Saturday, February 22, 2014

A View From an RV; and What a View!

I'm bone-weary today. I followed my 2-mile morning constitutional with a drive to Austin and a prolonged traipse with my wife around the annual Austin RV Show. We're not exactly in the market, but there's something appealing about a small studio apartment on wheels that you can drive away whenever the fancy takes you. 

More on that later. Meanwhile, in deference to my bone-weariness, today I'm merely posting an excerpt from my current work-in-occasional-progress, What a View! Enjoy!

      "It's open mike night at this place they have here, downtown, called Tarzan's," said Grozny Shrub, with no further preamble. "After I do the gig here I'm going down there and pitch the work in progress. How about joining me?"
            "I don't know. Maybe. I've got to talk to my mom."
            "Your mom? Aren't you like old enough to...?"
            "Of course. But I'm staying with her, so it's a matter of courtesy."
            And of course she was married, too, and quite happily; but a combination of hipness and self-consciousness prevented either of them from alluding to that fact.
            Feeling guilty, as soon as she got to Tarzan's she called Joel on their landline, but he was out, or away from the phone ("Hi! It's half of us!"). She could have tried his mobile, but it wasn't that urgent, and there were always the lingering misinterpretations, odd cadences, unexplained background noise....
            For instance, if she called him now, the background noise at Tarzan's, whether explained or not, would be Grozny's whining voice reading from his new novel, the Dustbin Prize nominee Old Janitors Never Fade Away, They Just Die.
            "My dad was a janitor," said Grozny. "So I know what I'm talking about, because I like have janiting in the blood. Dad was born in Semipalatinsk, in Russian Kazakhstan, back in oh God like the nineteen-thirties, during the Stalin purges. So he's an old janitor. 'I am the oldest fucking janitor in the world,' he likes to say. Why is he a janitor? Hey, it's just what happened to him. It's not like he wanted to be a janitor all his life. He studied physics at Chelyabinsk Technical School. He was a research physicist by training, but the authorities got him blacklisted because a junior KGB official spotted him reading A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich on the Metro, so he was thrown out of the physics institute and forced to work as a janitor in the Ochenbolshoi Hotel in Moscow. My mother took in cleaning and sent out cooking, and vice versa. We applied about six hundred times for an exit visa to Israel on the grounds that we were Jewish, which I guess we were, sort of, but it was no big deal, but anyway my father finally got the visa and got us all out to Israel. He was hoping to get a job doing physics research, but when he arrived all the positions were filled, or reserved for English or Hebrew speakers, and his English was like really bad and he couldn't take Hebrew seriously, so he got a job as a janitor at Tel Aviv Russian School until we moved over here, where he really had high hopes because one of the physics professors at Bettelheim College in Oakland was a relative of my mom's on her mom's side, but best he could do was get Dad a job sweeping up and taking care of the boilers in the physics department. 'Funny life,' he likes to say, 'if I stay in Russia, I work as a janitor. If I emigrate to Israel, I work as janitor. In America, I work as a janitor. Looks like God decided I should be a fucking janitor!'"
            The slight, uncertain ripple of mirth that went through the nine-person audience, sitting in the area set side for "open mike" events, was instantly drowned out by a powerful baritone emanating from the bar area and sounding extremely, even absurdly, Irish.
            "By feck, Oy'll kill him, so Oy will, the feckin bastard, just tell me where he's gone and by Chroyst Oy'll kill him, so Oy will. Oy can't feckin' believe it. The bastard."
            Maeve instantly recognized the velveteen tones of her dear old da. Strident, authoritative female tones alternating contrapuntally with her father's bellowing implied the presence of her mother, which was a surprise, as Maeve had the impression the gulf in communication between her parents was vast and unbridgeable.

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