Yesterday's wonder was a bright rainbow at the top of the Organ Mountains. (God's comment to the Interior Department on keeping our monument as is?) Cameraless, I tried to capture the image with my cell phone, but hadn't a clue how to zoom in.
Today's is a roadrunner, crossing Roadrunner Parkway then strolling into Caliche's parking lot, straight toward the bench where I'm pigging out. I would tell him that despite the street's name, motorists won't cut him much slack, but he wouldn't listen. He turns and walks against traffic past the drive-in window, headed for Subway. I pull out the cell phone, but ain't any smarter about the zoom than I was last night.
It's been a funny afternoon. First I record a radio interview with a friend, a Zen Buddhist roshi who'd had little interest in spiritual matters until he lay long into the night in a Vietnamese jungle with an four by two-inch oblong hole in his head. (“I'm one of the few men who's reached in and touched his own brain,” he laughs.) He struggled to stay awake in case of another attack. For hours, he listened to the desperate cries of a fellow soldier he himself had shot, when the fellow, without his signal flashlight, came running toward him during the battle like a charging enemy soldier.
We talk more than an hour about life and death and meditation.
Then I go to the rehab establishment where one of my closest friends is “imprisoned.” (His word.) He's 86. Yesterday, he berated me for not having sprung him from the place, and for urging him to do physical therapy. Today he smiles and tells me he and the physical therapists have been having fun. “I did a bunch of crazy things with my leg. Can't do any harm. It won't do any good, but it can't do any harm.” He talks about his father, a 6'7” New York City policeman who weighed 330 pounds and held the world record in the shot put more than a hundred years ago. He says cheerfully that he's dying. He asks about “the silly radio station” and says he wishes there were an afterlife, so he could watch the foolish antics of his earthly friends, “but I'm still an atheist to the core.”
It's a good visit, although a nurse tells me “he's still cantankerous.”
Yesterday, along with complaints about food, the tiny TV, and the pointlessness of P.T., he was furious that the young people working there “haven't a clue who James Cagney and Doris Day were, but expect me to know about all their favorites.” Bud taught cinema for decades. Today he's cheered when one young therapist, an athlete, having googled Bud's father, chats with Bud about athletes from different eras.
Has he passed through angry resistance and come to terms with his reasonable belief that he'll die soon? He's often said, as I'm leaving, that he won't be alive tomorrow. Today he says that, but more quietly, with less bravado.
With a later visitor, he talks more about his childhood, his dogs, and death. When she leaves she kisses him and says, as she often does, “I love you.” Usually he growls, “I can't think why.” Today he says, “If I make it through the night, I'll tell you what that means to me.” When she's almost out the door, he shouts, “I love you!”
His best friend for nearly a half-century, I'm not sure I've heard him say that out loud. Maybe he's finally stopped imitating Cagney and Bogart. We love you, man!
[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 16 July, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website.]