One Thursday in Chocolate City

My boots are shiny and my uniform is freshly dry cleaned, pressed, heavily starched. The sleeves are rolled high and tight, snug against my biceps. I’m sipping a cup of Sulawesi (black, two sugars) listening to Social Distortion ‘Ring of Fire’ and anticipating [see also: dreading] a meeting in about an hour. I’ve already gone through two or three websites looking for anything useful; stories of successful SAR (Search and Rescue) cases, but there is nothing. Recreational boating season is over for the year, and only the foolish and the fishing venture into heavy weather during these months.

My head feels like it’s been invaded by some kind of strange, sticky life form that communicates in a series of clicks and pops, placing gentle pressure on the rest of my cranium as it slithers through my skull, in search of what I cannot say. It doesn’t appear to be eating my brains or feeding on the whites of my eyes, which would be a delicacy in some parts of deepest Africa. Maybe it’s just looking for a home. Too bad, because I have yet to receive a dime in rent.

“Last call, strange alien!” I stand up suddenly in my cube, flicking the lights off and on and clapping my hands as though I were a bartender driving out the drunks. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Explaining this to my stunned co-workers would take too much time, so I just give them a wink and a nod. One of them stares at me, astonished, the crumbs of her Pop-Tart cascading down her chin like a Martian avalanche. I’ll have this mess cleaned up before the credits roll, same as any good sitcom. By lunch time, they’ll have forgotten the whole thing… I am in complete CONTROL.

It seems a crime that my most creative period happens between 0800 and 1300 each day, right when I’m stuck fast in my veal fattening pen. Don’t let my employers get wind of this fact! “Well, maybe you can do some creative database building!” A ham-handed approach if ever there was one. Spend enough time in The Machine, and you begin to hear everything in terms of Team Motivation Training (“Find out what your people are good at and help them to ACHIEVE!) It’s a lame duck form of verbal and mental jujitsu handed down from the top, designed to spur the troops into productivity. And it makes me want to punch a goat when I get wind of it.

On this cold December morning I’d rather be on the road, bound for someplace reasonable; my camera close at hand, some inspiring music in my ears, a hearty breakfast decomposing in my stomach, and the whole day laid out before me like a feast for the senses. I should get paid to write, paid to take pictures, paid to create! I crave a deadline! Sentences strung together in colorful and descriptive patterns! Free coffee! Final wisdom!

It is in these moments that I feel the urgency of music, and understand anew what the artist was trying to say. Some produce pop pabulum for profit and prosperity, while others, all too aware of their fleeting presence on the human stage, seek to weave threads of their mortal soul into the songs they sing, in hopes that when they die they will not be soon forgotten. It has been said that life is a large bird flying silent and unobserved over a moonlit pond. When that shadow has passed, as there were none to witness the event, it never really happened. Eighty years means nothing to a mountain.

Taking another sip of Sulawesi, I turn Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ up… just… a little… louder, thinking again of that new Fuji camera I’ve been eyeballing as the buzz saw of Eddie’s famous axe fades into nothing, absorbed by the calm-inducing gray of my cubicle walls on this fog soaked Thursday morning.

Time for that meeting. I stand, gather my coffee cup, my notebook, a pen, and head for the stairs…

TWM

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