Monthly Archives: December 2015

10th Avenue

In 1999 I moved to a place on the corner of 10th Avenue and Yancey Street here in Tallahassee.  This would be the 8th or 9th house I shared with my  buddy Taco, born on this day in 1969.  Both of us were turning 30 that year and it was intended to be a move away from the squalid living of our twenties and to take a step towards adulthood.  The place had a tin roof, white paint worn to the wood, and a kitchen you might find on a very fast sailboat.  In the summer Palmetto bugs treated inside as outside until stomping or ignoring them became equal and fine choices by 4th of July. The landlord’s name was George, but the vacating tenant told us knowingly that he went by “Dick.”  Everyone called him Big Dick because he was a huge man.  Years later, while in his 60’s I saw him carry a full-sized refrigerator out of a house with nothing but a bear hug.

Big Dick owned four houses and a dollhouse-sized cottage on or near the corner of 10th and Yancey.  Within two seasons all were filled by friends and friends of friends, which is what Taco and I were as well.  Instead of taking that affirming step towards adulthood we took more of a lurching step sideways and for 10 years we lived as a family wandering from house to house as easy as room to room.  Vicious competition was our common language.  Darts, 8-ball, 9-ball, ping pong, Dungeons and Dragons (kind of a sub-cult within our greater body host) bicycles, basketball, croquet,horseshoes, bocce ball, mini-bowling and Poker–with strange variations like Boo-ray and Shmoolie– every Thursday night and holiday for about a decade.   The house hosting Poker installed a PVC chute mounted in plywood from the table through the window to the recycling bin.  Whoever got the seat closest to the beer chute would struggle to follow the action on the table while firing an endless line of bottles and cans into the bin.

Within the very nucleus of our compound lived a couple, born in the 1930’s or 40’s  I think.  With a tidy little yard and a small chain-link fence around the property their house was a respectable eyesore among our repudiating hovels. They were from Chicago and retired to town to be near two of their three children, and enjoy life.  Marvin played jazz piano and we would hear him playing through the open windows as we criss-crossed the street following the action from house to house.  Ada would link her arm through yours and pull you in close to tell you about a piece of jewelry she was wearing or to tell you she was really upset about how our government was treating the mentally ill.  For some reason they never thought to say, “Hey guys, maybe you should all get serious about your lives and quit living like a bunch of pirates returned to port after 6 months at sea. Quit wasting time!”

We lived more with and among them, than next to them.  Either would have been welcomed at the poker table, or to throw the dice with the Riders of Rohan, but I doubt they cared for the thick blue cigarette smog in the room .  Good lord, we were animals, which is an insult to animals.

One day Ada came knocking on my door.  I opened it to her holding a tiny kitten cradled against her chest and small bags of food and litter hanging from her elbow.  She offers me this tail-less, black and white weeks-born kitten–“Here is your new cat.” She tells me.  ” Ada, I can’t take care of a cat.  I can’t even take care of myself!”

Ada was not one to moralize. The  irreverently empathetic Ada, who before all things was funny, an absolute riot. But-I will say- and I am free to draw my own saccharin homilies.  I believe Ada saw a good guy, a fiddler watching Rome burn,  who could really use a cat in his life.  

Marvin died a year ago last September, and Ada died yesterday morning.

I sit here now in this new home under this immense Live Oak tree, where I live with my girlfriend from 9th grade, who moved away to Alabama, but came back to get me 2 years after I left 10th Avenue.  After two soggy days of rain the sun is coming out. There is a dog on the couch and that cat is looking out the window in this room.




A Sense of Urgency

The other 4 riders all drank hard and late the night before, while I went to bed early, slept well, and ate a hearty breakfast of oatmeal.  Still I bounced on and off the back for most of the three hours we were out.  My own rule echoed back to me, if you are already suffering there is nothing else to lose, so I knew better than to expect any advantage. Damn though, I thought I’d be in the mix.

It doesn’t bother me.  I have a sense of urgency.  I rode into my own driveway, alone, moaning to myself or so I thought until my smiling wife straightened up to stretch her back in the yard and asked, “Who were you talking to?”

“The devil,”  I whispered, “and god too.”




A Return to Form


Just write about bikes dude and riding them, says me to myself.  Michael Jackson don’t want to be in your little story.  He just wants to be the King of Pop resting in peace, and if nobody cares about his vitiligous hand and his first sequined glove then so be it, just tell your own damn story and leave him out of it.

Fine then, I WILL says the pouting inner child to a furiously reasonable adult ego state.  I WILL! he screams his little tantrum brains out.  And that is how we find ourselves now in the national forest, as though no time at all has passed since we last took a bike ride through the woods then plopped down at the computer to tell the world how it went.

I don’t really know many plant names so I can only say that the stuff that grows just over knee high and then bolts into spores of fuzz like tiny white fireworks is blooming, or more likely just finished blooming, and now it sends its hopeful seeds into the air, brushed off by our legs dipping into the penumbric edge of the turns, a passing shadow scouring the trails’ edge.  Riding a bike is just like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it, but you do forget how good it feels.  You sit pissed off, bullied by dubious priorities, letting the filing of your flexible spending account claims forms thump you on the back of the ear and it stings through lunch and into 4th period Earth Science.  Minding your own business walking to class on the edge of the hall then shoved- SLAM- into the combination lock on 242 by “Be sure to file your homestead exemption.” A frog sets up under the skin and you rub it all through Pre-Alegbra, thinking of a way to get even.  When the final bell rings you are already in position outside 3rd hall and you catch I need the final agenda by Friday standing slack in its flip flops and before it knows what hit it you have bowled it head first down into the garbage can and taken off running as fast as you can go for your bike, then out to the woods where it is safe.