Category Archives: change

The Precipice by Matt Carlson

Elledge stood there : once again. On the precipice. The precipice of making a decision. The precipice of what was important in his life. He had looked up, he had looked down; he had looked all around. Had he missed something? Because to make the best possible decision, one had to have the key elements in hand. He knew that. But if part of the equation were the people he cared about – where were they? And if he knew where they were, why were they acting the way that they did? Maybe his ‘carrier-pigeon mentality’ hadn’t been the best method, you know: the returning to the places of life before… To see ‘it’ again and look it straight in the eye  – to talk to it even, just to make sure that they recognized each other. The problem was that no one spoke, or was even available to have an eventual conversation. It was: “I’m so busy. I’ll call you.” The phone calls never came.

Then he remembered an old concept that he had held close to his heart (and head) in his dating days : when you start playing the guessing game in your head about what’s in someone else’s head, that usually means the person is not direct, is complicated,  not a good communicator, or absent because they want to be and or DO NOT WANT TO SHARE in the way that you need them to share. So ‘bye bye baby, bye-bye’ (Madonna song refrain…)

The little brother incident had been an emotional blow. While there, he had known being in their home was a potential ‘bomb’ of sorts,  he hadn’t known what the missing pieces were. Now in retrospect, he understood them. His psychiatrist had pointed out the abandoned Father issues that dominated in that household – that Elledge couldn’t have done anything about it even if he had wanted to. That all potential Father symbols had to be destroyed ! Elledge hadn’t  thought of any of those things – though he had considered the father role he had played – still a child himself- with his little brother many years ago: a poor substitute perhaps, but it had been a loving one.

Arriving in California, he was on a life trip while there – still was in fact though now back in Paris – and the people facing him had been on a completely different roller coaster ride. There was finally no ‘meeting of the minds’ so to speak. For that, there had to be openings in peoples heads, the desire to be open to something new, to have conversations together. Instead, there had been ‘people too busy,’ defensiveness, parody, moodiness and recriminations – games within games. Even lying. There were false smiles and “Awesome!” this and “Awesome !” that; followed up with “Your the boss!” But when a miscommunication happened it was, ” You’re a mother-fucking-liar” and “I’ll never trust you again!” with “Why did you do that?” Elledge was still waiting for an answer from an email in May, a sent birthday card and postcards sent over the summer. But no, he had been killed off. His Father symbol was now dead to them. Back then he’s been told by his little brother, “People in the states don’t answer emails!”

The other brothers and their absences too were confounding to him. But maybe that shouldn’t have been so surprising concerning the past.  Elledge had some gaps in his memory and distance did play a role too – still he was very disappointed. He’d truly wanted to connect with his brothers again and on a close level.  but he supposed, that in order for them to understand the efforts taken to return, one had to have ‘sat upon the subject’ a bit, to mull it over and consider those steps necessary for a trip like that; to care enough about someone else –  your brother – and what that meant to you. And if it meant something then you would do something about it, right? Like jump on a plane and go and see him, or if you were in the same city, run over and see him, right?  If not, you wouldn’t have done any considering at all just, “Oh, he’s coming back?…Why? I hope it works out for him..”(end of story ).

The good side to his visit upon returning to his ‘roots’ had been connecting with his nephews and niece, three of his cousins …and some nice virtual messaging with at least one of his second cousins. And he had made a friend or two, gotten to see his best friend in Washington and her family. There were connections with her family too – that was all very nice….

But still, what to do? Which city would he return to? Or maybe it would  be a new place? New faces? And more importantly the ‘what to do’ with ones life was actually secondary to the ‘why’ we do something…Hmm, maybe it was time to develop that ‘why’ question….

 

 

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Fresno Times Chronicles by matt carlson

Lily Bean – (Part 2) by matt carlson

The children had been manic that day, so had she. They’d laughed and sang : giggling like crazy! Such a fun day at the San Francisco Wharf last March. They’d eaten fried fish and chips, sodas and cotten candy. They’s walked along the water (Lily more slowly due to her increasing weight) and watched the seals play on the rocks down below. The boat trip to Alcatraz so scarey  too – and beautiful. Now it seemed  so long ago.

