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November 3, 2010

The King of State Street

The King of State Street

Fall is a premonition of Winter. A warning of the onset of the blizzard's cold. Summer knows nothing but always, I feel like the Fall might teach me something. A secret about the coming of winter.

Maybe I can learn something from the geese or the trees and I watch them as closely as practicable, diligently snapping photos of Sandhill Cranes and Red Oaks.

The oaks shed their leaves, releasing a shower of walnut-sized acorns to the ground. The geese wade reluctantly into the cold lakes at dusk, to rest, safe from the foxes' jaws. The deer bed down to chew their cud. A murder of crows draws in their wake the pink clouds and the evening's stars.

But nothing is learned. Everything fades and nothing sticks. Everything slips by as the leaves follow the creeks to the lake, and I'm left staring at the naked trees, wondering how they looked before the fall.

There is this and friend and I drive into Madison for dinner maybe for the last time.

The college girls strut down State Street in shorts. They zip by on scooters without helmets and everything seems so ephemeral. So transient and fleeting. We're only on this stage for such a short time and I don't know what to do. I don't know why we're here or what happens when we die and the Fall is all around us now. Closing in faster than I'd envisioned.

We park and walk down State street, like we always do, carefully studying the meter to make sure we don't get another hundred dollar parking ticket.

It's not cold, at least not unbearably so. As we walk nothing is said. Or, nothing of any consequence is said.

Words mean so little in these times. Maybe, I should tell him what I learned from the Fall. But what have I learned? I'm afraid I have no wisdom to impart. Nothing to share but my own confusion.

"This weekend, we'll celebrate Dewali," he announces, sensing my melancholy stupor.

"What is this?" I ask.

"It is something we celebrate. Sort of like a God of money. Here, you see on this billboard here....this is a sign for the celebration of Dewali. We should go buy some gold jewelry for our daughters. This is a good thing to do for the holiday. It brings good luck."

"Your currency has a swastika on it?" I ask. Like, last time I checked, swastikas were pretty much verboten in the U.S.

"The Swastika is like a good luck symbol. You remember when I told you about the Ohm? The symbol we saw on that girl's bag? Well the Swastika is like the Ohm symbol. The two are very close in meaning, you see?"


So much there is outside of the United States, it seems. So hard to know what other cultures think. I travel all the time but somehow, I feel ethnocentric and thin.

We stop into a store to buy jewelry for our daughters. I decide to replace Jennifer's necklace because the only one I ever bought her - the only jewelry she ever owned - ended up in a black hole on Wisteria Lane and the person holding it refuses to return it for reasons that escape me.

So we buy our girls some jewelry and we walk down the street in silence to the little Italian restaurant that we found one night long ago.

The little waitress recognizes us and smiles and sits us by the window. We order dinner and friend produces his battered copy of Killing Strangers and asks me to sign it and I dunno where he had it but now I have to sign it and this is what I hate. I hate saying goodbye and I'd rather lay down on the railroad tracks than say goodbye to a person this close to me.

You know how, all your life, everyone's trying to screw you out of something and you're never sure what their angle is or how they're working you but you know, deep down, without question, that you're being played but you just can't see the angle? Friend is not that way. Friend is the guy that has your back all day every day. He's been carrying me since I came to Wisconsin and, quite honestly, I'm not sure that I want to come back if he's not going to be here.

Sleeping in $140 a night hotel rooms gets old in a hurry and I can't stand being on the road all alone. Everyone else has families and ceramics classes and poker night and very few people have enormous cracks in their lives that they're trying to patch with Rob.

I dunno what I'll do when he's gone and I try not to think of it as the eternally young college girls pedal by. Over chicken parmesan, fresh baked bread, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, I accept his battered copy of Killing Strangers and sign it "To the guy who carried me for four months in Wisconsin, I will always be indebted to you, The King of State Street."

Posted by Rob Kiser on November 3, 2010 at 8:09 PM


Outstanding! I miss you. Someday maybe I can meet friend.

Posted by: critic on November 4, 2010 at 12:22 AM

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