"The basic question remains: Even if so many suspension bridges collapsed after undulating wildly, why did the Tacoma Narrows Bridge twist to its destruction under a relatively modest and steady wind?"Mario Salvadori, Matthys Levy: Why Buildings Fall Down
Reckonings from the pressure cooker. I thought Tesla had already figured that Tacoma Narrows Bridge event out quite nicely, but because I don't find that practical range of physics pertinent to my everyday life (I am a geodetic surveyor, not a theorectical mechanical engineer) I have forgotten his solution. Meanwhile, undersold kaleidescopic crossections of my tricked out overzealous expansionist mindset were beginning to suggest that this was going to be the best New Year's rabble dabble evah, particularly since I had always tended to shy away from highly structured point A to point B holiday revelries, preferring to fly off on my own tangential rituals induced from flipflopping feelings of noblesse oblige and tragic unworthiness that ranged from hitting the sack at 10 PM just as the significant other, pick a number, was gearing up to Dick's annual ball drop, to something else just as incriminatingly boring. Main thing was I wasn't paying skyrocket holiday prices for any of the usual run of the mill nonsense. This eve I was ready for something different, and hoped I finally had accrued enough raw material carefully socked away ready to pump the fire into this angelic trail we all badly needed. I was ready to talk hard, if that was what it took to encourage others to toe the bow line of this shipwrecked but fiercely crusading heave ho. Mutinies and pirates would be dealt with harshly and swiftly in this man's navy.
Strong influences early in life chalked my holiday blackboard with x's and y's of pent-up indifference and outright hostility, choking any enthusiasm I still try to work up today for family's sake or to repair my amply uprooted sense of belonging to something larger and grander than my own rather large if not so grand self I have subsequently grown accustomed to loathing if not outright fearing. My dad who never allowed any holiday frills to parch his own fricative lips when he had "work" to escape to drove the first few nails into my psychology, muttering in passionless tones that it was just another day, (and left unsaid was the unspoken but howling inference around the household, just another excuse to spend a dollar he would rather spend on booze for himself) to him. Later down that same pike, being married to a Jehovah's Witness for three years where every day not devoted to the burnt toast god by name sealed the lid on any traditional holiday joy I might soak up forever. I would create my own holiday whenever I damned well pleased, and ONLY then, was my unspoken motto, still only partially formed.
I appreciated my wife’s resolve to ask for the loan of the car, especially after I mocked her in front of Tim only two weeks ago, saying that she would appear in the most silly light by asking Skip a mere two weeks before New Year’s if his limosine was available.” Geez, wouldn’t it be already reserved?” I crackled. Now I was enjoying the taste of those words, an aquired taste, I admit, but fish eggs and failed prophecies again are not everyone’s cup of tea.
Cultural misanthropy came easy to me, as easy as scrambling for the leftover biscuit in a household of starving siblings with a mother who didn't have the decency to prepare exactly the equal share of morsels for six kids to help instill the rule that one size fit each and all, thereby saving the clan from the gnawing fear of losing out to a faster, greedier sibling quicker on the draw than they would ever be. I simply hated being part of the herd, ANY herd, despite what I suspected to be the ridiculousness of that concept (nobody's part of a herd unless he exerts his free will upon the other and extracts theirs, thus rendering the herd instinct among human beings, even among the dullest and the most obliging among us, nothing but a sniveling oxymoron). Even the most miserable of us resist being herded around like show dogs. From the greatest to the least of us, we cling to anything tangible or intangible that makes us feel we were created to be and thus remain an individual born to choose, to sin, to win, to lose, a unique seed with a peculiar place in history and therefore a destiny all our own. But tonight was fixed. It may have been just any other night, but Tim and Jennifer, and to a more augmented degree, even Sue, were all hip to the holiday harrangue I had been inspired to lay before them. As host I would join them, watch them, judge them. Indeed this was just any other night, but tonight we had arranged for a limosine drift of the city. We were creating our own private domain, a manageable yet wicked tour de force, manageable because I was in control, and grateful to Skip and Char Bafalis for the loan of the car, wicked because within the parameters of responsible glamour lost on deviate participants I had grand visions of a night that would finally put us all on the mythological map of great anecdote with a wealthy preservation of pictures to boot. This event was to be fool's proof, guaranteed fun I heard myself pitching as I plotted out the evening's logistics in my head from whence there was no return or sublimation, no room for confusion, chirade, or challenge. I appreciated my own wife's resolve to ask for the loan of the car, especially after I mocked her in front of Tim only two weeks ago, saying that she would appear in the most silly light by asking Skip a mere two weeks before New Year's if his limosine was available." Geez, wouldn't it be already reserved?" I crackled. Now I was enjoying the taste of those words, an aquired taste, I admit, but fish eggs and failed prophecies again are not everyone's cup of tea.