Patsie Bean, 14 her overweight daughter was still at home, the spitting image of a younger Amie Winehouse but without the drug problems. She was a sensitive girl, an artist. Open to the world, but only on her termes. She was reclusive in nature, an introvert most of the time and tried as best she could to deal with the world. Her new bedroom at Creek Haven in Fresno California was a protected space, her ‘away space’. she loved stealing away Snickers bars and Gummy Bears in her secret drawer of delights.

Her skinny, pot smoking  younger brother Bernie was in Juvenile Hall. He was 17 going on 30. Already a Father to two little girls who lived with their mother hidden away in Dinuba. He hadn’t met them yet, hadn’t told his own Mother about it either. He felt shame. Adding to the growing list of problems, his stay in Juvenile Hall wasn’t all wine and roses. He’d been picked up for stealing a second car and was paying the price.  Plus he had had marajuana on him when the police arrested him.

Lily sat at her small table in the den, munching on a Gummy Bears (her favorite along with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) while looking out the window towards the courtyard. She scratched her left arm while watching a young mother play with her daughter. It was a special moment for them and while observing the two was thrown back again into her past, when raising her young children had been fun. It wasn’t the case anymore, aside from Patsie of course. Patsie was her rock. So solid that girl. They’d developped a close relationship, much more like  two best friends than daughter and mother.

She ran her fingers through her brown hair and remembered her very short ex-husband Bill with his wavey brown hair; he too had been a part of that little family once upon a time. They had grown apart, wanting different things. He had suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder – this had created an enormous division between them as well.  She had sincerely tried to help him up to a certain point, but to no avail. His being almost dwarf-like had pleased her, at times she could imagine he was her little boy as they walked the aisles of the grocery store. But he had been all man in bed, his endowment below the waist making up for any short stature elsewhere. ..

Besides being alone suited her best. She liked being single. She could just fart in bed when she wanted, instead of leaving the room with a pretext and having to pass gas down the hallway. That and nobody stole her candy or raided her prized refrigerator. It was a european brand called SuperCOLD 5000 and she had gone through a lot of trouble to get it here in California. That was partly thanks to her husband who still sold appliances and had contacts over there. She smiled to herself while looking dreamily at her beloved grey shiney colored refrigerator and its unusual cucumber shaped door handle…With a sigh she breifly remembered Bill’s below the waist attributes…

Suddenly, she briskly pulled a package of hair color out of her purse:  was she really gonna become a blond? Ted had often asked her to do it – now she would do it just for herself. Now that ‘Tampon Ted’ was out of her emotional picture, she could be herself again. She still missed his long blond curls; loved playing with it, brushing it. He had wanted something more from her, something that she was unable to give. Now she wanted to answer that eternal question : ‘Do blonds really have more fun?’ by herself. Patsie would of course, be her hair assistant.

“It looks great on you! I can’t believe it,” claimed her daughter. “You look soooo different!” Her eyes bugged out of her head, her mom really did look terrific.

“Really? You’re not just saying that are you?” Asked Lily. She looked in the mirror, squinted hard at her reflection in the mirror. She kind of liked it, kind of didn’t. But she was going for different and different it was! She smiled at herself, “You’re right it does look pretty good.” Now if only I could get rid of these 20 extra pounds on my ass! They laughed in unison. Mother and daughter where a bit chunky, both with consequential behinds – very popular with black men….

She stood up and looked at herself fully in the hallway dressing mirror, Patsie standing next to her, twin-like, one blond, one dark haired. They laughed together at their image. These little moments were what life was all about.

 

“BE HERE” & Life At Le Pin Pastèque

BE HERE  (& Life At Le Pin Pastèque)

by mATT cARLSON

May 19th, 2014. Approximately day 3,328 at Le Pin Pastèque (the watermelon pine tree) in the south of France.

