shit from an old notebook

I wrote this for The Journal when I was miserable and living in Southern California, and I just came across it again this morning. I was down there, and now here I am ... up here ... ain't life strange? p1000812

Down Here

   Things are heavy sometimes, and I carry the weight of them in a sharp knot under my right shoulder blade. When I was little, the size of the universe was what weighted me down ... it's huge! I had nightmares about the unending blackness inside my eyelids. The idea of infinity still bothers me, but now that I'm down here, it's things like all the damn candy wrappers our population produces, enough for a million glittering landfills.

   Other burdonsome things include the thick, sticky air of Southern California. The pavement and concrete spread out in a black oily mass from here to the polar ice cap. The sunburned palm trees that are more like plastic than any fake plants I've ever seen. And the clear blue sky breaking day after day until it's all you can do not to fork out your own eyes with a bottle of suntan lotion.

   When it all gets to be too much, too great a weight for these little shoulders, I think about pure snow and early winter mornings when a few scant lights switch on across the landscape and someone mixes Folgers into water heated on an old wood stove. I think of how cold air hurts to breathe in at first, then freezes your nose hairs on the way out. And the sound of the snow crunching under boots in the muffled auditorium of a winter day. Of red leaves crumpled in a wet mass on the ground. They're supposed to signal the dead season, but really it's just a new kind of life. Quiet, and curled up behind warm walls.

   Someday I'll make it back there for good, and I'll know how it feels again to live in a place where the seasons change all of four times a year as part of nature's great big scheme to fight boredom. Making coffee for myself one morning I'll pause to clean the frost off the window with my fingernails and peek out on the dark-blue whiteness of 5:30 a.m. I'll be reminded of getting up early as a child to run out on the brittle fields of frozen snow and how it felt like walking on water; which was almost as good as flying.