Ana rolls cigarettes like some people roll joints: skinny, cylindrical with the ends knotted so that they look like torpedoes. She rolls them deftly with elegant fingers, long slender things that could be those of a pianist.
He watches her intently. It is too beautiful not to watch. His own cigarettes, he thinks, look more professional, but her’s are prettier, daintier, more elegant. He watches her hands dancing up and down the wrapper, distributing a pinch of tobacco. It is a subtle poetry of motion. She then rolls them tightly twixt her thumb and her forefinger and brings the paper to her lips, her little tongue dancing down the sticky part.
She ties the ends, and sticks the fag between her lips. Her eyes on him, she feels round the table for a light and finds an open book of cheap matches. She strikes one and sets the cigarette alight. She takes the first draw into her mouth but exhales the heady mix of paper, raw tobacco and sulphur in a dense cloud of smoke. She pulls again, the glowing ember at the tip glowing brighter. She inhales this draught deeply, her rib cage rising as her lungs expand. She tilts her head back on the overstuffed pillow of the couch and closes her eyes. This is brief ecstasy. She exhales the pale smoke skyward.
She leans forward, opens her eyes, smiles at him, and tosses the matches across the table. Her movements are slow, graceful. He wants to say cat-like but that does not describe the fluidity. She folds her legs under her and leans back against the couch again, taking another draw.
“So, why are you here?” she says, the words embodied physically in the smoke to an extent that they could reach out and touch him.
He lights his own cigarette, performing the same ritual of shallow inhaling and exhaling of the ignition fumes, and then taking the first good draw. He does it quickly and answers her question with the exhalation.
“You invited me.”
“Yes, but why did you come?”
This is existentialist garbage. It is a prelude to nothing. It is too late and he is too tired.
“I wanted to get to know you.”
“Why? Are you attracted to me?”
“Are you asking if I think you’re beautiful?”
“Do you want to make love to me?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” he exhales again.
Not so long ago… well, perhaps a decade since, he would not have hesitated. He would have said “Yes,” in a manner that was confident and absolute and seen how the dominoes fell. Now, he is more concerned she might say “Come here,” and let him kiss her, the acrid taste of nicotine rolling around their tongues as they intertwine. It is not that he does not desire her. He can not confess how many times (would it be hundreds?) he has imagined what he will find when he pulls down her slacks, the belt line of which rides so tightly to her hips that it seems to hover mere centimeters above her pubis.
She is exotic. Her think black hair falling in gentle morning waves around her face, framing soft but well-defined features wrapped in ashen colored skin and eyes that glow like onyx. When he first met her over a year ago, he thought she was Latin. She is, but not in the way Americans usually think. She’s Romani, a gypsy, though this is now considered a racial slur.
The talisman she wears around her neck is one of a tree. She leaned over one night and showed it to him.
“Yggdrasil,” he said. He wondered if the Old Norse translated for her.
Yggdrasil is dying. Greedy men are squandering the abundance of her canopy, undermining her roots with their ceaseless digging for the rocks they value, hacking at her truck with axes, burning her branches, filling her leaves with toxic smoke. Yggdrasil. What will become of the World?
He used to believe that somehow, the right woman, the right love, would save him. She did not come. At this point he has two choices: Either recognize that he is beyond salvation or seek salvation in himself… and in the World.
The World is full, but it does not speak. Laying down in a meadow on the mountainside, he can hear it, the warmth of the Sun beating down on him, the caress of the breeze. The World’s speech is in the wind rustling in the trees, the sound of the birds careening through the air.
We are so lonely, but we are not alone.
Frangipani St. Croix, VI 2012
Minolta X700, Kodak 400
I keep thinking of Henry Miller in Colossus of Maroussi being told by the American Consulate in Greece that he had to go back to the States.
“I don’t want to go back to the States, I’m writing about Greece right now.”
I don’t want to go home. I am home.
Beach art, St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Minolta x700, Ilford 400
Beach art, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, March 2012
Minolta x700, Ilford 400
The Texas A & M logo is a modern adaptation of 19th century aesthetics. Historically, it was proper to place the grandest factor of a set of initials as the largest and at center on a monogrammed shirt, or on a set of embroidered towels. Sadly for the institution, it means that Texas A&M is rendered ATM.
ATM is emblazoned on the rear end of my neighbor’s Land Rover. It is a Land Rover LR3, one of the new generation of Rovers that is supposed to harken back to the days of old while still being practical for the current needs of its customer base.