I was up early as usual. Tim had to saddle off to work once again. Sue was free but had a bundle of errands to run, food and booze and subtle delicacies to lay up in store for tonight. I had already copied out the buy lists. Sue added a few things and she was off. Jennifer hugged the pillows until after the morning bustle had ceased and finally joined me at the kitchen table around nine. After breaking the news that the deed had finally been done, that is to say, after she in her first words of the morning delivered a short and snappy report that Tim had finally shagged her, throwing in no details, no bubbling enthusiasm, no meaningful dirt at all, we immediately began to plot the expectant limosine protocol that would splendor us through the night.
My reaction to the news was as mundane as her own. A forceful smirky grin, maybe a thumbs up, and a quick return to whatever I was fondling at the time. This was her story, her side of it, or his once he was fully prepared to blow the news, but for now that was about it, barely a rumor's worth of worked up vis-a-vis. . .
Always flitting around in the service of others had worn me completely to a nub with no direction home until I had completely come unglued at the seams approaching more than a mild form of agoraphobia. I was fat, fateless, and embittered. These people really were not like me at all I had finally begun to realize, and boasted to myself that I bore a secret history to prove it.
I had already committed to paying the driver for eight hours at $25 per. That's a lot of driving but Jennifer and I both reiterated that we didn't want to plunge into the culpable crowds and pay outrageous covers or jacked-up bar prices, no, definitely not, regardless of how much boredom we could create on a night like this. Taking the lead I reconfirmed my urgency to finally drag butt to the famous Mormon Temple, the one and only pat certainty of the evening, well, besides the booze, the caviar, and the Tim Shipman bravado. The famous lighted structure of the Mormon Temple can be seen for miles on the northwest stretch of the Washington Beltway. For years I have wanted to visit the place but didn't know how to drive there, and obviously any ambition to get there was far outsripped by a general apathy to seek directions. But I had already given instructions to the driver that this stop was the only solid item in the logbook and the rest of the night would probably operate on whimsy, instructing him that he should make it his business to learn the route to this monument of religious fantasy prior to picking us up, which was scheduled for eight o'clock sharp in the alley.
"Well, what else?" asks Jennifer, "I definitely don't want to elbow in against a bunch of young posing amateur drunks, skip the bar scene completely, don't you think?"
I'd had thought about this long and hard, and was ready with a response, but I was still uncertain how to work the details to my advantage.
"Okay, I've thought about this," I chide. "And what I'd like to do," putting great emphasis and pause upon the personal pronoun I, as in what EYE'D like to do "is drive up to say, Adam's Morgan, espy a crowd of lovely bored-looking, not boring looking, just bored enough to consider an adventure, and not too chic, but chic enough to interest us types, preferably, no, definitely, oozing the smell of female, or okay, maybe even a boy girl couple, and then somebody dash out cameras snapping, confidence wagging, and walk straight up and invite them to join us." I'm on the jackway jones now. "We'll have loads of free food and drink, a limo, a professional driver, groovy tunes, savvy conversation, snapalong cameras, microphones, man, we'll be set. Whaddya think BAAAY be?"
