Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Salvation and the Curse

Back In the Saddle
Yeah, I'm back at work and what a strange trip it is. Having gradually realized (as I am wont to do) that my life was suffering from some kind of self-induced entropy; and further realizing that the end was near (in whatever convoluted and agonizing form it chose to take) I called an old colleague/competitor and basically begged for a job. The begging part was easy: my stalwart son Beauregard (recently returned from California) had already landed work with my old friend Jack Jackson and so, upon hearing that his former foe (me) was destitute and living in a trailer and spending his days wandering aimlessly around on a bicycle and bragging about it online, JJ (after he stopped laughing) called and said “Saddle up, son, we got a lot to do.”

So I did and here I am now, respectable once again and regretting it. But Mammon must be served, it is the deal we got once some smart-ass hunter figured out how to plant seeds and pen up cattle. Ever since then we have had, as a species, an abundance of everything. If it were up to me we would all be hunter-gatherers still, but no: it is the future and we gotta work for pieces of dirty green paper that god knows who has touched them and what they did without washing their hands before they handed them to me along with a receipt.

Even that ain't exactly true. I hardly handle Benjamins or Georges or Andrews; I am so respectable now that I have a plastic card that takes the place of the paper and all I do is swipe it (more times a day than I like to admit) punch in some numbers and the smiling person behind the counter says “Thank you” and hands me a receipt (did she wash her hands recently?) and I take my beer and my tequila and mosey back out to the bike. It is all...well...

The Once and Future Thing
I don't like it. I don't mind work; in fact I like it. But something is wrong. It smells funny. After a long, long period of inactivity (during which I was plenty active) here I am trading the precious moments of life I have left for a chance to spin the very wheels that are trampling our hearts and souls and also killing our planet. We're doing it wrong, folks, and we all know it. That's the big fucking lie we all live with. We are all so busy being busy that we don't even know who we are or where we are; spinning and spinning and spinning...

Or not. I'm not trained in this kind of thing, this deep (for me) thinking. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't at least try to say what I'm feeling. It smells funny but I'll do it, this working, I'll do it and like it. But I know better. I know what it is like to be without ambition or desire and to wander aimlessly about on my bicycle. But even THAT simple machine and pastime requires care and parts and so, somehow, I must do whatever it takes...including a lot of whining.

Voice? Hello...?
The Voice abandoned me the day the work started, too. Nobody to talk to now but my co-workers who all seem to find me odd, somehow; too old and what's with the bicycle thing? They are all about big trucks and mileage and other things I don't understand. I think they learn a lot of what they know about by watching television, which I refuse to do. I love them though, mostly; and it is important to remember that I was once a member of their tribe. But a thing happened to me. A thing happened and I caught a glimpse of the truth and I know it now and never again will I be a member; there is no tribe now for me and I will always be grateful for my transmutation and yet: lonely, also.

Paleo Tim Joe
But loneliness is the hunter-gatherer's curse; it is the salvation and the curse of the heart of the hunter and I'll take it. Besides, the other morning at pre-dawn I was out in the vast parking lot of the motel where the crew is bivouacked doing VERY fast laps on Little Miss Dangerous, leaning into the curves on some new tires (I have a job) and pedaling through the turns hard and quick; I know that bicycle, that Schwinn, and she knows me. I know just how hard I can push through a turn and not get a pedal strike, I know exactly how to pause my pedals when the lean is too much and I know just how to get the attention of a droopy-sleepy construction crew departing their rooms for another day; coffees in hand and yawns and stretches and what the hell was that! whizzing by...

That, boys, was the Trailer Park Cyclist: riding old steel and a hunter-gatherer, Paleo-fed and alone; hungry all the time, a seeker of knowledge and the King of Beers. Watch out! Here he comes again!

