Time to propose another radical way to live better than we ever have. Time to box the Protestant work ethic into the dirt once and for all. Time to eradicate American ingenuity. Time to throw it all away. Time to eat a grand meal at the noon hour. Time to take back our god-given right to do exactly as we please at two in the afternoon. Time to consider why we are alive; what merciless monster has pushed us thus far; why we move so fast without letting up; why we are so certain to repeat a daily round of madness we volunteered for long ago, because we were young and did not know a better way. Time to lay fat and wonderful during the most grueling stretch of the day. Time to sleep in a tremendous bed made out special for this occasion. Time to smell the wind in June, and bury our faces in the pillow in January. Time to remember that we have children who need us. Time to lay them down with a good book until they dream away. Time to waste, if one calls it a waste of time to find happiness. Time to waste then, from noon to three sleeping on God’s featherbed. Time for angels again, and afternoon naps. Time to wake up beside a warm ocean, or if you’re a fool in February, a box surrounded by ice and snow. Time for a rebirth. Time for a bright old-fashioned way of living a day. Time for joy. Time for a siesta.
Not yet. It’s morning, so there’s some kind of work we must partake in today. But let’s not kid ourselves. I propose some living which for the lot of us, seems to be a more difficult road to follow than blowing off our heads. Because some of you blow off your heads, I propose a new outlook, a new way, a new deal. For starters, I can make you a copy of the CD I just listened to on my way back from Red Creek. The music of living. Oh how gray and ugly New York’s winter landscape appeared as seen on the road, from a car, in the cold. You’ve seen it. I see it. It’s a dismal world we have let ourselves into. I will take you through a morning in one man’s truth, beginning with a car ride out of oblivion and ending with a fall into dreamy paradise. This is his song, to you, his fellow man. It is my desire to jam a rod in the cold, cranking engine of death that we are all guilty of starting. The key used was handed to us without the explanation, “This will give you a disease of the heart and soul”. I don’t know anyone who has used his own key. I will be the first. But I’m going to take you with me.
Dammit I’m a man! I stand. I walk. I sing. I have a long, sinewy, graceful stride. Okay, okay, I drive a car, but I am no less alive. Keith Richards could have been a stone that hit ancient man on the head while he was counting the sheep. Today he is a thin plastic disc that if pushed inside the machine, will play music that is like a hard hit on the head. It Means A Lot is a song to pump the blood again. It was pumping like mad the first time you fell in love. And if you can’t think of love, imagine Keith, the millionaire, blowing out smoke and singing harmony like an old woman drunk on a barstool. You get it? He is laughing because he doesn’t have cancer yet. Yes he should marry your daughter. He lives like a king. It’s inside. He will not wake up and worry about cereal. He is feeling. It’s all in the riffs. Just listen.
If I hear one more sad yuppie faker say the word “Zen”, I swear to God I’ll toss a steaming cup of cappuccino at his lying eyes. There is no Zen unless you shit in your backyard. Filthy do-gooders. Dirty book-reading dandies! Cleaning Windows is a song about you moments before you were handed the key. Again it is love (it’s always love dammit!), but love for the sublime in your life’s epic when you want to make shrimp cocktail but don’t know enough to cook the shrimp. “This stuff sucks!” Then go play basketball, and have a friend snap a picture of your mad, wild eyes. “I’m happy cleaning windows!” Scream it! Believe it! Because it’s the last thing you’ll ever believe, if you go the wrong way. Then there are fifty wrong ways after that. One’s got you alone on a cement floor with a blue steel barrel in your mouth and a trigger toe. One’s got you almost there, working eight to ten hours a day for forty years, and then there’s too much time to realize it wasn’t worth a single second of your time. Oh yes, and the other forty-eight wrong ways are practiced religiously by the next forty-eight people under twenty that you see. But if those kids under twenty don’t listen to Cleaning Windows and believe that Cleaning Windows is a piece of their own key, then forty to seventy more years of perfectly cooked shrimp cocktail and a countless number of times imagining their brains oozing down a white wall.
