There’s No Place Like Home

“Homeless in Space” brought a thoughtful, if aphoristic, response from Ashen, heroic reader and writer over at Course of Mirrors:

“Your post sparked a thought. Some people don’t experience their early home as a safe place to root and grow. Frustrated expectations may foster a sometimes unconscious element of resistance, not to fit in, as it were, like… being homed can mean being owned
being holed can mean being controlled
being placed can mean being traced
being named can mean being framed or tamed”

Thoughts, too, of home, whatever the experience, I was reminded of the end of the film The Wizard of Oz, when the good witch Glinda tells Dorothy she’s always had the capability of going home, and tells her to tap her heels together three times while saying: “There’s no place like home.”

Indeed, there is no place, existentially speaking, like home. Home is an idea, often reduced to an ideology, that doesn’t necessarily match what’s really happening (growing equity, capital). Also I was reminded of the song from “Inventories,” new book (from the serial novel started here last July as a pandemic quarantine exercise), in which the word home appears 38 times:

“Back Home Again”
What I know about love,
I wrote on a postage stamp,
mailed myself halfway to the moon.
I’m in stardust singing I do, I do, adieu,
and I can’t go home again.
Born in the back of a beach bum shack,
I sailed the seven seas.
Never made it back home again.
Adieu, adieu. You can’t go home again.
Born in a corral of a rodeo,
off a road they call Route 66.
Between the cowboy and the clown she broke free.
Goodbye, goodbye. She won’t be back again.
The moral of this story, the point of this tale,
when you leave home, you can’t go back again,
because you won’t be there when you arrive.
Goodbye, my love, goodbye my love, goodbye.
And it’s home again, I want to go back to you,
see my family and my old friends too,
but I can’t go home again.
Goodbye, my love, goodbye my love, adieu.

“Inventories” is a journey book about a semi-god (a type, allegorical, character, an oligarch on the run) who wants out (to escape his life of privilege and its human costs), to leave home, only to find himself engaged in any number of other homes along his way.

There’s no place like home, and no way to escape.

Inventories

Part human, part deity, these working gods are restless. What happens when one wants out? Episodes of a god on the run, “Inventories” is now available in paperback book format. “Inventories” first appeared here, at The Coming of the Toads, near daily installments over several months in 2020, a quarantine exercise. The text was revised for this book publication first edition.

ASIN : B08VM82YRK
Publisher : Independently published (February 2, 2021)
Language : English
Paperback : 190 pages
ISBN-13 : 979-8702891125
Item Weight : 9.4 ounces
Dimensions : 5 x 0.48 x 8 inches

So long!

Land of to have and have not, mostly have not, like most lands where guns come before butter and both wind up on the black market, where compulsory works for some but not necessarily for others, where chance is every character’s antagonist, where you’re on your own but rarely left alone, until it’s obvious you’ve played out every option, then you are let to go, and you can’t go on, but go on you must. Also paradisiacal home to amateur myth, where you mighta had class, were it not that, in every failure’s telling, everything is thrown, from bronze, silver, and golden rings to bad apples, rotten tomatoes, and remaindered books. Where one is born into simplicity but immediately starts to complicate matters, thickening the plot by making decisions great and small. But it’s never too late to start singing, as long as what you sing is instrumental, no lyrics. So we come to this, not an end, but a new beginning, a fresh start, an unheard song, not of diminishing returns, like the musical chairs game, but of growth born of compassion and humility, where you give up your seat to someone else, happy to be standing, happier still to be moving, happiest when ignoring the bored gods, those gods of pencil tails, gods of implanted teeth. Gods of the chaste and gods of the meek, gods of the shy and gods of the bold. Gods of yes, maybe, and no. Gods of marrow and morrow, of deep pockets and short-sheets. Gods of horror and jubilee. Gods of theft, and gods of trash. Gods abroad and gods stayed home. Gods blowing in the wind and contained within. Gods of youth and muscle and gods of old and wrinkled. Gods of hello and gods of so long. And god of gods, who never grows old, oldest of all, god of lead and god of gold.

