5.19.2009

Poo, not Pooh


I woke up on the first morning of moving here and the first thing, the very first thing I did was step in horse poo. Luckily it was outside my apartment across the street and on the designated walkway where no bicycles are allowed (but apparently horses are). Inside my apartment is a mess, as the former tenants had birds they obviously let poo freely, but the floors are clean enough and there's no horse poo as far as I can tell.

You can smell bird guano concentrated in certain places in the apartment but unless you squat down like you're pooing yourself, looking at our baseboards up close, you don't know where that smell originates. This horse poo had no smell even though it was clearly fresh. It won't be on my shoe, able to mingle with the bird smells at home since I'd just started running. But I'd just woken up in my new apartment in my new city to my new life. If you believed in omens, you'd get a little edgy with this one.

I kept running, watching perfect-looking runners in tight lycra with butts that don't shake step in the horse poo, too. One exceptionally good-looking guy: tall, thin, dark and with a perfect gait, squished right in the middle with his right foot. It caused him to slip but only for a slight moment and only an inch or two. He regained his posture and continued on, galloping gorgeously. Nobody would ever know about his little slip but me.

I ran far enough so I was now out of poo-viewing range. With nothing to look at, I put on a podcast. It's Donald Trump talking about a book he must have just written. Right away I notice a weird thing he does. The interviewer says, "You have a chapter here on mentors. Would you like to say something about mentors?"

"You have to have a mentor," he'd say. "I always tell people to get a mentor. If you don't have a mentor, get a mentor. You have to have a mentor. It's good to have a mentor. I had a mentor. My father was my mentor. You have to have a mentor."

Say it again, Donald. Say "mentor." It's like he was getting a dollar for every time he said it. Maybe it was a game he was playing with the interviewer, like, "I'll say a word and you see how many times you can use that word in your answer. See if you can beat Kathie Lee. She said the word 'crazy' twenty-seven times in one single response."

I fast forwarded to the next author. It's some guy talking about poo. He wrote a book, "What's your Poo Telling You?"and now he wrote another book, a poo journal. "You can keep it in your bathroom," he says. "I keep mine in there with a pen and I tell my guests to feel free to add comments."

I couldn't get my mind to think about poo, especially now that he's commenting on the various shapes and textures and what they mean. I fast-forward, but not far enough. He's still there. "Deja Poo," he says. He says something about corn and ". . . familiar portions of a recent meal embedded . . ." Stop! I'm fast-forwarding again. "How did something that large come out of me?" he says. "There is a great feeling of accomplishment and pride after the discharge of a monster poo . . ."

Off! No more podcasts for today. This was my sister's idea, this podcasting thing. I was fine with listening to public radio while exercising. But then I suffered through one too many "World Have Your Say" shows, which my friends and I hate so much we follow them on Twitter just to reply to their tweets with nasty, nasty comments.

To be fair to my sister, she isn't listening to Donald Trump or people who've made a career out of poo. "I listen to uplifting things," she says. "Things like Joel Olsteen or Focus on the Family. I need a good word to get through the day." Here I was thinking I could get away with listening to more earthy podcasts when I should have been focused on a family. Donald Trump and poo are my punishment. And now I can't get poo out of my head. What's a Deja poo again?

For the next couple of days I run by the horse poo on the walkway first thing after I wake up. Nobody cleans it but it quickly turns into disarming balls of hay. It's smashed and dried out and straw-like. It kind of looks like Donald Trump's hair, come to think of it.

I spend the next week scraping bird poo from the baseboards in the apartment and it starts to smell acceptable. The closets never will, though. I think the previous tenants locked their birds in there when they were naughty. If I keep the doors closed and if I am quick in my clothing decisions, I will survive. The smell is something else, even for a minute. I can't see where it's coming from and I refuse to squat in a dark, stinky closet to find out.

I've thought too often about poo every day since, particularly when I'm in the musty bathroom but not for the reasons you think. I'm trying to visualize a bathroom where I'd be comfortable writing in a public poo journal. I can't do it. In fact, I can't visualize knowing someone who is interested in poo so much that he draws pictures of it and gets them published, and not even under an assumed name. We have so many words for poo yet it's just something I'd prefer to keep private. Don't tell me your secrets and I won't tell you mine.

When I was young my grandparents led a very steady life, particularly toward the end. Nothing ever changed except for their poo. They talked about it often and wanted to invite you into the conversation. "Have you had a good bowel movement?" they'd ask me when I was ten. I said, "No," without thinking about it. I didn't know what a good bowel movement was. Even if I had the book and knew, who remembers something like that at ten? I can't even remember if I ate lunch or not, today.

Wrong answer. It was like I became an exciting project when I gave that answer. They had a purpose in life now: to get me to poo. They gave me citrate of magnesia, which was the closest thing to soda I'd ever had, and told me it'd bring me success. It did and no, I don't want to talk about it. That's the last time I went public with my own personal poo. Even though everybody does it and if you live, you poo, you certainly don't have to share. Or ask. Or journal.

Dylan, my son, and my future daughter-in-law Michelle walk with me and their baby to the museum. Strangely the horse poo is still there and we walk right by it. This time it doesn't even look like poo at all. It looks like dried grass and it blends in with the actual dried grass. Nobody else knows what this particular dried grass really is. I make sure I tell Dylan and Michelle. I tell them the history of it and I tell them the transformation I've witnessed. Before I finish, I realize I'm becoming my grandparents.

The baby plays and runs around in the grove in front of the museum. Around her are some unusual-looking trees, like fat arms with balled fists. I remember these trees from when I was little and from when my kids were little and we brought them here. "I think we used to call those 'monkey trees,'" I say to Michelle. "They're kind of weird."

She looks over at me like she smelled something bad. She hesitates. "I don't like those trees," she says. Her voice goes quiet. "I think they look like poo."

Deja poo, I think to myself.