Archive for September, 2010


He Polished My Shoes

by mdjb

He was the most extraordinary man I ever knew. His name was Jackson, but we all called him Bud. He was my partner of twenty-seven years. We met in a tavern on the waterfront. I was despondent over a woman who had left me to explore Europe on her own, and then wrote me a letter to say she would probably settle in Tuscany. The night I walked into The Anchor, Bud was sitting by himself at the end of the bar, and he was reading an out of town newspaper. I don’t know what made me walk into that place on that night, when there were so many other places I could have gone.
I knew the bars in that end of the Village were mainly for men looking for other men, but I’d also seen women accompanying some of them. Perhaps I thought one of those women would look my way. I can’t believe how naïve I was at thirty years old, but it’s easy to see now why Rose went off to Europe. She had no room in her life for a bumpkin like me.
Apparently Bud did.
He was strikingly handsome, and though several of the men were trying to catch his attention, he appeared to be completely absorbed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He smiled at something he had read, and then looked up to motion to the bartender for another beer and that’s when our eyes met.
“What do you think about USC’s beating Ohio in the Rose Bowl?” he asked me, and I had to admit I didn’t follow football very closely. “Neither do I,” he said, “ But I had to laugh on seeing a picture of Woody Hayes hitting a California reporter. Some guys take these things a little too seriously.”
One word led to another and we wound up talking for two hours. And then he invited me to come home with him.
Everything changed for me that night, and I mean everything.
In the morning when I woke up, he had already left for work. I found my shoes polished to a high sheen beside the chair where I’d left my clothes. Inside a shoe was a note saying he had to work some overtime, but I should enjoy the breakfast he had left covered on the kitchen table, and he wondered if I would like to go with him to see the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy that was playing at the Quad.
We went to many film revivals after that, and eventually Bud told me I’d better move in with him as it was not thrifty to maintain two apartments since we were spending so much time together.
In 1993, to celebrate twenty years together, we made a whirlwind tour of Europe. “See,” Bud told me, “I told you it made sense to save money.” In Italy, we met Rose, and she loved him, and told me the two of us were just never meant to be, but then she floored me when she told me she knew Bud was sick. He had talked to her privately, asking her advice on telling me about his cancer, and she told him she would help him with that. He and I never spoke about it. He made it clear he wanted it that way.
We enjoyed so many good times together, and continued to do so for another seven years. In his last moments, he finally voiced an opinion on what had been left unspoken for so long when he whispered to me, “I guess I outwitted Dr. McKay, eh Bud?” He had called me by his nickname, and that was the first time he had ever done so.
Tonight was kind of rough, as I remembered it was the thirty-seventh anniversary of that night I walked along the waterfront and chanced into a strange bar. I was feeling a bit depressed and turned on the television looking for a comedy, but instead found The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly playing on the movie channel. It’s not a great movie, but it tore me up to watch it, and I couldn’t help doing just that.


Nine Sixteen: Día del Grito

by mdjb

Sixty-year-old Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was angry over the Gachupines having cut down the olive and mulberry trees, and grapevines he had trained the indians and mestizos to raise, but he was a Catholic priest and could not afford a viewpoint that saw things only in terms of black and white under the lock down conditions that prevailed under Gachupin rule. He had been hoping the Criollos’ plan for a non-military move toward Mexican sovereignty would come about, and he was well respected among all the lower castes–the very situation for which he remained anathema to the Spanish-born, European-educated elite. When the Spanish viceroy discovered and reacted to the insurgency, thereby squelching the movement, Hidalgo’s hopes faded. The plans for December evaporated, and almost without thinking, some would say, the priest immediately responded to the viceroy’s actions with a cry of, “Mexicanos, viva Mexico!” to the indigenous inhabitants of Dolores, Guanajuato inciting them to rise up against three hundred years of suppression, and they did so all too willingly, marching toward Mexico City under a banner of the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe. In their zeal, they hacked and killed all of the oppressing Spaniards they encountered along the way, without regard to sex or age, burning their houses and decimating villages. During the ten years of fighting that followed that fateful night, Hidalgo often regretted having made the unpremeditated call to action, which had changed the movement from a shrewd political maneuver into a bloody class struggle, though he is nevertheless celebrated as the first hero of the Revolution to this day.


Nine Eleven

by mdjb

Tonight’s the night. Jess gets home from work, she’s going to be surprised. Never expect me to have her favorite take-out. Kind of wish I still had a job to go to, but I do enjoy the painting, and it’s bringing in a little money. So we’re not doing badly.
What a moment that was the week after the accident when I showed up at the office with the old wooden cane. Reckon, that Marjorie gal thought I was calcifying, turning to stone. True enough at the time. I bet others did too. I could hear it in their voices when they asked me what my plans were. At my retirement party that gal bent forward to kiss me, keeping about two feet of space between our lower parts. Young folks don’t like to witness injuries. I guess it reminds them of their own mortality.
I believe I caught her expression perfectly when I used her face on the picture of the woman in the mud-stained dress torn up the middle. Something she’ll never see. And Jess coring apples, holding up that sharp little knife when she said to me, “Don’t let’s make that a habit, eh, Stan?” The dear thing sees pornography everywhere.
Guess I’ll cut around the corner here and walk past the Trade Center. Such a sunny morning. Good light. Maybe I can get in a little painting this afternoon after I tidy up the apartment.