The End

~~~

“So long!” is episode 81, the last episode of Inventories, a novel written in serial format at The Coming of the Toads, with daily installments from 27 July 2020 through 15 Oct 2020.

Play Ball

By Workshop 5 I was workshop weary, having just come out of Workshop 4 more uncertain than ever about Sylvie’s 5 W’s of writing, not to mention the H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. How to write. And why. And all the rest. I liked the folks in Workshop, but I wasn’t sure they had the 5 W’s or the H down anymore than I did, nor did Soto seem to, in spite of his credentials. From a young age he had wanted not simply to write but to be a writer, not necessarily a published writer, for just about anybody brought up on phonics could accomplish that, but a published writer of significance. He didn’t just want to play baseball (sandlot, or city softball league); he wanted to play shortstop for the LA Dodgers, or pitch closer for the New York Yankees, or announce play by play for the Yomiuri Giants (the first two being poetry, the other prose). Early success had not spoiled him, and he was lucky to escape injury, and he believed in himself and made it to the big leagues, if not at short or closer, the bullpen bench, success enough to sign his autograph to baseballs for kids before the game for a few years. And now he was calling play by play on the radio in writing workshops. But the workshop itself wasn’t writing, it was talking about writing – not at all the same thing; eating a hotdog with a beer in the outfield stands isn’t playing baseball. But it wasn’t that the talking of writing wasn’t helpful. It was. But it didn’t alter the fundamentals of confusion, of mistaking desire for touch. And then it came to me. Put down the pen, close the laptop, save the paper for the birdcage, the little notebook for grocery lists, things to do, reminders. I didn’t want to be a writer. What I really wanted to do was play baseball.

“Play Ball” is episode 80 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Organ Tics

Universe alive meaning what, Joyce talking again, a twitch of his head my way as I came in late to Workshop 3, the others already seated, each now having found their preferred place, on the couch, or in one of the overstuffed chairs, the easier to remember names, Soto said, the personality of the chair, the seat revealing the person. Joyce seemed to prefer the straight hardback chair in the corner by the bookcase. From there he could look out the window down the street or pay attention to the circle of writers working on their craft, honing their craft. Honing, to hone, was a word I noticed came up frequently in Workshop, like robust, another one of Workshop’s key words. And craft. I hadn’t realized what a craft writing could be. A robust honing of craft, I thought. A honing of robust craft. A craft of robust honing. Words have meaning, Joyce, excited now, head tics my way impatient I’ve not sat down yet, but where had I put my pocket notebook. Don’t tell me I forgot it. Words have meaning, Joyce said, stretching the long e as far as it could go. You people don’t seem to feel that, and a deep quiet settled, writers staring at the floor, backs rigid. To be part of a people, even if mistaken, surely something to that, I thought, stopped fumbling around looking for my notebook and sat down, now part of the silence. Then someone’s stomach gurgled, a rumbling burble audible around the room. Oh, my, Penelope said, patting her hand on her tummy, organics, and everyone laughed. I have some apple, Virginia said, did you not eat before class? I haven’t eaten all day, Penelope said. I’m on a roll. Quiet again, as we seemed to contemplate the meaning of Penelope’s fast. Then Matilda with a suppressed burp, and she begged Workshop’s pardon. Then came a big bang. It wasn’t me. Was it a mistake? Excuse me, Sam said, be right back, and he got up and left the room, Joyce staring out the window at a shout in the street. The minutes ticked quietly and reliably by, the room now a vacuum, the writers floating out of their chairs, weightless, bumping into one another, like pool balls, bouncing off the cushions, changing trajectory. Nothing dead, Sam said, reclaiming his seat. Inert, perhaps, but the organ, so persistent, shells another life. Inaction impossible, Sam continued, something in his voice a simple invitation to listen. The whole, Sam said, this thing, this idea, near and far, all organ, all organic, sprawling sleeping energy here and there, nothing inorganic possible, all alive, on the move, on the make, daresay, and of dark matter, we have sleep, as one life spills into another.

“Organ Tics” is episode 79 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

The Fall

Clouds crept over the north beaches and the vintners celebrated the annual crush in fog and rain and wind blowing inland across the coastal ranges and into the interior valleys and bunching up against the big mountains and emptying and running into streams and rivers and lakes as fall developed into a long and wet run-on sentence. Sylvie returned to Central America with her baseball team for fall and winter practice and play. No hard feelings, she said, she had just suddenly come down with an allergic reaction to my company, and when she ran into Pinch who offered her a flight out of Dodge she jumped. That was understandable, my company often giving off toxic pollins venom and dander, and Sylvie loved the sunny outdoors and adventure and felt the fog and fall in the offing, and I left Pinch to his medicine and made my way farther north up the coast and then over into Portland, increasingly hard on the road to maintain any kind of outdoor living or working in the deteriorating weather conditions. I had traded Pinch the yellow Hummer for a more practical and economic wagon I could sleep in and he threw in a bicycle and surfboard and camping and fishing gear to balance out the exchange. The