somewhere.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The usual morning ride with a few observations during the meditation period. Shift one gear up and make the adventure a little stronger.
I came across an iron horse holding a ring in its mouth. A lawn jockey used to be a sign of prestige. Only the finest of homes had a iron lawn jockey, usually shaped as a small black man dressed in a jockey outfit with a stretched out hand holding a ring. This was item of opulence was made to hold a horses reigns keeping the carriage or saddled steed in place until ready for another journey.
The neighborhood used to be punctuated with these gentlemen waiting to hold your horse. Through the years I observed they were vandalized or moved by the householder. These symbols of wealth were being removed for the common curb to rest the monster metal mobile machines.
I thought back to time when in a previous life they were used at the foxhunts.
So why are they still there? What symbol do they still hold?
The song for today is “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Van Morrison and then changes to “When the Mode of the Music Changes” by the Fugs. It’s all about pattern. 1-2-3-4 and repeat to the rhythm of the song.
What clubs are you a member of? The lawn jockey reminded me of the status symbols used by people to impress other people.
Clubs were another source of prestige. Who knows who in a group is what a club is all about? It was called a click in high school, but it remained a circle of people who decided who would or could join their circle.
Sometimes it was money, or name, or stature in the community, or just a bunch of kids who decided among themselves they would form a club and only let certain people in.
My dad knew how to work this system and could smooze his way to associate with the top names in state government and business leaders, but he was hired help. He could keep them happy and satisfied, but was not asked for his opinion.
Soft leather chairs, painting of horses on the wall, black men in starched tux serving brandy, and cigar smoke filling the air around the tall wooden bookshelf’s holding volumes of classics.
So what club do you belong to? What does it fulfill for you?
What would you love to be? You know, the thoughts you had as a little kid. When your dreams were of cowboys or astronauts or super heroes. Remember when you could do anything without thought of money or family or environment.
It’s a hideous thought but when you had not worries due to the impendence of the youth, what did you dream to be?
I had no dreams so they never came true.
I’ve noted the tall old trees in my neighborhood that loom over me as I ride back and forth every day. Trees as old as the streets or even before. Trees that conquer the concrete and swallow up the sidewalks in their massive trucks line my path.
I think of them as air roots. They reach to the sun and spread to the warmth as below ground they suck the earth moisture.
But with age and weather these fingers will break off from the main frame and drop to the ground.
So I wander through this canopy of possible destruction and beauty.
Monday, June 15, 2009
“Look at that sunrise. It’s magnificent.” Ginger stood staring out at the ocean. The horizon was glowing in a warm orange glow. Every wave brought a new color glistening on the water bringing in a new day. “Ike, wake up, youve got to see this.”
Ike stirred and mumbled something about bees and robots.
“Ike, come look at this.” Ginger insisted.
Slowly opening his eye, he viewed a soft light silhouetting a figure against the starry sky. The transparent t-shirt flowing in the morning breeze did little to hide the willowing shape below.
“Um, OK, I’m coming” Ike gruffer as he rolled out of bed and onto the sandy floor. Umph!
“What are you doing?” Ginger turned to see him pull himself back up and sit on the edge of the rumpled covers. “How much of that scotch did you two have?”
Ike stood and paused for a moment changing his thoughts and direction and staggered to the window.
The orange glow faded the stars into clouds and the blackness turned to light blue before their eyes. Even the sea seemed to come alive. The two stood silently watching the beach reveal itself from the shadow of night.
“Look! Look there.” Ike pointed into the distance like a child finding Christmas.
“It’s a pelican.” Ginger quietly assured him her meditations thoughts wrapped up in the sunrise.
“I know,” Ike disgust at her quip announced, “ it’s the first creature we have seen except for fish. It’s a bird. The first bird we’ve seen.”
Ginger winked and turned toward the passing feathered creature slowing gliding over the crashing waves. Then something else caught her eye.
Their focus zoomed onto a man walking down the beach. Carrying a book, the tanned body with hair and open Hawaiian shirt blowing in the morning air, seemed like a tourist taking a morning stroll.
Ike shook his head as if to remove the cotton inside. “Let’s find out.” He looked down at the exposed legs of his companion. “Get dressed and grab your pack.”
The two scurried out into the hallway and retraced their path down the stairway. Stumbling over each other as if they were chasing the Beatles in “Hard Days Night”, they rushed out to the sand.
Sitting in yoga poise the unknown had seated himself on the soft surface and was facing the sunrise. He did not move as the couple approached.
