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Among Humans
Snowing in Portland, Oregon, 8:54 AM, Friday, March 24, 2023
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/27/23
This morning it is snowing, closing roads up in the mountains, simply entertaining the eye down in this river town. Last night two men were gunned down on the lot of one of the dive bars I attend in the Southeast. I missed it by 3 hours and a mile.
Last night, after a few days of beautiful spring weather, I sat in the garage drinking rum and lime juice, warming my feet by the oil radiator. I had spoken that morning, as the rain clouds gathered, with White Monkey, an aspiring podcaster. After writing an article, my eye seized a bit, so I lie there in the garage listening to Ovid.
Yeti Waters woke me, looking for a guitar strap, the garage being a mix of engine hoist, boxing equipment and musical instruments and amplifiers—including Gary’s drum kit.
“Sorry for waking you, James. Gary is going to be over at 5. Thanks so much for warming the garage—you are a very considerate man.”
Thursday is their normal jam session, a purely artistic expression with no economic aspiration. Their stated goal is to sound like a “70s garage band,” so I am qualified to judge, despite being musically impaired.
He reaches into his wallet as he sets down a six pack of Coors light and says, “James, I was at an army surplus store and was going to get you something for your birthday, for everything you do, and I thought, “No, he’s a rambling man, where he lays his hat is his home. He needs some train money, some beer money, some big-ass young bitch money. James, this is for all you do around here and isn’t nearly enough. I think my oldest son is developing a noble character, he’s starting to question how you do so much around here that needs done before we think about it and is trying to predict this shit, saying, ‘Hey, when Mister James comes home, he’s going to sweep this shit up, so let me get that.’
“James, thanks for being my friend and being here for my boys.”
So doing, the big man handed me a folded stack of $20s and asked me where his youngest son’s guitar case was. I had an idea, and found it in a closet in the house.
I had plans on going inside and writing while Gary and Yeti Waters played guitar and drums, as I was an article short on the day, the monkey on my back demanding a median of 2.5. But, I thought, as I warmed my hands over the oil radiator back in the garage, listening to Ovid’s overture again, that I’m barely human, that it might help me find what’s left of my soul if I simply did nothing and observed and listened to real humans doing human stuff.
The week’s work I had outlined earlier in the day, is creative, but has been selected above other more important work, based on my tracking of reads and purchases, indicating that this subject will sell better than the norm, and maybe gain me a few dollars a month henceforth. As I waited for Gary and the bear-like guitarist I picked up a Wyoming phone call that I was sure was a book agent, as numerous such had emailed me this week.
The man’s name was Gomez and he talked to me about Darkly, an anthology put together in 2014, which he noted showed very little activity but had been adjudged by his agent as having literary promise. I explained to him that I have over a hundred books that fall into that “low activity” category, that I am not interested in promoting any of them, that I just write and put the stuff out there, that I have 92 books awaiting publication and 18 in progress.
Most of these people are just robots that insist that writing is an economic venture and investment and promotional activity is needed. This fellow told me, “So, Mister LaFond, I respect that you want to write, that this is what you do, your passion. This is a reasonable course, and I hope that one of those books you write, when it comes out to the public, that it will sell. Good luck in your passion to earn a place among the greats—I respect that. Have a good day, sir.”
Of the two dozen book agents I have spoken to, and the many agents who have emailed me, that Mister Gomez with the Wyoming phone number was the first human I encountered—the rest nothing but cogs in the economic machine.
So, as Gary arrived, a mild mannered stocky Native American from Texas, and sat down with his vodka behind the drum kit, we greeted one another warmly. Big T strapped on his guitar and they began playing some songs they have been working on.
My favorite is a song titled Doing Time that Gary wrote based on his brother’s prison experience. That song builds and builds in tempo and intensity.
They experimented with a few cover tunes I did not recognize.
They did play two songs I recall from my youth, that I can remember today: Snake Skin Cowboy and War Pigs. Gary sounded just like the singers who sung both of those songs in the 70s.
These men played for two hours while I sipped lime and rum and listened. They asked me to sing and I laughed, recounted how I was kicked out of music class for refusing to sing. I did note that they seemed to be engaged in becoming like the Sons of Aktor, the conjoined twins who piloted a chariot against Herakles, that Big T the guitarist seemed like the punching arms of a fighter and that Gary with his drums was analogous to the foot work of a fighter.
This observation seemed to help them in their ongoing engagement in this syncronisity. Their concord and interaction reminds me of a statement by Mister Grey by phone a few days ago, when we were discussing how we engage in reviled fantasy art sneered at by people who want to change the world. He said, “Change this shit, fix this mother fucker! This world is wrecked. Not only is fantasy better that this bullshit, its more real. Reality has become a descent into mass delusion—why not write a fantasy adventure, or read one. Fuck America—fuck this world!”
Gary, the big man and I saluted with our drinks out in the gathering rain, between the garage and the little house, as the dark clouds of night tailed in from Mount Hood to usher off the fleeting dusk who betrayed the dead day.
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