"That sounds fab! Yeah, that'll work. Ooooweeee! That'll help open up the scenario where it's not like I'm defaulted to some doubledate with Tim." I heard these words, smiled again to myself, but nodded quixotically. I wanted to break out of the couples mold myself, but I knew I needed others to play a well-developed role in order to pull it off in real time. Could I do it? It sounded possible, even plausible. After all, between us, we had gotten Tim laid. There was no chance of rat's nest romance here. Time to move on to the more analytical jests and opportunities of sensual promise still headed our way, we thought.
"Well, Jennifer, you know that you, Sue, and even Tim will have to make the approaches. It's like this. We finger the prey, stop the car, and you, especially you since you'll be buffed with the lusty looks and the squid tongued powers of articulation, better to hop out and make the propositions. A few drinks into the game, Sue could definitely help the cause. She dresses up fine, but needs a few ounces in the blood to loosen her mind, and when the wind is blowing up her skirt even her tongue will loosen up on occasion. And Tim, well, he's still young enough, and can carry a confidence tune, but me? Me, I terrify the world. You'll have to be persuasive."
"Yeah, yeah, that's sounds good, but what about your friend Steve, is he completely out of the picture?"
No feedback at all killed any enthiusiam for Stevemania I had for New Year’s Eve. Hell, that last time he was here, he spilled two beers a mere half hour apart up in the computer room in his maniacal fevers to direct a conversation. He just plain forgot he was holding a beer can, and let go, simply flexed open his fingers and let go the first time, and the second time he sort of flung the can in his gusto for hand gesturing once again, and I know cos I was eyeballing him with manly eye, and saw both spills in that dramatic slow motion effect of a Wide World of Sports replay of a bass fisherman snagging a fighting three pounder inches above the water’s surface, caught forever in fotographic time, the fall, the splash, the recovery.
"As far as I'm concerned he is. I haven't talked to him since before Christmas, and my last E-mail severed some ties I'm still not rushing to heal quite yet. I think he's been in touch with Tim, but that's outside my jurisdiction. The fact is I'm still quite upset with Steve. He never follows through. Here I am trying to organize a rare highdollar event where logistics and protocol matter to the utmost and he can't even keep me clued on the few details from his own end. That last night he was here we had the greatest most compulsive time we'd ever put together, breaking a few sound barriers even, and we've had some wow wow times lemme tell ya, but towards the end of that same Sunday night he invited himself along for the limo by suggesting that he could postpone his first date with this chick he met in a bar named Della until New Year's Eve. Sue and I immediately chimed in, 'Cool!' You see, he'd already broken one tentative date scheduled the day before, but they wereapparentlyon again the following night, which was a Monday, but as usual Steve was a bit apprehensive about the uncertainty of and responsibility to a woman in general, especially the one on one, which however, I should acknowledge, he prefers to the two on two of couple-grooving where even among solid friends Steve would be skewered and sucked into the vacuum and deliriums of competitive jealousy whenever his girl might look across the table and kick a few words to Steve's best friend, or his best friend's girlfriend, thus removing her own rapt attentions from him in both the immediate, controllable, and let me get wacky, the metaphysical senses. It is very taxing for Steve to suffer through even the shortest withdrawals of total and absolute focus upon him. He knows these things. He'll give you the ten thousand word for word self-awareness oral essay on these and other Steve quotients at the drop, on the phone, or don't think not, on YOUR, NOT his deathbed, but that's Steve, that's his story, and he's sticking to it. I'm not making this up.
