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Saturday . . . I'm watching the Peter and Henry Fonda stories on the Biography Channel. How interesting it was to find out that Peter (who seems a lot like my four year older, older brother) said that during the Vietnam War he would not be seen posing with Vietcong anti-aircraft gunners like his sister. Turns out that Peter is the patriot. Hearing Jane Fonda saying, "He did the best he could" started me weeping out loud, because that's what I've told so many about my less than perfect father, as I watch as he lay dying from Alzheimer's curled up like a fetus.
Sunday . . . A crazy obsession. This writing has become an obsession. I'm finding nearly as much comfort scrunched down in a bookstore coffee-shop, writing to no one in particular, as I do crawling between the crinkly Clorox-white sheets adorning the massive and half-empty Malamud mattress. Almost. Speaking of sleep, with a 120 minute nap at twenty-one hours, I managed to stay awake and alert for thirty-one hours straight. No problem. I had thought that I remembered when I was a kid, during one particularly boring summer vacation, I had stayed awake only twenty-four hours before I started hallucinating, but it must have been far longer than that. And it's good to know for certain that I can function for twenty-four hours in a row, being that I can, if offered scribble "8", "8", and "8" on the old timecard, all in a single day and pick up almost four hundred dollars. $400, which not too many years ago would have been a piddling amount, about what we'd spend on casual dining in a week, but these days is considered great wealth. Har. I'm always griping about people talking on their cell phones in public, so why is mine ringing? In public? It's Aili, my only daughter wanting a ride home from work tomorrow. Like father, like restaurant-hostess daughter, we are both employed far beneath our capabilities. Only, where her job requires constant attention for each entire shift and allows her little autonomy, mine typically allows one hundred percent autonomy, as my manager brings his Colonel Sanders countenance by maybe twice a month for a ninety-second visit. A visit which almost always ends in me searching for an aluminum baseball bat at around 'second 86'. My job allows me around six hours each shift to write, to memorize, to read, to rehearse blocking, to answer e-mails, work on my web pages and sometimes, to page through the Help-Wanted ads. Or wish I could get up the drive to search through the Help-Wanted ads. It was odd the other day, as I was discussing with Manio about how I found it difficult to write fiction and really didn't have much of an interest in it anyway. He gave me some quick pointers, but then as I pictured all the stacks and shelves and tables of books I dodge around at the book stores, the majority of which are fiction and I write . . . non-fiction. Non-fiction, where the competition is less. But, the market is less too. I've forgotten what it feels like to hug a female. I think I can remember how to wrap my arms around her torso, but I'm afraid I may dissolve into a warm puddle of goo if I do squeeze a woman. This month I face tremendous financial struggles, as I've had a few weeks of zero overtime and my rapacious we-know-we've-got-you-you-little-worm bank (which is what 'Wells Fargo' translates into in Estonian) hit me up for $99 in "service charges" to cover $8.00 worth of purchases. In addition, my rental storage room circus-freak manager is threatening to sell my carefully boxed quarter-century of stuff, Manio's doctor has turned me over to a collection agency, MDM owes (we owe) three grand in back personal income taxes and I'm still adjusting to a rent increase of one hundred and seventy dollars a month, which management instead claims is only a mere ten dollars. Go figure. But, that's life, isn't it? As I examine those assumed to be living in luxury, I know better than anyone, that many, if not most, have troubles that easily trump my own. Take Mr. Dennis. Fifty-nine years old, retired, married, worth millions and moved into a recently constructed 5,525 square foot home on an immaculately kept golf course that charges $240 to whack the dimpled white orb about for four hours. In his garage are three Mercedes and a Lexus. He's Dead. Heart attack. On a Saturday. But, of course when you're retired, every day is Saturday. Sadly, in the eighteen months I've observed the couple, I never seen the now widowed-MRS happier. Understand that things are not always as they appear. Damn there are so many globby-fat people and I'm on that way myself. But I'll never be as fat as I once was. I was thinking that it was God's design that I have been too broke to regularly enjoy the aforementioned casual dining, for I might quickly bloat to a deadly Marlon Brando-size. God rest his soul. Or that I not be able to afford the luxury autos I so enjoy, because I would just end up missing a turn at 65 MPH, crashing and choking to death as I lay hanging from my shoulder harness, bleeding from a head wound, covered in dandruff-like baby powder spewing out by the exploding air bags. And it's not like Jevohvah-Job has inhibited my career choices. I've just been waiting for the board of G.E. to call and offer me the CEO position. <grin> I've simply stayed put in my menial job earning one-twelfth as much as I used to. But yet, how many people could survive, without declaring bankruptcy, while enduring an eighty-three percent (83%) down-sizing of their income? Of course it was very gradual slide from 1990 to 2004 . . . however I will forever remember the $75,000 check I pulled out of my mailbox in 1996 and commenced dancing wildly in the street like a NFL tight end catching the winning football in the final seconds of the Superbowl. $75,000, my payment for signing a non-compete agreement way back in 1991 with the corporation that was purchasing our business.
