Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opening at the Framing Mill

Russelltalksabouthiswork

The Maplewood Patch video taped my opening at the Framing Mill the other day and posted it to the local blog. Here it is.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BODY PARTS-Chapter 3

The Nerve of IT

I was boiling. You’d be boiling to if you’d gone through a wrongful arrest, intensive questioning, and physical abuse, including sleep deprivation. Possibly worst of all was the sadistic withdrawal of caffeine. One officer even held a cup of freshly brewed—not your usual police station coffee machine dribble—under my nose, and then drank it slowly, his eyes closed, exaggerating his appreciation of every sip.
I was now making up for the latter by working through a full pot in my new, favorite Diner. When I sat down and asked for a full pot they obliged, no questions asked, no attitude! The waiter, a big guy (from Ecuador I later found out) brought me a warmer for my table—a warmer! Did you ever…? This left me struggling with the contrary emotions of a momentary but full fledged faith in the humanity that surrounded me, and a fury at the injustice of it all.
The police had released me that morning after my hellish night with no more than a: “Sorry! There’s been a slight mix up!” They had the wrong address. The desk sergeant giggled as he handed me a form to address my complaints, and then winked as if to say: “Watch it! You don’t want to get us mad”. Not that I pretend to understand GCPD semaphore.
I put more sugar in my coffee and stared at the paperwork I’d been given, which was hard to read given my swollen eyelid.
I really liked this Diner. Despite my smashed up visage nobody shrank away or avoided proximity. I felt supported. A man rolled in with no legs and Big Guy lifted him up to the counter, gently put him on a stool, and a coffee was poured straight away. It occurred to me that I didn’t stand out at all. I was completely surrounded by freaks. No wonder I felt so at home.
I took out my monocle and tried once again to read the fine print (5 points I guessed). I didn’t want to let it go.
“All complaints may be addressed blah blah however your past, present and future will come under scrutiny before any resolution can be determined. Any history of mental illness or aggressive behavior may adversely affect your case.”
Then the next sentence dropped a point, was written in red and was nigh impossible to read. So I slammed the coffee pot on the table. It didn’t break.
The Ecuadorian came over wiping his hands on his apron, firmly grabbed me by my arm, looked me in the face, took out a knife from his apron with his other hand and stuck it in the table where it quivered ominously. I’d been wondering what had caused all those scars.
“They punched me in the eye!”
“No emotional outbursts here,” he whispered. “We all have our problems. Coffee’s on us”. Then he tossed me out of the Diner —gently.
So there I was on the street once more, an innocent abroad in the big, mean city. A little Cyclops girl walked by, kicking her white stick against the pavement, her sunglass glinting from the sharp morning sunlight.
“What happened to you?” I said.
“Same old same old. Optic nerve. Pollution.” She spoke in a monotone without stopping, and I watched as she continued to trip onward, bumping her way home. Just died, I thought. I stood there shaking my head, scratching under my hat, sweeping the hair off my forehead. Then I headed for the nearest butcher. I needed to look after myself.
“A big fat steak—for this,” and I pointed at my eye. The butcher wordlessly gave me the biggest and most expensive steak he had and charged me accordingly. Then I went to the nearby park to lie down in the warmish beams of that morning sun. All about the last snows were melting and the dripping off branches soothed my frazzled nerves as I closed my eye.
When I woke up I found I wasn’t alone. It must’ve been some kind of epidemic. It was definitely racial profiling and the police were making a ton of mistakes. What we needed was a lawsuit. I was in the company of three other big steaks; each held or placed precariously on the throbbing, swollen eyes of fellow assaultees.
I turned my mind to the authors I’d never really read. An image of John Updike hovered in the periphery as a snow ball slammed into my temple.
“Oh for Crissakes!” I flung the steak at the perpetrator, a four-year-old kid, and stomped out of the park, my eyebrow knit by dried blood to the gash on my lid. My eye was almost swollen shut and was beginning to bleed again. I must’ve looked bad. Everyone had stopped to stare. Then I realized I was being followed by the other—wrongful arrests. We presented quite the Parade, staggering forward as if recently risen from the dead. En masse we set off in the direction of the police station bearing our righteous indignation like a flag. What we would do with it once we confronted the desk sergeant was anyone’s guess.
With gratitude I later reflected on what then occurred. I was prevented from entering Precinct 63 by the strong, long arm of a tendril, a higher law as far as I was concerned and one I could easily respect. In its other arms it held the other three.
“You don’t want to go in there—not a pretty sight.”
Briefly I wondered if he meant in general—the institution green, the no fresh paint in years—it was one of the grimmer police station interiors I’d encountered, but I knew better.
“They’re hashing out some legal technicalities.” I looked for a smirk, or a hint of irony, but saw none. This was how my patch on the earth would be paved from now on: the benign simpaticos, the strong soft hearts, and the brook no nonsense, practical bottom-feeders of the planet, would clean up the cracks in the sidewalk. Patiently but thoroughly they’d sort out the weeds. I looked at the crunched up, now bluing eyes of my new found friends, and by common consent but without a word being exchanged we crossed the street to the Diner. We probably entered like a gang but we just wanted coffee. The Ecuadorian waiter obliged us with three full pots.

