An Uphill Pleasure

coffee shop
A friendly place. No false chic.

Friends,

No poetic prose this time round. Just plain talking with my keyboard. I am, and always have been, more a talker than a writer. I do, though, enjoy the company of writers. So I sometimes hang out with such pretty people. I once thought that the writer crowd’s instinct for prettiness would invade my soul by way of miraculous osmosis. But it doesn’t work that way. Pretty poets are born pretty poets. They work damned hard, yes. But they work with what they have inside, and what they have inside is a special gift.

****

There exist so many rules for writers who maintain blogs and who hope to publish a story or a book. I used to read those rules, at least those written by people who owned deep experience with the always changing publishing industry. I’d read, and along about Rule #3 some acidic liquid that originated inside my stomach would boil, curdle and climb through my wet, bubbling tubes on a tortuous path that led, in record time, to my mind. There, within the first accessible lobe of the curlicue glob of gushy gray we name a brain, an order was written up and sent to my mouth.

“Flap that angry tongue!” shouted my gut-bound drill sergeant. “Tell these gurus that their rules are counter to the long-held and precious dictum that there are no rules where writing is concerned.”

Rule #3, by the way, usually informed us scribblers that our blogs might one day be considered by publishers to be our “platforms.” Therefore, went — and still goes — the wisdom, we should not use our blogs as personal diaries.

Once in a while, like just about every time my cud curdled, I obeyed my drill sergeant’s command. I stuck my tongue out at least as far as my cat can extend hers, and I flapped away. My intention, although at the time I would not admit to said intention, was to flap and slap — right through the cable line — the bearer of such unbearable wisdom.

Unbearable to me, favorable to most other blog-keeping writers whose intention was one day to publish a story or a book.

Yes, folks. Before you have a chance to tell me, I’ll tell you. I made a fool of myself. I, or rather my out-of-control mental tongue, surrendered to impulse and moved my fingers so as to tap something snappy and sarcastic inside one of those narrow slots we call a comment box.

It’s taken me a long while to admit that back then my mouth opened itself too wide and spit too soon. Acting on impulse might save lives when a fire breaks out, but if time permits a second thought before taking action, then please think first.

So what is my truth about all of this rule stuff? Why does my face acquire more sags and wrinkles when I read Rule #3?

The truth according to AVT is that Rule #3 is wise and righteous for those blog scribblers who hope someday to publish a story or a book. For me, this blog is just an avenue along which I travel. This way and that. Right here, or over there. I am free to write whatever comes to mind. I don’t expect ever to publish a story or a book.

****

And so speaking of today:

BayTheatre

I’m sitting inside a coffee shop in downtown Morro Bay, CA. I love this small town.

I grew up in South Jersey. I was born in Atlantic City, when AC stood for strolls on the boardwalk, suntans acquired while sitting on the sandy beach, close to a jetty, from which position one could watch the Steel Pier horse diving from the top of a sliding board and landing in a tub filled with salty Atlantic Ocean waves.

Once tanned to the complexion of a true Sicilian, lunchtime meant a short walk back up to the boards and into a pizza shop. Twenty-five cents a slice, each slice served by a gorgeous girl. I confess to learned shyness. Women frightened me when I was so young. They still frighten me, but don’t tell them that.

ArtCenter

Long days, and even longer years, have passed since my Jersey days, although Jersey remains inside the heart of me. I refuse to surrender her, or Philadelphia, PA, to California.

Still, here I am today in California. And yes, I’m happy today.

First stop when I arrived in the land of palm tree sunsets, way back when, was Venice Beach. That tale is, to me, an exciting one, even a sexy one. But it’s a story that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tell. I was then a dancer, a smile-spun playboy and a sometime cad. I had my reasons, most all of them selfish. In any event, I’d have to change the names of the main characters in order to protect my innocent self from the perhaps still vengeful.

MusicShop

Los Angeles proper was my next stop, and she presented gracious gifts. But I aged there. Aged, not grew. No longer young, and working in a challenging part of town, I grew first tired, then pessimistic, and at the last discouraged.

As well, I began to miss the small size of my New Jersey town. I began to conjure up memories long buried.

I’m in third grade. Short, even for my age, tight, curly hair. Sicilian nose competing with Pinnochio’s schnoz. An academic nerd who relished what he, in arrogant fashion, fancied was his hyper-intelligence. Disgusting kid, really. But he owned an angel’s voice. He, of course, realized his vocal talent. So did his teacher, a sweet but strict lady named Mrs. Henry.

We classmates are sitting on a bus, rolling along from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, there to visit the famous first zoo in the USA.

“Anthony, would you like to come to the front of the bus and sing our State Song for us?” said Mrs. Henry.

Would I? Well, Mrs. Henry held a microphone in her hand, a microphone offered to little, kinky-haired, angelic me. I figured that I couldn’t disappoint this favorite teacher. After all, this wise talent scout obviously knew her business. So I accepted, and I sang. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now sure how the audience responded to my aria. But I loved my performance. Today, I remember only the final few lines:

****

My Garden State,

I’ll sing your praises evermore.

I want to live and die

In dear old Jersey,

On the blue Atlantic shore.

****

Sounds better in person, voice accompanied by the gooey, adhesive sound of bus tires peeling along an asphalt highway.

Tattoos

So long, Mrs. Henry. Till later, Atlantic City. I love you forever, Philly. You’re always inside my mind and elsewhere, Venice Beach. Los Angeles, you’re even more sinful than I could handle.

Today, I’m pleased to be a citizen, although not what you might call an upstanding citizen, of Morro Bay, CA.

I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. Sure enough, I lived in dear old Jersey, but chances look slim for dying there. Maybe right here. Not, that is, inside this comfy coffee shop; just here, at home.

This morning I set a goal for myself. I told a few of my friends what I hoped to accomplish. My goal will likely sound silly to some, especially to the young. (I’m not young.)

I walked from my house to this coffee shop. Along the way, I snapped some photographs, which I include with this article. My trek from there to here was all downhill. I estimate the distance to be something longer than a mile.

Reaching this cafe means that I accomplished one half of my goal.

My close friends know that I underwent major surgery almost a year and a half ago. I am fortunate to be alive. I am grateful to many people. Still, for the past year and a half since the surgery, and for three and a half years before the operation, I have been physically too weak to walk the uphill distance from this favored shop back to my home. Today I intend to defy that limitation.

Slow, small steps. Frequent stops. Searching, along the way, for beauty unaware of its own preciousness.

When I’m home a while from now, I’ll open this little machine again, and add a sentence or two to tell anyone who might be reading that I made it, that I accomplished my goal. If, on the other hand, I’m forced to call for a ride, I’ll count myself optimistic at least for today.

Ciao, Ciao,

Anthony

P.S.

Small steps. A slow pace. Frequent stops to breathe deep along the way. One restful bench to sit upon. But here I am, back home inside my study. Goal accomplished. Call this a good day. I’m grateful to my friends.

SelfHome

8 thoughts on “An Uphill Pleasure

  1. I love reading your stories. They feel so…immediate. The fact that you shape your thoughts into words into print and into the hearts and minds of others, well, methinks that makes you a writer. A damn fine writer, sir.

    1. Debby, Thanks for the cheer. The best part of yesterday for me was knowing that my friends were right behind me, that I was far from being alone. That’s the heart of what we have while living on this planet.

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