January 22, 2010

Grandfather Was a Red

Grandfather Was a Red
this girl knows
I remember driving through the mountains in Montana, in the passenger seat of a light blue pickup beside my friend Boris, a man of Ukranian descent with a head the size of a boulder and a 101 year old granny who made him donuts once a month. We were on an old logging road between two severe slopes, a jumping sapphire creek to our right. The sky floated above us, an astonishing deep ribbon of unclouded blue. Dust billowed behind us but all was calm and unmoving ahead, as if no one had been there for years. Up the hill to our left we saw a family of big horn sheep picking their way over the rocks, Boris stopped the truck and we watched them scatter away, reclusive wild creatures still very much afraid of humans and engines. A few minutes later a tawny Coopershawk flew straight toward us out of the canyon, its wings barely moving, just floating above us then arcing suddenly upward and out of sight and I begged Boris to stop so we could please get out of the truck. Boris wasn't much of a walker, but once in a while I could convince him to sit on a rock or lean on a fence and shoot the breeze.

Sometimes he told me stories about his childhood in Eastern Montana, taking his grandfather lunch at the switching yard, how everyone was a communist in the 40's, or the terrific blizzards that would blow through, the terrible wind in Livingston, the back room boxing matches in Billings, and all the men who would ride in off the plains looking for work or a meal, wanderers with horses and skills. When your a kid you never think people could be running from anything, you never think they might be out there all alone in the tall grass because something back home didn't work out, because something turned sour, went bad -- or because they woke up one day and realized it all stinks.

Yesterday when I heard about the Supreme Court decision lifting all restrictions on corporate spending during elections I thought about leaving this country, just packing up and going. Getting the hell out. The last time I seriously contemplated that was when we bombed Afghanistan after September 11th...back then I thought I can't leave New York, I can't leave my city but I don't have the same allegiance to the United States as I do to New York City, and believe me I'm starting to wonder about NYC. This is all just to say what the hell? And how bad is it going to get? Capitalism will be seeping out of the caulk between the tiles in my shower pretty soon, corruption oozing from the oatmeal... Anyway where would I go? Billings? I can't even go for a drive in the Bitterroot with Boris because he died a couple of years ago. By then he was living in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere and no one even knew he was dead for a week. I guess he would have been one of those wandering guys, except he didn't have a horse, and he didn't like to walk that much, and he was married to his books and never strayed far from his electric guitar or his marijuna plants. But I'm pretty sure he thought it all stank, like I do now. And I know he died an unrepentant Communist, just like his grandfather and his father and all the women in his family including that granny who made the donuts and what I wouldn't give for one of those just now.