I am almost home, feeling so good, so alive. In my mind’s eye, the opportunities are limitless. If you can feel life in your fingers, then you are alive. That is what makes dancing. That’s the fuel for singing. It’s imagination. Like Rachelle and I singing Christmas carols in February on our way to her mother’s house. John Lennon sings Whatever Gets You Through the Night. That’s a saxophone blowing hard up my ass to lift me off the ground. There is no New York State winter time. The brown-gray snow is the color of New York car exhaust in 1974 when John and Elton John spent the whole damn day telling the truth, so us poor little weasels could ingest at least two minutes and forty-nine seconds of happiness into our dismal, reoccurring digestive lives.
You got to feel it after those three songs. The music should be enough but it helps to know some English. I suggest this CD be played every morning for the entire month of February. By spring you should be charged with enough energy and strength to turn your own key. What a wide open door! And it’s not even 9:00 a.m.
Oh my God, I got problems. I live here too. The music gave me energy, but not enough courage to get past nine o’clock. I turn the car onto our street and pull into the driveway, just like you would if you didn’t have a job, and were very serious about siestas and waking up to save your life. But Jesus Christ, what am I going to do? Talk myself and hopefully Marie into a great lie? You can’t do it alone. You start to rethink your morning’s rebirth in the car. I mean, it was a car, and Keith Richards didn’t do it alone. He probably had sex with a lot of mean people who didn’t care for him. He’s got feeling, but probably no more than an old drunk woman on a barstool, coughing up clouds of lung and dust. Atlantic records made him rich, carefree, and practicing siestas. Van Morrison was thinking of a better time, not now. My friend Tony saw him in concert and said he was about as Zen as an asshole millionaire can be. John Lennon and Elton John? Ah, why must I fool myself every morning at nine o’clock? None of these feelers are even American! That does it! I’m screwed. I will write on, but I don’t expect anyone to take me seriously.
Yes, the songs give me energy. I want to give them to the banker, road worker, secretary, car salesman, mayor, doctor, priest, barber—any grown up American who is presently uninterested in every day. I desire my rod to break down the cold cranking engine of death. I am still singing, although the odds are against my singing for very long.
I live in Spain. Sometimes I call it France. Today I call it Spain. We work in the morning hours. Up before dawn, we fix what must be fixed, have our breakfast and walk to the field. This isn’t 19th century Spain. No, we aren’t fools. We are planting crops to eat on land that was given to us because we were born. My wife cleans around the garlic, corn and beans. I’m in charge of squash and lettuces. Our children weed the tomatoes. Hey, that’s food! We take turns with a part time job because we like to read, paint, and eat other things besides our vegetables. But we’re employed at night. It has to be at night, or else our life is ruined. It’s ten in the morning; the sun’s heat is unbearable. We take off our shirts. Yes, we do—you little tub bathing toddlers! We finish the vegetables, and spend the time up to our siesta working on individual tasks that help sustain our living. This does not include work which encourage anyone, including ourselves, to buy another gadget. If we are in need, we take from the jar where we keep our part time job.
Hey, am I alone here? I think I am. Because I’m starting to scare myself. The part of me typing into a three thousand dollar computer thinks I am getting too radical, and that I cannot possibly back up the portrait of my morning in Spain with any truth. “You’re one of them,” it says. It’s so damn right that the other me, the one dreaming up this Spanish playground realizes that it’s ten-thirty and everyone else in the world is on break—except for him, because he’s out to prove that we need music in our lives. Music to hear all day long while we work and play. There is no break to the sun’s light. There is sleep and we will take that time at siesta. This part of me is the one who will open the door and kick the mail man’s ass for following a routine not of his own creation. This part of me is Spanish and guilty for being stubborn in word but weak in deed. This part of me is always brighter than the other part, and eventually knows that it’s impossible to be one of them. Christ, that part of me lives in Spain. It’s the Americans who aren’t taking their gardens seriously. The children aren’t beside their parents. Sent to school to learn how to eradicate Spanish customs and ideals. A husband and wife aren’t enjoying their lives together. That’s obvious in a world where he goes to the office, and she goes to the office, and they both meet home to count the money. How much less can they possibly want? I mean, the lack in their lives has got to catch up to them eventually. Does it not?
