Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Memorized Their License Plate Number - 357 O19 - for Good Luck

I find myself for the third day in a row in a good mood. I apologize. Planet finally finished and plunged send on her final college application, so the atmospherics and barometric pressure in the house have improved (we all confirmed dark thoughts during the ordeal about each other we knew but didn't want to acknowledge), so that contributes to the good mood, but I credit the great streak of uncanny serendipity - in real life, in bleg life - the past few days (and thanks to those of you who've been playing) for my wonderful (but temporary) missing gloom.

Serendipitously, this, a James Tate interview from 2006 I found this morning:

Most people don’t have a sense of humor in the first place. So if they find themselves laughing at the end of an experience, they are almost distrustful of themselves—like, what happened to me? Today, for instance, on the tragedy side we could easily be talking about the hideous effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, or we could be talking about the Iraq war. But we can go out tonight and hear a great jazz band. We could spend a night with friends, laughing and drinking and toasting and saying how wonderful life is. Simultaneously, we all know that we’re enshrouded in tragedy, lies, and all kinds of evil. Torture, for God’s sake! And heaps of evil beyond what we can contemplate, and yet life is wonderful for those of us who haven’t been directly affected. So we walk around balancing the two all the time. I, for one, am not giving in. I am not going to walk around in tears all day long. I still want to have a good day if I can.

n my poems, I try—God knows, probably unsuccessfully—to bring that home. There’s a poem in my last book, “A Clean Hit,” where suddenly a bomb falls out of the sky and blows up this person’s house. And all of the neighbors come running down and they’re saying, “What the hell happened?” The guy whose house got bombed says, “Well, I voted for this president. They shouldn’t be targeting me.” They’re all trying to figure out what they did and what they didn’t do that could have caused this bomb to drop. Some of them think it’s a mistake. They say, “It happens all the time. Those reports pass through so many hands, by the time they reach the top somebody has gotten the address wrong.” So you can still have fun with the horror.

Speaking of horror, a colleague at work, just back from Poland, brought me a present of ogorki this morning

reminding me - holyfuckingfuck - Giftmas is day after tomorrow. Fuckityfuck, I've done shit. Guess who's walking down to M St at lunch to shop for his today. That oughta knock this happyshit out of me.

First, here, this is for you:


James Tate

A bomb had exploded down the street. I got dressed and
walked down to see what happened. The Whalen's house had
been flattened. But Hal and Rebecca were standing in the street,
apparently unscathed. Everyone in the neighborhood was pouring
our of their houses and into the streets. "What the hell happened?"
I said to Hal. "We were in the garden, thank god, when this
plane flew over. The next thing I know, the house explodes to
smithereens," he said. "It must have been some kind of accident,"
I said. "Well, I voted for this president. They shouldn't be
targeting me," he said. "Friendly fire," I said. "What the hell's
that?" he said. "They mistook you for somebody else," I said.
"Well, they shouldn't be bombing in this neighborhood, I don't
care who they thought I was. Children and old people live here,
and dogs," he said. "I'm sure you'll be getting a letter of apology,
and maybe a new house," I said. "It's lucky I didn't have a heart
attack," Rebecca Whalen said. Joe Mizelle walked up. "That
sure was a clean hit. No collateral damage whatsoever," he said.
"How do you know they didn't mean to hit your house and just
accidentally hit mine?" Hal said. "Jesus, I hadn't thought of
that. But I haven't done anything wrong. I voted for him, even
though I think he's a shifty bastard," Joe said. "Everything we
had is gone," Rebecca said, whimpering into her tissue. "When it
cools down, we can sift through the wreckage," Hal said, comforting
her. "I'd be glad to lend a hand," I said. "Maybe your silverware
survived, if it didn't melt in the heat," Joe said. Other neighbors
had gathered around and were whispering amongst themselves. "This
is the price we pay for our protection." "Thank god we live in a
democracy." "I'm sure they know what they were doing." "I'm going
to write my congressman." Hal turned to me and said, "Maybe I
am guilty. Maybe I did do something to deserve this. It's hard to
remember, on a day-to-day basis, everything you've said and every
little thing you've done. I can be kind of a free spirit sometimes.
I probably brought this on myself. And someone filed a report on
me. Oh god, I don't want to think about it, it's awful." "Listen,
Hal, I still think it was a mistake. It happens all the time.
Those reports pass through so many hands, by the time they reach
the top somebody has gotten the wrong address," I said. "All the
photographs and all the precious mementos of the children that can
never be replaced," Rebecca sobbed. "One of your boys works for the
government, doesn't he?" Joe said. "He's just a clerk in Washington,"
Hal said. "Still, I wouldn't rule him out," Joe said. "You're
beginning to irritate me," Hal said. The neighbors were drifting back
to their homes, their curiosities satisfied. Joe, too, turned
and left, but not before adding, "I was just trying to interject a
little humor. Sorry, no offense intended." Hal failed to dignify
this with a reply. The three of us stood there staring at the smouldering
rubble in silence. "Well, you're welcome to stay at my place," I
said finally. Hal looked at me as if to measure my trust. Then he
said, "This wasn't our real home. We have a secret home where we
keep our valuables. Nobody knows its whereabouts, not even our
children. There was nothing in there but junk. I figured they'd come
sooner or later. And they didn't get the car, so we'll be fine.
Rebecca, here, just had to put on a little show for the neighbors.
You can't trust most of them, if you know what I mean." We shook
hands and embraced. Then they got in their car and were gone forever.
I memorized their license plate number - 357 O19 - for good luck.


  1. reminding me - holyfuckingfuck, I've done shit - Giftmas is day after tomorrow. Gah.

    Join the club, in the same boat, etc. I guess if we're happy, we can call it a cruise?

  2. Stooges!

    I'm disappointed in you, man. Silliman's got waaaay more links than you do. See what happens when you're in a good mood? Heh.

    Merry etc to our esteemed host and all who pass on by.

  3. I, who never discuss music with you, just have to say THE RAMONES!!

  4. Today is Festivus!!!
    Let us have the Airing of Grievances!!!

  5. I didn't plan this on purpose, but it is just like me to be in a good mood on a day of airing grievances.

    Hugs and kisses for you and Old Salty.

  6. A day late and all, but as a daytime resident of King Farm...I agree. As long as it's light rail. If the treenannies want to run rapid bus down KF Blvd, they're completely fucking insane.