I used to be the neighborhood rigger. You wanted someone tied up, you came to me. I was the go-to guy for all your bondage needs.

I was seven at the time. Six, seven. My career lasted several years starting in kindergarten or first grade.

How many tender pale wrists did I tie together with jumpropes in kinniegarden? Not all that many. Sherry I remember, and Tracy and a couple more in school I guess; and a few more in the neighborhood, mostly visiting cousins of friends and stuff like that.

Usually I tied them to the apple trees at recess, or to the climbing bars. A couple times kids tied Sherry and me together to the apple tree, but they weren’t very good at tieing knots and I got loose fast and knocked their heads together. It was part of the game. I was a hero of great power at that point in my life.

I was a one-trick pony when it came to knots. I was not really a knot expert, I just tied a single knot – granny knot, I guess, over and over. That was my secret: patience and persistance. No one got loose because I tied so many knots. Also, I got repeat customers because I didn’t tie you up so tight that the circulation was cut off or anything.

Times tables, I’m thinking, are what put an end to my career as a rigger. Around the third grade I started concentrating on memorizing the times tables, and then suddenly a few years had gone by and it was awkward to say to a girl, Let’s go tie you up. Plus, I did not go into Boy Scouts and after a certain age no one is impressed by granny knots anymore, no matter how many you tie.

I might buy a knot book and try to figure out a few new ones now, but I find the diagrams really hard to figure out on my own. It’s hard enough to learn a new way to tie my necktie.

Sometimes when things get boring at the office I find myself thinking about Sherry and Tracy, wondering who’s tieing them up now.

How to say yo mama in Austrian

I got my hair cut yesterday. I could write an entire post about getting my hair cut, couldn’t I, but that’s not what this is about. I could also write an entire entry about how I am deaf at the hair place — the whirring implements, the stereo going, the people talking, the nasty acoustics in the room, which is in an old building with arched ceilings and meter-thick walls — and how my inability to hear conversation in that room, combined with the unfamiliar accents of both the stylist (from the Austrian province of Burgenland) and the apprentice (from Macedonia originally, speaks great German, but with a slightly unfamiliar accent) leads to my seeming stupid due to numerous nonsequiturs etc. But that is not what I meant to write about, nor about how although my wife said nice things about the haircut when I got home, and I liked it, Gamma made gagging sounds and said “you look like Ken! Only with grey hair. The Barbie Ken.” She has a gift for cutting to the quick of the heart of any situation. Beta said, when she saw me later, “you get your hair cut?”

What I wanted to talk about was, after parking my car and on my way to the little machine to buy a little slip of paper that said how long I was allowed to park on the street, I saw K. riding towards me on his bicycle.

K. I love. He is this guy in what, his sixties, very trim grey hair, trim artistic-looking goatee, always nattily dressed. He is a musician (violin? or cello? Not sure.) and a music-lover, a music maven, full of anecdotes about various composers and musicians of his acquaintance and always a story about some concert he just saw. He has commissioned compositions before, paid composers to write stuff for him, that sort of thing.

“Hi, K.,” I said.
“Hello there,” he said, stopping his bike. We shook hands. He asked me how I was. I wasn’t sure (after a day in the office I am often not sure), so I just asked him how he was instead of giving him an answer.
“Oh, just got back from Salzburg,” he said. “Saw [some opera, maybe Don Giovanni] there, and a couple other things.”
This is where, in the past, he has always gone into detailed description and analysis of the performance. But this time, I said:
“Oh, that’s really nice. My wife just saw Mitridate there. We had a cellist friend in the orchestra.”
That was the first time anything I’d said had impressed K. He always wears this mask of congenial, cultured gentlemanliness, but that was briefly replaced by pure enthusiasm.
“I’ve heard that was really good!” he said. “That was a real event!”
He couldn’t think of anything more to say after that, because he is used to topping whatever you say, and he had nothing to beat that.
He rode off and I went and put the little slip of paper on my dashboard and went and got my hair cut.
First, though, I wandered around a little, because I still had 15 minutes to kill before my appointment. The bookstore/CD shop smelled too musty so I left there after 5 minutes. I walked around outside in the semi-sunshine like a cop killing time before the end of his shift, idly twirling my-wife-just-saw-Mitridate like a billy club, back and forth, waiting for someone else to ask me how I was.

Music II

Went to a concert at an art museum last night, with Alpha and the friend we go to interesting concerts with. It was the second concert in a row for us where a guy played a conch shell. He also played a tuba and a cimbasso, which I don’t know about you but I don’t see one every day.