“No,” says my other self, “We are not Spanish. I’m typing on this three thousand dollar computer because I am terrified of gardens that mean more in symbol than the little play pens we plant beside something that is plastic and costs money. I want to be a married man. I can’t expect the woman to become Spanish even if it would make me God’s happiest creature. She didn’t expect this change of heart. Tell her to quit and take a siesta? She can’t help from where she came. She rode in the back seat too, when she was a little girl. She just didn’t see what we saw.”
“Give her time to watch you working,” says my Spanish self, “and she’ll want it too, if she loves.”
Eleven o’clock. Eleven-thirty. All the kids are home, some helping in the kitchen, some setting the table. The grandmothers on both sides are rolling potato balls. The grandfathers and I sit on the porch discussing rain. Because I was the eldest son, the grandparents moved into my home. My brothers and sisters have built their palaces on our estate. They come to our Friday siesta. The fry oil smokes in the kitchen. It reeks of the ocean. The spinach we picked will make a nice garnish. Thunder in the hills. The rain is turning the rock face a deeper gray. We’ll probably sleep through the storm that will make the earth cool and our vegetables wet.
No. The grandparents live alone. They are lonely. You live with your wife and kids in a box. Your sisters and brothers live in other states. You get up at six a.m. to go somewhere without your wife. She gets up too to iron shirts. She lost the desire to be with you after realizing that you had no intention of stopping. You clean and groom yourself for another day. Wake the kids. Push them off to school. Neither parent will see them again until five-thirty or six. Everyone left dressed and clean with separate thoughts. There is nothing that binds them besides genes, the illusion of money, and the security of fear born from inertia. Then it’s dinner, which is thought up in the car and finished in the microwave. This real horror happens every day—no exceptions until the divorce which they hope will set them free, but instead just places them in a new, most often unimproved inertia. On weekends miserable parents devote their time to home improvement to keep from going insane. The kids stay away from the house because they don’t respect mom and dad, probably because children are rarely needed nor loved enormously by their parents anymore. Grandma and Grandpa are getting old. The children see them twice a year. The aunts and uncles are just words and faces on photographs until Christmas when the family gets together to rush the children through the bribe of candy and gifts. All these lives pass by unfulfilled and feeling cheated because nobody turned their own key.
Not me. Here’s my big fat key. I have to hold it with two arms and all of my strength—it’s covered with six inch thorns and the whole thing is a blazing fire. But I’m going to carry it anyway. Put it in the hole, and turn the key. What? You cannot see the dirty rot they’ve dragged us into? Are your illusions that strong? Why don’t we just throw our babies onto the highway with the umbilical cord still attached? Why not? What is tomorrow or eighteen years? Just more time to strengthen the illusion. All this loneliness is wretched. Call it staunch individualism, which is just a cover-up lie for the real truth that admits, “I am afraid! I am soft. I am weak. I am alone”. How many generations have we been sending the kids away? You didn’t do it because you wanted something better for them. If you thought that prosperity meant “richer than you did it”, then you were caught in illusion’s thick web and could not possibly voice a sane opinion. I want to know who told you to raise the kids to leave. Your parents? Why did you listen to them? Why were we given this system? Who has judged its timelessness and purity? I don’t want it to be a successful venture. I’m not looking to strengthen the state any further, or the American ideal, which is nuts if it’s ideal to separate the family. I don’t see how it can benefit me to divvy the children up all over the globe just because we have airplanes and telephones. I tell you, no more gadgets! I am making love to my wife as often as possible so I can build the strength of my family. Strength in numbers. The kids do not have to leave. In fact, I’m going to raise them to stay. It doesn’t mean little Joe can’t aspire to a veterinarian or rock star. It means he won’t accept Wichita over Oswego because Wichita has more money. I will raise them to want the family and think of it as a positive good.
Obviously we are sick. I can’t get you to agree with me because this sickness will never admit itself publicly. We need to reinstate the extended family to its rightful position. Jesus, I don’t want to be alone. Do you? I don’t want to pretend anymore that we aren’t alone. Newspapers and television dictate the lie that there is a community. There is none. We have no common ideals besides “follow the rules,” and “stay out of my way”. We share a million common illusions. We use reason and logic to expound upon lies. Who will stop and ask, “What is this?” and “Why?” Acquiescence is a good name for the gutless community we leave to our children.
