It’s deep winter in the San Juans; madness lurks like a clown in a van outside an elementary school.
With few breaks, snow falls for a couple of weeks in February here in Siberia With a View. I’m grabbing my ankles, El Nino is ripping me up; I’m suffering mental roids from a meteorological fisting.
Things are not pretty.
This is a “winter like it used to be.” Those of us in residence here for several decades use this phrase to batter newcomers; when a winter like this rolls around, we tell them things are back to normal and can only get worse, hoping the news will convince them to migrate. We’ve made plans to burn their houses for heat.
It is becoming a “winter like we had before your kind got here.” Native oldtimers like to toss this remark at those of us who have been here for a mere three decades. They know we won’t leave, but they enjoy the boost to their egos, most of them so destitute that ego is all they possess. We can’t leave; the hypocrisy of assaulting recent arrivals for the damage they do here, then relocating to screw up a less damaged place, is too great a burden to shoulder. (This, from someone who is no stranger to hypocrisy.)
For sure, February 2019 is unlike anything experienced by folks who moved to Siberia With a View during the last ten years, or so, among them the prima donnas who describe it as “the most beautiful place in the world,” who label it “pristine.” They believe it is the best place in the world, because they are here. These pinheads could live in a squalid slum, and it would be “the most beautiful place in the world.” And, this part of the country hasn’t been pristine for more than a hundred years.
Unless you are heavily medicated, or certifiably stupid, four feet of snow on the roof, and all it implies, cannot be deemed “beautiful.” Furthermore, to paraphrase Kant: nature is not beautiful, it inspires awe. This winter is indeed awesome, or awful, one during which, as my wife, Kathy, puts it: “It’s a damned good thing there’s no gun in the house.” It’s not beautiful! If I hear one more twit warbling in the clutches of an aesthetic seizure, I am guaranteed a first-degree assault charge.
I stand at the open front door holding a coffee cup half full of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and I stare at the foot of snow that fell overnight as the recent storm moved out. I scope the expanse of the apron in front of the garage, glance at the two-car parking area at the side of the house, at the thirty yard-long driveway and eight-foot banks of snow at its sides.
I gaze without blinking at the enormous load of snow that must be removed if Kathy’s piano students are to make it to the house next week, and I am to escape to drive to town on slick, snow-packed roads — the same roads navigated by newcomers who haven’t the slightest idea how to motor safely. Some of these geeks put the pedal down and end up doing 360s before their new SUV slides off the road into a snow bank. They sit on their heated seats cursing the salesman at the Lexus dealership while they wait six hours for an ill-mannered AAA tow truck driver to liberate them. Others creep along at 2 mph in an out-of-place Prius, keep to the center of the road, weep, and call out for their mommies.
I take a sip. Then, I take another. Thank you, Tito, for all you do.
I should saddle up to do some blowing; I have to get out there and clear the way. I need to purchase food and, just as important, procure gas for Big Red, my snowblower.
When the time is right, I’ll pull on my winter gear, including the Cornell Hockey hoodie sent to me from Ithaca by my granddaughter, Forest. The sweatshirt, like the snowblower, is bright red, making it easier for a search team to find my corpse.
There is enough fuel in Big Red for one run at the drifts, berms and banks, but the time isn’t right. Not yet.
That one run with Big Red is key to survival. If I can’t get the car to the distant main road, the snowfall will trap us, and Kathy and I will soon be compelled to eat paintings and old shoes. If our confinement is prolonged, one of us will need to make a sacrifice. Human flesh is said to taste somewhat like chicken, once it’s braised and heavily spiced. I’m good for more than a month of three full meals per day.
Supplies are low, the larder diminished. I discover “stuff” in the freezer, most of it unidentifiable beneath a thick layer of ice crystals. There’s a grayish pink thing that looks interesting, but I think Ivy may have left her placenta in the freezer five years ago when she brought it over and we used it to make a series of monoprints.
I close the front door and repair to the couch where I divert my attention from the impending food crisis, and the snow, by drinking more Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and remembering pleasant experiences in warm places.
One memory propels me to Pigalle, in Paris. It is a late summer evening, warm, a bit humid. Kathy and I leave our lodgings, bid a chirpy “bon soir” to the 6’5” (6’9” in heels) African transvestite who loiters at the entrance to the building, amble past Le Sex Shoppe and the new ball gag and anal plug display (one of plugs features an ultraviolet light), cruise up the boulevard toward Place de Clichy, hang a right on Rue Lepic, and make our way to La Boite aux Lettres.
I order Oeufs Mayonnaise, with cornichons and olives, a bit of lettuce. The classic appetizer: proper hard-cooked eggs, blanketed in fresh mayonnaise. I request a side of mayo to amplify the goodness. The waiter sneers, but he delivers.
