27 September 2009

The All Blacks

My throat was dry. My mouth was cotton. My breath felt hot. I knew I was getting sick and even the sun streaming down Wilshire wasn't going to stop this one from taking hold. What was that English chemist working in London thinking? It was 1874 according to my pocket watch. It was dark and cold and quiet. We were staring at the ceiling in an Austrian hostel. The bedding in Europe is different. Hard to explain what I mean. Just then I heard a crackling campfire voice like a boring movie in biology class come across the wire...

"It mimics endorphins and binds rapidly with endorphin receptors, extending and magnifying their natural painkilling effect. The result is a surge of pleasurable sensation. This rush is usually accompanied by a warm feeling and a sense of well-being..."

I sure could've used a big cup of that right about then. She rolled over and touched my lips as if to say Shhhh. Said she wanted to tell me a secret.

"Love is like a warm shower on a brisk October morning", she whispered,

"...being wrapped in cozy, warm loving blanket on a rainy Monday in November and being carried off to a cloud with blurred vision and muffled hearing." My ears were fucked from years of touring facing the Zildjians anyhow.

"It does not eliminate the pain", she continued, cute and poised to finish her entire thought in one sweeping breath, "but it puts it on a level where you don't care about it anymore. In fact you don't care about anything. It is like everything is right with the world and dying just now would be just fine."

Reminded me of the Pixies covering that Jesus & Mary Chain tune that I loved. Walking up those groaning stairs of my great-grandfathers house in Windsor Terrace carrying a giant cross. Blessing the bedrooms before dinner. He walked slow. He was 92 after all. But it was my first day I didn't know who he was so I started talking to him like he was a stranger. I welcomed him. Then I realized he worked downstairs. Used to read the Times every morning with a giant magnifying glass. He actually used the giant ancient hexagon globe in his office. It wasn't an accessory. His voice sounded like a warm cup of coffee. The way his words came out made me want a cup no matter time of day it was. It was just the way he spoke. I had a car full of brand new tires; they still had those little rubber spikes on the treads. Whitewalls. Met this guy who worked a carbon black plant in Texas. His face looked like Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. This guy was like a rubber chef. He spoke of his craft with the passion of a refined French chef drunk on Vosne-Romanée or a witch and her cauldron. Said "carbon black" is a material produced by the "incomplete combustion" (or burning) of heavy petroleum products like tar and vegetable oil. The smoke from his cigarette was killing my throat (I was feeling sick, remember) but I couldn't bring myself to ask him to put it out. He worked in carbon black plant for Christ sake. He probably wouldn't live to see 40. He told me there were other "blacks" besides carbon black. I was hoping he'd talk fast because I wanted to hear this but we were very close to his destination. Said there was something called "ivory black" which was made from burning bones. Vine black was made by charring desiccated grape vines and stems and lamp black was made from collecting soot, also known as lampblack, from oil lamps. I dropped him off near La Cienega like I always did and wished him luck. Rolled down my windows and tried to air out the conversation hanging in the beige headliner like an atomic halo. Felt a cold sweat arrive on my forehead. I was really getting sick. Put my left hand turn signal on and headed home. My German Shepherd knew I was back when my tires crawled over the crunchy white gravel. I heard her start barking. Her sweet nails, dancing excited on the hardwood floor. I knew she'd smell the rubber on me, she always did, and didn't approve. It made her sneeze. Even though I was feeling weak and tired I called her to jump in the car and took her to In-N-Out for a cheeseburger.

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