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2008-09-30 - 10:39 a.m.

Got a red maple leaf on my desk. Yesterday, after I picked it up, it lay flat and smooth. All it took was one day, now, and it's curled in on itself, crackling, constricting, rigid but still a little red.

Stuff's changing. Busy at work. Did a reading at the Baltimore Book Festival on Sunday. Very short: five minutes, and was a part of UMBC's hour. All the local colleges had an hour. Did pretty well, I think. Chose something with some laughs and they mostly laughed where I thought they would. Took half a Xanax ("Dr. X," Kevin calls it) and it worked OK. Had a beer and two miniature crab cakes in the hospitality room, which was in an old, fancy townhouse in the old-lawyer part of town. I stuttered a little bit, but not too bad, and probably talked too loud into the microphone. Would've waited in line to get a Walter Mosley book signed, had I brought one of his books with me. He had lots of fans.

The day before, left the beach after lunch and soft-serve ice cream. Truck had trouble starting, but I knew it was from all the rain. So I sprayed all the electrical parts with WD-40 and that did the trick. So we're driving on 50 west, toward the Bay Bridge, listening to iPod shuffle stuff, when the truck just stops going. The engine's fine, is revving, but that power's not getting transferred to the wheels. I pull over as fast as I can, and I'm on the shoulder, left-side tires rumbling on the rumble strip. No acceleration now, and traffic is screaming past me on the left, inches from my door. We got lucky, because just as the truck was about to come to a stop, a gravel driveway appeared on the right, in the middle of a soybean field, steam pouring from underneath the hood. There's coolant everywhere. We're a hundred miles from home. We weigh options: get it towed to Salisbury, but it's 5 p.m. on a Saturday and she has to work in the morning. Get a friend from Baltimore to drive down and pick us up, but that's a lot to ask. So we got a tow. The guy was about my age and turns out he's roommates with a kid who graduated from my high school (200 miles away, a whole world away, really) a year after me. In the end, it was the water pump. It failed. They are, I know by now, vital instruments.

And last night, watched the Steelers-Ravens game at the Life of Reilly, with friends, the place going nuts every time the Ravens do anything good at all. They've been a little starved the past few years, so I don't mind too much. Halfway through, I look to my right and there's a big Baltimore cop, in deep blue from head to toe, bald head, sitting there on a bar stool, leaning against the wall. He's got a plastic cup of water on the table in front of him, with a straw. He's watching the game. His shoulder radio is talking at him, at all of us. He's focused on the game. I get another beer. When the Ravens make a crucial first down, I look over again and his face is a little red, the corners of his mouth are smiling, and though he's still sitting he's clapping with the rest of them.

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