Monday, March 9, 2009

BODY PARTS-Chapter 2

The Arbiter of Taste


My wife and I have lately taken to referring to the coffee that resides in abundance in a large tin can in an old and obsolete, too deep, rusting metal cupboard in our convincingly depression era kitchen, as the brown sludge. This coffee is our last resort coffee. When it all goes down we will brew it up and be grateful but until then…we will only drink it when our dear friend, Ima Kid shows up. Ima’s a guy. His name might throw you off. He’s a guy and he is our dearest and oldest buddy. We share him alternating use of his never failing always willing ear. The only thing he asks of us is a good cup of coffee and to his mind the awful stuff, the desperation coffee, is his chosen poison so we have no choice but to oblige. We’ve tried offering him fresh ground, quality cuppas but he always wrinkles up his nose, starts to fidget and suggests he may have to get going. At which point Nell gets up and says: “Oh! I forgot we had this coffee! Please do stay a little.” Ima always does. His eyes twinkle as he gazes on the fulsome can she is holding, and his lips glisten.
“Well alright. Just a quick one.” This usually is the cue for one of us to make ourselves scarce. We can’t both be crying on his shoulder. Nell and I have a good mutual understanding and without needing to say anything one of us usually melts away after a brief shared conversation with laundry to do or bills to pay.

Lately Nell has been in fine fettle. That is how she puts it herself. The one thing she cannot do is solve my problems and so it is with gratitude that she makes the brown sludge and then quietly dumps her cup in the sink before heading off to do errands so leaving me with my therapist. The funny thing is Ima is not wise. He is simply present. Put a coffee, the right coffee, in his hand and he is all yours. I suspect at times that he comes from a different planet. There is a peacefulness about him that has nothing to do with material possessions unless you call ownership of a GAZ grill and his very own coffee pot a fierce example of consumerism run amuck. He lives in a hovel that he loves and has, as far as I can tell, one set of clothes. We’ve known him for as long as we can remember and yet know remarkably little about him. He did make the local papers one time. He was observed lying down in the middle of the High Street late one night and stretching. He was in no danger of being run over because the street is closed off for pedestrian traffic only after a certain hour and the reporter concluded that Ima Kid was simply taking that little freedom and expanding it a notch. I’d enjoyed the report and had actually written to the reporter thanking him for not passing any kind of negative judgment on our friend. As a local reporter he was a familiar face around town and later I was able to thank him again in person. That was when he told me the something he’d chosen not to write.
“I like the guy. He exudes a certain, I dunno, peace! I sat with him once or twice, right here in this diner, bought him coffee that he never drank, and talked. I did all the talking. I’d find myself waking up sort of realizing I’d been talking for perhaps a full fifteen minutes and his attention had not strayed. I’d rather not go into it but once he said something unexciting in response to a rather personal thing I’d brought up…and it was exactly right. So…because I like the guy I didn’t want to mention that I saw him lick the pavement, the cobbles. It was late but some stores were still open or just closing up and people were still milling about. He wasn’t particularly discreet about it. I don’t think it mattered to him one way or the other if anyone saw him do it. Still I think, as chance would have it, I’m the only one who did see him lick the pavement. He licked it slowly and thoughtfully, like a forensics scientist tasting a blood sample?

A week later he warned me about a potential water mains break in that exact spot.”

I remember I shuddered. I knew exactly the spot he meant. It had been all over the news. One person had been killed and a couple injured and the reporter had been feeling guilty ever since because he hadn’t taken Ima seriously.

So now we did. Ima was our personal oracle and we took anything he said to heart, anything.

The last time he came he made a comment about my shirt. In all the time we’d known him he’d never commented on my looks. He said:
“A spotty shirt would be nice.”

Nell and I went shopping that very afternoon and later when I wore the shirt out to a restaurant Nell looked at me in a way she hadn’t in a long, long time.

Ima hasn’t dropped by of late but frankly that is okay by us. Love him as we do we cannot stand that coffee.

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Doing Lines

Asemic writing