I been laid off for three weeks now, lookin to find some kinda rhythm in my daily routine. It's hard. Makes no difference if I get up at five-thirty or seven-thirty. If I get dressed or stay in my sweats. If I shave my face or brush my teeth. I turn on the radio and the news is pretty much the same every day: bad things happened overnight, a few brave souls are tryin to do good. Outside my window, the starlings are twitterin just like they've been doin all week. I forget -- is today Saturday, or is it Thursday? And when was the last time the garbageman picked up the recyclables? Over dinner, someone mentioned that daylight savings time was comin up soon. I thought, what the hell, isn't it still winter? It's way too early to 'spring forward', isn't it, poot?
I got three digital clocks in the kitchen -- one on the radio, one on the microwave, and one on the stove. Sometimes they vary by two minutes, other times they're exactly in sync. Who knows what time it really is? Not me.
I haven't done anything about the books, my souvenirs are still scattered all over the floor in the middle room, I can't decide what to keep and what to toss, or whether I should even get bookcases at all. Mebbe the techno-savants and e-boosters got it right: the physical book is done and only blinkered old cranks like me give a shite as to its future. The rest of the world is content to consume texts the same way they consume images and music and food. Binge purge. Engorgement followed by vomiting. Obesity followed by emaciation. And every so often they gotta call in the plumber who takes that metal snake of his and gently forces it down the clogged drain, workin it back and forth till the mess comes loose.
No rhythm. Sweet Lou is watching the clouds come in, puffin on a stogie. "Looks like we're gonna get hit tomorrow," he says. "I hope you're not planning to go somewhere." Ever since football season ended, he's been on edge. He's fussing with the fire alarm in the garage. "It keeps bleepin and the reset button don't work. I called the fire department but no one comes out." He's got his Jets cap on, wearin a crumpled raincoat. Eighty-one but still cockin his neck like a young rooster. I ast him about his rhythm.
"I get up and exercise every morning before I eat. Seven o'clock sharp. Then I shower and get dressed. That sets me up for the day. I won't stay in bed unless I'm dead. Like I told you, you got to do the same thing every day."
I saw his daughter earlier this week, I think, walking her niece's dog down by the clubhouse. Looked like a cross between a dachshund and a chihuahua, a tiny noisy thing growling at my cuffs. Millie had a faraway look in her eye. "Daddy's got to go in for tests. He's losing weight. Next week I take him in." What do you say to that, poot? Lou's strong as an oak, but it don't take but a couple of good axe-blows to fell a tree.
Without a rhythm, a man is likely to go melancholic, sure enough. Start feelin sorry for himself, start creatin problems where none exist. Start lookin for answers to Life's big questions in the wrong places. Quist used to tell me to buck up before the bile really took hold. "Listen, poot, get a grip, the way you look at the world, that's the way it'll be." I say to myself, yeah, but I still need to find a rhythm.