Defensive Tackle: Groundhog MVP!
Defensive Tackle: Groundhog MVP!
by Mark Driver
I’m always poking myself in the eye. I’m always beating my head on cinderblocks. I’m always trying to figure out why everyone around me is so boring and fucked and in slow motion and interchangeable. Why seventeen people a day, from the guy bagging my cabbages (no, that’s not code for anything) to the cop yelling at me for not having the required amount of reflectors on my dirt bike – why they all say stuff like “is that your final answer?” and “yadda yadda yadda” and “you walk tall for a man with so many lobsters in your ass.”
It’s like they don’t know who they are. I’m sure it’s even worse when they’re not working, at least a job offers some sort of identity. Off duty, you’re on your own. I’m that guy in the beer commercial. I’m that girl from that movie. I’m just like our chimpanzee President.
No one knows what to do with themselves, and they’re all open to suggestions.
In America, we have no sense of history. No passed down culture that isn’t wrapped around a consumer event. We have Superbowls where murderers win MVP and win me $43 in bets. We always cheer for the murderers when our money is on the line.
We have funny commercials. Television punchlines. Matching sweaters. Car repairs. Golf handicaps. Stock market woes. Teen superstars with fake tits. These are the great concerns. There is no yesterday and today is dressed in a baggy windsuit and sold as tomorrow. We’re disconnected.
In one way, it’s good. We’re able to make our own realities, we’re not locked in to a perpetual cycle of what has already been.
But we are locked in different cycles. The vacuum has been filled. It has been filled. It has been filled with crap.
One nice thing about not having a job is you have lots of time. You don’t have any money to spend, just lots of time. Hours and days stacked like firewood. Like discarded office cubicles.
I’m spending my time fishing. I’m spending my time finishing up my book. Third draft now. It’s going to be done. I am taking the time to do it right and right now it is called Ratcatchers Ratcatchers Ratcatchers. I will tell you when it is done, by gum. I will sell handmade copies from this very site.
I’ve also been reading. Reading up on history. Anthropology. Knittery. Crockery. Thievery. Executions. The Spanish Revolution. Whatever I find at my local library.
Looking up my own history. Trying to break the disconnect. To connect. Trying to find why I keep poking myself in the eye. Why I’m always a thin nerve stretched between two growling dogs. Why I wander in worn out shoes in random directions looking for something meaningful but just end up at a barstool surrounded by corpses. And when I do find something beautiful, why everything is suddenly alright and I can’t ever imagine being unhappy. Why every sincere feeling I have comes out the mouth of a fifteen year old girl scratching thick black pen in her diary. Why I grind my teeth to dust and have dreams about boats and why everything either makes me mad or makes me laugh or makes me fall in love. Nothing is nothing. Is this normal? Is this human? I have no idea. No one ever tells me the truth. You try to pin someone down and they get uncomfortable and say something typical. Yadda yadda yadda. Or even worse, they say something clever.
Clever is starting to kill me. Clever is obvious. Weak. Too easy. Clever is a tamed jalapeno, some of the flavor and none of the fire. Clever is a diet wine cooler. Clever is beer from Utah. Clever is a styrofoam peanut. Maybe things should get broken in shipping. Maybe people should get broken on a journey. Maybe the fun part of life is trying to glue each other back together.
My family tree is made of glued together people.
Half my family were Vikings, wanderers and pagans. Easy to laughter, easy to anger. Big drinkers, big eaters. Just plain big. I have their frame. Bones like baseball bats, as a doctor once told me. I have their jaw, their teeth, their tongue. Their rage. This side of my family killed and maimed and terrorized Europe for centuries until the Christians came with their revenge, turning King St. Fuckhead away from the burning spear of Lord Odin to the blowing miniskirt of Jesus Christ. The glory of death in battle was traded for a life of supplication and dung cowering. The feasting and fighting of Valhalla was swapped with the dour reverence of Heaven and the endless bureaucracy of Hell. The sword was confiscated and replaced with a shovel. A slave certificate.
Civilization is serfdom. Serfdom is civilization.