It was a blustery day: the wind rattled so much that even the screws safely secured in wooden posts trembled. Branches bended & leaves sang. Squirrels and birds huddled safely in their nests; cats in their country hotels slept, dogs too on their masters or mistresses beds. Outside hanging on the home made wall of a wooden veranda – a small square mirror. It had been rescued from the trash. Tiny red tiles framed it – though a few were missing. It went “bang, bang” and then “scrape, scrape” :  a  dance of wind & an old mirror.

A large grey  barrel sat on the dirt nearby pushed up against the wall beneath the mirror. “Gloup, gloup, gloup,” went drops of rain into the barrel. The wind had freed the drops from their pine needle prison on the plastic roof. There were always a lot of pine needles on that roof.

The barrel didn’t mind more drops joining the party, it just sat there full of water. As a matter of fact, the barrel didn’t think at all: it was only a container – left there in that exact spot to collect rain water. But it was steadfast sitting and a comforting sight. The ensemble : an outside bathroom of sorts. There was an old iron brasserie stem too (next to the barrel) used as a small table, though the marble had been broken long ago, with enough room to put a glass and a few tooth brushes. Tooth brushes that were now laying in the dirt.

With the television off, I could attend my ears to those sounds around me. An instant ago, they had been mere background noises, but now I could hear them. Joining the mirror dance, the thin door of the laundry room banged too as the machine inside shook my clothes angrily in its ever revolving mouth of plastic and steel. Outside: waves of air rolling, twisting & crashing into inanimate objects. A dog barked in the distance. Someone whistled.

Each time a new noise sounded, Foebbe and Fender (2 white Jack Russel’s) jumped down from the couch and ran to the glass front door. They jumped onto it excitedly with their front paws or in realizing an absence of anything worth discovering, would return to lie down, each in separate corners. “Of course”.

I took a deep breath. Aside from the dogs, I was alone. Of course Truc (Thing) the cat was there and the fish in the pond, but for all practical purposes, I was alone. And I desperately wanted to bring myself back to me! Back to my own thoughts – not those that were once again clamoring at my brain’s doorstep. Those were NOT my thoughts.

It was as if I wanted to read a book, but instead of the first page of a book I’d chosen, there were 1st pages of other books opening at the same time in my mind. Books from other people. “Read this one!” They yelled simultaneously, or almost. Similar to one door opening and suddenly shifting into perspective:  another door! Way the fuck too many doors- or books! I took a deep breath and with impatience yelled at the dogs to go and lie down again.

“Breath in deeply,” I told myself. “Count to four.” Wait four seconds. “Exhale,” and I did while still counting “1, 2, 3, 4″… There was no need to be anywhere. I mean, I didn’t have any obligations outside of the house, the animals, taking care of the home front kind of stuff. O had left a couple of months earlier and I had had little news.

Today I would just try and exist. To breath. To listen to the wind. I would not even try to focus on that first page of any book. I would not sing. I would not write. I would not try to figure anything out.  I would just sit here with Foebbe and Fender. Together we would listen to the wind.

“Be here,” I said .

mATT cARLSON

Change In The Air at The Château de La Reine Blanche by Matt Carlson

Cars sped by on the cobble stoned road. People ran around inside the Rene La Gall Square in their jogging clothes & earphones. Gelledge with slumber in his eyes, similar to having a sleeping bag on his head, walked around & outside of the square. It was chilly early morning: the leaves already carpeting the dirt  but mostly cement floors. His two small off leash dogs sniffed and peed alongside while visiting the row of trees on the outside of the square. Inside the park, two men were holding canon-like devices and blowing leaves and other debris off into a corner. The noise was annoying to say the least.

A woman with large breasts and a large basset hound walked by smiling at the two small white dogs. The three dogs stopped, sniffed butts, each taking a pee, then went away from each other – apparently there wasn’t much to communicate today. The woman wished Gelledge a nice day and walked off – her breasts rising as she did so. Gelledge spoke briefly to a pleasant man in black while their dogs made acquaintance with one another: this time a beige blind Pug.

Back at Le Château, Patches lay in bed half asleep,  knowing that someone would be coming soon to get her up. She had as usual, peed on herself during the night but the huge diaper with double protection absorbed most of it. She didn’t really care about things like that any more. Her brain was on a defensive roll. It kept her from realizing what a horrendous state she was in, constantly keeping her from seeing the hard reality that was.