It used to be that a Land Rover meant serious travel. Land Rover’s were the preferred mode of travel in the former British Empire, at least the parts where the British hadn’t gotten around to building trains: The Sahara and most of sub-Saharan Africa come to mind, but there were also parts of Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean. Tough, rugged, indestructible, they were the dominant mode of transit before the Toyota Land Cruiser, a cheaper, more reliable and more parts-ready form of transport. When I think of the term “Land Rover” this is what comes to mind, something along the lines of the Crusader or the Defender series.
Today’s Land Rovers are not built for rough trade, as it were. It is a lifestyle brand, meant to evoke all the charms and rigors of the English country club. It is marketed to people who would prefer to do without all that nasty business of having to fix the thing yourself when there isn’t a mechanic for 100 miles. That is, after all, what the extended warranty is all about. The dealerships take great pride in the fact that all their mechanics were trained in the rigors of repairing Land Rovers by the firm itself and they charge a great deal for the privilege - to the tune of $1000.00 for an oil and filter change. Never mind the fact that, while in Kenya, my parents lead mechanic was a Kikuyu who did not have the benefit of a diagnostic computer, or that the most difficult journey the modern Land Rover will likely undertake is the journey from the gated community in the exurban subdivision to the Starbucks in the exurban shopping mall.
It has always astounded me how quickly adults revert to childhood descriptions of, and dramatic disgust at, basic bodily functions. The scent of a methane leak emanating from the anus of a childhood chum is the subject of much mirth through our school years. But this is just farting. A particularly loud or long or in other fashion glorious fart will lead to hilarious taunts of “Dude, you better check your shorts!” Woe be to him, or her, who actually does because, beyond farts, many seem to whither at the frightful sight of what is left over after this morning’s enjoyment of “huevos rancheros.”
I have many times found myself cleaning up the excrement of others to such an extent that I now consider it my primary job description. I’m contemplating emblazoning it on my calling cards “Alebonski: I clean up other peoples’ messes.”
An erstwhile macho, well, boy (he was so fresh out of puberty he can not possibly be called a man) comes to mind. He fancied himself quite popular with the ladies and seemed to have some success in that department. Someone was good enough to provide him with the means to ride in a BMW and he had the attitude that young women seem to find attractive - a disinterested cool which causes the feminine members of our species to swoon with thoughts of saving him. One evening he came rushing up to me to inform me that someone had vomited in the urinal.
“Well,” I said, “We’d best clean it up then.”
Within moments of our arrival on the scene, I was at it with rubber gloves, a sponge, a scrub brush and bleached hot water. It was disgusting and it did smell bad, but there was nothing untoward about it. My colleague, however, began retching almost the instant I set to work, so much so that I told him he better get on with it and find a mop and bucket.
Last I heard, he was an “investment advisor” at a local stock jobbing firm of dubious reputation. I am still cleaning up other people’s messes.
I was out with my parent’s poodle the other morning. My ATM neighbor was in town. It’s warm enough to fish now and he had their Land Rover suburban assault vehicle, burgundy and polished to glistening. He’d also brought the Jeep Wrangler in case there was any actual off-road travel that needed to be done.
We’ve been working with the poodle. She has issues. One of them is going to the bathroom in the house. I let her off her lead. At six in the morning, there’s hardly ever anyone about in our neighborhood and she would rather do prance about before going about her business. I call it the poodle shit dance of infinite joy. Sometimes, the dance occurs but no business gets done. This is just another example of how the poodle, formerly admired for its intelligence, is now the poster child for canine prozac.
The poodle skipped up the lawn between the town homes, and down the other side toward the creek. I dutifully followed along, bread bag in hand, to pick up what finally came out. She found the ideal spot and was going about her business when suddenly, my neighbor emerged on his back porch in his undershirt and boxers, both of which looked as though they’d been pressed.
“Good morning,” I called, startling him.
“Is that your dog?” he drawled.
“No. We’re dog sitting,” I replied, holding up the bread bag.
“Oh.” There had been recriminations planned. The miscreant giant off-leash poodle was to be the subject of emergency meetings of the Homeowners’ Association with stern letters written and threats of possible fines.
But I was there, ready to do my duty with the poodle’s doody. And anyway, his attention was now elsewhere. He had realized that the poodle was doing a “number 2.”
“Ugh,” he said, with a look of disgust that would rival a three year old’s, “It’s pooh!”
I wanted to correct him, “Actually, no. It’s ‘pooh-ING,’” but he was gone too quickly. I still wonder if he went into the bathroom to produce some excrement of his own, or if he managed to thwart the desire, crawl back in bed, and simply have the vision of the “pooh” exiting the poodle haunt his morning dreams.
