It's 2:44 in the morning because the red-eyed monster says so, and Jeff Hanna sings to me from the deepest recesses of the memory that forgets to take the grocery list I wrote because I can't remember the six items on it. From thirty years ago, "Piss on the fire, call in the dogs, and head it on back (wait) to Bowlegs." Damn you, whiny Jeff Hanna. Now I have to get out of bed 'cause I drank some wine earlier, and guess what, funny coincidence, the fire's out, too. Ol' Jeffs still in there, bangin' around that place in my head that doesn't even exist when the real world is chewing up my diminished synapse power. Down the stairs to stoke the wood stove,and I almost slip when a floppy sock rolls.
"Why am I wearing socks?", I wonder as I robotically select the perfect logs for the embers that remain, then catch myself being OCD, put the logs back, and throw the most IMperfect ones in, just to spite the part of me I don't like. It dawns on me, after thirty years, that the singer in my brain has both of the names of the kids in my sister's family; Jeff and Hannah, and why hadn't that ever occurred to me before? The stove would eventually burn on it's own but I shoot it some air and watch the fire curl up into the reburner where little blue holes form in the flames, and I'm transfixed.
Normally, at this point I'd curl up on the grunge couch and let Bowlegs drift back into oblivion. But there's a dog where he's not allowed, stretched on his back along the sofa's length, one twitching paw in the air, probably dreaming of some rabbit from his youth. And I start thinking of my own youth, my face twelve inches from the inferno I've created, and eye-to-eye with the reflection of the person I've become.
An image is revived of a longhair long ago, actually relieving himself on the campfire while singing the words, "Sometimes things don't work out, But that's the way that life is, son." Me from the past, consoling me now. "All those little mi-iseries, will keep you on the run." I'll say. All the big dreams. All the people I loved, really loved, and hurt, and can't seem to stop hurting. The payments and the workload and the pride and the doubt that keep me from sleeping in this bed I've made.
I remember thinking, when cranky campers told me to "Shut the **** up!" at this same hour so long ago, that NObody in this world was happy, except me. I felt kinda sorry for them, so uptight and worried about what they had to get up and DO in the morning. "There's just no use tryin', to be what you are not. Keep runnin' on that treadmill you'll get tired a lot..." So I promised myself that I'd never work an assembly line, that I'd never wear a tie or be tied down, that I'd always value life's special moments with family and nature, and that I'd savor my freedom, never letting institutions or routine rule me.
I'm awake. I'm sober. Jeff is fading. The alarm clock is nagging. I've learned there are many versions of assembly lines, and I'm headed for one in a few hours. I still don't like neckties and can't tie one properly without a little research, but they aren't the symbol of oppression I thought they were. Most folks still aren't happy, but some are better off tied to something or someone of their choosing. I've compromised a bit on institutions and routine, allowing their pervasiveness and impossibility to deny. And I treasure those moments in the happy zone, but oddly can't seem to actively pursue more of them. "Lot's o' people in this world, just tryin' to make a buck", describes me pretty well. I'm thousands of miles from home, and family, and the land I was raised on, without the time or energy to explore and enjoy this new adventure.
There's hope, I guess, that someday I'll demolish the complex structure of guilt and duty I built, and "Put out the fire, call in the dogs, and head it on back to Bowlegs." Until then, thanks for the reminder, Jeff. Now, shut the **** up.
Apologies in case I mangled the real lyrics, but it's a ponderance how I remembered them at all.