There’s a book out there called “The Raw and The Cooked” by the late writer and poet named Jim Harrison. Random essays on the “adventures of a roving gourmand.” Not a single word wasted in the whole book. Each sentence perfectly aligned. A platter of self-indulgence brimming with brilliance. I had no choice but to use it as a crutch.
I turn to this book sometimes when the mud is stuck wet and hot between my ears. During the end of this bitter season, I find myself struggling to say the simplest of words, turning a phrase, completing a sentence. Can’t seem to capture a thought. I have it, I have it, then it’s gone. Everything sounding like a car wreck coming off my tongue. A mish-mash of mispronunciations.
The book is a tool I use to hide my darkest secret, the one revealing me as the fool I am.
February normally unfolds with a bevy of these missteps. Just the other day I approached a new account and could not for the life of me properly greet the prospect, belching out instead: “Hello. So-and-so recomendated that I reach out to you…I mean recomendated…Excuse me…recomendated…sorry…
I couldn’t say the word “recommended.”
Either I was stroking out or my brain had simply shut down. So corroded from a winter in wonderland, clogged with resin, fried Oreos and hellacious visions of Irma, I babbled my way out of the office punching myself in the eyebrow, disgusted with my own stupidity.
Thank God I had nine more stops to make that day because that one was a dump fire.
Reading the book is interesting though because, like I said, it’s a crutch, a tool, an exercise I use when my own voice begins to bore itself. This happens to me often during the wintertime, this mental atrophy. The cold days and dark nights dominate me. I start to predict my own observations and suddenly what once was fresh now sounds spoiled rotten.
My thoughts are all on spin dial. Trumped up, too rehearsed, too light on panache and perspective, these moments, usually, can only be corrected if recognized by oneself. That can take a while. No one else is going to say you’re a bore because they stopped listening long ago.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been in the company of some good men that’ve solidified the truth behind my seasonal mental constipation. These men invariably dropped on me such robust verbal passages related to politics, sports and life — statements soaked in good karma and fine-tuned intentions — that my gut went cold and hopeless.
Flogged I was, beaten with their sharp minds, steely thoughts, unwavering self-confidence. I felt defeated by their own resistance to the continual chill of February. Once again I clenched my fist and punched myself, this time, in the throat, cursing the icy winds and gray skies while hating each of those men just a little bit. Oh, the shame!
But it doesn’t have to be a long dissertation on Socialism or the music industry to curry favor from me during this period. I’m easily impressed. Take for instance a conversation I found myself in with a compadre of mine who goes by the name of “Meat.” Meat recently approached me at our club downtown, a windowless playground fit for pagan beasts and heavy smokers.
Meat cackled at me before exiting the club recently, showcasing a top row of broken chiclets.
“Know why I have no front teeth, Robby?” Meat said.
“Why’s that meat man?” I asked. “You still chewing nails?”
“Cause I’m a street fighter,” he proclaimed heartily. “Always have been. You know that.”
I’ve always admired Meat’s style and overcooked ham hocks, otherwise known as fists. They’re wrecking balls, and if provoked, they will swing right through any tough guy’s dreams. Meat started telling me about a time when he took on a group of bikers, three to be exact, and ended up with a bunch of holes in his forehead.
“I got the other guys good. Bam! Bam! Right off.” Meat was rocking back-and-forth, slamming a fat hock into the meaty palm of his other hand. “But I turned around and the other guy started hitting me in the head with a hammer. I was out!”
Lifting up his thinning hairline, Meat showed me where the hammer struck the soft tissue.
He’ll be fine. Meat always is.
My point is, as barbaric as Meat’s story was, I was enthralled by it, hanging onto every word, impressed with his ability to take a story from start-to-finish and hold my attention. Something, for the moment, I am incapable of doing. I miss it.
So, while I toil and read and most importantly listen, I will count the days till spring arrives as I unravel my braided brain. I will encourage my friends to soap-box, to share their truest opinions. I will read about feral parakeets and good French wines. I will beg Meat for another story. And, I will never use the word “recommended” again.
Till then, what else can I do? I’m cooked.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book “Notes From The Last Breath Farm” is available at the Bookery on Elm Street and Amazon.