Yer pal, tj

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Stopover

August 28, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Return of the Trailer Park Cyclist

The Lady Or the Tiger
This is a dilemma. I'm sitting here staring at both my bicycles trying to decide which one to load into the back of the SUV tomorrow that will tote my sorry ass back down to Boca Raton. Here are the choices: my 1981 Schwinn Super LeTour, recently converted to single speed and uglied up beyond imagination in a drunken frenzy late one night last month when I was facing real-live homelessness (as in sleeping in my sleeping bag that I didn't have in the woods behind Kmart except the Kmart was run out of business by Walmart and that prevented me from shoplifting a sleeping bag from Kmart to sleep in the woods behind of) or my 1992 Mongoose Alta, which in its day was one bad-ass bicycle and I also converted THAT bicycle to single speed but in a much more dramatic fashion than the Schwinn; the Goose's switch-over involved surgery that required the attention of one of those wandering geniuses that know how to weld aluminum, for yes, the Goose is a child of my previous life before steel, before steel...

But Seriously, Folks
I'm exhausted. As you may have deduced from my recent absence, I am either incarcerated or back at work. It's work, although jail would be far more restful and (except for the food) possibly more rewarding. As I predicted, a couple desperate phone calls resulted in employment and now here am I, typing faster than my pay rate, trying to get the news out before the drugs and alcohol kick in and my forehead crashes into the keyboard, resulting in some kind of cryptography that will bring black helicopters hovering over the Whispering Pines Trailer Park in search of the last straggling extra-terrestrial cyclist from the planet Two-Wheel.

Hey, I said I was exhausted.

So anyway, here am I, wondering which bike to take, although it really isn't a choice: if my ass was on fire and it was either grab Grandma's china or the bicycle (which one?) me and the Schwinn would be pedaling away from the flames and laughing about the fact that we pawned the china grandma never had a long time ago.

I plan to be buried with that bicycle.

The Trailer Park
But the Mongoose ain't bad and she is a hell of a lot of fun to pedal around. Tonight, after a grueling Sunday afternoon spent swilling cheap beer, trying to hustle transportation back South for the beginning of the work week, I returned home to my barn/trailer hoping to find refuge of some kind from this the hard world we live in...but the amazingly obtuse motherfucker in the trailer next door has some kind of inborn need to make lots of noise in the holy period of pre-sundown, the time when we the Naturals begin to tuck in our spirits and get ready for the down-time, the falling of the sun, the quiet time; but not the guy in the trailer next door. Last night at twilight he fired up a big commercial-quality gas powered leaf blower and spent the next fifteen minutes leaf-blowing whatever the hell he could find to blow around in his twelve by fifty foot yard. There ain't any leaves over there, the only thing he was blowing was my fucking cool. Then, tonight, it was a chain saw. A chainsaw.

Twenty years ago I would have gone next door with a baseball bat but tonight, twenty years later, I saddled up the old Mongoose. I poured a subtle blend of Yuengling Black & Tan and Bud Light into my insulated water bottle and then I put some ice in my Goodwill (to all mankind) Messenger Bag and stuck in another can and bottle of each.

We're all cyclists here, so let me remind you of what happened next: I put my foot on the drive-side pedal, hit a stroke and flew away, my soul intact, down the blessed street on which I live and down to the Indian River, the place of my heart and soul and instantly the voracious racket was gone and forgotten and nobody got hurt.

Next thing I knew, I was wading waist deep in the stream that flows both ways (it's a tidal estuary) and watching the August moonrise and glancing like a shy lover at how the falling sun marked the ancient alloy of my goofy little mountain bike turned beer fetcher: she was fetching enough in the peace and serenity of the falling tide and try as I might, I could not remember why my blood had been boiling just moments before.

Just the Facts
Here's what I'm up to: I have been working for the last three weeks in a trade that involves big trucks and lots of bulky heavy gear. I myself have half a thousand pounds of tools stored down there on the job site, in one of those shipping containers. I'm riding my bicycle the ten miles from the motel to the job every day and mooching and hitch-hiking rides from Boca back here to Volusia. I get dropped off anywhere from fifteen to fifty miles from home every Friday, depending on which colleague or cousin gives me a ride; then me and Little Miss Dangerous take over and I become myself again, the Trailer Park Cyclist, Straggling Extra-Terrestrial, Wheelman, Human.

