Friday, June 28, 2013

Absorbing the Atmosphere

Thursday is garbage collection day on my street, and, preoccupied with my thoughts about deeper matters, I forgot to haul my trash to the curb on Wednesday night. Before going to bed at around 3 a. m., I tied up the several plastic bags in which I’ve been throwing my refuse for the past week, slipped my battered sneakers on my feet, stuffed a pack of Camel Wides and my Zippo lighter in my pocket then walked downstairs through the outside door and inhaled the post-midnight air.

It rained rather heavily earlier, and it continued to rain, though the precipitation had now been reduced to a trickle. After setting those bags on the curb, I lit a cigarette then silently absorbed the atmosphere. A huge puddle near the curb spilled over to the sidewalk and the flashing traffic light was reflected in the water. I gazed at it for a little while then walked over to the main street, looking at that traffic light surrounded by a thin fog, and peered down the street to see more lights beaming against the night sky.

Other than the driver of a truck that pulled onto my street to fill a newspaper vending machine across the way, there was nobody in sight. Good for me. People would ruin the experience. Someone might approach me, notice my almost trance-like state, and ask, “What are you doing?”

The answer is simple: “I’m absorbing the atmosphere.”

The answer may be simple, but still too complex for the kind of person who would interrupt such a peaceful, solitary moment.

Exactly what could I mean by “atmosphere”?

And how does one absorb it?

The kind of person who would intrude on this experience wouldn't know. He understands chit-chat, but not silent contemplation. He reads a book only for the “story” and watches a movie for the same reason. I pity such a person. He can only respond to life's surface and never experiences its depths.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Friday, June 21, 2013

"Pippi Longstocking"

No one likes to grow old, but some people are more desperate to hold onto their youth than others.

The other day, I saw what appeared to be a teenage girl sitting on a bench. I only saw her from behind, but her long blonde "Pippi Longstocking" pigtails were the giveaway to her age. Her choice of clothing added to the impression that she was no older than 16. The collar of a white blouse was visible under her faded blue denim jacket and she wore equally faded blue jeans.

When I passed her from the front and got a look at her face, I was reminded of the moment in Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining when a beautiful woman steps out of a bathtub, embraces Jack Nicholson and kisses him full on the lips. Then we hear her cackling. Nicholson pushes her away and sees that she’s an old hag, and a dead one at that.

The “girl” with the blonde Pippi Longstocking pigtails must have been at least 65, maybe older, but shhh, don't tell her.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Friday, June 14, 2013


God has blessed me with a precise, meticulous nature.

For example, when I pay my rent, I place the check in an envelope then, in my perfect printing, write my name and address in the top left corner the way I would if I were sending it through the United States Postal Service. I also print the name of my landlord in the center. Of course, my rent isn’t being sent via USPS. The envelope containing payment is simply inserted into the slot marked “OFFICE” in the mailbox downstairs.

Whenever I’m preparing the envelope for delivery, the private ear in my memory can hear someone, one of the many intrusive assholes I’ve encountered through the years, offer an unsolicited opinion that such preparation isn’t necessary.

“You don’t have to do all that. You can just slip the check into the slot. That's all you have to do. You don't have to do all that.”

This intrusive asshole would be smiling when he/she shares this advice. After all, he/she is being helpful and that makes him/her feel good. However, I do not take his/her advice. I continue to take these comparatively elaborate steps and will continue to do so. That’s the way I am: careful, precise, detail-oriented, meticulous.

Before slipping the envelope containing the check into the aforementioned slot, I peer into the tiny horizontal opening and see checks from other tenants, not one of which is in an envelope. My fellow dwellers do not share my precise, meticulous nature. They are satisfied to merely write a check, sign it in what I’m sure is horrendously unreadable cursive, stuff it in the slot, and be done with it. I imagine the landlord having to count the checks to determine if all of the tenants paid the rent. Only when the count falls short do I see him attempting to read the handwriting.

Precision and meticulousness are uncommon qualities, as rare as excellent penmanship (which, I humbly admit, is something I also possess). I am uncommon. Intrusive assholes who offer their unsolicited advice are not.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Grave Beckons

The grave beckons.

Yesterday’s mail brought the usual items – circulars advertising this week’s specials at local grocery stores – and something different: a package from Resthaven Memorial Gardens trying to interest me in pre-purchasing cemetery space.

An enclosed brochure makes being dead look pleasant, even idyllic. There’s a picture of a beautiful lake surrounded by trees adorned with leaves the brilliant colors of autumn, red, orange, and a little green.

Another photo depicts a family, young and old alike, and they’re all smiling, just as happy as can be. If there was a caption, it might read, “The family that’s buried together stays together.” There’s a memorial that resembles a scaled-down version of the Lincoln Memorial, and a shot of its interior filled with drawers containing the remains of the dead.

It’s nice to know that Resthaven Memorial Gardens is thinking of me, but I threw their offer in the wastebasket which, as final resting places go, is as good as any.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Saturday, June 1, 2013


“Last night wasn’t the best time I ever had,” the brunette at Panera Bread told her blonde dinner companion, “but it was solid.”

These two twenty-something females were seated in a booth in front of mine. The booth blocked my view, but having seen them arrive I could tell they were cute. As I finished my bacon turkey bravo on rye with tomato soup, I had nothing to do but listen to the rambling thoughts in my own head or eavesdrop on them. The thoughts in my head are more interesting, but I’ve thought them before, so I listened in.

They spoke softly enough that all I could hear were snatches of their conversation. The brunette did all the talking. The only thing that interested me was her use of the word “solid” to describe her evening: “Last night wasn’t the best time I ever had, but it was solid.”

“George, do me a solid,” Kramer once said on an episode of Seinfeld. The brunette seemed to use “solid” in the same way, thereby reducing a perfectly respectable word to a cheap slang expression. “Awesome” fell victim more than a decade ago, and has been banished from my vocabulary as a result. “Solid” may survive, but I’ll be careful to use it sparingly.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks