Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sweet Tea Moonkiller Plays a Joke on a Coyote Boy

What am I thankful for? Ah. Hmm. It was just before the summer break that my father’s trial for trying to kill my mother began and they decided that I should be sent away. I’m thankful for that. My mother wanted to attend the trial every day and sit behind the defense table to lend him support. Ah. Leon, that’s him, had blamed me for everything and Squint, that’s her, well, let’s just say that I had never been her favorite daughter. The other two, Lillian and Marcella, were gone about two years by then, up to Colorado and Wyoming to work in the kitchen shacks of sheep ranches. Yes, two years, that’s right. Anyway, none of Leon’s Reese side of the family would take me. They believed him. My mother’s family hemmed and hawed about it for days. I didn’t blame them. I was, in my mother’s words, a fourteen year brass-assed brat of a girl. One by one, first, the sisters and then the aunts, then the grandmothers all said “Sorry.” or “Can’t just now.” Or something like that. That’s how I ended up going to stay with my great-aunt, Sweet Tea Moonkiller.

Squint and I took the long drive up from Tulsa to Nelogany. Nelogany, if you can even find it on a map, is in the middle of nowhere and Sweet Tea’s house, if you can call it that, was on the far edge of nowhere. We got there about mid-morning. It was a cold day for May. One of the front windows was halfway open and a curtain had been pulled out partway by the wind, signaling to us as we drove up. I got out of the car and walked up onto the porch with my little suitcase. My mother motioned that I should knock on the door, but I just turned the handle and walked in. “Hello?” I said loudly, “I’m here. Hello?” There was no one there. I turned and went out of the door. “Okay.” I yelled, “See you later! Bye!” She backed the car down the driveway and gave me a little wave. Two beeps on the car horn and she was gone up the road.

Her name wasn’t really Sweet Tea, it was Su-et-ti-ah which means Swamp Dog, what most people call an otter. My father used to say it meant Smells Like Wet Dog, but he never knew anything Osage or much of anything else. I didn’t know any of that then, this was forty years ago. I just knew what my sisters told me, her kids were all grown, she lived herself, she was a little crazy and Sweet Tea Moonkiller had the powers.

I wandered around the house for awhile. We, my mother’s family, weren’t Moonkillers anymore. Most of us shortened the name to Moon. One uncle, Redbird Moonkiller, had changed his first name to Bert and his last name to Mooney, better for the oil business, I guess. The powers, my sisters said, were kind of magical and kind of not so special, some were weird and some my mother told my sisters to shush up about. Sweet Tea, so they said, could point at a cloud and it would shrivel and disappear. If she saw a crow flying she could make it turn left or right or go back to where it came from. Once a horse was dying of the strangles and she was called to come look. When she walked in the barn the horse got up and shook himself and was fine as could be. A lady who was there started yelling that Sweet Tea was using the Devil to do good. "Shucks," she’d replied," since when does the Devil do good works? "Then she left, but people did a lot of talking my sisters said. Oh, and I almost forgot, she could talk to coyotes. Ah.

I went outside, looked for the well. The house had been added onto several times, a mudroom off of the kitchen, a fairly large workshop with a big window that was covered by a big blue tarp and duct tape and a kind of lean-to that stretched almost twenty yards out into the backyard. The pump was in there surrounded by garden tools, some peach baskets filled with potatoes, some hard squash. There was a cup chained to the pump handle. I had a long, cold drink. I remember the taste of that drink even today.

Ah, but let me get to the story you want to hear. All of a sudden here she was in front of me wanting to know who I was. I hadn’t seen her since I was five or six. The family had gone to a three day drum ceremony. I remembered her as bigger, but here she was about as tall as me with a big round face like my aunt Celeste. She was carrying a long stick and not looking too happy. We were in the side yard by the woodpile. I said I was Leon Reese’s kid, Squint’s kid, ChiaChia Reese. She said “Well, what are you doing here?”

