The Middle Ages

AROUND  6 P.M. yesterday, I was watering the yard with a hose. Six months a year, this is not necessary. The other six months, it surely is. Just plants. I don’t water the grass.

If grass grows, it needs mowing.

I started with the Alamo Wall, spraying the ivy that covers the far side. Had you told me when I was middle-aged that I would spend my waning years behind an ivy-covered wall, I would have thought you daft or worse.

I went on to water things on the wall’s other side, where the yard sits. I only water plants I like. I do not like the loquat tree or the peach either. Not too fond of the pear.

They are trash-tossers.

I do water the sole remaining banana stand, the four rose bushes and the two daturas. I water the towering nopal cactus because I don’t want it to die and thunder down.

I do not water the huge maguey, but I do soak the two beefy aloe veras and the surrounding greenery. I douse the pole cacti, which are over my head now.

I water no bougainvillea. Damn things are on their own.

While watering I was thinking about history.

I have a bachelor’s degree in history. There are few degrees more useless than history. I almost topped myself, however, because when I first attended a university right out of high school, I majored in philosophy.

That was at Vanderbilt in 1962. But I soon dropped out and dropped philosophy too. What was I thinking?

I read lots of history these days. Recently, I’ve been focusing on the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, but it’s unfashionable to say that now. Maybe it’s a race thing.

There was lots of fun stuff in the Middle Ages. There was Charlemagne; his daddy, Pepin the Short; Vikings; Dual Papacies; tribes with names like Lombards, Franks and Jutes; and women named Gerberga and Himiltrude.

Nobody is named Himiltrude anymore.

lady
Gerberga

About a thousand years passed between the Roman Empire’s demise and the Renaissance. That time in between was the Dark Ages. We’re about 200 years shy of another millennium passing.

We’ll enter another Dark Age because people never learn. When baby girls once more have names like Gerberga and Himiltrude, you’ll know it’s time to dig caves and stockpile canned goods and hand grenades.

In the meantime, I wake every morning in the king bed next to my child bride, feeling fine and looking ahead to another day of blue skies, cool breezes and flocks of snowy egrets flying between here and the green mountains.

My Middle Ages were Dark Ages, but now my Old Age is a Grand Age even though I gotta water the yard.

The Zapata Files

LET’S OPEN the 70-year-old file cabinet and peek inside.

Oh, dear. Look at the mess, the disarray. This is not a “Father Knows Best” cabinet. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason nor direction. The files go this way and that. Let’s take a closer look.

filesThis cabinet seems strangely familiar. I do believe it’s my personal cabinet.

There’s a whiff of Boodles Gin. And ayahuasca.

Getting out of high school at the top end of my class, I enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Thought I’d major in philosophy. Weeks later, I dropped out and joined the military. A couple of years later, with only one stripe, I dropped out of that too. Better go to college, young man, because everybody does it. A path to success.

About seven colleges and universities later (really), from Louisiana to Tennessee to California, I got a Bachelor’s Degree in History, useless but better than nothing. In the meantime, I got married, became a father.

A file is tabbed Descendants. Inside are two sub-files. One is labeled Offspring. It contains two sheets. One is rimmed in pink and says Alienated. The other is rimmed in black and says Deceased. The second sub-file is labeled Grandchildren. That file is empty — and always will be.

And here’s a file labeled Siblings. There is one sheet inside. It is rimmed in rainbow colors and trimmed like sharp teeth. It contains two words: Alienated and Angry.

Let’s open the file labeled Marriages. There are three documents. Three wives! Here’s a file labeled Employment. The entry with the most sheets is Newspapering, but I never took a newspapering class in my life. What happened to the History degree? There are other pages in Employment.

I see taxi driver, bartender, insurance broker, insurance salesman, repo man and electrician. Electrician? Where did that come from? Let’s open the file labeled Schooling. Behind the Bachelor’s Degree in History are other pages. One is an Associate Degree in Electrical Construction Technology.

Here too is a document marked Incomplete. Looks like I was one class short of an Associate Degree in Computer Science. Digging farther, I find other papers. One says Certified Massage Therapist. Another says Certified Mixologist. (No shock there.) Another says Certified Private Pilot. Clearly, I was certifiable.

I often envy people whose life had a clear and straight trajectory. But perhaps I had more fun. I hope so.

I definitely had more wives.