Walking Down Patchouli Avenue

Walking home then after the movie and symphony and cicadas.   We almost missed our stop.  The conductor or loudspeaker did not announce them.  How is anyone supposed to know when to get off? What do you do if you are blind?  Are you supposed to know instinctively?  Do you count the stops until you get off?  Can you smell or hear or see something outside the windows that says get off now?

We had to press our faces to the glass it was so dark.. and still we couldn’t see, the train was speeding by everything…… And then we were full of music and the sounds and sights of the festival and all the people there…. a kind of summer giddiness had set in….  Young and old and in between.  Happy and healthy and sick and depressed. All of us were there. Waiting to have one more fling with music and nature and other people. Ah summer, we all know it is starting to wave goodbye…..

There were picnickers with tablecloths spread out on the grass and bottles of wine and beer and coolers and lounge chairs.  Hummus, fruit, crudites and cheese and all the picnicky things people bring…. Some had flowers in vases and candles, some had tiny strings of lights that they played with like cat’s cradle…… the park is known for the showy displays of food, flowers and candles.

But, these people are loud.  Even the ones in the enclosed theater, where you pay extra for a good seat.    So loud. . .they talk and talk and rattle potato chip bags and drink from squeaky crinkly water bottles and they hold up their iPhones taking selfies … they are  obnoxious.  We sat in the theater. A big comfortable theater where the seating is graded at such a slope that everyone can see… even if someone has a big head.  I always seem to sit behind people with big heads.  I myself have a very small head and perhaps inside there is a very small brain and a very small love for humanity and a very small tolerance for their noise and filth and bad manners…….for some reason now I remember that tall Swedish blonde who kept kicking, on purpose, the back of my seat on United Airlines ten years ago…the very hour we were breaking up… the slow unraveling of that evil liaison…. just as well because all I remember now are her stupid kicking legs.

There were two young heavily tattooed men sitting behind me on the train…. they seemed nice enough and were chatting happily.. going to the same event up north as you and I….. then you found me  .. I saw you through the window in that pretty summer dress all in pale apricot and sagey green….. you had to run really fast at the stop to meet me on the second car….. I was going to tell you that, to start walking down the tracks before the train gets there, and I forgot.  I myself knew that but I didn’t walk far enough and when the train was starting to pull into the station I had to run like hell to get to the second car….running for that train reminded me of Philip Larkin and his poem “The Whitsun Weddings” and that poem always makes me feel sad….

I was starving as usual…. forgot to eat again… My stomach hurt all that day….I was busy watering and weeding the garden… all I had were two or three cups of coffee.. I remember mom’s friend, that very thin attractive woman who was a nurse… she died of stomach cancer…  she drank coffee all day long and smoked…she had that loud repulsive husband who was a drunk and he used to drink with dad until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. at night and we could never sleep…. he was one of the most annoying ones…. just the sight of his drunken obnoxious face turned me off.. there was something slimy about him too, the way he looked at women… he had a very hoarse voice and looked like an uglier version of that actor…. what was his name….. who played “Zorba the Greek”. Why is it I can’t remember anything anymore, the names of trees or people or flowers…. the stars…. just as well they are gone too now…

I felt like being on a beach instead of a concert… as soon as I sat down and sensed the two people behind me staring at my neck I could almost feel their breath… they were both eating chips and nuts and had water bottles that made a lot of noise….all through the movie they were rattling their crinkly plastic wrappers…… I wanted very badly to turn around and slap them violently in their fat faces……

I’m hungry again sitting here… realized all I had was coffee and a piece of that tart I made for Jill and Tad… that Jacques Pepin tart I have been making all summer for friends and people at church… I used plucots, black plums, peaches and apricots in the filling and glazed it with apricot preserves ..the tart has a lot of butter in the crust… one and a half sticks in one tart… and then you dot it with butter just before baking it…and sprinkle a small spoonful of sugar on the filling and crust.

I left the tart out all night because I don’t like the taste of refrigerated tarts…. I’m supposed to give Tad and Jill and Jen a couple of pieces later today and now I’m worried it may be poisoned from sitting on the kitchen table all night… so I ate a big piece…. flaky buttery pastry with a slight density like short crust, the filling the texture of velvety jam.  Not too sweet…tiny pieces of almonds amid the fruit… there is a layer of sugar/almond meal at the bottom. The whole thing tasted like what?  Summer I guess.   What is summer? What is a plucot? I wondered if I should have peeled all the fruit ….as it is it took about an hour to wash, halve, pit and slice the pieces up…. No, I didn’t need to peel them,  the peels just melted down almost to a syrup….  I ate it two hours ago so if it was bad I’d be dead already.  I’m not.