“Excuse me.” Ginger softly interrupted the moment.
A long thin face turned to the pair. The eyelids slowly opened to reveal steely blue eyes. His face was weathered by sun and sea and the deep lines revealed wisdom, not age. Pushing back his hair that whipped his face he smiled.
Ike and Ginger startled at the welcoming tone of the man’s voice, glanced at each other for an expression.
“Hel.. Hello.” Ginger stammered. “I’m Ginger Bonneau,” then pointing to the man dropping his bulky pack in the sand, “and he is Ike Patterson.”
“Come join me. Sit” the smiling man pleasantly, volunteered a spot next to him on the warm sand.
The two joined hands and braced each other settling down in a crossed leg Indian style wiggling side to side to create a depression.
“Ike and Ginger. Welcome to my beach.”
“Who are you?” Ike getting to the point quickly replied.
“Dexter. They call me Dexter.”
“They? They who?” Ginger interjected looking up and down the beach. “We’ve only met two people in the past week.”
“Dexter, you are the third person we’ve seen in days. Where is everyone?”
“Ike and Ginger. Nice names,” the stranger paused and faced the sunrise. “There will be time for that,” his quiet voice whispered as he went back to his yoga position, closing his eyes. “Do you have any books?”
“Books? No we didn’t go to the library.” Ike quipped noticing Ginger was duplicating the yoga pose.
The trio sat for several more minutes, quietly listening to the roar of the rising tide.
Suddenly the stranger arose to his feet and picked up his book.
“Where are you going?” Ginger asked shading her eyes with her hand.
“Home; to see the others. Follow and I’ll lead you there.”
Ginger jumped to her feet and tugged onto her overloaded bag. Ike stood up and looked at the Dusty Rose bobbing in the water. His thoughts turned to concern over following a stranger and leaving the only means of transportation around. When he turned back the other two were already halfway down the beach. He bullied on the cumbersome sack and started trotting to catch up. He thought about the sweater and the red diamond. As he arrived two the fast moving pair he again looked back taking points of reference. “If anything happens to that boat…” he thought.
“Pardon good sir?” the gentleman asked hearing Ike’s mutters.
“Nothing,” Ike responded turning back to their unknown route. “How far, Dexter?”
“It’s just over that next hill.” He pointed a thin finger to a distant rise.
“What are you reading?” asked Ginger noticing the book Dexter held so tightly.
He turned the cover to show her. “The Kings of England”
“Oh!” Ginger’s voice faded. “What about the Queens.”
Ike chucked knowing that Ginger often portrayed herself as “Queen”.
Dexter smiled at her; as a father would do a child.
“Did you know in 1257 the first gold coins were produced in England?”
“No,” Ginger replied slyly looking up to her new founded teacher.
“Did you know the Wales’ David Prince was drawn and quartered by the long shanks of Edward I? How about the conquering of Ireland in 1171 by Henry I, son of Maud, who married Plantagenet, Earl of Argon? Those were good times. Did you know that Charles II had to deal with the plague of 1665 and the Great fire the next year? Much like what is happening now.”
“What do you know about ‘what is happening now’?” Ike joined the conversation.
The three rested under a pier to shade from the sun.
“Would you like some water?” Ginger asked Dexter. “I’d offer you scotch, but Ike gave it away.” Ginger gave Ike “the stare” while he struggled with his backpack.
“What did you get yesterday?” Ike moaned.
“Just the essentials. Things I must have.” Ginger defensively continued.
Ike opened the pack and pulled out black velvet Elvis beach towel with an inscription “What plays in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
Dexter laughed and turned back to the sun. “Come on you two. It’s not much further.”
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The digital TV has come to pass and over two million are not ready, but what of the ones who have cable and dish TV? They are READY.
But what of us with the old analog boxes with wire antennas?
Sure we took the government offer to have discount cards for the mandatory purchase of digital boxes, but I was only allowed two cards and I have four television sets.
So plug them in and test them and rescan the channels and watch the commercials reminding us without cable and dish TV to adjust the antennas.
The day came Friday, June 12, 2009. The old rusty tower rising over the Broad Street station was now silent.
And for us, so was WWBT-12. They have been our source for news for the past decade or more and had passed the entire trial test.
But now it was gone.
So now we have digital. Digital for me is the weak signal that breaks up in storms and heavy winds.
And two remotes, one to turn on the set and the other to turn on the digital box in order to receive a signal from somewhere will not solve the new wave of entertainment.