A few weeks ago she had stated to Gelledge who rented her alcove, “I’m thinking about getting an electric car subscription…” Gelledge had looked at her with mild surprise. “You do realize that you are in a wheel chair and that you can barely use your right hand to stuff food in your mouth, right?” There was a pause. “I don’t wanna break your bubble, but you know that’s impossible right?”

It was brutal perhaps, but with everything in perspective, it was only very honest. Patches was ‘out of her hat’ so to speak and no one was saying anything. She spent her days, from the time getting up until going to bed in conflict with everyone around her. Unfortunately, her mouth& tongue still worked – not very well but enough to piss everyone and the queen of England off, so to speak.

If it wasn’t “Merde, merde, merde,” it was “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” or telling the poor cat  named Bat-cat, “Get down Bat-cat, down, down…,” from where ever the cat was. Or it was “No, Bat-cat, no, no Bat-cat!” and so on. Or she would make phone calls, which sounded always the same: “Phuckett. P-H-U-C-K-E-T-T…my number is….” It was always about an order for something, pills, diapers, clothes… And often times the person on the other line had a hard time understanding what she was saying. During the day as she had nothing to do but eat, go to the toilet and make green stools and piss (she did that a lot) she tried to tell people what to do & constantly. Needless to say, the hired help (mostly paid through the social system) were always leaving. No one could put with her for very long…And in Patches’ mind, all was well. She refused to see her true state of ineptitude on all levels. In her mind she was still designing rocket engines to go into space and the people picking up or cleaning her inert body were secretaries, assistant engineers or associates of the firm.

Brandon, her live in helper was also at the end of his rope. He could hardly speak civil like to her any more; and it was rubbing off in other directions and onto other people. His self imposed 24/7 enclosure in his bedroom was getting to him – that and no girls! Yes, all work and no play was not healthy and the word work wasn’t so easy to define anymore either. He felt like he was always working, but in truth he was unfocused. Nothing was really getting accomplished. Dealing with Patches just made things worse.

And Mahta, the tall, beautiful black as night Camorian had left the fold, or rather had been fired months before. She hadn’t told him about the baby. a little baby Brandon of sorts, named Ahmed jr.

Maybe if he’s known that he’d had a son, life would be very different. Patches yelled from downstairs, “Rob, wil yi tk mo t th tlet pleeze..?” It was hard to decipher what she was asking, but he knew. He waited for the phone to ring, the answering machine to pick up, then finished reading his article before going downstairs.

Morning Dog Walk in Paris

Morning Dog Walk in Paris

Part of the Paris Time Stories in progress

By Matt Carlson

Olaf, a mix breed of Scottish terrier and King Charles stood 70 centimetres tall on his four brown paws, while pulling on his leash. His owners Chloe and Albert were taking him out on his morning walk in the light rain; at this precise moment they were at the corner of Arago Boulevard and Cordeliers in the 13th quarter in Paris. He could see the two little white Jack Russells coming towards them and strained to get to them faster.

“Good morning”, they said to the trio arriving at the same tree: one of many ‘pee-pee tree-areas’ aligned in a row along this section of the street. Foebbe (after Phoebbe Bouffay from the TV series Friends) and Fender (after the famous guitar) were accompanied by their ‘two- footer’ Elledge, a recently arrived American.

“Good morning”, was the reply. The 3 dogs sniffed in constant motion, trying to get the best nose to butt-hole position. Those butts had a lot of interesting information.

Chloe and Albert were retired flight attendants from Air France, had travelled extensively and loved America and Japan.

“We love Los Angeles”, they said practically in unison. Chloe continued, “For thirty years we flew back and forth, especially LA, we just love it. Monica Beach, Newport”… She fluffed her blond bangs with her manicured fingertips, eyes reflecting genuine kindness and curiosity.

Albert continued, “We’d move there if we could, people are so much nicer. In ’83 we did the marathon in New York: people were cheering us on  it was wonderful. Here, we did one and people were like: ‘what are you doing that for?'”

