September 29, 2007

Greg

For some reason, I was dressed in all black on that hot afternoon. I suppose there had been an earlier
assignment requiring reduced visibility, something political I’d say. A podium on a stage, a dimmed hall,
where I sat crouched on the floor in an aisle with a zoom lens.

When I got to the stadium, college teams from Illinois and Florida were halfway into the game under a
hot blue sky. I took up a position off third base just past the dugout where all the twenty-something
players, iconoclastic and cocky, were hanging out. A couple of routine plays put a runner on second
base. I was on autopilot, focused on the world in the viewfinder, mind like water. Then a drive to right
field brought the runner in; he tapped the plate and began to jog to the dugout. Somewhere in that few
seconds, the camera came down and I was watching the athlete, like scores of times before, as I sized up
my next shot in slow motion. A few high fives were sprouting from the dugout. Suddenly the coach was
at my side, handsome and heated, a little out of breath. He handed me the roster, looking me over, in my
black jeans and black pullover in the midday sun. "You look hot," he said. After neutralizing the catch in
my throat, I began to explain that this morning... but he cut me off. "I'm getting hot just looking at you,"
he said. Then he smiled and jogged back to the dugout as I stared at his jersey number and my hand
began rifling my camera bag for the roster.

Greg owned a tropical nursery on the east coast, started by his grandfather, and coached at the university,
among other pursuits. I'd learned a lot about making love by then, but so had he, and hours of
midsummer shadow play was often the outcome, topping out in the early morning hours. Breakfast on
Los Olas or A1A. Or we'd rent a cottage on Captiva and get lost in a dragonfly summer. Zero-gravity
experiments in the pool. You... showed it to me too, exactly what you do, and now you love me too...
And with both of us self-employed, this two-coast samba wasn't hard to work out.


The miles between us eventually grew brambles for me, while its challenges and intrigue continued to
motivate Greg. He seemed to thrive on the arrangement. Shortly after it all dissolved, vaporized, and
blew away, Greg became involved with someone while visiting New York. They've been "together"
now, a thousand miles apart, going on three years.

We drank screwdrivers from sports bottles on the beach, and gave pet names to sections of the nature
trail, The Sun's Anvil, which Greg dreaded. Sleepy Hollow, a darkling passage which sometimes seized
me with ticklish terror. We found remote cosseted clearings and drifted offshore on air mattresses.

We liked one another's athleticism, taking it for granted while it was mapped and explored, covertly,
openly, in sidelong glimpses at breakfast. We were the same age and at home with one another as
animals. The cultural landscape we shared and rediscovered was full of old friends.

We'd bicycle into town, buy expensive 10 oz cokes out of ice chests and gulp them in the hot sun, nearly
staggering with gratification. We held each other, slow dancing in a beach shack, with the tourists all
gone, to an oldies tune on a boom box supplied by the resort. Slow dancing until sky caught fire.



September 23, 2007

September 20, 2007

Fort Myers Beach

On one of logophile’s recent posts, I commented that “I love the beach... They’re usually next to a beach town, which I love even more.” Fort Myers Beach is the kind of Florida beach town I was talking about… underdeveloped, underwhelming, lovable.

Washed up on Estero Island, one of several barrier islands along the Florida west coast, it is flanked to the south by upscale Naples, and to the north by the expensive beach-cottage fantasy land of Sanibel/Captiva islands. It has neighborhood bars instead of bistros. Shops, not boutiques. Parasail rides. McDonald’s. Ice cream stands. A Turkey Testicle Festival.

It’s a dozen or so miles from here, and a favorite getaway. And safe, for the nonce, now that the housing crunch has mercifully rained on development fever.



September 18, 2007

Newsroom



“Son of a bitch!” said Dana, scanning the computer on her desk in the 
newsroom. Her desk was piled with folders, books, magazines, papers, stacked 
two feet high in places. Here and there, papers appeared to be trying to 
squeeze out of a stack and crawl away. Dana was the executive editor of the 
Naples Tribune. Buxom, stylish, pushy. Her dismissiveness had a knack for 
making you feel hugged.

“This is all feature stuff,” she said, scrolling her mouse, her eyes a few inches
from the computer screen. She refused to wear glasses. “I can’t run with this. I 
have no local news.”

“I’m working on the council meeting,” said Bill, a city desk reporter, a black
Irish drinking man, from Brooklyn. We shared stories, landmarks and
milestones, but unfraternally, the way ex New Yorkers do.

“Where’s Ashley’s story on citrus blight?” Dana demanded, unimpressed.

“She’s probably boffing the Department of Agriculture rep in the back of a
pickup truck right now,” said Bill.

