UNITED STATES—That sultry night in New Orleans, Graydon did some research on George Eastman, the father of the selfie era. Ipso facto, I am photographed, therefore I exist. This is what Graydon found out:

Eastman was in intense pain caused by an AI complaint. He had trouble standing, and his proud walk became a slow shuffle. Today, it might be diagnosed as a form of degenerative disease such as disc herniations from trauma or age causing either painful nerve root compressions, or perhaps a type of lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by calcification in the vertebrae. Since his mother suffered the final two years of her life in a wheelchair, she also may have had a spine condition. But only her uterine cancer and successful surgery are documented in her health history.

George Eastman suffered from chronic depression due to his pain, reduced ability to function, and also since he had witnessed his mother’s suffering from pain. On March 14, 1932, year of the Lord, Eastman died by a single gunshot through the heart, self-inflicted. His suicide note read, “To my friends, my work is done – Why wait? GE.”

Indeed. Raymond Granger, an insurance salesman in Rochester, was visiting to collect insurance payments from several members of the staff. He arrived at the scene to find the workforce in a dither.

“Mr. Eastman was afraid of going senile.”

“Still looked great, carried himself well,” chimed in the office boy.

“His fear of all the debilitation diseases of old age got to him.”

What a shame, thought Graydon, when you have more money than Croessius, and the world in your lens, why don’t you drink and screw. There’s nothing else to do.  Dog is god spelled backwards, and that is one of the charming fixtures of English. And also, the word danger without the ‘d’ and it left the word anger. But danger could be good; Miller liked to flirt with danger and coax it and slowly stoke its kindling.

Resolution # 777: “I will look undeviatingly into the eyes that look into mine and yet, isn’t it ironic, that truly really really you can look into only one eye at any given moment. “I will try to talk to people. I’ll be God’s bitch, and make do with the buckets of sperm that have been given me.”

So often things are there readymade, and I blow them. Of the exterminator walking by toting the can of DDT, or whatever it’s called now (it’s still DDT, dichlorodiphenytrichloroethane) and the stu that spawned the pericos, the parrots in Bananaland, the striated, blue, purple and grayish striped, dull red zebra striped people who could have been from Mars or Jupiter. (You could photograph a small section of their skin, from very close, and it would pass for modern arts. Yeah, have an exposition, yes, art lovers would coo about it. Modern is always modern, Graydon thought, though he felt deeply old-fashioned, even antiquarian in matters of design.

Went inside the noble edifice with his can of DDT and about ready to drive off in the Pacific Exterminator truck, but didn’t, went back and sprayed some more, more vermin, more insects in the zone of the crafty sidewalks, the wicked spiders, the gross cockroaches, the beautiful spider programmed by nature to create the icy geometries of their webs that trapped so many flies, the flies that proliferated now in this part of the summer around to rotted meat and vegetables and last night’s vomit.

It bugged Graydon that the properties in Los Angeles lay fallow, like the plantations that swelled to 70 percent of privately held property in one of the countries, and that guy who stayed in power so long, kind of blew it with his people, letting it get out of control as Allied Fruit binged on land to curb the sigatoka root rot.

That charming courtyard with the “Private property” no trespassing signs broadcast a dead redolence that spirals outward to passerby, saying: “I am vacant, empty, settled to earth, dusty windows boarded over, dusty windows boarded, craving pixels of sun, drenched fresh air, while the spiders head a heyday and through the cracks and crannies filtered through and left a layer on the floor like a silica sea.

Graydon boarded the plane for Louisiana, for what would be his jubilee. He got to check out the residency requirements, if they only changed he could be the king of Louisiana. Sidled by the window seat, he left the oval shade drawn.

“Anything to drink, boss.”

“An old-fashioned, dry. Just like Mom used to make.”

They had the five-year residency requirement which blew his plans. Graydon got back on the jet homeward. His kidneys sore, from all the French Quarter carousing. There’s a time when the old mask doesn’t fit any more, when it can no longer be taken for identity. Two tectonic plates were pushing against each other for dominance and there was no telling now which side would win.

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)