surfboard wasn’t much use in Portland where I took a room in a hostel in the Hawthorne District, but the bicycle was keen and I traded the camping and fishing gear to a couple on their way south for a used Gypsy jazz guitar. And I thought I might kick back and do some writing in the little pocket notebook Sylvie had given me. I joined a workshop at a local writing school, but I wasn’t much interested in plausibility, page turning plots, credibility, memoir type stuff. Still I felt the urge to write, pencil to paper, inky fingers, daily exercise. I was interested in the rules and ways and means of writing only to the extent I could experiment with syntax and grammar and style and, in a word, language. I didn’t have any particular reader in mind, though I hoped Sylvie might be interested in getting her notebook back full of words. And around the same time I started thinking about fate, how Sylvie had said fate is the decisions you make, and about the gods, the old gods, the ones that make mistakes, as humans do too, toys of the gods, lives so full of mistakes and griefs and all the seven deadly sins oozing and piling up like oily rags until spontaneous combustion and rages erupted all around, but it was time to relax, to take it easy, to consider not just the deadly sins but the works of mercy and grace. Easy to say of course for a guy living on an annuity funded by the temporary borrowing of someone else’s capital such that he no longer needs to work, even as work is what, he’s learned in passing, most fulfills him. But the gods these days, one to ten percent of the population, it is estimated, continuing on much as the gods of yesterday, co-mingling with and catching their standard human wannabe-gods unawares in the snares of their own cravings, for attention, for respect, for a nice big piece of the plutocratic prosperous concentric pie, for publication, for a post, for stage time, minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years of fame, terms of fame, concentric circles, and round and round and round we go, and where we stop, nobody knows, amateurs as we all are, for the wages for being human are nil on the open market.

“The Fall” is episode 76 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Pick up and Delivery

Quickly but gently Pinch said and the three of us downloaded a dozen boxes from the plane into the yellow Hummer. The work done Pinch and I stood between the Hummer and the helicopter and watched the airplane take off and swoop west and over the hills. I was to drive back to the schoolhouse where we would unload the boxes. Pinch would follow me from the air in the helicopter. What about Sylvie, I asked. What about her? She said you’d be a good delivery man. The boxes were all the same, the size of a case of wine, and weighed something like six bottles of wine each, I guessed, but they must have been packed exceptionally well because I didn’t hear any glass as we shifted them from the plane to the Hummer. Unmarked, tightly taped, thick cardboard boxes. Was there a black market for wine? I asked myself. I was on a country road, the helicopter visible, crisscrossing above me, but when the road narrowed and curved and passed under a canopy of trees growing near the river I pulled over and cleanly cut open one of the boxes. Bottles, labels taped to each with handwritten numbers and letters and dates, not commercial labels, but coding that might have been winery production information. I removed one bottle and stuck it under my seat and pulled back onto the road and saw the helicopter again above and ahead of me. At Pinch’s place I pulled into the backyard and he was waiting and we carried the boxes into the covered back porch and he told me to put the bottle I’d taken back in its box. It’s not wine, he said. It’s medicine. You don’t want to drink it. Or talk about it.

“Pick up and Delivery” is episode 75 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

In a Pinch? Call Pinch!

Flying high over grape vineyards, hills of oaks, and country roads, Neder Pinch handed me his joint, which I declined to a shrug of his shoulders, and he took another toke himself. We reached the private airfield where Pinch had found the yellow Hummer, parked in the field near the short runway. Neder Pinch works out of a two room office scabbed into a defunct one room schoolhouse in a small town in wine country. In the front room Pinch’s receptionist and secretary mind the store. In the back room Pinch spends most of his day on the phone or in discreet meetings with individuals at large. Pinch provides, according to the sandwich board in the school front yard, for financial and other services requiring license or expertise in the field, including high risk insurance, bail bonds, notary public, realty (rents and sales), payday loans, civil marriage, used car sales, air-taxi, private investigations & missing persons, copies faxes and photographs, post office, city and county utility payments, and plumbing repair. His helicopter pad was in the back school yard. We landed unceremoniously in the private airfield, disembarked, and walked over to the Hummer, which was unlocked, empty, cleaned out, keys in the ignition. We climbed into the Hummer and Pinch advised we now wait patiently for the plane to land. It usually came in around what he called his sit-out time, and he often watched the plane’s landing pattern coming in over the town and school house office as he and his staff sat out in the school yard with a beer or wine drink, chomping on fried carrots and mushrooms, cheeses and bread chunks dipped in oil and vinegar, while chatting up the day’s business and the plans for the morrow. In a Pinch? Call Pinch! his ad in the local paper read, and I had called him, pursuant to what appeared to be Sylvie’s direction. We rolled down the windows in the Hummer and waited for the airplane to come in, Pinch falling asleep sprawled out in the back seat, his feet sticking out a side window.

