Saturday, June 10, 2006

Perfect Moments Can Stop Time Itself

If you want to go
where the rainbows end
you'll have to say goodbye
all our dreams come true
baby up ahead
and it's out where your memories lie.

- Tom Waits, "Yesterday is Here."
Frank's Wild Years (Island, 1987)

There's a rainstorm raging right outside my kitchen window, the sky's slate-gray, and the trees are dancing black ogres against the horizon.

For some reason, 2006 stopped at a quarter past eight this morning, sometime between my first and second cups of coffee, between reading the Los Angeles Times and Denver Post online editions.

By half past nine, I'm stuck in the Summer of 1989.

* * *

I'm sitting on my old beat-up bicycle near Meherrin, Virginia, staring at three old black men as they drink Thunderbird and play dominoes in front of a tarpaper-and-clapboard shack.

Their skin is the color of pokeberries, tanned down to ebony leather, arms ashy and worn. They're hollering and laughing, smoking cheap cigarettes and shooting the shit over what appears to be nothing in particular.

A group of large women sit in front of a homemade picnic table (an old door held up by sawhorses), cackling like crazed chickens over songs on the radio, the air filled with Lawds and Oooo childs and Mmm-Hmms.

Sam Cooke's singing "A Change is Gonna Come" through old-ass speakers from beyond the grave. Freddy Jackson's wailing falsetto-driven R&B, singing "Just Like the First Time."

I have no clue how long I've been standing there, watching old men slamming bones and women gossiping over the remnants of a Saturday fried chicken supper.

There's a group of pig-tailed girls jumping rope by an old truck. One young woman, probably 16 or 17, is calmly breastfeeding a kid while sitting on the tailgate of the pick-up.

Three guys, stripped to the waist, are playing basketball a few yards behind the house. Their court is of red clay; the backboard is an old metal Mountain Dew sign.

Nobody seems to notice this white kid sitting there on his bike, in the middle of an old unpaved county road, dusty and sweating, breathless and late for a cookout at G'maw's house.

I can smell the tobacco growing in Lunenburg County fields, the smell of money reaching skyward. Honeysuckle and Carolina pine sweetens the aroma.

I can hear the whippoorwills and the crickets warming up in the woods for their evening performance. Fireflies dance in the thick, humid air. Even the mosquitoes whiz by in gleeful harmony.

For some reason, I don't want to leave. I can't make my legs work the pedals, though it's only a quick three miles back to the family farm.

And then it starts to rain. A good hard, steady summer rain.

The drops are heavy enough to send dust into the air upon impact. Thunder starts to roll in the distance...

Who says there is no such thing as a perfect memory?

* * *

The ol' mobile phone rattles across the kitchen table in 2006, and I'm drawn back into the 21st Century by a wrong number. I log into Yahoo Instant Messenger; there's five offline messages and three folks catch me within two minutes...

You know, I think I'm going to power down the laptop, turn off the cell, and put on some Sam Cooke.

I think I'm going to open the kitchen door, pull a chair right up to the threshold, and watch the rain.

I think I'm just tired of thinking, dammit.

Time is measured in moments. The more perfect moments one can catch like a butterfly in he desert, the less one will have to regret when this world is finished.

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- —that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

- John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn


Smurf said...

That is beautiful! I adore Sam Cooke! I used to have an old record of his that I would play over and over on my RECORD PLAYER... that's right the kind that was black and you had to have a needle to play ;) That was awesome... I love the new style of writing you have started to display... Its awesome... I was watching this thing on Public television this morning and I never watch tv, but it was Robert Kiyosaki, the author if "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" and he said we are all Genius. He went on to explain.

He wrote up on the dry erase board:
Genii - in - us

yes magic...

He said we have to have the courage to find the magic lamp that is the environment that God designed you for. Anyways... I think you are an AMAZING.. writer... just had to say that.

LibraryTavern Liz said...

Often a scent, like the smell of a spring rain, can bring back a vivid memory like that for me.

KFigment said...

You haven't been like this in a long while. He misses you. Turn off the lap top, the TV, News Radio, put on some smooth tunes and just watch the sunset. Don't forget where you came from and have a beer with your granddad he misses you!!!! You never ask for his advice anymore because you are afraid that he will be disappointed. Don't worry he will always be very proud of you and the man you have become.

WHOA don't know where that came from. Hope it helps.


Miz BoheMia said...

I loved it... very nostalgic.. brought back a lot of my own childhood memories.

For some reason I remember myself at 7... in my underwear, hair frizzed our into an afro, walking to my friend's house up the street... the sight of me, frizzed out hair, in my underwear on that hot summer day being quite the normal one... huh!


Hope you had a good weekend amigo!

Anonymous said...

Your writing is brilliant and moving. Your feelings and thoughts raw and passionate. Thank you. More than I could explain if I tried, so just thank you.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Hey, thanks.

Um, I had a writing style?


Yup. Smells, tastes, etc., all seem to trigger memories for me, too.

This happens quite often with me.

Yeah, I've been dealing with a bit of information overload at work lately, so I guess I just needed a break - go back to the simpler, unwired world.

You realize that we are the last generation that will be able to remember the world before the Internet, right? ;)

Nothing wrong with running around in your underwear.

Hell, I still do it during the summer...cuts down of AC costs...

At least that's my excuse ;)

Hey, thanks. It just flows sometimes, I guess.

As for what you can do....hey, give it a shot. You never know what literary masterpiece might be hiding out in your head sometimes :D

cooper said...

That was pretty awesome Zenpro.
That's all I can say because I think sometimes writing speaks for itself.

kristy said...

Well said and well remembered. I felt like I was there too...

Cowgirl said...

Wonderful glimpse back into the past. Loved it.

Summer of 1989, I would have been eight, riding my Palomino horse all over tarnation like I owned the world. There were days I would get on that horse first thing in the morning, and come back after dark.

Should post about that sometime.

Anonymous said...

I might be frightened by the "literary masterpiece" that could be hiding in my head :D No need to thank me for enjoying your writing.

Ogbuefi Stephi said...

oooh, i like the opening: "By half past nine, I'm stuck in the Summer of 1989."

cool line.

hope you're well,

Blogger said...

Are you paying more than $5 per pack of cigs? I buy my cigs from Duty Free Depot and I save over 60%.