Category Archives: 3. Literature

Notes on the Forty Year Anniversary of My Being Set Adrift Ignominiously upon an Ocean of Doubt

Photo by Jose Padua
Heather and I had no idea that our trip with the kids to Ocean City this weekend would coincide with The Dew Tour. We, of course, had no idea what The Dew Tour was. At first I thought it was spelled D-O as in the “Do Tour,” with the “Do” carrying some sort of message of affirmation and empowerment. But no, it was The Dew Tour, as in it’s sponsored at least in part by The Dew—Mountain Dew.

Yeah, when I was a kid I’d drink it from time to time. Maybe when I was a little older, too, in college, when I found out it was yet another way to get a dose of caffeine into me when needed. The last few times I’d had a Mountain Dew, though, I found it to be one of the most noxious concoctions imaginable.

Luckily, up where we were, we didn’t seem to cross paths with anything associated with the Dew Tour. We were probably too far uptown, which was fine with us. Because if the Dew Tour was strictly a downtown thing here in Ocean City, then we were strict Ocean City Uptowners. At least for this trip.

It was on our way uptown and out of Ocean City to a book release party in Rehoboth today when I realized that this summer marks the fortieth anniversary of the first time I ever saw the ocean. That was in 1974 when I went with a group of friends from high school to stay at a house on Olive Avenue in Rehoboth. Before then, I’d only gone as far as the Chesapeake Bay for a trip to the beach. We were, growing up, strictly city people, and the Atlantic coast of North America was just a little too far to travel for something as frivolous at a day on the beach.

This summer also marks the fortieth anniversary of my summer spent at the University of Georgia in Athens for a program funded by the National Science Foundation. It was the summer I mixed a lot of chemicals in the lab at the pharmacy school there, and managed not to blow anything up—though the older research scientists there seemed to blow things up pretty regularly. Which, I gathered, was one way to tell that what they were doing was serious research. As for me, my professor/advisor told me the compounds I was creating in the lab would be used in cancer research. Whether they would be used to actually fight the disease, or to help give the researchers who were fighting the disease a fresh new high, I never found out. Which, I think, also marks the beginning of my not knowing whether the work I do is curing people or simply getting them high.

On this trip to the shore, Julien added a fourth element to his set of precepts for an enjoyable vacation. On the last trip, it was just three: “Mommy stay, no school, no tiger.” This meant that a good vacation required these basic elements: Heather not having to leave to go into the office in town, no school, and no sign of the tiger from the Jungle Book. This trip, though, Julien added a fourth precept—“No mini-golf.” Julien tried mini-golf on our last trip, and, apparently, this is clearly not among the things in this world he considers pleasant.

Then tonight, towards the end of dinner in Rehoboth (when Heather had taken Julien to look at the aquarium display at the restaurant), Maggie asked me for advice on what she should do in the case that we’re all out somewhere and both Heather and I had had too much to drink and couldn’t drive.

“Well,” I told Maggie, “all you need to do is call a cab to take us all home.”

“But what will the cab driver do with Julien’s stroller?” she asked.

“That’s no problem,” I said. “The cab driver will know how to fold the stroller and put it in the trunk of the taxi.”

Heather and I had been drinking at dinner tonight. But all we had between us was one glass of wine, which Heather drank the most of while I just had a few sips. Nevertheless, I imagine it was enough to start Maggie worrying about what she might have to do in case of that dreaded emergency of both mom and dad being too trashed to drive everyone home.

“Of course,” I reassured Maggie, “That’s not going to happen. Neither mommy nor I ever even come close to getting drunk anymore.”

Maggie seemed comforted by this. Then she had to admit that she just imagined that, at the end of the cab ride, she’d have to say to either me or Heather, “OK, now give the nice taxi driver his money.” What she didn’t admit, I think, was that she enjoyed the idea of speaking to her parents that way. As if she were the one in charge.