Plastics make it possible. The entirety of America is made out of plastic: The buildings, the cars, the food, the people. My high school English teacher once said that Disneyland is superfluous: All of America is Disneyland. With the Golden Arches, Big Boy, drive-in movies, and attractions like the world’s largest ball of twine, and towers in various states where you can pay to go up and see various other states (all dull) it did not take an enormous stretch of the imagination for Uncle Walt to put it all together in one place… or for someone to put an Alpine village in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.
Trees are out and concrete’s in here, where our formerly quaint Alpine village is being replaced with megalomanic monstrosities of questionable construction - 2X4’s and plywood on the inside, river rock glued to the outside - and where they are heating all the streets with natural gas in order that the suburbanites can wear their high heels in January. The arboricide is extensive: formerly, the City insisted that all trees cut down had to be replaced with other trees. Now the City is cutting down trees in order to replace them with rock planters that will not have trees, but bronze sculptures depicting the former inhabitants of our valley, deer, elk, bear, Indians (the Utes were here, but the favored subjects seem to be Plains Indians), and low to the ground plantings that will not disturb the “views” of the gallery fronts. The five fifty-foot spruce trees in the immediate vicinity of our store have been replaced with scrawny 6 foot aspen trees and dwarf evergreens that will remain a “good height,” according to our neighbor, for a long time. A good height being anything that doesn’t block the view of her gallery or her bronzes on the street and anything she can see over. Since our neighbor is about 5 foot 1, this means the majority of the megaflora on our street will have to be about 3 feet.
People are impressed with what they are calling “the grand boulevard” feel of our street. Why one would need a grand boulevard in an alpine village is a recurring question in our minds, but our street is now wide enough for storm troopers to march down. That gives the Republicans here a hard on, or at least inspiration to refill their perscriptions for Viagra.
The narrow bit at the start of our street is to allow buses but discourage other traffic, but is still wide enough to fit an M1-Abrams tank. The buses need it this wide – despite being able to afford to heat the streets, our town can not afford to hire drivers with the most rudimentary skills. Every year, the guy who runs the bus department goes to Australia to hire drivers. Australia, wide open spaces, straight roads, not a lot of traffic, not a lot of people. What we need is some New York City Transit bus drivers, guys who can actually drive, who announce every stop as if they’re saying “Kiss my ass!” and who don’t need to swing all the way into the oncoming lane to make a right hand turn. The bus drivers are always whinging that they feel threatened at night when the bars empty out and the buses fill up with drunks. Can’t imagine some smart-assed drunken snowboarder would pose much threat to a 250 pound black man who got his commercial drivers license while in juvie.
That the SS could march through is appropriate: Dick Cheney’s in town, the old bastard, ambulance standing by to whisk him back to Washington should his pace-maker go on the fritz again. He’s here to meet with with the Koch Brothers and a bunch of other old bastards up in Beaver Creek. Our idea of turning that place into a minimum security prison gains more momentum every day.
Greetings from Republican Whitelandia! Yes, there is a white homeland. It is my hometown, where the only thing whiter than the people is the snow. There are, naturally, some darker people here, mostly brown ones from across the river and over the fence. These are here to do the jobs that the good white folks don’t want to get their hands dirty with (most of them).
It is a wonderful thing that America has assumed the role of leader of the Western World. Whereas before the European colonial powers offered the lame ass excuse of “spreading enlightenment to the darker corners of the Earth” for their behavior, America offers full employment, at extremely low wages and in piss poor conditions, naturally, but as one acquaintance of mine likes to point out, it’s better than being a whore.
We should go to church every Sunday and offer our thanks to Mamon that there are so many brown people around the world who would rather make crap for us than be prostitutes, especially the Asians because they’re really good at making stuff we need the most like iPhones and Nintendos.
Americans, in the meantime, have become the most useless race on the planet. In two generations, we have gone from a self-reliant, can-do mentality to a nation of sheep governed by liars who graze the aisles of Wal Mart, Costco, Supermarkets and the myriad other outlets looking for the best price on cheap plastic crap we don’t need. A brief short in the supply chain results in absolute panic, not because there isn’t any bread available, but because the preferred brand is out of stock. Come Peak Oil, the good people of Whitelandia will eat each other because no one knows how to bake anymore or how to grow things or how to communicate anything other than orders to waiters and dis-satisfaction to same.
