The International Writers
singing Have You Ever Loved a Woman in his head, a half
pint of cheap vodka in his pocket; its all he needs to cap
this hot afternoon off. Memorial Day weekend in his home town,
the one he has come back to often enough over the years, but that
now seems to be a different place altogether.
More people, more
motor vehicles on the roads, more businesses, and more housing developments.
He gets the feeling he could walk down Main Street and not see a familiar
face to wave to. Thats the one thing that makes the place strange
for him now, for it was never like that when he was growing up here.
At one time, you knew almost every family in town, especially if, like
him, you went through the school system. Technically, the place was
a village, after all.
Now, he might as well be walking through a town hed never been
in before, but nonetheless saw plenty that was familiar. It looked like
so many places hed been through, with a modern facelift of shopping
plazas, fast food restaurants, big supermarkets, new golf courses and
tourist traps on the road to the beach. When he was a kid, residents
drank coffee and ate donuts at the one town bakery, but now there were
three coffee shops along one strip, with drive-thrus, and the old bakery
had cut its hours. The two bars had changed ownership numerous times,
each getting facelifts, too, so as to attract a different kind of drinker
more of the yuppie type rather than the old drunks who
used to frequent the places when they were called dives. Maybe business
was better, he didnt know, but he would have bet the drinks cost
twice what they used to.
He wouldnt be here long, he knew that. He had gotten through the
winter months and accomplished what hed wanted to do. Hed
finished the book hed started the previous summer. It was the
biggest book he had yet written and he wanted to complete it in one
stretch of time, without any break, while the story was still fresh
in his mind. He had done that and now he felt pretty satisfied with
himself. He had earned a break from that daily routine at the house;
it was time to get outdoors and on the road again. It had taken a mental
strength to stay indoors here in the northeast for months (when he could
have been sitting on a beach in Florida), at a desk no less, every morning
with his coffee (no drink), putting those few pages of words down. He
doesnt think he would have had that dedication ten years before.
After a month or so, he probably would have gone south, telling himself
hed finish the book the next summer. Which he probably wouldnt
have. The difference between then and now was his acceptance of the
importance of writing in his life, and how it was probably the only
activity that could keep his spirits up for a sustained period.
It took discipline to keep at it, sacrificing plenty of time for other
pursuits, yet in the end it was the healthiest thing for him. It came
down to that sense of accomplishment, something he had lacked for years.
Difficult years, with too much drink and plenty of thoughts of suicide.
He might have called those years suicide on the installment plan, and,
for the most part, they werent pleasant to look back on, though
there had been some high points. Without some high points, he doubted
he would have made it.
Had he ever loved a woman? Yes, more than one. And so he always appreciated
that song, one of his favorites that he seldom heard anymore. He had
just happened to walk by a parked car that had it playing, and had stopped
to listen for a couple minutes, reminded of just how good the guitar
was on the Layla album. Clapton and Duane Allman dueling, and he thought
the guys name was Gordon on some big sounding drums. Not a bad
cut on that album that he had back in high school. He had quite a collection
at that time and he wore it out. That was back at the house he grew
up in, the one his parents had been out of for eighteen years now. He
could still remember the hours hed spent in his basement room,
away from the rest of the family, the music turned up loud. That music
had definitely helped him get through the high school years, in a way
that books didnt. It was also the finest thing to go along with
all the drugs he took in those years. Music and drugs seemed to compliment
each other for him, and they still did. A little booze and a good song
from the past and he felt damn good, probably the best he would feel
all weekend. He would be sober for the better part of it, but he would
enjoy these next couple hours at least. Hed have his toast to
his book and to the upcoming summer, and also to his memory of the town.
© Mike Blake June 2007
Mike Blake on the Californian Road
The moon was out that night if not full, then close to it
and it shed a silver-white light down over the trees and the
bank of the river. It was a wide, rushing river that we had crossed
by a long wooden bridge to the flat, open bank (if you could call it
that) where we settled for the night.
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