After dinner, we went to one the arcades on the boardwalk. By the end of the night, Maggie had a receipt worth about fifteen hundred points from the games she’d played. She looked at the display case filled with the different prizes she could choose from, and then she looked some more. Heather, Julien, and I were getting tired, but Maggie still couldn’t decide on anything she wanted. Finally, Maggie saw a family with little kids standing by the counter, and gave them her receipt. They thanked Maggie, who then walked back to us, happy that this one dilemma had been resolved. Then we all headed back to Ocean City.

In this photograph taken earlier today at the beach in Ocean City, Heather, Maggie, and Julien seem to be the only ones looking up to the airplane carrying the banner for Geico insurance. Are they (and I) the only ones who find the sight of an airplane flying along the shore for the purpose of advertising a little bit disconcerting? And maybe even slightly horrible. I know, there are worse things down in the ignominious depths of human nature and its perverse insistence that nothing exists unless it exists in abundance, but still—sometimes all I want to look at, and think about, is the sky. And it doesn’t even have to be blue for me to love and adore it.

-Jose Padua

Photo by Jose Padua

How I Escaped the Drug-Sniffing Dog from Holland and Other Tales of the Night

Photo by Jose Padua
When we heard that Souled Out was providing the music at last month’s National Night Out activities at the gazebo, we decided right away to go. We were tired, and it was a fairly hot day, but Souled Out–a local covers band that emphasizes soul and funk tunes–always seemed to bring out a much more diverse crowd than what you usually get here in Front Royal. We took the van because we were going to do a few errands afterwards, and as soon as got out after parking on Jackson Street we could hear the sounds of Souled Out playing an Earth, Wind, & Fire tune, which was a good sign. And as we walked toward the gazebo, we immediately started running into people we knew, which was yet another good sign.

After chatting with them for a little bit, we started walking through the gazebo parking lot where numerous vendors and organizations had set up booths. That was when Souled Out took a break. Dance music was still being played on the sound system, but without Souled Out’s live music, the atmosphere somehow became a bit stuffier. As we walked past various booths and vendors, we came upon an exhibit in which we saw a car attached to some kind of mechanism. In front of it was a sign that said,

ROLL OVER
SIMULATOR
STAY BACK.

Julien looked at it, and was curious, so Heather, Maggie, and he waited there for the next demonstration of the roll over simulator to start. In the meantime, I saw that a crowd had gathered on the grassy area next to the gazebo where a much larger demonstration was taking place. As I moved closer, I heard the voice over the PA system introduce a police officer and a dog that was brought here from the Netherlands–a drug sniffing dog. Soon the police officer started to speak.

“This dog,” he said, “only takes commands that are spoke in Dutch.” Then he announced that he was going to show the drug sniffing dog in action, and in the photograph above you see the police SUV in which a pipe with marijuana residue had been placed. At the police officer’s spoken command (in Dutch) the dog began to sniff for drugs. In almost no time, the dog found it.

Now, while watching this demonstration, there were a lot of things I wanted to say. Things like, “You know marijuana’s now legal in a lot of places.” And, “How often do you make a drug arrest over there on High Street?” (the Front Royal gazebo is located on Main Street between Chester and High streets.) But, with it being National Night Out–and seeing that there were loads of law enforcement types out as well–I refrained from anything that might be considered heckling lest I be perceived as precisely the sort of person who needs to be kept an eye on. But then again, just by being a little different, I probably already am–at least by some people. So I just took some pictures, resisted even mumbling to myself, “What the fuck is this shit?” and walked back to where Heather, Maggie, and Julien were.

In a little while, someone set the roll over simulator to run again. The car on the simulator rose, then started to turn over and over. When the crash test dummy in the driver’s seat fell out of the car’s open window–and was then followed by a giant Elmo doll–Julien had seen enough. He was shaking, and Maggie too was upset. We got out of there right away, and decided to just completely leave the National Night Out activities. Yeah, Souled Out would start playing again at some point, but this other stuff just spoiled it for us.

We walked over to the coffee shop on High Street. We got some drinks and some snacks, then went to the back room, where we saw that a group of about twenty or so people had pulled some tables together and were having some kind of discussion. One person started talking about, “The evil that’s inside all of us, and which we need to find and get a grip on.” We looked over at them–they all looked so clean, and neatly dressed, with their heads tilted ever so slightly upwards whenever one of them spoke–and we knew right away that we had walked into a meeting of some of the local Paul Ryan/Rick Santorum followers.