All of us who are not in the moneyed classes are waiters now, here to fulfill every wish and fantasy of the spoiled rotten or to be castigated for failure. “What do you mean I can’t have Domaine Romanee Conti 2002 for $200?” Apparently, “a., because I don’t have any; b. because there’s none available in Colorado and c. because that which is available elsewhere in the country is selling for somewhere in the region of $2500 a pop” is not a valid reason. ”You’re not going to be able to get away with this much longer,” one old bastard said to a coworker of mine. “Get away with what, sir?” my coworker replied most innocently. “Not having any wines I know and charging what you charge for them. You’re gonnna have competition up the street.” “But sir, I already have competition. There are six other licenses in town, thirteen in the upper valley, and numerous stores an hour and a half down the road. So I don’t think I’m getting away with anything, nor am I trying to.” Vintage 2003 Kendall Jackson? Sorry, 2006 is the current vintage. “That’s ridiculous. I want the 2003!” “That tap has been shut off.” Nothing is ever out of season in Whitelandia, though the tomatoes in January are “disappointing.” “Very well, sir. Right you are. So sorry about that. (Insert genuflection here in order to underscore the sincerity of the insincere apology). We’ll have a word with our suppliers straight away and see if we can get some better tomatoes for your next visit next year.”
A recent study of Beaver Creek, Colorado, second or third home of the Koch Brothers, shows that the average price of a dwelling has topped $3.2 million and that the average occupancy is 18 days per year.
The Fourth of July has come and gone. Long thought of by previous generations lesser Americans quaintly as “Independence Day,” the Whitelandians have a better understanding that July 4 is a time to be together with one’s loved ones to celebrate the glory of the internal combustion engine, to take in the best sales of the summer, and to gorge on enormous quantities of chemically fed and genetically modified propane scorched red meat. Kicked off by the obligatory fly over by the Imperial Air Force (Whitelandians are very proud of their military – it keeps the brown people in line when they decide they want more than Americans are willing to share) the parade here was led by the local Harley Owners Group. It was followed by a long line of large trucks advertising for the only economy that we have here, development, and marching bands. The smallest car was a Smart Car advertising a real estate company. It boasted a sign saying “Think Big.” After the parade was over, point made, the owner fed it to his Hummer.
The local paper had a special on why America is still number one: It is because people can play dress up. Only in America do you have the freedom to reinvent yourself, the logic went. I’d like to know what all those transexuals in Brazil are thinking. The local HOG group are a good example of reinvention. The Harley Davidson, long a sign of rebelliousness, now costs in the region of $40,000. Since there is little practical point to owning one in places where it snows, it is assumed that you must own an equally iconoclastic $40,000 automobile to get around when you’re not riding in the July 4th parade. As millionaires apparently like playing dress up, but most of them have already been to rehab, we’re thinking of turning our store into a combination convenience store and fetish shop: Milk, Oreos, dildos and vinyl boustiers. If we get a license to carry guns and put in a couple of gas pumps, we can call it Johnny’s All American. Our environmental conscience getting in the way (as usual) we’re investigating the availability of reusable condoms. If no such animal is available, perhaps we can make our fortunes by having them manufactured in the Far East. Would you like to invest? You could buy a Harley when we go public! And vinyl pants.
Here in Whitelandia, thinking about “Independence” Day and Bastille Day, patriotic thoughts abound: Is a two party system 50 percent better or twice as bad as a one party system? And sorry, Ron Paul, the Libertarians will never be a force in American politics. Americans don’t want more liberty and less government. This would mean they would have only themselves to blame when something goes wrong, quite contrary to the blameless society that has been created by whinging liberals and their alleged counterparts, the Republicans, who blame everything on fags, unwed mothers, people who don’t go to church (“I like your Christ. I dislike your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ.” – Ghandi), fags, liberals, the media, fags and now terrorists, who are in league with the fags in that they all worship Satan.
What Americans really want is more government and less liberty: Thus the Patriot Act (the greatest abridgment of Constitutional rights since either Lincoln suspended habeus corpus during the Civil War or McArthy put together HUA or Roosevelt interred all Japanese-Americans - bloody minorities, they really do all look alike); thus the creation of the Homeland Security department (the largest peace time increase in the size of the government EVER); thus the ever-increasing popularity of covenant controlled gated “communities” in unincorporated areas of large Western counties.
The good people of our county recently voted, again, to continue not having a charter separate from that of the State, and continue with a three member board rather than increase the representatives to five. The idea of more representation was deliberately confused, by the vote’s detractors, with the idea of more government and people bought it.
Freedom in Whitelandia has nothing to do with politics. Freedom is that if I have enough money to be able to afford a Humvee (and the gas to put in it), I have a right to have one, regardless of what it’s doing to “someone in Florida,” according to a conversation overheard the other day.