Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life stories series: Chased clouds, empty sky

Chased clouds, empty sky
By Mike Marcellino

The Daily Prose, Volume 1, Issue 2, May 29, 2009

Two of a series

“Where to begin start? “he wondered.

“Start with radio, NPR,” as he had a portable, hand operated Shack radio. He began listening to public radio, riding his classic Japanese model bike to downtown Cleveland.

The writer was overwhelmed again. It was only the day after yesterday, the day before today. He forgot allergy pills, had stupidly got two plastic containers of conditioner at the dollar store, no shampoo. Yes, the conditioners were each a dollar.

His ability to scan labels - gone bad to worse, with or without glasses. No matter, 88 cent dime store specks, or the VA specials. He had some incurable eye condition he could have inherited from his real father, the assistant starter.

“The good news, the VA said, “double cornea transplants.”

A few years later, a really nice guy riding the Detroit bus asked the writer,” Are you on the transplant list?”

“That’s a really good question,” the writer thought to himself,”

“No. I’m not,” he answered.

“My first pair of VA glasses, gunmetal frames, high fashion,” he explained. “The top right rim split clean. “They must have been pretty thin,” he reasoned.

“Second pair, lightweights, rimless bottoms, fell apart right away, looked like silly putty,
Now that’s pretty funny if you need glasses just for show,” the writer said, wondering how he was going to write without eyesight.

“Blind people figured a way,” he knew that.

At the veterans’ medical center the writer handed the two broken glasses to the young man in the office. He asked him for a card but he didn’t have them. He said he was a “patient representative.” The writer, ex- orderly, in six months learned about health care. He was the only male on a surgical ward in Lakewood Hospital.

“These glasses are defective, contractors are ripping me and the VA off,” the writer said in consternation. “Investigate these glasses and get back to me, ok?” Without a word, he quietly put them away in a desk drawer.

Weeks later, the writer returned to the VA for another reason. He walked into the office of the patient representative and asked, “Did you look into my glasses?”

“No,” he responded, quietly and looking straight at me without another word, handed over two pair of broken glasses wrapped up in white paper and a red rubber band.

On the road, the writer rode toward the breaks in the puffy sky. He stopped on the near side bank of the river, at a drawbridge over the flats and tracks.

Junk floated on the Cuyahoga, dozens, on the layers of muck, discarded, mostly plastic bottles, all sizes, Styrofoam cups, faint, yellow striped off white rubber ball and a wooden desk drawer. Gradually, the mess on the water drifted, skating upstream.

“Fowl birds have more sense than to light on this water,” he thought. Then a goofy goose honked by.

The Cuyahoga, “crooked river,” as natives called it, was very celebrated. In the 1970s, the river’s ‘water’ caught fire. Another time, ex-mayor Ralph Perk’s set his hair on fire with a blowtorch. He aim narrowly missed the ceremonial steel ribbon. Both made world news.

The sun warmed the writer’s right shoulder. He felt it through an old green army shirt, probably Cuban. He’d done chores already – GI, no, err, rock star shower, brushed his teeth, tossed out pieces of his paper collection.

“Yikes,” he said to himself. “A call in public radio show about bikes – ageless, timeless commentators talking about ageless, timeless peddle power transportation. Right away he called the only station number on his cell phone. Turned out to be the wrong FM station but someone answered and he told him what he had to say about bikes anyway.

“We’re light years away from being ‘bike friendly,’” he told the guy at the WRONG station. “I know without doubt, this revelation won’t ever come to the earth’s most powerful nation. After all,” his thinking continued, “People in most of America’s towns, big and small, these days exist without a bus or train, intra or inner city and a third of our workers get to work carless.”

The writer remembered when he was in Saigon, it was 1968, a now and then Chinese sedan and a few motor scooters, were hopelessly outnumbered, surrounded by bikes and tricycles, aka rickshaws.

A commentator told about an LA doctor prescribing biking for a patient. “It must be a joke,” she chuckled nervously.

“Wait, don’t you know the cost of treating overweight Americans run in the trillions, and millions are dying needlessly.” he wanted to ask her.

“Where to begin,” he wondered again.

“Bikes as a means of transportation are ethic. It’s the economy stupid, if not for pleasure, adventure.

It’s a good thing for us and our planet,” he cried, into a northwest headwind.

“Is anybody listening? They still don’t get it. Isn’t that politically correct?”

“How much money does the government have for bicycles?” a caller asked.

“We have no specific sum,” a planner responded.

Then a downtown commuter called, asking about showers.

“You should live in Tulsa,” the writer could a told him.

Luckily, the writer was saved by the day. The sun chased the clouds, emptied the blue sky.

“Another day at the office,” the writer relented, landing safely again in Phoenix.

He took his usual break before starting work, reached for a wad of Gambler tobacco. A black and white portrait of a smoking cowboy stamped on the pouch, half his face in shadow, he noticed.

The writer thought, “In God we trust” for some reason.

Back in the executives’ wash room, he looked in the mirror. His hair was out of control, without shampoo for days. Reminded him of this couple he knew won a Toronto twist contest, last standing on the cream & black checkered dance floor.

“Call on John Travolta. File a class action,” he suggested.

Chased clouds, empty sky, copyright by Mike Marcellino 2009

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