Ah, Fall

Yes, I bought a Powerball ticket. And then I ate it. It’s much more interesting than just buying one and waiting to see if you win; now you hope, intensely, that you lose. If you take down the numbers before you swallow it, you get relief the moment they announce the winning numbers. (Which should be called the losing numbers, since that’s what they are for millions of people.) (I am certain some stand-up “comic” has made that point before, possibly on one of those concert performances that seemed to infest the USA network back when I watched too much cable. Sounds stupid enough, anyway. “Why do they call them the winning numbers? One guy wins! Oughta call ‘em losing numbers! Am I right?” Whoot whoot from the drunken crowd, audience shot of cute women with faces frozen in an unconvincing smile left over from a vaguely amusing reference six jokes ago.) If you don’t write down the numbers before you eat the ticket, you have to wait for the media to tell us where the ticket was bought. If - God forbid - it’s the store where you bought your ticket, you have to wait for someone to show up and present the winning numbers. Excruciating, but once someone comes forward, your relief is unbelievable.

Maybe I shouldn’t eat them all, though. It would be nice to win. It would be hell, in another way, of course; your life changes completely, and your ability to ride that out depends on how well you can insulate yourself from, oh, humanity. Luckily, one hundred and sixty-five million buys a lot of isolation. Like most people I would build a house or three, then get in on one of those cooperatively owned jets so I could head down to Arizona or Up North without enduring commercial aviation. Aside from managing the charities and Gnat’s foundation, I would spend all my time amassing collections of ephemera to leave to the University of Minnesota, ensuring that the end result of my time on earth would resemble the last minutes of both “Citizen Kane” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – two of my favorite movies, as it turns out.

Would I still do this? The website? At first I’d insist on it! Why, nothing’s changed! But then you get caught up in the life of Croesus, and you have nothing you can share with others. Oh, bought Gnat a pony. Actually a pony barn. Okay, Idaho. You start complaining about the viewing angle on the TV in the shower. (Or the Water Feature.) Who else would understand such things? Maybe you get Stephen King and Bill Gates’ phone number when you will the lottery.

Some Be-Bop Deluxe from “Drastic Plastic” just came up on the iPod; reminds me how music like that had to coexist in my dorm with other genres. The next door tenant was a really tall white guy who put on Earth Wind & Fire Friday nights and drop acid; the guys down the hall listened to Head East and Marshall Tucker Band and drank beer by the cubic yard. Everybody hated everybody else’s music. My tastes were the most suspect, I think, because the bands wore ties and jackets and looked like spotty British dorks. Or, in the case of Be-Bop Deluxe, that bisexual theater major who took your girlfriend just for the hell of it. Well, I had my revenge. Wait until three AM and play Kraftwerk’s “Voice of Energy,” which is scary German fed through a Vocoder, just loud enough to be heard at the subconscious level.

Why the hell am I sitting inside? It’s about 75 out there. I’ve filed my daily column; I have a few loose hours before I pick up Gnat and take her to choir and chat with the Assembly of Moms. I should go sit outside and read, because the days in which such things are possible dwindle before us. And I don’t feel like writing anything else.


So I went home and read in the rich light of autumn, faithful dog at my side. When it was time to collect Gnat I went to the school; the kids were playing outside, and when she saw me she said “that’s my dad” and ran towards me across the baseball diamond. I picked her up and swung her in the air, nothing but blue sky above. Life is made for exactly those moments. The more they approximate a sentimental scene in a mediocre movie, the better. There’s always a truth in the cliché, the trite overused idea. Or else it wouldn’t have been bled dry by hacks.

I took her to choir, went down to the church basement fellowship room and caught up with the Gals. Few men enter this world; most of the moms have brought kids for choir, and until it’s time to go upstairs and warble for Jesus they sit around the TV and eat pizza while the parents chat. If there is a dad, he’s late and harried and dressed in office wear. Or he’s one of the pastors, swinging through for a grip ‘n’ grin. Don’t get me wrong – genuine and heartfelt, they’re swell guys all. I enjoy talking with the Gals, because I have more in common with them than the men who show up thrashed and hammered from a day bent over the Blackberry, dealing with the problem with the Jackson account or the Des Moines facility. Me, I write popcorn and make sure the kid makes the bus with some roughage in her gut. This morning I spent 15 minutes consolidating Play-Doh. Green stuff in the cup with green residue, sealed with a green lid. That’s pretty much what it all comes down to anyway.

And now back to work; I have to finish a column – they are due daily, after all – and bang away at the Joe-in-Ashtabula rewrites. Here’s another revised Joe Ohio chapter from the early portion of the book. The original is here, if you want to compare and contrast. I’ve decided to finish the book before I sell it, unless my agent advises against it. And I also decided to start posting new stories after the first of the year. You’ll be surprised. In a nice way, I hope. Not that ghastly pale expression of horror at how bad it is. See you tomorrow.