December 31, 2017
It is cold and crisp outside on the deck and thus perfect for seeing what the universe is trying, once again, to tell me. The wind swirls on the ground, some leaves rustle free from beneath the snow, the fireplace of a new beginning sees its flames burning confidently.
Visually the world seemed far away. The sounds of house parties were faint and distant and for the moment, the tinny sounds of the braying on the discord, disillusionment and destruction seemed under the power of the mute button.
Batman lay quiet but as always on alert. Topsie took her snores to new areas of exploration. The grappa is my hand kept calling to me as the year cascaded like a cymbal crying down a flight of steps.
The wind started to pick up and threatened to howl but I stubbornly stayed outside. I was far from the newsroom tonight yet wondered.
So transfixed I did not know he was there until I felt the hand on my shoulder. Batman had not moved or barked, only raised his ears. Topsie stretched in anticipation.
“Hello Old Geezer,” I said, shifting in the Adirondack. “So you finally made it to my house.”
The squeeze on my shoulder was like a grip now. “I had to wait until you made it a home again,” he said. He slid into the second Adirondack, removed a delicate brandy glass from his overcoat pocket, and poured himself a grappa.
I watched the Old Geezer’s eyes dance from constellation to constellation, a slight smile crossing his face now and then. I dared to interrupt.
“So what are they saying to you and what are they not saying to the rest of us,” I asked.
The Old Geezer’s gaze remained focused in the sky. “Just think of the last year, the last decade, and then look for the patterns,” he said. “When you see them, then you will hear.”
Oh the stars were there, indeed. That I could see easily.
“They are shining bright, Old Geezer. So bright it makes it all seem beautiful. But it isn’t is it? Fewer people talk to each other today, the one time debate groups have become warring camps. History is not only repeating itself, it is transporting itself from countries afar to here,” I said.
He nodded slightly, eyes still transfixed on Orion.
“Yes, the universe is watching, Tomaso. They know the storm is coming. Do not be assuaged by the positive vibes. They must be your armor for the battle we will face soon,” he said.
Another sip of grappa. Silence from the Old Geezer, so I continued.
“I just do not want us to surrender. I want those who are silent to be crafty and forceful, to realize that once you lose something it is very very hard to get it back I want to make sure the cliche comes true, that we leave this country and world better for our kids than what was given to us,” I said.
Antares, with its distinctively red hue, was burning its eye into me.
“I stopped saying it cannot get much worse, since it is clear that it can,” I said.
The sipping stopped. “It does get worse,” the Old Geezer said. “And it seems and will always seem that the devil is never firmly in the bottle. That you solve the problem, beat back the challenge, only for it to come again.”
“We are all haunted and sliced by the past,” he said. “Our past and the past of this planet. Revenge and power combine to be the potion that many drink in order to feel alive and real and important. What was once the preferred cocktail just in this capital city is now the Kool-Aid that has seeped throughout the country. Add to that a dash of idealized ignorance and purple prose spin and you have the menu for downfall we face.”
The Old Geezer refilled our glasses. I took a good look at the man who has given me such love and sage advice through the decades, taught me how to report and write, who twice bailed out of B-24 bombers, taken prisoner and escaped, whose quiet temperament and slight smile and wise eyes took the punk under his arm and guided him.
He saw me looking with my poetic face, smiled and then asked what he often likes to ask me.
“So Tomaso, are you being wise or weary?”
“Wise, I hope,” I said with a smile, as I always replied.
The Old Geezer chuckled slightly.
“It’s tough to be a soloist in the choir, Tomaso,” he said. “Yet me must. Lots of good stuff there to write about. Don’t even think about fairness to all sides. I know very well that you need no such education, but can you tell that I’m an especially irritable mood tonight? Sad for the holiday season. They are going to try and beat the shit out of you. Don’t let them. They are indifferent and callous to humanity. You are not. Don’t let their dissonance drown out our harmony.
“Now tell me something that proves you are wise and not weary.”
That was easy for me. “All roads lead to the beach, Old Geezer,” I said. “The series continues, with an endless summer of fun.”
“Well, it’s not quite Thomas Paine but it will do,” he said.
The Old Geezer exhaled the fog of condensation of the coldness. “I never get tired of doing that,” he said.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s get going. Corral Inca, Peanut and Billy Bob over here to keep the pups happy and then we can collect the crew to tell the new year what we expect. I know that Adam has shuffled off to Buffalo but we still have Johnny Intel, the Flash, Moe, Heff, Rick, Bobby, Joel, Larry and Bubba. That’s a force no one best challenge.”
I left the deck to put on my worn black leather jacket, the piece of clothing that perhaps holds the most memories of my adulthood. The wind seemed to stop and the gusts got quiet. I could only hear the Old Geezer speaking as he looked at the challenging moon.
“Thanks very much,” he said. “We’re ready.”
Maybe it was the wind kicking back up but I thought I heard another voice say,”You better be. It’s just beginning. Do not falter.”
Batman’s ears went up again. Topsie thumped her tail.
We left the chili pepper lights on as we made our way to our chums.