My neighbor is out gardening.  Fixing her flowers, watering, deadheading… she is not wearing a hat and it is very hot and humid out.. she is very blond… she has a very pleasant face… what does that mean?… her voice sometimes reminds me of my mother… that kind of low almost alto soprano but it’s definitely high but not screechy.  Why is it I can’t describe anything anymore?  My neighbor has a good heart and sometimes when I look at her I feel like crying.  We’ve been through sicknesses and deaths and all sorts of horrors together over the last few years…… my neighbors are too good for me….why is this even important… in case I die in case that tart really will kill me and if she reads this  she’ll know I really liked her after all……

The dishes are half finished.  Baking makes such a mess. The table and chairs and floors are dusted with flour.  It even gets on the paintings on the walls…. on the boom box sitting on the counter, on the dial even.  I was playing Leonard Cohen all day yesterday and kept pressing play over and over again.. and noticed there was a thin line of dough even there. Then there are the baking sheets that have baked on fruit juice all over them, and all the mixing spoons and bowls.  It takes two hours just to clean up after baking and I keep baking and baking and baking… and I keep listening to Leonard Cohen more and more.

A friend bought me The Complete Studio Albums Collection for my birthday.  I adore Leonard Cohen.  What does that mean anyway adore?  Well, I adore him, even though I don’t know what that means anymore. More than just about anyone.  I could listen to him forever.  I was afraid to even put on the CD’s.  I just started listening to them yesterday… over a month since I got the gift.  Once I put on a Leonard Cohen CD, that’s it, that’s the end I just listen and listen and listen and listen until I am in another world.. in a sort of trance…stupor….daze…. torpor… but a good one.  I forget everything and remember everything and I want nothing and I want everything.   I love him like I love trees.  Leonard.  He seems so solid. Solidly beautiful and sad and depressing and jubilant and mind-blowing everything.  I can almost smell him.

Dear Leonard I am very sad you are dead. Thank you for your ever perfect music.  And, I truly love your voice, with or without the beautiful women back up singers.

Really it’s like I told you last night as we were walking through the dark and leafy streets from the train station… I wish I could walk fifty miles now in the dark in the dark night among all these tall elms and chestnuts and crabs and lindens and beeches, what else is there? What else is left.  I have walked these streets now for almost two decades and should know each and every tree and all the names by now.  Of all the trees and all the flowers and all the shrubs. I suddenly felt a need to feel something tangible something real something good.   I walked up to a huge tree trunk and wrapped myself around it… It felt like what?  It was a tree.   Hard old wood.  How could something that hard be alive?

What was that smell there in the dark as we walked by that last house…. deep and dusky and slightly patchouli like… I never liked patchouli, always reminds me of slovenly hippies.  No offence against hippies.  Some hippies are my best friends. You know what I mean… that smell from the 70’s and 80’s… but it always smelled slightly delicious, mysterious, intense and sexy… slightly musky….  When it was about a block away. Then just as it was disappearing forever, you decided you loved it.

It’s the boxwood you said.  I never heard of boxwood having a smell. This was church like, incense like, like the burning roses and ashes at my father’s cremation… this was like the ghost of Buddha, this was like that small church in Ukraine in the woods up in the Carpathians where we waited and waited and waited for the priest to come by ….. he came finally and we sat around his wooden table and drank cherry wine with his Rapunzel like wife and children… he played the accordion for us….  no this smell was like life and death and dark clouds like it may have come from that huge cloud we saw last Thursday remember?  The one that looked like Hiroshima… the one that was a huge white almost neon mushroom cloud like the one they raised in New Mexico was it 1943?  When was it?  Well it came back. Thursday.   I got so excited I couldn’t find the iPhone then, and when I did it was so frightening I couldn’t take the picture… the other side of the sky had an oval painting drawn by that 19th century Japanese landscape painter …what was his name?  The one who painted that famous mountain…

