The attic is cold and the bed is soft and my heart is on fire with sweat. She sleeps beneath me in a room in a bed with a frame and four posts and framed photographs of her family. I’ve known her eleven years. I sit up and feel for my dogs. They are on either side of me and outside it’s bright and I can smell the coffee downstairs. I masturbate to a woman I saw in the bar last night. In my head I lift her dress over her hips and have her from behind while I kiss her ear, neck and shoulder. Her hips are high and smooth in my hands and we move there in front of the mirror. I finish and look above the window AC behind me. It’s upside down from where I see it and the room is perfectly lit for me, dark where it needs to be but not depressing. I reach over and grab my phone and turn off the volume. It’s set to play Run to the Hills when I have a new email, but this morning I’m in the mood for something more refined, if that’s possible. I tap the screen and read the message. It’s from a reader of mine asking me about this blog, about why I haven’t written anything personal or moving on here, why the writing doesn’t reflect the book or my actual work. The letter goes on to ask why I am writing a travel log with photos, and it accuses me of censoring the work for no good reason, that the novel was about a youth burning through the years toward 30 while working on the road and coping with a seriously shitty hand that was dealt to him, and here is the writer of the book years later, and the work on the blog just sits there and it’s really heart breaking for this reader to read it, as something’s changed in the work and so on. The letter goes on to say that they want to read about what it’s like NOW that I’m on the road again, 38 years old, only this time not going labor field to kitchen, warehouse to factory, city to town, insane situation to insane situation, in aimless capture of something permanently beautiful.
At first I think horrible, disgusting things about the motherfucker who wrote the letter to the website. I have never met this person and here is this letter coming over me after a nearly flawless morning. The work is the work, and the blog is not my work firing on all cylinders, but rather a quick summary of my trip. Yet on one end reader is not totally off the mark. Without caring too much, I have been writing this blog photo heavy with words that really don’t have the impact, say, that a novel has. I think about the reader who took the time to write the rather lengthy letter of concern after buying the novel and reading it cover to cover in one afternoon, as the letter had pointed out in the last paragraph. He may not realize the weight of how brutalizing driving across the country can be on a writer who is pushing his own novel on a budget of zero and two dogs. The reader who wrote the fan letter of concern to the
“Morning, Stewart. I see you’ve had your required 18 hours of sleep.”
“Ha. Fuck off. Good morning.”
I pour some coffee. She opens the door to let the dogs out. They run around back past the garden and circle the yard. I watch them then turn back to her,
“Great spot up there. Cool, dark, foam memory mattress on the floor. It’s ruling.”
She laughs and sits next to me at the counter. I’m madly in love with her and have been for over a decade. Not the kind of love that I’m used to, but rather a hardcore and deeply protective family type of love for a seriously fucking hot woman. It’s strange to me. I stare at her paintings on the floor and to her sketch book.
“Can I borrow that?”
“Sure. Need a pen?”
“Actually, I do.”
I sit out back at the picnic table and write her a poem. It’s good to feel the pen on the page. I sign it for her and date it. The coffee is good and the sun is high over the trees and garden. I write a few about the past and now. She walks out with two bottles of beer.
“It’s good to have you here. I've missed you."
"Right back at you."
The dogs come in from the woods. Willis the cat is a street person cat who was rescued by Dawn and her ex-husband. Likened to a person, he would live in the 5th Ward in
“Willis. Relax, you fucking rape victim.”
He swipes at me and runs off.
We talk about my book, about the girl on Melrose with fake tits. She asks me about my take on them.
“I never got the allure of that," I say, "I can see it if it’s a big problem, like a reduction for a better back or if they’re really droopy or really non-existent, or if it’s a cancer surviving deal, but just to make them bigger or more firm or more desirable, and also the fact that they aren’t real, but they’re always there, like a permanent wig.”
I shrug at her,
“Fuck it. If they're happy, I’m happy.”
Inside she shows me some of her sketches. She’s a lefty like I am, and her work is fucking inimitable. She’s a graphic designer now and getting back to the brush, a fully independent artist making a great living her way. She never folded, ultimately. I look at her sketches and writing and it’s warm there and I am back in my element.
Her phone rings. She talks for a while and looks at me,
“That was my friend, Peter. His brother owns a house up in Garrison. Ever heard of Duncan Sheik?”
“He's a singer. Want to go over there?”
We’re driving toward Garrison. The sun is setting and I’m watching the water off to my right before we go through the tunnel. She reaches for her phone,
“You have to meet my friend, Joanne. She was the first model to ever be on the cover of Playboy and not actually be in Playboy. She’s fucking awesome.”
She talks to her and we’re heading over to pick her up. She lives in a house set off in the woods. She walks out of her house and my tongue almost hits the floor. She is fucking beautiful.
