Wednesday, August 03, 2005

...and then the Mountains Were Gone

Flew into Iowa City Tuesday the 26th, Buddy Holly on my mind on approach. My bags were still in Denver, due to a woman at the check-in counter being so flirtatious that she forgot to check them thru to my final destination. She told me that I'd been "randomly" (finger quotes) selected for an extra security check, and joked that someone wants to ensure I feel good and safe.. I replied that apparently, I wasn't the one who needed to feel secure. Once again I wonder, does being a member of the Green Party qualify a person for an FBI file?

My oldest brother Kurt met me at the airport and so began a marathon three days of packing, cleaning, and loading a Penske for the long haul to Boulder. We were smart in that we loaded the thing in increments over three days, usually after dark when the humidity was down and the blood-alcohol content up. So it wasn't all dull moments. The first night started out with pizza at an English-style pub (!?). We stopped at a liquor store to buy beer, and on our way out spotted some of his friends in the Foxhead across the street. A couple rounds ensued. We downed our warm beer in the park at the by-now winding down party. The whole proceedings then migrated back to the Foxhead. This seemed to be the official drinking hole for the Iowa writer's workshop. Many of its participants had since moved on, but the dregs were all here, playing pool, smoking cigs, and talking about their proposed destinations. I imagined a fleet of rental trucks, loaded with great books and full notebooks, parked on small-tree covered streets throughout the town. The night went enjoyably on and on. Kurt and Ted, together again.

I awoke way too early the next morning, head and shoulder pounding from too much second hand smoke. We headed to the Penske rental office. It apparently also rents carnival junk, such as skeeball tables, cotton candy machines, inflatable clowns, and huge jousting puppets, among other bizarre things. In my weakened condition, I wandered through the immense room ,the strange images jumping out at me. I swear I heard manic laughing and the lights flashed red. Welcome to John Waters' attic. (Yes, there were pink flamingos.)
Around noon, I went to the University hospital to meet Kurt's friend Sahib. He was doing an experiment on how meditators are more sensitive to the workings of their bodies. I was fitted with random wires and clips, and after meditating for awhile, was expected to tell whether or not the tone I heard was in sync with my heartbeat. Two problems arose (Three including the hangover). One, when verbalizing "yes" or "no," you lose both concentration and the feeling of the beat. Two, having played drums for close to thirty years, I'd like to think I have a finely-attuned sense of rhythm. So I was honing in on the ever-changing beat in my chest, assuming that a tone just off the beat was not sync-ed. I'm not sure whether Sahid got the results he had hoped for. Burritos followed, then coffee at Java House thru the afternoon. That night, Kurt had to emcee an open mic night for participants in the summer writer's program. The readers were mostly middle-aged, a couple pretty good, and divorce poems carried the day.

(You know, I'm sitting here, and for the life of me can't remember what we did on Thursday. Ah, Iowa. I think that I looked for Greg Brown CDs in used music shops, the Rig Veda in used book shops. No luck. I'm sure coffee was drunk, words read, notes heard.)

Oh yeah Thursday. Thursday sucked. That morning we took Mason for his last walk. That evening at five, we had to put him down. A week before, Kurt took him for a checkup to see if he could handle the 750 mile drive to Colorado. After that one mile trip to the vet's, the poor guy could barely walk for three days. There was no choice really. I still remember playing with him as a pup, in a river outside Missoula, Montana, fifteen years ago. He's intersected my life many times since, in New Mexico, Portland, Eugene, Iowa City. He'd even lived in Prague awhile. I returned to the house at 4:30, he and Kurt sitting in the yard under his favorite tree. "Iron and Wine" was playing, and I think I'll always associate them with this scene. Then it was his time. Did he know? He got on well with other dogs, but not with rules, so he was always a fighter. Which was how he went out. He'd been sedated, but I'm sure his last twitches weren't involuntary. And his last few breaths went out in growls. Yeah, Fuck You Death! I see Mason now, chasing my own dear departed beautiful boy around, somewhere beyond the reach of us mortals. Farewell old friend...
After, Kurt and I sat on the front porch with beers, quiet. For the next week, every toast we raised was to the 'Sonic. We went for a Carribean dinner, still somewhat somber, then picked up the pace with the rest of the writing gang on the back patio of a bar called Martinis until I, drained, set home just past twelve, giggling at the drunken antics of outgoing grad students and incoming undergrads.

Friday was a day of dust and cobwebs. Kurt took his final stint as emcee of "Elevenses," a daily lecture delivered by a famous writer. This last day was an open mic for the Iowa Writer's Workshop Faculty. In comparison with the other night, it's easy to see the gulf between good writing and bad. (I'd like to think my own stuff floats somewhere between.) I wandered a bit on the ped mall, not sure when I'll be this way again. Then it was back to campus for a farewell dinner for the summer workshop attendees. At 7:30 pm, we blew town.

On the turntable: Jeff Beck, "You Had It Coming"
On the nighttable: Alfredo Bryce Echenique, "Tarzan's Tonsillitis"

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