We sat at our table with our drinks and snacks, talking, but not too loudly. We were, actually, being polite–but even then, people from the Ryan/Santorum crowd kept looking over at us as if we weren’t allowed to speak in what was now their room. When their meeting finally broke up, a number of them were standing right at the ramp going back to the front of the coffee shop. They didn’t budge an inch when Heather needed to get by with Julien, and one of them even looked down at Julien as if he were looking at some sort of vermin.

That’s when I wanted to say, “You know, me and my kids could be some of those illegal immigrants from Central America. You know, the ones who are carrying all sorts of diseases. Maybe even Ebola. So you’d better make way when we need to get by.”

But again, I practiced restraint. Which is how, despite what goes on in my head, I’ve survived in this town for what will be seven years this fall. And when we’d finished our drinks, we got in our van and drove over to the CVS where I was going to pick up a prescription for Maggie. When we got there, Heather stayed with Julien. She kept him entertained by showing him some pictures of our friend Silvana, with whom Julien got to spent some time at a poetry reading we did near DC the previous weekend.

Maggie and I went into the store, and when I asked at the counter for her prescription, the guy at the cash register said they didn’t have anything for her. He then suggested I talk to the pharmacist. I moved down the counter to see that the main pharmacist was there—a woman who came to Front Royal via a pharmacy school in China. Whenever one person or another at the pharmacy counter here says they have nothing for me, I check with her. As usual, she was the one who was able to find it in pharmacy’s computer.

It took just a few minutes, then Maggie and I walked back to the van. I opened the sliding rear door to see that Heather was still showing Julien the pictures of Silvana. Maggie climbed around Heather, and into the back seat of the van, as I opened the door on the driver’s side. Before I got in, I looked around, as I always do before I get ready to drive. It was dark now, and the yellow glow from the CVS store stood out against the deep blue of the sky.

It was a quick drive back home, but long enough for me to think of the stories I could tell about the times that silence and restraint were what kept me safe. But silence and restraint can only keep you safe for so long. The time always comes when you have to go ahead, open your mouth, and feel the words coming out of you like revelations of breath. And then you start to move.

-Jose Padua

Revolutions Per Minute

Photo by Jose Padua
Back then the most efficient way to get
the music to reach my ears was for the

record to spin at 45 revolutions per minute
on the turntable. 45, so I could listen one

at a time to the Rolling Stones, the Four
Tops, Arthur Lee and Love, to “Tears of a

Clown,” “My Baby Wrote Me a Letter,” and
“Can I Change My Mind.” It was better one

by one, and stopping by Record City downtown
where you had an entire wall of 45s

to find the song you just heard on the car
radio on the way to the dentist or the doctor

or the store and if you were lucky you found
the record with the picture sleeve where the singer

or the band just looked so cool and because
it was one by one it was like a letter from

Hollywood or Detroit or Memphis or Chicago
and the popular store clerk with the kids was

this middle aged guy named Jimmy—“What
do you got today, Man?” he’d ask “Or check

this out, dude” and one time he asked me
something like “What are you lookin’ for?” or

“What are you into?” and he brushed the back
of his hand against my crotch and all I knew

was that it was weird, I mean what did that
have to do with the record I was holding

by a new band called Black Sabbath, and when
I saw him walk into a dirty bookstore on

New York Avenue when my Dad and I were
stopped at a red light I kind of figured out

what Jimmy’s deal was. I was buying albums
now and the frequency was 33 and a third

and the names were Neil Young and Dr. John
and Curtis Mayfield sang “Move on Up.”

