Off We Go
Being careful not to do any further damage, I gently fold the screen of my laptop down, wrestle the broken hinge into submission and slip the computer into my Goodwill messenger bag. I don't know how many more times I will get away with this maneuver before the screen just falls off once and for all. This seventeen inch HP Pavilion has been quite the loyal soldier. Seven years old, though, and compared to computers, dog years ain't nothin'. This baby is an antique. The “u” and the “y” keys are missing, giving the keyboard a definite trailer park look, like all she wants for Christmas is her two front teeth. But she is hanging in there. I wonder how many thousands of words I have hammered out on this old warhorse? More than a few, I can tell you that. She has served me well as my home entertainment center and web surfer and jukebox and she has suffered the millions of thick-fingered keystrokes from my gorilla-like carpenter's hands for lo these many years.
How It Ought To Be
No trail mix or bananas go into the bag today. I am only pedaling the three miles to the library. They have free wi-fi and a lot of books. My kind of place. If only they served beer. Free beer...
“Hi. I'll have a 16 oz Dewey.”
“Here you go, sir. I'll need your library card, please.”
“Here you go.”
“Thank you. I'll just swipe it here...Oh my! Did you really read all these books? You must be really smart!”
“Oh, I am. That's why I have to drink so much beer. It keeps my brain from over-heating. Can you check on there? I think I've read enough books this month to qualify for the Frequent Reader two-for-one Decimal Special.”
The weather today is so right that I feel guilty about it, but not much. As I like to say, I live in Florida on purpose. Craziness and over-development and manic-depressive cops and sharks and alligators and mosquitoes and face-eating maniacs be damned, the month of March in Florida is NICE. There will be some long rides coming, I think. I'm living on my bike these days, like a dream come true. Of course, like any dream come true, there are caveats carping in the background, but right now I'll just keep dreaming.
One Day, Long Ago
On my quick ride today I cross an intersection a block away from the library where I lost a friend fifteen years ago. His name was Rusty. After he and I finished a lazy March day working on a waterfront house for some rich young guy, Rusty jumped into his little pickup and blasted away to a cookout at his girlfriend's parent's house. He never made it. Some doofus in a 5.0 Mustang ran a stop sign and t-boned my buddy's truck in the middle of the intersection. Hard. Plenty hard. Hard enough to do the job.
But that tragedy ain't today's story.
“You were his boss?”
“Sorta. We were more like partners.”
“Well...was there, I mean, is there any kind of insurance...”
“No, man. You have to understand, around here carpenters are more like pirate crews...”
“Yeah, I get that, but my brother is dead and...” The guy had flown all the way from Ohio to bury his wild brother Rusty. Wild people are common in Florida. The ones too wild for Ohio end up here. This isn't a conversation I wanted to have at a funeral home, though. I was here to say goodbye.
“I'm really sorry, man.”
“I went to his apartment and except for his tools, almost everything he owned would fit into one cardboard box.. What kind of life is that?”
“Uh...as a matter of fact, those are my tools.” I was feeling his grief. I was feeling a little grief myself. But somehow, this brother seemed pissed at Rusty for leaving an estate that would fit into a little cardboard box. I could definitely tell he was also pissed at me for not...I don't know what he was pissed at me about. But Rusty was my buddy and I understood completely his free spirit and why the hell should a dead guy have a bunch of stuff? Rusty was one of the most light-hearted guys I ever knew. He refused to take life seriously and was always available to lend a hand or go out for a beer. He lived in a little pool house behind this rich lady's place on the beach and I never asked what the arrangements were but I don't think he paid much in the way of rent.
Without even knowing such a thing existed, my buddy Rusty was living a minimalist lifestyle. I'm trying to do the same myself, but I'm a carpenter-sub and I need my gear. It fills an 8x8 room in my trailer. Tools and equipment cleaned and oiled and ready. I don't go in there and dust them, but maybe I should. Lately I have been thinking about selling them. Why not? I think I could get enough to put together a touring kit for my bicycle. I certainly don't seem to be using my tools lately but I sure do use my bike. A lot. That's the way I want it.
I own little else. I don't even have a wall of books these days. That's what the library is for, I think. But minimalism is a silly term. It should be called normalism. Having too much stuff should be called something else, like bag-lady syndrome or packratalism. Or not...I really don't care. For me, possessions are a burden and source of guilt. I always feel like I am a poor caretaker of these things I own. They get dust on them and I feel bad about it. The multitude of of personal storage centers around the country are a testament to the having-too-much that afflicts our sensibilities as a decent people and it is why so many denizens of third-world countries try so desperately to get over here: they want to have too much stuff too. Some of them would be happy just to set up housekeeping in one of those personal storage units. I've done that.
What am I talking about? Who knows? You guys should be accustomed to it by now.
But there is definitely something on my mind. I know what it is. I'm struggling with my inner Thoreau and the need to...I almost can't say it: the need to re-join society and I howl in despair at the thought.
At the library, I plug in my dilapidated old computer and fire her up. There is a new ticking sound as she begins her dark journey back to life. It won't be long now before I find myself writing my booger posts with pen and ink, hunting down a Xerox machine, making magically fragrant copies and mailing them to my readers postage-due. While I wait the twenty minutes or so it takes Windows to wake up on my worn-out old laptop, I go over to the reference desk to get a beer.
Rusty would have approved.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Wildlife Society