Given my present circumstance and condition, I realize I must have Oeufs Mayonnaise, now! As a palliative, to work in concert with the vodka and other intoxicants.
I believe I have the fixings. It’s wise to conserve supplies, but I’m desperate. This is no time for rational and responsible thought. I hustle to the fridge.
A half dozen. Check.
Old, but viable. Check.
A few wrinkly nicoise, in a plastic tub. Check.
Nope, but I find a couple small dills in a jar, sunken and sorry in cloudy brine. Same size as cornichons, so who’s to argue? Check.
I open the cupboard.
At the back. There’s a mantle of dust on the bottle, so the oil might be a bit rancid, but who gives a shit at this point? Check.
Extra virgin olive oil?
Salt and pepper?
It’s as if I arrive at Lourdes, babbling, drooling, and strapped to a backboard, and I leave the grounds minutes later at a run, singing “Oh Happy Day” at top volume.
Blunch is secure. The day is not totally lost.
‘Want some Oeufs Mayonnaise?,” I ask the bride. “It might be the best we can do for several days.”
“Not on your life,” she responds. “Eggs and mayo? All that fat and cholesterol? Are you fucking nuts?”
“Well, yes, I am,” I reply, “thanks for noticing. I have a bottle of Bordeaux blanc stashed in the basement. A glass or two should temper the blow.”
“Don’t you dare. You’re going to have to take the snowblower out again, and I don’t want to find you face down in the driveway.”
“I’ll be easy to locate; I’ll be wearing red. I’ll get to the snow when the time is right, and the time is not yet right.”
“I’m going downstairs to practice jazz standards for a piano bar act I’m putting together,” she says, “so don’t you dare.”
“OK,” I say, as Bobby Short Jr. leaves the room.
Then, I dare — with Autumn Leaves and Let’s Fly Away as background music.
I take two eggs from the fridge and set them on the counter to lose their chill. It’s critical the egg yolks are at room temperature before I make fresh mayo.
While the eggs warm, I stumble to the “office” and go online to send a message to Wanda, my physician and trusted consultant concerning all things related to body and mind.
It takes Wanda a while to respond. She seems to be occupied with her practice, her patients, nonsense like that. (NB: remind her how important you are.)
“Wanda, critical info needed, stat! Medically speaking, is there any such thing as too much mayonnaise in one day? If so, can you quantify, as in x cups per 24 hours?”
Wanda’s (delayed) response:
“LD50 traditional mayonnaise is 2.1 cups over 24 hours. Miracle Whip has a higher toxicity, so I’ll have to call Poison Control on that, if it’s relevant.”
My (immediate) response:
“Miracle Whip was created by Gestapo scientists for use in the torture of members of the French Resistance. If a friend admits use of Miracle Whip, I’ll consider terminating our relationship. No, I’m talking the real stuff here, homemade. I’m considering a hefty portion of Oeufs Mayonnaise similar to a treat I sampled in a bistro in Pigalle. Is there any chance the daily amount can increase to 3 cups if it is prepared with attention to detail? This is what it has come to, Wanda: cerebral frenzy, vodka, tinctures and edibles, quasi-hallucinatory recall of French food and African crossdressers, desire galloping unchecked across a distressed mental landscape. It is a good thing there is no gun in the house.”
Wanda’s (delayed) response:
“I agree on the Miracle Whip — highly toxic. Should be illegal. Oh, if it’s homemade, you can increase mayonnaise to 3 cups, since you’re an experienced user. And, if the meal is French, you can stretch to 4 cups with reasonable safety. If you die, at least it was worth it.”
“Excellent news! I’m getting to it right now, should be eating by 1 p.m. How late is your Urgent Care clinic open?”
“Not late enough.”
After I boil, ice, and peel the eggs, to offset the chill in the air I prepare the mayonnaise with a whisk and muscle power, foregoing use of a new-fangled machine. I complete the task invigorated, and damp. I break the handle on the whisk, and suffer minor damage to my right wrist. The injury requires vodka and a couple droppers of a special tincture created by my friend, Joe.
Egg yolks, mustard, salt, pepper, oil added a teensy bit at a time until the mix is ready for greater amounts, the emulsion re-seasoned once thickened to the standard.
I tie into a significant heap of the Oeufs Mayonnaise, savor a stout blast of Chateau Ducasse, and as the psychic tension lessens, I continue to think of Europe, and things European; satiated and unfettered, I free associate, a creature of the senses loosed in search of options that promise additional pleasure, if only fictions.
I come to rest at this question: “Why is it I want to perform oral sex on Fabiola Gianotti?
After another dropper of tincture, I answer the question.
First: Fabiola is younger than I, at 58. That, alone, is attractive to an old man.
Second: Fab is considerably more accomplished than I. Actually, she is so skilled and feted, as Director General at Cern, that I am diminished by comparison to the size of the Higgs Boson particle discovered using the Large Hadron Collider that Fabiola controls.