Wednesday . . . "There's room under the bubbles." That would be a great title for a book or a screenplay, however tonight, in this case it's advice from the barrista at the Barnes & Noble Café. The school year is back. The place is studded with studying students. Mostly females. As I was civilizing my brown muck with six Sweet & Low packets and plenty of liquid creamer, I thought, "Most everyone here is reading books and I'm probably the only writer of books." Well, one of these days I will write a book. Books. Hell, while in my bedroom closet the other day, I found myself looking at the e-pages I had printed out after only two years on my web site and it was a stack of eight and a half by eleven sheets over three inches thick. That's a book of sorts. And probably much easier reading than many of the books I'm surrounded by tonight. The female students near me are about as attractive as Janis Joplin who was, rather unkindly I think, voted "Ugliest Man on Campus" at University of Texas. These girls better study hard, because looks aren't going to cut it. Where did I go to study in the 1960s? Well, I never did study much, skating by on my native intelligence and my good looks. <grin> What a twist. I didn't study much at high school or college but I've been studying hard ever since, having read literally hundreds of non-fiction books, attended expensive seminars, listened and purchased shelves of educational tapes. It just struck me, I wonder how many of my peers (except for Vince Furnier, aka: Alice Cooper) are totally into their employment groove, hating their lives, doing their eight to five waiting to die? Sometimes I'm just too optimistic for even me. Now one of the female students (from her stack of books it looks like she's studying to be a pharmacist) is giving back massages to her fellow table mates. My left shoulder has been waking me up with shooting pains for weeks and its all I can do to restrain myself from asking her to heal me. She's becoming more and more attractive. Well, her hands are anyway. If only my employer offered health insurance coverage (of which, I contribute $33.18 a week towards) that would cover doctor visits that include anything other than me stepping on the scale. Sounding identical to the one we use in the kitchen at the apartment, the timer sounds off behind the coffee bar, its "beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep" making me want to jump up to check the pizza in our commercial-grade, crappy, Hotpoint oven. I study the handsome lady across the way, seated and talking to another woman whose hands I can only see. I'm imagining hooking up with her, and then I remember how odd it looked the first time I saw my older brother with his second wife. After eighteen years, this couple in front of me just didn't look right. Earline, his first wife ... she was his wife - not this smiling stranger. In any case, after slaughtering the emotional lives of his family, he soon took wife number two off to Cathay to live the life of a Christian missionary. I mean, "English teacher". That's because missionaries are hunted down and jailed in that most ancient and populous land. Cutting through the invigorating aroma of fresh printer's ink, I patrol the many aisles of the massive Barnes & Noble edifice. Out of approximately 1,721 horizontal bookshelves, I locate only about four dedicated to the study of writing. One book cover mysteriously states,
The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice. Another,
Unreliable Truth - Turning Memory into Memoir explains how to write memoirs, which strikes me as an unnecessary work because, I believe you either know how to or you don't. Or wait. Maybe I've been writing my memoirs wrong ? What if I wrote my memoirs and no one read them? That, I don't think is my problem. My challenge: how much to reveal in my memoirs without embarrassing and alienating every family member, or former family member or anyone who has come within my disecting, delineating and biographical gaze. www.doctormalamud.com