She didn’t know anything about me coming. I told her about two words about the trial, she said “Unh.” I told her about the other aunts. She said nothing. I said one of the aunts was supposed to call Mae Quicktree since Sweet Tea had no phone and she was supposed to walk over and ask her about it. She said she had seen Mae up on her porch one day, but she figured she just wanted to borrow something so she had stayed in the woods until Mae left. I said I could start hitching back to Tulsa, but she said there won’t be a car on this road for two days, but she didn’t mind me staying so long as I would help out. I thought about it, maybe it was my mother’s little wave, maybe it was my father now so far away, safely far away, maybe it was the drink of water. I said I would stay. So that was my welcome.

Yes. Yes. I know, thankfulness. I’m getting to that. First, I cried for a week, a brass-assed brat just crying her eyes out and Sweet Tea didn’t say a word to me about it. She’d ask me to go get water or wood and I’d go and come back crying the whole out and back. She’d cook something, eggs and grits, or some kind of fried potatoes and greens and we’d eat and I’d sniffle. We’d work all day in the garden or fixed up something or just cleared some space in the junk in the yard. At night you could see every star in the universe and listen to the coyotes.

Sweet Tea was one of those people who look old but aren’t. Her eyes were surrounded by folds of brown skin darker than the rest of her face. She had a little stoop in her shoulders and she favored her left side when she walked, always with a stick of some sort for support. When she pulled her hair back before bed, she revealed two ears that seemed huge to me, the right one had a V-notch cut out at the top. She wore dresses but she always wore a pair of jeans under them and boots, the lace-up kind, when she went out in the woods.

Okay, so one day after the crying had stopped for a few days, she says to me, “Are you going to tell me what happened?” And I said, “No.” She said, “Okay.” And we went back to work hoeing the garden of beans, peas, squash, carrots and some other stuff. I turned to her after a while and said “Will you tell me something?” She just stopped and nodded. “Will you tell me about the powers?” And she laughed so hard she scared a couple of birds out of the trees.

We went to the well to rest; it was a hot June day by then. She wanted to know which powers I was talking about and I said I had heard she could make clouds disappear. “Hmmh”, she nodded her head a little, “Most anybody can do that.” And I asked her about making a crow turn right or left or go back and she said she didn’t think anybody could that. Then I asked about the curing, she said “Shucks.” I didn’t know what to think so I asked about talking to coyotes. “Oh,” she brightened up, “My, yes, that’s fun.” She took a drink from the cup. “Tell you what. I’ll take you out for a coyote talk if you will tell me what happened.” That started the crying all over again.

I’m sure there was a July that year, but I don’t remember it at all. No one came for me. In August I saw Mae Quicktree in her truck and asked if she had heard anything, she hadn’t. Sweet Tea and I picked everything out of the garden before it frizzled in the heat. We pickled and packed all the beans and tomatoes and peas and squash into jars and put them down in the cellar. September came. Mae Quicktree walked up to us in one of the fields and told us that Squint’s phone had been disconnected and none of her sisters knew where she was.

That’s when I told.

I remember now, just now, I didn’t cry the first time I told Sweet Tea what happened, I just told it out, brass-assed brat, his hands, his breath, his whispers. She sat in the porch chair and listened.

That night we went on our first coyote talk. There was a half-moon. We took blankets and walked way out past the woods to the edge of a section of tallgrass. This is a good time, Sweet Tea said, the coyote boys are just beginning to look for girlfriends, we can have some fun. First, we just listen to see who’s out there. We listened. There came some howls way off. “That’s Big One, he’s too old, we can’t fool him, we have to listen for some young ones. Hunker down.”

We waited. Pretty soon there was a series of yipping noises and then a long howl. Sweet Tea answered with some yips of her own and finished with a kind of woof.
“I’m telling them I’m here.”
More howls followed. Sweet Tea woofed and yelped and crooned, it was so musical.
“I’m telling them, there’s two of them, that I’d like to meet up with one of them.”
That led to several howling matches with Sweet Tea interrupting along the way.
“I said I was hungry.”
Sweet Tea was so happy, I couldn’t see her face in the dark, but I know it must have been shining.
“Oo, they want to know if I want a chicken or a rabbit. I told them a rabbit, I don’t want them getting in anybody’s chicken house.”
Then she started really laying it on, yip-yips and long low snarly kind of oo-woos. There were answers to her from just off to our left and we could hear something crashing around in the grass in front of us.

