Friday, July 21, 2006

Chores always put me and my problematic mind back on track.

Top of the morning gents,

I sure am putting a hunnert miles on my mountain bike
every fucking day. This includes miles on my poopy old
boots, sore hands and back and soul too.

Every blessed morning here on spit Kikiktagruk I awake
to a mystery radio hour, sometimes just static,
sometimes far away Soviet broadcasts, sometimes heavy
duty Native music compliments of Pierre the lone
technician tweaking and tuning our local broadcast to
put out all 10,000 watts of rural epistemologies. That
guy deserves a goddamned medal for all the crap and
inane management he’s endured over the centuries.
Alas, ain’t no medals for dream walkers like Mr.
Lonewolf, and present company.

Every day here on God’s green Earth I pedal with my
Siberian Mrs. to the Eskimo Building swerving to avoid
puddles and wayward pedestrians heading home to sleep
off their cirrhosis, alien enzymatic upset and tooth
decay. Most days we ride a direct route past the MMC,
hanging a right past the old jail, city hall rallying
straight to me bunnik’s work, while other days we
cruise Front Street searching for treasures, fossils
and finds.

On the ride back home, I daydream under the influence
of hypoxia ignoring the aching muscles in me legs and
abdomen. This daydreaming is purposeful providing me a
portal across time and space delivering me to former
haunts that are no longer real, just imaginary. Or so
I thought.

On my morning treks across town, I’ll meander to the
green grocer for purchase of bulk produce or fresh
fruits listed in the manual I wrote on the care and
feeding of Inupiaq wives, children and grandchildren:
even if they’ve been dead and frozen for a thousand
years.

Some mornings I’ll rally over to the open market in
downtown Helsinki for select cuts of meat and fish,
then down to the Alko Store to pick out a couple
bottles of domestic wines and Koff Stout beers.
Finally onwards to the Florists Shoppe to pick up odds
and ends clippings and trimmings to either smoke
myself, or decorate the MBA office and computer lab at
the Helsinki School campus. Counter to my acrid and
vitriolic scribbling I enjoy decorating my environs
both occupational and imaginary with fresh flowers, a
smile and generous amounts of chocolates, coffee and
strong drink.

Some days I awake to hard manual labor such as cutting
and stacking firewood, feeding horses and milking
goats or helping an old Russian man named Pietro
pasture his livestock.

I don’t get this fucking guy. Pietro is a cranky old
man that never says thanks, but merely looks my
direction as I split and stack cordwood in his sheds,
nods, grins and then continues with his heavenly
chores of muck, mud and generations of agricultural
servitude. I can never exactly pin point the exact
moment I sneaked off the train and swapped out my
business attire for the filthy boots, gloves and muddy
trousers, but for the sake of my disheveled soiled
appearance all the villagers of Kubaka and the Russian
police walk past me like I’m not even there.

At sun up and without saying a word or inviting me,
Pietro will leave me in the middle of our chores and
stroll to the cabin. After completing our early
predawn chores he’ll go back inside for breakfast and
to make sure all the kids are awake eating mushuk,
bits of fried meat and scalding hot camp coffee:
grinds and all. Maybe it’s my poor grasp of Russian or
his absolute lack of English but neither Pietro nor
Sasha will speak to me or even look in my direction.
My theory is village life in the middle of Siberia
don’t require chatty banter nor esoteric jaw jacking.
Besides, I’m safe here.

All dirt-poor Russian villagers set an empty place at
their dinner table. Not for unexpected guests, but for
loved ones that have ‘gone missing’ or simply never
returned home after the war. Hell, I’m hungry and
dying for hot coffee and a cigarette, I dubbed that
empty chair mine, pull up a plate and saucer and dig
in.

Susceptible to narcotic and alcohol amnesia and
disorienting starvation induced mood swings that
propel me to places and deeds I can’t recall, awaking
in strange places is normal: for me and you. I’ll
sometimes awake next to a smoldering campfire, under
dusty dirty burlap sacks or saddle blankets, sometimes
on a train half way across Siberia or riding circles
on the 13B tram through the suburbs of Helsinki. Lucid
dreaming, alcoholic swimming and sober fleeing all
tend to blend together creating nightmares, day-mares
and a fine appreciation for being above ground instead
of sucking dirt.

