The loss of a good friend

Today I woke from hours of unconsciousness. A fatigue from hours worked before the dawn. Body confused, I found my way home across dusty Southern California. Drought has atomized the earth, and it swirls and breaks against our cars as they move westward across warm, pale asphalt.

A slight detour to pick up my son from college. He gets into our car, that much closer to home, and speaks briefly of his week. We move ever westward, like pioneers, towards the cooler climes near the Pacific.

We stop at a Subways near our house. a small Hispanic woman is there to serve me. I hate Subways, too much interaction. I want the default sandwich. There is none. I have to go through the Subway way. Do I want cheese? What kind of vegetables? Do I want the set, which include potato chips and a large fountain drink that I fill myself. The grandma, in all grandmotherly earnestness follows me as the assembly line sandwich grows and grows. To our left, a tall, younger Hispanic woman with two small steel pins in her full lower lip, helps my son.

Our sandwiches done, my son and I return to the black, dirty car and make our way the short distance home. I grab a can of coke and drink it with half of the turkey sandwich. My son disappears.

I fall asleep from the days work without even knowing I was gone. It is dreamless and black . I wake later and make my way way to the kitchen so I can put the second half of my sandwich in the chaotic refrigerator.

Where I left the sandwich there is only bits of lettuce and onions on half a Subway wrapper. I walk into my son’s room and tell him about my missing friend — a six-inch carved turkey sandwich. He knows nothing about it.

I remember in my younger days eating my father’s unguarded food found in the family refrigerator. I remember how he eventually resigned himself to these events. Maybe he knew then that the best revenge was generational.




Brain drain

You might think Brain drain is a medical term. And there may be such a thing as brain drainage (of course, the medical community probably uses a more technical term), but when Americans say “brain drain”, they are usually referring to a country’s best and brightest leaving home for a country where they can have a better life. Of course, Americans think that place for a better life is always America.

India is a prime example of brain drain. Almost all of my doctors have been Indian. Also, visit Silicon Valley or any other center of high-tech and you might find yourself a minority — that is if you are not Indian. Gifted Indians seem to be endless boarding aircraft for the West. Makes me wonder whose left to turn out the light.

Brain drain into America is one of the things that makes our country great.  Despite the angry words of chuckle-headed politicians, the influx of the world’s best brightest should always be welcome here, and mosttumblr_static_raven_tattoo_by_bekkatora-d4g14o2 hope they always will.

But brains aren’t the only thing that drain. Other examples include “down the drain,” which means lost forever.



The Hateful Eight

Years ago when video stores were a thing, my “casual movie fan” friend had stopped going to her nearby store in Manhattan Beach, CA.  The tall, gawky kid at the counter always went into long diatribes about the movies she was renting. “He just goes on and on, rapidly sputtering out facts and opinions,” she complained. “I just wanted to rent Pretty Woman and go.”
If you haven’t guessed yet, that young gawky man was (and still is) Quentin Tarantino, and he continues to gratuitously share his passion for film, not from the counter of a dingy video store, but through his award-winning, critically acclaimed films. His eighth, The Hateful Eight, is my pick for best film of 2015.
Without giving up too much, here’s an overview of the film. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are forced by a blizzard into a one-room house with six others. Eight hateful souls seeking to advance their agendas through manipulation and coercion — just like in the real world. Everyone is going all-in, thinking they each have the best hand in a dark, violent card game.
What I love most about the movie is that I get to witness a few new hours of Tarantino’s  storytelling and character development genius. It’s about time. My Tarantino DVDs are nearly worn through from repeated weekend binge watching. In each one I still hear the gawky film nerd abusing unsuspecting video store customers with film talk.  I just wish I could have been one of them. 

A Visit to the Dentist

“You have a lot of saliva,” she says. I look into the small, intense headlight the hygienist is wearing on her forehead. She’s a dental spelunker exploring a new cave. I’m surprised she’s not wearing a helmet. “What happens is this,” she continues, her unseen lips moving from behind a thin paper surgical mask, “the plaque builds up on your teeth and then the saliva hardens it into tarter.” As she speaks, she probes and scrapes my teeth with a pencil-thin metal instrument. Its sharp hook at the end dances just above my gum line. ” Since you have a lot of saliva, you’re more at risk.” She has my full attention. My jaw muscles strain to keep my mouth open as wide as possible.

She finishes up and puts the hook down on a little stainless steel table. She pulls out a long measure of dental floss, and then doubles up the already thick, white cord. I fear she’s about to get “Medieval on my ass.” I open quickly, and she deftly lassos my right lower canine.

Industrial-strength flossing begins, and soon my flabby, weak  gums have given way. I taste my own blood, tinny and salty, as it flows in thin vertical rivulets. Remembering an article about how iron originally came from a far-off galaxy, I wonder if I’m tasting a distant star. I look up at the light and squint. She tells me she’s almost done as the string bites into my flesh again. It sends my brain a flash bang of pain. As a defense mechanism, my consciousness recalls that scientists are attempting to turn chickens back into dinosaurs through gene therapy. I wonder who  funds these things. “Mr. Davis,” the hygienist’s voice shocks me back into the dentist’s chair. “Why don’t you go ahead and rinse now?.” It’s not really a question. I lean over a porcelain spittoon and,  like a trained circus animal, catch some of the water that streams from the faucet. I swirl and spit, sending a bloody discharge spiraling down the drain. With a strange sense of accomplishment, I readjust myself in the chair and resign myself to more bloodletting.

She continues the flossing. With time, her movements fall into an easy, natural rhythm. Together, we enter dental-floss nirvana. A few more teeth and she’s done. She steps back and throws the string away. “Floss regularly and come back in three weeks. If there’s no improvement, we’ll need to do a deep cleaning.” She doesn’t comment on our moment of galactic synchronization. Our perfect lock step with the universe.

I pay my bill, walk out of the building and get into my car. Like a dog let out into a new yard, my tongue explores its new surroundings in a frenzy. My post-tarter teeth feel smooth and healthy. I am happy.