May 4, 2008

Another Southern Midnight

Sometimes, here below the Mason/Dixon line, where nothing is ever what it seems and most of the people you know carry hip flasks and loaded pistols twenty-four hours a day, it’s easy for your hand to get to feeling empty. But it only makes it easier to keep it in your mind that the first step to avoiding a trap is to know that it’s there waiting for you. Or maybe you catch yourself thinking high-minded, philosophical bunk to yourself like, “When I’m weaker than you, I ask for my freedom because that it is in your nature but when I’m stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is in my nature.” Yeah….it can get hard to try and take yourself too seriously when the brutal summer is only a few short weeks away and you imagine the unbalanced feeling of waking up stark naked at six in the morning only to realize that your entire body is covered with a shiny sheen of sweat that boiled up to the surface through the long watches of the night and seeped out to remind you just how chained your are to the climate of your native soil.
And Lord knows the soil here is fecund; ripe with the musings and nearly forgotten sins of all the others who walked it before you did. If you lean your head just right at night sometimes you can hear the still-fading echo of high, tinny voices wafting their midnight lamentations across the pines where it usually tends to settle in the ditches where the snakes know just what to do with it. And you blast by them at 60 MPH with the windows rolled down to catch the easy evening breeze as you bounce and sway over the road, humming the muted tunes of the past that have soaked into your body as if in trade to the southern heat that draws out the sweat that fuels the twisted engine of cyclical life. It’s a fair exchange and you won’t catch too many people complaining; as long as they understand the swap.
There’s nothing to compare to it when it hits here like a hammer and shows you the soft shine of tender skin exposed to the first probing rays of the sinister sun as it seeks out new flesh to claim and lives to alter irrevocably. It gets too easy to drift in out of the haze and station yourself at a table on the patio and order the libations that will stay with you until your head stops buzzing and the used fluid finds its way to the surface of your skin to be evaporated back to where it came from in the first place. Yes…Like the rain in Puerto Rico where the sugar cane grows tall and men sweat around the clock in the effusive glow of a constant stream of Yankee Dollars. Then…you can indulge in the strange fetish for waitresses, corn-fed farm girls and half-naked singers that seems to be part and parcel of the Whiskey Set in these parts. It’s not a bad way to pass the time really…don’t knock it until you try it.
But where does that leave us?
Lost in fantasies that have no place in a head like mine and I can’t escape the stone fact that I should know better. But they’re out there and they are legion and every summer only increases their ranks and provides me with a consternation that lives with me until winter comes again and I finally can get Back to Work.
But that old hand still feels too empty from time to time and I can’t shut out the myriad paths to filling it up with what might suit it the best; some things were made to fit it perfectly, like a glove. And I can imagine all the easy comings and goings, with the curtains thrown back and a weak breeze stirring the sheets and the whistle of the pines at night providing that solemn background music that lets you know what really matters. That’s where Music comes from and if you disagree…well, you don’t really know how to listen, do you?
It’s all a gold and silver sideways slide to the subtle pump of misconstrued assumptions and sweet, sticky meanings in the last black gasp of another Southern Midnight.

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