Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Inconvenience of Volcanoes

I don't remember which one came first:

Uncle Arthur's Day for Tunes
Unclear Thursday Fortunes

I do remember a pleased feeling after I wrote them down on a small pad. And saw that they were good. And now their time has come to be revealed and shared. Because they might even mean something.

In wordplay, it's called a charade. You shake the letters one way, you get one thing—a title with expectations: Uncle Arthur's Day for Tunes. You get harmony, order, music, and Uncle Arthur, obviously a tuneful guy. You shake them the other way, you get... a troubled Magic 8-Ball reading: UNCLEAR THURSDAY FORTUNES. You get doubt, uncertainty, chaos.

Both are about time, of course. One is time with an agenda, the other without any at all. But maybe they could come to the same thing. Kind of like this Thursday. Uncle Arthur wakes up, packs his suitcase, takes a cab to the airport, expecting to board a plane for the U.S. Then word spreads about this volcano in Iceland that's sending a heavy pall of ash across northern Europe, grounding thousands of flights. Uncle Arthur is gobsmacked. Nothing to do but lean back in his black vinyl chair, put on his iPod, and listen to Ella, Nat, Frank, Billie, Tony, and Sarah.

It's like April. One day it's whatever—raw, windy, snow in the forecast. The next day, Uncle Art's out birding, listening to melospiza melodia and cardinalis cardinalis and the rest of the tunesmiths.

Had a great lunch at Colleen's the other day. My favorite restaurant in Medford. I wanted beef stew. They had beef stew. It was perfect, served of course on the cheerful Fiestaware, with a different colored bowl and plate. Behind the counter hung one of those old clocks with white numerals and a black face and red neon: Colleen's Diner. I wasn't going to, but did order the blueberry crisp a la mode—with coffee ice cream.

Meanwhile, I eavesdropped on a mother and her son, about seven, wearing a tie. "Did you know," he told her, "that you can't freeze Gummi Bears?"

I considered this a piece of information that would prove important in a later chapter.

Then a guy walks past my table, pauses, and asks me how old I am. Instant stranger guard goes up. "Why?" I say.
"You have a full head of hair," he says.
Oh. That's different. "61," I say.
He takes off his hat. He's balding. "46," he says.
"Well, we all have our crosses to bear," I say, wondering if I should tell him about my lousy teeth to even things out. But I pause too long. He has moved on, possibly taking my remark as a snide retort.
I decide not to pursue it. Full head of hair? Lousy teeth? Not a fruitful topic for conversation.

But you see what I mean? One minute it's tunes, the next minute, loony tunes. On Wednesday it's clear and sunny. On Thursday, kaboom. Iceland goes all Pompeii. Whaddyagonnado.

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