"So by the time he called on Wednesday, I was hot under the collar already by wondering what the hell, had Della agreed or what? I didn't talk to him, Sue did. Of course she didn't grill him for details from that damned absent-minded way she weathers, but he did report that they HAD been playing phone tag, and both admitted that they had forgotten what the other looked like, which comforted Steve. Monday was another no-show obviously, and here the opportunity to make a New Year's Eve date was rapidly evaporating. I mean what was Wednesday? Mmm...Christmas day, yeah that's right, I was shocked that Steve hadn't gone to his folks in Pennsylvania but had just lounged around all day in his apartment, and called us I dunno, around seven I guess that evening, just to check in he said, but damn, where were the fuckin' details? I mean I had suggested that Sunday night that even if she found the experience not exactly her shot of tequila, we would drive her anywhere, home, a bar, whatever, at any time. It was a great plan, especially since Steve thought of it originally, while I added the "bailing out" details. It wasn't like I was trying to manipulate his love life to suit my own twisted urgencies, but I certainly expected him to followup his own words, and I had a plan to protect from his usual chaos. She could have said no, or even been iffy, playing it by ear, that notorious Stevism that was beginning to make me wish Steve was yet another van Gogh instead of Yet Another Steve Taylor (YAST). No problem. That would have been reportable. No feedback at all killed any enthiusiam for Stevemania I had for New Year's Eve. Hell, that last time he was here, he spilled two beers a mere half hour apart up in the computer room in his maniacal fevers to direct a conversation. He just plain forgot he was holding a beer can, and let go, simply flexed open his fingers and let go the first time, and the second time he sort of flung the can in his gusto for hand gesturing once again, and I know cos I was eyeballing him with manly eye, and saw both spills in that dramatic slow motion effect of a Wide World of Sports replay of a bass fisherman snagging a fighting three pounder inches above the water's surface, caught forever in fotographic time, the fall, the splash, the recovery. Peter had come over that Sunday, oowweee. Too much enthusiasm grist for Steve. Final word. The social mix would be terrible with just you, me, Sue, Tim and Steve. No way am I "setting" myself up for that kind of misery..."
None of these queries ever left Steve's mouth. He was obviously being clued in by Tim, and since Tim had no money, there was no discussion of money. As for Jennifer, well, she was so accustomed to being treated as a special exemption, I wondered how she now fit Elaine into the Jerry's World a la Dollhouse, coy, friends, sex would ruin it, who's paying, uh, duh, and a bottle of rum. Tim had heard the definitive outline since I quoted it to him from the original letter I wrote to Jennifer where it was just the three of us, Sue, Jennifer, me, and maybe, only maybe a few case-sensitive invitees who knew and were willing to embrace the rules.
Speedy but settling was this bruising septic outpouring of grief. Steve had previously told me that Della in that first meeting had already hinted about the Eve, mentioning some downtown bar from which he REALLY REALLY REALLY didn't feel like blowing the night away with her or anybody else for that matter. Hence, his suggestion to waltz into the limo ride. Wonderful news at first glance. We wanted him to be there, but according to basic mathematical and sociological principles as we knew them from rote experience and insider information as Dollhouse irregulars. Recalling the limosine idea sprang from a note on discipline and protocol, I knew that Tim, and even to a greater degree, Steve, would be unlikely to dance the Gabriel dance unless there were motivating factors. Tim and Steve together alone was anathema unless a sixth party, a third female, perhaps Della, was there to even out the rough edges and provide new blood for Gabriel the Better, as opposed to Gabriel the Worse. Steve would obviously present a more controlled demeanor, if he was with blind date, as would we all. Otherwise the focus would jerk solely upon the three freeloading stooges while Sue and I would suddenly have no authority or purpose at all except as disgruntled chaperones forced to eat yet another night as the expense of showing others a good time. Had we already arrived at the sugarloaf stage with our crowd, where we are merely contented to sit among the young and beautiful, self-absorbed stock-in-trade of what used to be called friendship? I wasn't about to accept this signal or that role, now or ever. If we weren't equals or mentors of a decaying sort, why bother? True, we were laying out the cash. No biggie since this was our personal call, but everybody down the line must pay a price because there just aren't any free rides, or in Sue's packed words, no free lunches, on this train to noexitville, doll or no doll. The tollbridge troll is always lurking, with pith helmet and obligations for any who forget the code, so I was already primed and chewing with wide toothy