Journal Entry 0001

 Writing For Sake of Pleasure

I feel all written out today. Sometimes I allow the prose and poetry to suck so much energy from my inside quarters that I own just enough strength to fall backward onto my bed and take another retirement nap. Not so long ago, when I felt thus exhausted, I’d permit myself the self-pitying luxury of naming my state of mind Writer’s Block, and next I’d say to hell with art. Of late, however, I am daily forced to realize that I no longer have sufficient time left on Earth to make it worth my while to spend even one filthy coin on self-pity or escapist naps.

And so rather than offer another long poem, or a vapid excuse for not writing anything at all, today I tap this journal entry into its digitized slot, and along with it I entertain the happy possibility that sometime after I die someone who knew at least a certain aspect of me will find these words of interest.

Yesterday afternoon, I changed software permissions so as to encourage readers here — both those who use this same type of template and those who do not — to publish comments after each entry.

Why? Pride?

No.

Craven appetite?

Yes, that’s the ticket. I’m much the same as any writer in that I want to know that people read me and make whatever sense they might of what they read. I am writing for myself, agreed, but I’m not writing into empty air. At least I hope not.

Lately, I worry about the fact that my mind travels with far too much frequency and abandon into the past. When I walk out the front door of my house, I absorb the present moment, but at the same time I understand that definitions regarding past, present and future are, in essence, meaningless.

This morning I felt hungry for a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich. The imitation products sold across local diner counters where I nowadays live are weak, bland and insulting to a native carnivore.

When I was a kid — here I go again — I worked long summertime hours painting houses with my dad. We worked most days in towns near the ocean. Salty air. Nubile girls walking by, naked cleavage spilling over and causing saliva to drip from my young boy’s mouth. Red, convertible Chevy boats floating on white-wall tires, tops folded down, surfboards jutting beyond the back seat and over the rear trunk lid.

And my face splattered with paint. My sinuses filled with the rank smell of turpentine and the trapped aroma of sperm held prisoner.

The shame I felt because of the way I appeared caused me to back away and move myself under wooden staircases where I scraped away mad chips of peeling oil paint.

Dad never wanted to stop working, because stopping meant losing money; and he never earned much money. I, on the other hand, grew ravenous for lunch by 9:30 am. I hinted and I urged. I grumbled and I insisted. Until Dad surrendered and walked with me to the nearest delicatessen for no more than a twenty-minute, gulped lunch, usually a cheesesteak or a meatball sandwich (I loved meatballs, yes, although my shoulders slumped as I ate, because eating meatballs in a Methodist town announced to the world that we were blue-collar dagos.).

The Music Hall On The Boardwalk

If Dad told me we could end our workday while the waning sun still shined, I’d oftentimes fast-walk the few blocks to the boardwalk, head hung down and eyes shied away for fear that a pretty girl would cross my turpentine path; and when I reached the coastline, I’d strip down to my patterned undershorts, jump into the first big wave, and take a bath. I could not swim — I cannot now — but I felt happy and free enough under water to let the current push and pull my body where it wished. Then I’d flap and splash a make-pretend forward stroke toward the sand.

The Murder of War
Back to the present, through the past:
After a long day’s worth of writing, I like first to take my daily walk (more a shuffle because my legs refuse to perform with the grace they once enjoyed) through the cool fog that dominates this town’s summer air. Immediately on my return, I fix myself one excuse or another for supper. My daytime meals are limited to fruit, yogurt, fresh vegetables and the like. This diet is in response to an order from my physicians, a diet that has caused a significant loss of weight, so that my face has yanked and dragged its flesh into such a frightful state that I dare not aim my camera toward it.

In consequence, for supper I sometimes cheat a bit. Nothing too involved, though. A frozen pizza topped with slices of pepperoni slid into the oven, or a heaping plate of spaghetti and sausages. Anything both tasty and portable enough to carry upstairs where I like to watch an evening movie. Please suffer me, then, the space to give a brief review and recommendation.

I enjoy a good British mystery series. My current pleasure is Foyle’s War. The scripts for this series of shows, each episode a full-length story in its own right, were written by a man named Anthony Horowitz. The series’ main character, Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle, is played by the great (yes, great) Michael Kitchen. Set in southern England during World War II, these tales tell the story of the terror of war, as well as of the curt contradiction that demands that a local case of murder, related to but not a part of the battle — in the strict military sense — be pursued by way of investigation. Kitchen’s acting is superb, understated, tight, dignified and altogether remarkable. If you can afford to purchase or rent any part of this series, please spend the cash and tell the cashier that the inspired and inspirational writer known as AVT sent you.
The Way We Began
If you’ve been reading me here of late, then you will have noticed my slanted mention of a marriage gone wrong. I won’t write her name here, out of respect for her family, but I will talk just a while about my youthful and failed experiment with love.
We were too young. Cliche that, yes of course, but cliches own a rightful place when they speak the truth as best she can be spoken.
She was Jewish to my Sicilian. I wore a yarmulke during the wedding ceremony. I smashed the light bulb that was wrapped inside a starched, white-cotton handkerchief, under my right foot. We wrote our own vows, as was then the fashion for bell-bottomed lovers. She contributed passion, while I composed the adolescent poetry (can you pronounce Kahlil Toscano?).
Together we bought a bright-red Chevy Vega. Each Sunday afternoon I steered that car toward her parents’ house, where her grandmother Gabby cooked matzah ball soup, hummus, challah, baba ganouj and baked hamantaschen. I starved myself from Saturday evening through Sunday morning, so that I could stuff my mouth and stomach with food that even then I realized I’d not eat much longer, as Gabby was eighty-four years old at the time.
The shag carpet in my father-in-law’s and mother-in-law’s living room was colored orange with hints of tangerine. The television set flickered with the picture and the tick of the Sixty Minutes’ clock.
I grew fatter with each meal, while my young wife grew more distant from me.
The Way We Ended
She cheated on me, as the saying went back then (really, she just wanted more than I could give).
One afternoon I arrived home, inside our spacious apartment in Philadelphia, after a long day spent at the head of several classrooms filled with eager students; and on my roll-top desk I discovered the note: I need some space.
I wish I could say, with honesty, that I reacted with a pacific sense of equanimity and empathy for my dear wife, my love, the inspiration for my poetry. But, no, instead, I headed back out into a wintertime blizzard wind, found that she’d taken the Chevy Vega — how could she be so cruel? — and so I walked the many miles to where I suspected she’d be staying with a friend. By the time I arrived at that apartment, my dark beard was frozen with ice. Oh woe was I!
She told me to stop whining and to get lost.
I left my dear Philadelphia and traveled to my new country, where today I still reside.
A few years ago, I performed an Internet search to find out what happened to her, perhaps still hoping that she remembered me and how much I adored her. I came upon her obituary, and for several days afterward I felt breathless and confused.
How to think of her now?
She died of lung cancer at what today is considered to be an early age for death. Back then we were both chain smokers. I gave up nicotine in plenty of time to clean my searching cilia. She couldn’t kick the habit.

A different, yet similar, bad habit will kill me.

Sometimes I wish that I could believe in Heaven.
Enough of this and that for now. My body’s rhythm tells me to descend the staircase, find the kitchen and fill my plate with fruit.
Amen.

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