And then, there he was. A coyote about as big as a collie, maybe a little shorter, definitely a lot skinnier and in his mouth was a flailing, screaming rabbit.
“Woof, woof” cried Sweet Tea and the coyote dropped the rabbit and ran like the dickens. We rolled around in laughter. The look on his face when he saw us, my oh my.

“How long have you been doing this?”
“Oh, since I was a kid. There’s not much to do out here in the grass.”
“Do you think you could teach me?”
“How good can you listen?”

That when the listening started. The next night after supper we went to go sit on the porch. We were going to listen to coyotes, but first she wanted me to listen to something. “I’m going to tell you back what you told me, you tell me if I have it right.” And then she did. She told me the whole story as if it was happening to her, that’s the Indian way of telling stories, not like the one I’m telling you now. One person tells, the other listens and then tells the story back. When she was finished, she said, don’t tell me what I got wrong or right, just tell it again.

So, I did. I told the whole story over, the whole two years, the hands, the eyes, the whispers and that time I did cry. Then Sweet Tea Moonkiller told my story back to me again and this time the story seemed to float between us and then drift off.

We listened to the coyotes deep into the night.

By Thanksgiving Day, Sweet Tea and I had traded my story back and forth many, many times. I started going to school in Pawhuska, late, the month before. My name was as it is now, Patricia (Chia chia) Moonkiller. Leon was in jail, no one knew exactly for how long but, after Bert Mooney drove me down to the District Attorney ‘s office in Tulsa and I told my story, he was sure to spend some time longer. This was in the days when it only took a few words to right people at McAlester prison to make a parole hearing disappear. My sisters and I began to write each other, to share our stories, we’ve never stopped. Squint Moon-Moonkiller Reese was never heard from again. I’m not thankful for that.

If you watch enough clouds they will talk to you. They will tell just about everything about themselves, where they have been, where they are going and, this is important, when they are deciding to disappear. That’s just about when you tell someone you are going to make it happen and then you point, the cloud disappears and everyone gasps. Huh. It wasn’t like the cloud didn’t just tell you.

If you listen to enough coyotes, you can learn their names, who’s got a mate and who’s looking for one. Which one has a new den and territory, (so watch out and keep out) and who has shacked up with a coydog from over the next hillside. You can learn the yips, the woofs and barks. You learn to yodel out the right howls for the right moment.

If you listen to your story many, many times and tell your story many, many times it becomes both part of you and part of something beyond you. And the pain of it goes softer. It never goes completely, it is always with you, but it doesn’t get in your way of pointing at clouds or living your own life.

So, what am I thankful for? I’m thankful Sweet Tea stayed in the woods when she saw Mae on the porch. I asked her about that later, if she would have said yes.

“Oh no, she said, pulling my hair, what would I want with a brass-assed brat like you?”


Monday, November 24, 2008

To See the Future, Stand on the Edge of Dreaming

No meeting should last longer than one hour, that was a rule Russell had followed throughout his whole career. So it was like sitting on sandpaper to be in Mr. Eric Emerson's office for more than two and half hours, even if it was really sitting on a butter soft leather sofa while listening to the weasel weasel on and on about what had to be done. What had to be done, of course, at the holidays, is let people go. He hated the words "letting people go', it sounded like you were doing them a favor when you were about to start them down a road filled with uncertainty.

He had in his hand a list of fourteen names. He had had the list now for over two hours, all that time had been spent listening to Emerson bloviate on 1) why a letter would be better than breaking the news in person (Weaseling 101), 2) what might be seen as the future of the company once the current crisis had been dealt with, or at least, enough "fat had been trimmed from the bones" (he had said that fat phrase too many times to count) and 3) describe in detail his weekend of putting up the boats for the winter. Russell just wanted to get on with it, He wanted to go out into the office and start telling people, but Emerson wanted him to draft that letter and to have it to him by Friday morning, which was tomorrow. I know, he said, short notice, quick action, got to be done though, then it has to go to legal, and so on and so on, so have to get on this, be efficient, be sharp, get on it,
quick, quick, quick. He loved talking that way, he made it sound like that Christmas carol, what was that song anyway?