Then, when I heard John Coltrane for the first
time on WHUR Howard University

radio things were never the same again and
I was never really a kid again after that

even though I didn’t know that much and
I looked for records labeled ESP, Blue Note,

Prestige, Impulse! and was there anything
to be said after Archie Shepp’s Black Gypsy

and Sun Ra’s Magic City? Until the late 70s
I didn’t listen to anything but jazz, there just

wasn’t anything else I wanted to hear and no
other sound I wanted to know. Back then,

when there was more music and less product
and laissez-faire was for art not for the people

who owned you, when freedom was more than
the right to be a dumb fuck former DJ who’ll

pat you on the back for not using your brain
and rage was for the powerless and the hungry

and the sick who one by one refused to die.

-Jose Padua

A poem from around five years ago. I took the photograph somewhere in New Jersey earlier this month as we slowly made our way back to the Shenandoah Valley.

A Hail Maria and a Hangover before Leaving Town

Photo by Jose Padua
When I told my neighbor Maria
I was leaving my apartment
next door to hers on Avenue B
she almost cried. I wasn’t
a great neighbor. I sometimes
made some noise, but then
I never complained that
her teenaged grandkids
would open and shut the doors
at all hours, and I never minded
when the woman down the hall
would spend Sunday mornings
belting out Olivia Newton John songs
in Spanish while I suffered through
my usual morning hangover.
Sometimes I helped Maria with her groceries
up the four flights of stairs,
or chatted with her in the hall
and sometimes all I did was say
“good morning” or “good evening”
with a smile and a nod
but probably what she appreciated
most about me was that
I wasn’t a junkie.
For Maria there was nothing scarier
than the “junkie people” in the halls,
or around the corner,
as she made her slow, steady way home;
and even when I climbed up the stairs
drunk and reeking of dive bar smoke
and liquor,
I was at least aware of her,
my good and decent neighbor,
and not off in some heroin-fueled
layer of the Earth’s ozone.
And as I gave her a goodbye hug
and walked away,
I actually began to feel myself in a state
of accidental holiness–
great, honored, spiritual,
not so much for the things I was,
or the things I’d done,
but for the things I didn’t do
and the things I was not;
and as I started packing up
everything in the apartment that was mine,
it occurred to me that maybe,
for now,
it was enough.

-Jose Padua

The photograph of the corner of Avenue B and 4th Street, which is what I would see when I opened the front door of my apartment building where I lived in New York, was taken earlier this month.

Gas Station

CourtesySunset
When the middle-aged guy
at the next gas pump sees me
cleaning my windshield
and says, “Oh, I should
ask you to clean my own windshield”
I could give him the benefit
of the doubt and take it
as a harmless joke,
but fifty plus years of living
and the way he looks at me like
he’s wearing shades
when he’s not
tells me that he thinks this
is what people who look like me
should all do for a living
and I say,
“You can clean it yourself,”
when I’d rather say
and do something
else but my kids are
in the car and it’s
one of those moments in life
when your heart skips a beat,
the first being when you fall in love,
the second when you’re just
falling.

-Jose Padua

Photo by Jose Padua

Stoned Soul Picnic

John Marshall Highway, photo by Jose Padua
The stoned soul picnic was where
I first held your hand thirty years
before you were born as we watched
a red wine and golden apple colored
sunset that made us shiver slightly
like swimmers rising from warm water
into cool air. I was a sailor of ships,
a flyer of kites, a child of old city
streets on vacation during the summer
of broken windows. I wrote stories
that began with the word how and
ended with the word because,
because I didn’t know how to say it
any other way. And the years were
like dry ice, melting then turning
into mist, into pink fog over the winding
waters we followed as we brought
our covers, our fires and our black
iron pots with cracked edges all covered
with grease and fat. And the mist rose
higher and higher, then rained back
down on us with the fury of fists,
and food grew scarce, and we grew
tired and slow and our thoughts turned
to black and white like old TVs
and old fading photographs, and
I went to the woman with the loudly
beating heart, breathing heavily like her
and asked, Can you show me the way
to Bending Creek the next time it rains frogs
in the afternoon? We’ll be very hungry
by then and their deep fried legs will make
good eating on the red blanket
on the green grass with the music playing
like open-eyed love through a storm.
Why if we had their power to jump,
we could see hazy or even clear
over the mountains, and in the midst
of these strange, unforeseen events when
land starts to shake and skies tremble
and fall we’ll know what to do and how.
We’ll save ourselves, our tribe, our land
which follows us whichever way we go.
Why we might even save the world,
but don’t count on it, motherfucker.

