Monday, January 26, 2009

Dead Slow

from 27 February 2006

Please Note: Differences in font and font size are problems with translation from Microsoft Word to this excerpt. I did not intend to create a separate style in the first paragraph. In trying to edit the HTML it was so complex, I gave up.

“Twenty one ounces is too much beer for a dwarf,” the novel says. John Irving’s Son of a Circus. No that’s not correct. A Son of the Circus. I have to go back to check the title. Drink another sip of coffee. The Indian names are confusing. I have difficulty with them because there’s father and son. Which Duwalla is he talking about? The routine is the same. I have another book to accompany me during the day. Fondle it during the light hours. Take it to bed with me. Carry it downstairs in the morning. Vampires, East Indian doctors, Australian Bushmen. Some are more precious. I dole the words out.

I toss a paper bag from the hardware store down the steps to the basement. There’s a smell of wood smoke. Should I check it out? Too lazy. I close the back door Dawn left open and turn off the outside light. I left Frank McCourt in the bathroom. He sits on top of a J.C. Penny’s catalog, the Farmer's Almanac and Newsweek. I turn another two pages of Teacher Man.

Dead slow is written on a sign at the entrance to the exclusive Duckworth Club. They install speed bumps. Dr. Duwalla- I have changed his name because I can neither remember the word nor spell the same-sits at a table sipping a Kingfisher beer. I sip my coffee thinking about the speed bumps on Kickapoo Center Lane. Each time Jeff comes thru with the plow, he creates another mound of gravel and snow when he backs up near the end of our dead end lane. He turns into the drive to the barn which is really a shed, knocks over a sign and drives out. If the snow is deep, he’ll make another pass on his way out. If it’s icy, he’ll hit the button to the sand spreader. The speed bumps turn into a solid mass of ice.

I took the weekend off. Instead of a 4:45 wake up, I’m out of bed at first light. If I didn’t have to pee, I’d sleep longer. Taking the weekend off means, I will not work on any project that fits into a definition of work. I will not fill gaps at the roof of the shed with foam insulation. I will not cut fiberglass to seal the drafts around the doors. I will not stack and load firewood. I refuse to begin another table or bench. I put off repair to the redwood table sitting in the barn, which is actually a shed. There’s a fine line of distinction when I begin painting the Japanese letters which I am going to glue onto my wood dividing screen. The screen is work. The letters are fun. I cut grooves into pieces of pine molding and insert a square piece of Luan in each of the three squares. After a few mindless steps, I dribble plaster on a traced outline of the Japanese words, TRUTH, Prosperity and Retreat. The words are in maroon, the frames black. I can’t sell these individually because they take so much time. If I fine-tune the process, I’ll get bored after the first eight hundred. Hobby Lobby sells versions of double happiness for $6.95. I choose words that are so complex I cannot make a simple wood cutout.

Next, I begin constructing a shallow nicho for a painted cross which hangs in our upstairs hallway. I see it when I make the beds. At night, I bump into it on my way to the bathroom. There’s an arc on the wall below the cross from the black paint on the backside. After consulting my design expert, I cut eight-inch wide, weathered Ponderosa Pine boards I carried with us from Arizona. Around the edge of this large flat cross, I make a 1 ½ inch molding. Before I shut down the workshop for the night and help Dawn make a venison jerky pizza, I tape the molding and stain the inside edge red mahogany. While the pizza is baking, I sneak back into the workshop to remove the tape. No matter how much I burnish the tape, there’s always some seepage under the blue scotch tape. Oh, well, it’s part of my process. Surprises in every project. The Japanese letter plaques are slightly warped. Parts of the wood squares will not touch the surface of the screen. I wonder about glue. The Luan screen inserts are supposed to be moisture resistant. Small bubbles appear on one section. Thus ends this dream of simple Japanese screens.

The elder Dr. Duwalla is an atheist. He opines against Gandhi. Images of Christ on the cross should be outlawed as barbaric symbols. He thinks all religions are monsters. He hates the French, priests and Catholics. I take an outsiders view of the piece I’m working on. “Happy” the man who lives down the road and works as partner for the organic farmers, looks at me with suspicion. “What’s with all the crosses?” he asks when he and his partner James come to pick up an old antique bathtub I gifted the farmers. The word weird” “bizarre” and “strange” light up his face like a neon signboard. I think of the image of him drinking flaming shots of Absinthe in the kitchen of the farmhouse. He and his partner smuggle the illegal liquor from Amsterdam. Then there’s the sight (and smell) of a bus ride to their hotel. A street person used a small metal box next to a bridge overpass as a lavatory. Happy sits on the box after walking all over Amsterdam. He notices some mud on his pants. Only after vigorously smearing the mud across the cuffs does he realize: this is feces. Japanese tourists move away from him on the bus. Ah, what is weird, then? I ask.

Years ago, I asked Dawn to paint a version of the crucifixion on a cross. The wood cross is painted a rust red. The surface is a pastel shade of rust. The image of Christ is fuzzy, ethereal and mystical. The image in my mind is translated onto the cross with perfection. It’s one of three favorites. The second is a carton image of sheep jumping on the horizontal part of an antique white cross. On the reverse side of the cross, I wrote the entire words of a black spiritual, called, “Sheep, Sheep don’t know the road.” The song comes from a CD called the Spiritual Tourist. A man chronicles a journey in song. Each song tells of a mystical experience. The liner notes tell of a wonderful luminous light in the windows of this Tennessee church when the choir begins singing. The elder Duwalla is a shallow man. I’m entranced by the art value of the cross. I try not to let the Duwallas ruin my thrill with their cynicism.

Next: Danger lurks in the aisles of Menards.

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