After breakfast, Pietro barked at Sasha whereupon she
arose, grabbed her heavy coat and arm-in-arm walked
with Pietro out the front door and down the dirt road
towards town. Since I wasn’t invited, I sat still and
waited for the parents to leave.

As soon as they were out of sight and earshot, the
kids gathered around to stare at me and poke me to see
if I’m real. My broken Russian and their crude
English, blended with pictograms and diagrams allowed
me to ask and answer a few questions.

We chatted about all sorts of things. I told them
stories about my comrades back home in Helsinki and my
graying gunslingers from long ago way back in Alaska.
I also told them what America is like by explaining
how clean Seattle is and how well mannered they are.
Most of the older kids simply ignored my stories
watching the younger children clamber around me in
fascination.

The eldest girl of almost 17 years scolded the younger
kids to leave ‘it’ alone and finish their breakfast.
The distinction startled me; despite my poor language
skills I knew the contextual mistake was intentional.

I asked one of the younger kids what I was doing here
working on their dad’s mud farm and which way is home.
They shrugged and asked me why I didn’t know very much
and stated that their dad believes me to be his
guardian angel, but their mom believed me to be
something entirely different: a curse under her roof.

A curse. Why the fuck would a poor starving Russian
mother think I’m a curse? So I asked the most lucid of
the younger children what that meant.

“My mom says we’re not supposed to talk to you.”

“Not supposed to talk to me? I’m eating, drinking,
smoking and working right in front of her busting my
fucking balls in filth milking goats, shoveling shit
and stacking piles of soggy wood: and she scolds you
not to talk to me.”

“My dad says you’re a friend of our eldest brother
that died in the war and that you’re here to help
before snowfall, but my mum says if we ignore the lost
soul, he’ll find his way back to where he came from.”

“She’s afraid of you when you bang dishes and slam
doors and that men like you are the last to know you
are dead.”

“Are you dead?” asked the most lucid youngster.

“No, I’m not dead, I’m just trying to find my way back
home.”

“Where’s your home?”

I tried to reply but couldn’t come up with an answer.
My home is wear I hang my hat pull up blankets and
sleep. This historically has been numerous farms, a
junkyard, ungodly jail cells and remote Eskimo and
Russian villages where I’m surrounded by peasants I
can’t understand.

“My mom says you’re not from this Earth and that she
can’t see you, only hear you stirring your coffee and
sometimes sees you when you smoke.”

I ain’t fucking dead. Just lost and disoriented. I’ll
figure out what I’m doing after I finish breakfast and
filling up the wood shed. Chores always put me and my
problematic mind back on track. Which is what I did.

When Pietro returned from town, he surveyed my
progress grinning from ear to ear. Apparently, my
presence isn’t disruptive as long as I stay outside
with all the goats. He noticed that I raked and bagged
up all the wood chips and bark to dry inside the wood
shed. He also smiled in admiration at all the milk
pales filled and porched with all the goats fed and
watered inside the barn for the night.

While in town, he’d fetched a pouch of tobacco, so he
rolled a couple cigarettes and set them on the table
next to me. As I grabbed a smoke and lit it from the
candle at the dinner table he just watched in
amazement muttering something like “tupaq espiritu.”
Whereupon his most lucid child commented, “If he was
dead, he couldn’t smoke with you could he dad?”

“See Mr.” “I told my mom that you weren’t dead and
that you would find your way back home after you
finished your chores.”

I replied, “Hey kid, shut up about the dead man talk.”

“Do ghosts dream when they sleep?” “Or do you travel
to other farms to help with their chores?”

Which reminded me that on the other side of the world
an Eskimo woman will need me to put on a pot of
coffee.

Most days and dreams are abruptly shattered by the
alarm clock or sheer fright. This morning I was
absolutely overjoyed to awake next to my blessed
Siberian Mrs. It’s hard work to moonlight as a laborer
and farmhand in other countries and foreign time zones
and alien centuries. As you can tell, I completed my
chores and awoke on the wrong end of the North
American continent, in another remote village.

I’d like to believe it was all only a dream, but will
one of you please explain to me all the sores on my
hands, aching back and manure under my fingernails?

Next time you have a slew of unfinished agrarian or
subsistence hunting chores left untended, send me a
smoke signal, I’ll give you hand. I am every father's
long lost son.

Have dreams, will travel, but keep a candle lit for me
and a few hand rolled cigarettes on the table. I'll
likely need all of your help finding my way back home.


Karl.

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