Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day one hundred and sixty six ... The hunter, the hunted, and the feast.

It's a beautiful day in my world.

It's so quiet, I can hear the birds chirping at the end of the block responding to the ones right outside my windows.

I can hear gates click shut and guess, with a surprising amount of certainty, which car's door has been closed and whose engine is turning over. 

Yes, I have lived here for a wonderfully long time.

The neighborhood kids occasionally yell back and forth as they play one game or another on my upper-class, predominantly white, dead-end street--an affirmation that children do still play silly games in this all-too-serious, sarcastic, and treacherous world we exist in.

The temperature is cool but not chilly, oddly accenting the warmth emanating from the bottom of my laptop.

The wind breezes in to tickle me. Not everyone is ticklish, but this wind knows me well.

The vegetation is full and lush and experiencing a well deserved afterglow from the recent explosion of spores and pollen. I can almost picture them all, satisfied and smiling, putting off just for a small while another year of tireless work withstanding the ravages of wind and rain which both chip away at the leaves while at the same time strengthening the branches for a lifetime of static growth.

The insects are busy too. They buzz and whirr and occasionally bang against my dust-shaded window screens. Their communication seems similar to that of their hunters--the birds--comprised of short bursts of sound made with vibrations so fast and staccato they defy careful observation. I'm sure I'm missing out on some serious gossip spewed in pitches so high my ears haven't a chance.

I picture the intercourse of buzzes and blips of the bugs to each other, in response to the chirps and caws of the birds to the bugs, to be similar to the moans and yelps of cattle to each other, in response to the slaughterhouse workers shouts and taunts to the cattle.

One group necessitates sustenance, the other ensures it. There is a ritual of timbre, tone, and rhythm which corresponds to the cycle. Orderly chaos sings its own song; a song which must be sung and heard to retain its sense of place. 

Sundays have long been one of my favorite days. Over the years they have ascended to that spot in many different ways.

As a child, the early hours of my Sundays were filled with morning rituals, dogs, and smiling faces soon to be covered with crystalized sugar.

Malasadas--Portuguese-inspired, sugar-coated, baseball mitt size slabs of fried dough--were the opening fanfare to a slow, visceral, day away from school and business. The 6 am wake-up call was made more bearable as I would virtually sleepwalk the quarter mile down Bedford St. to Carreiros' bakery to snatch the freshly made confections. Inside, the place had a fluorescent, mid-1970's flicker that put unfriendly emphasis on the early hour. The air was always thick with flour and grease and sweat from the work being done in the back--visible and unenvied by my young eyes. 

And then, after waiting in front of anywhere from five to twenty-five people, I would nervously approach the counter and make my request. There were some days when, by the time I could get to the counter, they had sold out. One learns quickly the urgency involved with supply and demand in a world such as this. 

But, normally I would be given the box in exchange for a few recently smoothed dollar bills; the coins given back as change jangling in my pocket providing the soundtrack for my journey home.

As I walked down the street, the bakery-box lid--tied shut with red and white string in a knot as impenetrable as my mother's signature--would cry for release with slow, widening, grey grease marks. The act of untying the microscopic, almost bafflingly constructed knot held as much urgency as diffusing a ticking bomb. Meanwhile, insistent waves of heat from the bottom signaled the acute aging process of the dozen hostages I had acquired--for in a matter of an hour, they would turn cold, tough, slick, and irrelevant, as the once crunchy sugar crystals melted into the dough.

And then, proudly carrying the prey in my hands, I would arrive at 1073 Bedford St., awakened with a new, yet familiar sense of urgency--the sleep from my eyes left somewhere in a sidewalk crack--and carefully lift up the flake-chipped, chain link fence gate latch with one hand and push slowly, trying to hold back the dogs with my lower half. On a good morning I could make it seven or eight steps running down the walkway before the pooches, deliriously barking and biting the air, would rush past me falling all over each other, fighting amongst themselves for a few seconds before realizing that they were on the same team--the team that wanted, but never got what was in the hot bakery box. Then they would lead the way, loudly, as I  hastily ascended the stairs, two and three at a time, clutching the box, feeling as if each last step was breaking and crumbling away in an avalanche as I furiously climbed a disappearing mountain, each foot assaulting the worn, brown-rubber, step-covers on my way up, up, up--my calves and thighs easily hoisting my Sunday morning overall-clad frame to reach the top. And there, at the top of the mountain, past the beasts and boobie-traps that existed in my childhood jungle, lived a tribe of people--my people--who provided ultimate safety, never-ending compassion, and limitless love--and they were hungry too.

Then, pushing against the white, wooden door at the top of the stairs, I would make my grand entrance, with the dogs announcing my arrival, and nothing short of a tornado could change the mood of 1073 Bedford St. It was one of joyous tradition and celebration. For before me, it was my mother or aunt or uncle that was sent. And before them, my babush, and her brothers and sisters. And each time, there would be those waiting at home, making coffee and hot cocoa, grinningly anticipating the arrival of the victorious, albeit sleepy, hunter.

And it was both a lesson in the value of perseverance, and the brevity of time, for with all the work which went into procuring the malasadas, in a matter of an hour or two they would become irrelevant. 

After that, they were still edible, of course, but as the day wore on and consciousness became clearer and my belly became fuller, the desire waned, and I wished then, as I wish now, that some things would never change. I wished then, as I wish now, that I could pick twenty minutes of my life and return at will to the anticipation, the hunt, the negotiation, the snare, and the feast which, on almost every Sunday, so long ago, made my life as meaningful as the word yes.

I wished then, as I wish now.

It's a beautiful day in my world.

I hope you can relate.

Happy Sunday.

Thanks for reading.


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