But there is an OFF button and it works well.
As long as I can receive PBS and “Sunday Morning”, I’ll be fine.
Let the riots in the streets continue and the government will realize that the Iranian elections, North Korean missile firings, and the automotive disaster will not solve the basic need for American’s to sit and eat and stare at a box presenting pictures of comedy, information, sports, and unless messages before the Internet took the attention of the young.
Beware of what you miss and what you have desired.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The morning light brought the shoreline of Virginia Beach. The dark silhouettes of rows of hotels create a jagged horizon. As the sun rises on the Dusty Rose’s starboard, Ike can feel the wheel pull toward the shore.
“Where are we?” Ginger squinting at the daylight, arises from the darken hull with two cups of coffee.
“That’s Virginia Beach?” Ike said grabbing a warm cup and taking a sip.
Ginger sat next to Ike and cuddled up with the soft grey sweater pulling it tight and cupping the ivory cup “It’s nice this time of the morning.”
“We’ll cut into the Old Coast Guard Station and anchor there. Hold this coarse while I go below and try and find a spyglass.” Ike put down his mug and release the wheel to go below.
Ike crept down the stairs to the mass of papers scattered about. Opening a cabinet and shifting through maps he reached in the back and felt the metal cylinders.
“This thing is hard to steer.” Ginger complained struggling with the wheel.
Ike grabbed the wheel with his left hand and gave a sharp turn to starboard while raising the binoculars. The Dusty Rose moaned and proceeded back to course.
“There! That’s where we want to go.”
Ginger squinted and stared at the white beach. “How do you know?”
“See the grey shingled building?” Ike handed the binoculars to her and pointed.
“I see Neptune!” she squealed.
“But I still don’t see any people and that worries me.”
The sun was up and the beach accepted the constant waves staring down with pastel towers of loneliness.
Ike moved to the bow and threw the anchor overboard listening to the chain rattle against the side. The Dusty Rose slowed to halt and turned into the wind as Ginger lowered the sail.
After a brief clothes change below, placing the sweater in a safe place, the couple dove into the waves riding to shore.
Alone on the wide stretch of sand the two surveyed the former vacation site. Stepping out of the waves slapping at their backs, Ike and Ginger’s steps sunk into the dry sand up to the concrete boardwalk. The hot sand turned to the cool slab that separated the massive hotels from the pristine beach.
Ike swung the pack over one shoulder and started inland. “There has to be someone here.” He muttered.
“I’m glad I found these shorts and t-shirt. They are much easier to swim in.” Ginger said to wind blowing her hair dry.
Up to the boulevard of surf shops and restaurants and tourist attractions, the two looked north and south. Surfboards sat layered, sand blistered in the sunshine awaiting the next wave. Brightly colored beach towels faded waving like flags in the sea breeze.
Ike walked to the nearby Hyatt high rise and pressed the glass doors that did not resist his entrance. The lobby was dark and had the smell of mildew. He walked to the check in counter, then behind opening doors and moving knocked over chairs. Scattered papers covered in sand covered the floors. Ginger moved to the elevators and pressed the button.
“No electricity here either; just like it was in Wilmington. All the doors have electronic locks so we can’t get a room.”
“Let’s keep going.” Ike turned back to the blinding sunlight.
“Hey dude, try these.” Ginger said tossing him a huge pair of sunglasses.
Ike tried on the glasses and stared back at Ginger who was admiring herself in the glass doors.
“I’ve got an idea.” Ike moved toward a rack of bicycles at one of the tourist sites. The tattered awning gave little shade as he checked the gears, brakes and tires.
“Try this one on for size.” Ike pulled a pink cruiser out of the rack and walked it over to Ginger who was still shaking her hair in the reflection. “I’ve pumped up the tires and it looks stable.”
Ginger stopped her vanity and looked at the rusting heavy bike. She lowered her sunglasses and pointed to the rack. “That one. I want that one.”
Ike turned to notice her selection; a white 28-speed racer with drop down handlebars.
After a few minor adjustments the two barefooted explorers were gliding down empty streets littered with rusting vehicles stopped in their tracks.
Up Virginia Beach Boulevard to Oceana the two rode until Ike said, “Let’s try the navy base.”
They rode to the gates but there were no guards. Proceeding inward they followed the winding streets of vacant cinderblock buildings casement windows swinging in the wind. Ike thought of the still navy ships bobbing in the waves off shore when they entered the area and wondered why they had not seen any sailors. “There was no one here?” they thought as they traveled out another unlocked gate and onto the up ramp to I-264.