The other half of my people can be traced back to more recent times, Spanish pirates who routinely sold their exotically hot wares to merchants in cities along the coast of the Norwegian Sea. Seeing something they very much liked in the land of the Norsemen, three hundred of them collected their families and made the move from Europe. They saw something they liked. They liked all the water, all the green, the long dark winters, the short bright summers. The space. The lack of people. They settled and became fishermen, sailors, and warriors and fucked their way right into my family tree. I have their skin. They have my gratitude. I have their eyes.
I want to live north of the Arctic Circle.
High on the blood of Vikings and pirates, I’m an eternal 8 year old. I might as well be descendent of cowboys and Indians. Cops and robbers. Peanut butter and jelly.
As far as I know my grandfather didn’t split a single human skull, not even in a war. He was too young for WWI, too old for WWII, and just in time for the Great Depression. He was not a warrior but he was, among other things, a fisherman. On Lake Superior. I think of this now as I look at a package that just arrived in the mail from my father. Shipped in many styrofoam peanuts, a cracked black container seemingly made of comb material and resembling a traveling soap dish. Opened, a yellowed note in my grandfather’s tiny script lay on top and read “lures: 1927-1933”. It was filled with handmade fishing lures. Tiny stripped rags were wrapped around bent and sharpened wires. The wire was balled at the end and dipped in some sort of wax, hardened with an eyeball painted on it. They each sported a bit of difference, color or size or shape and tiny individual tags on each one read “lake trout”, “northern”, “musky”, “smallmouth” and so on. A box of fishing lures three times as old as me. Made during the Depression by my grandfather’s two hands. This is my history.
Those hands are ashes at the bottom of Lake Superior now. We didn’t lay him in his boat when he died and we didn’t set it on fire and push it out into the lake. His boat was made of aluminum and wouldn’t burn except with gasoline. Me and Dad would’ve gotten tickets. Maybe even arrested.
It’s funny to think of him in Valhalla. He didn’t drink and I don’t think he’d be having much fun there. The Vikings would be a little much for him. Heaven is way more his speed, assuming they still let Lutherans in.
I’m putting his tackle in the wooden fishing box my girlfriend made me with her two hands. She gave it to me a week ago. A random surprise. We had been drinking and she made it with her two hands and we had sleepy sex and the next morning I got up early, loaded it up and took it out on my boat, catching hooks in my fingertips as I felt around for the right lure. I brought three trout home for lunch. She was sitting at a table with a fresh cup of coffee and I threw the fish on the table and she squealed and I felt fucking ancient. In a good way. In that good way that’s better than anything. I’ll squeeze whatever I can out of it. Of these moments. These moments when I’m not distracted and delusional. I’m not enraged. When I can feast upon it all. When it all connects.
Last week I was drinking in a bar down by the water and a bell rang. A fisherman had just come back from sea. He was white haired and bent over and bought a round for the entire room. The waitress rang the bell. No one knew what it meant. I asked her. She told me, “they used to do it all the time. Buy a round for the room. It was a tradition. It was giving thanks for a safe return.” The waitress was old, old as that fisherman. She looked sad for a second, looking past me and speaking to herself. “Can’t remember the last time it happened.”
“No one does it anymore?”
“Nope. Not ever.”
We drank our free drinks in silence, each renewing the financial accounts in our heads. Thankful to have saved some money.
I’m gonna go out fishing when I wrap this up, my little yellow boat on big ol’ Lake Washington, and when I’m done, I’m taking the $43 bucks I won on the Superbowl and I’m going down to that bar and I’m going to make that bell ring. Twice in one week, she’ll say. Goes years without ringing then twice in one week. Don’t that just beat all.
“Thanks,” someone will say.
“Don’t thank me,” I’ll say, “thank the MVP murderer.”
They’ll look at me funny and then they’ll shrug and ruin everything. I’ll hear the words before they speak them and the disconnect will have already happened. I’ll be back where I started, with a meaningless drink in my hand and a finger in my own eye.
“Yadda yadda yadda.” And the cycle goes back to the beginning.
Man, I’m just like that guy in Groundhog Day.