As I write in mid-March, The Note is on spring break this week. Longtime readers of RHP may recall that this journal is named after a woman named Right Hand Pointing, but whose nickname is “The Note.” Many years ago, I gave her a leather jacket with “The Note” tooled on the back of the jacket. It’s a long story which I might tell one day.
It’s funny that The Note says she is on spring break because she’s not been enrolled in higher education since graduating from dental school. But every year, sometime in March, The Note declares to herself that she’s on spring break, even though it makes no difference at all what she does during that week. When she was in dental practice, she saw patients, as usual, during the holiday week. Now The Note has been working at a neighborhood bar on E. Washington St, near downtown Indianpolis, living rent-free on premises, in a tiny room one floor up—a perk which partly offsets the terrible pay. During spring break she does what she always does. which is to manage the bar. The owner refuses to refer to her as the manager, because it would signal a need to pay her a reasonable wage, which he is unwilling and, The Note knows, also unable to pay. Business is not good. But in spite of not having a title or paycheck that would suggest the recipient is a manager, she runs the place.
“My private observation of spring break actually gives me pleasure,” she wrote me recently on a yellowed postcard with a picture of a 1974 Ford pickup truck on the glossy side. “And, it’s not any kind of bitter pleasure. Spring break means a lot to me. When you think about it, it doesn’t matter whether you go someplace or not. Spring break is a thing of the mind and I choose to have it on my mind.”
I called the bar and got The Note on the phone. I could hear Gregg Allman singing "Melissa" on the tinny sound system. Or it could have been a decent sound system, since I was listening to it on a cell phone.
"Got your postcard, Note."
"You got my postcard note?"
"No, The Note, I got your postcard."
"That nickname is not practical. I told a couple of regulars at the bar about it and they misheard it and call me 'Nope.'"
"That's because you keep telling those guys nope. Hey, you said spring break is a thing of the mind."
"Spring break is a thing of the mind. That's why I said it"
"You ever take in a spring break in, say, Panama City Beach? If you had, you would not say spring break is a thing of the mind."
"I have a bar to run. Do you have anything else?"
"No, Note. That's all I got today."
"Bye. Love you."
There are only a few people in my life who know about my longstanding friendship with the disgraced dentist. There are still fewer who understand it. I have an interest in disgraced people. People who lose everything. It fascinates and frightens me. Frightens me because I always figure I’m just one really bad decision away from being in there-before-the-Grace-of-God territory. Maybe we all are. The territory of disgraced people seems to be growing. John Edwards is there. Eliot Spitzer. Pete Rose and Barry Bonds. A bunch of priests and bishops. Some city and county employees with porn problems. Bernie Madoff. Well, Bernie’s also in prison. Bill Clinton went in but quickly decided he didn’t like the place and just left. It’s as hard as hell to leave that place and only Bill Clinton could pull that off.
"Labor disgraces no man," said Ulysses S. Grant, "unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor." The Note does not disgrace labor. Not when she was fixing teeth. Not when she sweeps the bar and hands another draft to a guy who calls her Nope.
Here's issue 97, featuring work by a dozen writers. I like this one. I like 'em all, really. My thanks, as always, to my friends and colleagues Laura M Kaminski, F. John Sharp, and F. J. Bergmann. Enjoy!