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Open Faces Two


Saddling Up


It took several days before Richard could finally catch up with Sean, which, when he thought about it, really is the best way for describing what it is like being Sean’s friend. There’s always the same dangling participle coming in and out of Sean’s company. Just when Richard thinks he is walking across the same plateau with Sean, maybe even heading for the same watering hole, Sean can slip away down a ravine, or into a secret forest no one can share in, or, and what is always worst of all, Sean can fall headlong over his own abyss of darker mood swings. Then Richard wouldn’t see him again until Sean made his arduous climb back up into the sunlit plain of day. There is no point expecting him to show himself before he has completed his cyclical swing, even when and where he might say he would. Richard has long since given up trying to stay at a place closer to the swing of Sean’s side, realizing that the terms of a workanight world must be as much expectation as his friend can keep to. So the best Richard could do, he figures, is to keep the perimeters of their friendship as plastic as possible, and to keep opening the door of his home when Sean felt like coming around.

He really is like a jittery horse, it seems to Richard while sitting in Tara’s on a Sunday evening; and remembering that in a previous town, a previous life even, Sean was a horseman for a class of wealthy folk who devote their energies to the hunters and jumpers they call thoroughbreds. Richard could almost see his friend straddling a thoroughbred, his red hair catching fire in the wind, while keeping his eye on an imaginary point just over the next hill so that his horse wouldn’t get lost in its own inclination to stray. Richard doesn’t know for sure, but he thinks maybe Sean has lost something of his genius for concentrating on imaginary coordinates, and that he is straying too. Sean hinted, once, there had been a big time when his genius betrayed him, left him to his own resources. So maybe he is still afraid, or no longer as nonchalant in the ways of keeping to the spaces just in front of him. Richard doesn’t know. As close as he can come to framing the problem having hold of Sean is to think that, maybe, an Irishman’s ghostly eye has somehow closed in on itself.


It is a different kind of problem that has Richard’s attention tonight. A different kind of horse really. The evening is still early on, and the blue grass band that comes into town every Sunday has not started up yet. They are still down by the end of the bar, with their cotton laced women friends who came in with them, and drinking a couple of free beers. Even in town they keep to themselves. Richard sits in a corner by a window, underneath a television set bolted to the ceiling, projecting silent images into the room. He thought he would sit there for awhile, not really wanting to see those images. But seeing them anyway in a mirror that hangs from the opposite corner of the room, and that throws back an inverted picture of all of what a television set can throw into a room. What just caught his attention, in the involuntary way a silently screaming image can, is an advertisement for joining the Army.

Richard saw two tanks speeding parallel down two dusty roads, and with a tall hedge irregularly separating them. There was a blue sky, it was a sunny day, a perfect day for gaming, and there was no jungle in sight; no reminder of an unlost fight. The camera showed how the crew of each tank looked to go jousting in a mechanized fashion, one with the other. And the gunner of one of those crews was sure to be quicker, better, or, maybe, just luckier. Which is what happened before Richard had a chance to remind himself that it was probably a test, an exercise, or a Sunday’s afternoon’s invitation to join the ranks bound for glory’s road. The turret of the first and nearest tank was already turning to face the danger of the other. Its gunner would almost complete his sighting while the second tank was just starting to turn its head. Then Richard was looking into the scope of the first gunner’s viewer. It was all there on the screen. How the second tank was speeding along, moving in, moving out, and back into view from behind the hedge. And how it was it turned itself too late. And when the nearer gunner pushed the button connecting him to his cannon, and the view in his scope was washed in red, Richard got that the second beast had been symbolically shot out from underneath its riders. It was what gave rise to the smiling faces of the victorious crew, to the hoopla, and to the job-well-done look of satisfaction. But the message Richard was getting, he has a hunch, was not quite the same as intended. It was one of those crystallized moments when the subliminal images of other, disparate, moments became tied up in this one expression of how glorious it can be for the restless young of a restless nation to finally be going somewhere again; to be doing something with a beginning and an end again; to be living a day in the life of a warrior crew again. The only sense he makes of those other, and disparate, moments, of the body language of friends, the money language of governments, and the newspaper headline language that always says more than is meant, was in the reddened mosaic of what was just silently shown on a bar room screen. And so instead of reading a caption that said: Join the Army; Richard knew he should be reading a message a little closer to the point: We’re Saddling the Warhorse Again.


Dec/24/2010, 3:42 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Open Faces Two



Maybe, also, it is some part of what happened a few nights ago, the night Richard finally caught up with Sean. He went to Dennis’s apartment after work that night, having been invited over to smoke a few joints and to toot a few lines. Dennis is one of the waiters at the Jacaranda, and as with many of the restaurant’s other waiters, he belongs to the succeeding new wave of their rock n roll generation; a successive new wave with its own mix of rock n roll values, conservatism, and a pretty hard faced set of love-time rules. Dennis is from Michigan, having been in town for a year or more. And he is as true to his racial strain of seafaring Angles and Saxons, as brooding, as dark in the eyes and heavy in the brows, as that other North Country woodsman might have been, the famous slayer of bulls and big game hunter. Maybe it is just in the way Dennis could sit at the bar after work, so unnaturally at rest it almost seems, or in the heavy steps he can take from the kitchen to dining room table, as if rushing from out of another marauding long boat. Richard felt for the turmoil that seems to be going on inside another young friend. It is as if Dennis simmers over a molten core of anger that could as easily swallow him up as it could spill over the head of some hapless neighbor.