Sunday . . . Three shots down and one-half a "Frseschetta Brick Oven ® 'Fire Baked Crust' Italian Style Pepperoni" pizza shoved down my aching gullet, burning the roof of my mouth in the process. (Adrian Monk-like, I fetched the pizza box out of the recycle stack to be sure I spelled everything exactly correctly.) I just watched an episode, a re-run episode, of Monk and I never thought I could be one of his brother's. But yet with my compulsiveness for detail, unlike the actor Tony Shaloob who only plays the Monk character, I could be the real gawd-damned thing. I swear the spell-checker that came with my HTML Editor, (the software that allows me to present these ramblings on the internet) I swear the spell-checker has only about 150 words in it. Wow. I just ran into the kitchen to slice off another piece with my wood-handled roller cutter, of the FBOFBCISP pizza resting on the still ticking "Pampered Chef" baking stone. Damn, this pizza is delicious. Will I say good-bye to Pizza Hut? Pizza Hut does still and always will have that just baked edge, but, is it worth another seven dollars? Watching the dvd of "Love Actually" and Laura Linney, well Laura's character looks like she ready to prove she's a whore and go to bed after the first, not even date, the first dance with another character, and I'm ejecting the dvd and heading for Blockbuster to get a "Die Hard" movie. Of course, I realize this is a movie, but do not men and women also realize that if a male or a female goes to bed on the 'first encounter', that that is probably not the 'first encounter' but the third, fourth or fortieth? And the behavior of going to bed with an unknown someone will not halt after the ring ceremony? People like that are sluts. Male or female, they are promiscuous sluts and not people I'd be interested in. (And I'm certain that statement alone will cause thousands of women worldwide to change their ways. <grin>) Understand that my challenge is that, except for my wildly improbable fantasy life (which I manage to restrain to my medulla oblongata) sex and love, in my experience, are bound together as surely as the plastic Diet Coke label is bound to the two-liter jug of the same. I got home from my Blockbuster slash Albertson's run and as I walk by Mainio's bathroom and note the lonely roll of toilet paper squatting by the commode, I realize I forgot to cash-in on any sales of the butt-Kleenex. While at Blockbuster, I picked up the aforementioned "Die Hard" movie and in addition the "Bourne Identity". I had seen part of the Matt Damon movie on my DISH satellite system weeks ago, and wanting to see the entire movie, had been checking the BB shelves since then, only to find no dvd's behind the display boxes. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie which was just a good old fashioned action flick without any nudity. By the time the ending credits were scrolling by, my head was banging from the earlier medicinal doses of tequila, so, shutting my massive entertainment center down, I retired to bed, putting myself to sleep by reading a few pages in my latest science fiction novel.
Tuesday . . . As I was walking towards the covered parking protecting the Peugeot, I heard the steady "rap, rap, rap" of what I thought may be a rap song. As I got closer to assigned space #748, I could see over the fence surrounding my apartment complex and across the street into the open-ended stadium of the adjacent high school. The "rap, rap, rap" I was stepping to was the time-keeping knock of the snare drum in the practicing marching band. From three hundred yards distant, their scarlet uniforms reminded me of those worn by the Redcoats during our Revolutionary War. And the "raps" shot me back involuntarily thirty-seven years when I was matriculating at Cortez High School in then North Phoenix. And while it doesn't feel like it was yesterday, it also doesn't seem like it was part of the last century either. I'm at Barnes & Noble again and surrounded by supposedly studying students. I see a fat hog of a teen girl stretching her, what must be size 18 denims, as tight as panty hose across her carpet-roll-sized thighs and wearing a face whose chin disappears into the blubber of her bloated face-throat. I half-way listen to the conversation with her normal looking boy study partner. I realize she's smart, intelligent and she's now laughing. How sad it is that an 'understanding' attitude towards genuine obesity, its causes and its very real dangers has allowed this beautiful soul to inflate to such immense and deadly dimensions. It is sad that so very few of us, obviously not Dr. Malamud, can peer inside the outside carapace humans wear and see the immortal soul. Since I've become so damned mellow in my old age <grin> and worn down by the rigors of my person-centric profession, I've gained the ability to patiently probe people to much deeper levels than they may realize. And I've found that most are delightful spirits, a few are mentally disturbed and the angry or mean ones are almost