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Two Dead Guys Named John… And A Dead Guy Named John.

Today I have sneezed about forty-seven times and experienced two pretty weird coincidences.

After I left the law office this afternoon, I found myself with a bit of time to waste, so I wandered into the Book Den East, the used bookstore down the street from my house. I browsed the fiction section for a few minutes, mostly reading spines and backs and rejecting books. I picked up one that had an interesting cover and begun to read the first few pages. The story took place in 1980 in LA, just after John Lennon had been shot, and the narrator was complaining about everyone playing the Double Fantasy album to exhaustion in the wake of the biggest tragedy to hit hippies since patchouli. I got bored by page three and put the book back.

I picked up another book and although I hadn’t originally thought I’d be interested in it, I found myself suddenly at the bottom of the tenth page and decided I ought to buy it because the mildew smell in the bookstore was making me sneeze.

Book in hand, I walked into town, where for the first time in about a month, I checked my mail. In the box was a suspicious (and by suspicious I mean potentially expensive) envelope directed to my father’s estate. When I opened it, it revealed a letter demanding five thousand dollars, sent by a collection agency on behalf of Sears & Roebuck. Knowing that my father was not one to have outstanding debts or to shop at Sears, I called the number. As I was dialing, I noticed that the letter was addressed to the estate of John H. Holmes. My father was John E. Holmes. I mentioned this first to the agent.

It turns out that John Henry Holmes, an unfortunate soul who lived last in North Carolina and spent his last days buried in debt in Fort Worth, Texas, and John Evans Holmes, a brilliant and impatient genius who peppered Cape Cod and the Islands with beautiful metal work and lived his entire life in New England– died on the very same day, many states apart.

Realizing that I did not have to shell out five grand to Sears, I heaved a huge sigh of relief (of course I promptly sucked it back in when I opened the bill from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, who charged me nine hundred dollars to tell me I didn’t have Strep).

Having exhausted all options for entertainment in Oak Bluffs, I got on the bus and headed home. I flipped open the new book I’d bought, and picked up where I’d left off, near the end of the first chapter. At the beginning of the second chapter, the narrator and her daughter set out on the cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to Georgia that the first chapter had set up. While she drove, the narrator flipped radio stations. She stopped on one when the DJ said the station was playing all Beatles songs—and then changed it when she realized they were only playing the Double Fantasy album. It was then that I realized that the book was set in 1980, shortly after John Lennon had been shot.

What are the odds of picking up two books on the same day, and finding that they are both set in the same place, during the same year, and within twenty pages both mention with similar disdain the same John Lennon album?

I guess they’re probably about the same as the odds of two men in different states with the same first and last name dying on the very same day.

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Tonight’s Shows: 8 PM– Gravity vs. The Elephant; 9 PM– Jon vs. Patchouli.

Tonight in the Absurdium, the theme of the evening was Gravity (the invisible force that makes things fall from the sky, not the emotional feeling surrounding a situation of tragedy or death).

I suppose I was the one who started it, when I emerged from my room quite stoned and carrying a tiny blue porcelain elephant which for some reason had decided in my hand that it wanted to walk up the wall instead of sitting flat on anything. I wandered to the window separating the kitchen from the living room (the wall is about eight inches thick, with approximately a three foot by twelve foot “window” cut out of it at about waist-height from the floor), and I held the elephant on one of the inside walls, where I wanted to put it.

“I need sticky stuff,” I said. “So I can put this elephant on the wall.” Double-stick tape was discussed, and super glue. And then, because it is wonderful, somebody mentioned Vel-cro, and instantly in my mind nothing made more sense than to cover the entire inside of the “window” with Vel-cro, so we could stick all sorts of things upside down and sideways. Lighters could each have a strip of Vel-cro so we could just stick them to the wall instead of putting them in random places and looking all over for them. You could stick toys all over the place, maybe put a strip of Vel-cro on a communal pipe and put it up with the lighters. I’ve got a bunch of plastic photo frames; I could Vel-cro the bottom of the frames and hang them upside down from the top of the window. The possibilities are endless.

Of course what we’re talking about here is an eight inch wide strip of Vel-cro that’s about thirty feet long. Then again, the end result would be a thirty-six square foot area of my kitchen/living room in which gravity would not matter. Very expensive… but brilliant.

Several minutes after the vel-cro conversation, as though Gravity were trying to re-establish its presence in the room, my roommate dropped our friend Jon’s phone in his plate of food. Apparently my roommate was moving the phone out of his way and while his hand was over his plate, the phone (which is about as light and aerodynamic as a brick) fumbled its way out of his hand and landed with an audible “SPLAT” right in the middle of a very full plate of ooey gooey tomato-y ravioli. Jon was outside at the time, and missed the whole thing. When he came back in, my roommate was still trying to wipe sauce off the phone.

“There’s no delicate way to put this, man,” he said. “I dropped your phone in my dinner.”

Luckily, the phone is water resistant, which implies that brief exposure to pasta sauce should not render it totally useless (although it may smell of tomatoes for weeks). Discussion of the possibility of lingering tomato smell prompted Jon to exclaim that it could be worse–it could be Patchouli. He then launched a rant about the insidious nature of Patchouli (the creeping evil), and told us a story about how he hugged a friend of his mother’s one day and the lingering Patchouli stench was so strong that he took off his shirt and threw it out the window of his van (it happened; I was there).

“If a hippie hugs you, you have to throw away your clothes!” He said. “I couldn’t throw it in the back of the van because then the van would smell. You can’t let your dog lie on them because your dog will smell. You can’t wash the shit because then your washing machine and all your other clothes will smell! You have to burn them!”

“Yeah, hippies are gross,” my roommate said. A statement which is rendered all the more brilliant if you remember when he used to be a hippie, with a big floppy patchwork hat and multi-colored dreadlocks, following jam bands around the country.

Around nine thirty, Jamie left, and a few minutes later, Jon stood up and said, “I’m taking my stinky phone and I’m going home.” He hugged me, his dog licked my foot, and they left.

As soon as they were gone, I sunk into my papasan chair as though the helium had been very rapidly let out of my personal balloon… and I haven’t moved or spoken since. The only movement I’ve made in over an hour is move my fingers up and down, clickety-clack, in hopes that eventually they will create something on the screen that makes at least a minimal amount of sense.

I got a massage today, and for an hour before and an hour after, I cried. I did not cry during the actual massage, but on the bus rides there and back, while the soundtrack of sadnesses past played on my ipod, I stared out the window and wept. Not choking, dramatic sobs–just tears. Tears building and falling like hot wax from a tall taper candle.

I let them go down my cheeks, down my neck, down my shirt. Some tears aren’t meant to be wiped away. Particularly not the ones that mean, “I’m starting to let go.”

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Two Predictions

One of these days, I will write something worth reading. One of these nights, when I am running on empty with some terrible and irrelevant deadline at my heels, I will be captured by the sort of manic inspiration that makes all other responsibilities meaningless, and I will write. And whatever I write will make anyone who reads it stop and go, “aaah,” or “hmmm.”

It will be revolutionary. But it will not be tonight.

And one of these mornings I will wake up free from financial worry, certain that I will be faster and better armed than the wolves that are howling after me.

But it will not be tomorrow.