Best Worst Year: Episode 4 (or The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me)

1.3.13(6:52 AM): Woke up to look over my notes for this week’s Best Worst Year. I have a rambling timetable of the first three days this the year of our Lord, Tom Waits, 2013 AD (After rain Dogs). The logic being that much like the protagonist in Memento, I needed some sort of documentation for the initial descent into this new year. The following are fragments, Tweets, FB status updates, Moleskins, and voicemails which constitute the last three days. For the record, when applicable, guilty parties have been omitted, names have been changed, and what is left is what best serves this narrative as an almost true account without being wholly honest.1.2.13

(1:11 AM): After taking a wrong turn onto 81, I arrive in Danville to sleep in a real bed. There is something to be said about sleeping in a bed when you’ve spent several days sleeping on a variety of non-bed locales: couches, benches, your car, a hardwood floor, a bistro table at Starbucks (just head down on the table mind you). As with the last 48 hours, The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America blaring at paint peeling volume. Craig Finn is a Les Paul swinging Raymond Carver. I love the echo of the highway that resonates from huge chunks of this record. You can tell that these songs were born in hotels and vans…at sound checks and hangovers. The great American novel spins at 33 ⅓ rpms, folks, and it was penned by The Hold Steady between suburban Minneapolis and Brooklyn, NYC.

(10:00 PM): It’s hard to believe Hxxx is going to be 21 in March. I remember her mom bringing her to readings I was hosting at Barnes and Noble when she was like 8 with ringside seats to my Angry Pinoy phase. I’m hanging out in her way too nice townhouse. Not that I’m old, but I’m feeling it right now.

(5:45 PM): iPhone wakes me up at the corner table of this Innerstate Starbucks–fell asleep for a good twenty minutes. I think because I’m dressed like I came right out of a Lands End catalog (minority edition) they just didn’t notice. I guess I needed it. I’m waiting for Hxxx to get off work so we can go have dinner. Being someone who doesn’t have kids of his own, being “that uncle” to my friends kids has been helped me process the absence of Rxx, Lxxx, and Exxx over the last six monthes.

(3:12 PM): This seems like a safe rest stop for a nap.

(1:21 PM): Roburrito’s is the best damn burrito place you can find outside of Austin, TX. I’m pretty sure I’d hit an elderly relative over the head with a shovel for a burritodilla. (of course said relative would have to be cosmically “asking for it” like by being racist, a homophobe, or a fan of Kenny G. I also stress elderly in the sense of older because if they’ve been around this long without some sort of karmic payback then let me be an instrument of justice. Plus being older means I can probably take them.) This cross between a burrito and quesadilla is the size of an olympic discus…magic. Off to Wilkes-Barre.

(9:45 AM): Why does my stomach still sound like a Keurig? That can’t be good. Need oatmeal or maybe a salad? Who am I kidding? I deal in bad decisions like Seurat deals in pointillism.

(4:34 AM): There are no Waffle Houses on this side of the Maryland/PA border? WTF?! Plan B: Doritos from Weis Markets?

(3:01 AM): Wide awake and need hashbrowns scattered smothered and covered.

1.1.13

(11:49 PM): “Night Moves” stuck in my head. Why?

(10:30 PM): Django was amazing. Began feeling human again. Whatever needed to escape the body has left the building with almost the rest of my regret and shame…almost.

(6:22 PM): Got to Frank’s Theatre 40 minutes before Django starts. Just spent $10 on water. On water! No position to argue or complain. Fell asleep on the bench in front of the theatre. Pretty sure I was left alone because I looked like a mall Santa on payday and everyone is afraid of waking up a sleeping bear–am I right?!

(5:00 PM): Leaving the “brunch.” Pulled over on the Rte. 30 onramp. Was pretty sure that spinach and goat cheese omelet was going to be making a return engagement if you will… Coffee’s for closers only. Where is my water?.

(2:00 PM): Finally got to New Year’s Brunch at Dxx and Jxxx’s. My insides are vibrating–pretty sure that shouldn’t be happening.

(11: 21 AM): My neck is a right angle with a prison shiv crammed into the knot above my collarbone. The house is quiet murmur–a lot of languid motion and baggy eyes.

(10:50 AM): Why do my knees hurt? I have to go to brunch.

(8:00 AM): SCENE MISSING

(6:32 AM): Let’s move this party off the floor and to the couch, yes? Please.

(3:30 AM): Night over when I say “I need to sit down,” but have been seated for hours.