Looking out the window, he could see the day fading, getting grayer with cold, across the room Emerson was droning on about how he had not known how much water there was in gasoline. He was the worst kind of boss to have, the kind that everyone knows is an idiot except for his boss who hired him and thinks he is a wonder. Wonder, winter wonder, winter wonderland, Russell felt himself starting to drift off into some other state of being, he was thinking about rooftops. He had to stick a finger in his right ear to bring himself back. The droning from the behind the desk had stopped. He feared for just a moment that he had been asked a question, but when he looked up it was just Emerson standing there, offering him his hand to shake. He shook the hand and Emerson started off again about how no one was really secure these days, not much tidings of joy, he knew that.

Russell headed back to his office. He sat down at his desk and clicked the blinking New Mail icon on his monitor. His ex had sent him a Christmas card. Doves. Falling snow. A pair of deer under an arching banner that read “Peace on Earth.” He noted she had not added anything about goodwill towards men, especially towards him. There was a little note pad there in front of him and he wrote: There is no easy way to put this: our company has decided to ..... No, that's awful. He started again, this time on the computer screen. Emerson had said he wanted it to be professional yet personal. There's nothing more personal then firing a person, he thought, and here it was, just ten days to Christmas, Chanukah already started. He typed Dear Fill in Employee Name and then stared at the cursor waiting for it to tell him the rest.

It was no good. Nothing came to him. It was getting towards six o'clock and he thought he would go home, have dinner, write the letter, email to himself and Emerson and then go to bed. He crossed the big room filled with cubicles; computer screens all blank and dead-eyed, chairs and tables holding down the floor, a little Christmas tree on the receptionist's desk still had it's red and green LEDs shimmering in the darkness.

On the subway ride home he looked at all the people jammed together. Bundled up for the cold outside, they now had to open their coats and jackets in the heated car. What would it be like for any of them to get the letter he was about to write? No, that wasn't the way to think about this. All these people here, the guy trying to hog the whole middle pole, the woman with the huge hoops earrings and the hissing-shhishing earphones, the three fellows pressed next to each other in the doorway talking about whether there would ever be another Yankee World Series win, they were all strangers, the fourteen people on the list he had known for years. He had hired more than half of them, trained and re-trained all of them to work as part of his team. Several of them he had known for years, the new guy had only been there six weeks.” We are your neighbor’s children that you have seen before. Love and joy come to you.” Dear Blank, he thought, Despite all your hard work, the company says "Screw you very much."

The cursor on his home computer was even less informative than the one at the office. He spooned up the last of the lamb stew he had made on Sunday, drank a glass of wine, watched the first half of the ten o'clock news, set the clock for 5AM and climbed into bed.

Scientists know a lot, but they don't know why we sleep. They know we do it and they know that during sleep we dream. Hundreds of thousands of images flow through our dreaming brain, but we haven't any real sense of why it happens the way it does. We know more about the bottom of the Pacific's Mariana Trench than we do about what goes on just two inches inside our own skulls. So, here was Russell Freeman standing on the edge of dreaming, not awake and not yet asleep. He waited. Sleep would come. Sleep in heavenly peace, he sighed. But it didn’t come. Or maybe it did but it didn’t feel like sleep. Russell started to see things, to think thoughts. Faces swam by, he saw hallways, a doorway, he guessed that next he would hear chains rattling, but instead he thought he heard the ding of an elevator stopping in his bedroom. His mind couldn’t figure out if he was awake or dreaming or someplace in between. Voices spoke – and now what for you? one asked over and over. Quick, quick, quick. He stayed like that for an hour, maybe two hours, the thoughts of the coming day banging in his head and then quieting, then banging in his head again. There is no rest on the edge of sleep. He turned on his side, he turned on his belly, and he turned on his other side, that’s when he saw someone coming towards him. A man, dressed in a blue suit and tie, holding in his hands two stacks of envelopes. On one stack was written: From Russell, Open Now, he couldn’t see what was written on the other stack.

