It was a glorious day. The clouds were everywhere but just knowing the sunshine was lurking in the background somewhere was enough to set off fireworks. Fireworks on a cloudy day because maybe I was thinking about Bruce Springsteen and then I just watched the video for the new Arcade Fire song about here comes the night time which reminded me of an earlier song by a group called Them, I think, with the singer Van Morrison who I really can not tolerate.
A glorious day sitting on a park bench in the middle of yellow and orange leaves blowing across my vision; resting for a moment in front of me until the little gust moves in and carries the leaf to a new destination. With the clouds and the wind and the sun hiding up there somewhere I was feeling like the leaf, which had just blown away, in front of my eyes. I mean a new destination. In my dreams and in my notebooks and in my journals and in the note section of my iPhone, I have been dreaming of new destinations.
New being the key word because I have not even decided on a new place or a new country or anything like that. But I have the wanderlust in me. It is flowing all over and through my veins. It is pulsing like my heart beating. Like a drum, like an ancient song across the Nile in the middle of the night while in my tent the incense billows and flickers like the one hundred candles I have burning everywhere. I can smell the fire as it mingles within my deep dark emotions. I dream of the most wild, strong and speedy white stallion who will never hesitate to cross all rivers, fences and any other obstacles that might find themselves in front of me.
Aside me on my bench is a tall can of Rolling Rock beer of which I am drinking its golden goodness with my plastic straw. I also bought a package of six peanut butter crackers. The orange crackers, which do not taste like orange but taste like something I have craved for centuries gone by. I organize my crackers and beer beside me so I don’t have to glance down to see which one I am choosing. Then I return my gaze to the various degrees of grey in the clouds floating above me. The temperature and breeze have wrapped themselves intimately around me and I feel no fear. This is the day when fear has no meaning. I’m not even sure why I brought it up.
As I sit I am beginning to feel the ache of my credit cards straining to be released from my wallet. I’m sure it is knowledge they seek and also a particular web site, which would gather their numbers and purchase a plane ticket or a new car so I might be able to submit to my cravings of travel and new destinations. I am guessing there are decisions on the horizon that I will soon be forced to deal with. Either that or, well I don’t know exactly.
I need now to go home and call my mother. Not for any type of permissions or anything like that but because sometimes these glorious days bring on thoughts of her and I when I was growing up and dependent on her. I’m already several destinations beyond where I grew up but with her the miles are merely a number on a page. She never did mind, as far as I have ever known, that I moved so far out of the nest. I think she always expected it to tell the truth.
Back in my apartment before I make the phone call I smoke a joint. Then I open all the windows to allow what’s left of the cloudy breezes into my house. I make a cup of coffee and squirt some whip cream on the top. I’d put a cheery on top of that but I don’t have one. Which is probably a good thing because I might end up eating every one of them. I pick up my phone and go to the living room and sit on my couch. The pot has made the act of sitting down as least as glorious as the time I spent over in the park. I breathe in a deep breath and then again. I press ‘Mom’ on my phone and the ringing sound begins but she does not pick up so I leave a voice mail. I tell her about the moment in the park when the thought of her flew into my head and made me feel special.
Weeks and months slip by while my credit cards wipe the tears from their shiny faces. I know they miss my touch and they miss the fact that I am still located in the same place. I’ve been working hard and saving some green cold cash. I am constantly on the online banking bit checking my balances and watching the numbers reach higher altitudes than they have before. I feel good about this but I feel bad too. I mean because I have not made a move. And I did let my mother in on my feelings about hitting the road again and how I could feel the movement of this in my blood and heart. Sometimes I get the feeling she thinks I should just shut up about all of this and speak to her about normal things like shopping and what I had for lunch and supper but I hardly ever do. She did like when I told her about all the money I have been saving. She likes money too. If my dad were alive he would go on for days about how I was doing the right thing but only until I told him I was going to spend most of this savings on moving all my stuff and myself to a new destination, then he would probably would had hung up the phone in a huff.
I often wonder how much my mom misses my dad. She is usually a quiet woman; I mean her emotions seldom boil over. There are the exceptions when she speaks to me sometimes when I make the mistake of telling her about the great deal I just found on an ounce of weed. Yeah, it’s probably a mistake but I enjoy telling her about the parts of my life, which I never would have slipped, up and revealed to my father. I feel I need to keep a vital flowing connection with her. I need it because she is probably my best friend.
I’m a loner but by choice not design. My social life exists for the most part only at my job. Of course I know different people there and they know me. That is to say they know the working me and it’s probably the same with them. We talk about things like oh, you’re wearing something new or different today or damn, I had the exact same thing for lunch that you did or god, it’s sticky outside today.
