So anyway, however completely we think we know the
partners we marry, there are always surprises we somehow
missed during courtship. They appear suddenly as we settle in
domestically and take up housekeeping. One of these for me
was pillows. Wifey apparently grew up in a pillow tradition
she was loath to forgo. A bizarre configuration of pillows
appeared on our marital bed almost at once... a configuration
of four. Two were normal pillows, the kind we all know, but
beneath these, two more gigantic, feather balloons appeared.
Nearly four feet long, these two...shoulder to shoulder...
easily spanned our king-size bed from side to side.
Wifey, from long practice, actually knew how to sleep
with her two pillows, but I could not master this skill.
No problem, I thought. I simply stood the giant one against
the bedside table at night. On end, it was even taller than
the table, but served at least to keep my glasses, books, pencils,
pills, and such from falling to the floor as I slept. Absentmindedly,
however, one night I happened to call this giant pillow “The Bulldozer.”
I can’t imagine why that metaphor occurred to me, except the thing
was huge and sort of confrontational. As in, “Could you please
control your bulldozer, dear; I can’t breath over here.” Somehow
the name stuck. “What was that?!” “Nothing, dear, my bulldozer
fell over and scared the dog.” Or... “Oh, are you in bed
already, dear? I didn’t see you there behind the bulldozer.”
My bulldozer was actually useful as a book prop when I wanted
to read at night. Length-wise on my chest, it stretched
from toes to chin, but supported a heavy book nicely with a
little squirming. And when I was done reading, I could just
flip it off me holding one end, and gravity would stand it up
neatly beside my bedside table beside the bed on the side with
the bedside beside the bed. Which is how an old man’s words
stumble late at night. Like the top spun on top of the desktop top.
Or the bus that stops at the bus stop stop. Or Go-Pro cameras
so pros can go Go-Pro where the pros go. Old man brain-freezes.
So anyway, you may have noticed how this pome is set in three-line
tercets, sort of like our laureate, free-verser Billy Collins... who
likes to splay things out this way as if he’s writing real poetry. Emily Dickinson
or Robert Frost he’s not. But neither am I, so have another tercet on me.
So anyway, after managing the bulldozer for awhile, my standard,
small pillow seemed to need a name. For the sake of marital
concord, I did not share this one with Wifey. She had found the
bulldozer reference extremely tiresome. But to stick with
the machinery trope, I named my regular pillow “The Bobcat.”
Like all good, modern couples, Wifey and I share the
housekeeping chores. When it’s my turn to strip the beds and
change the linen, however, I find getting the bulldozers out of
their soiled cases and into their fresh ones an exhausting ordeal.
I end up sweating like Chris Christi at a Nancy Pelosi tribute.
So anyway, what I find now... after several years of sleeping
with the Bulldozer and the Bobcat... is that I have developed
a recurring bad dream. In this dream, I’m tasked with resurfacing
Minnesota State Highway 52 using heavy machinery. Highway 52
runs from St. Paul MN, where I live now, to Rochester MN,
where I was born and passed my childhood. It’s about 90 miles
of hilly four-lane... no small resurfacing project. But in this frustrating
dream, I can’t seem to get past the bridge across the Mississippi
that gets me out of St. Paul. Bridge resurfacing is especially tricky.
You have to maneuver your bulldozer and bobcat with no shoulders
or access roads. The danger of plummeting to your death is constant.
I plunge toward the Mississippi almost every time in this nightmare,
but I can’t seem to die... which is the way with such dreams when you
always wake screaming just before being squashed flat or flown to flinders.
So anyway, then I have to go back the next night and start resurfacing
the bridge all over again. I’ll never get to Rochester. Not even close.
Which is OK though, because I don’t really want to go there at all.
Rochester isn’t the same city it was 60 years ago when I was a kid.
And if it was the same, there’d be all those nasty childhood
memories... the kind that give you more bad dreams all your life.
Highway resurfacing or childhood traumas... I am a head case.
