Monthly Archives: September 2013


A phalanx of phlebotomists is a sobering sight before breakfast. Five black women await five white men. They will draw our blood to sample the ore for impurity and excess. The chief steps forwards and reads from the list, “Mike, Mark, Randy…Randy?” Mike and Mark jump up and go, pairing off with purple scrubbed technicians to room one, room two, room–“Randy?” Randy just sits there. He appears overwhelmed by this efficiency. He says to the chief, “I’m Randy.” “Then why aren’t you moving?” She replies. Her tone puts the spurs to him and off he goes for a little pre-prandial desanguination.

I mumble to the man next to me, “I’m going to be ready when she calls my–” Juancho?” Yes Ma’am!” “Room Three, no Four, it looks like Randy still can’t get it together. Right here sir”, and she leads Randy by the elbow to a chair where his steward is already posed with a needle.

Mark was red-faced and cursing at the television when I sat down. “Eight years of this shit.” He fumes at the screen, talking of a government shutdown. “Eight years of this bullshit!” Mark’s blood sugar is going to run high with an attitude like that, and his lipid panel is going to be off the charts. I take a few deep breaths and try to will my blood to comply, to bring me back good news, but I’m concerned. Not enough lazy days and hunger to keep my blood clean, so there is bound to be some evidence of lifestyle, of progress, of success to scare the wits out of me.

The chief is going to handle me personally, and I try to soften her up with a good morning, and how was your weekend. “Fine.” She says, too professional to ignore me, and too professional to not process me quickly. She will draw the blood of dozens today, and it does not appear that she dislikes the task. She grabs my right hand and turns my forearm up, then snaps a rubber tie beneath my bicep. Patting my vein to bring it up she asks, “You okay?” and I wonder why she asks.

“Sure.” I say with a dismissive wave of my unbled hand, “take what you need there’s plenty.”

The pinch of the needle, the release of the tourniquet, and the tap flows a rich red, telling all of my secrets.


Open Doors

I accidentally looked past fall and saw the grey wet skies of winter.  In a flash of memory I tasted a  hot sip of coffee I drank a few thousand miles from here, and even further away when measured by sips of coffee tasted since.  I slurped that hot sip in with a rush of cooling air across the roof of my mouth, and burbled it like a sommelier, but I was just a prep cook in a pair of forgotten pants and a blue plaid shirt.  I remember that shirt for the polyester quilting inside that made it warmer than it looked.  That shirt is long gone and lost, although I do remember it making it back across the Mississippi river with me.

Why this memory here?  Why now, as I gun the van into Monday morning traffic on a narrow canopy road in town, the same grey sky as ten thousand sips ago? the air just as thick and claustrophobia inducing, but 30 degrees warmer.  That cold wet air kept outside my blue plaid shirt just as long gone as the shirt itself.

Maybe there is something important to remember about that morning?  Too bad I have so few clues to go on.  I sip this morning’s coffee, the push pot said Chiapas, and the phrase the blood of the peasants, runs through my thoughts.  It is the blood of the peasants that makes it taste so rich.  Were those words that I spoke that morning a river of coffee ago?  Did I overhear it?

This seems to be a significant detail, so I put it in my sleuthing folder with the blue plaid shirt and the faceless pants, and that leads me to a sous chef I worked under, and how he studied poetry at Reed, and how he couldn’t flip a saute pan to save his life.  He put his clumsy fingers in my trinity and flickered the diced pieces about with a scowl. I pictured those fingers tumbling out as free agents into the sizzling pan, my 13″ Chef’s knife marinated in poet’s blood.

Now I remember.  That sip of coffee, bought with a precious squandered dollar as a free man with no income.  A peasant reclaiming his blood.




Good deal

I have a young neighbor of modest means.  She is almost 11 and she rides a purple bike.  The tires are fissured with cracks.  We have developed an arrangement for when her bike needs attention.  She leaves it in my carport, understanding that when I find the time I will fix it, and place it against the porch rail by her front door.  There is no risk of the bike being stolen, as her yard is wildly overgrown.  A drooping cedar tree blocks the view from the street and thorny vines as thick as her wrist twine up through shaggy Azaleas and wrap her house in a web of summertime green.

