Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Hum of the Heart

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The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions
and not our
---Martha Washington

Sometimes I long for French accordion music. I was longing for it
last night in
my truck as I was driving to work thinking about Grace. You remember
Grace, the
homeless Korean woman who keeps popping in and out of my life every few
months . . .
popping in by phone call with her standard greeting: "James, pick me

I want to write something . . . something meaningful about her,
which isn't
going to be easy because I can find no meaning, to rhyme or reason, to
her life. She
just drifts. I mean REALLY drifts. Grace drifts like I have seen no
other drift.

Ranger Mike is out right now so I can think. Today is payday at
Sucko Security
so I drove him down to Marina del Rey to pick up our checks and stood
right behind
him in line at the bank while he cashed his $500 check. He owed me

While Ranger Mike was in the Sucko Security suites picking up our
paychecks, a
message from his family in Flint, Michigan found him. His grandfather
died. He wishes
he could go to the funeral, but what with having to pay rent here at
U.S. Vets and
pay that $80 traffic ticket he got for being foolish enough to get
caught riding in a
car driven by my homeless attorney and the expense of building his
sound stage in my
room, he just can't afford the time off. I still stood behind him in
line at the bank
while he cashed his paycheck.

It's been a hard month for Ranger Mike. The Gulf War cancer tumor
at the base of
his spine has been bothering him and since he turned over control of
his medications
to me, he hasn't been able to get high on his painkillers like he used
to. These sad
facts he explained to me on our way to the bank this afternoon.

I still stood behind him in line at the bank while he cashed his

Ranger Mike is off catching buses to Redondo Beach right now. He
needs more
strings for his guitars. He's hard on guitar strings. Up until
yesterday he was also
very hard on my eardrums, but I dug and dug and dug through the packrat
plunder of my
milk crates until I came up with the dumpster-salvaged Radio Shacklike
necessary for him to route most of the noise from his guitars through
the karoake
machine into headphones.

Once again the dumpster gods have saved a life, Ranger Mike's or
mine, depending
upon which you think is tougher in a roommate fight: a cancer-ridden
Airborne Ranger
or a street-crazed, White Rhino army journalist.

I've had a whole afternoon ( A WHOLE AFTERNOON!!) of peace and
quiet today. A
WHOLE AFTERNNON! I've squandered most of it just lying on my bunk bed,
soaking up . .
. I mean SOAKING UP . . . the peacefulness of a quiet room. It was
better than
lounging in a hot tub of bath salts.

I could've been writing. I could've been writing about Grace and
the French
accordion music I hear when I'm taking care of her. I could've been
working on
gathering up more of my writing to put on the CD for Louise. Or I
could've been
writing about the Mother's Day fiasco we had here at the shelter the
other day, or
the time travel trip Gordon The Hollywood Anarchist and I took through
Beverly Hills
last week . . .

Ranger Mike is back . . .he bought the strings and a geetahr case
and a blues
book. He wants me to learn to pick the blues on the acoustic so I can
accompany him .

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