One Rochester, childhood trauma that haunts me still from 60
years ago involves a girlfriend I had in 10th grade. I forget her name...
Munchhausen, I think. Yeah, that was it, Becky Munchhausen.
Becky sat several rows from me in Social Studies, but I never spoke
to her till one day I found her at the neighborhood bakery where
I bought donuts. Donuts were my drug of choice in high school.
My friends even called me “Donuts,” as I usually had a half sack of
chocolate treats with me at all times. As it turned out, Becky was
into donuts too, and we struck up a conversation right there at the bakery.
Becky preferred nut-crunchies. Neither Becky nor I was athletic, so we
had not much to do after school but go home and watch Laurel and Hardy
films on TV. That suited both of us just fine. Donut friends forever. DFF.
So anyway, we would meet at the bakery, tie into a baker’s dozen...
half chocolate, half nut-crunchy... and repair to either’s TV room
for Stan and Ollie time. No one noticed. No one cared.
The thing about Becky, though, was she had a beehive do. This
was the 50s remember, and bouffant was in. Short girls like Becky
were apt to bouff it to beehive dimensions. Becky’s bouff was big.
So anyway, one day some buddies and I were crossing the Zumbro
River bridge on our way to the movies, and this jerk I thought was my
friend said, “Hey, Donuts, saw you walkin’ with Bullet Head yesterday.”
“With whom?” says I. “With Becky... you know, Bullet Head the Roman
Fighter.” Long story short, I lost it and started to prance... hurling
insults at their hair-dos... and mothers. But I was outnumbered.
They took offense, administered painful “nuggies,” and threatened to throw me
from the bridge into the Zumbro River. Which, come to think of it, bookends
my life with two bridge horrors. Wait! That’s it... bridge horrors!
I knew the Pelosi metaphor was lame. What I meant to say was, “Changing
bulldozer linen makes me sweat like Chris Christi stuck in bridge traffic.”
That’s why I identify with Christi... bad bridge dreams. And I bet they
called him “donuts” too when he was a kid. Well, hang in there, Chris.
Alcohol made a dietary come-back... eggs... even fat is good for you now.
Donuts’ day is coming! And Chris, you’d have liked Bullet Head the
Roman Fighter too. She was OK. But this White House dream, Christi...
that may be a... wha-da-ya-call... a bridge too far. Stop it, Slade!
No, but see this is how that tercet-stacker Billy Collins does it... just
rambling on and on and stacking and stacking... bridges to nowhere. STOP IT!
“Head case”... by the way... reminds me of still another bad dream I have
in which I’m proven schizoid when I deny I’m Napoleon to a polygraph.
So anyway, if I don’t finish resurfacing the Mississippi bridge soon,
I’ll surely plummet to my death, and if I do finish it, I’ll have to work the
rest of my life resurfacing Highway 52 to a place I dread going anyway.
A Hobson’s choice! Well, not really a Hobson’s choice... which means
one choice only. Hobson ran a livery stable, and unlike National Car Rental
where you “take any car on the lot and go like a pro,” Hobson only gave
you the horse nearest the stable door... one choice. But it has come
to mean one of two bad choices, I think. Like my resurfacing nightmare.
So anyway, to stifle this highway mending dream, I tried storing
the bulldozer and the bobcat away in a closet. But in the middle
of the night, I wake with backache because of no headrest, and
when I try to read, I have no book prop. Tragedy.
So anyway, “in the middle of the night” reminds me of Greek
Tragedy. The Greeks always started their dramas In Medias Res...
in the middle of things. Which, when you think about it, is the only
way anything starts. Like what’s your first memory? No first
memory, right? There you just were suddenly... no, not “suddenly”...
that’s a start. There you just were... in the middle of things.
So anyway, that’s what “so anyway” sort of means anyway.
So anyway, maybe nothing starts or ends either, and this pome can
go on, if I ever care to finish it... not “finish it,” I mean... just go on with it.