But Sean was there, that night, and sitting in a circle with a half-dozen other people Richard didn’t know. They had just prepared to smoke the two or three jays already rolled up when Richard arrived, and to ease themselves up to the lines drawn on the table in front of them. Dennis was also preparing to feed the snake he keeps in an aquarium, and emerald boa nicely curled up around itself in its glass house. Richard recognized some of the boy-men sitting in the circle. They were surfers he has seen travelling from one set of waves to the next along the beach; or waiting out the spells, up in the white sand, when the surf was not breaking. Technicians of movement is how he thinks of them. Artisans skilled in the technique of keeping to the variable planes, and movable curvatures, of a wave. And they were sitting as self-confidently as surfers always do, as self-confident as technicians always are, having mastered their particular slant on reality. There were also two young women in the circle who are students at the local private college.

As Richard was being drawn into the circle, and as a first ganja stick got lit, Dennis had been selecting a pink nosed mouse from out of a shoe box. He held it in the hollow of his hands and he was smoothing back its white fur. In the shaded light of the living room the boa must have sensed something of the quivering energy coming her way, as she slowly began to unwind the length of her shiny self. It was then Richard noticed she had an open, ragged wound midway back on her belly. He asked Dennis about the wound that looked to be festering. Dennis said that, during the last cold snap, when she was too thoroughly drawn up into herself, a rat found its way into her house. It had eaten that much out of her by the time Dennis came home from work, surprising it and killing it. But the sweetening jay was already placed in Richard’s hand by then, and he was half-way forgetting about so ugly a wound. Neither did he notice the queasy feeling rising up in him. He was beginning to feel like some liaison from night times past, and starting to remember how it once had been. And with the first lungful of smoky sensations rising through him, having already snooted a pencil line toot, he began to attend to the conversations ebbing and flowing through the room.

It was from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli a new night time’s fire breathing conversation was carrying them, while stopping at various stations along the way. And so here they were in the afterhours of some darkened living room, taking of substances as illegal as they had been twenty years before, nurtured on the musical forms of a rock n roll expression mostly staying true to its, originally, youthful rebelliousness, and talking like so many cadets preparing themselves for their first parade in review. The wires must have got crossed somewhere, is all that Richard could figure. There must have been a short-circuiting somewhere in the network of time patching them into what went down not all that long ago. Or was it something else, Richard asks himself, and sitting back in Tara’s? Is there some other ripening seed looking to push its way through the cracked day-ground of so much idle young time? It is some part of what they silently said that night, and Richard still not certain if he wants to acknowledge what he heard, but that was never said. He also remembers hearing the ghostly sound of hooves clopping through the room.

One of the surfer boys had been talking about war, maybe without knowing it was what he was conjuring up. He said that we, whoever we are, need to teach some madman in the Middle East a lesson. But a madman, Richard was thinking, is anyone who has too thoroughly persuaded himself he is right. And so Richard was not all that certain who, in particular, the boy-man was talking about. Then he said he was ready to kick some ass. And it was the silent language of his excitement Richard then felt rippling through the room, filling up so many upturned vessels in an excitable room. It might have been what inspired one of the young students to say as how she had recently been interviewed by a government man. Without thinking, Richard was about to ask what kind of subversive activity she could be involved in in such a small school, and in such a year of complacency. But then she added she wanted to put her Spanish studies to good use and become a translator for the CIA. Richard started to think a joke was being played in there, but he could still hear those ghostly hooves coming through. He looked for a little anchoring in Sean’s face. But he found, instead, his friend had retreated to a place beyond where he could find him. It was only when Dennis, having just dropped a white mouse into an emerald boa’s glass house, started extolling the virtues of something called trickle down economics, and how maybe a little wartime excitement could be good for the restaurant business, that Richard became aware of the nausea gaining on him. It felt like a magic circle was broken into, as if a smoky and almost sacred place was entered into by a dominating type of behavior having no business there; while an emerald boa brought herself around to the delicacy offered to her. Her head was swaying by then, and she moved along the straw floor of her home without seeming to move. The points of her tongue teased her into entering the spatial texture of what was in front of her, and the mouse made no attempt to leave the corner where it had been dropped. Richard could feel how he was wholly inside the sickness coming up from behind. And he decided he would rather break the circle of their late night gathering than keep on watching even so small a director’s play in which they were all spectators up on the stage where another life line gets cut for their itchy amusement. When he reached the door of Dennis’s apartment he turned around to say goodnight. But no one noticed the alteration in their company. It was as if he had long ago been let go of night times past. Even Sean was given over to a lovely pair of snake eyes. As Richard left Dennis’s place, looking to find a bay front breeze to free him of the vertigo hanging over, the only sense he could make of so many confused impressions, like a pot of heated up atoms randomly bombarding each other, was to guess it was what they were wanting. This being what he saw focused again, tonight, and for all the world to see on a bar room screen. Somebody, somewhere, is saddling the warhorse again, and it is what they all want. All it needs is for some ghostly rider to come along, some Lord of Darkness, to carry so many gray and waiting soldiers over a shallow river bend of the imagination, and into the sunny fields and sea lanes of wartime adventure.
Dec/24/2010, 6:49 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Open Faces Two