Her expertise is a powerful aphrodisiac. I am aroused as I imagine the framed diplomas and awards hanging on her office walls.
Third: I am unconcerned by the fact Fabiola is married. Such a thing is a minor inconvenience to a member of the Italian intelligentsia, an eroded speed bump on the Autostrada to Bliss (“Beatitudine,” in Fab’s native tongue). The heady descendents of Etruscans, Romans, Goths, Lombards, whatever, are passionate people, ready for risk that defies their workaday demeanor.
Similarly, I am undeterred by the fact I have prostate cancer. I had my polluted gland removed and my dick shortened by about an inch (not encouraging, given what I began with), but the surgery didn’t remedy the disease; I still have the cancer, I can’t get a worthy hard-on, can no longer spew joy juice in every direction, etc.
My desire to please a profoundly beguiling woman, however, is intact and propulsive, and I’m eager for the test. I am prepared to act as the conductor on the Orgasm Express for a very special passenger: the most tantalizing particle physicist alive today on Planet Earth!
My ardor is undiminished by the fact Fabiola’s teeth are somewhat misaligned.
Of course, I want to feed Fab, before we indulge in an ecstatic pas de deux. She’ll need her energy (pardon the too-obvious pun).
It can’t be Oeufs Mayonnaise. Italians are not enamored of mayonnaise, as are the French. The Italian intake of aioli is subdued, at best; Italians dunk stuff in it. Seldom, if ever, is aioli employed as a heavy blanket. Rarely is it eaten from a bowl with a soupspoon, or sucked from a sippy cup.
My offering at Fab’s altar must be something that overwhelms her. I need to fire a blast of food fermions at Fab’s Milanese nucleus, a shot that opens her like a flower, releasing a burst of joy quarks from this otherwise anal-retentive quantum goddess and mathematics whiz.
I’m sure nearly everyone at one time or another considers preparing northern Italian foods that can pry a torrid interlude from a reserved paramour, so my situation is a familiar one.
The roadblock, of course, is the previously noted diminished larder. I teeter at the lip of despair, contemplating the failure that waits, albeit an imaginary failure.
I am about to accept that Fabiola and I will never join — Fab slumped at the edge of a dining table attributed to the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso, skirt around her waist, stylish panties dangling from an ankle, her eyes clenched, her breathing rapid and ragged, a slide rule clutched in her perfectly manicured fingers, me on my knees before her, tears welling in my eyes as I pause from my ministration, raise my moist face and spur her to an hitherto unattainable level of satisfaction by shouting out “amplituhedron” — but I remember I have a couple world-class pork shanks left from a stash my pal Jim provided me two months back. The shanks are located somewhere behind the grayish pink thing in the freezer.
Pork Osso Buco! If pork can’t do the trick, what can?
But, this trick might be so difficult that no pig flesh alone can complete it. I need to contribute impressive personal style, and money, to supplement the porky goodness.
I’ll dress in a way that appeals to Fab’s no-doubt-advanced sense of cool (she has a Ph.D. after all): trim black slacks, with hidden expando panels; pointy, black shoes made of leather from a rare Zambian ungulate; black, cashmere turtleneck, with hidden expando panels at the collar to accommodate my three chins; black, Versace two-button blazer sport coat, slack enough to envelop my sagging bulk, but still able to produce the desired “slimming effect”; black, Dolce&Gabbana Domenico sunglasses — the kind that make me look simultaneously brilliant and nihilistic.
I see it clearly: I knock on the door at the Large Hadron Collider. Fab answers the door. She’s wearing her tailored lab coat — the one that makes her look simultaneously superior and sexually curious.
She takes a gander at a seemingly disinterested and depressed, yet creative and molten-at-his-core Karl. I remind her of a well-dressed version of Don Giulio #2, in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. She is titillated.
To supplement my allure, I dangle the promise of a portion of Pork Osso Buco, the shanks hacked from vegetarian hogs, the beasts bred to produce the tastiest, most texturally incredible flesh anywhere, ever. Polenta, mia cara?
This should do it.
Put the kids behind the protective lead shield, folks, we’re ready to split atoms!
But, wait: there’s the matter of the money needed to manage the caper. I must be able to follow up our ecstatic episode with gifts. I wouldn’t want Fab to feel used.
Not even my feral imagination can easily deal with this one; I haven’t made a dime in the last year.
I have no exhibits of paintings on the calendar — a calendar that extends through 2019 to whatever year I die. Folks aren’t lining up outside the studio, clamoring for bargains. Come to think of it, they never have.
I continue to postpone another run at literary agencies. I don’t fit the current profile in terms of what agents and publishers want. I am old. Old doesn’t cut it these days. Not even old, transgender yet non-binary, or old and diddled as a lad by a man of the cloth. Old is out.