They guffawed while looking at each other, smiling at the memory.

Elledge had a hard time imagining them even walking fast as they were quite hefty, especially Albert who seemed to be battling to keep his tummy inside a stained t-shirt. Chloe was nicely dressed, but there was something mysteriously undone about her. Elledge quickly dismissed the thought – it wasn’t the time to analyse.

She continued, “We love Japan too. We went there all the time; I even studied the language”.

Elledge was only half awake. The cat, Ninja from the apartment had awakened him and the dogs early in the morning. What had it been doing exactly he didn’t know (a lot of strange noises from clawing inside her cat box to knocking things over) but certainly it had been trying to awaken everyone in order to get fed and be tended to.

“Thats nice”,  he said. “I’ve never been to Japan”.

The conversation carried on as Foebbe and Fender did their business while Elledge (already  an expert in the art of picking up dog-doo) quickly rolled excrement into a small plastic sandwich bag and dropped it into a nearby trash container.

The conversation would have lasted longer, but the two Jacks sought to be picked up and held, a sign that that they were cold.

It all ended up with more smiles and tugged leases, mostly for Olaf who wanted to stay with his new friends. Chloe too, though she said nothing about it longed for adventure, anything that would take her out of a monotonous life; she would have preferred to keep chatting with the stranger from the states. Thats why she had loved being a stewardess: one was always moving around and meeting new people, doing new things, visiting new countries. Today her life was at a standstill.

Moving off in opposite directions, it had been a typical dog walking moment in Paris, or any where for that matter. Dogs were that safe space and commonality that allowed total strangers to speak to one another, to break the ice. Chloe hoped that they would meet up again as did Albert – the chances were good as they all lived in the same neighbourhood.

Chloe’s life nowadays revolved around going shopping for groceries, doctors appointments, walking the dog three times a day and of course, taking care of Albert, her husband who was becoming needier all the time. She loved him and doing repetitive chores was no big deal, but there had to be something else in her life. Before everything rotated around work schedules, flights to exciting countries (even though most of the time she only passed through  maybe even just for the weekend), sometimes that was enough: a whiff of a new culture, a different language, that unknown something that added spice to your life. She had never known what that element was per se; she had never allowed herself to think about those things very much. It was easier to accept the status quo in life, follow the flow. She just knew that she needed change, regular change.

“I want to stop at the pharmacy  my allergies are acting up again – it must be the chestnut trees in bloom”.  Albert said and sneezed inadvertently adding to his case. Chloe bent down with a doubled Kleenex and swiftly confiscated Olafs newly born stool lying there on the sidewalk. The dog excitedly back peddled his back legs as if on a skateboard, happy to be rid of last nights digested pâté with rice. Albert and Chloe laughed lightly at the sight shaking their heads – humans never did that after a good bowel movement. Maybe it was worth a try.

The light drizzle suddenly became a hard rain as they hurriedly reached the Argo Pharmacy on Arago Boulevard; Albert, always the gentleman quickly opened the door for his wife and Olaf. Chloe was thinking she wished she’d brought her umbrella for the occasion as she pulled a hanky out of her purse and did a quick look over of face & make up in the pharmacys mirror. No damage done, but then who was looking? While her husband chatted with the pharmacist (a common friend) she looked over the new organic section of products. Maybe there was an answer here, perhaps she could get back into shape and lose weight. It certainly couldnt do any harm! She’d never been one to do diets or dieting. Once she had put on weight, she had accepted it. Her husband was the first to get fat and in time she began sharing his newly found couch-potato antics with Pringles, salted nuts, sodas (to sweeten up a salted throat) special sauces with increasing amounts of meat, breads, pastas, finishing up with ice cream and patisseries. And she did love her vanilla ice cream with strawberries for dessert. Every night.

It had all been so easy, letting the walls of healthy eating habits fall down to the ground, so to speak, and with that Pandoras box of eating freefall, a new inner tube of fat had surrounded her waist, her thighs, adding to her already round buttocks. Even her feet seemed to have put on weight.