LA at Midnight, Tucson by Morning…

IMG_2475Thumpity thump thump thumpity thump thump thumpity thumpity thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump thumpity thump thump thumpity thumpity thumpity thump thump, thumpity thumpity thumpity thump thump thumpity thumpity thumpity thump thump…

“Man with a plan don’t play with no band just me and these hands and a few hundred fans who never hesitate to step up and donate, so please don’t wait, I get off at the next gate…”

The guy on the Metro ‘Red Line’ is playing a tune, using only his hands, and the long metal walls of the subway car, in a style probably best described as rap, early style, long before hip-hop, long before the progeny and the misogyny and the world-wide knock-offs as appropriate to local milieu…

IMG_0203“They all copied me. I been doing this for forty years…”

And he just may be right, the way the DNA of culture works, combining and recombining and looking for something nice and sweet after midnight, available to dine in or take out. I don’t even like rap, in general, with all the bluff and bluster, still gotta give this guy a big hand at the end of it all, as does everyone else, and giving this guy his daily bread, dollar a pop, times many, so not a bad haul at all…

“I don’t have any cash,” a nice young white lady says…

“Will you marry me, then?” the wizened wizard of African diaspora beckons only in half-jest, all for a laugh, a holy laugh, a there-but-for-an-accident-of-God-go-I laugh, at the fates of circumstance and the circumstances of hate, dumb luck piling on to a late-quarter down-field tackle, anything to ensure continuation of the status quo, with little or no change to the underlying fee structure…

But the reality at Union Station is not nearly so jovial or carefree…

“The Sunset Limited to New Orleans is not in the station, and we have no idea when it will arrive,” says the station-master matter-of-factly, as if none of us had paid a sufficiently high fare for sweet talk or circumspect musings—and she is probably right, given the state of the American nation in its latter-day downward spiral from heady heights toward depths no one yet knows the bottom of…

Fortunately the train itself seems to know more than the station master or its work-a-day Johnnies and Jameses and Betties and Sues and anyone but you and I who care little about steady paychecks and much about steady mental stimulation, enough to keep the mold off living cells and the bill collectors at bay…

So the train starts off a good half hour late and never even attempts to make it up, despite all assurances to the contrary. You just can’t casually ‘make up’ time that has to be shared with dozens of other trains on the same set of tracks, and half of them coming the opposite direction. You can only keep up, and keep safe, if you’re lucky…

IMG_0359But I’ll miss my local bus, so don’t even try, not with temps over thirty-five centigrades in Tucson, and visibly climbing, though it’s only 8 a.m. and I’ve got a long day ahead, half-dead and wondering why me? Because it is written, because it is always written, in letters like these, sentenced to paragraphs and epitaphs at hard labor, writing thin narratives to thick lives, replete with thanksgivings and misgivings, and struggling to survive…

“Need a taxi?” It’s a big Caddie driven by a slick Russian, warning lights included free…

“No, that car looks a little big for my needs”….

“Same price as all the others”…

“How much to Marana?”

“It depends. It’s a long way. I give you discount.”

“Last time was twenty-five.”

“No no no…”

So I wave him off and go to a real taxi, not the private limo type, fare comes out to thirty-three and my van in storage starts right up, after a six-month break, and no shortage of doubts. Meanwhile the heat index keeps climbing with no end in sight. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. We’re a long way from home, wherever that is…

IMG_2487So I stock up for the long haul, salsa and chips and other assorted dips, but mostly rice, enough to last me the brutal summer blast of furnace-like heat, blasting pores of their grit and coaxing pours of exotic brews, almost enough to cure what ails me, pains aches bruises and God-forsaken loneliness unrepentant in the face of uncaring civilization and unforgiving even under the auspices of comfort…

These are the times that try Buddhist patience, holing up in air-conditioned nightmarish seclusion, dreaming demonic delusions and magic carpet rides of convenience, anything to take the edge off reality, a reality not always so kind and cute and cuddly as the Times Square advertisements would suggest…

A reality that for me right now only consists in beach-combing through the flotsam and jetsam of desert civilization as lived in Arizona, and the cubicle for hire that holds the pieces of my life, the latest, and maybe last, in a long string of them through adulthood young to old, each one a tableau vivant of my life at that stage of development, or lack thereof…

But the job at hand is to sell the van, as semi-living organism, the kind of thing that most completely and quickly suffers the ravages of time, its value to me already reduced by half and quickly falling with every tick of the clock. Soon it will be worth only its value as junk, not life, a symbiosis of systems reduced to component parts and left to the vultures for scavenging…

‘It only takes one,’ I keep telling myself. ‘It only takes one…’

Then the call finally comes, and a short test drive to confirm what the fates have apparently already written. “Can you take twenty-four hundred for it?”

I nod my head. “I can do that.”

And with a stroke of the pen, my job is done, and this trip is over, almost, three weeks reduced to three days, with time off for good behavior, apparently, nothing left to do now but taxes…

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