just to peel the potatoes
Bob is standing behind me, he sits and stands during the fireworks display here along the river, long hair and beard and biker leather jacket and riding chaps. Behind him Dana and Steve and then next to me Robin like a flower, a large blooming iris, sedate but wry good humor, here on my blanket. She’s beautiful, but shy about me taking a picture. What’s funny is our little group has accidentally situated ourselves under a speaker playing music – loudly – and there is such a crush of people in attendance there’s no point much in moving ourselves. This speaker plays a relentless series of increasingly patriotic tripe, including a country song about a three-day beard and cooking rice in the microwave and how awesome that is (what?), and then I think it’s Beyonce showboating “God Bless the USA”. Chris joins us on the blankets a bit later and hums or sings along the music, to much consternation from some members of the group, but upon the Armed Services Medley I know all the words to “Wild Blue Yonder” and “Anchors Aweigh” and such back from Veterens’ Day performances in choir. Then there’s Neil Diamond belting out “Coming to America” which inspires a vague wave of simultaneous nostalgia and nausea. “Jesus CHRIST,” groans Robin under her breath. And I laugh each comment she makes.
When the fireworks slam up ahead I feel increasingly astounded and it has nothing to do with the crowds or pyrotechnics or the friends or the hot coffee in my hand or the cold grass beneath my seat. I feel the presence of God, or Divine Chance, or whatever or whomever you might name unless you’d maintain none of that is real, but for me God is pressing down on me like squashing an ant, for the first time ever, in a way that surpasses experiences of pleasure or pain and carries not even a strong emotional response. How is it I am alive? is all that occurs to me. BOOM BOOM BOOM thunders in the sky and in my body. How is it I’m here to be this way, sober now some time and of a clean (enough) mind and on a blanket with friends and I’m given breath to draw. Normally I’d be heckling and hassling or running up to be with Ralph and the kids (who are scattered off at the playground with other kids and teens) but instead I stay on the blanket like I was assigned there and this particular duty was of utmost importance.
The fireworks finale is even more beautiful than the year before, or perhaps it’s just my state of mind and body and spirit, then people clap and I fold blankets and I hug my friends and wait for my family to join me. “Blood Moon,” the kids tell me when they arrive and I look and perceive the deep-red sliver they’re pointing to. Walking to the car and the air is cold but ripe with possibility and promise, and people run off to fight or drink or fuck (or all three) or maybe just slip into a hot bath and then to bed (as I long to do).
It was a good day.
Tuesday night it just a few minutes before ten and Jasmine, Ralph and I are running into Barnes & Noble to buy Phoenie a Bone prequel. “We need to do this every night!” I shout, and by that I mean fuck around town, everyone else asleep already (yes… Olympia, “the city” compared to Hoquiam, but, not really so much), share a clove cigarette, drink strong coffee, snuffle about for good food (we strike out at Quality Burrito, at least the “good” part) and of course talk talk talk.
Winter is so dark and wet, what’s the point of observing “normal” hours? And how much do I love my life is such I can sew my son up an impromptu hat in a half hour then climb into the bench seat of my mother’s borrowed giant pickup truck, slide up next to him, both of us mittened and scarfed? Three AM Wednesday and I’ve hit upon the perfect time management – grocery shopping. I mean I’d rather do it now as my energy wanes; earlier in the day it’s time for sewing and writing and – as in today – taking an adventure with my daughter (biking in the snow, oops!).
Now Nels is with me and he’s so excited. First he buys himself a Hershey’s bar while I gas up the truck (late-night clerks love seeing tiny kiddos out at weird hours). As we enter Safeway he’s making a list of what we should buy. Turns out the thing he wants more than anything are sliced tomatoes – with salt. How grandma prepares them. As if I’ve never done this at home, but apparently grandma gets credit! You’re a trend-follower, Nels. OK, so what kind of tomatoes should we purchase? I ask (there are oddly many choices). He puts a hand up to the hothouse variety, then: “Too branchy,” he says judiciously.
He pushes the cart and we converse in the most satisfying manner. I just have a few items to get for dinner; Nels rounds out our selection. He selects Odwalla orange juice, pistachios, frozen green beans. The kid’s got taste. He asks if I’m hungry and I say No. He advises, “Well, you should have some juice. It will help you” (meaning the remnants of my sore throat). Yes. Thank you.
Home and the oven’s on to toast some bread and then: tomatoes (with salt!) and then: hot bath, and bed.