-Jose Padua

A poem from three or four years ago, this is one of many that started coming to me on the drive back to Front Royal from Winchester on Route 522/340. There’s something about having the Blue Ridge Mountains to your left, and the Appalachians on your right—and getting a clear sense that this is indeed a valley we live in—that seems to start that river of words flowing into my head. Or something like that.

The photo of the John Marshall Highway, going into Front Royal and descending into the Shenandoah Valley, was taken earlier this year.

A Bottle of Water for My Daughter

bottleofwater

When I stepped out of the convenience store,
walked up to the driver side door
of the blue mini-van
and saw a pack of cigarettes on the console
between the two front seats,
I had to ask myself,
Do I still smoke?
It was a red and white Marlboro box,
top open, revealing
an almost full pack, and
I sensed the warmth in my lungs,
a mild rush in my veins,
and my knees suddenly felt weak
before I realized I was
standing at the wrong mini-van.
I backed up, slowly,
careful not to make any sudden moves,
looked to my right, then
to my left,
and walked down two parking spaces
to where my wife and kids
were waiting for me, pleased
that I’d quit smoking years ago,
and happy to be alive.

-Jose Padua

Photo by Jose Padua

That Point Where Age and Confusion Approach the Meaning of the Universe

MeaningOfTheUniverse

I wonder, sometimes, what difference it would have made if, in my younger years I had gotten the foundation of my education in the art of film solely by renting movies from a video store, then bringing them home to watch, rather than watching them in a theater. I was a shy kid, and if I had ever been asked to evaluate my overall personality, the last word I would have used to describe myself would be “brave.” Yet my curiosity drove me to go out of the house at every opportunity to see what was out there; and the first thing I remember that really had me hopping on the bus at the corner of Mt. Pleasant and Irving–or else walking down Columbia Road and heading south until I got to the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 21st Street–were the movies. And that corner of DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood was where the Circle Theater stood.

One of the first movies I remember seeing there was Louis Malle’s documentary about India called L’Inde Fantome (1969). I was around twelve or thirteen and, after reading about it in the post, I knew it was something I just had to see. It was there, or at the Inner Circle next door, where I saw my first Ingmar Bergman films–stuff like Virgin Spring, The Seventh Seal, and Persona (one of the first films I ever saw that really blew me away). It was also here where I saw another of my earliest favorites, Francois Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows). But it wasn’t just foreign, “art” films I saw there. I also watched stuff like Goodbye Columbus, the movie–based on the Philip Roth novella–that made Ali MacGraw a star; Carl Reiner’s farce “Where’s Poppa,” which in one of the Circle’s classic oddball pairings was part of a double feature with Midnight Cowboy; and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Paul Mazursky’s comedy about wife swapping which I liked and remembered mostly because it ended with Jackie DeShannon singing “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” one of my favorite songs from the 60s.

And the thing was, watching a movie there at the Circle, I felt just as safe as I would have were I watching these films at home. Yes, there were often homeless people slumped and napping in their seats–with admission being one dollar during the day, it was a cheap place to get some rest and, in the summer, free air conditioning. For me, though, that was one of the good things about it. Now and then I’d run into some of the homeless people I knew there, and it was a kick to think I might be enjoying the same movies they were.

Although I enjoyed watching films with friends, there was still nothing like watching them by myself in a theater filled with strangers. There was nothing like that sense of mystery. And although I felt comfortable there, I never felt too comfortable, and even if a film was somewhat on the boring side–The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, which I actually saw at the Biograph, was, despite the magnificent music of Johann Sebastian Bach, a bit tedious–I never fell asleep. The first time I ever fell asleep at the movies was when I saw the second of the Lord of the Rings movies with Heather. Being with Heather, I was comfortable–too comfortable–and, not caring all that much about the Hobbits and Middle-Earth and all that, I fell asleep. But it was a good sleep, and when I woke up with the movie almost over I felt well rested.

