Tuesday, June 19, 2007


A certain number of years have culminated in another damned birthday. Here’s the math, as best I can figure it.

Hundreds of thousands of sentences, the sum perhaps half a million words. John D. MacDonald might be charitable and say I’m halfway there.

Two hundred plus books read and measured, dozens of authors plumbed in the past few years. Twenty-eight columns about blood, whiskey and other vices for Bookslut magazine.

Scintillating conversations with accomplished writers like Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Christopher Moore, Tim Sandlin, Andrew Vachss, and gifted newcomers like Steven Hall or Richard Lange.

The stories of extraordinary, humble and decent people told in their own voices, from wingwalkers to poker players, flying farmers to seasoned soldiers.

My fair share of late nights spent with rock n’ roll bands, burlesque dancers, and other like-minded mutineers. An equal amount of time spent trying to assemble the vestiges of competency into a career, alas, to no avail.

Some signs of age, among them cracks at the corners of my eyes, largely due to a good many days spent out in the sun instead of toiling away at industry. Hair reduced from an insubordinate ponytail to the buzzsaw length of a football hooligan.

Hundreds of thousands of Lone Ranger cracks fielded with (mostly) good humor and only the occasional epithet.

Two broken knuckles. A scar on the left hand caused by experimentation with fire and caps for a child’s pop gun. A two-inch scar running the length of my ring finger whose origins are lost to antiquity. The vestiges of 18 stitches to the chin installed when I was twelve. One knee that makes the sound of a broken beer bottle crushed under a cowboy boot.

Memories of the things that will flash before my eyes when I go. The breakneck speeds of country roads. The unearthly echoes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the comforting constancy of the Thames. That morning in Amsterdam, so cold the windmills had ceased their turning and my fingers numb to the touch. The dizzying trials of finding a foothold in the median of the Champs Elysees, high on red wine. The companionship of friends, be they disappeared or dead or consolingly, still among us.

And that was a number of years gone by. We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast. I’m off to finish I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, which may bear commentary later.

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