always bearing the invisible or unspoken burden of chronic psychic or physical pain. I'm thinking of the young mother I'm acquainted with who is always explaining and apologizing for her Downs-Syndrome daughter. What wonderful stories I've heard of these afflicted few. I want to tell her to stop it and start enjoying the brief period she'll have with her daughter during her necessarily abbreviated life span. The MDM phoned Sunday. The first time, in the parking lot of Blockbuster, with the window on my wireless phone scrolling, "The Missus Doctor Malamud is Phoning" I left it unanswered. Remember a few months ago when I would have responded as anxiously and nervously as a contestant answering the million dollar question on Regis Philbin's show? Later she phoned back and I took the call as usual. We talked as usual. An interloper, most likely the FBI or the NSA, wouldn't even realize there is a divorce pending . . . pending the ability to finance it. My acquaintance came by work today paired with his lovely girlfriend. This former JPL scientist, now struggling salesman looked nonplused as I addressed his lady with, "I'm so glad Solomon has a girlfriend, which indicates he is not gay. I seem to attract more than my share of gays." To which, after a beat, she replied with the words I've heard so many times that I could have mouthed them even as she spoke them, "So you're, Dr. Malamud. I'm so glad to meet you. Solomon has talked so much about you!"
Saturday . . . I'm sitting on the shaded porch of a gorgeous home I oversee during the searing Scottsdale summers, while its owners retreat to more temperate climes. It's 9AM and in another hour or two it will be too hot for even me, a desert-born native, to sit out here, even though it is five to ten degrees cooler than down in The Valley. A truly beautiful scene cuddles me: a verdant green golf course fairway (that has felt the feet of the most feeling President we've ever known, William Jefferson Clinton) bordered by desert homes that range in price from the $1.5 million manse I'm enjoying, to the $4 million rarely-occupied Sever designed hilltop estate to my right. Blue skies atop mountains ranging from dark silver to pewter gray, beige tinged desert and no single home with a reflective paint value of more than 45. I'm sucking on a Fat Tire Amber Ale that the owner purposely left behind. Purposefully? Yes, for the massive Sub-Zero built-in has nothing left in it but beer. Beer, my second favorite food, with tequila being numero uno. Now there is also a thirteen dollar bottle of Champagne cooling next to the already crispy cold bottled beer. As I checked for scorpions earlier, I discovered the bubbly all alone and lonely in the pantry. I'm soaking up the same scenery I enjoyed over thirteen years ago as I and my hardy friends tore across this then empty desert on our two-stroke motorcycles trailed by plumes of blue aroma filled smoke. And EPA outlawed dust. During the summer, because we wore as much protective gear as NFL players, it got so stinking hot that to avoid passing out, we took to screaming through the desert at night. Mounting one huge Baja-type hub-capped-sized 500,000 candlepower head lamps on our motorcycles, we flew through this then desolate country faster than anyone in thousands of years had. Until our leader (also the most skilled and bravest of our bunch) at 35 miles per hour churning through a sand wash turned black by the night, slammed his head into a low hanging branch of an angry ironwood tree. Experiencing time slowing down, I marvelled as the immense, dazzling beam thirty yards ahead wobbled left, right, left, right and then winked out into the total blackness. Realizing invisible danger ahead, I cut my throttle, which instantly darkened my motor-powered head light, crouched down and hugged my gas tank and braced for a 20 miles per hour soft landing into the sandy and rock-less river bed. I'm enjoying a strong buzz from my first beer (dammit, I've been working sixty hour weeks, cut me some slack) and I shuffle inside to grab a green-tinted bottle of Heineken. (You know you are a serious drunk when you have "H e i n e k e n" set up in your spell checker.) This morning, having paid nothing for these breathtaking views, I'd wager I'm enjoying them more than the ancient owners who live here October through May. Indeed, years ago, had my business partner been able to keep his pants zipped, and his pecker in his own property, today I would be in a place like this. Wealthy and miserably unhappy.