“In a Pinch? Call Pinch!” is episode 74 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Call Pinch

Of course I had tried Sylvie’s cell, but the signal was dead, or least very ill. I was staying now in a rooming house in a small town on the outskirts of a bigger town, up north, in vineland, a couple of hours out of San Francisco, friendly place, if you didn’t ask too many questions, like where people came from or where they lived or what they did for a living or where they might be on their way to, if you didn’t ask any questions at all. I took a job washing dishes in a local tavern, three hours a day, an hour after the breakfast rush, an hour after the lunch rush, and an hour after the dinner rush, not that any of the rushes was much to write about, short of a filler in the local weekly (Lots of dishes to wash yesterday at Taberna’s Tavern said local dish washer Glaucus, hired to handle the meal rushes during the annual month-long Taberna Jazz-Grass Fest), and one night, after the dinner dishes, sitting out on Taberna’s western style wooden sidewalk, raised a couple of feet above street level, drinking a beer and watching the passersby, tourists mostly, and flipping or flicking through the pages of the little pocket notebook Sylvie had given me for my writing but in which I’d yet to write a single word, a habit I’d picked up, the flipping of the empty pages, I espied something written, a scribble that passed by in a flash, and I had to thumb slowly through the pages again to find it. Call Pinch, it said, in Sylvie’s handwriting. How had I missed it? When did she write it? What did it mean? Who or what or where was Pinch?

“Call Pinch” is episode 73 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Missing Persons

Going north a sign indicated the last thing I remembered before awakened by Sylvie groggy from road sleep parked in a poorly lit motel space outside Room 3. Dark out and Sylvie said let’s just go in and sleep and sort our stuff out in morning, but she handed me my cowboy kit and she grabbed her backpack so we might complete our nightly personal ablutions before entering the torpor of little brown bats. Late morning I awoke and went in search of coffee. I was away about an hour, wandering up the road until I found a coffee hutch, and when I got back to Room 3 Sylvie was missing, her backpack too, the yellow Hummer also, the parking space in front of the door empty. No note. I waited, finished my coffee then finished Sylvie’s coffee. Check out time neared. The housekeeper knocked. At the desk in the lobby I was informed the bill for one night had been settled, and that’s all they knew. I started walking back up the road, retracing my coffee search steps, passed the little coffee hutch, and kept walking. Then I went back to the coffee hutch and asked the baristas if they’d noticed a yellow Hummer that morning, described what Sylvie looked like to them, her blue eyes, round cheeks dotted with a few freckles, straight hair, thinking maybe she’d stopped for coffee. No. Sorry. Maybe I was headed in the wrong direction. I wasn’t even sure where I was, what city we had wound up in. I kept walking, surrounded by local business minding its own business as usual as far as I could see, the main street a typical two way affair, one side leading out of town, the other into town, ending in a turnaround, and the other way around. I walked around the town twice, once stopping for breakfast at a small cafe, the big yellow Hummer noticeably absent from anyone’s morning as I asked around, in the cafe, at the two gas stations, the old grocery in the middle of town, the newer stop and go at the end opposite the motel. Down a side street I passed a church and a small graveyard. On another street a grade school, the yard empty. Little houses with big porches and big yards, a vegetable garden gone to seed, garages with no doors, bicycles and toys strewn about, a swing set, a tire swing hanging from a giant maple branch, two women talking over a fence, an old man in a pickup truck making deliveries, a feed and supply store. A building with a tall flag pole out front, not exactly the county seat, but I might have considered a missing person report. A single police car in the driveway. But who was missing, Sylvie, or me.

“Missing Persons” is episode 72 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Morning Motel Coffee

Every day now followed a similar pattern, beginning with a walk for a cup of coffee I would bring back to our motel room for Sylvie, who slept on, from a nearby cafe or coffee shop, where I might sit drinking my first cup at the counter or a small outdoor table, my little pocket notebook for company, giving every man Jack the impression I was productively occupied, not that any Jack would care, but some mornings I had to settle for the coffee brewed in the motel lobby, or, last resort, made from a rickety electric drip coffee maker in the motel room, using the premeasured packets of coffee and water from the bathroom sink, the coffee poured from the carafe into plastic or foam cups, the foil wrapped mints left by the housekeeper intended it was my guess to smooth the bitter oily watery edge of a coffee made with dirty equipment, water heated only lukewarm, with beans ground to dust. But when I got back to the room with Sylvie’s coffee from abroad, she might still be sleeping, or the television would be on, and she would catch me up on the local news, weather, and road conditions. Check out time was usually 11, though most motel guests were out and back on the road by then, as we often were, too, the noise of a neighbor’s flushing toilet, pipe gurgling shower, slamming doors, the awakening road rush of 18 wheelers, motorcycles, family vans loading up, delivery trucks coming and going, or a squealing housekeeping cart preventing further sleep in any case.

“Morning Motel Coffee” is episode 71 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.