I work in an office for a big company. I’m one of those who attempt to handle the customer service calls. I try to make things better and please at the end of this call give me high flying grades on the survey otherwise my boss will make my life a burning hell. It’s actually not that bad but who wants any extra shit on their plate if its not entirely necessary. It’s because of this job that I have become adept working on the computer. Without the computers I wouldn’t have a job, at least from all appearances it doesn’t seem like I would and then I wouldn’t be able to put the extra cash aside I might need to get out of Dodge.
What I really need to do is focus. I go to work five days a week but I don’t want to. I feel like I’m beginning to value the money too much. I know my most important excuse for allowing the wanderlust to go cool in my veins is because I have lately become afraid of quitting this job and all the benefits that come with it. This is the return of the dreaded fear. The emotion I least want in my life and now instead of following my instincts like I have in other times, I have succumbed to the great fear of zero cash going into the coffers.
These fears uproot other things in my life, which are important to me. A great rock song, an afternoon on a bench and bright orange peanut butter crackers. It’s true it has not uprooted my mother but that’s because she is a special case and doesn’t really fit into the equation of fear I am rambling on about. But fear not, gentle reader, you are in the hands of one of the great ramblers of all times. I have dubbed myself one of the great ramblers of all times in exactly the same way Michael Jackson inaugurated himself as the King of Pop. Perhaps he really was, perhaps his blood was blue. Lord knows from all we have seen and read about him he did live like a king. And that’s the thing I didn’t like about him. I knew he never gave a thought about where the next dollar was coming from; probably not once in his kingly life did he ever worry about the coming of the next buck.
But then let’s talk about freedom for a minute, he did not worry about the almighty dollar but he probably did worry about stepping outside his door to buy a quart of milk. He would worry about being torn to sheds by his loving, adoring fans. That’s a scary fear, one that might drive one to behaviors other people not involved in his situation might wonder about. So it’s beginning to look to me his freedoms were most likely quite limited. But maybe Michael Jackson’s life is a kind of metaphor for the rest of us. Aren’t we all stuck inside the jungle gym of our own creation? Afraid to take too many steps in a direction we are not familiar with. He must have felt this way and here I am getting stuck in the same situation without being anywhere near as powerful as the King of Pop. See, this is making me look at my own moniker more closely. How the hell can I say I’m the great rambler if I don’t put on my rambling shoes? What would Woody Guthrie think? He’d think I was a ball of hot air buzzing around the room with no direction home. I might try to explain to him that my ramblings are of a different sort than actually hopping the next freight out of San Francisco. That my ramblings consist of a train wreck of words on the page, an accident of spelling, grammar and lengthy tirades leading only to the darkest corners of the night. Here comes the night. Like the day it always comes and it is the time of day, which does not preclude the nighttime. I mean, as far as I know, the time feels correct when the sun rises as same as it does when the sun hits the sack.
It takes a lot to laugh; it takes a train to cry. What the hell is Dylan talking about? The thing is once I get the idea of a train in my mind it is difficult to let it go. I’m talking about the train I should be on heading for the new destinations I keep going on about. Actually if I booked a train ride instead of buying a new car I would be saving more of the hard earned cash I have been so steadfastly putting away these past months. I’ve just now decided that there are ways of thinking I might take advantage of to convince myself I could leave my job and deal less with the F word than I had previously thought. I know I can rationalize with the best of them.
It’s a new day. The sun has poked out from behind the one huge cloud it was hiding behind. I feel better. I looked in my journal and it has been an amazing six months since that day when I sat on the bench in the park with my Rolling Rock. I feel better but not entirely well. I am still going to work like a good boy, still socking the chips away and still in close contact with my mom. Oh and here’s something, she is coming into town for a visit! A rare occurrence indeed. I’ll have to put some fresh sheets on the extra bed and on my bed too and pick up the house and all that. Once my mom arrives and steps foot into this apartment I promise I will tell you much more about her than I have so far revealed. I guess my lack of revelations can be explained by my general inherent qualities of being an introvert. It’s true you might not understand me to inhabit such qualities but it is true I possess them and it’s also true your understanding of this section of my personality may increase if you are willing to hang in here with me while my attempts to give a real, true life to this tale continue to persist.
