Friday, December 9, 2016

A trip cross town.

I couldn't get out of bed this morning like I usually do. Most often, I growl out from beneath the covers at around 3:45AM, read for a couple hours, do a little writing, spend a little time with Whiskey, my wife and whatever kids are home, then get to work around 7:30 or 8, to essentially do more of the same.

But this morning I felt like an old grizzly who had called it quits for the cold winter months. I had hibernated myself into a deep sleep and, really, felt no desire to wake up until this horrible, impending Trumpian New World Odor is over.

When I finally, growled out of bed, the first thing I did was check my goddamned Microsoft calendar to see if the Meeting-Makers-In-Chief would allow me a rare Friday of repose away from the sturm and drang of the iron-maiden of an office.

Now I am in the back-most-seat of a Chrysler van creeping across town--an hour too late to win the perennial lost battle against Christmas traffic.

We are inching across town only slightly faster than the receding of an old man's hairline or the disappearance of the Arctic ice sheet, and I am thinking of my father.

The old man, who, unlike me, was in many respects, old at 30, had an easy quip for any situation. And sometimes, I'll grudgingly admit, his glibness was underpinned with a foundation of wisdom, or at least a wise world-weariness, that explained the way things were and were Sisyphusian or at least existential in their chemical make-up.

I remember one hot August, I was just a boy, Frank Sinatra was on the radio singing "Strangers in the Night," a song that was played a million times that summer. A grave and gravel-voiced announcer came on the crackle of the AM and said something over my head about Cuba and naval blockades and missiles, and we sat there in my father's 1949 Studebaker, filled, despite the open windows with blue cigar smoke and cancer, and my father creeping in his Studebaker slowly west to east crosstown, going somewhere with his son.

In those days, he would be stopped by a pretzel guy or a hotdog cart and he'd buy a couple dogs right from behind his steering wheel and hand me one slopped with mustard dripping from the ancient antediluvian hotdog water from which it swam like ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny and feed me my lunch there inching crosstown amid the cigar smoke, the end of the world and the traffic.

Then he would break the silence and finally, after one block in twenty minutes say, "The only way to get across town is to be born there."

He would return then to his noisy silence and internal reveries and leave me with that riddle which I would turn over my head for hours and days and weeks, months, years and decades, unable to determine, too young, to raw, too dumb to know if it was wise or funny, sage or satirical.

But somehow, this morning, 55 or so years later, as we make our glacial way across town, I think of my old man and the line.

Can you smell it?

The cigar smoke, I mean.

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