Sunday, November 16, 2008

Robert Morgan

Saw old friend Bob Morgan last Thursday night for the first time since the last visit I made to his and his wife’s farm in Ithaca. That visit back in 2002 (I believe) was one born from a journey made to see the last of the Ithaca urban family leave Cornell on their own career paths. Donna was packing up to go back to Manhattan; Paul, not long after, would be taking a temporary teaching position at Wake Forrest. Everyone else had already packed up and left Ithaca years before.

As we drove to Jacksonville Thursday evening, I told E of Bob’s career, a solid career as a poet and fiction writer; a career that became even more solid after a phone call from a talk show host in Chicago, praising his latest book (at the time), and asking him to please come and visit her book club. When Oprah Winfrey picks your book to be her book club selection of the month, you’d suspect that your life would change in very drastic ways. Not so with Bob when Gap Creek, the fictionalized account of his grandmother’s life, was picked. Bob was older then, held a firmly established position in the English department at Cornell University, had at least eight books of poetry under his belt, and probably as many works of fiction, too. He and wife Nancy didn’t really need anything else that money could buy, except a farm closer to the university, a farm that turned out to be very similar to the farm they had lived in before, a place where you could sit Sunday evenings and eat, drink and listen to Bob spin yarns. Bob had a habit of crossing his legs when he spoke, and as he spoke, he would begin a stirring motion with the top leg. It was as if he were stirring up the words for his stories with that leg, gettin’ a good momentum on them so they would tumble out of his mouth together in the most beautiful sentences. When Bob spoke, you could feel yourself becoming mesmerized, all else would fade away except for the sound of his voice, and the stirring of his leg…

We were not disappointed with Bob’s talk. He had been invited to JSU’s Houston Cole Library by the Friends of the Library, and he spoke on his latest biography, Boone. As he began to speak to the audience, the sound of his voice again mesmerized me, all else faded away, and although he was standing at a podium with one leg casually crossed over the other, the top leg began what was most certainly a noticeable stirring…

At the closing of the talk, as the audience broke out of Bob’s spell, I looked over at E to see his reaction. His paraphrased words were that he had become so engrossed in what Bob was saying, that when he snapped out of the spell, his hand automatically went to his chin for fear that he had been drooling. And as we slipped down the eleven flights of stairs to avoid the overcrowded elevators, E asked if I had noticed what Bob’s leg was doing during the talk…

Reading: Grapes of Wrath
Listening to: Cookin’ & Workin’ with Miles Davis

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Whatcha needed was a good lubin’…

Acted as designated driver to On Tap in Beermingham this past Sunday. It was the Catoe’s first time out in my vehicle and they commented on the smooth ride and the fancy features. Having recently fallen in LOVE with a no-frills, stripped down Corolla that I met through happenstance, I remarked about how I would like my Sonata better if it had NOT featured electric windows and keyless doors. I’m kinda simple that way (not that I don’t love the Sonata). Well fool! Don’t you know not to talk about your car in front of it? You’re thumbing your nose at fate if you do that. I’ve learned over the years never to talk about how great my car is running, or how nice or not nice I think my car is (especially if I’m standing near my car, or sitting in my car), cause just when you say something out loud about your car, that’s when it gets back at you by doing something you don’t want it to do (like the year my car stopped dead at the traffic light in front of the Mall during day-after-Thanksgiving traffic, or when another one of my cars stopped dead in Coldwater, AL and I had to hitch a ride with the strange foot-fetish man who gave me the really nice pair of steel-toed boots).

Well, evidently, I was thumbing my nose at fate all day Sunday, because while downtown last night, my key got stuck in the ignition. Not just wheel-locked-up-so-jerk-it-to-the-side-a-bit stuck, or if-you-try-some-other-silly-idiosyncratic-moves-that-worked-on-other-cars stuck. Nope, zee key was stuck and was not coming out for me (or for anyone, for that matter). And I couldn’t just leave the key in the ignition and lock the car safely, because of all those fancy safety features. The car would not lock as long as the key was in the ignition. And the service department of Dave Menegay Hyunda was closed for the evening. So, I drove back to RBC and parked the car for the night, leaving the key in the ignition with the doors unlocked, because you can still do stuff like that in parts of RBC without worrying that someone is going to make off with your car.

So, as I was ranting to myself later about how I purchased a new car so that I would have peace of mind, and not have to deal with little problems like this, my cell phone starts ringing and it turns out to be the customer service survey company for Dave Menegay Hyunda and they want to know if I am happy with the service I received the last time I had an oil change. “Well, it’s funny that you called this evening…” and I explained to her what was going on and how extremely unhappy I was at the moment because I had a rather expensive, not-even-a-year-old car sitting in my driveway with a key stuck in the ignition, and couldn’t lock it, and couldn’t get through to the service department. After a very long moment of silence, the young woman asks, “Should I call you back at a better time?” And I respond, “Well, yes. Perhaps if you do, I’ll have a better attitude with which to answer your questions.” Click.

When I walked into the service department this morning, I was very quite and polite, and I explained to the nice gentleman behind the desk what had transpired. I also told him that I was keeping it under control for the moment, and asked him if he could tell that I was keeping it under control? You see, it was costing me money by not being at work, and I had already paid enough for the car…

Well that tack wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I tried another tack, one that involved a little method acting. I believe that I was not only digging deep within myself, but was also digging deep within the fertile coal mines of my coworkers Tami Brooks and Nicole Papa when I said the following, “Well, I don’t know what I’M gonna do, but somebody HERE is gonna make ME happy this morning. Can YOU make that happen?” Translation for the reader: the part about “making me happy” was me speaking. The “Can you make that happen?” part was Tami Brooks; and while I was saying the “Can you make that happen?” part, I was doing the cute little chugga-chugga train dance that Nicole does in my doorway every day at work (I hope that some of you have seen this phenomenon, because it is truly phenomenal). Either I was so damn cute doing the chugga-chugga dance, or they recognized that under the librarian fa├žade of cardigan and sensible shoes raged a finely-tuned seething mass of red-headed whup-ass…I was asked to wait in the Customer Lounge (which, by the way, does not have alcohol). I didn’t have to pace the Customer Lounge area of Dave Menegay Hyundai for long. My ride was returned to me with the explanation that the key had gotten stuck because “what I needed was a good lubin.” Great. Thanks. Give me that damn key. I think your butt’s gonna need a good lubin’ when my foot is headed up it…