Freeman raised his head and looked around in the dark surprised not to see the blue suit heading out the door. He looked for the envelopes. He turned his pillow over; it was as cold as a snow bank. I know what’s written, Russell said to himself and he fell deeply into sleep.

The weasel's letter was done before the espresso had to be steamed.
"Dear Employee:
Despite every effort, yours included, to maintain the financial stability of our company; we have regretfully come to the decision to cutback on this office's personnel. .... ."

The second letters had taken a little longer. Each of the fourteen was slightly different, he included individual memories of each person’s triumphs and growth, he wished them the very best of everything and assured each one that they could depend on him recommending them for any job in the future. He printed them out as he took his shower. He took each one and put it in an envelope and wrote on it, From Russell, Open Now.

Emerson loved his letter. He clapped Russell on the back as they left his office together. Now it was Legal’s turn to have a look at it. It didn’t look like he had exposed the company to any ramifications, he said, that would be messy, so it should all be ready by this afternoon. Russell nodded and headed back down the hall to his office. His stack of letters was in his desk drawer. He went straight to his work, he had to think about what it would be like to work with the smaller staff; who would have to take over what sections, how to partner and re-partner the teams. It was bitter work, tasting ashy and without satisfaction, except for the one extra deletion he made. He saved the file and attached it to an email for Emerson. He didn’t hit send. He ordered in lunch as he normally did and he waited for word.

Emerson came in his office right about one thirty PM, looking just a little pale and, Russell thought, a little excited. He placed a folder onto Russell’s desk and said “Here they are. You can pass them out whenever.” Then he left. It was just after three when Russell started making the rounds, early enough, he thought, for people to gather their thoughts and the majority of their things, late enough not to have lost the entire day’s work effort. He went quickly from desk to desk, handing the envelopes to the people who were there, leaving the others for the recipient to find when they returned. No one said anything.

He returned to his office and sat down. There, in the middle of his desk, was an envelope addressed to him from Mr. Eric Emerson, Senior Vice President:
Dear Russell:
Despite every effort, yours included….. .
There was an addendum at the bottom requesting that Russell stay long enough to figure out the new staffing arrangements. Now he hit Send. Emerson would get his new team chart without Russell’s name on it only three seconds after Russell got his letter. That ought to be quick, quick quick enough.

Russell looked out his window. Flakes were falling in that dreamy slow motion way you see in the movies and email cards. There were no noises coming up from the street, all was calm and bright. He shut his computer off, turned off his office lights and headed out into the big room to say his good lucks and goodbyes and give a few hugs, a few tidings of comfort and joy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Novels that Write Themselves//Chapter One

Woman on bus on cellphone.
We only hear her.

..and you listen to me, Arthur. She never...
..... .. .. .
You what?
You told her? When?
Oh god,
You idiot. You told her, OH God. Oh my God.
Arthur, Arturo, Jesus, listen for a second.
No, listen.
Arthur, she not your boss, she's your wife. She's my boss.
How am I supposed to go to work tommorrow?


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday night movies

Friday night movies
Over the river and through the crowded sidestreets of Englewood, NY to some huge, empty, theatre to see 'W', except 'W' wasn't playing (lucky me) so we went for Angelina Jolie.

(When they ask the question "Are those real?", they are asking about her lips.)

Got good news today, a lawyer friend sent me the language I need to start writing up the agreement. Now to flesh it out. Spent part of today doing that and roasting a chicken.

I got my volunteer discount for working the Marathon, so I bought myself a Shine in the Dark winter hat. I could have used it last night and today as the drizzles continued on and off through this morning's run.

What else?

Thought about joining a club to train with, found a few that might fit.

I have a recommendation for all of you. You should all have a friend that you have known for over 45 years. She should be bright, curious about life and politics, deeply involved in her work, yet able to find time to be actively concerned with the well being of her family and, more importantly, her oldest friend.
She should be able to pick out an inexpensive wine to go with the dinner after the movie that tastes pretty good and she should be able to graciously accept your offer to pay for the movie tickets because she is doing all the driving around the suburbs. (Hey. We saw a sign that said GAS $1.99. Very exciting.)

