Friday, October 9, 2015

At 7:30 a.m., a jangled friend phones to say that the woman who owns the hair salon across the street from his Brooklyn bar has committed suicide by blowing up her apartment building . . . "and just last week she came in here and introduced herself and asked if she could rent my upstairs apartment!" Digesting this strange news, I rush off to an oil-change appointment, where I slouch in a grimy chair and read a New Yorker article about conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith to the accompaniment of torque wrenches and welding fumes. An hour later I get back into the car and turn on the radio, to discover that Garrison Keillor is intoning Donald Hall's "Her Long Illness," which describes the task of watching Jane Kenyon die.
They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurses' pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.
By the time I reach home, the drizzle has metamorphosed into cold and steady rain. Bored and disgusted, Ruckus the cat has already begun his usual retaliations: shoving fat books onto the floor, yanking out thumbtacks with his teeth. Living with Ruckus on a rainy day is like living with a three-year-old who won't take a nap, except that you can't toss the three-year-old back out into the weather. However, you also can't distract a cat with a Ramones dance party or a book about freight trains, and you have to let him back in ten minutes after you throw him out because his histrionic wailing is an unbearable burden.

So here I stand at my desk, temporarily relieved of Ruckus but expecting another onslaught at any moment. The Hall poem echoes in my head, in Keillor's lugubrious tones. What I remember most about the salon across the street from my friend's bar is the sign advertising "HUMAN HAIR."

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