My neighbor is a good kid, and will be a fine person.  Her life is tough in ways she isn’t even aware of, and this will serve her well as an adult.  She speaks in a tiny thin voice and this is my only point of contention I have with her.  I wish for her to be able to grab life by the collar and shove it up against the wall when it crosses her. Instead, she speaks like she is apologizing.  I ask her to answer me in a big booming voice, or sometimes to yell for no reason, like “HEY! HOW ABOUT FIXING MY BIKE!”  When I do this she grins, assuming I am teasing her.  I’m not teasing her.  I am serious.

She put the bike in my carport over a week ago, and it took me that long to find time.  She doesn’t nag, or complain about it.  She goes on about her bikeless days and waits.  She calls herself a Buddhist.

Sunday morning, after my own insufferable steamy ride, I tear down her purple bike. I am careful not to separate the brittle bead from the sidewall, and I put a brand new tube in, after removing the guilty thorn.  I scrub the chain, blast it with the hose and enjoy watching the sheets of greasy black water pool in the corner of my driveway where it will then seep into the carpet in the laundry room.  I pump up the tires, then sit on the front wheel and torque the handlebars straight.  I  lube the brake cables, hubs, shifters, levers, and both derailleurs, before wiping the frame down with my dirty t-shirt.  The last thing I do is take it for a test ride, knees jacking up beside my ears as I run through the gears and kick out the back end in a power-slide.  Rock and roll ready.

The bike is delivered to the stoop– the transaction completed last night with a construction paper thank you card and a vase full of wild dandelions out of her scraggly yard.  Better compensation than one has any right to expect in this world.



Suck wind

I woke up Sunday morning with a Saturday night head. Little dog harpies yawped and squeeched me right out the door in a panic. Hunched over the steering wheel like a slug on the window I crept along the miles I felt too discouraged to ride. Will this story ever get older? My body is the financial crisis of 2008. The wealth did not transfer, it just ceased to be. That fitness is no longer in the market.

I hate summer. Not Summer, the Apricot poodle, but the sticky, disgusting season that covers my skin like I’m wrapped in Saran wrap and suffocates me slowly. I blame everything on north Florida panhandle heat. I have learned my lesson. The only way to ride hard through August and September is to be mutant strong at the end of May, and then launch yourself into the spiderweb of dew hoping to scrap your way through to October, which is still a lot like September.

And another thing- getting used to this new site is tough. Even as I type I have in my view a cockpit of gauges and tools. What do they mean? Why do I need them? How will they change our lives?

We will see. Until then I am dancing with the date that brunged-ed me. Complaining about the weather, and talking about bikes.

Slow, hot, Munson, whining. Refer yourself to the archives for context.


The Haitian Trunk

Some years ago I finagled possession of a family heirloom, a trunk my step-father picked up in his travels in Haiti.  It is large enough to crawl inside and pull the barrel vaulted lid down on top of yourself.  I can’t say how long I have managed to hang onto it, or how I have done so without doing it any damage, or losing it in my many moves. Inside it I carry my past.  I have always believed that if I kept the thread of my stories together, I would one day unpack them and discover what my life is about, and lay out the blueprint, or the treasure map, to the story as I would like it told.

There are gaps in the narrative, and I am a shoddy record-keeper; but in the piles of notebooks, photographs, consecrated broken clocks, divine pocket knives,  fliers for bands long broken up, and letters from old girlfriends, there is a common thread-me. I picture myself at a desk, a dedicated funcionario, with an inbox on my left as high as the ceiling.  I process each item, evaluating it for its historical significance and narrative merit, then digesting it into fiction, nonfiction, or poem than placing the empty husks on my right-hand side in the outbox, where each item will be preserved, or discarded.

The Big Ring Circus, has become another Haitian trunk, full of evidence and artifacts. It is a narrative that jumps in time and space, leaving fingerprints of nearly a decade.  I found myself writing about bikes,  probably because I trust bikes to always get me where I want to go.

This is where we have arrived next,