Monday, September 22, 2014

Gator Ink

Here in the anteroom to eternity, we are awash with folks whose trendy body art from the millennium has drooped alarmingly.  We're law-abiders here, and no law demands so much of our baby boomer bodies as the law of gravity.  Florida is closer to the equator, you know, and gravity here pulls a bit harder on our hangy-down parts.  The place is lousy with long-long-long-stemmed roses, stretched-out dolphins, and ducks that have morphed into swans.  It's not often pretty.

I knew this would happen.  Back in the '00s, when my son returned from his fourth tour of duty - a dangerous year in Iraq - he sported a nicotine habit and a dragon inked across his chest and left shoulder.  In a rare moment of discretion, I decided not to comment on the smoking.  He was long grown and a war veteran, and I held my tongue about his addiction.  But I casually pointed out that gravity might have its way with his tattoo by the time he hit 60.

I immediately wished I had kept my arrant presumption to myself, and a quiet rift opened between us.  In truth, the dragon was beautifully rendered, subtly shaded and allowed to peek out coyly from an open collar or a short-sleeve shirt.  But what's said can't be unsaid, and I lived with it.

Fast-forward six months to Thanksgiving dinner.  Beers were consumed, times were good, and Erik was still smoking.  I had what seemed an inspiration at the time and announced that if he would quit smoking, I would get a tattoo.  I'm not sure what reaction I expected, but there was nothing.  Nothing at all.  I sensed I had jammed my foot still further into my mouth.  Oops.

Six more months passed, and we hosted a pool party on the deck, with Erik and his friends among the guests.  Beers were consumed and times were good.  One of Erik's co-workers struck up a conversation.  Then, from nowhere: "So, Mr. Newton, I hear you're getting a tattoo."

I have always been proud that I didn't miss a beat in my response.  "Yes," I said, "Yes I am."  I love simple declarative sentences.

Erik accompanied me to the tattoo parlor a few days later, not without a certain glee I think.  And I sat for a portrait on the back of my right shoulder.  I didn't need to worry how the tat would look when I was sixty - I was already on the cusp of that venerable age.

The design will be familiar to fans of M.C. Escher.  I think it's rather fetching.  And my relationship with my tobacco-free son has never been better.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Tyranny of the Empty Page

Uh, world?  Yeah, it's me - - -  Newt.  I'm still here.  I got lost for a while, but I'm back.  Now I have nothing to write about except the damn fool that . . .  No, wait a minute.  Let me start again.

I got back on my bike yesterday after almost three years of indolence and lipid accretion.  They say you never forget how to ride a bike.  As usual, they're wrong.

I took a short and cautious spin around the block, reveling in the breeze on my face and the bugs in my teeth, fat little legs pumping furiously.  Then triumphantly back into my driveway. 

You know that precarious moment between stopping a bike and planting your feet on the ground?  The moment when all your ponderous weight is still on the pedal but your forward momentum is spent, when gravity suddenly demands your full attention?  And you're supposed to tilt gracefully toward the other foot, the foot not on the pedal? 

Yeah, I did that wrong. 

The bleeding has largely stopped, Tylenol being chemical proof that God loves me still.  Part of me wants to feel healthier because I actually exercised for a few minutes.  But another part of me looks at the gash in my shank, perplexed.  "Why, the damned fool forgot how to ride a bike.

I wonder if I remember how this blog thing works.  Let's see what develops.  And next time, I'll lean the other way.