Saturday . . . One Fat Tire, one Heineken, one Top Ten golf course and one mound top manse . . . this is living. As I walked the surrounding CC&R'd virgin desert grounds this afternoon, I gathered up six small, white and dimpled balls for the golf team at my children's alma mater. I carefully stepped over the fourteen foot long carcass of a fallen saguaro cactus that must have been well into its second century of life when its roots let loose of the supporting soil. Returning to the elevated patio, I thought of venturing to the current north Scottsdale hot spot, Kierland Commons, to sit and write in the air conditioned comfort of their two story Barnes & Noble bookstore. But I was overcome with the beauty of this desert, complete with the totally out of character Tom Weiskop designed swath of green gouged into it. A highway for golfers that oddly enough has huge artificial sand hollows (sand traps) cut into it that strongly resemble the Sonoran Desert laying on either side. Because I could not locate the poll-mounted umbrella the hole in my writing platform was aching for, I must admit I was sitting outside in the direct sunlight composing my first few sentences, believing that, because I was native-born, I could deal with the searing rays of the summer sun. The green tint on my Dutch beer bottle provided little protection for its formerly chilled contents as they quickly heated up to near the temperature they were brewed at so many weeks and miles ago. I say goodbye to the steady stream of golfers humming past in their club laden, battery powered carts. I wave to the 'beer-lady' as her gasoline engined ice chest zooms into the tide of individuals wealthy enough to pay $295 for a round of golf. Although today, August 28th, 2004, they are paying a mere $90 to enjoy these 18 holes at an average of $1.12 per swing. Two reasons for the bargain price: due to the six year drought Arizona is weathering, the parched course, watered with chunky effluent, has patches of bareness, like the crewcut noggin of a kid who has tumbled off his skate board more than a few times. Reason two: right now, it's over 100F degrees in the shade. Over 110F degrees in the direct sunlight. Now inside, I nudged the manse's thermostat to 82F degrees. It shouldn't prove a financial hardship to the owners as their retirement income is many multiples of my own. Damn, I am going to miss this old gentleman who has trusted me to care for his winter home, his automobiles and his Depends TM. At age seventy-eight, born when the predicted lifespan was a mere forty-eight, he has dodged Death's Scythe more times than the brave Senator John Kerry <grin>. Who served in
Cambodia Vietnam during the last Century. Gazing through the panoramic windows cut into the side of this home, like the slots cut into the crown of the Statue of Liberty, I see a cottontail bunny, who, after having his fill of the fairway greenery, scampers across the asphalt golf cart lane back to his home. The desert.
Sunday . . . Back again at the hilltop Manse. Working seventy-two hours and seven days a week, I first wrote down "Saturday," rather than Sunday. There is something invigorating about toughing out sixteen hour workdays and squeezing in five hours of sleep, even if it's at a fraction of the wages I should be paid. I think it is partially the feeling that my life is such a warm bowl of excrement that maybe working so many hours keeps my mind from dipping its spoon into the clay-like brown stuff in the bowl that is 'my life'. Presently, I'm studying the magnificent Jurassic Park-looking blue heron sitting on the highest corner of Lisa's house across the empty fairway. As he sometimes does, I wonder if he will wing towards me to sit on the white-striped rear chimney to my right. I hear a neighbor (an ex-NFL player) shouting, probably at his dog, and I recognize his voice. As I combed the prickly desert for dimpled balls this afternoon I suddenly longed to live in this place. But then I recalled the body-destroying effort that enabled the owner of this manse to be able to pay cash for it. He dearly loved his work, of that there can be no doubt. For often, as we're crossing the parking lot towards a tony lunch spot (Flo's, The Elephant Bar, Cheese Cake Factory, etc.) we halt our already glacial pace for him to proudly point out on a parked vehicle, some finger-nail-sized piece that his shop manufactured. From this patio, I'm nostrially savoring the efforts of someone's barbecuing effort, no doubt enabled by five to fifteen thousand dollars of stainless steel outdoor cooking equipment. The smell is a passionate aroma for this carnivore and