Labor in Vain Road

Labor in Vain is a Road

Labor Day. Another American holiday. There are flags.

I know what I’m supposed to do. Go to the beach. Barbeque hamburgers. Listen to music and drink beer.

It doesn’t sound so bad, really.

I went to the market. Usually I try not to go to stores on Labor Day. Because. You know. It’s supposed to be a holiday, celebrating labor. Not more buying, more work, more commerce.

But I’m beaten down by the system. The woman who gets my hamburger seems happy. I thank her. So many lives. She talks briefly to the man cutting up meat in the back. Why are they here? What do they do? Or need?

Or am I asking myself those questions as well?

This supermarket has good music. It reminds me of the Key Food in the East Village that EV Grieve always goes to. Perhaps a little heavier on the 80s. Music changes everything. I tell whoever the robot name is in my phone to play the same band on the way home. Urban music as the trees go by. It makes no sense to miss a park in the city, metal lamp posts and grass edging, benches, rats, when you’re driving on a road that passes through fields and forests, goes by houses and mini mansions, and trees, and barns, and signs saying share the road with horses and bikes.

There are a lot of bikes. Early must be a good time to go out. There are so many big trucks and SUVs here though. It’s got to be good for you though, right? Moving, not sitting.

The past few years really had way too much sitting.

It’s much warmer today, and it is hiding the onset of autumn that was just around the corner when it was cooler. Now you see it in the quickening darkness of twilight. The silver and purple light on the water at the beach. The blue jays call out when it’s cool. Now that it’s warm, they are quiet. Last week the hawks were screeching, circling around, snapping at the smaller birds who like to tease them sometimes. They lift a wing and shrug them off, still soaring. That’s the way.

There’s the blue jay. That’s good. Maybe it will cool off. The sharp call is such a forest sound. There should be silence around a sound like that, but it still cuts through the motorcycles and pickup trucks speeding down 1A. There goes a motorcycle with its stereo blaring. Sing out the last day of summer, because that’s what Labor Day is.

Whatever dreams and notions you had at the beginning of the season – Memorial Day! – three months ago – are now outdated. Autumn will bring its own set of demands and delusions that may turn out to be something that changes your life. Everything plants a little seed, if you notice it, even if you don’t.

What has been learned this summer? That the ocean takes the worries out with the tide. That counting to 10, the way Ted Lasso’s father, who committed suicide, taught him to do, actually works. That show…the way something so throwaway as American TV can grab you by the neck and shake the tears out of you, the little frozen rocks, the hail of internal storms, what you forgot, what you remember, what you hoped you would forget. I remember everything. Someone sent me that song, John Prine’s last. It makes tears scared, like going over a waterfall in a barrel. What else. Bad people do get their comeuppance sometimes. Not before causing a lot of trouble though.

So many things.

What else do I want to remember? That you can make decisions. That people who cut you off then try to massage your ego or insist they have pressing needs have issues that aren’t yours. That the things you liked when you were 10 sometimes you still like. That people who have real talent don’t mind if you have a go at having some too.

Sometimes I wish the past ten years hadn’t happened in the way that they did. That I hadn’t been trained to write bullet points until that was all I could write. When I speak to people they fog up after the first clause. Harder to learn to speak in bullet points. Or they ask where are you from?

Not here. Or there.

Facebook kindly sent me a reminder of what I was doing eight years ago. Like another planet. Isn’t it seven years and all your cells are different? I think there are some stragglers in there. Maybe that’s my fault. Let it go.

A song just played. I still remember where there was a skip in the record, and I wait for it to skip, to repeat, right there, on that fault line. I always do, when I hear that particular song. Maybe memory is renewal as well. Hope and sadness don’t evaporate. That record is in a barn, somewhere. If I get it back, and put it on a new turntable, will I remember any more clearly sitting on the bed, the paisley cover, looking out the window to the street just beyond, watching the trucks go up the avenue late at night, headed for the bridges that would get them the hell of out there.

Maybe all the questions are what we really are left with, what we are looking for.

Maybe the panic at the heart of the end of summer, is a longing for endless beach days that aren’t real, a party that went on too long, too many gatecrashers, not enough beer, something that seemed like a good idea at 9 won’t be the same at 3. Back and forth between times, past present future, memory wishes, plans happened. The sketch someone dropped a stone on and tore, an earthquake. No. For some people it is just a bikini and a hat and cold brew. Right?

This summer showed there is no one to ask, not really.

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