You are a bent wheel.
I can't draw circles
they look like eggs
I can't make the ends connect
You are my cliché
on the windowsill of my mind
the microwave blinks with spare seconds
You said the atom bomb should only be as a last resort
I thought of resort as in pool-room service-fruit drinks
Not resort as in no more options
and when the bomb goes off we die knowing we still haven’t invented a more sophisticated way of bobbing for apples.
When my cousin asks me if the bracelet on my arm is a Lance Armstrong bracelet it doesn’t occur to me that I’m in Austin, Texas where Armstrong lives. It also doesn’t occur to me that I’m traveling from Austin to France, home to a bicycle race where Lance had a bit of success. I’m feeling unsettled that there is a connection. A clue I haven’t yet understood. I answer “no” to my cousin, an unintentional lie because I never associate the yellow bracelet on my arm with Lance Armstrong. I’m trying to put the clues together and for a moment I wonder if I’m thinking out loud and look at my cousin to see if he heard me when he asks “What kind of music are you listening to?” which is right when Robert Johnson says, "oooh baby"and I say "oooh baby, I hear you Robert." while thumbing the bracelet where LIVESTRONG is imprinted.
I always interpreted the LIVESTRONG as living boldly, living quickly and outrageously and I'm thinking Robert Johnson would have thought about it the same way, even would have had a LIVESTRONG bracelet of his own. Which makes me think maybe it's not just Lance, that Robert is part of the puzzle as well because he wrote a lot of blues for a guy who died when he was 27. And since you can't have blues without experiences, the kind of experiences that come with a LIVESTRONG way of life, the kind that make you say "oooh baby." But because his life was so poorly documented no one knows exactly what happened that made him sing to Willie Mae “All my loves in vain.” Which is why, dear reader, I'm writing to you to now to let you know I've been married, divorced, then engaged and then unengaged, the owner of a million and a half dollars of real estate, the loser of a million and a half in real estate. I've been in jail. I've been a teacher, a management consultant and a real pirate of the Caribbean all by age twenty-nine. So I'm being brief when I say to my cousin, “It’s LIVESTRONG-Bracelet-Music.”
I was surprised when I became Mr. Wonderful because I’ve never liked the word checkup. It reminds me of the first time I ever heard it. It came out of the mouth of my fifty-year old Mormon baby sitter. She’d said something about going for a checkup and at the time, for whatever reason, I thought this had something to do with someone looking up her skirt. And the image of what a person would encounter looking up Mrs. Bigler's skirt still bothers me.
And when I was sitting in a chair in the waiting room of the dentist office, filling out the new patient form which asks about your allergies and dental history but also does the job of asking introductory questions like “How Would You Like to Be Addressed?” In case you’re name is Robert and you go by Ert but without the form they might accidentally just call you Bob. Or if you’re like me and your name is Jeff Brainard and you suddenly decide it’d be nice to be called Mr. Wonderful which is what I wrote in the blank. I'm surprised at my playfulness while chewing on the pen thinking about the word "checkup." I realize it isn’t my pen but the dentists’ and I think it’s kind of funny to leave my impressions on it. For a moment I imagine becoming wealthy by selling promotional pens that look like they’ve been chewed and say something clever about dentistry. Which is what I was thinking about when the receptions picked up her clipboard and said "Mr. Wonderful you can come on back." And the hygienist greeted me, "Have a seat Mr. Wonderful." And after she cleaned my teeth and the dentist came to inspect her work she said, "All set Mr. Wonderful."
The name stuck for a while when Anna, who coached the Junior Varsity Volleyball team told her girls, "His name is Mr. Wonderful" so anytime one of them walked by they'd wave and say "Heyyyyy Mr. Wonderful." A couple days later I even I found a baseball style t-shirt at a thrift store that said "Mr Wonderful" across the front.
When we left Florida Anna stopped coaching volleyball and I never went back to that dentist. We got rid of everything when we left cars, houses, couches, everything except for bathing suits, few t-shirts and each other. And for a while I kept the name, Mr. Wonderful. “Good morning Mr. Wonderful,” Anna would say with one whale sized eye open.
At one point in our relationship the name faded and fell into the list of things we used to say to each other. And then, a few weeks ago we did with each other what we did with the rest of our stuff before we left.
The only luggage I'm carrying is a green duffel bag. The total of all I own is small enough to fit into the overhead storage compartment of an economy airline. Earlier the security agent at the airport in Panama sifted through my faded bathing suits. I always watch this process closely because I always wonder if they’re as uncomfortable looking through other peoples baggage as people are having their baggage looked through. I notice the Mr. Wonderful t-shirt as he stuffs my clothes back in the duffel and I suddenly realize why baggage also means the kind of things Robet Johnson says, “ooooooh baby about.”
I'm on way to Orlando, the first time I've returned to the U.S. in two years. It's a red eye flight and everyone is asleep. The plane is steady and it's dark outside so it's hard to determine if we're even moving or if it's just simulation, a virtual unreality and part of me wishes it was. The flight attendant wakes everyone up as she passes out immigration forms. The questions are basic but still I'm struggling.
Address? I don't know. I've lived on my sailboat for the last two years in different locations throughout the Caribbean. I decided to fill in the name of the boat S/V Desdemona.
Reason for your visit? Why am I visiting? I don't know. I don't think seeing family is the most complete answer. I sit there chewing on the top of a stranger’s pen trying to come up with something satisfactory. And I look at the form trying to activate a zoom out function but all I can see are my teeth marks on the pen and where it says, “Address?” on the form and it reminds me of the dentist where I became Mr. Wonderful and for a moment I wonder if going back to the waiting room, to the place that it began would help me regain my title like Simba did in the Lion King. So I take a second to peer out the window but didn’t notice any clouds in the shape of a lion’s head or the voice of James Earl Jones ready to offer advice so I set the form down and just leave the question blank.
As I become accustomed to the new scenery. Life sans Anna sans sailing, sans ocean, here in Austin driving around I start to notice the details like the road signs that are hanging diagonally off the highways and the extremely wide bike lanes. I wonder if the bike lanes are an “everything is bigger in Texas” sort of thing or if it’s a result of having Lance Armstrong as a resident. It’s then that I remember an article I’d read about Lance’s heart being bigger than the normal person’s heart, not a "everything is bigger in Texas" sort of thing but one reason he is such a tremendous athlete. Even considered by many to be the greatest athlete of all time. I wonder if Lance’s girlfriend, also named Anna calls him Mr. Wonderful and I hope she does because a guy with an oversized heart and an Anna should never sing “oooh baby.”