chomps the controlfreak linear spew, having recently swooned with an epiphany on control mechanism psychology, its language, its nominalism, and now resting comfortably within my own defensive arsenals was the phrase, "Those who would decry me as a controlfreak in my own house, on MY time, on MY money, are surely the controlfreaks as they try to wrestle from me my own natural prerogatives, gaining control for themselves, and thus I no longer fear these petty sort of labelers. Especially since all I have done these years it seems is give, give, give in the name of friendship..." But now I was inventing my own role, instead of having it handed to me by the wooing or the shushing crowds still painting by numbers, inventing my own role responsible for making myth worth peeling back the layers to examine beyond the screams of the moment and also responsible for retaining what little dignity it seems had all but evaporated on the heels of a steady decade of young ursurpers spinning their callous or saccharine rubric into Sue's and my own bent-over-backwards-lives. The car was a loaner, not a rental. This called for deliberate action and full capacity. No blackout Gabriel tonight, no kamikaze, autopilot mode where my own destruction and chaos is a psychological mirror to the shame and horrors of the world I would despise if I didn't envy it as richly deserving my own steer through stupidity as it has steered itself into my own nest of innocent doves.
So far I had not blacked out even once since Jennifer's arrival. Just goes to show how raging boredom affects the brain on alcohol while even a single focussed purpose in life is regeneration and prioritizing. These past few nights of drinking, laughing and petite as opposed to grand picturemaking may have been a thousandfold more boring than I would have liked them to be, but in all this boredom I had a purpose. I was making a list, and I was checking it twice. I was gonna find out who was naughty and...
Life had become so peeving petty with drugs and drinking and bars and clique zones, and political correctness, and overworked rants and pop shop psychologies, and posing and dozing and uptight brownnosing I often wanted to drown myself in an ocean of my own making, some unnameable salty sea of crybaby tears, where art lost, language unravelled, bogus bonehead friendships fizzled, while these questions buried deep inside since my own young and beautiful past, my own twenty-something years spent in steady intellectual pilgrimage in loner status now freezing my soul and squeezing blue my balls forcing me to paraphrase the poet once again, ain’t there nobody here that knows where I’m at, ain’t there nobody here that knows what I’m feelin’?
Yes I knew Steve would presume automatically to be aboard. After all, he was a charter member of the Dollhouse weekend wax poetica. Why would he suddenly not be included on this most feverish weekend of the year? I had not asked him outright yet, because I was waiting to hear his payoff approach for information. Enquiring minds still want to know. I wanted to hear the exact language from which he might enquire of the tour, who was going, what it was costing, and so on. . . None of these queries ever left Steve's mouth. He was obviously being clued in by Tim, and since Tim had no money, there was no discussion of money. As for Jennifer, well, she was so accustomed to being treated as a special exemption, I wondered how she now fit Elaine into the Jerry's World a la Dollhouse, coy, friends, sex would ruin it, who's paying, uh, duh, and a bottle of rum. Tim had heard the definitive outline since I quoted it to him from the original letter I wrote to Jennifer where it was just the three of us, Sue, Jennifer, me, and maybe, only maybe a few case-sensitive invitees who knew and were willing to embrace the rules. But Tim had done the same, days, or was it weeks earlier, had just presumed he was invited and began making his own preparations. Not that the presumption was unprecendented or even unwarranted, but this was not like any other night, and I wanted Tim to know that right up front. My language in describing every detail had been vigorously concocted as I waited for presumption to kick in from around the camelot crew of the Dollhouse feverish. We weren't dolling around in the Great Black Cherry Pickup of Yesteryear, nor were we piling into the notorious van, the "Jesus Chrysler Drove a Dodge" caravan on this particular night. Words of drunken spillage could squirt around, embarrass Sue, and actually even destroy her career at Alcalde Fay. If rules were to be broken they were going to be broken with the word of the ONE in control. I was trumpeting this mantle in protection of my wife's best interests, deviant as they may be in some areas, both mine and hers, but as the day is hardwired to the night, I just happen to know and respect these fuzzy limits, and while there have been many pretenders to this throne, none can wield the excalibur of prostration as pertains to Sue like Gabriel. At least in some jones world of interpretive onanism I have the joblessness to prove something if not devotion is the root of our marriage. Fidelity to each other is not a sex thing. It's a money thing.
