Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the Eve of His Birthday, Wilbo Takes a Long Walk through His Hometown, Waiting for the Bell Tower to Ring Midnight.

Last night, I set out for a birthday walk. Ten in the evening on the eve of my birthday and I intended to walk until my birthday arrived. I gulped two aspirin with a slug of Budweiser and set out towards Western Boulevard, the main street of Muskegon full of life. Smokers always partake near the doors of the Eagles Club. Didn't see Scully outside today, but I did see him as I left the Irish Festival Sunday evening. That time, I reported out to him, "Seamus Kennedy sang the benediction song again this year. He gathered up all the musicians he could find and sang, 'The Parting Glass'."

"Ah, that would be a fine song led by Seamus", answered Scully.

"Last year, Seamus sang the benediction song too. But he gathered up all the musicians he could find and sang the one that goes, 'And we'll all go down together'".

"Ah, that would be a fine tune too, led by Seamus", answered Scully. That's what makes Scully a mate. He always knows what to say.

Bowlers were knocking over pins inside the small alley inside the club. The bright lights of the alley caught my eye from the street. I continued my walk north on Western until I reached the Tipsy Toad, where the door propped open let in the night air. A man sat alone at the bar and nursed a whiskey. The waitress's face had a bluish glow from her iPhone screen. I passed by the doorway of Mike's Inn. I would be at Mike's Inn soon enough. I kept walking.

I studied a sign with a white arrow on a purple background. It read, "This way to a world without Alzheimers".  I kept walking, wondering what that was all about. I followed the arrow. I was going north anyways.

I've gotten pretty pretty brazen about walking right into Pigeon Hill's tap room and looking for friends. Even if I'm not drinking. More often than not, my housemate can be found, working on her lecture, enjoying the wifi. She has never failed to buy me a nice glass of Walter Blondale, a blond ale, or an Oatmeal Stout. But she was probably getting ready to sleep the night away on her sailboat, moored at a marina on Lake Muskegon. I spotted Jeff having a nice pint with his wife, Radie. Her name sounds like the word radiant, which she is. I filled up a biodegradable plastic cup with ice water, which the Hill gives away free. I didn't want to look like a beggar when I approached Jeff's table. And when I did, I slugged him on his massive right arm. "Jeff, you're a made man! I saw your chain mail jewelry in the gift shop of the Muskegon Museum of Art!" "Yeah, the museum just asked to see my work. I'm going to be in the next email blast". I slapped him on his powerful back, "You're moving up the ladder fast now". And I made my way out with my glass of water, which I drank on the bench set out before the union hall.

Poor Mary, I remembered. The County's leading Democrat and Hillary delegate had delivered a batch of Colleen LaMonte yard signs to the hall. And then I had buttonholed her. That was Tuesday night. I said, "Mary, is LaMonte doing enough? I haven't heard a thing".

"Well, Marcia is your State Rep, right?" answered Mary, LaMonte's campaign manager.

"Right as rain. But, it's like Holly Hughes the Republican incumbent has me on speed dial"

"We have crews going door to door nightly. We have signs all the way up and down Seaway".

"Sure, Mary, but is it enough. I hear nothing about LaMonte. And I have my ear to the ground. I am the canary in the coal mine. The Cassandra singing in the opera".

"I don't really want to argue with you, Will", Mary said to wrap up the chat.

"I don't want to argue with you either, Mary". "I'll let LaMonte know your concern personally".

"Thank you, Mary. Just trying to help".

Poor Mary, I was so tired and such a troll and she was so diplomatic. I drank the last sip of water and continued on my way.

I gave the Buster Keaton statue a slap on the back, and the cold bronze hurt my hand, serving me right. Keaton was a little shorter than me. The lights of the Frauenthal marquee had gone dark for the night although the lobby lights were bright. Patrons were exiting after experiencing, "A Murder is Announced". Twenty dollars to see the play or twenty dollars to see 'Heros and Villians', the next program of the West Michigan Symphony. I studied the poster in the window and thought, "Oh good, next Friday. Seventeen Hundred seats in the hall and Clara from the symphony fills them. Heck, she takes attendance". I smiled at this thought. How could one person keep it all straight? And yet, the leader of the symphony came of age on the Mississippi River in LaCrosse. She probably trained her mind by memorizing the schedules of barges and paddlewheelers on the river.

I usually slip into the Holiday Inn for a free coffee from the urn by the door. The lobby looked crowded with people and I wasn't dressed well enough to be a wedding crasher. So I ducked into Unruly to score a bag of popcorn. I didn't see a person I knew and I glanced at all the faces. A DJ was doing the Sir Mix-A-Lot thing at a pair of turntables, accessing vinyl from milk crates. A chalkboard sign promised a free folk band on my birthday night. "Say, if a friend took me to Hobo's tonight, I could score a free ribeye. Two for one on your birthday". And I made a mental short list of who to call. Next Friday, payday too, Unruly promised beer for breakfast. Not free but okay.  I thought, "Who keeps track of all these great events"? I took my popcorn outside and sat on a metal bench donated by a man named Gary and his wife, right in front of the distillery that a man named Michael and his wife were installing. The two had just put in place a Brunswick bar in wood, with all the fine moulding and gingerbread finely restored and refinished. Opening day must be drawing close.

The lights remained on in the new bus station and a man waited for a bus outside. So I went inside and checked the slots for forgotten change and scored enough for a free large coffee. I had just sipped once on the brim when a bus driver strolled into the lobby. "Hello! Hello! You must leave immediately. The doors are about to lock automatically". I thought about waking up on my birthday morning in a bus station, a pleasant thought. It wouldn't be the first time. I took my coffee out to the passenger benches. I sipped slowly.

She boarded the West Sherman bus, and called out to me, "Do you need a ride, sir"? "No, I'm good. Thank you".  And she closed the bus door and took her single passenger on her route. I thought about a joy ride that would end at the farmer's market in Muskegon Heights. Nothing awaited now but a party store to sell me a que to drink in good company at the corner of Broadway and Center. I thought to myself, "Any place is a birthday party on a birthday eve, right"?

I sipped my coffee and studied the brick exterior of the Social Security building. "I'm not old enough for social security yet. Do I have twelve years to go? Fourteen?" I studied the arch leading into the Old Indian Cemetery and thought, "I'm not ready for the big sleep either". And I slowly sipped my coffee, alone with my thoughts, awaiting the first ring of the Hackley Bell tower chiming midnight. If one counts the toll of twelve for midnight, one must hear the first one to get the count right.

When I came to, I had a coffee stain on my lap. I'm not sure the tower chimed three times or five times, but I knew I was fifty-three years of age.

I was pretty sure it was a coffee stain. I had brushed the empty paper cup onto the ground.

The Jingyun Bell, cast in 711 during the Tang Dynasty. 247 cm high and 6,500 kg. On display at the Xi'an Bell Tower in Xi'an, PRC. Tourists can ring the bell for a fee.

24 October 2007

Photographer BrokenSphere

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