Nowadays, though–after spending my younger years immersed in film–I have almost no idea of what going on in the world of cinema. After Maggie was born, and then Julien, the opportunity to see anything other than children’s films (even at home) nearly vanished. The last grown-up film Heather and I got to see in a theater, if I remember correctly, was Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth. As for watching a grown-up film at home, we don’t get to do that very often either, the last one I remember watching being Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. (a production of McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, by the way, is the last grown-up play I remember seeing). Still, here and there, I get to do both; and that night a couple of years ago when I happened upon Truffaut’s The Four Hundred Blows on some cable film channel and found myself watching the entire film with Maggie–who, to my surprise was totally entranced by it–was, for me, one of those beautiful parental moments. My youth–which each day seems to recede further and further into some soon-to-be-forgotten past–somehow crossed paths with Maggie’s as together we watched this Truffaut film that moved me so many years ago. And, from her reaction to it, it looked like Maggie was just as moved as I was.

This isn’t to say there aren’t days when it all seems so hard. When I think about Dennis Hopper as Ripley in Wim Wender’s Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend) saying, “A little older, a little more confused.” That’s another film I saw by myself, at the Inner Circle. It’s a film which one day, when she’s old enough, I’d like to watch with Maggie. As for that confusion, well, sometimes I think that confusion is just wisdom in its rawest form. Confusion is like that gas out of which stars are born. So often it’s the people who are totally convinced they know what’s going on who are truly clueless.

This is a photograph taken at the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Paradise Township, just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Heather, Maggie, Julien, and I were on our way to the exit, after having spent the better part of an afternoon there, when I spotted this man taking a picture of his wife (or girlfriend) as she balanced on top of one of the rails of the Strasburg railroad. But more than taking a photograph, he seems to simply be admiring her and meditating upon the angle and good fortune of his connection to her. And, perhaps–as all decent men and women do from time to time–contemplating the meaning of the universe.

-Jose Padua

The Long Departed Language of the Road into Town

JohnMarshallHighway_Language

On some days the road
into town is
in black and white
and filled with
shadows that form
the shape of every
word left unspoken
by one stranger to
another but they’re written
in a language that
no one still
alive speaks or
understands which is
why we step on
the gas and
keep driving.

-Jose Padua

A poem for today. The photograph of John Marshall Highway going into Front Royal was taken earlier this week.

I’m Alive and Life Sounds Like This Sometimes

Image

Almost six years ago, the man with the short white hair in the portable folding chair in the foreground of this photograph—the one turning to his right perhaps to discuss with his friend some matter regarding the monster truck Nite Stalker—installed the security system in our house here in Front Royal. Three years before that, in 2004, he also installed the security system in our house in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, Virginia, back when I thought we couldn’t move any farther from the city. Back when we still had to travel some distance to partake of the dust, roar, and fumes of a monster truck competition.

I remember on that day in 2004 I was waiting at our new house for the technician from Brinks Security Systems to come, and I looked out the window. Already parked in our driveway, to my surprise, was a big pickup truck from Brinks, and inside was the guy in the photograph here, his mouth wide open and about to take a bite out of his sandwich. When he saw me he paused—he was startled and surprised to be caught mid-bite—then proceeded to finish chomping down on his sandwich. He looked like the sort of kid you’d see sitting in the back of the classroom back in when you were a freshman in high school—the skinny little kid who never talked but had just seen Clint Eastwood in something like Outlaw Josey Wales and now had a face to go along with his dreams of one day being some kind of badass. But instead of becoming a badass he grew up to be a technician installing security systems. It wasn’t bad, no, but it sure as hell wasn’t the same as being someone Clint Eastwood would play.

It had turned out that Clint/Josey/The Brinks Guy had gotten to our house early, and so decided to have his lunch in our driveway. I watched a few moments more as he kept on eating, chewing down on his sandwich and looking at me and looking all around himself as if at any moment he might have to defend his possession of that sandwich. I couldn’t quite relate to that shit, and that he was looking at me like I was a sandwich thief, but I backed off anyway.