Why not demand that your babies support you in your old age? And I don’t mean support via their guilt-tarnished metal money clips. I mean support you with the strength of a human being, with the help of other human beings you call a family of loved ones. Must you even ask for help? Did you not give them your all when they were in need? Oops, sorry. I forgot. This is America. Of course you didn’t.
There aren’t any old folk’s homes in my Spain. If you’re old grandpa, then you die in my living room. If you’re old and weak, then my daughter watches while you mess yourself on the chair. She wants to know that you forgot her name. Otherwise she’ll think you’re a guinea pig we feed with our attention once every six months until you shrivel up in your cage. No. That is your present-day America. I’ll have nothing to do with that!
What? You can’t watch him? It is just too much? It’s only too much if he tries to shoot you. That is why you procreate into this nasty, selfish world. So you can raise a child to die surrounded by people who love him—not to be wheeled away for a sponge-bath by sterile nuns or nurses, while candy stripers execute the midnight theft of his gold ring and chocolate bar.
It’s up to me and my Spain to stop this cycle. It is a cold cranking engine of death. The old folks in the nursing home might deserve the time spent there. They pushed the children out the door. They agreed to send them away without asking why they would opt to do this. Who did they agree with if nobody pressured them? Yes, the old folks might deserve a lonely finish. They raised the seed that locked them up in a nursing home. They’re guilty of American selfishness, a greed that actually, at one time, even if only for a second, thought that children might be a burden on the brain and a pressure on the purse. Children are golden in Spain. They are an eternal ticket to a better life. There is no question that they will love and take care of you. You held their hand during the siesta. The family slept while the curtains fluttered in the breeze. It was a long nap, and a long day, and violet was the color of the sun that set on your fields. Spanish parents don’t send their children away. They teach them, and invest in them time—not money. They don’t expect them to go away and raise their own family of pushers and deserters. They teach them to stay. To grow like a tree. “It’s better to stand still,” they say. The child grows. He might go to the village school. Why not? Reading is a joy. Numbers are fun. Anyway, father will need help weighing the produce and labeling the wine. Still, most Spanish parents are apt to teach the kids themselves. It’s wisdom from the old school, which must be true because it is earthly. The kids are bright, cheerful, and eager to help the family succeed. They’re not interested in rocket ships. They want to keep the happiness they have. Wouldn’t you? College will be for those living every moment with rocket ships. One or two might go away to learn more, but they’ll always know enough to come home to build their own space probes. They don’t need a billion dollar grant, nor a top job at NASA. They need a heart and desire, which they already have, and use constantly.
Aunt May is dying. It’s a sad time around the house. But she is old and her time has come. The children nurse her every agony while the parents and grandparents prepare dinner. Suddenly Aunt May gasps, falls from her chair, and dies in the shade. She’s dead. But first we eat to get strength to dig her grave—after the siesta of course. Aunt may would want it that way. Especially for the children who need a good rest on a hot day. Fried fish cakes, potato balls, and an extra glass of wine for all the grown ups, to help them sleep through a difficult time. Aunt May isn’t going anywhere. The funeral will be at sunset. Afterwards the children will play night games in the yard—designed to help guide her spirit into paradise.
I know when my imagination gets the best of me. It is the happiest time! It’s also true that noon comes to most of us as the saddest part of the day. We’re tired. We’ve run all morning. The kids are still awake. They will make excuses for us for the rest of their lives. “Ah, that’s just my father. Pay no attention to him.”
Pay no attention? What the hell is he if not the champion of the family? A stockbroker? A foreman? Oh my God, what happens to him when he gets old? Is he not going to sit in the corner with a cane, a tan, and speak with a strong, commanding voice? He’s not? You mean he won’t build wooden toys for the children, or take grandma for night walks under the stars? Pay no attention to him? I wouldn’t either if he never paid any attention to me. How much does it cost? That much, eh? Well, it cannot be helped. Put him in a home.
