Friday January 4th. Durham and Raleigh, NC.

Painting by numbers,
What’s the color of 9.

Counting by colors. White, grey, white, yellow.
blackasphalt, grey granite, white sky, yellow grass,
a golfer in grey on a yellow green tosses a plastic vodka bottle, small and clear, onto the grass.
It lands silently for me to find later when I go on the green after-hours.

But now I’m walking past him on the street which goes by the golf course.
Walking my Mom’s little black dog.

The golfer is setting up for a putt, bent over as if in prayer, or meditating.
I wonder how the vodka fumes feel traveling through the nose to the back of the tongue, or vice versa.
Feels good, I know. I remember.

What do we call that body part where the soft palate meets the nose, where the vapors go.
what color would it be. Dark deepest red, where the acrid non-flavor nests and settles in.

Breathe.

He makes the putt.
Looks at me, I look back, think of saying “nice putt.”

I could have, who cares. I say nothing, he says nothing,
He gets in his golf cart and glides away.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Nothing lost either.

I keep walking.

—————–

I met with the Pastor of the new church where I am worship director. We met at a Thai restaurant on its final day as a Thai restaurant. The waiter tells us they are changing their menu, becoming a crab shack due to demand. They will still retain some Thai items. I ordered the green curry, plenty spicy, and it was plenty spicy. I had to keep ordering water, and also ordered one side of rice. It took me a while to taste the meal. It was so spicy, I was just kind of shoveling it in, then when it was over, I tasted the hint and remnant of what i had eaten. The kind of rough peppery fragrant burning.

My pastor and I were 2 of only 4 people in the place, and it had a 200-person occupancy. That’s not a good sign. The waiter still seemed over-worked. My constant requests for water probably didn’t help. Why not just bring a pitcher? I was a waiter once. If I had a customer who ordered 4 pints of water, no ice in a row I’d bring a pitcher. I’m smart like that. A genius one might say, if one were inclined to be very very accurate.

Actually I wasn’t a great waiter at the restaurant where I used to work in Durham, circa 1992. I was friendly — too friendly — but slow, and I daydreamed. I worked in a restaurant which was also a used bookstore, and I’d get lost in the stacks. I spent all my paycheck on beer and books. I’ve written about this before, I think. It was a really fun period of my life. Drinking, playing cards, listening to music, not caring. I wasn’t bedeviled by self-consciousness. I didn’t play many gigs, and when I finally did play one, people were impressed at the secret talent I’d been hiding. Under a bushel (no! I’m gonna let it shine).

Years later I received a card from one of my former co-workers — a woman named Allison, who now resided in College Station TX. The card said “I always wanted to say that I admired whatever it is — whatever was inside you — that made you go.” Gee that was a nice statement. I never knew Allison noticed me at all, much less admired me. She was a super type A good waitress. If I’d known she admired me I probably would have tried to like her or date her and who knows how that would have gone. Better the way it went. I only dated — very briefly, one of my coworkers, a woman who is a gifted writer who wrote me a poem I still treasure. She told me she would write “fields of poetry as green as your eyes.” My boss — John — wanted to fire me. He didn’t like me, never liked me. I think I was too slow, and unprofessional. And showed up late. But he had a manager — Kim. And Kim the manager liked me. Loved me. And I loved her. She was always smiling and so fun, and kept the place ticking and humming along. Kim went to bat for me and told John he shouldn’t fire me. The customers liked me. So he kept me. What a mensch, really. I mean, to go against his instincts and let his manager manage, and follow her instincts and keep me. He was a good guy. A former New Yorker. We were a family. There was a family feel. I miss those people. I’m friends with 3 or 4 of them on Facebook, and even manage to see 1 or 2 of them in the flesh here and there. I miss those days. All the more being back here.

————————

I went to Ross. The Department store. Found some deals. Oh the deals you can find at Ross. There were some Good Year Shoes for $25. They had a big bright Good Year Logo with the tire and the wings in blue and yellow. They looked like hiking boots and I needed some. I’m bedeviled by foot problems. Self consciousness and foot problems, my twin bedevilments. Sounds like a Tom Waits song. Actually I have several bedevilments; those are only two of them. I really need to write this Tom Waits song — any Tom Waits song.

There was a salesman hunched over a newspaper, a scruffy looking millennial guy. I said, “What do you hear about these shoes?” Meaning, what do customers say after having bought them. “Oh you look great. You sure got my attention,” he said, with enthusisasm that did not sound real in the slightest. He should not quit his job at Ross and become an actor. “That’s exactly why I’d be buying these Good Year shoes — to get the attention of guys like you,” I said. He laughed at that. “What I meant was, are they good shoes? Good for hiking,” I said. “I have no fricking clue man,” he said. I bought them. $25, how could I not. I bought a bunch of other stuff, priced to sell. socks. insoles, nose hair trimmer, back and shoulder massager, portable phone charger made by duracell, in the shape of a duracell battery. The kind of stuff an old guy would buy, I know. you can say it. I mean, Good Year shoes? Uff. But Ross has deals. If anyone tries to tell you Ross doesn’t have deals, you tell them to hush.

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