In a rare fit of domesticity I made corn and potato chowder with fresh corn bread for dinner tonight. First I went to the store to buy all the stuff. Then I started chopping, slicing, puree-ing, mixing and cooking and baking. I toiled on as the afternoon disappeared. We ate in about 10 minutes and the clean-up began. Who does this? I asked in exhaustion. Does what? Irene wanted to know. This, I said pointing dramatically to the messed up kitchen. Who spends their entire afternoon and evening cooking and cleaning? And then does it all over again the next day!? Well, Irene said. Harriet did it. Yeah, well I'm no Harriet, I said. That's okay, Irene consoled me. I'm no Ozzie either.
Noah Purifoy lived in Joshua Tree, CA. He was an internationally renowned artist, sculptor and poet who died in 2004 at the age of 87. His property contains over 100 assemblages and sculptures made from scrap and trash. Just my kind of guy. I've wanted to see his art for years and finally after emailing the Purifoy Foundation in Los Angeles, making an appointment and getting directions we were on our way. We were coming from Arizona and had driven hundreds of miles, finding our way through a labyrinth of dirt roads, the sky spitting snow when we finally found Mr. Purfoy's road. We were within one mile of his place for our self-guided tour when we hit a patch of sand. Our RV sank and we sat in the middle of a vast desert unable to go any further. We managed to get the rig out of the sand but realized we had to turn back. Mr. Purifoy loved to toy with people, test their notions of what art is and can be, challenge people to question everything. Ok, consider us toyed with. But we'll try again...
A month ago I spent an afternoon at an outpost desert bar playing pool and listening to old country and western on the jukebox. Yesterday a friend emailed to tell me the owner of the bar, Alice, had died suddenly of a heart attack. The future of the bar is in question. I was saddened to hear about Alice, even though I never met her. Really what I am mourning is the end of a way of life, the off-the-grid kind of life where you can really hang your hat.
I'm glad Sean Penn won Best Actor. I was rooting for him. But I can't help worrying about Mickey Rourke who seemed to bring the mean streets of the city inside with him last night with his scruffy clothes and trembling hands, struggling with decline and dignity just like the movie. I saw The Wrestler, found it offensive and powerful and I kept my eyes closed through half of it. It made me nostalgic though for those mean streets. It is curious how we can harbor such tender thoughts about a time in our life when things were so bad.
It's raining so hard the garden snails are clustered at my front door and I'm wondering what they want. Surely not to come in? I mean there's nothng in here for them, not even lettuce. Then I'm thinking, clearly it's time for me to get a life of some kind.
Yesterday, feverish and racked with pestilence I saw a vision of the Virgende Guadalupe on a window frame in my bedroom. (okay, a naked virgen). You have to squint, have imagination and you must have a temperature of at least 100 degrees to fully appreciate the image.
There is an old man in our area who walks enormous distances just to have a smoke. I see him hunched on the cement wall of the pre-school down the street, an archaeological dig of butts growing around his feet. I see him at the bus stop under the awning, lighting one cigarette off of another. I see him 2 miles away in front of Long's Drugs by the Mayten tree with a cloud of smoke around his head. He can barely walk, breathes heavily. He is scruffy but I'm sure he has a home to go to. My guess is, he has a wife with swollen ankles and a pink face and capri-pants that hunch up around her waist who dusts every morning and wears slippers most of the day and tries out Hamburger Helper recipes she sees on the cooking channel. My hunch is he told her he quit smoking 2 years ago. He made a promise. He thinks she doesn't know. What else could it be?
We just found out our friends bought a single wide mobile that they'll set up on their 5 acres in the shadow of Cochise Stronghold in Arizona. Me to Irene: I can't bear it! Irene: You must! Me: No, really I can't! Irene: But, you must! Me: Oh, okay..if I must.
Our friend Pete was a Basque sheepherder. One day he drove his rusty old truck onto our property and produced a new born lamb.
"The mother had two. One too many. Would you like this one?"
That was back in the days I didn't think much about consequences.
"Sure," I said. I took the baby and plunked it down in our kitchen, blocking the exit into the living room with all of our kitchen chairs. We bottle fed the lamb and it thrived. It learned how to knock the chairs aside and roam the house. It's bleating kept us awake. And even though we had to eat standing up and the growing lamb shredded everything in its wake, we would have taken a horse if Pete had dragged it in.
In the Mojave Desert I had a love affair going with cholla, an incredible plant with yellow flesh and thorns so deadly they could only be removed from the bottoms of feet with pliers. It was one of those, "Couldn't live with em; couldn't live without 'em affairs.
Apparently a woman was walking at the harbor wearing her high heeled sandals when she said, "This shoe just won't do." And she removed it, placed it carefully beside a light pole and moved on, her right foot still clothed, making her gait ungainly but she felt better because her left foot was free. (That's all I can figure after finding this shoe along the path.)
I knew a guy once in the beginning of the home computer age who said, "You can't write a book without a computer." "Why not?" I asked. "Because you won't be able to keep up." "What about all the books written by people like Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman?" "Well, today, they'd be left behind," he said with authority.
Irene saw a man in Long's Drugs yesterday. He seemed to be suffering from a severe cold, hacking and sneezing and wiping his hands on his polyester pant leg. He perused the Valentine greeting card selection until he found the perfect card and then he snuffled off to the register with it. Twenty minutes later Irene was at Outdoor World in the camping section. She heard someone sneeze, looked over to the gun counter and there was the man with the Valentine, buying a shotgun. "I prefer a big gage," he told the salesman. And Irene thought, 'Lucky woman. A card and a gift.'
I woke very early this morning because I couldn't quit my mind. By the time I reached pen and paper, the words and exquisite lines I'd dreamed were floating around me like dust motes. I searched thin air in a futile attempt to reclaim that part of me. The only thing I found though was a room-full of neglected house plants gasping for breath.
We're considering buying a piece of land in Arizona. Every morning when I wake up I enthusiastically imagine myself working the land, creating sculptures, writing a book. Every night I imagine myself in an RV in the middle of nowhere with meth addicts circling under a full moon and my cell phone battery dead.
My mother was an avid reader. Whenever she sat quietly reading we figured she wasn't doing anything so we talked to her. I'm getting my payback. Whenever I pick up a book or a pen and paper my dog wants to play. If I'm strumming my guitar or sweeping the floor though, Annie Bones lies quietly, waiting for me to get back to writing my novel so she can interupt me.
The Starlet Cafe on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo on a freeway frontage road is for sale. We got pancakes to go and they gave us the silverware. They said, "Just keep it." I mean it wasn't the greatest pair of forks and now that I think about it, I'm surprised they didn't offer us a table and a few chairs. They seemed a little dispirited. Like things just didn't work out, like they weren't even going to bother heading to Hollywood.
After breaking down on a narrow mountain road near Morro Bay, waiting 3 hours for a tow truck driver, being towed 30 miles, spending a night in a Motel 6 while waiting for a part then finding a roof leak, we think we've finally worked out all the kinks!