Gone South

Groovy art by an unnamed Cooper Middle School student in a public display.
Groovy art by an unnamed Cooper Middle School student in a public display.

They took everything. Paperback books I’d read with heavily creased spines. Frying pans. The cutlery I understood, and the mysterious and profound ladles and paring knives I could never master putting away properly. Books I’d meant to read and still might. Pictures on walls of thinner, younger people we had been. Books I’d meant to read and never would. A soccer ball I’d only kicked twice. They shoved all of it into a parade of boxes that drifted out the door and around a corner and down a large service elevator and into a moving truck.

I looked into the space that had been our lives for two years in New York City. It seemed smaller with everything gone. Like the universe collapsing on itself. When you take every stick of furniture out of an apartment, you would think the apartment would seem larger. But that apartment shrunk to the size of a small walk-in closet. Did we take turns breathing in there? How did we manage it? I couldn’t figure it out.

Because we’d been living in an apartment the size of a walk-in closet for two years, we had a small storage facility. It was filled with boxes of stuff we didn’t need but couldn’t bear to surrender. Somewhere in there were some rolls of film on disposable cameras that will never be developed. About seven journals I started to keep and stopped keeping. About 25 empty plastic bins that I was once sure I had to have.

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Gone South

Civil War blues

President Abraham Lincoln and the missus.
President Abraham Lincoln and the missus.

The Union Army wants me. I’m not fit for battle. Past a reasonable age of recruitment. Never shot a gun except in summer camp as a child when I sent BB’s toward their mark on a little outdoor firing range at Camp Eagle Feather. Have marginal camping skills at best. And my loyalties would be deeply suspect due to family history.

The man in the replica blue uniform fresh from a battle reenactment in northern Virginia doesn’t know my great great grandfather on my mother’s side fought for the South. He just notices my quirky interest in the scene and hands me his card. “We’re always looking for new recruits,” he says.

If you are looking for Civil War sites and battle re-enactments, moving to Virginia is a great idea. The state is chock full of well documented battle sites. A strange impulse compelled me to come to Fort Ward in Alexandria. I wanted to witness something spectacular. I wanted to understand what it felt like to be at war. The guns blazing in the fog of war, the horrible dying and all of that.

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Civil War blues

Ground Control to Major Tom

Great artwork by an unknown local high school student posted in a public display.
Great artwork by an unknown local high school student posted in a public display.

I’m in limbo. Moving. Not yet moved. Leaving. Not yet gone. In the serene and maddening in-between. An outer space of no-particular-place-to-go and a life-about-to-start in a new place. We’re smack dab in the middle of a move from New York City to northern Virginia on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The One Train has not left the station. But. It’s definitely in transit.

The differences between suburban northern Virginia and living Downtown in New York City are vast and mind-blowing. It was liberating when we moved to New York City to shed our car. No more paying for gas. I’d left the monotony of driving behind. The subway would take me anywhere I wanted to go. And I truly loved riding it. I was pretty sure me riding the subway would single-handedly save the environment. But that was two years and a thousand subway rides ago.

Although I’ve come to enjoy writing and reading poetry, I cringed when a vagabond poet panhandler unleashed his wayward verse on the 4 Train. I also don’t miss the stench of urine the swept up as a fragrant backwash to departing R trains on the platform while waiting for the D train to Brooklyn. I’ve scanned the empty tracks in vain waiting for subways and peered toward the distant horizon for an elusive crosstown bus on 42nd Street.

After feeling trapped, stymied and stalled on the island of Manhattan, I like being able to drive around again on my own schedule anywhere I please anytime I want.

Continue reading “Ground Control to Major Tom”

Ground Control to Major Tom