“Jesus,” I gasp. Dawn laughs. I whisper,
“She's something else.”
“Doesn’t she look amazing?”
She jumps in the backseat. She’s British. It occurs to me that I’m hanging out with two of the hottest women on the planet. We stop for wine and then we’re heading up some dark road past mansions and properties. We pull up and a guy in a samurai pony tail appears.
We shake hands and head inside. The place is giant and barren. Guitars line the wall across from the table. His brother, Peter, is there and it’s a good night for us all. They have grilled hamburgers with a layer of duck fat over them. Dawn and Joanne and I split the third one. Peter makes a round of Old Fashions. Good and strong. He’s a younger kid with a beard, leaned hard to the left politically, and good about it. I walk to the back door and stare out over the dark field.
We’re hanging out at the table. I’m buzzed. We’ve been talking about his music. He gets up and walks to the kitchen. I say to him,
“I feel bad. I don’t know anything about your music. What’s it like?”
He sits down and plays a song on his acoustic. It's about a hotel room overseas. It's good, really good, and he has a good voice. He sets his guitar down. I ask him about the weird banjo hybrid sitting off in the corner. It's fretless and almost aluminum looking. He brings it over and plays it and the table talks a bit more and it's good to be here. After a while Joanne and I talk. She's as brilliant as she is beautiful. Her humor is dead pan. She asks me about my tour.
“So, Dawn tells me that you’re on the road promoting your books?”
“I am promoting my book and a book by Kurt Eisenlohr.”
“So what’s it like being published and on tour?”
”It’s not like I’m published by a big company or have PR. I’m on tour to try and save my ass. I’m in debt, I live book sale to book sale. In all reality it’s pretty fucking frightening. But on a night like this it’s fucking fabulous.”
She raises her drink to her lips, “I understand you’re very good.”
Her accent is killing me. We talk about the books and my life and her life and listen to the words around us and the night is rolling along smoothly and without pause. It’s
In the morning I’m hungover. No big surprise there. I drank like a fish. Downstairs Dawn and I have a beer. She starts on the wine and I drink a glass of whiskey, to bite the dog that has bitten me. I flip open my laptop and turn it on. Dawn sits across from me by the sink and pulls her hair back and we make lunch. I write in the sketchbook and take the dogs to the water. Her backyard sits just beyond the train tracks and stream, which become cliffs and a river. I get to bed early. I am taking the train into the city when I wake up. Dawn has a shitload of work to do and I want to give her the space and time to work, Meg and
Bright and hot out. I sit next to a guy who is telling me about his life in
I laugh, “How’s it goin’, sis?”
“Ah, fuck, man. You know how it is.”
We sit down outside of a café. I order a soda, she orders a bottle of bubbly water. She smiles at me,
“Well, let me fucking SEE it.”
I hand her a book. She shakes her head, “This is so fucking cool.” I still have the manuscript of this thing. This is so fucking cool.”
We talk about the years and people behind us, and about her photography. She's working a lot these days, and I remember those days, the fucking fluorescent lights or the lines of customers, looking over their shoulders to the outside which led to the street, which led to my place which led to my door which led to my typewriter on the other side of it. It creates hatred for strangers, in even the strongest of us. I bitch about owing money or about the stress of no health care or about being broke and struggling until I figure out my method, but I have to understand that it’s the ebb and flow. My payoff for the worry I have is no more workforce. No more fucking faces or tension. I was going to see Delissa this weekend anyway, as Dawn has booked us in for some motorcycle race in
“You picked a good day to come here.”
I walk her back to work and dial Ben from
He walks in. He looks the same. He argues it and says he's going bald, spinning his head 180 degrees,
“Dude, look at this. Losing it fast.”
“Oh, bullshit. It happens naturally to everyone. You’re fine, dude. Who fuckin’ cares, anyway?”
“How’s life in
“It’s great, man. Lots of life out there, and here. Glad to see you’re doing something with your writing. About fucking time.”
We walk out and grab some food, meet up with Chad and drink a few pitchers, and it’s a blur of Times Square and then I’m on the train back to Beacon, where I blast my ipod and text Dawn and a few others and ultimately miss my stop and end up taking a cab to my van from Cold Spring to Beacon. I get in the cab.
“You’re fucking kidding me. For 10 miles?”
“It’s a zoning issue. We’re crossing zones.”
“Yeah, the fuck me in the ass zone.”
“Am I taking you there or not?”
“That makes two of us, pal.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just make sure you swing by an ATM.”