Wader of Streams, Seeker of Understanding, Friend of My Foes: well, you get the picture.

It all starts with that first pedal stroke on the drive side.

Yer pal, tj

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Tidal Estuary

August 18, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine Fifteen: Secrets


     “What's the situation with your warehouse out by the Airport?” Cromwell asked as we pulled away from the storage place.

     “Well, it's still there, if that's what you mean.”

     “No, I mean did Mona ever get her hooks into all that old saloon stuff or does she have a key or is her lawyer hanging around or anything?” He went past the turn to his pottery shop and continued north up Old Dixie Highway. Towards the airport and towards my old warehouse full of salvaged saloon fixtures, antique wall panels, old brass lamps, a British phone booth, stained glass windows, stacks of choice hardwood lumber and other oddities I had collected in my years working throughout the South. This was the first time Cromwell had ever expressed any interest whatsoever in the place.

     “No, Crom, no harpie's hooks or bushwacking barristers. And yes, you may stash this crate of whatever it is we just stole in my warehouse. I changed the lock a month ago and Mona never had any more interest in that stuff than you did, until now. But is it too much to ask what is happening? And if you will be buying lunch?”

     “Lunch is on me, alright, after we unload this crate.  I want to get a better look at what's inside and see if I can find a shipping manifest or anything else that might tell us if this stuff is what I think it is.” He blew through a yellow light and cut left across the railroad tracks over to the little warehouse district behind our small municipal airport. “Which one is yours?”

     “Right over there, next to the welding shop.” He pulled up in the front next to the big sliding door.

     “Wait a minute,” I said. “Look, if you pull over there to the side a little, see that block wall between my shop and the other building? It's not a wall, exactly. Let me push it open and you can back down in between the buildings where we can unload this thing with privacy.” I hopped out before he could ask any questions and jogged over to the “wall” between the two buildings, waited until he had the van positioned properly then reached over the top and hit the little button that you had to know about to push. That released the magnetic lock and the big block wall section swung inward, taking with it the planter and ornamental shrubs that were attached to it and gave it the appearance of being a solid, fixed wall. Cromwell backed the van into the ten foot space between the two buildings and I shut the gate.

     “You have a secret passage?” He said. “I'm impressed. But why?” I was busy unlocking the compact roll up door, and when I sat the big padlock on the shelf next to the opening I hit another little switch that Crom didn't see. It killed the security system.

     “Don't be too impressed,” I said, “It came with the place. All the same, let's keep it between you and me. Now, let's get the contraband out of the truck, I'll rustle up some boxes and we can inspect the booty.” He opened the van and we pulled out the crate with the dolly. It came out a lot easier than it went in. I got a couple big oak planks and put them on a pair of sawhorses, creating a makeshift table. Cromwell got busy digging into the crate, brushing off the pieces and setting them on the table. They were terra cotta figures, oddly shaped.

     “They remind me of a chia pet,” I said.

     “Well, these will sprout some green, indeed, if they are what I think they are...but listen, Blix, I have some checking to do. It is imperative that not one word of this crate leaks out. OK?'

     “I never imagined I would ever hear you say 'imperative'', I said. “But sure. Don't worry about it. Who's the one with the secret passage, anyway? I'll let you out the gate. The secret gate.” I wasn't too happy about any of this. Whatever that crap was in the crate, I realized I had just added some convolution to my already convoluted life.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine Fourteen: A Crate of Crap

A Crate of Crap
Cromwell the Expert Buys Some Abandoned Pottery

     “We normally don't keep stuff this long after they don't pay the rent, but somehow this unit just fell through the cracks. We didn't know this crate was in here until we rented the space to a new customer.” The property manager jangled one of those big jangling key rings that always remind me of Captain Kangaroo. In fact, the manager had that Down East Yankee look vaguely reminiscent of Mr. Greenjeans. The day was warming up. As the manager bent over to unlock the door, I looked around me. This was one of the four or five new storage complexes that had popped up in Ruby Beach in the last few years.