My mother arrived at exactly the time she said she would. It was a noon on a Saturday. Saturday because I work during the week and she had promised me she wouldn’t stay longer than the weekend. OK? My mother’s name is Monica. Her mother named her after an obscure Hollywood actress she admired. I have no last name for the movie star Monica but my mother’s and my last name is Jones. The great American Jones. The ever after keeping up with the Jones’s but we were never the ones to keep up after. My dad controlled the finances with the proverbial iron fist; he rarely ever let loose those purse strings and on those very rare instances when he did, we all almost fainted. All equals my mother and me. I was an only kid.
When we walked into my apartment, me carrying my mother’s suitcase, she walked straight over to my stereo, I have always had a turntable and records, and she put on my one record of Frank Sinatra. She could do that because I had went through my collection and found the damn thing and made it visible on purpose before she arrived. I mean she has done this before. She’s really not being rude, it’s just her way of making the strangeness of my apartment more familiar to her and more to her liking.
She usually puts on the track where Frank sings, “I got a crush on you, sweetie pie,”
It’s a song she and my dad probably listened to a million times when I was growing up. I was never the Sinatra fan mom and dad was but in my advancing years I have learned to appreciate what an excellent singer he was. It’s just the tunes he does rarely get to me. Anyway, mom put on the record while I schlepped her bag into the spare bedroom. Then we went to the table where she opened up a care package she had brought for me. It always contained the same items she would give me for Christmas: three pairs of socks, one white, two black and a package of three briefs, each one a different color. While she went on about her trip, it was a three-hour bus ride; I went into the kitchen and fixed us a plate of her favorite things. I sliced up some celery and slid cream cheese into the grooves, then cut some Monterey Jack cheese and melted it quickly onto some Ritz crackers in my microwave. We washed our snacks down with club soda and cranberry juice on the rocks. It was too early to serve my mom a glass of wine. She would have made a face and looked at me funny.
She told me about this terribly thin woman who sat next to her on the bus. She told the girl that unless she decided very soon to make a big adjustment in the amount of food she consumes her life would turn out to be very unpleasant. The skinny girl did not resort to violence against my mother which was the first thing I thought might have happened. Instead she politely informed my dearest Monica that she suffered from a glandular issue and was at this very moment on her way to the city to meet with a specialist who would undoubtedly help her along the path to a more substantial body.
Of course, I have no idea if the girl was being on the level with mom but I do know it was probably the smartest thing she could have come back with. It brought out the sympathy in mom instead of, god forbid, another reaction, which, in my opinion, would not have been any type of fuel to feed a friendship between the two ladies.
I do live in the city. It’s a decent size one too. I’d like to say its New York or at least Philadelphia (although I would never move there) but, alas, I fear I must tell you it’s Scranton, Pa. our radio stations always say the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre
area but really, I have nothing to do with Wilkes-Barre. My mother takes the bus from Tom’s River, New Jersey. That’s not where I grew up but where she moved immediately after my father died to be close to her sister, Irene.
The weekend went reasonably well. I didn’t talk too much about my wanderlust, which has suddenly been on hiatus anyway and the new Italian restaurant I found pleased my mother so much that we visited there two times for dinner, which meant I only had to prepare one lunch. Cooking is not my specialty but I can throw together a pretty mean tuna salad sandwich on toast with lettuce and tomato. If I’m on my own I don’t go to the trouble of adding celery, onion, red pepper and maybe a scallion but for mom I can do.
One of those nights at dinner, when we were having a glass of wine, I decided to go ahead and ask Monica if she was OK without dad, did she really miss him. For a second the way she looked at me almost had me running out of the restaurant to find a cop to help protect me, but it turned out it wasn’t anger or violence in her eyes but shock. She told me so. She said she never expected me to ask such a question but the fact that I did made her, aside from the shock, feel closer to me than she had in a very long time. I was touched too when she told me this.
She said some days were good and some not so good. She said the reason she moved was to remove her from all the familiar things and places she was accustomed to being around with my father. After landing in Tom’s River, and I could see this in her eyes as she told me, the pain did subside and she began to have some of those good days. It was also helpful that her sister Irene was there and close by. Of course she chose a place near to Irene’s. It was the first time she had lived alone in over forty years so kudos to my mom for her courage to do such a thing. I had advised her to go ahead and move in with Irene since Irene said it was fine with her but mom thought better of that saying it would probably only make the healing part go on longer than it should.
After supper Sunday evening I drive mom over to the bus station. I didn’t turn on the radio like I usually do and for the first time all weekend we didn’t have anything to say to one another. I think it was her choice and I really did think it was appropriate. I believe the expression on my mother’s face was one of peace and contentment. This was almost my cue to go ahead and break the silence but I’m glad my instincts kicked in and I kept my mouth shut.