“I’ve never ridden a bike on a highway.” Ike laughed as his gears clicked higher and his speed increased. The race was on. Ginger lowered her head, grinned a wild smile, and zoomed pass Ike. In turn, they gathered together one taking the lead, and then the other weaving pass abandoned cars and trucks and roaring like school children on a holiday.
“Let’s try this one.” Ike pointed to a sign showing the exit ramp for the Pembroke Mall.
They coasted down the ramp and onto Independence Boulevard, then into a parking lot full of empty vehicles. The two coasted to a stop and Ike took off his sunglasses. He blinked twice trying to focus on the expansive retail establishment.
“We need to rehydrate, “ Ginger said in her domineering voice sure she had won the race. “Over there, where it’s shady.”
The travelers rested their bikes against the wall and slid down to sit cross-legged under the cement canopy. Ike slipped off his pack and produced two bottles of warm water. Soaking a handkerchief, Ike passed it to Ginger to wash her face and rub the back of her neck. She handed it back and he repeated the process for himself.
“So what the hell is happening here,” Ginger gulped spilling water onto her already soaked t-shirt “ and why are WE still here?”
Wiping the top of his head, Ike checked the steaming parking lot in silence.
“Whatever has happened has taken all the life forms, but left buildings and cars. It’s not a natural disaster because the Red Cross would be here. It is as if everyone just stopped and disappeared.”
“So now what?”
“Let’s stay the night at the beach and move back to the boat in the morning. We’ll find someplace to sleep.”
“Sounds good to me.” Ginger replied in confidence she had worn him down with her speed and looking forward to a real bed.
“Let’s get started before the sun goes down.” Ike leaped up swinging the backpack in place and mounted the bike with new energy and vigor, disproving Ginger’s first thoughts.
Before they went back to the boulevard, Ginger asked, “ Do we have any food for tonight.”
Ike reached around and felt the pack, remembering he filled it in a hurry. “Perhaps we need to find some….ah…..stores somewhere.” He replied shyly.
Ginger stood up shaking off the dust and turned to the glass doors of the mall. “Let’s go shopping.” She smiled as she entered the doors into the darkened mall.
Ike reluctantly followed resting his steed against the wall.
The skylights lit the floor with mysterious shadows. Ginger ducked back and forth from shattered store to store like a ferret on the hunt.
“This is great. I like this one, and here’s another great top.”
“ I better find another pack.”
“Make it a big one.”
Back into the parking lot, the couple gathered their rides and strapped on their bulging packs and pressed back to the boulevard.
As they neared the beach, Ike remembered the food. “We’ve got to find some food!” he shouted to Ginger as she had sped ahead.
“Oh yeah.” Ginger slowed as Ike caught up. The sun was starting to set and the shadows quickly filled the side streets.
“Ike,” Ginger yelled, “ Look over there.”
The pair stopped and turned to a large supermarket approaching quietly in the dark.
“Stop!” A voice rang out.
The couple froze.
“Friend or Foe”
Ike heard the sound of a shell filling the chamber of a gun. His cat like reflexes crouched down and turned from side to side in a defensive move.
“Advance and be recognized!”
Ike grabbed Ginger by the arm and directed her into the shadows. She quietly disappeared and he walked forward. The moon had backlit the couple but he could not see who or what he was approaching.
Ginger stood silently as a figure appeared in the moonlight. Ike paused facing the barrel of a sizeable weapon held firmly by a large man with ribbons and sashes hanging from his pockets.
“Who the hell are you?” the gruff voice yelled. “Where did you come from?”
Ike stood transfixed as if to pounce on this uniformed guard, when Ginger yelled out. “Who are you and where is everybody else?”
At this distraction, Ike quickly grabbed the weapon and ripped it out discharging the magazine.
“Where is everyone!” Ginger yelled hearing the last shell fall being cleared from the chamber by Ike who then threw the rifle to the grown in disgusts.
The uniformed figure, looking confused and bewildered by the company of other human beings and having been removed of his protection, straightens to a rigid attention and presents himself to the couple.
“Captain Roland Spicer, 12th Division, Company A, Ops and Special Protection Unit.”
Ike moved forward studying the aria of badges and ribbons on the captain’s uniform. He felt the bulge of the pistol he carried behind his back but did not fear the situation.
“Ike…. I’m Ike Patterson sir, and this lovely lady,” motioning to Ginger to reveal herself from the shadows, “ is Ginger Bonneau.”
