Monday, June 25, 2012

Cigarette Smoke


A good moving journal has written for it the occasional metaphorical contrapposto, as the tilted arm or slumped shoulder hangs off the rigid posture of rightness and movement so popular in the character sketches of the old masters: Leonardo, Michelangelo and even as recently as Degas. This contrast in expression and timely movements creates a single frame wherein a viewer could look for hours if well told. And further, if well told, could then embed grace in the very antagonism of contrasting poses: one arm strong and supportive where the other is bent, pliant and lost in the wind. Contrast is what drives us, more so than the simple notion that change drives us. Change is random whereas contrast is change with memories of before. Contrast is why we remember the dance step quick-quick-slow better than quick-quick-quick. For the sake of contrast, tonight’s subject is about the opposite of moving, changing, fluctuating, and molting. For contrast and the grace of balance, tonight’s subject is about roots and the beginning of a new awareness to that which happens when things stop changing.

My new friend will be known as Bucca. Clearly this is not his name. He smokes. He’s old and seemingly closer and closer to a life in the hospital. I wish many things for Bucca. I wish him well. I wish for the feeling to come back to his leg so he can exercise. I wish his wife hadn’t passed and that he had someone. He does have a roommate right now and she is company and a steady ride to the hospital when needed. Bucca is old. It’s in his face, deeper than the lines and crevices, deeper than the skin slowly being drained of its suppleness. It’s in his face because it’s in his eyes. Bucca has sad eyes. His eyes look out, they skim and survey and land only fitfully on various things in their view. His eyes find no interest in what they see but seem so practiced in looking for things that they know no other habit than to look, survey and move on. I like Bucca very much; this affinity was not immediate.
Bucca sits most mornings on a nearly off-kilter, collapsible chair; it is at the least more sturdy than Bucca. He likes word puzzles. Most mornings he sits in front of his door, smoking his morning cigarette and solving puzzles in a book. We are not so dissimilar as I have my own collection of puzzles I habitually solve; the collection is on my iPhone and the puzzles deal with numbers, but these are only surface variations. We share a habitual practice to occupy our time and we do it with puzzles.

First Impressions are thankfully sometimes wrong-
At first I thought Bucca was a lonely, bitter, old man. I believe though that as I get to know him more that my first impression is incorrect. In fact, I look forward to the day when my first impression will be wildly incorrect. Bucca is the only person I see regularly in the morning and even in the evenings. He stands, looks out, surveys, registers no interest and continues looking and surveying until his cigarette burns through its life. Once complete, he turns with a slow shuffle and heads inside. In the mornings he sits studying his puzzles; they keep his mind sharp. I walk by, discuss the weather, ask about his health and if he had been to see the doctor recently. I want many things for Bucca but I think the thing I want the most it to see him every morning and evening so I can have someone to say hi to and I have some company as I pass time between work and living. Bucca is a man that has stopped to grow his roots in one place and, as I have so very little practice in growing my own roots, it always brings me comfort to see him study his puzzles and smoke his cigarettes. I absolutely hate cigarette smoke and especially loathe that lingering smell that even now permeates my clothes and steals the joy from the air. This however is a small price to pay for knowing that even as I plant roots for a single life in Los Angeles, I have a friend with his own sedentary roots who spends too much time playing games instead of getting out.

You would like Bucca; he doesn’t say much but when he does he complains about neighbors and reminisces about his wife. And Bucca has an excellent quality to share for anyone who wants to be known or heard in this world; Bucca is always happy to see you.