Jack Buck ~ Temporary self-directed activities

Went down the Colorado River, got out and camped along the way. A two-per­son tent for the group wasn’t large enough, so instead, we stored all our belong­ings inside the tent, elect­ing to sleep out under the stars. Our bod­ies could han­dle the nat­ur­al ele­ments, but the phys­i­cal objects we brought with us, not. Like sleep­ing dogs, one eye up the oth­ers slept in shifts doz­ing away. This high up, I reach out and hold the sky in my closed fist—ear to the ground, an open por­tal to celes­tial ancient dreams.

Next morn­ing, climbed atop the moun­tains to take a look around full of sun and fer­vor. Late after­noon hail and rain at 10, 500 feet. Huddled thir­ty min­utes under a bluff of Douglas-fir. Slightly con­cerned, but mer­ri­er. In this moment, life is whole, we are hap­py and not caus­ing any harm to any­one or any­thing. Our pro­pos­al of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion for pre­vi­ous every­day slights.

Back down in the city, I have $425 dol­lars left in my check­ing account, not enough to cov­er my por­tion of next month’s rent. Next week I’ll walk the two miles to stand in line at the temp job ser­vice build­ing. The office man­ag­er points out how we can earn a buck more an hour if we’re will­ing to work the third shift. We eager­ly find the ratio­nale for this trade­off. Not only is it more mon­ey that we need every dol­lar of, but it’s quick­ly learned your co-work­ers in the fac­to­ry on the 10–6am shift tell more jokes and inter­est­ing stories.

We are not chang­ing the world here, we are load­ing box­es onto pal­lets but it’s enough to cov­er our cur­rent needs which are very lit­tle to mod­est. We stick with it for three or four pay­checks until we real­ize we want some­thing else like always.

Fifty-fifty chance it works out — start from that premise. A cou­ple weeks pass, and we spend mon­ey and live life, as you can guess, on the go. After we run out of mon­ey we will walk back down to the temp ser­vice build­ing shade­less and stark to stand in line with famil­iar faces. Hello, Hey, How’s it going? What’s the word? How about it? See ya when I see ya.

There are no sig­nif­i­cant reper­cus­sions for end­ing a work assign­ment. You just tell the floor super­vi­sor when they’re sign­ing your week­ly log at the end of the week that you won’t be com­ing back on Monday. They shrug, mut­ter­ing in reply, Whatever. More to the point, they don’t real­ly care, they’re on full-time salary, we just fill spots for work at a cost-sav­ing rate for the man­u­fac­tur­er at low bar­ri­ers of entry.

On our way out at the end of the shift they leave out dam­aged goods that we inspect­ed, boxed, and wrapped. We car­ry out as much as we can out the entrance door — gra­nola bars, bread, fruit snacks, and apple sauce packs.

The bar we most fre­quent is the old­est bar in the city and it rotates between 1950s danc­ing music of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry and 70’s rock and roll. The bar­tender knows our faces and slides us the occa­sion­al drink on the house, and the rest of our mon­ey is spent on drinks and break­ing bills for quar­ters to shoot pool. The mon­ey changes hands over and over until the bar­tender tells us to get the fuck out. Some nights we deserved to be yelled at. A hand­ful of times we prob­a­bly should’ve been punched in the face to be taught a lesson.

Back on top of the jagged rocks with the wind whip­ping, the expanse of the moun­tains is hyp­no­tiz­ing. Over 40 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the south­west rely on this 1,450-mile-long riv­er curv­ing its way from its source in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Colorado River. I bend down and drink from my hand like a cup.

First night in Denver an open mic that last­ed until four in the morn­ing. Walking home through the down­town emp­ty streets of shad­ows and laugh­ter echo­ing off the side of the old neigh­bor­hood alley­ways. Haven’t slept in three days.

Gaining light/impending arrival:  Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado. I look over at some­one in my life as I am in their life.

Mutual advance­ment of the soul: Enough space and time to ask the big ques­tions and revise think­ing in search of test­ing beliefs.

We live our lives in the way of giv­ing our lives mean­ing. You can­not know you are miss­ing some­thing until you are away from what you are now miss­ing, giv­ing away our­selves to the memory

There’s a break­fast spot on Colfax Ave that stays open 24 hours. All of these cir­cum­stances of vari­ables equate to the best plate of pan­cakes of my life. I pull out a pock­et-sized notepad and write: it was/is remem­ber­ing now and then.


Jack C. Buck is the author of the col­lec­tions Deer Michigan and Gathering View. He is cur­rent­ly work­ing on his third book. He cur­rent­ly lives in Idaho with his wife.