Ms. Jolie is always better then I think she will be, and she is good in this movie, Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood. Clint ended this movie about four times which was wearing, but each new ending sequence was well done and perhaps necessary to fill in the missing pieces of the story. Her lips floated above and around about the whole film.

Dinner at Max's was great. The waiter listened to everything I said and I got my fish grilled, not pan-fried and I got the extra anchovies on my Caesar Salad just like I like. It was great to talk to a person for a couple of hours without once thinking you needed to solve a problem.

When I got home I pulled all the meat off of the bones of the chicken and packed it in bags in the freezer. Many lunches, so little time.

Joe(Her lips floated above and Oh wait, I already said that)Nation

Friday, November 14, 2008

Start By Oversleeping

First: the morning.
I never oversleep except I did this morning. It could have been a disaster, but it wasn't. I woke at 6:10 am instead at 5. There was still time to make the espresso, eat a half of a grapefruit with a piece of wheat toast. Turning on the radio for the weather forecast I heard a ad for Poise, that's a pill you give out to help your dog get rid of stress.


There are several things that could bring stress to us non-dogs these days. It's important, they tell us several times each morning on the subway ride downtown, that we take note of any unusual activity on the platforms or in the cars. We are supposed to be on the lookout for any unattended packages or backpacks and report them to any nearby police officer.

My own theory on this is this:
that by the time the police officer returns to investigate,
the reported, unattended, bag will have already been stolen.

I keep expecting to see a news report about some shmuck who gets blown up while running up the stairs with a backpack not his own.

We all need to be aware of how precipitous our national economic condition is and be on the alert for the Flu, both the type we get from pigs and the type we get from birds. We must decide now whether to start wearing plaid.

Cats have stress but they hide it better. They stay under beds until well after midnight and then slink around through the darkness.

We must watch what we eat and be aware of what is eating on us.
We have to take note of who amongst us does not have Killer White Teeth.
We should be on the lookout for other stains. And strains.
If we are already victims of gang stalking we ought not allow ourselves to be on a dark street late at night alone and thereby be singularly mugged.

In addition to the Poise pills, available in Quick or Long Lasting, the NYTIMES reports there is a seminar for people to take in order to learn how to de-stress their distressed dogs. Belly scratching is perhaps not as good as drugs.

The guy sitting one guy over from me on the train this morning was exuding so much scent of Marijuana that I was surprised to look up and not see the smoke surrounding his head like a wreath.

You can't get a cat to take a pill easily, especially an already stressed one, it would be easier to teach one to smoke a big doobie on it's bad days.

What was stressing me today was not being late and missing my morning workout, what was getting me was I had trimmed my thumbnails too short.

Now: the run home.
I had to go to Niketown at 5th and 57th Street to pick up my chip and shirt for Sunday's God's Love We Deliver race. It was drizzling rain. Photographers were out in force because drizzling rain makes the edges of the city softer. It makes everybody else just a little grim.

Plaid is supposed to be making a comeback this year but you wouldn't know it from the windows at Bloomingdales. Nary a plaided person anywhere to be seen.
What I did see were several people who might be in need of swiping some of their dog's Poise.
There was the guy with the flat tire, dressed to go somewhere but facing a wrestling match with a wheel.
Two woman were steaming at the corner of 57th and Lexington with one yelling into her cellphone about "The next thing I know Heather is calling me!". The other woman staring at her in fierce, nodding, agreement.

I picked up my shirt. I choose a Medium. No more extra larges or larges for me.
They had no bags, so I had to clip the safety pins and the race number to the shirt and roll the whole thing up and run with it tucked under my arm.

There was another tense guy at 59th Street by the Park. He had his arm outstretched and was screaming into the phone in his hand but at a pitch and volume that made it impossible to understand a single word he was spitting, er, yelling. I wonder what he sounded like at the other end?

The park was lovely, dark and deep and drizzly. I shut my MP3 player off and listened to the whispers and wisk-wisk-wisk of my shoes. Up the hill by the reservoir turn, a man was telling his big retriever to hurry up and cross the road. The dog sort of moseyed on over, not in any rush, happy to be in the park even in rain. She picked up her pace once across and nuzzled up to her guy. I don't think there is any Poise back at their house.