Three televisions, bolted to the walls, were on. One was tuned to CNN, one
showed a live shot of the City’s empty council chamber. The other, back in the
corner, was tuned to sports. The news channel was slightly audible, the volume
turned low. “Seventy six percent fear that violence may strike someone in their
household,” a voice said, over video of a truck exploding in Baghdad. Phones 
chirped.

Dana plucked the red plastic stir stick out of her coffee and threw it in a
wastebasket. She glanced at the clock. “Has she called in? Anybody?”

“She called and asked me to Mapquest Palmetto Avenue,” said Barbara,
blinking over her bifocals. “That was an hour ago. AP was down again, Dana,
this morning, for almost two hours. How are we supposed to function?”

I was standing at my desk, half listening, flipping through my assignments,
marginally elated by the routine editorial crisis. “Jesus, Dana” I said, staring at
the words Doggie Wash, Perkins Park. “Isn’t there anything happening this
weekend that doesn’t involve pets or watercolors?”

“The mayor called me a whore,” Dana said. The newsroom seemed to pause.
Bill looked up from his keyboard, smiling.

“And…?” said Bill sardonically.

“It’s on my voice mail. He seems to take issue with my support for the CRA’s
proposed traffic calming techniques downtown. As if I had a financial interest 
in any of those boutiques and bamboo pushers. I just want to walk to lunch and
not get run over by an Escalade. Does that make me a whore?”

“It’s what everybody wants,” said Bill, who went back to his keyboard.
“Kramer’s a jerk.”

“Many people have too much credit card debt,” said the television. “Don’t let
the word ‘bankruptcy’ enter your thoughts.”

The remains, a few slices, of chocolate cake from somebody’s recent birthday
sat on a pile on a desk. I put a slice on a paper plate. At least the sports
assignment looked promising. College baseball. The annual intercollegiate 
Copley tournament at Baskin Field, the quaint old stadium in Fort Myers.

Tom Harper, the sports editor, who had a desk near the photo desk, was
reading the Wall Street Journal.

“What do you need?” I asked.

“A color and two black and white,” he said.

“Do we know who’s playing?”

“They’re playing all day Saturday and all day Sunday. Pick one.”

“Yee-hah!”

Tom gave me his dubious look.

I packed up a bag, an SLR, batteries, a couple zooms, extra chips, and headed
out, with the cake folded up in the paper plate. This was when Dana usually
chose to get clingy, disguised as an assignment review. She stopped me at the
door.

“Joe,” she said, staring at the screen, a statement, as if she had just noticed my
existence in the computer. I turned and offered my attention.

“What have you got?” she said, scrolling and selecting and highlighting. Her
inattention was reassuring. It meant that there were no real issues.

“Parks,” I said. “The Jacaranda fire. Dogs. Art. Weekend. Whatever.”

“Gas prices. Get something on gas prices. Dennis is doing a story for Monday.”

“Pumps? People in pickups, SUVs, feeding their Escalades and Hummers?”

“That sort of thing.”

“Imploding stock indexes. The collapse of civilization as we know it.

“That’s the general idea.”

“The Doggie Wash at Perkins Park.”

“Irony, Joe. It’s what we do.”

The post-rush hour Friday evening traffic outside had shifted to leisure mode. A
vodka on the rocks awaited me at Ziggy’s. And maybe a fun-loving, sincere, no-
drama, down-to-earth looker who likes long walks on the beach and Bobby
Short. And hair that curls around the back of his ear, and a nice phallic vein, and
who can find his way home. It’s what I do.





September 14, 2007

Plucked

Paul's french fry post jogged my memory. When it slowed to a saunter I recalled this...

I went to a fast food counter (I forget which one) a while back and asked for a chicken sandwich. After typing in the order, the girl called back over her shoulder "Gimme a chicken sandwich - and pluck it!" Then she turned back to me and smiled. "Anything else?" she said. A little taken aback, but game, I said, "Just a medium coke, and the chicken sandwich... plucked." The smile left her face. She stared at me expressionless, as if she had just noticed a fingernail clipping hanging from my nostril. (I didn't; I checked.) WTF?



September 12, 2007

September 9, 2007

September 7, 2007

September 1, 2007

Natural History


                   A speckled bug,
                   starling iridescent sheen,
                   indigo, pulsates abdominally
                   in the leaf’s
                   unconscious shade.


                   In tiny scrabbly fits
                   it probes subatomic localities;
                   sips ether,
                   tasting molecules.


                  Toward my impending eye,
                  an admiring Volkswagen,
                  it pauses and casts a lacquered glance.
                  It’s binary appraisal
                  libels love,
                  and it deftly darts away,
                  returning the world to exile.




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