I got home from work today and Alan had something important to tell me: Our ex-neighbor Chuck Gibson died yesterday. I can’t say I’m surprised; the last time we saw him he looked awful, and he’d had health problems for years. But I felt sad just the same. I’d been meaning to track him down, now that we’re back in town. I got on the bike to think about it. A storm was banging around up north, but it was sunny where I was and they don’t call them widely scattered showers for nothing. So off I went.
Into the park I rode, back out from under water but redolent of recently flooded ground — 10 past poopy diaper, I guess you’d call it. It was hot and humid, and there was mud where it shouldn’t be, and puddles that were gross to go through, and all the rest of it. The storm continued to bang away in the north, the sun continued to shine where I was. Bob Dylan was on the iPod. I rode on.
It’s strange to ride on a flat course again, after all the up-and-down of Ann Arbor. Thought: How can I make this more challenging? Thought: Ride faster! So I flew, something I rarely do since I knocked out my No. 9 incisor on a headfirst tumble three years ago…this week, now that I think about it. I went as fast as I dared, panting in the stink, thinking, Chuck, where did you go? My neighbor said at the end he called for the friend he was staying with, said he felt awful, and just died. What happens when the light goes out? Is it a chemical reaction that fails to happen anymore, or what? A bolt of lightning cracked ahead of me and the thunder was fierce. Finally a cloud rolled over the sun; I was still miles from home.
The skies opened. I hate riding in the rain, mostly because I wear glasses, which are impossible to keep clear. Then the sun came back out, while the rain continued to pour — unusual, but it happens (it’s how you get rainbows). I headed for home, soaked to the skin, no longer minding the puddles, sun shining through a significant shower. It occurred to me this was a natural occurrence of “Hollywood rain,” the sort you usually only see in the movies, because it’s fake rain, shot with a Rainbird sprinkler on a sunny southern California day. The pavement steamed, the gutters streamed, Jimi Hendrix came on the iPod — “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” Thought: Am I in a movie? Hendrix soundtrack, Hollywood rain, emotional subject matter — all the signs say yes.
A brush with death, either as a participant or observer, brings predictable reactions. Some people get horny — this one’s a classic. Others get mordant and depressed. This is what happens to me: My senses open wide, and I pay more attention. Death comes for all of us, I guess, and sooner or later we’ll be the ones whose name is passed around on the telephone lines. Someone else will go for a ride in the rain. But for now, we’re all still alive and it’s someone else’s turn.
That’s today’s edition of Five Pointless Paragraphs. Thanks for your patronage!
In other news at this hour, I thought this story, about a TV reporter yelling at a gay activist for writing something “cruel” and “defamatory” in a memory book devoted to Ronald Reagan, was an absolute stitch. I also liked this line, from the TV reporter’s official station bio: She was crowned Miss Majorette of Illinois in 1993 after fifteen years as an accomplished competitive baton twirler.
I guess one sign you’re enjoying parenthood is that you keep changing your mind about what the best part is. Once Kate grew out of the screaming-colicky-hellion stage of infancy, I wanted her to stay a baby forever. Six months was my favorite age. Then 10 months. Then she was a toddler, and even though it was like having a miniature Joan Crawford in the house, that was fun too. Then the period when she referred to our state capital as Nipply-napolis. But I’m changing my mind yet again. Yesterday, at breakfast, she called from the living room: “Mom, what does…t-y-p-h-o-i-d spell?”
“Typhoid,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“Just doing a crossword puzzle,” she said. And that was that.
Oh, this is the best, I tell you. The best.
Is this the return of the Single Long Entry? It may be! More tomorrow.