Oh, I almost forgot. When I cut my thumbnails too short, it's really hard to type anything on my phone. There are a lot of typos, but I didn't yell at the phone. Not even once.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Election Day
Well, the precinct where I vote, where, if there is a line, the line has maybe twenty people in it, but this morning at 6:04 am there were two hundred and fifty folks, all thinking that they were going to be first in line. I, at least, thought I would be in that line of twenty. People were getting on the phones and telling others about "the line goes all the way to the corner " and "Not to worry, stop, get the coffees, I will definitely not be inside when you get here. But get here."
"I love voting in an elementary school. I think all schools have the same smell."
Just inside the door. I tell the man posted there that I am in Precinct 71. He wants to see the orange-red notice that is sent out that confirms that, or I have to stand in another line for someone to look it up. "Let me see if I have this right. I know my voting precinct but you want me to wait in that line until someone tells me what I already know."
"Please." he says.
I wait in the line.
I get to the table.
"What address?" says the nice lady.
I tell her and then say "that's #71."
"If you knew you didn't have to wait here"
"Mention that to that very official person over there." and I give him a big wave and a smile.
I go to 71, there is no line. That's good because now I am late. I sign the book. I go to the booth, pull the curtain and change history.

In New York City, we still are using voting machines from the 1960's. You pull a big handle over to "the voting position" reach up and twist these little toggles next to each name. Click click click click click then you pull the handle back, cra-clunk! There is a nice physical feel to the process.

Out I go into the crisp day, I jog over to the subway and then remember that I wanted to see how long the line was by then. People are going to be late for work. Good. The country should stop on election day, shouldn't it?
They weren't handing out any "I voted" stickers, that was disappointing, I would have liked one. I would even have like to have my finger dipped in ink, a deep Democratic Blue would have perferred, but Purple would be really fine.

Purple, that's the color you get when you combine Red and Blue.

Joe(It's the real color.)Nation

Monday, November 03, 2008

Amongst the villagers

my day
Everybody has a story.
Tonight I'm coming around the corner of the stairs when I hear the guy telling the guy just ahead of me his story. This one's about how he can't figure out what's wrong with his metroCARD, that he just put ten dollars on it but now it doesn't work and he needs to send it in to be fixed but right now he has to get downtown to see his mother. So if you just have just a dollar to help him with the fare. ....... ,
About a hundred yards from this cadger's spot, on the way up the hill this morning, I met a runner coming down the hill saying "Yes,yes ,Yes!!" with a nice hard hiss on the last yes. There was some victory in his story, a finish worthy of this bright Sunday.

Meanwhile, across town on First Avenue the crowds were gathering to cheer and cowbell the runners of the marathon. I watched for a while. Brimming.
I saw Paula go by. Running so fast and ten, no, twelve women hanging onto her heels. ah
Then went to work.
There were the usual.
Paint. Hanging Pictures. Holes to be made or filled.
A knife sharpener. An LED flashlight.
Late, a woman came in. She'd been cleaning the floors in her father's apartment when she made the mistake of plugging the floor cleaner into the same socket as her father's heater.
Something blew.
Now the heater was off and his hospital bed was inoperable.
She cried on the phone to her husband who was somewhere.
We explained how to re-set the breakers.
She was brave.
She was tired.
She was afraid that she had killed her father.
At five forty five I reached the Park from the 6 train. The cops were all standing around and the barriers had all been taken down. Here we were seven hours since the start. Paula had long been the winner and was probably having dinner somewhere.
Then, I saw them, not in a bunch but singled up. One just up there, then a couple trotting slowly together.
Forty people I'd say I saw in the two miles to to the 23 mile turn into the Park.
Forty finishers all on their way to their yes yes yes moment.
Two blind runners and their guides.
An ancient man closely accompanied by a younger woman.
A man with one leg and one very badly malfunctioning apparatus.
A weeping woman and a man with a prosthesis at the 25 mile banner.
One really old man all by himself in the darkness.
A big woman with a backpack pacing along as if it were noon.

They were two miles and two tenths from the end and their story, their yes yes yes moment.

Joe(I hope you all had your moment today)Nation