I have been so consumed with my new Berlin novel lately, a rewrite of my old novel Fortuna Berlin, that I haven’t had any time for the blogosphere. I started rewriting the novel in about March. I say rewrite, it’s actually a complete overhaul – I’ve had to disassemble the engine, rebuild the chassis, replace the pistons, the piston rings, cylinder liners, clean all the nuts and bolts, and order new factory original parts. I finally got everything together last week and got it going with help of Sir Henry Bourbon and Alphonso Marijuana. The marijuana I bought at Görlitzer Park. The bourbon is some cheap knock-off brand I bought at the local supermarket. I would only drink bourbon at night, but the marijuana I would smoke in the garden in the morning while drinking coffee and listening to the woodpeckers and the thud of chestnuts on the tin roof. I don’t like to bring too much sobriety into my writing. I also don’t like to go too far the other way. The key is to find the perfect formula and flux – write sober, edit drunk or stoned, or vice versa. I’ve never been a big pot smoker, by the way. I’ll finish what I have and go back to just coffee during the day. In the meantime, it’s loosened something up and the bourbon too has jarred something. I normally just drink beer and wine and the occasional shot of mixed drink. Bourbon I drink on the rocks, usually only one glass if I want to be productive. Any more and it’s a write-off, but the temptation is always there. It’s in my DNA. My grandpa Powers (100% Irish) was a world-class bourbon drinker. He also had a great sense of humor. None of my other grandparents had one. He had to supply the whole lot for us grandkids and was also the first to go, way back in 1974. He was 71. Died of a heart attack in the bathroom. I remember my grandmother showing me the dent in the drywall his head made when he fell. It was always there and it fascinated me, probably as much as my son is fascinated by the subject.
And speaking of death, I got an email from my brother yesterday telling me one of our customers, a painter who had been coming into the shop for 20 years, had died. It happened almost two years ago, in December of 2016. He was 55 years-old, and no one bothered to write an obituary for him so we don’t know how it happened. My brother found out about it after Googling for him because he was curious about his absence from the shop.
Now this painter, his last name was Loudin, which was about as fitting as last names get. Whenever he came into the shop, his voice just carried. You could hear him from all the way in back of the place, over the lawnmowers engines and the bench grinder.
“I WANNA PICK UP A COUPLE FIVES OF THAT DRIVEWAY SEALER!” he’d shout, and then he’d start bragging about the job he was planning on doing, or business, or the house he’d just paid off, or how it was mini-lobster season and he was taking his boat down to the Keys for the weekend.
We had an issue when he first started coming into the shop. He’d parked his truck behind the place while my mechanic was working on a paintsprayer, and apparently the overspray got all over his hood and on the roof. You couldn’t see it, but could feel it with your hand, and now he had to get the thing detailed, and this, that and the other. He said he’d settle for $100. We offered to detail it ourselves. At first he balked – he really just wanted the money – but then he took us up on it. We cleaned it up. It must’ve made him feel guilty, or maybe it was the awkwardness of the issue, but a couple weeks later he brought in a cooler with two lobsters in it. That was Saturday morning. Monday morning he called to ask how they were.
“They were great,” I told him, and went into a whole spiel about it. I think I pulled it off. We hung up, I rushed to the back of the shop and opened the cooler. The lobsters were still in it, dead and rotting, the rancid stench blowing up into my nostrils. I’d forgotten all about them.
There was another painter who came into the shop, a tall, pot-bellied old man with a mop of messy gray hair. His last name was Tart and he knew Loudin. They hung out once. Loudin told me about it. He said he and his girlfriend were over at Tart’s house, and Tart and his girlfriend got in the jacuzzi with Loudin and his girlfriend and as the four of them were sitting there drinking and telling stories, a penis pump came bobbing up through the foam. Loudin said when he saw it he grabbed his girlfriend, leapt out of the tub and took off running. Well, that may be true. But he blamed Tart for it when I’m confident that he, Loudin, had brought the apparatus along. He’d probably been using it under the water and the grip slipped. Or something.
Loudin was one of those customers I neither liked nor disliked; I dealt with him, that’s all. His girlfriend probably felt the same. I don’t know if they were still together when he died. I imagine they were. They’d been going out for years and had no kids, just a dog and a parakeet. He had a savings. He used to talk about it all the time.
“I COULD RETIRE RIGHT NOW IF I REALLY WANTED TO!” he would say. “MY HOUSE IS PAID FOR, TRUCK’S PAID FOR. I’M SITTIN PRETTY.”
His online obituary reads thus:
Age 55, of Boynton Beach, passed away Dec. 20, 2016. All County Funeral Home & Crematory, Lake Worth, FL.
Published in The Palm Beach Post from Jan. 6 to Jan. 7, 2017
Other than that, the only trace of him I can find of him online is his Voter Registration. He was a Republican, if that means anything.