I just rose into the visions of the village idiot this morning like I’d never been away. The ice of the night had burst a pipe and the water was up to that first little wooden step in the basement. I followed him down the glistening street into the diner where I learned from eavesdropping on the villagers that his reports were true and I had a double order of toast and jam and two large white mugs of coffee. You never know.One of these I took outside into the blast where I had a cigarette. He came out and headed back home to his apartment with a hamburger in a Styrofoam tray in one hand. He stopped to clear a drain with the toe of his boot. Which is more than most people’d do.
My business here is done but I’m staying up at the hotel for a couple days in a monastic cell, just like I ordered. The screen and the Eliza Gilkyson are hearth enough with a bottle of Green tea and the occasional trip down stairs a flight and out to the veranda to get stoked in outdoor pleasure. This storm’s just a good excuse for me to stay off the road. I feel I should be out chopping ice from the eaves and drains but for a day or so I take leave of such concerns. The hydro was out for a bit this morning. Not long enough to be an emergency. If that happens I’ll get off my butt and save an old lady or something. I’m done in.
I told the girl in the next room I didn’t know whether I needed detox or more and she said knowingly, just a walk, so I took one with my camera. Dropped in at the gallery to pack some stuff and locked myself out like an idiot when I went to the store for more tea. I mistook my room key among my things for the gallery key so I came back to the hotel to the monastic cell for a bit to warm up and dry out. Not a bad day at all. Took some pictures. Now the glamor’s off the place. I haven’t been here in a while, I’m on retreat, and there isn’t much of family here anymore but my father and my grandfather drank here, and I came here myself when the draft dodgers started getting bands together and there was dancing. I’ve seen misery here, had my hand in it up to the elbow but it feels like home as several places do. My father’s buried down in the valley there below the church just there. My grandmother ran the hotel across the street. These meaningless identifiers. We used to sneak across that pasture there up tothe barn and peek in the door at the dances. We could hardly see over the long grass to get there in the dark but we’d do it. Now that barn’s got a parking lot full of smart trucks with gun racks and a dance floor to die for. I ate a slice of bear meat there with a blueberry sort of chutney on the side one night I thought it was me who died and gone to heaven,.
I find I’m pretty happy on my own in transit between these places. I’m not shy, or afraid to seem strange. I like the country music from the local station on the radio and the frozen home fries in the diner. I noticed somebody had scratched into the artificial Christmas snow sprayed on the window “Don’t leave God out of the equation’. Just somebody doing someone’s little part. Oh to feel that crucial.
The cell is hot, the hotel is hot. The place has an outdoor furnace which the owner plies with chunks of log the size of his own admirable torso. My walls bear replicated sprays of violets. I have a mirror, a poster of a sadistically thoughtful timber wolf, with eyes oddly like the musician Marilyn Manson’s. A European wolf, the tag says. Smokes Gitanes likely. Bisexual. Will screw the crack of dawn and doesn’t know what he wants. Can’t settle on a sugar bowl.
The bed is firm, the pillows meager but numerous. Later tonight I’ll shower and settle in for sleep. My black outerwear, shed and hung, lends my room a certain unbuttoned priestliness. I feel very white and dissolute, half regretting the dark hounds tooth. Outside the rain blows off in a slapping wind that seems warm in a sudden breakthrough of sunlight, the highway dries safe, quickly and then the sun is obscured again, fast, and the mercury falls. A friend who visits here with me sometimes, we go to church, says that hilltop villages are subconsciously reassuring because they are defensible… you can see what’s coming. Off in the distance on lower wolf colored hills, veils of snow . In this hot room, where I sleep with bottled water close to hand, I stand at my window drinking ice tea, wanting to undress, watching the vicious swat of the wind on the high western false fronts of the few austere buildings, imagining the sting of the ice and road gravel in it.
Buddy angry down in the hall, staying upstairs with a work crew, wonders why the bar isn’t open downstairs. Thought I worked here. I used to do so too. Nobody wants to watch you get drunk I want to say, knowing it to be true but I mutter some palliative in the tone I use for panhandling crackheads. He circles mindlessly near the barroom door like a baby wanting a bottle from the fridge. He just forgot to buy a bottle on his way home from his work site, counted on the bar being open. My mother’s words echoed again, “Don’t take your guns to town, leave your guns at home, Bill, don’t take your guns to town.” Whiny little drunk man. Palliative. I have a reputation. “That’s only weekends now, lad.” Hard times in Babylon. You’d find that bar more confusing if it was open.