evokes un-asked for nostalgia. You might imagine it recalls memories of badminton, croquet and happy backyard family grilling during the carefree 1950s and 60s. But you would be wrong. It brings back cookouts at stark, apartment-provided barbecue pedestals with my then best friend Harry. Leaving my parents Park Mediterranean townhouse after my final screaming match with my father, weekends often found me at Harry's apartment complex for a much appreciated thick t-bone, salad, baked potato and dozen or so aluminum skinned Coors Lights. (Do not try this at home kids.) Understand, Harris was not only taught the esoteric art of repairing and selling used cars by his father (an owner of an established used car lot) but he was also instructed in the culinary arts by his Texas bred mother and a stint in the kitchen at "Mr. Steak." Sadly, Harry's father was a 'bad drunk' and used to beat him. (Later, when Harry became too large to beat, his dad took to carrying a loaded revolver.) Regardless, the highlights of many of my twenty to twenty-five year old weekends consisted of racing my purple RD350 Yamaha over to Harry's apartment, accompanying him to the Lucky's or AJ Bayless grocery store, picking out our vittles and having him manufacture one hell of a meal for this starving single man. Of course, Harry would usually be joined by one of his stable of Charles-Manson-Like girl friends who would do anything for him. Or to him. Lonely and alone I had to learn to be satisfied with whatever Harry tonged or spooned onto my plate those glorious Saturdays and Sundays. All the while, knowing that Harry, who like a 57 Chevy-driving Hugh Hefner, was rarely without at least one playmate, would soon be tonguing something else. I finish my writing and approach the railing surrounding the outside patio. The gentle, just right breeze causes the empty Fat Tire bottle in my hand to blow a low note. I turn back towards the Manse and notice not thirty feet from me a second blue heron sitting on the chimney.
Tuesday . . . Some Olympic talk here, I set a new P.R.: eighty-four paid hours in seven days. And having worked fifteen hours on Labor Day, I'll be paid for a total of ninety-one and one-half hours, forty-four of them at "time and one-half." Gosh. If these kind of hours were to continue, I could buy a townhome (as the Mrs.Dr.Malamud has suggested) a new car, well, a newer car, and begin a savings account for retirement at age ninety-two. If I could live that long working fifteen hours a day, driving two and sleeping only four. As a matter of fact, when I'm done with one shift, I recline the driver's seat in the mighty Peugeot and sleep for thirty minutes before my "Pampered Chef" timer beeps me awake and I leave for the next bout at a site twenty-seven miles distant. I used to sleep during the drive there, awakening and sometimes finding myself swerving across lanes, islands and shoulders during the thirty-five minute thrill-filled jaunt. We are talking about a level of weariness that I haven't felt since house-training English bulldog's or having a brand new baby in the house. My final "brand new baby", Mainio, is now eighteen, weighs 230 pounds, sports saguaro-sized biceps and just got a job at a sandwich shop to help pay for his health insurance and his $3,000, twelve pound, scrotum squashing, Dell laptop. Speaking of children, I was so fortunate in being a stay-at-home dad from 1991 until 2001, while Aili matured from age 12 to 22 and my Mainio from age 5 to 15. I will never regret one minute spent with them while they were young. I want to grab every man by the collar and every woman by the . . . the . . . shoulders and plead with them that they will never regret a minute spent with their children. Even inconsequential things that, as a adult parent don't seem that big of a deal, your children will cherish for the rest of their lives. I remember like it was yesterday, the young Mainio and I wandering the desert fifty miles west of Scottsdale and discovering dozens of deadly diamondback rattlesnakes bundled together like tangled kite string and stirring from their winter hibernations. Even with all those years spent together, I now wish I'd spent more days, hours, minutes and seconds with my kids. Nowadays, however, with the faraway Missus continuing to promise no-fault divorce and Mainio with his own friend's, I can basically work well, three hundred and thirty-six hours a month. Maybe if I witness what another few thousands of dollars a month can do I'll actually start earnestly searching for employment that will pay me what I'm worth . . .
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