Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unshaven

I take Saturdays and Tuesdays off. So yesterday being Tuesday, not needing to present myself, I didn't shave till late in the afternoon. And so this morning I didn't feel any pressing need to shave again. When one has a beard, the shaving bits, the upper cheeks and the throat, are not that noticeable. what's a half-day's growth?

But now I'm wishing I had shaved. I had a flat tire in the rain, coming in to work. Equidistant between bike shops. And no patch kit with me, like a tyro. So I locked the damn bike to a stop sign and caught a bus, feeling clumsy and enormous in my rain gear, like someone impersonating a Japanese hazmat worker. And when I arrived at the office, Juli looked at me in a puzzled way. I couldn't hear what she said, so I went closer. She said: "Oh! You have grease on your face."

And so I did, a great big smear of it, from examining my flat tire; I looked as though I'd blacked my face for a commando raid but only gotten halfway done. So I washed it off. 2:00 in the afternoon, and just starting the day: the omens were not feeling very good. My birthday, and I was excited about 53, a prime number, a number to conjure with: but now I was feeling rather seedy and used up. Maybe, after all, 53 is the official age of washed-up-ed-ness. The birthday greetings piling up on Facebook are lovely, but a little daunting. Who am I, after all, really? What are we celebrating? What is this thing, that wanders through Portland and up and down the net? Does everyone know but me?

I woke at three this morning, fretting about a whole long list of things, things I needed to remember to do. No sleep in me. And then this morning I drank too much coffee and indulged in disputation. Entertaining but hollow: I was playing a convinced Buddhist, for some reason, and we all know that I'm never convinced of anything, particularly if it has to do with me. I bump along the ground like a wrinkled balloon. I keep touching my face to make sure I'm here. I'm here, all right, but I'm not shaved. And I feel old and shabby, just something sketched in. A day's growth: you can sprinkle dots to represent that, each dabbed with one sure poke of the pen. Easy.

Then if thou are the food of worms O virgin of the skies
How great thy use, how great thy blessing! Everything that lives,
Lives not alone, nor for itself...


I try some Blake, but my voice dries up, vanishes. Online, I keep pulling up my blog, and there it is, but powder blue and not quite right. I click on this and that, and finally realize that, not quite consciously, I'm waiting for the old comfortable template to load again, and tell me everything's safe and secure. But everything's topsy-turvy. At the turn of the stairs are a couple hundred books ready to trundle off to the Powell's book buyer. I have to force myself not to handle any of them, or I'll pull them out of the "go" pile and put them back in the "stay" pile.

I'm like a cat: I don't really care what my surroundings are like, so long as they're warm, but I don't like them to change. (Is that what I am? Like a cat?)

I'm going to slip out, go to the bank, cash a check, maybe get a patch kit, and go pick up a library book. The siege of Constantinople, 1453: traditionally, the event that marks the end of the Middle Ages. Guns. The Ottomans must have had guns by that time? In fact I vaguely think I've read about them, enormous ones throwing stone shot. Maybe I served in the Varangian Guard, once. (Is that what I am? Like a Germanic mercenary? They were at first Vikings, later on mostly Anglo-Saxons. They probably looked pretty much like me.)

Saturday night Martha and I are going to see Brenton's Bloody Poetry at the Shoe Box Theater. (Shelley. Is that what I am, like Shelley?)

23 comments:

Zhoen said...

Remember man, that thou art dust. And unto dust though shalt return.

Dale said...

Yeah, but right away? :-)

caroleesherwood said...

happy birthday. silly, you are what you eat. have some cake. cake will make it all better. :)

Dale said...

Was that my mistake? Is this what being a "cajun jack burger" feels like?

Murr Brewster said...

Day before my fiftieth, I went for a bevy of appointments at Kaiser, and came home with a date for a colonoscopy, a diagnosis of fat on the eyeballs and a prescription for something called "special diaper cream." The unexamined life is underrated.

Dale said...

Oh, that's harsh, Murr! (Does anyone ever say that any more? Did anyone ever say that?) Still, I guess it sort of leaves you no way to go but up :-)

Dale said...

(better colonoscopies, slimmer eyeballs, richer diaper cream -- nothing but the best!)

Zhoen said...

Dale,
I always found the Ash Wednesday blessing immensely comforting, for reasons outside of words.

Dale said...

(me too, actually)

Moria said...

May be worth mentioning this (not sure): I have just changed from AAA roadside assistance to "Better World Club" http://www.betterworldclub.com/ Their coverage includes that they will tow a BICYCLE to a bike store -- up to twice a year. They are located in Portland, and their main "feature" (as I understand it anyway) is that they are more env-friendly in terms of the policies they support (Apparently AAA supports $$$ some pretty odd things.)

Now, I realize that the flat tire and lack of patch kit were only part of what was amiss -- thus this info may not be of particular interest relative to your day's events. Or, then again, it may be a nice thing to know.

I just switched to BWC, so I don't have a lot of personal commentary on their service etc.

Uma said...

Happy birthday Dale:)

Dale said...

Hey, thanks Moria! Yes, triple A does some political lobbying I greatly dislike, or did the last time I looked.

Dale said...

:-) thanks, Uma!

Udge said...

Not at all washed up, Dale (said the 52.79 year old), not when you can still write lines like "I bump along the ground like a wrinkled balloon."

Happy birthday.

Oh, and while I miss the colour scheme of your old template, I much prefer the new layout. On balance, a good change.

Deb said...

:-)

In my book, you are lovely cat-dust-shelley-balloon-sketched-fully-human-Dale. Smitten with life in all its glorious vaingloriousness. Its vibrant dust.

Cheers to one of your prime years. I hope to be able to toast you in year 59.

xox

Rachel said...

Oh, do we ever really know who we are? I think the best we can do is fake it most of the time.

Thinking of you, anyway, always and still.

Alexandra said...

Congrats on making it to a another prime number, Dale! I think that means you are in your prime whether shaven or not, whether cat or buddist, or just unsure :)

Dale said...

Thanks, you dear wonderful friends :-)

Lucy said...

I do like 'no sleep in me'.

Course you want another 'Happy Birthday'- Happy Birthday!

'I'm like a cat: I don't really care what my surroundings are like, so long as they're warm, but I don't like them to change'

they do say putting some butter on the paws helps with that...

Anonymous said...

Your comments are especially lovely this time. One of the pieces of who you are is a person who collects lovely readers. And I laughed at the idea we are the food inside us. I may play with that.

I dont know anyone else who plays with age like that. I never considered the primes. My last fun year was 42 when I decided that meant I was living the answer to the question of life the universe and everything. I felt more sure for the entire year. I don't know if the primes will work for me but I think I'll try.

I despise change and I end up with butter on my paws on a regular basis so I'm not sure that will help. I'm starting to get excited thinking about what I might make in my future though.

I hope your birthday became more thingish as the day progressed and I hope today is more thingish still.

Melanie with an em

Sarsparilla said...

I'm super pleased to see for the first time that Howard Brenton has an international audience. His plays can have terrific theatrical impact - did you enjoy it? Very much hope so.

Dale said...

Vanessa, it was a very good play -- interesting to me for all kinds of reasons. And it played beautifully -- terrific theater. I feel maybe too close to Shelley ever to have an objective response to a representation of him: I kept having moments of -- "but it wasn't like that, I would never have said that!"

Dale said...

Lucy and Melanie, I bet you have no idea how many times you've rescued me :-)