(3:11 AM): I don’t care what you say, Sugar Copper Blue is better than any album Husker Du released on Warner Brothers.

(2:22 AM): Who would really win a fight between Spiderman and Batman? If you’re asking, you don’t deserve an answer.

(1:59 AM): COMMENT DELETED FROM FACEBOOK PER USER REQUEST.

(1:43 AM): WHAOOOOOO! Farva’s Number One! Farva’s Number One! WHAHOOOO MISTER CHAMBOURCIN’S in the house!

(1:11 AM): Where did what’s her-name-go? Should I even ask?

(12:55 AM): Man, fuck shoes.

(12:43 AM): Where are you, Winnie Cooper?

(12:38 AM):Lost the Connect Four tournament due to my inability to count to four, or three for that matter. Pretty sure I’ve spent about twenty minutes arguing about Rush. Sang “Fly by Night” to no one in particular, or at least, no one was left in the room.

(12:03 AM): Am I going to defend Rush?! Who are you, Jim Warner?

(12:01 AM): Post Death Cab For Cutie video: “The New Year.” My first official stance of 2013. Where’s the Chambourcin?

12.31.12

(11:37 PM):Where’s the Chambourcin?

(11:18 PM): Pretty sure I would not be legally cleared to play Connect Four by the IOC. Should stick to the other sport of kings: wine tasting.

(11:07 PM): Connect Four is like ambitious checkers. Who’s Bxxxxxxxx? Is this a phone number?

(10:45 PM): These are not my shoes. Nope. No way.

(10:33 PM): Chilli? Why not?!
“Father can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?” THS.

(10:27 PM): Been discussing my Fantasy Football team for what feels like only a few minutes to me but to the faces around me, it must’ve been a goddamn lifetime. Two truths of conversations: people don’t want to hear about your children or your fantasy football team. Unfortunately there’s a difference between knowing and practicing. (see my gym membership)

(9:55 PM): Exxx’s coworker is cute. This will not end well.

(9:09 PM): I can’t have lost my shoes already…can I?

(8:39 PM): A glass. A mason jar. A measuring cup. All legit vessels tonight.

(8:21 PM): Taken from the label of the bottle of Chambourcin: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems”

Pretty sure the 2011 merlot is much more watery than the 2010. You can taste how muted the tannins are in the initial swallow. Drinkable but decidedly not the best year for grapes in Pennsylvania or Maryland. I know Chambourcin is not the best grape in the world and its abundance in southern PA has made it a contender for state berry, but for my money, I have to agree with the folks at Allegro and say the Merlot grape best represents our state. You cannot go wrong with a good Merlot. It’s a cornerstone of red wines and always a solid go-to for any occasion.

(7:55 PM): Cxxx professes his love for the Junkyard Dog. You can never deny passion, folks.

(7:14 PM):I get it holidays, you’re for children, and when you’re given a glimpse of that world, it’s pretty much impossible to see the world any other way. I’ve thought a lot about them in the last week–that gap which bends like the tattered rope bridge in Temple of Doom or Monty Python’s Holy Grail (probably more appropriate to me, an unladen swallow of a boy better know as misterjim).

Most of the last six months in public kinda feels like the off chance where you’d have a doctor’s appointment early in the day and your parents decide to not take you back to school–rather, you end up running errands with them to the mall, groceries, perhaps a stop off at Chili’s for some baby back ribs and endless chips and salsa baskets. Suddenly your assumptions about what goes on beyond the school day are confirmed–this world pulsating with a multitude of lives moving in an endless combination of directions. Here you are in the midst of this spinning life, watching the wheels turn. These people going about their day or job or life are wholly oblivious to you and how much you stick out like a sore thumb because you know you belong elsewhere–or at least you’re supposed to be somewhere (in this case school). It’s like being a shadow walking through the passing daylight of a world you typically have not been allowed to access. Multiply that awareness by the knowledge that the world functions on the yoked chain of birth school work death and you realize how unbound you’ve become by being unemployed.

But then the holidays happen and everybody’s off. Suddenly, you’re not the only one at the playground… and (irrationally enough) you feel like your shadow space has been invaded.

Compound this intrusion with now truly seeing kids in the holiday season and you move from alone to just lonely. Time can’t pass fast enough.

(6:09 PM): NYE house party in Dallastown. Everything in moderation…including moderation.

Jim Warner is the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in The North American Review, PANK Magazine, Word Riot, and other journals. Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University and supports local vineyards such as the Allegro Winery (Brouge, PA www.allegrowines.com). Refresh his memory on Twitter: @whoismisterjim

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