But nothing was said, nothing needed to be said about Steve coming with us after he tossed in the spectacular allure of youngblood, strange, I mean strange, strictly feminine, a surplus, a fleshly matrix balancing coup, sparking immediate agreement on our part. Steve was aboard as along as he followed through by securing Della. But Della was just a memory by now, and Steve had been disinvited for not respecting the psychogeographical task of evening out the gender mix, even though this might have pushed Jennifer into more of a position of feeling that she was doubledating with Tim, I still was not persuaded by her squaring of matters. She could certainly elbow to my side of the court if she wanted, but I was taking great care not to assert myself on purely personal grounds at this point in the game. Why encourage Steve to foil Tim? Why deface myself further with Tim's surely forthcoming grandstand now that he'd actually consummated his Jennifer romance, as Steve would no doubt compete for her attention, thus definitively charging me with the same obligation? I was sacrificing my own desparate urges in order to clarify what had been clouded for so long and could only think of Jennifer's legal husband Dez as she plotted her own sexual freedom, while inferring that I was still locked into a cage in which she seemed to think only she held the key to use at her own whimsy as evidenced by our own numerous past dalliances since my wedding to Sue. But no matter, a sacrifice is a worthy sacrifice after all, only if it is a secret mission, and there is nothing but freedom to gain. In my case, I would either gain enough filthy lucre in the form of sexual and fotographic impulse to satisfy all the variables in the equation I had hypothesized, or else I would finally explode into the freedom lost in this screwy-eyed tyranny friendship had placed into my path. Always flitting around in the service of others had worn me completely to a nub with no direction home until I had completely come unglued at the seams approaching more than a mild form of agoraphobia. I was fat, fateless, and embittered. These people really were not like me at all I had finally begun to realize, and boasted to myself that I had a secret history to prove it. This weekend would either change my mind or finally, conclusively, confirm what I needed in sandblasted form in order to divest of these half-measure friends and scaliwags who despite their own best intentions can only manipulate me for their own passing fancies, themes of the season, scores of the moment, but for all the blather cannot share or participate in my own well-documented long-buried ambitions that have little or nothing to do with any of that they love to apotheosize as the very marrow of the dead man's curve. Life had become so peeving petty with drugs and drinking and bars and clique zones, and political correctness, and overworked rants and pop shop psychologies, and posing and dozing and uptight brownnosing I often wanted to drown myself in an ocean of my own making, some unnameable salty sea of crybaby tears, where art lost, language unravelled, bogus bonehead friendships fizzled, while these questions buried deep inside since my own young and beautiful past, my own twenty-something years spent in steady intellectual pilgrimage in loner status now freezing my soul and sweating my balls forcing me to paraphrase the poet once again, ain't there nobody here that knows where I'm at, ain't there nobody here that knows what I'm feelin'?
We were four tonight plus any fresh ingrediants we could toss on the salad but I was not running a circus, not tonight, not with Skip's car, not with Rick Alclade's driver, and not with my own refractory future on the line. No odd boys for Jennifer to make a mess of Tim and me both. The other rules would more easily no doubt fall into place. Sexual friskiness? Always a Gabriel theme, therefore a breeze of willingness to risk all reputation. Allowed. Drinking and eating with gusto. Is there any other life now that I am beyond returning to the manic stoicism of my own 20s? Allowed. Freedom of speech with consequences. There is no other speech. Allowed. Photographic evidence? If you can't show me a picture or lines on a page, it didn't happen. Allowed.