Monday, April 11, 2005

Heaven doesn't take cheaters who recycle their own essays.

This little bit was a response to a challenge I received to expound on what my Heaven & Hell would be like.

I'd awaken in a white cloud to find that I am employed at the dingiest, yet coolest, used record store in all of Puerta Vallarta - and I could never be fired, no matter what. I'd be in charge of Big Band, Crooners & half of Soul L-Z. I would have my own little desk in the corner, you know, the beige metal deal with the edge that everyone else keeps gashing their thighs on. A little hula-lamp. An old rotary phone with a 3-pound receiver so I could call back people to tell them that their special order from 6 years ago just came in - they have 5 days to pick it up. My perfect temperature cup of French Vanilla Decaf Coffee in my favorite Car Talk mug on my right. My old adding machine just in front of it, but I never spill a drop. There would always be Leon Redbone playing. Sometimes duet-ing with other artists, like Yo Yo Ma & Joe Satriani. Oh, what the hell, I might as well add that my shoulders are periodically being massaged by Heather Graham, who "just loves my musical prowess." And while I'm going overboard, I want ceiling fans, lots of 'em. Just like in KEY LARGO. I want to be able to work an 8-hour shift entirely in my red flannel boxer shorts. And since this is Heaven, whenever I am too 'zoned out' to figure change correctly, I can just say to the customer, "Just reach in take out how much you think you should get back." Here I would be king. It's my Heaven, after all. I get to order up anything I see on the menu. Speaking of, I'd always have sesame chicken for lunch. Everyday. From the same greasy dump that's up there on Broadmoor in Bordeaux, north of Nashville. That's if it's still there. Oh, wait. They're probably up in heaven already, making a way for me. I'M COMIN' GUYS! YOU HEAR ME?! THIS IS THE BIG ONE! I'M COMIN' TO SEE YA!

P.S. In case you want my idea of Hell, just substitute the words "Heather Graham" with "Billy Graham."

There I'll be... in line - "on cue" for those of you who are pretending to be continental this year. In line... perpetually... at the bank. One of those banks with a giant organ on a raised platform in the middle of the lobby. Have you seen those? I have.

An organ, with giant walnut colored foot-keys so the guy can play 'bass' at the same time. And in he'll walk, with his hunter green pants & candy-cane red sport coat... wearing... the ultimate in "genuine for him, fake for me" smiles. One he got free for re-sodding his sixteenth of an acre front lawn this Spring. He'll saunter up to the bench, noticeably without sheet music of any kind. Almost sonically & visually imperceptivity scooting the bench away from the wooden behemoth. This guy's old, man. I mean OLD. He taught Methuselah how to steal "Slow Children Playing" signs. And I get smacked in the face with a flash vision of moments to come - the sheer resistance of the plastic-coated keys breaking what's left of his calcium-depleted fingers being coaxed downward by what must be the mere memory of muscle tissue resembling the consistency of overcooked squash.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. And then it comes. That indistinct, indecipherable rumbling of very slow, behind-the-beat bass. I swear if he had one more foot-key to the left, the pitch & volume would, without exaggeration, relieve me of command of my own sphincter. Next comes the bouncy pattern of the piercing, yet wholly round 'melody.'

I know this tune. What it is? Somehow it sounds wrong in here. As if a Good Humor truck has slipped out of gear at the top of a hill & came to rest in this lobby, with it's own special alarm that no one seems to know how to stifle. It's TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. Oh my dearest God. At least I think it is. I wouldn't have a doubt about it if it weren't for the 8th note in the 3rd line he keeps missing by a half-step.

"Buy me some peanuts & crack-ER jack"


I'm going to interject a quote I've already used on someone but I think this is the only time I'm going to be able to revisit my own quote: "...I don't care if I ever get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team." (In 1908, you'd think they'd have catalogued a diverse enough vocabulary to fill in those extra two syllables.)

But with the greatest patience, he keeps playing. ...playing & smiling. ...smiling & rocking back & forth. On an endless loop like a hip-hop dance edit. Like the kids do it nowadays. And I can't get out of line. I just stand there, wrenching the purple velvety rope. The rope you can't hang on because the stands are not bolted down. They just come crashing down on you when you try. But I keep forgetting that. It only takes me about four minutes to forget & I do it again, like a fool. And this goes on & on for six or seven hundred years. At that point, I start laughing hysterically & egging on Noah to swing it up a bit. And then, it all becomes... Heaven. (Life is a choice.)