     “What's your occupancy rate these days?” I asked.

     “Oh, we're almost always full. People just don't have the room for all their stuff anymore, it seems.” I wondered why people would keep so much crap that they couldn't have it in their homes. Did they come visit their stuff? And what was this “stuff”? The manager pulled open the overhead door. 
     “Well, there it is,” he said.

     It was a standard shipping crate, about three feet by three feet, with a built in pallet for transport by forklift. The top was pried open and some packing was spilled out. It was the excelsior type of packing, the kind of thing you don't see anymore in this age of plastic and styrofoam everything. Shoving his arms deep into the crate, he pulled out a small terracotta figure and handed it to Cromwell.

     “What is it?” I asked. It looked pretty crude and pretty old. Cromwell blew and brushed the dust and packing straw away. “That's Mexican, isn't it? I asked.

     “Yeah”, Cromwell said. He was staring pretty hard at the thing. I heard gears grinding somewhere far off.  
     “Just some cheap tourist crap somebody left behind.”

     “Well, what do we do with it?” the manager asked. “How much is it worth?”

     “I don't sell any of this stuff in my shop but you might find someone who wants it,” said Cromwell. I noticed a weird glint in his eye. I had seen it before. “I don't have any use for it myself.” 

      “Well, darn. OK, well, I tried.” The manager looked as though he was at a loss. “Problem is this is the only 10x12 unit I got left and that darn crate has got to go or I'm gonna lose a customer. Seems a shame to throw all this stuff in the dumpster. I was hoping you would want to take it off my hands. You were the only pottery shop in the yellow pages in Ruby Beach.”

     Cromwell looked at the guy like he was a panhandler outside a saloon. “Well, what do you want to do, pay me to haul it off?” He looked at me with a very theatrical 'Can you believe this guy?' look. I have found myself playing the straight man for Crom more than once. I looked at my watch, which I wasn't wearing.

     “Look, Crom, this trip to the museum was a blast but I've got to get back to work.” I started to walk back to Cromwell's big Dodge van. The outside bell for the storage place's office telephone started ringing. The manager was torn. The phone kept ringing. Cromwell cut loose with another dramatic turn, cupping his chin in his hand and gazing thoughtfully at the ceiling of the storage unit.

     “I guess I might be able to unload some of this junk at the flea market in Daytona next week”, he said. That was a pretty good one. He didn't even have any idea if there actually was a flea market in Daytona. If the pottery thing ever went flat on him, Cromwell had a promising future as a used car salesman. “I guess I could give you twenty bucks for the lot of it.”

     “Sold!” yelled the manager over his shoulder, already hustling back towards the office and the ringing phone. Cromwell watched him go, then called out: “I'll need a receipt!”

     He turned to me. That glint in his eye was a positive flame now. “Quickly, Blix! And for the love of Montezuma don't even scratch any of these little fuckers! He went to the back of the van and got a big two-wheeled dolly and pulled out the ramp built into the back. He could move pretty fast when there was a profit involved.

     “These are the real deal, aren't they?” I asked.

     “We gotta get this crate out of here pronto,” he said. “Lift up on the corner there and let me get the dolly under the edge.” We wheeled the crate up the ramps and into the van. It was heavy and this was starting to feel like a regular job. Cromwell was on fire. He threw the ramp back into the undercarriage. He hustled around to the driver's side, jumped in behind the wheel and off we went. He stopped at the office door. “Look,” he said, handing me a twenty dollar bill. “Get the receipt and make sure he puts the shop name on it and not mine. And make sure he dates and signs it.” I took the twenty and got out of the van.

     “Am I on the clock, Boss?” I asked.

     “Just hurry!” He wasn't in a joking mood. I went into the office to get a receipt from Mr. Greenjeans.