It is hard to say how long the night’s band has been up on the stage by now, playing their blue grass strains of music so far from home. It always will be mountain music rushing headlong, as it can, through valleys of time. And the music always seems like it is calling for some shimmering lady of light who maybe waits just over a mountain’s ridge; who also waits to be called down as night falls into a much closer adventure. But maybe here, by the ocean, it is a music that mostly falls on indifferent ears. The customers sitting in Tara’s, tonight, keep to their tables, their conversations, and to their own chosen tide pools. Or is there some other influence crossing the room? Some other crossing current cutting between them, and making of them so many island tables in a bar room’s archipelago? Richard has heard before how the banjo boy who leads the band can take this room and turn it to rushing along as if it is a mountain stream heading for some shaded pool of secrecy. Even here, by the sea, where the mountains are so far away, and where a banjo’s twang cannot make for itself an answering echo in the hollers. Things are somehow different tonight. And there the look of recognition on the banjo boy’s face that comes when a music man knows he has no sympathetic pool to draw on; when all he can hope for is to draw on the money he will be paid. The drunken boats that can aimlessly go through the room are starting to bump about, having already resolved themselves to a night of uneasy sailing. The several Nam vets that regularly keep in here are variously retreating inside personal plates of armor. There are also the outside ladies of rock n roll, the fulling ladies of a musical time who, tonight, are looking over their shoulders suspiciously. They’ll probably stay to finish their first drink and then go home, having learned long ago there is nothing you can do with a night proceeding out of tune. It’s what is happening. No point in lying about it. Some moon-faced loveliness has been eclipsed in the oceanic swirl of rock n roll time, and the tide, tonight, runs against them. There would be nothing to dissolve the nightmare images of warhorses, and of spectator pleasures, before it is time to be going home. And it is what they are wanting, Richard thinks again, these younger ones waiting on their side of a shallow river bend. Or, at least, some of them. And what are the arguments that have ever dissuaded so nameless a desire as what can propel boy-men into fields of fire? Would they ever really lose their taste for shedding the blood of another bull?

Richard has been half-listening to Hugh’s voice coming through the window leading onto the porch. He can tell who it belongs to by the softer vowels, coming from out of the West Indies, that rounded out the childhood of this sailor man. Richard figures, by how the man’s voice slowly rises and then quickly falls back, that Hugh has probably been arguing another measured point of his favorite dissertation. Which dissertation, if he were ever to give it a name, would have to be the Madness of Nations. There is no telling what international crisis, affair, or conflict might have hold of Hugh’s untiring incredulity this time. And, quite possibly, it is little more than a footnote on some half-told truth of realpolitik, since, Hugh is particularly sharp at cutting away the illusions self-centered powers project. Or maybe it is another tale of world-historical irony, some incident of ignoble means used to secure a sacred cow’s end that he has witnessed, and that he is using to underscore the madness of his thesis. Richard figures Hugh has witnessed a few, as he once was a peace keeping warrior. In Suez, On Cypress, and inside Palestine were places Richard knows about. And he wondered about other, less peacefully intended adventures, such as shipping arms into Angola. And Hugh, one night, confirmed, without knowing what he was doing, what Richard has for long suspected: that the whole warhorse show being played inside a global village is still little better than the drama of tribal teams looking to plant their totems inside each other’s zones of safety. An upscaled version, maybe. Certainly a bloody game, and, for modern losers, one that gets played for keeps. And it is the underlying sense of adventure Hugh naively voiced, the quickening sense of being rushed along inside a stream he hadn’t had to think about, that slipped out from behind the overlapping outrage he still feels towards the ritual slaughter attending on modern warfare. Thus the reason why Hugh could take his thesis so personally. On the far side of fifty he is still trying to face the problem of youth’s voices. And it seemed that, tonight, something is upsetting Hugh’s delicate balance even more than usual. That the voice being carried through the room curled with something like despair. Maybe Hugh is particularly needing to get back out to sea, to be again in steadier currents, and the less exacting storms, of the elemental sea. Or maybe he is feeling what Richard has sensed through most of the evening, that some uncontrollable and ass eared instinct is coming through Tara’s room and leaving them all to their own puny measures of self-defense. All Richard can tell for sure is in what Hugh said before coming through the door to call for a cab. – Gen tlemen, doo to tek nickel diffacaulties beyaand our controll, we cannaught ahgree. Goodnight. - Then Hugh comes through the door carrying a plastic pink flamingo with a nation’s red, white, and blue banner sticking out from that place where the sun never naturally shines. Seeing him is enough to persuade Richard to hang the night up too, to let go of electronically transmitted images that can easily throw themselves inside a room.


Dec/25/2010, 12:07 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 




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