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It's about bums, country music, and flowers today.
Gruff voices, dirty faces, and greasy, stringy hair—such are the characteristics of the four bums outside my window. The balding one wears a blue and white jersey with “Faulk” and the number 28 on the back; another wears a blue baseball cap with a golden insignia, and yet another wears his cap backwards. The fourth nods in agreement from time-to-time while balding-dude says "fuck" at least once a sentence. They talk of grandkids, family, and “fucking liars.” The middle two slur their words whenever they speak. “That is bullshit.” It’s sort of like having the hick version of The Rolling Stones meet AC/DC for my own entertainment.
“You do not fucking touch a kid like that. Motherfucker.” “If I ever see ...” “If you ever touch a kid like that again ...” “I will smash your fucking head, motherfucker.” I left the window, and when I returned I thought that one person had left (Mr. Blue Cap), but realized he had only removed his cap. “I never did that,” he said. “You’re twitching. You’re lying to me.” “I asked you a question and you didn’t give me an answer.” “I’m gonna fucking shoot your ass.” “She was thirteen years old. That’s an adult.” “She was eight. Don’t fuck with her.” “The little kids don’t know how to say, the dude’s fucking with me.” “You had your arms around her.” “Don’t fuck with me.” “You calling the fucking kid a liar?” “Tell me what fucking happened.” “Nothing happened.” “Tell me what happened that night or I’m going to beat your ass.” “She pulled a knife on me, man.” “Better tell me or else I start swinging.” So rarely in public do you hear an honest discussion about this topic. I’m still not sure that I have, but there is something refreshing about what is happening outside.
“I’m calling you a dumb ass.”
“If we catch you, Lord have fucking mercy on your ass.”
I’ve never been a “country music fan”—I grew up with such music because my dad was (and is) a fan, though country music back then was different than what plays on the radio today, and when I go home for the holidays I hear either jazz or talk radio. That’s probably my step-mother’s decision.
For me country music meant Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, The Statler Brothers, The Oakridge Boys, and similar. I eventually found my musical independence through classical music and, later, “rock.” At one point, when I was younger, I decided that I might grow to like pop, but never rock. Then, I might like rock, but never hard rock. And once I grew to like hard rock, I swore not to go as far as heavy metal. It’s not that I was naive; I simply didn’t know what I was talking about—I had decided to dislike things I hadn’t even tried.
I did know, however, that I did not like country music. In 1992 I went on a three week tour of Germany with other exchangees, and one of them, Mary Sandhop from Oklahoma, was a country fan. That trip was the first time I heard Garth Brooks—how many times did I have to hear “I have friends in low places”? Mary was a sweetheart, and I do not begrudge her all that Garth.
I still avoid country. That having been said, I have a deep fondness for Johnny Cash, both for his earlier works and for the albums he put out in the last several years. As cheesy as it is, I have a soft spot for Highwaymen (Cash, Nelson, Jennings and Kristofferson), especially the title track. I bought Unchained for myself and then bought another copy as a gift for my father. It is impossible not to love “Hurt.”
“Edelweiss, Edelweiss, / Every morning you greet me, / Small and white, / Clean and Bright [...]”
It must have been on the Sound of Music Tour (July 1996) that I picked up a little packet of Edelweiss seeds. They sat, along with several German seed packets, in a box and traveled with me from apartment to apartment all these years. When Jen and Christoph left the country they also left me a few plants, along with the ones Jürgen gave me in July (the aloe vera plants are not doing well).
I went to Walmart and picked up some potting soil and a few small pots. I returned home and planted one cut that had begun to root. The other is still in a vase because I think its roots are too complex for a small pot, but I have nothing better for it, so there it stays. I pulled out my old seeds and dumped most of the edelweiss along with some other flower into a batch of potting soil. I watered them. Yesterday I noticed little bits of green poking through the near-black soil and I was delighted.
I want to give them sun, but the weather is not cooperating. Plants are not as good as pets, and I want to hold off on kids until later, but for now they are a very welcome addition to my abode.
“Meridian High, Meridian High ...” My high school alma mater shared its melody with that Sound of Music song. I never did learn all the words.
—August 24 2004