Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dark Horse (1999)

(Something I wrote last week thanks to whoever it was in Room 227 at the Holiday Inn Express I was staying at down in Virginia had their TV turned up way too loud, before I got the nerve to call the front desk and tell them to turn it down)

When you are twenty, you have all the time in the world, but nothing to say. When you are forty, you have something to say but no time (or space) to say it. Tonight, I ran across across an set of old CDs dating back to college. They were mixed in with CDRs (backups I will never ever recover from and long unsupported OS install disks) inside one of those thick translucent CDW bags from the their showroom in Vernon Hills, IL. I was surprised they even worked. Or at least some of them did. Despite four moves in five years, I have held on to them. Mostly for the bag and the memories of driving up Milwaukee Avenue at lunchtime when I worked at Hewitt.

I've always thought we left Chicagoland way too soon, even though I know why. For once, there is no imminent move to bring on the clutter-purge of contractor bags, the sound of Legos vacuumed off carpet, that smell of Murphy's Oil Soap on hardwoods. No more "staging" for the buyer's agents or cleaning the rental and holding your breath during the moveout inspection, wondering how much will get subtracted from your security deposit.

The beltway was eerie tonight in the fog. A brief warming in between twenty degree days.. It was strange to see the spires of Mormon Temple illuminated by floodlights, which normally means you have made it, that traffic will get better, regardless of your direction.

But tonight there was no such emotion. Traffic was moving and moving fast. Only the solace of motion with a musical assist. Not unlike my flights West from Austin to San Jose in the early 2000s, staring out the window watching over the West Texas plains, the Rockies, then the Sierras, then that perilous landing over downtown.

With three kids solitude only comes during the commute or travel. I will be in a hotel room tonight. I will write.

It only took forty five minutes to get Tyson's Corner. The Cure's Pornography played “Strange Days” and it has held up over time. Most of the rest have not. Brute force existentialism seems quaint. Now you have no time for the faux nihilism, critical theory, or other youthful excesses. The soundtrack from the Until the End of the World has held up through the years, however, and “Knocking at Death's Door” seemed strangely beautiful tonight. The movie, itself, not so much. However, the vision of us all glued to our small electronic screens reading our dreams was prophetic and perhaps the EMP blast silencing everything electronic.

I'm so glad I only discovered the Internet in my last year at A&M. I am thankful for all those hours in the computer lab, printing draft after draft of my poems and short stories. Some of these I have kept to. A Liberal Arts major out of place. Marking them up at wherever I went to review them in the pre-Starbucks age. Reading T.S. Eliot. Was it just the other day on the beltway en route to Tyson's I had the urge to read Proofrock?

And Wim Wenders. It was 1992, wasn't it? The Spring of poetry readings, after getting my first short story (and that one poem) published in the campus literary magazine. Readings at coffeehouses. Night stocking at the College Station Kroger on University Avenue. Oscar, the tyrannical foreman, kneepads around the shins of his stubby legs. “Faster, white boy. Faster.” Perhaps I've conflated him with a scene from My Own Private Idaho. Curses in Spanish. The semester my wife and I started dating. January, or was it February? March is the most beautiful month in Texas, weather-wise.

Later, I would learn that in between the 2nd and 3rd week of February is when Spring came to Austin. The twin Elms of our 3/1 barely 1100 square foot house in Brentwood, had blossomed. The night before, returning home from Russia, landing at the Bergstrom, a family, home, for the first time. I trudged to the cheap lot leaving Amelia with a screaming, traumatized toddler running away from her, screaming, while I looked for our Red Dodge Dakota and struggled with a car seat for the first time. There would be a lot of screaming, but by the time we turned onto Anderson Lane (or was it North Lamar) it had stopped. Kolya looked around the small house and knew he was home. "Kolya Dom," we repeated and he pointed at the ceiling fans, bookshelves, and the popcorn ceiling.

Only two days earlier, we had left Moscow. Four days before, had left the snowy Volga at night, our facilitator emptying a whole section of the Tupelov with only whisper, so the Americans (and a lone Scottish couple) could leave with their newly acquired children. Did she buy them off? Did she threaten them? In the airport lounge we learned how Russians deal with hysterical, stressed out women. Phenobarbital.

Just like yesterday, it was snowing the morning as we left the orphanage. Perhaps because we were the youngest couple (we had not suffered through years of failed fertility treatments before deciding to adopt,) standing outside in front of the Detsky Dom, we were interviewed by Russian television. Did that ever air? Paranoia causing us to lie and say we still lived in San Antonio because that was what was on our paperwork. It was the final days of Yeltsin. They knew Putin was coming, or so we were told over homemade fruit-flavored vodka.

"The dark horse," the only English-speaking Russian on our floor in the suburban Moscow flat, called him. Our final night in Moscow we stayed a block from Red Square but only ventured out one time to a supermarket for kefir and chocolate. It was too cold and we were too exhausted.