The tension eased and there was a moment of silence as each looked over the other.
“So Colonel?” Ike started, “ what are you doing here?”
The unarmed warrior looked startled by the question. He searched the darkness for his weapon like a baby for a security blanket.
“ It’s captain and I’m standing my post until replacements are sent or until I get an order to stand down” he nervously said still peering into the darkness for his cane.
“You have radio contact?” Ginger interjected.
“I did, but now it is all static. I haven’t had a message in a long time.”
“But you stay at your post?” Ike quipped.
“Duty!” the captain replied.
“Where are your troops?” Ike responded looking into the darkness. He was sure that if the captain had been in command of others they would have presented themselves or fired up the couple.
“They all deserted. Ran away. It was almost a mutiny. They had wives and families and when the disease hit, they ran home. All of them…. they just left. Platko, Forrest, Bullard, McGinnis, Cromley, Winfield, Campbell, Held, Greentree, Laudon, Foster, Atkinson, Morris, Sadler, Powell, Clements, and little Blake” the captain’s voice dropped.
Ike walked up and wrapped his arm around the big fellow and with a hug said, “It’s OK big fellow.”
“Where are we?” Ginger interrupted the warm moment.
“My assignment was to protect the Food World against looters.”
“Yes, when the world went mad, we were called up to protect the limited resources available to the general public.”
Ike and Ginger paused and stared at each other. The world had gone mad and they missed it, but have to deal with the results.
“So is there any food inside?” Ginger giggled in an effort to lighten the tension.
“Don’t know,” the captain responded in a firm voice, “ I’ve been living off of K-rations. This is what has been instructed to do.”
Ginger started to explore the darkness feeling her way into the shelves of can goods and questionable food stuffs, while Ike bent down and retrieved the rifle he had so unforgettably taken from the solider.
“Since we are down south I’m going to call you “Colonel”, if that’s alright with you?” Ike handed the empty weapon to the confused looking warrior.
“Where did you come from?” the captain responded clutching the metal to his chest.
“Well Colonel it’s a long story and we aren’t there yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve come a long way and it looks like we have a way to go before we discover what is going on around here.”
Ike reached back to his pack and revealed a bottle of scotch. “Would you like to share a swig.”
The captain’s… err…. Colonel’s lips were wiped in anticipation. The two men uncorked the bottle and passed it back and forth wiping the top on every taste.
Ginger returned from her adventure in the darkness holding up two cans of kidney beans. Ike smiled and stuffed them into his heavy pack and slapped it on his back.
“We’re going back to the beach for the evening. We have a boat off shore. Do you want to join us?” Ike asked to the stoic protector and was surprised at his response.
“I must man my post until relieved or ordered to stand down.”
The two men stood face to face and slowly saluted each other. Ike mounted his bike and pointed it toward the rising moon. Ginger joined his side smiling at the protector of the Food World.
“By the way,” Ike yelled back at the figure standing at attention,” I’m with the government, and you are now a REAL Colonel. Field promotion. Take care.” Ike turned and the couple peddled off from a smiling face holding his at parade rest.
As they coasted into hotel row, the moon lit the ocean like glistening dancing diamonds.
“Let’s try the Hyatt again” Ginger urged.
So the two weary adventurers propped their bikes again the stucco building and entered the dark but now familiar lobby. Ike remembered the direction to the stairs and pressed the door, inviting pure darkness.
“Feel your way through” Ike whispered to Ginger as the two felt the handrail and stepped lightly on the concrete wedges.
“Stop that” Ginger would slap Ike as he slid his hand up her leg during the climb showing his effects from the scotch with the Colonel which he left for the solider manning his post.
Ginger pushed open a door to a tight hallway and Ike followed moaning under the weight of his backpack.
In the darkness Ginger asked the staggering Ike, “Now What?”
Ike grinned but she could not see it in the blackness. A swift kick to the left popped the door open flooding the room in moonlight.
“OK!” Ginger swirled swiftly into the space and threw open the curtained shades. She slid the glass windows open and the roar of the ocean filled the room. The wind blew the curtains in abandon. “What a beautiful moon,” she noticed sliding off the pack stuff with her early finds. “Don’t you think?”
Ike had landed on one of the two double beds. His pack had slid off under its weight entering the room and his body had crashed upon the covers.
Ginger looked at the limp body and thought about removing his shoes, but decided he was better off the way he was. She removed her shorts and slid under clean sheets watching the moonbeams until her eyes closed in a restful relaxing state.