August 17th, 2005


Serene Night, Annoying Toe

All the clouds have gone and the stars sparkle. A single cricket continues to chirp long after the others have been silenced by the chilliness of the night air. Though the breeze is very slight, I hear the pines making a sound that is like a lawn sprinkler barely running. The air is curiously unscented, bringing not even so much as a trace of the grasses now drying in the nearby fields. I hear a distant car now and then, but the night is mostly quiet. The moon vanished long ago, and the east remains untouched by any premonition of dawn. Summer is slowly nodding off. Little more than a month of it remains. I enjoy the extra minutes of darkness its decline is bringing.

I am not so pleased about my missing toenail. It's probably my imagination, but that foot feels vaguely swollen now, especially near the afflicted toe. (Gooshyfoot?) I keep thinking that I ought to get some undyed socks. That's most likely pointless, but the thought returns again and again. The white sock as placebo. I also still think that the toe will probably kill me, but I've been expecting one body part or another to kill me for years. The toe will have to get in line. Many other parts have prior claims for revenge.

At least my hair follicles don't want to kill me. They only kill themselves.

I really don't like having parts of me falling apart.
5th street los angeles 1905

Stuff Getting Made

Almost full, the moon floats free of the woods and enters a soft haze. The night is warmer again, and the crickets are loud. In the orchard at the end of the block, the apples are growing large, shining faintly in the bright moonlight. Some morning not too far off, I will be hearing the clatter of metal step ladders as the fruit is harvested. There are usually a half dozen or so workers for the harvest, and they take two or three days to complete their task. I hear them talking as they go about their task. Sometimes they sing in Spanish. The songs are always a bit melancholy. Since I've lived here, and first seen the actual harvest taking place, I can't eat an apple or anything made with apples without hearing that singing somewhere in the back of my mind. I now think of things as being as Mexican as apple pie. Living in a place where agriculture is still being practiced brings a subtle alteration of one's perceptions.

I had a similar experience when I first worked in a big industrial district. I saw the trucks coming and going, delivering or carting away an enormous variety of raw or partly finished materials and finished or partly finished goods, heard the rattle and clatter and thump and hum of dozens of different kinds of machines, listened to the talk in the crowded, noisy lunch rooms, saw the constant arrival and departure of the suited men who bought or sold materials or services at the various factories and shops and warehouses, watched the be-greased or begrimed or dusty or floury workers cluster at side doors on their coffee breaks, and heard the horns of the ubiquitous snack wagons that patrolled the truck-filled streets. Until then, I'd only ever seen these neighborhoods as big, dull areas stuck around the edges of the real city, and I'd never had any idea how complex and tumultuous the whole operation of an industrial society was.

Just about everyone becomes familiar with offices of one sort or another fairly early in life, as well as the small establishments where cars are repaired, and retail shops and food markets and eating establishments of one sort or another even earlier, but many people never get a close-up view of either agriculture or any sort of heavy industry. It's all stuff they just pass by in their cars. Of course, even I have never gotten to see the inside of a mine, or the engine decks of a ship, or any of countless other sorts of places where the world's work goes on. I've never been inside one of those places where sparks fly and fire is belched, either, though I did used to pass by a foundry of some sort in the area southeast of downtown Los Angeles, and was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of something being poured and emitting both a hellish light and an unearthly roar. It was quite a splendid sight, and quite the opposite of our placid local apple orchard. I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday, but I'm sure I'd prefer the orchard as a neighbor.