The box of donuts I purchased last night is now empty, a relic of a bustling but silent Sunday morning.
Shooing the brood away from the television so I could tune in my Sunday morning talking heads shows, drink my coffee and prepare for my day, I realized that the weather was perfect for staying indoors, cracking the whip on messy bedrooms and racking my brain regarding this weekly waste of PREVIEW space.
That last sentence should have shaken something loose; after several hours of talking head twaddle, a pot of coffee, a brisk walk around the neighborhood and several cigarettes, I’m no closer to a column.
Watching the Sunday outside switch from sunny, blustery, snowy, back to sunny, blustery, flurries, wash, rinse, repeat, sipping more coffee while standing in front of my window in thermals and plaid pajama bottoms, the Velvet Underground came to mind:
“Sunday morning/It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago/Watch out the world’s behind you …”
The Velvet’s light and breezy composition betrays the sadness of the lyrics, a wistful meditation on time past on that moment of stasis that is Sunday morning. For us (the “un-churched” and heathens, one and all), Sunday mornings are quite casual: there is no “Sunday best” or expectation of salvation. There are only cartoons while Daddy makes breakfast, then (as I mentioned), my sitdown with the jabbering jackasses, my moment to shout and fling empty beer cans at the screen.
Maybe a jaunt to get a copy of the New York Times (urban transplant that I am) for the sole purpose of working the crossword puzzle while grabbing more coffee. If the weather is nice, we take a short jaunt in the forest and, if not, we spend some time playing a board game (or, lately, I’ve been teaching them five-card draw poker) and then, in a nod to my Catholic upbringing, a big Sunday dinner — a kind of Coq au Vin variation this week, marrying leftover vegetables with leftover wine and some chicken into a nice stew that was, interestingly enough, consumed with a heartiness I’d not seen for some time.
Then again, they’d just come from their week with mom and I assume that a diet of Crunch Berries and Top Ramen had left them peaked and, apparently, ravenous (the donuts were a bad, bad idea).
It was, of course, my Sunday after a week without them.
That week saw little done but reading and, frankly, drinking. I’d pulled linens off beds to launder away the stench but, for the most part, I refused to bag up the refuse that had accumulated after a few months of living here. Make them do it, I said, no parties or sleepovers until the detritus is swept away. I needed time to drink and read, my babies, spring break my ass; what the old man needed, required, was prescribed some down time.
And, for the most part, that’s what happened. Dad drinking and reading with impunity while the ex fed the brood with simple carbohydrates and late nights of trash TV, video games and no responsibility.
Having done this drill for years, I knew what I was in for as far as a sugared-up (and teary) son whining for five minutes about his recently lost freedom and two daughters all-too glad to head back to Pagosa.
So, eastwards I went on Saturday morning, in the interest of bringing the brood back for the remainder of the school year. Winding my way up the highway, I passed the tourists who’d ripped up the road and blasted ahead of me stalled at the nose of state trooper’s cruiser. I satisfied myself with the slow drive over the pass, knowing the drill, the cruise control set as I headed up the hill, smiling sideways at the speed demons that had blazed past me earlier, their heads bowed against a steering column.
Heading up the pass, I heard “Hunting Bears” by Radiohead, noise perfect for heading over a pass that was still snow packed and still looking like winter. Beyond the snow shed, it was “Safe European Home” by the Clash, “Keep It Quiet (Bear)” by Ra Ra Riot, “Portuguese Solid Summer” by Chad Valley,”Water Wings” by Superchunk, “Little Green” by Joni Mitchell, “Stray Cat Blues” by the Rolling Stones, “Crazy List” by Dennis Brown, “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” by the Yardbirds, “Coco du Mundo” by Electro Coco, “Robert Johnson (Part 2)” by Ekkhardt Ehlers, “Feel” by Brothertiger and “45:33” by LCD Soundsystem carrying me through the”sliver canyon along Park Creek.