Dawn is still working when I get back. It’s almost 2 am and it’s nearly 4 am before we go to sleep. We’re picking up Joanne in the afternoon and heading over to the Colt 45 mansion, also in Garrison. Dawn’s friends Daniel and Connie live there in a seriously lavish house on premises and they take care of the place. Daniel races pigeons. It’s never fucking normal in my life. Dawn looks at Joanne in the rearview,
“You were in the city last night. When did you get back?”
“I took a late train. 11 o’clock.”
“Jeff was on that train! Ha! I KNEW you two were on the same train.”
I look back at her, “Which fucking cart were you on?”
“The one in the front. You?”
“The middle one. Son of a bitch.”
They laugh. Joanne smiles at me, “And I didn’t have your cell or you could have texted me.”
Daniel and Connie have a fucking great life. Their daughter, Micah, is so adorable I that can’t stand it. Connie is every bit as gorgeous as the most beautiful woman alive. I’m sitting here in the backyard of this estate drunk on wine, we all are, except for Connie. Daniel and I walk down to his racing pigeon center where he lets them out, they circle the field where we stand, then they fly back in. A drunken flash forward and we’re sitting in the back by the pool overlooking the woods and
“Dude, I have NEVER hit a woman. And it was like a light, fast jab. But even her boyfriend didn’t get mad at me.”
We sober up and head to Cold Springs where we get dinner across from the gas station where the cabby stopped for me to get his fare. My time in
“Jesus, dude. How long you been doing that shit?”
“Since I was a kid.”
He pedals off. Back at the house I do laundry and walk the woods with the dogs. That night Dawn and I see Inglorious Basterds after a couple of drinks. It’s so good we laugh nearly through the whole movie. Been a while since I’ve seen movie that good. We hit the same bar and have one more then the next night we’re headed to the city to pick up Delissa, then we drop the dogs off at the room, then we’re going into
Outside of the bike shop Delissa throws her bags in the van and we make it through the Holland Tunnel, get off the turnpike in
“Dude, I should go over there and bum a smoke from one of them and say, what the fuck is wrong with you guys? You’re gonna LET HIM get away with that shit? I thought you were MEN.”
We laugh and eat our food. Rob is telling us stories about their apartment, how he gutted and built it and the Philly lifestyle mag did a piece on it. It was good to be there with him. He’s paid some heavy dues with his talent. We go into downtown and sit on the 19th floor of a hotel in the lounge and drink a few. Rob sits next to me, where I’m across from the girls looking over their heads at the skyline. He hands me a strong Jack & Coke. Turns out that in the course of the decade we haven’t seen each other, both of us have pink chrysanthemums tattooed into the scheme of work on our arms.
We drop Rob off. It’s Friday night. Saturday and Sunday is the race. Rob’s sitting Saturday out due to prior commitments. We’re in the hotel room and we’re baked, and the girls have fallen desperately in love with
The girls were up early petting
Delissa shakes her head at me, “Dude, it’s like sleeping in a fucking bear cave.”
“Bullshit. I don’t snore.”
Dawn looks out from under the covers,
“Yes you do, motherfucker.”
“Well, then I must have been stuffed up or tired.”
We’re at the race. The track is new and with low visibility. You can see corners here and there. I stick it out with them. I like the speed of the bikes, the linear art of the sport. If I had seen more I could say more, but that night we’re stoned again in the hotel, we go out to eat at Uno’s, and back in bed I am half dreaming that I see the dark figure of Dawn slapping me on the chest. The figure lays back down and it’s light out. I turn over and they’re staring at me. They are tired to shit. Dawn nods,
“Dude. Did you not fucking feel me trying to wake you up last night?”
“I was just wondering about that.”
They start giving me shit over it.
“Let’s just get some goddamned coffee and go,” I say.
We drive into
I drop Delissa off at the track because I don’t want to leave the dogs tied up anywhere and also because I want to check out the
“Flat tire, eh?”
I stare at them. The tall one speaks,
“Need a hand?”
”Got a scissor jack?”
They come back with one. I jack the van up and put the spare on. They escort us to a station, where I inflate the donut, do 60 miles an hour back to the city to drop Delissa off, then Dawn and I make it back to Beacon, where we get good and stoned, pour another drink and decide that I’ll stay until Tuesday, because tomorrow is Labor Day and I don’t want to deal with the traffic, and I’m not sure if a tire shop is open on the holiday, or if it is, then how busy it will be. I hit the attic and pass out cold.
Monday goes by like no time. We have coffee and hang around the house, deal with our heads, and Tuesday morning I’m in line at Sears getting a tire mounted. Back at Dawn’s I have the trailer hitched and she’s outside halting traffic for me. I get on the street and drive a block up the road and pull over. She runs over and I give her a hug. I will know her until the bitter end.
I check the rearview and head up to the freeway. I’ve gone east as far as I’ve wanted to and I’m heading across the inner