You Know How It Is. Or Maybe You Don't. Maybe I Don't. Maybe, in Fact, None of Us Does

What does it mean that I have to sit and think for several minutes, and eventually have to count on my fingers, to figure out exactly how old I am?

I don’t know what it means, but I know it’s appalling, the fact that I have to do it, and the number I eventually end up with.

I’ve been gone. You may have noticed. Perhaps you did not notice. No big deal. No skin off my teeth. I’ve been out of it. It being, I suppose, things in general. I’ve been mulling and muddling in somewhat equal measure, although if I’m at all in the business of truth-telling I guess I’d have to say muddling has mostly been winning out over mulling.

I don’t know what to tell you: there’s an honest statement if ever I’ve uttered one. And here’s another, as long as I seem to be in the mood to speak the plain, hard truth: Good Lord, I sure as hell do eat a lot of soup.

The winter was interminable. There were stretches that I suppose I could say were like a dream. Perhaps they were a dream. I’m not sure I can tell anymore.

You know what the "PF" in PF-Flyers stands for? I’ll tell you what it stands for: Positive Foundation.

How do you like them fucking apples?

I taught my dog to talk, but he’s still a pretty tight-lipped character. I can’t get a whole lot out of him. In the last 24 hours he’s spoken to me twice, and on each occasion his utterance took the form of a question.

The first question was this: "Those Chinese kung fu sneakers in the closet –you ever wear them?"

The other question was this: "You ever hear of a broad named M.F.K. Fisher?"

To both questions I responded with "Why?" and received nothing in the way of a reply. I’ll say this for my dog: he keeps his counsel. One morning I asked him, as I do each morning, "How did you sleep?"

"So-so," he said. "A phrase was running through my head all night in my dreams."

"What phrase was that?" I asked.

"Mist oppeternity," he said, and then turned his attention to his morning meal.

I chalk that last business up to the Krazy Kat book I gave him for Christmas.

I’m full of questions these days, but my dog is unfortunately of little help, keeper of his counsel that he is. Still I ask. I go on asking.

"How did we ever agree that ‘time piece’ means a teller of time?" I ask. "Or, for that matter, how did we ever agree that ‘a teller of time’ or even ‘telling time’ means anything at all?"

Sometimes I just go through the dictionary and recite words to the dog, trying to build up his vocabulary. "Bulldozer," I’ll say. "There’s a beautiful word. As is hourglass. As is pitch pipe, which is actually two words, referring to the invention of Jacob Kratt, Sr., who as a young man worked for a time at the Hohner harmonica factory in Trossingen Germany, and who later, in America, worked for Thomas Edison in Orange, New Jersey before opening his own harmonica factory."

To which my dog will either say nothing or will say something like, "Big whoop."

I’ve had a lot of dogs, and I’ve managed to teach almost all of them to talk. My current dog’s name is Leon "Blood" Runnells. I met him at a junior college in Kansas, where he had come from Fort Wayne, Indiana to play football, this because he didn’t have the academic chops to get into a division one school.

Leon was a complete monster on the football field. Other guys on the team were terrified of him. They weren’t much more comfortable with him off the field. His old man was some sort of badass Special Forces character, or so Leon claimed.

"You think I’m crazy," he would say. "You should get a load of Leon, Sr. This shit’s football. My old man, he’s a warrior. He’d cut your nuts off and leave you to bleed to death in the sand, and you’d never even get a good enough look at him to make a positive I.D."

Our Leon –my Leon now– was also notorious for having once told Lou Holtz to suck his dick, this after some booster had paid Holtz a boatload of cash to fly out to Kansas to make some sort of motivational speech, after which he’d been persuaded to swing by and lay some rah-rah bullshit on the football team.

Anyway, Leon couldn’t cut it in the classroom, even at the junior college level, and he also suffered some kind of degenerative hip injury near the end of his first season. They were prepared to cut him loose and send him back to a dead end job in Fort Wayne. Around this same time he learned that his old man had been killed in Kosovo or someplace like that, and poor Leon took all this bad news pretty hard and started running the streets. He eventually ended up at the local animal shelter, where they cut off his nuts, implanted a chip in his neck, and put him up for adoption.

When I visited him the first time he had turned into such a docile, good natured fellow that I took pity on him, paid the three hundred bucks, and took him home with me.

Truly, his reticence aside, a guy couldn’t ask for a better dog. It’s crazy, I know, and people who knew him back when probably wouldn’t believe me if I told them that I now share my bed with that legendary badass Leon "Blood" Runnells and that he greets me every time I come in the door like I’m the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

At any rate, I guess I’ve had my say, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to say, and was more than I had any intention of saying.

I’ll just leave you with this: I’m here now, and there ain’t a damn thing Zen about it.






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