Ray Booska, I’m Doing Fine and Love You, Brother

I’m usually up by 6:15 or so, but I’m fighting a chest cold and stayed up late last night reading a collection of essays by Norman Mailer. It wasn’t the reading that kept me from sleeping, but my mental need to wash my brain of well-reasoned if brash thinking. After all, it’s my job to provide nonsense, not insight. Also, I woke up three or four times in the night with felicitous phrases running through my head. Well-crafted prose needed to be analyzed and euthanized before I could go back to sleep.

At 8:30, I a knock on the door of the Tiny White Box woke me up, along with Sam (is a dog)’s bark. I assumed it was one of the board members of Warriors@45North, here to move a boat or an ATV. From my bed, I can see the door, with its frosty but still transparent window, and was surprised not to a see a face peering in.

“Hey, who’s there,” I called out, sitting up with my sleeping bag over my legs like some sleepy three-legged-race competitor.

“Please open the door, Sir. Is your dog safe?” a voice I’d never heard before.

Here, I was alarmed. Strangers don’t appear at my door, especially ones concerned about Sam. Had he somehow exaggerated the one time I’d let his water bowl go dry and used the Twilight Barking Chain to call for help? Then I realized the voice was more likely wondering if Sam would attack him than if Sam had enough food.

“He’s fine. Nothing to worry about,” I said, taking the half-hop to the door and peering out.

A young cop stood there.

I opened the door, fearing some forgotten event in my improbable life had finally led to indictment and arrest. In retrospect, a normal person would likely have thought about tragedy and news of a loved one. I am not a normal person, and wondered if the cop would let me get out of my sleeping bag and into clothing before cuffing me and stuffing me into his cruiser.

“What’s up, Officer?” I asked, fearing his hand might go for his weapon if I acted suspicious.

“Just a health and safety check, Sir. Someone was worried about you,” the cop said with a smile.

Back when I was drinking, health and safety checks were a common fear. After all, by Day Three of a binge, I’d have overflowing ashtrays, empty wine boxes and beer bottles all over the floor and a perpetual half-lidded face. I wouldn’t have been either healthy or safe. Luckily, my drinking reduced the people who were concerned about me to a number approaching zero. Today, though, when I’m reasonably healthy, except for this chest cold (and a realization right it’s been four months since I consciously ate anything with Vitamin C—unless last Sunday’s Virgin Bloody Mary with my daughters counts), and more than reasonably safe.

“No reason for worry,” I said. “I’m doing fine. Who was worried.”

The cop paused and I was afraid I asked for confidential information. Then he brightened.

“It was your friend, Ray.”

Good old Ray Booska, the cook at Warriors@45North, a gifted musician and a friend. It felt good to know someone was watching out for me, even if it wasn’t necessary.

With the cold air pouring in, the cop looked around the Tiny White Box and saw the Big Buddy propane heater, with its hose curled up like a snake.

“Watch out for those things. They can take you out.”

“I know. I always keep a window open, and never use it when I’m sleeping.”

With that, the cop left me to my good feelings toward Ray, my feet inside a sleeping bag and a chest cold to fight.

Life is good.

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