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Planting a Stake (Other) by Alizarin_Crimson
<This is a Lyrical Essay> “Lennie said quietly, “It ain’t no lie. We’re gonna do it. Gonna get a little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’.” From Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck * I could be an alpaca rancher, out in the country (there's still some left, you know). Maybe in Oregon, Montana. It's a completely viable way to make a living. I can totally see it: a little house, a yard, and a field—a modest operation. I’ll keep five or six of those jaunty ragamuffins, and shear them every spring. I'll feed them large bales of alfalfa hay, the kind you can buy right off the truck in some regions, freshly packed, with its glorious dried green odor. Then I'll cover my own food pyramid with chickens, corn, and fruit trees. I’d fancy a couple of sly whiskered cats as well, to keep out the mice and laze around with me in the hammock. I’ll have an old pick-up truck, solely for the purpose of “going into town” for things. Every morning, I'll get up early to catch the sunrise, stepping out into air so fresh you could cut it into pieces and sell them off as "slices of heaven." My clothes will be drying outside on the line, while I'm in the kitchen squeezing lemonade, keeping out The Man with an electric fence. * Bee keeping’s a solid way to go, in fact, in some states it’s subsidized by the government. We as humans, can only do so much; our talents stop and we employ, we outsource. Now, imagine a creature whose very existence—whose every natural inclination—is considered a pure commodity. The honeybee, like a superior machine, procures pollen for the greater good of the hive; simultaneously, he brings life to the flowers, fruit to our tables, and honey, that treasure which we scrape off their chambered palaces. Guilt is unnecessary; the bee has nothing in life but the want to do it all over again. The design is perfect. * Our most precious commodity is time. * There’s a lot of money in coffee. Next to crude oil, it’s the highest grossing resource on the planet. Makes sense. Cars need fuel to run, and so do we apparently, although I always thought of our “ fuel” as being food, or love maybe. Starbuck’s disagrees. Again, we’re not like the bees with their built-in work ethic. It’s all about extraction: how to wring the stuff right out of the bean, and get it into liquid form. In other words, if you brew it, they will come. I enjoy the ambiance of coffee houses and cafes just as much as the next person. Their worldwide popularity, I believe, stems from the fact that they offer nothing substantial, save for a great steaming excuse to STOP. It’s about pausing; refueling. Maybe I could sign up, jump on the bean-wagon, and become a distributor. What’s amazing is the way that it has inundated our daily routines, our language; a semiotic conduit for human understanding. Dramatically, we shake in front of passing acquaintances, explaining our run-down state of affairs as a result of skipping our morning dosage. Beneath these poses, we wriggle under the foot of something entirely more imminent; something that has not yet come to fruition. Subconsciously, the weight of it pulls us in further, closer to the bottom of the cup, a temporary substitute for the actual grail. * “Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.” -Ovid * The average per-capita amount of swimming pools in Los Angeles County is .367 per person, or roughly one for every three people. And that’s just L.A.—when you figure in all of southern California, that’s a lot of subterranean investing. * It doesn’t really matter what you do, anyway, you just have to do it. Take my Aunt’s pool guy, for instance. Broke and hung over. Feeling tender under the afternoon glare, like a boiled sponge, he sank into the shallow-end at the Ramada Inn. As he belched, he happened to catch his reflection: a nasty, leathered complexion, a greasy patch of blonde hair that was quickly drying up. He whisked away the image with his finger tips…if only it were that easy to change reality. His movements created a rippling that reached out to the edges, then came back to him, alone and wrecked upon a telescoping shore of isolation. All he could distill from his booze-wilted consciousness was a twisting desire to feel clean again. Clean. He’d like to stay in that pool forever until death, pocketed safely below the glassy surface. Then something splashed down at the deep end, shattering his concentration into hundreds of tiny-peaked waves. There stood his savior: an angel of maintenance, purging the waters with a long, graceful stroke. Clarity flooded his parched sanctity; an encouraging audience of fractured sunlight danced on the tiles below him. Days later, he bought $500 worth of equipment, stuck it in the back of his truck, and started cleaning pools. He was paying off debts by the first four months; after four years, he had his own business. Homeowners plant their stakes firmly in the Western soil, putting in pools put at the apex of their success, then leaving them there to do nothing but grow algae and collect leaves. All those people having their dreams dug out of earth, shrines to their economic vitality, new clients every week. He kept those dreams properly chlorinated, filtered; scrubbed their sides when necessary. Day after day, out there in cut-off shorts, on long afternoons testing the pH levels of a teal thumbprint in Pasadena. Time was passing by him, like leaves drifting towards an unclogged filter. Sometimes, as he gazed into yet another private “Oasis,” he thought he’d reached some kind of enlightenment. In that reflection, the invisible space between the water and the sky, he saw the mortality of all material things; the face of time. He felt then, that he was a part of something else; like a droplet in the atmosphere, slowly and inadvertently rising towards a storm.

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