4/20/20: Tour of the Neighborhood

Monday: The textureless depth of a good noble pure blue sky. Things seem cleanest in direct unhumid sunlight like this, to me; like the light scrubs off at least one layer of the ugliness that invariably settles on things, like dust.

I walked at Sunny Lake through every season, in all weathers. I’ve seen the lake shake itself to life in the early summer morning, when I would go early to walk before it got hot. Once a mist lay on the lake in an early morning darkness before rising just ahead of the sun, like a lover sneaking out of the window and into the back street. Once the sun cleared the trees its light would hit the fleeing mist and bring it up into dozens of tall, drifting, scintillant trails, dancing and burning up over the lake which had turned pink and shone like a polished ballroom floor.

That’s as I remember it now; I can only make an educated guess now as to how it actually was then, but I suspect it both was and wasn’t that beautiful: that I both saw it for what it was, and what my mind, in wanting to remember it, wanted it to be remembered as; the algebra of desire can’t help but transmute things before they settle into any permanent archive in our brains.

I turned on Songs for Pierre Chuvin in between finishing the last paragraph and starting this one. John Darnielle’s plaintive voice, the inherent ramshackle melancholy of a lo-fi recording, the spareness of the instrumentation…it’s good so far (one song in). I haven’t listened to music hardly at all in months. This hearkens back to the way my brain seems to change textures, be more or less open to different kinds of artistic experiences.

When I lived in Omaha, from when I was three till I was ten, I lived in a neighborhood that, however the texture of the surrounding countryside differed from that of Ohio, was fundamentally the same kind of neighborhood you see here, or in any other suburb. The houses were like the houses that you know, made to spec and with commercial efficiency in mind, sturdy enough but characterless, arranged in their facing rows, exuding the changeless comfortable despondency; you know the one.

Next door lived three boys that were around my age. My sister and I would play with them in our backyard, or theirs, which was fenced in to give their big German Shepard room to roam. They were all short, small, tanned, more outdoorsy than I was, and would do things I wouldn’t or couldn’t do; they were more willing to take bumps and bruises and scrapes, to wade in muddy water, scab their knees on the sidewalks goofing around on their bikes, scooters, skateboards. They touched bugs, let them crawl up and down their arms. One time the youngest one found a caterpillar cocoon, stiff and green like a bean pod. He held in the palm of his hand, and then, smiling, took it between his thumbs and forefingers and cracked it like a peanut, pulling it apart in two halves and letting the pale green ichor of whatever was half-made inside drool out into the grass.

Their dad was big and sturdy, with blackish hair and mustache; he was the kind of guy who looks like a former cop or soldier or firefighter, regardless of what he actually did or does for a living. On the Fourth of July he would light enormous Black Cat mortars in the street. He kept a bag of raspberry candies around, because he knew my sister liked them. I don’t remember him ever saying a single thing to me, although I’m sure he did.

I had another neighbor I played with when I was a little older; he lived up the street a little bit. His hair was lank and black, his face was freckled, his eyes were big and expressive, his teeth were large. He liked mermaids and anything to do with the sea. His room was blue (?) and in the bathroom upstairs there were bowls of seashells by the sink, and the hand towels were kept in a dark lacquered lidless rattan box like you might find in a hotel room that is made to look like a cabana. We usually hung out in his furnished basement. He liked to draw, and so he drew a lot of mermaids while I would sit there doing something else. I slept over sometimes and one time we both woke up early enough to creep upstairs and watch the dawn come into its colors across his backyard, which had a pool in it. The cool blueness of those hours came in, tidal, through the big windows in his dining room, and the water in the pool wouldn’t stop moving. The black-blue treeline beyond might’ve been some ageless reef at the bottom of the ocean.

Another neighbor friend lived even further up the street. His hair was brown. He had more normal-sized teeth and thinner lips, and a prominent mole on his face. I remember him usually with a gray button up on but I’m not sure if he ever actually wore a shirt like that. We would play video games together. One time he came over while I was playing Ocarina of Time. I was at the Twinrova boss fight and, even though I’d finished the game many times I was being performative and pretending that I was unsure if I would be able to beat them or not.

“I believe in you, man,” he said, totally sincerely; and I made him feel weird about it.

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