Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Same River Twice (54-109)

In this part of the story involving the grown up version of the author, he and Rita are afraid that their child might have some sort of birth defect, so they go to the doctor to get some amniotic fluid drawn so they can get it tested. The tests show the baby to be perfectly healthy. He also describes a bad experience with a lamaze class that they enrolled in and his experience with a one year old that they babysat as a test run for their own child. Lastly he talks about a hollow maple tree in the woods that he uses as a place to get away and write. The grown up version of the author is always so reflective and peaceful in a way. Its like he has kinda figured it all out. In the story with the young version of the author, you learn a little bit about his past and his father, and the night he decided he was going to save up his money and get out of Kentucky. He describes making his way south for the winter, like a migrating bird. He ends up in west Texas working for a Vietnam veteran name Bill, painting houses. He describes Texan's large feather hats and how much they hated when someone bumped into their feather. He starts becoming friends with Bill, and they even go skydiving together. But eventually Bill kills himself in a pretty gruesome way, in which he drinks a bunch of kerosene and lights his mouth on fire. So the author having nothing left in Texas heads up to Nebraska, and then to Colorado. He never stayed long in either place because he got a few odd jobs, one at a slaughterhouse and the other chipping mortar from bricks, but he didn't like them so he left. He moved south to the grand canyon, where he got a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant. He really enjoyed this job until a guy named Jackie Jr. took over and treated him badly. He left one night after spraying soapy water all over his boss and walking out on his job. He decides then that he would like to settle in the west one day, but he wasn't ready to give up his life as a drifter yet.

He tries to make his way through the desert, but he is having a hard time. Its a demanding environment and his canteen he bought was too small. He eventually gets picked up by a religious man named Al, and then later a big, strange guy he called Winner who talked about commies and mutants and beat him on the chest a lot. He eventually gets to California, where he spends his time laying around on the beach and watching women. He lives with the rest of the bums near Los Angeles. He undergoes a change when a stranger finds one of his sketches and tells him to stop leaving his trash lying around. He decides to give up on his dream of becoming an artist. He decides he wants to be a playwrite. He gets on a bus then, and leaves California behind. The story doesn't pick up again until one summer sometime later in Alabama. He joins a traveling circus and has some interesting experiences through a series of odd jobs he holds with the circus. He seems to become a little obsessed with a woman called the parrot lady. She is called this because she has parrots and tattooed all over her body, and her circus act is to strip in a room full of people and show off her tattoos. He talks about a group of men in the circus who always argue about the gorilla's balls. Yet again, another group of guys are obsessed with some form of male genitalia. Thats just strange to me. Anyway, the gorilla gets mad at them because his handler shows everyone the gorilla's balls and they all have to spend time making up with the gorilla. Later, the author gets a job in one of the circus acts where he has to dress up in a walrus costume and pretend to be a real, intelligent walrus in front of crowds. But he ruins that when he gets drunk one day off of martinis with the Parrot Lady, and ends up ripping off the walrus suit's head in the middle of the act and puking everywhere. This part was hilarious to me. He fled the circus after that and headed north. And thats where this part of the story ended.

This part of the story had several occurrences in it that surprised me, and I just kind of said "really?" when I read them. Like the foreign tourists who didn't know what a skunk was in the grand canyon, so they chased them and always came back sprayed. That's pretty funny, but I wasn't aware that there were no skunks in other parts of the world. I guess I never thought about it. I also couldn't believe that someone committed suicide by jumping into the grand canyon once a month. Both of these events are talked about on page 69. The other thing I couldn't believe was on page 62 when the mother was talking about shoving half a Tylenol up her baby's butt to keep it from crying so much. That just seems wrong to me. I thought it was funny that the author had a greater fear of being "cornholed on the road" than he did of being murdered on the road. Maybe the "cornholing" happens a lot more often, which is pretty gross. His skydiving experience was much different than my own. He only had a 4 second freefall from 3000 feet. I had a 45 second freefall from 12000. His first time going, he went alone. That could never happen these days. I'm pretty sure you have to jump tandem until you get certified. And when I went, if you boarded the plane, that was it. You had to jump. It was in a contract that you couldn't back out once you got in the plane. His restaurant experience in the grand canyon on page 68 was much like my own experience working in a restaurant. Everything he described was very close to how everyone acted at my workplace, with maybe a few minor differences. It reminds me of the movie Waiting with Ryan Reynolds. It just reaffirms my thoughts on the subject that I've had for years: once you've worked in one restaurant, you've worked in them all. Anyway, the story was pretty enjoyable just like the first part we read, and I am looking forward to finishing it.

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