Past South Park, “He Keeps Me Alive” by Sally Shapiro, “Algo Mais” by Os Mutantes, “Please, Please Me” by James Brown,”Triple Spiral” by Bright Eyes, “Forming” by the Germs, “First Hand Experience in Second Hand Love” by Giorgio Moroder carried me into the first third of the valley. Had “Station To Station” by David Bowie, “Good Times Baby” by Bobby Rydell, “Innocent” by Stereophonics or “Big Drop” (especially, really) by Black Dice been playing if some statey had pulled me over on my way into Monte, I’d have been totally screwed.
As I rolled towards Alamosa, I listened to B.J. Thomas’s version of “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry,” and then Mastodon’s “Crystal Skull” — a nice concordance (followed by “Liberation Frequency/The Deadly Rhythm” by the Refused — good thing I had my cruise control set). With “Let’s Get Out Of Here” by Les Savvy Fav, “Precious” by the Jam, “What’s Golden” by Jurassic 5, “Sharp Darts” by the Streets, “No Feelings” by the Sex Pistols, and “Baby, Let’s Dance Together” by Rahul Dev Burman cranked as I pulled in to get the kids back from their spring break, I figured I was set up to collect my brood and go home.
And, as I pulled up in my big pickup (next to my ex’s ghetto slots), “The True One” by Gene Clark came on.
“Perfect music for your big truck!” said Eldest Child. “We’re dirt farmers!”
We gathered up bags and bound clothes as wind and sand whipped around us, Fort Garland feeling everything like a scene from an old Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western. It wasn’t until the kids’ mom pulled out and I shoved the truck into reverse that “Let’s Be Together” by Jah Cure came on.
“Play that again, daddy!” Mister called out, Middle Child seconding the motion.
The same was asked of “Stay, Don’t Go” by Spoon, “Capital Eye” by Murderah’z and “Rebirth of Cool (Cool Like Dat)” and Digable Planets. In fact, we managed five songs by the time we hit Alamosa for gas (a good 15 cents cheaper than Pagosa), the brood asking to hear songs again. And again. And again.
Except for the cuts they didn’t like. “Um, daddy,” one of the three would say, “This really sucks.” Not a consensus, apparently, with one asking to fast-forward and another screaming, “No! I want to hear this!”
It was that was that way with Indy-enamored Eldest Daughter (due to her somewhat recent affection for all things Twilight) wanting another blast of “Stained Glass” by Porcelain Raft while Mister’s “Bum bum BUMP bumbumbum bum BUMP” interpretation of Cream’s “Politician” driving his sister’s crazy. The 21st-century’s version of, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” and “Leave me alone!”
Usually daddy took control… Gangstarr’s “Take It Personally” got a single repeat but “Tryo” by Monsieur Bibendum was cut off with a quickness and no amount of appeal or whining got me to put the pod backwards. “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” by 2Pac, “Purple City” by Joker & Ginz and “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz were allowed a replay (really, my choices as well) but as we made out up through the narrow east side of the pass, I put the kibosh on my DJ duties.
It was after we’d crested the pass and were heading down when “The Uncle Meat Variations” by Frank Zappa came on.
“What do you think of THIS?” Eldest daughter asked her younger sister, laughing as she turned around in her seat.
“Daddy, this is funny!” Middle Child squealed from the back seat, her brother in complete agreement.
And so, it was “The Uncle Meat Variations” that brought us down from the pass, its cubist, Edgar Varese-ish intro, munchkin vocals and strangled guitar solo, and into Pagosa — a perfect soundtrack for our return.
After four or five times, as we rolled past the boarded-up relic of the downtown City Market center, I pushed the wheel to the next song, The Beastie Boys “Johnny Ryal,” “… is the bum on my stoop/I gave him fifty cents to buy some soup/He knows the time with the fresh Gucci watch/He’s even more over than the mayor Ed Koch … “
Sometimes, you can play a song again and again. Sometimes you look at an empty box of donuts and wonder where all the goodies went. And sometimes, you just have to zig-zag up the hill and wait for what comes up next.