So we kept walking you and I in the dark, the beautiful all forgiving secret passage of night… our own little night train… speeding and yet still and speeding again and everything went all fuzzy suddenly… my head hurts on the right side… the bone there, a piece of my skull is frightened half to death of something… that coming you know.. like…”… by the twitching of my thumb….. something wicked this way comes…..”     yesterday upon the stair I saw a man who was not there…. I saw him there again last night… I wish I wish he’d go  away….” I can’t quite remember that passage…. a poem someone wrote a long time ago and I heard it in some B horror movie… it has such a strange and beautiful rhythm…

I keep smelling that smell and I tell you it is not incense it’s something coming something about to explode it might be very loud or it might be very silent.. like these trees these trees I can almost feel their hearts their minds… I think they have a soul… I can smell them… you said that you know that there are fairies and elves who take care of our gardens at night… you are not a person who would say something like that…I think of you as being very pragmatic, very scientific almost, you are after all a highly trained musician, but ah, yes you are a gardener, a very magic gardener… so yes you must see these fairies or elves or sorcerers in your garden… working their magic….

I feel lost and hungry now.  All the tarts are gone, given away to friends– two of whom I may not see ever again, or for a very very long time.  They are moving 2,000 miles away.  I think Fukushima might be poisoning us or maybe it’s the government.  My phone was making a funny clicking sound the entire time I was talking to my sister. “What’s that?” she said on and on during the conversation while I told her not to be so paranoid……stop it I told her.   Stop being paranoid.  She is very paranoid…  And now here I am again in the garden sitting here in the grey humid garden feeling the entire loneliness of what is to come….it started to rain a little while ago,  just a few drops… the beautiful lush green garden of just two days ago seems different, there are patches of yellow everywhere that the tiny rabbits have made, the voracious little ones are out now and they eat everything.

The infernal Japanese beetles that I used to hunt four times a day with my sudsy jar… I thought they were gone but they are back with a vengeance… hundreds of leaves on hostas buddleias hydrangeas viburnums all have those jagged edges and holes. The beautiful pink old roses that I wait months for!…. didn’t even last a day.. those insidious creatures ate them from inside out and it was too late before I found them.

A panic has set it in,  panic of nothing done panic of things to come panic of disorder and order and setting things back and front and inside out and upside down again.. I rushed to the dining room window and looked for the spider that has been there at night looking at me through the glass dancing two feet away while suspended in his web….. the spider is gone, may be out hunting. …. but the web, the finely woven intricate web is there and I see now some tiny little prisoners ensnared inside…

The panic setting in and I hear Leonard Cohen singing “Dance Me to the End of Love”…….. “dance me to your beauty with a burning violin dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in.. lift me like an olive branch… be my mourning dove…. dance me….”……… …I’m caught here, caught like the tiny little things in the spider’s web, alone and panicked and feeling everything and everyone in the garden… so I have to close my eyes now very tight and see myself walking down that street again, that street full of tall old breathing trees and smelling that incense of some far away eastern church turning maybe into Patchouli and I’m walking down Patchouli avenue with my old friend Leonard Cohen to those blazing violins that are coming now to comfort the dying and the dead…..

Trance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About O

I live in a suburb of an American City. I write to try and understand myself and the world around me. I love nature, art, music, literature and beauty in all its forms. I think the world is crazy and many of us will soon go insane from living in this world. What I love almost more than anything is my garden. I love its trees its shrubs and its many flowers. I love the birds, their flying and singing and dancing movements in and out of the sky and garden. Their freedom. I could watch birds all day long, though sometimes they act horribly, and fight and squabble over the birdbath, seeds, and space just like people. As do other animals, and sometimes you wonder if anger, violence, greed and chaos, really has to be part of life, and why. I love to work in my garden. To get muddy and dirty, digging, weeding, mowing, pruning and deadheading. Then, I like to have a cool glass of white wine or red, or sometimes a Manhattan, and drink in hand, I walk around and look at the fruits of my labor. My blog is whennothingworks because for a long time nothing has worked. Friends, family, jobs, money, fame, houses, careers, lovers, things--- it all just doesn't work sometimes, or most of the time. The garden always works. Nature and its beauty always work. Whatever your garden is and wherever it is. My garden always gives peace, delight, calm, majesty, and beauty. And, in my garden, I can sit quietly and think, or just breathe, and somehow manage to survive the world.
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