I have appointments that I must keep with my past"--Bill Nelson
Tonight the AM radio commentator belted out xenophobia with a fervency that would have done Father Coughlin proud. But he was just a prelude to a dial-changing for me. I feel perpetually as though twelve factoids consume all my media outlets. I have heard that in Hell, one must watch Fox News, and in the deepest circle, the programming is all news commentary.
I'm seeking my share of mental escapes from the mix of banality and poignance in which I find myself immersed. I've said my twelve words of peace and militancy. Now I'm casting back through my mind for memories--happy and sad--things which rouse my thoughts from talking heads who feign surprise when major military assaults result in lives lost on both sides, or who debate the Geneva Convention's terms, but never debate the Golden Rule.
I remember walking out to my Oldsmobile Omega, on cool Summer nights, whereupon the woman about whom I then dreamed sat on a giant-life-size driveway border rock, and her long hair blew gently in the breeze, a prelude to a long, fervent session of goodbye kiss.
I remember limping my brother's well-used Porsche 914, a Volkswagen disguised as a Porsche, more or less, as its electrical system gave way every fifty miles on a drive from Orlando, Florida to southern Arkansas. I must have met every mechanic in four states.
I remember regularly driving all night with a platonic female friend, talking about the meaning of life, and listening to Young Americans, touching souls but never lips. It's not true that you have to sleep with someone to really know her.
I remember working a Summer job at an industrial park, mowing missile silos, grinding gunpowder in an antiquated powder mill. One man on the crew had to pour water from the waterhose onto the grinder, or the whole apparatus would dry, and explode. "Remember when Peter broke his leg jumping off that tower?", the old hands would fondly remember, and laugh.
I remember being in a baseball camp in Chandler, Oklahoma, reading a day old newspaper in the cafeteria, which described a hurricane named Camille, many miles away.
I remember slow dancing to "Pieces of April". I remember standing on the wall, sans partner, to so many disco songs.
I remember reading Solzhenitsyn's "First Circle" in high school, and appreciating, just a bit, what our American dream should be, but for our complacency. I remember seeing Bertolucci's "The Conformist", and walking alone at midnight on a dark, cold, night, hearing my shoes clank against the pavement like boots.
I remember Sunday mornings wandering London in my dress suit, ostensibly hunting a Methodist church, but actually hunting new sights, new experiences.
I remember a used bookstore in Little Rock in which the books were buried in no particular order, so that every shopping trip was like searching for literally buried treasure.
I remember a German teacher in college who cluelessly imagined it was somehow endearing for her to say "Ich kaufe marijuana" as a tutorial. I remember a college course in science fiction, using the short story collection Dangerous Visions as a textbook. I remember in Chaucer class, intoning the Canterbury Tales with Middle English pronunciation.
I remember when my childhood friend Chris T. was killed during a training mission; his dream to fly helicopters was fulfilled. I remember Anthony F., who used to play chess before school in the same biology classroom where I played chess before school. He used to like to disrupt my game by throwing paper wads at the pieces. He later turned out to be a nice guy, until he was killed in a convenience store robbery. I remember the 9th grader we all teased, because she was so caustic and difficult, until she went home and killed herself with a shotgun.
I remember life before September 11, and it was filled with chance and circumstance, and someday I feel that I will live that life again, but not soon.