…Just to pass the time away…

We pulled off the highway in the dark high dessert sometime close to 9pm into a dirt lot that has a stone edifice in the middle with a plaque on it. He still doesn’t tell me what we’re doing here. I figure he has to pee. Then he turns around and talks to the back seat:

” Hey kid, you wanna see some stars?”

“Yesstttthhh” with a deep nod. He has been awake for a while, “reading” books and eating snacks.

We must be miles and miles from any large city, because the night sky is doing that thing that makes it look like there might be more stars than emptiness. Mr. Eagle scout knows all the constellations of course, and the kid loves to point at things so it’s a great little time we are having – pointing up at the little pearly specs and naming them – telling him the old stories behind all the shapes. The warm wind blowing our voices away. How can it all be so fragile and so magnificent? How is this one blue and that one yellow? What is the damn meaning behind all this?

Nothing or everything. We are nothing or we are everything. We are either the center of the creators attention, we have paths, purpose, and a personal relationship with a great magnanimous and omnipotent being OR, OR, OR…. we are a product of happenstance. Here by the shear willpower of our ancestors to keep producing. Evolution shaved and wittled us down into these upright animals that will find any way to make our own existence more leisurely.  I am only here because my stout celtic ancestors were smarter, meaner, luckier and hornier than all the other families in the area.

A product of luck and carbon molecules.  I prefer this theory because it makes me feel more interesting and yet, more like nothing, so much less to worry about when you know that your life is really nothing at all. You aren’t “straying” or “obeying” or having to ask some one else for guidance. Because It doesn’t matter. We are smallest specs of nothingness gone in a blip. It’s just a ride. And so far, I really enjoy this little ride. If I need guidance I just ask myself. And myself is a great guide. I have a very sweet little ride right here with this Eagle scout and this baby monkey. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. The best we can work towards is feeling happy everyday in little ways, and everything I have is of my own making. Nothing is bequeathed me by the grace of someone else. Everything is either luck, choice or hard work. I like that but it’s surely not a philosophy for everyone, it’s just mine. I always get like this when I look at stars.

We are made up of the same dust that’s in that star and that cactus, and that stone, and that plaque that says something about these dudes that came out of the Mojave on horseback at this very spot. They spent a whole year traveling together, looking for that great golden California promise, and parted ways. That’s it. Just a couple of dudes, younger than me,  that said goodbye to each other right here after going on a trip together. Now there is a little river stone chimney here that smells like urine. What strange, strange creatures.

I can hear the power lines before I see them. Almost directly above us, buzzing. Carrying light back and forth across empty miles of nothingness and sage. Power – to have power, to need power – the human condition is –

“Hey, peanut or plain M&Ms…?”

“Um, shit…plain.”

We pile back in the car and sing “I’ve been working on the railroad” for the millionth time until the kid falls asleep. Then we can enjoy our M&Ms without sharing and listen to LotR on tape. I don’t need to say it, but I will, life is good.

Stay up all night watching a thunderstorm

You feel as if you are inside a shoe. The heat sits on top of you, it grabs at every inch of your skin like hundreds of hot wet hands. Unlike the biting cold, there is nothing you can wear to escape it. you stand at the window, which points west. You forget and then remember that the ocean is East, so unnatural.

Every few minutes bitter lavender veins of light reach across the belly of clouds, followed by a low crackling burp of thunder. You will barely sleep tonight, and tomorrow you will sit fit-fully tired at your desk and stare at your computer screen. You would rather sell cupcakes in eternal August tourist traffic than say the word  “strategy” again.

You need a soundtrack. The self titled album by Dire Straits, (sent to you as a gift from the thoughtful and tasteful M),   also known as the album that God was listening to when he invented dark hot thunderstorms. The rain slaps fluffy wet pillows on the window screen, like a homemade water spritzer. You crave a covered porch, and a mint julep. You close your eyes and let your hips swing to ‘Six Blade Knife’. The violet lightening reaches again across the dimpled cloud ceiling in what must be hundreds of twitchy veins. It’s right on top of you now, and because of your imagination you half expect a Delorian to come out of the sky or a superhero to be caught crouching on some silhouetted roof. You pop open your last sweating can of beer and feel it get warm in a record of seconds.

Sirens bleed out somewhere down Flatbush Avenue. You light a candle, the candle, and wonder what your neighbors are watching at this hour, you can see the blue flash of their screen. You decide that ‘Water of Love’ is the best song in the whole world, and that this whole album is the opposite of New York City. You wonder how you can love two things equally that are the complete opposite of each other. This leads to pondering your own personal duality. You live like a split screen montage, always second guessing your choices, wondering how it could have gone, otherwise. You are a sandwich: layers of complimenting, textures and flavors pinned between two fluffy walls.

But really, how can you need solitude as much as you need crowded dance floors? How can you love desolate woods just as much as the city? How can you want to stay in bed and go outside at the same time? How do you love hot beaches and snowy cabins the same? Are you lying to yourself? Do you really love them both equally , or are you just saying that to make things more complicated so you can delay decision-making?

There are moments when you are positive that you will live and die on the 4th floor of a charming brownstone buying groceries at the ‘Haifa Market’ and eating out at ‘Cafe Cubana’. Then there are other moments when you swear you will live and die surrounded by thickly wooded miles and broken rocking chairs. This primal display of nature’s middle finger seems to jolt into you some electric desire to step backwards, wipe the slate clean, and drive through the desert in a Firebird…convertable.

You try to listen to the inside of yourself, what would 10-year-old Molly think about this whole thing? She would probably shrug and go back to her Goosebumps Volume 17.

It’s so hot that the water can’t cool the pavement, and the rain just lifts back up into the air in pockets of steam. Its like pouring a garden hose on the 6th ring of Hell.  Nature likes to keep us scared, it likes to watch us skitter back and forth rebuilding houses on cliffs and under the water level. It likes to shriek at us and cackle and roll around like some hallucinating tom cat. For as fantastically clever as we are, we can’t hold back a snowstorm or escape the berating heat. Nature is the ultimate ‘Sultan of Swing,’ sometimes all you can do is sweat it out, drink a beer and watch the show.