Flavin's Corner
7-9-99

Urban Dreamtime

     The feet know what to do...  An early summer's evening fills life's kitchen
with an effluvium of dust, perspiration, and hopelessness.  You can't hide from
the heat.  Mom Terra spins, Pop Sol appears to go down, but the cooking
continues.  In a "dog eat dog" world some dine, but all get consumed sooner
or later.  The feet start walking faster...

     On a street-corner a big girl with a large backpack drinks coffee from a
styrofoam cup.  Her eyes have that eerie luster of secret knowledge--she
knows she's damaged.  Desperate words fly all around me and I feel like a
victim of a drive-by soap-opera.  There was a car accident which mentally
handicapped her when she was in sixth grade.  Parents divorced and she grew
up with a mother who referred to her as a "retarded slut."  I thought of her
abuse for a moment, but couldn't hold it.  The mother, the many sick men who
prey on the damaged, the state-workers who care more about the way they
sound on their voice-mail than the folks they're supposed to help, and the
rent-a-bum agencies who won't send her out for employment because her
clothes are dirty from sleeping in the weeds, ...all seemed like sketchy
characters from a script, a bad script, but I knew they weren't.  Feet do the
darndest things!  I walked away.

     Some say we are spirit, others claim we're an advanced system for water to
transport itself from one place to another, but most realize that we're here to
learn.  What we are isn't as important as who we are, but who we are gets
complicated sometimes when you stare at public sidewalks besmirched with
semi-solids and fluids usually reserved for private functions.  We may be
human and masters of the multiverse, but common animals know better than to
pollute their homes.  We have poor habits.

     An old man stopped talking to himself, turned, and began to heap his pain
upon me.  His breath had the reek of chump-change booze, but the yellow in
his eyes described far more serious problems.  After complaining about the
various injustices of the world, he asked for money.  It often returns to
money...  I gave him a couple of bucks, the bills vanished instantly into one of
his pockets, and he steered his suffering ...home.  "You get high?" he asked.

     I told him about Chinese-food and how the dishes which we're familiar with
are all holiday, or special occasion entrees, and Chinese people have a much
simpler and very different everyday diet.  Though far be it from me to lecture
about illegal drugs, I shared with him my approach that altering one's
consciousness is understandable on holidays or special occasions, but getting
stoned because of boredom or some minor frustration is a waste of time and
cash.  "I've never cared for Chinese food," he said.  "So, you got money? Ya'
wanna go smoke some coke?"  Damage seems to be impartial, in that it doesn't
appear to discriminate between age, gender, race, or religion.

     My grandfather sat on a park-bench, tossing bread-crumbs to the pigeons,
and looked really good for a dead dude.  He passed away some fifteen years
ago, but seemed to be holding up pretty well.  It wasn't like I had been
avoiding him or anything, mind you, ...it's just that life goes on and death
usually means no more trips to the park.

     Kids are quick to ask some questions, but never fast enough to ask the
really important ones.  It seemed I'd always known my Grandfather's name was
Clarence, yet his neighbors, ex-co-workers, friends (read: drinking buddies),
and my Mom, addressed him as Shy.  I grew up believing that my Dad's dad
was way bashful.  I think I was around 19 when I asked him why his nickname
was Shy.  Grandpa said, "It's because as a youngster I rode the rails back and
forth from my parents' home in South Dakota to Chicago.  They called me
'Chi', ...short for 'Chi-Town bum', and the name stuck..."  Grandpa was a hobo
as a young man.  He matured, moved to Michigan, found a good woman and
work, but never let go of the nickname.

     We all begin the journey in one place, walk around delightfully embarrassed
in other places, and ultimately run out of breath and no longer care where
we're at.  It's so hard to breath in the summertime...

     I smoked my first cigarette in 1968, when I was in fourth grade, stealing a
Pall Mall from my Mom.  It made me dizzy and I didn't smoke again for a
couple of years.  In sixth grade, while my Dad was stationed in Panama and I
had access to cigarette-machines on-base and smokes were twenty-cents a
pack, ...I started dividing my lunch money between comic-books and
cigarettes.  By eighth grade I was sucking down a pack a day (though we were
back in civilian life and smokes were up to forty-two cents a pack).  After I
was caught smoking, my Dad and his brother ...tried to teach me about
smoking.  They each lit cigarettes, smiled, then ...took 'drags' which burned
away half of each cigarette.  The lesson?  ...Take shorter puffs?

     The Grandpa I knew only smoked ultra-light cigarettes occasionally, and
preferred to chew tobacco.  Some weeks after the "lesson" given by my father
and uncle, he sliced off a small bit from the tobacco plug with a pocket-knife,
and told me to give it a try.  Maybe I couldn't swear in a court of law, but I
have a strong belief that I can still feel the burning in my stomach because I
swallowed the "juice" and didn't spit.  My Dad told me stories about him, but
I've let most of them go.

     For now, ...cough, I'll keep on walking.  Summer's heat is unavoidable, we
must help others when we can, and ...maybe I'll stop smoking by 2000.  I'll try,
really, ...I will.  Walking in the past is a shifting association of what was or
what might have been, but more often just pure fantasy.  Walking in the future
will take work, hard work, and with my bum-background and the price of
smokes near four bucks, I need to wake myself up and stop dreaming.

stretching my legs,
Rick

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