When we got there, there was a guy loitering in front of the museum. He was a barefoot white guy with dreadlocks and old jeans etc, and I jokingly said to Alpha, “there’s the tuba player,” because we had been wondering what to wear to the concert – casual, suit, something in between? We went with jeans, finally, because it was not only tuba, it was also electronic music (it was a tuba/electronic duo experiment) and after all in an art museum and not a concert hall.

We took our seats and the musicians walked in and I had been right about the tuba player. He played something, the electronics guy analyzed the rhythm and added a percussion track and doodled around and this went on for an hour or so.

Blat-blat-blat. Twinky-twinky-doing-doing. Click-click-click. Cool stereo effect with ping-pong-ball sounds clicking from speaker to speaker. Hoo-hoo-hoo (beer bottle). Ornk-ornk-ornk (conch shell).

A few people walked out at various points in the concert. A guy sitting in front of me grooved to the music and frowned a superior frown everytime someone left. Philistine luzer squares.

Coincidentally, in the room were works by an Austrian artist who specialized in painting scribbles over photographs. I once thought, dude, I could do that, and to prove it took a photograph and scribbled over it; turned out I could in fact not do it, at least not the way he did. So, my conclusion, he was a genuine artist; so I am careful not to let myself think things like, you know, “my kid could do that.”

So what I did instead was think, why is it always the nice guys who get assassinated? Like Gandhi, or that Catholic priest recently who had been working on behalf of ecumenical reconciliation? Why not an artistic fraud? I scanned the crowd for signs of a knife but no dice. I suppose it’s too hard to know with certainty, deep down, on the spur of the moment, if maybe you just aren’t getting it.

After the concert, the two musicians hugged each other and grinned as if to say, wasn’t that a great success. The guy with the dreads said CDs were for sale.

Oh, and there was a man with a big video camera taping the show, and a hottish blonde woman in a white outfit and white high-heeled track shoes with him with sort of a TV reporter look to her. They had a little tv monitor with them that they could watch what they filmed on.

The show was organized, I suppose, and introduced by the son of the man who owns the museum, or at least the art in the museum. He may be a respected expert on electronic music. At any rate, he has a sweet gig, putting on electronic music concerts in his dad’s art museum.

His dad came to the show at the end, sat in the front row, impeccable in a grey suit.


It is raining. It is cold. I built a fire in the fireplace last night and enjoyed mid-August coziness. Somewhere in the country it is probably nine degrees centigrade. Last time I went skiing, February last year, it was nine degrees and the snow was melting and mushy. Now it’s August and the same temperature. Nine Degrees Centigrade must be thinking, “You guys are never satisfied! Give a guy a break!”

Sigur Ros

I was listening to Sigur Ros on the way to work on Monday (Dear Anne, one of the Sigur Ros CDs you gave me is Sigur Ros, the other one turns out to actually be Chumbawamba, which is fine since “Mouth Full of Shit” turns out to be one of Gamma’s favorite songs, so thanks!) and thinking about how melancholy it was, and then about how one could describe its melancholy exactly, if one wanted to be as precise as possible.

I mean, when I listen to Snow Patrol it reminds me first of D, who introduced me to Snow Patrol in the first place, but then makes me think of, okay, snow but also the sort of sad feeling being a teenager or young adult or human in general gives you sometimes, that confusion and depression and vulnerability and so on. On the other hand, listening to this Sigur Ros CD, it reminds me of doing something fun with someone beautiful who is grieving, like spending the day at the water slide park with a beautiful girl whose identical twin just died; it reminds me of the time I broke up with a girlfriend on her birthday while we were backpacking and had to hike ten miles back to the car while she sang, softly, Happy Birthday to Me.

I wasn’t exactly thinking too many moves ahead that day, was I. Exit strategy, boy; what is your exit strategy? The American military must feel like that in Iraq, only worse. Context is very important, or as realtors like to say, the three most important factors when breaking up are location, location and location.

Beta and I were watching Kill Bill 2 the other evening. She put her arm around me. It was a nice surprise, after not having her around for six months. We talked a little, small things like, “hey buddy,” or “man, Carradine is so great in this” or “who’s he?” or “he used to play this Shaolin monk in the TV show Kung Fu when I was your age,” or “whatever” or holding our breath while The Bride tried to dig her way out of the grave or “ew, she’s squishing her eye between her toes” or “yow, look at that black mamba bite him in the face! Kewl!”

Or, at the part where she’s putting her little daughter to bed, “oh man” or “what?” or “I used to do that, I did that so many times when you were little, remove my arm gently and tuck you in after you’d finally fallen asleep and try to sneak away without waking you” or “you want more guacamole?”