My only source of money is a (hopefully) forthcoming payment for a play of mine produced in early February, just before the madness began to settle in.
I wrote the play to amuse and offend. The offense got the best of the situation.
The play features a woman in a coma, in a neurosurgery ICU. The comedy is constructed on a foundation of suffering and imminent death. It involves the patient’s intake, in the company of a gay sylph, of a cocktail comprising vodka and the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid — a surefire mnemonic stimulant — followed by a review of the patient’s life, and a decision to be made shortly before death: whether the patient’s life is worth living again, in exact detail, without knowledge it is being repeated (a decision that, obviously, can be made but once), or she takes her chips to the cashier’s cage and leaves the game, her atoms scattered in the solar wind. Forever.
This is hilarious stuff.
I make a decision prior to writing the play that the work has to offend both bourgeois and fundamentalist sensibilities, therefore the language is extreme at points, there are quite a few mentions of sex acts and body parts, and comfortable ideas and institutions are trampled.
Before word gets around in the “theater family,” (relics made to feel part of the action in order that they continue donate funds, and purchase season passes), the first couple of performances are well attended, and a pattern is established: at intermission, fundamentalists leave the building, glowering as they go, reassuring one another on the ride home that the author will be punished by a loving god who consigns the sinner to eternal torment in a fiery pit. The bourgies tough it out, then depart after the final curtain grumbling and outraged. On opening night, one of the community’s prominent bourgie-Victorians is heard muttering “Awful, just awful, terrible,” as she hurries through the lobby to the exit.
I crave the outrage of puritanical liberals, and I’ve spent a lifetime regarding fundamentalists with suspicion, if not disdain. With this play, I get the reactions I desire.
But, when word gets around, attendance falls off. People expect a farce, an updated Feydeau, not a dark alley run-in with a hammer-wielding freak. So, instead of coming to the theater, they opt to attend high school basketball games.
I don’t expect much in the way of remuneration, since I work for a set, per-performance fee and, most important, a small percentage of the gate. My last play was held over, people loved it; most nights in the run were sold out. Not this one.
So, let’s see: minimal fee, small gate, small percentage of gate…
I need money, albeit imaginary money. A messy, imaginary merger at the edge of an antique Italian dining table hangs in the balance. Madness multiplies. I’m lost.
Clouds blow in from the southwest, pulsing fast up slope, heavy with moisture from the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez, the mass ready to collide with an Arctic cold front dropping in from the north. When this happens, more snow.
The “I work weekend nights as a pole dancer to earn extra income” weatherista on a Denver television broadcast informs me that Siberia With a View and nearby environs can expect at least two feet of the “white stuff” in the next several days. She and her Cro-Magnon companions on the “news team” then exchange comments about my predicted misery that reveal their utter ignorance of reality.
A fellow Cro-Mag, I shout at the television as they babble.
“Fuck all of you!”
“Gosh, Starla, I wouldn’t want to shovel the sidewalk down there. Heh, heh.”
“Fuck you, Biff. There aren’t many goddamned sidewalks in Siberia With a View. I’m looking at a goddamned thirty-foot, gravel driveway. Fuck you, and the fucking tanning bed you rode in on!”
I begin to run a fever.
“Jeepers creepers, no, Biff. Heh, heh. But, boy, I bet the snowboarders are stoked, gettin’ ready to do some shreddin’ in the pow.”
My hands are numb.
“Fuck you, Starla. You call yourself a fucking meteorologist and you can’t spell the fucking word ‘humidity.’ And what’s this fucking ‘stoked’ and ‘pow’ shit, you degenerate, pea-brained fuckface lowlander?”
Biff recently moved to Denver from Sarasota; he wouldn’t know a berm from a pelican.
“Fuck you, Biff.”
Starla can take her stoked, shreddin’ snowboard and pow, and shove them up her pole-dancer’s ass. It’ll hurt, but I couldn’t care less.
“Fuck you, Starla.”
My ankles are swelling. I feel dizzy.
The wind is picking up, coursing strong from out Four Corners way. The next front will be here in a matter of hours, with a big delivery. I’ll wake in the morning to more snow. A lot of it.
I decide to continue to cozy up to my pal Tito, kick back tonight, tune to some Verdi and Mozart, give the storm its run, grab some shuteye, then slip into my hoodie tomorrow morning, fire up Big Red, get a jump on the shit.
The time will be right.
When I’m done, I’ll drive to the gas station for fuel, give the finger to the idiot in the Lexus in the ditch, and steer to the store to stock up. I need to make more mayonnaise.
I’m sure there are folks, reacting to the racket made by the gang of rats rustling in my brain box, who will say, “Take it easy, Karl, calm down, February is over. Relax, big guy, you need to inch back from the edge of the precipice; it’s a long way sown.”
Both observations are correct but, remember, March is the snowiest month of the year.
Per fevore aiutame.