I got married without his consent. I brought my wife to his house (no longer was it my “home”), introduced her, and was off again until next year creating an even larger, separate universe for my children. “Pay no attention to him.” You never met my grandfather? Of course not. He was out making money all his life, and when the Internet came he left grandma in the yard, and ran upstairs to look at naked ladies in the dark. Yea, that should be the most embarrassing fact about my family, but it’s not. I’m walking the same line, following my father’s every footstep. Passing through only the doors he’s left open for me. I’m not turning any keys, nor am I stopping, turning around, and going back to find one. Yes, it is miserable because it’s not my imagination. It is a heavy, smothering, persistent sorrow! Thank God, at least for me, that kind of legacy is unacceptable.
The reality of my day consists of a sleepy start in the early a.m. with Beany the dog, who needs to go out. He is my wake up call to write. I feed the cats, the pig, the dog, take my pills, my asafetida, brew a cup of strong coffee, and sit down to type my thoughts into a three thousand dollar computer. This is my regimen before seven. Then I wake up Marie with a rub down, and if its a day with Rachelle, I set the VCR and television to tape Reading Rainbow while she sleeps. We home school during the day, until dinner time. When she’s away, I type longer. During lulls I clean the house or plan what we’re having for dinner. Marie comes home, we eat, make dessert, read, walk Beany, and sometimes watch a movie for a welcome change in the routine.
You will understand that the time spent is wonderful. We are quiet, gentle, and loving people. We are awake and aware of wrong and right. We are this way because of hard work, which is play, and a lifestyle that was purposely chosen to conflict with those of our neighbors. Still, we are not where we need to be. No three hour nap. No mother and father next door. Relatives in name only. My God, blood is very, very thin these days.
This morning after I dropped Rachelle off in Red Creek, I was inspired by music that jump starts the imagination. I saw, even if for a brief moment, what any artist worth his desire, needs to show his fellow man. That life is not a controlled experiment. That when you feel that there is nothing else, then there is nothing else because you chose it that way. I am not blind. I don’t think you are either. But where do you go when inspired? Into imagination, yes, I understand. But what steps do you take to change the reality to fit into your imaginative world? You don’t budge. That is where you are wrong. You don’t use your own key. I know the world is pooped out. When the siesta dies, everything good and easy dies with it. That slowness, that very slow, patient turning was there to teach your family the wisdom of the family. It’s not your fault that great grandfather allowed grandpa to move into a house in the city. It’s not your fault that they weren’t creative, tender, loving people. They were fascinated by cars, not children; radio, not cooking; money, not gardening. The inevitable is only so because of the unimaginative. My noon will be a start of a siesta in the future. I am putting all of my marbles into that imagination. I will get inspired to create a work of art, not spend a few more dollars on some nifty living room furniture. I am trying to save a future of rest at the twelve noon hour, and at the same time save the next generation from premature heart death. I want my children to sleep on my land. I want to see my grandchildren every day before I die. I don’t want to be artificially kept alive in a life I did not imagine. I want my family to know that their place is here. We live in the city on the block. The family is growing. Let’s buy the block and build a central courtyard with a fountain. Let’s have babies, gardens, seasons, storms, and memories constantly improved upon.
So many diseases of the heart that spread like wildfire a few generations ago should no longer be a concern for the living. You have the vaccine. Now to inoculate. Will you wake up? Probably not. You will be proud of your child for joining the army, becoming a doctor, flying an airplane... You will find some way to keep busy far away from her after she has children of her own. You don’t want to get in the way. There is a Winnebago and timeshare in Florida. There is a ton of money saved up that needs to be spent, eventually. Don’t you dare waste it! No, because presently it costs a hundred and fifty dollars a day to lock granny up for the rest of her life. You are going to be granny someday. I know it’s scary. I suggest turning the Winnebago around and speeding back to your kid’s house demanding that he and his new bride take you in. Fight them if you have to. Attempt murder if they care not to listen to your plea for sanctuary. Prison cannot be much worse than a nursing home. Not when it’s time to die anyway.
I won’t get you to wake up today. At least not before my siesta. I am starting small, but I intend to build on this idea, gradually over time, to create a strong community of family. After we eat our lunch, Marie goes back to work. I lay down on the couch and nap for ten minutes. Rachelle thinks it’s a good idea. Beany and the cats are already sleeping. Marie and I are planning to make a baby someday soon. Now is the time to inoculate the family, or in other words, throw a rod into the cold, cranking engine of death.