But half the working guys in the hotel have driven into the ditch today, and are calculating costs, there’s more than one bloody knuckle from some cold metal skid or another. I imagine a drink’d be welcome. It’s so hot and dry in here, and so extremely neither outside… snow hurling under the gas pump lights across the road last night.
I was born in the next town down the road but as a kid I played here, we’d come here at Christmas. There were those heartbreakingly earnest little angel choirs singing carols in their snowsuits on floats in the Christmas parade the other twilight, not much changes, and dogs barking from the animal rescue mission float at dogs along the route. Tossed candy. I have the bladder of like a fifteen year old poodle in the cold and I missed half the parade finding a bathroom but it was nice.
After the hot dogs which followed and everything was shutting down, three of us drove to another village to a Legion hall to hear a reggae band while a fourth spent an hour skating round the rink here in moonlight. That would have been something to see. We were each bothered and graced by the full moon. We were all pawing at the moon that night bothered and enlivened. We were running wild. There seemed to be one or two of everything at this party. Everyone told charmingly modest stories on themselves in the parking lot in little trails of smoke against a mural I could not decipher until I walked away to take a leak, up into the bush a bit and I could see it was a painting of a child blowing a dandelion head to snowy effect down the length of the concrete block building.
The band played late… near the end the janitor took to flicking the warning lights. A bit laid back for my tastes. Certain point everything kicked in and Cleveland commenced those little Jamaican warm up steps on the fringes of the floor. He says there’s a hip fairy comes to white people in their sleep when they turn thirty and locks dem up. The hip fairy. They are no longer loose, no longer hip. I try not to make it an obvious study but I aim to approximate those gently anticipatory warm up steps one day yet. He dances on the sidelines, observant, compact, sloe eyed. Like he’s on some guard. Sometimes he’ll dance up and rap out some fleet observance in your ear while your eyes are closed, wants you to notice something funny.
His wife and I have danced together since we were in our teens, skinny trouble makers in Polk Gulch, wharf rats. Bareback discos of the land. So we know our moves. We hardly dance together until there’s some hard r and b measure when you need to lock eyes with another human being in mutual pleasure. Little bit of wilding always has been important to us. I never spent any time in the Kingston ghetto but I have my humiliations to shake off down these verdant frozen back roads. Sometimes a fourth will join in. I’m no angel of the first degree, I’m no tupelo honey, I know you come to the end of romantic adventuring and these snow fields cover over the pulse in your throat but I have a few years of it left.
Jeep through an avenue of snow plastered pines all the way there and home, sleepy, at three in the morning to this old blue hotel. Tiptoeing up the stairs with my cuffs full of snow and beer on my breath like my father before me. Didn’t have any little insults to mull over this morning. Just a little dry. No dry fuck of an inbox. I didn’t remember to care. I skittered on ice up to the diner and had a western sandwich the size of my own head. Slack jawed with the realization of my own joy about twenty times a day. Not a bad count.That’s one wicked night out there. That wind’d kill you. The special effects are amazing. I gotta make a call or two now, in case the lines go down, see whether the roof’s caved in at home . Going to do a little snowshoeing tomorrow I gather if the weather settles. I’ll have the ass of a retired figure skater if I don’t drop dead of a stroke this winter shoveling.
You’re that geisha boy again out there crossing over near Rivière du-Loup, be careful, keep your eyes on the road in this extended tantalization under this big close moon.Remember the trucks? Trunk full of loot. Private data cleared. I’m glad of those heated leather seats on a night like this. All those calibrated details of that material progress. Through Kamouraska, all of it. This is like one of those places you hurtle through on a clear night there with your chin in the keyboard light, places that barely register on global positioning. You know, ‘The waitress was no princess, but I held out my hand just to touch somebody strange and she gave me back my change.” You wonder what kind of fire could burn there in a heart to keep it resident but we know better.