When he finally got out of the truck and walked toward our house, I could tell he wasn’t a city person. I could also tell he was still damn angry about being caught mid-lunch, mid-bite. Maybe in addition to the possibility that I might steal his sandwich, he also thought that whatever impression as a professional he was trying to make was obliterated by being caught in the act of eating, and the only thing worse he could have imagined would have been to be caught picking his nose. Well, maybe there were worse things, but I wasn’t going there, because people like him, I thought, were likely to talk about all the craziest shit—the shit I just didn’t want to hear about when all I wanted was to get our security system installed.

It was a while before the scowl came off of his face, but finally it did. Eventually, he talked, and he talked about how long it took him to become a master technician. I was genuinely impressed—the job he was doing was one I would be sure to fuck up big time (I can’t put together a simple bookcase from fucking Ikea without screaming at some point how pain-in-the-ass difficult it is).

Three years later, when I got laid off from my job, we left that house and moved to this one out in the land of monster trucks where life, we thought, might be cheap. Our first night in this house, we slept on blankets we’d laid down on the floor. The next day was when the movers came with our furniture, and the guy from the cable company came to set up our television and internet connections, and then the guy from Brinks security came back to set up the security system in our new house that was away from the big city and actually near his neck of the woods.

As soon as he stepped in the door I recognized him, but he didn’t remember me at all. When I told him that he’d installed our security system back when we lived close to the city, he had to jog his memory to recall that, “Oh yeah, I used to work closer to DC.” It was a busy day, and the only other words I remember from that day were spoken by Clint/Josey/The Brinks Guy who said, in response to something I asked or maybe Heather asked, “I live on the side of a mountain.” He said it somewhat defiantly and putting proud emphasis on the word ‘mountain’—as if, if he weren’t in polite company and on the job, he’d follow those words with “you got a fuckin’ problem with that?”

For some reason I remember shit like this. Just like I remember the salesman named Irving Berlin from back in the 60s. And a sales clerk named Kirsten Mortimer who sold me some socks at Hecht Co. in 1983. And Dave Grohl, before he became famous, being a snotty clerk when I bought a couple of LPs at Tower Records one afternoon also in the 80s. There are some memories from the 90s and when I lived in New York—when I did my heaviest, most heroic drinking—that are gone. Still, I’m surprised by how much I can remember and how much other people can forget.

I see the Brinks Guy around from time to time. Of course, Brinks, which became Broadview Security, has now been taken over by the ADT corporation. Which means the Brinks name doesn’t work for him anymore—so maybe I’ll just call him Outlaw Josey Wales. Anyway, Outlaw Josey Wales doesn’t remember me or recognize me. One time I saw him on Main Street here in Front Royal and I nodded at him, and he just shot back this look of bewilderment, as if he were thinking, ‘Why the hell is this weird motherfucker looking at me?’ So now, when I see him, I don’t nod and I don’t try to say “Hi” and I know for sure that if I see him in the window of a restaurant, and he’s eating, that I’d better look the hell away.

This morning, for this first time in over twenty years, I listened to Vin Scelsa’s radio show. I used to listen to him on Sunday Nights on WXRK, sitting alone in my apartment when I lived on Avenue B in New York, and so often his show would introduce me to some song or some singer or some band I’d never listened to before and would end up loving. He’d also play a lot of stuff where my reaction would be ‘what is this shit’ and I’d end up changing the station back to WKCR, Columbia University’s radio station which played mostly jazz—jazz was something which, in New York, I could always rely on.

Today, when I found out Vin Scelsa was still doing his show, and that I could get it on WFUV’s website, I went to my computer and pulled up the latest show. He started out with a fabulously happy song by Michael Franti & Spearhead called “I’m Alive (And Life Sounds Like).” It was a new song, and I’d never heard it before—a song I’ll remember to play for Maggie and Julien and Heather. After half an hour, though, he began playing some stuff that sounded like total crap to me, and I turned it off. Tomorrow, though, is another day, and because of the songs I end up loving—and all the songs I never knew before and all the things I need to remember—I’ll keep listening.

-Jose Padua