On meeting bloggers

Our grey cat has caught a mouse. Everyone but me is out on the front porch yelling. From where I sit in the kitchen, finishing dinner, I can see they have left the front door wide open. Here we go again, I think.

Blogging has a social function, Petr said a couple months ago in Brno. I was there with my family meeting Anne and her supporting cast.

I have met several bloggers now. Maybe I’m becoming a more social person. It’s never a disappointment, at any rate, not for me at least. There’s always the potential for that, obviously, but if someone seems like a real asshole from their blog, or boring, you generally end up not reading their blog and it never occurs to you to meet them, so you tend to meet only the people who hold your interest, which is more than one can say about daily life, but there is always the possibility you could be disappointed, or disappoint them, assuming they have expectations.

All I’m saying is, that hasn’t happened to me yet, although if it had I couldn’t talk about it, could I. If I did that, then no one would want to meet me, would they, if I gave people bad reviews. You always have that slight pressure to say something nice about the people you meet.

He’s in the house! Get out of the house with that mouse, they are yelling. The mouse is still alive! He’s dropping it! Pick that mouse back up! The cat lets the mouse run around in the entryway for a while before recatching it.

I met four bloggers this summer for the first time. I found it interesting that all of them mentioned something about how they do not write about the experience when they meet other bloggers. I concluded I must be so boring and they were too nice to embarrass me and too honest to lie or something. I decided I wouldn’t either, avoiding that whole good review/bad review quandary.

And besides, there is the privacy thing. What they want people to know about them they already write on their own blog, you know?

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My father’s dreams

“I went to highschool with him. We both had Jaguars. His wasn’t quite as nice. It was grey.”
“And you haven’t seen him since then, and you recognize him?”
“Doubt he recognizes me. We’ve changed.”
The other man is what. Seventy three or four. Humpbacked. Thick glasses. As skinny as my dad. Snoozing in his recliner at the dialysis clinic. The airconditioning is on high, so it’s freezing inside the room. I have a splitting headache.
My father pats my leg. He recognized the guy right away. “It’s his second time here.”
When the guy wakes up the Ukranian nurse goes over and asks him if he remembers my father. He waves but seems a little disoriented.
I go out to my rental car and drink some water and try to eat an energy bar that is basically melted inside its mylar wrapper. The bottled water inside the car is the temperature of fresh tea. The Russian guy with no legs is wheeled out of the clinic in his wheelchair by his wife and son. There are lots of Russian immigrants around town now.
Most people doze for a while during their dialysis treatment. It’s exhausting and boring and takes hours so what else should they do.
They are dreaming about what, exactly? My father remarks several times during my visit that his fellow patients occasionally get tired of the treatment, move into a hospice and are dead within a week. The Japanese lady who lived next door to us when I was growing up did that a couple months ago.
My father dozes in his recliner. As does the man in the next chair. They all doze.
“I’m surrounded by Republicans,” my father tells me.
The noise level is rather high in the room, and it includes voices from televisions and several conversations, so it is very hard for my father to understand what I say, and for me to understand what he says. As I do every time, I had come here hoping to have a big father-son talk, but give up.
I never get to ask my father whatever I would ask him, no idea really what that would be. Why did you never amount to much, in material terms? Why did you never do anything, really? What stopped you? Does it bother you that I never amounted to anything either? What kind of hopes did you have for me?
I have his memory for faces. When I lived in Tokyo, I used to remember faces of other commuters I had seen once before through a train window.
My daughter’s friend is traveling with us and I feel sorry for her at the beginning because all the relatives we meet at the start are in their mid-seventies or older and the only one in good shape is my mother. There is the forgetful uncle and his crippled wife, and so on.
They are all slipping away. On my way into the office today Laurie Anderson sang something about Oh death, that creep that crooked jerk.
During my trip, I finally realized: I am the father now. It had to get really obvious for me to figure that out. I had to be 46 years old to see that. My brother, my sister, me, we’re the parents. This is it. Here we go.
“You’ll sell an article or a story one of these days,” my father says to me, out of the blue. We hadn’t been talking about writing. We had just been sitting there, not saying anything.
A guy I was paying $100 an hour told me once, “we think our parents will be hurt if we surpass them but they won’t, that’s what they want for us.” I suppose he was right.
Take this, take my melancholy, my sense of humor, my laugh, my memory for faces, my sentimentality. Take my short legs and my intelligence, my perceptiveness and my love for trees and words and do more with them than I did, and don’t look back.
It’s what I would tell my kids too.