15 May 2017

The Fracture

Chasm, by Kevin Shea, May 2017

No one tells you that little drama would have a huge part in the fracture of life, in the foot bones of the soul while it slams the brake pedal to the floor in a bid for control. That cliff edge is close and getting closer.

No one tells you that of course this is not your beautiful house, this is not your beautiful wife, because they never belonged to you in the first place. Of course, this is what the imps in your head whisper to you as you try to fall asleep.  No point in asking through sobs "How did I get here?" because you truly don't grasp it all. And sometimes the shittiness of life means you will not be told by those who swing the hammer.

No one tells you that the cleavage plane of mid-life won't be rewarded with that supermodel armcandy in the leather bucket seat. No, you won't get that as comfort, cold or otherwise. What you get is waking up in what feels like a down-at-the-heels luxury hotel, unsure of where you are, and cursing at the asshole cat who can't leave the mini-blinds alone.

You ask yourself, if this is a hotel, why is there a cat here?

Because right now, it isn't a hotel, it is a hiding place. The cat is along for the ride, and you can't help but be thankful for a companion with whom to gaze into the chasm you have to cross.

08 April 2017

Bullet and Target

A little something I rediscovered while editing my field notes. A curiosity for your edification and rumination. Not sure about the delight.


The heart stares down
a blue steel barrel
Gleam of hollow tips
Tracking the beating core
lonely chamber now empty
Echoes of the bang
claw at the sides
before the mind
pulls the trigger

The heart stares down
the barrel of the gun
firing from a mouth
once sacred, holy,
vivifying and precious
Now targeting, tracking
flechette rounds of words
ripping air asunder

to lodge in the soul

19 March 2017

Sunday Meditation #49: Things I Learned From My Mama

Sitting in the studied anonymity of a fast food joint, I wipe with a napkin the crumbs from my chin. It is a pause in the work day and surprisingly restorative, especially when I willfully ignore the possible deleterious effects of what I just consumed in favor of being thankful for a full belly. This type of food and fast eating is not as typical in my diet these days, but it approaches a routine.

Another routine is the aftermath of the meal. Looking down at the table I can see the typical crumpled napkins that accompany me everywhere. The balled up wrapping from a plastic straw sits forlornly near the cup (unsweetened ice tea, if you please). The table laminate and food wrappers are bespeckled with a dusting of crumbs. This detritus is the typical fallout from when I eat no matter how much I strive to be careful. It is a minor miracle when I can get through a meal without something landing on my shirt or pants. 

But I digress. It is the crumbs that are the crux of the matter here.

I sit back in my chair to do some people watching while settling the meal. Places like this are interesting clinical settings if human behavior holds any fascination for the mind. Open air laboratories without quiet rooms or one way mirrors. Given the amount of time spent in such places I have observed that almost no one finishes a meal without some amount of collateral fallout. Food crumbs, spilled drinks, trash. It's all there. I have also observed that a high percentage of folks (anecdotally, you understand) do not seem to notice the leavings.

This isn't to say that everyone is a slob. I have never seen an absolute mess left for the staff to clean up. Taking trays to the drop off receptacles is a macro task that most everyone seems to perform. This is good thing, as I think most folks have good intentions.

But the small things often go unnoticed or uncared for. The errant food wrapper. Sauce smears. Crumbs and leavings dotting the tabletops and seats. These get left behind as patrons stand, take a slurp from the bottom of the cup, and head out the door in pursuit of other matters. For the longest time, I too followed this pattern. After all, we are beings of our own agendas with a certain benign inattention to minor consequences of the actions we most often execute without malice.

I formerly paid no heed to the crumbs I left behind. This state of affairs persisted until one day I found myself at the end of a meal, sweeping those crumbs off the table and into the napkin I was poised to discard. It hit me that I had been doing that for some time without realizing it. I was cleaning a table that was not mine. In that moment I was channeling the habits of my mother.

Tidying up after a meal in a restaurant, or most any meal for that matter, was a habit my mother had indulged for years. I saw it growing up without thinking it anything remarkable. In the self-absorption of my youth I never thought to ask her why she did it. Years later, I forget exactly when, it was my dad who asked her one night "What do you do that for?" Her reply was something to the effect that her mama raised her that way and she did not want to leave a mess behind for others.

Little did I know, but the seed was planted. It sprouted decades later.

In the course of my evolution from child to youth to man that little life lesson did take hold in me. The day I realized I was sweeping up crumbs and wiping off my table was the day I realized something else about my mother's habit. Pieced together with the ways she conducted her daily life it became clear to me there was another lesson she taught me without telling me. The person who cleans up the table you just used may do that as part of the job description, but that doesn't mean you should so careless in your actions that you create more work for them.

It was time to go. Meal was done. Clock was ticking. I swept the crumbs before me into a napkin and balled the napkin up in the leftover wrapper. All that was for the trash as I headed out the door. I thought about the simple lesson of being mindful of those who come after you, thankful for the things I learned from my Mama.

11 February 2017

On The Salubrity of Garlic Burps Versus Chewing Chalk

It was the heartburn that had me reaching for an extinguisher. Not for the first time had my taste for red beans led to a rebellion in the esophagus. This particular revolt was robust in scope. While the pain was far from crippling, it resulted in a certain lack of cheer and patience on my part. The roots of this crisis were in New Orleans, Louisiana. That the cure, or part thereof, slipped in from Korea was a bit of a surprise. Hunger will do that to a body.

Lunch on the day had been a leftover pot of red beans. It was hanging around from an earlier midweek meal and looking forlorn as my belly contemplated getting a sandwich for something to eat whilst errand-running. Two things changed my mind: I was famished (in spite of the chorizo omelet that was breakfast) and the only currency in my wallet was nostalgia for the bills that got away. An easy equation to solve by heating up the beans and setting to.

Ah, red beans. Of the many delicious dishes to come out of New Orleans, red beans is one for which my imagination fell hard. With the exception of gumbo, when I hanker for things Cajun or Creole, red beans is the dish of choice. There is no recipe for it yet which did not hold some attraction for this belly. 

The attraction is not always mutual though. There is no real malice in a good pot of red beans but the aftereffects on this eater often put him in mind of a spat with one's beloved. Maybe the belly is just older and crankier, I don't know. But this batch of red beans brought the pain after lunch. The fire crept up on me as I was driving to a local Asian market (an earlier visit to which was chronicled here) to pick up some ingredients for the night's dinner.

Upon arriving at the market, things became complicated. Fire in the chest, shopping on my mind, and damned if I wasn't getting hungry in the midst of it all. Then I walked through the door to fall victim to the usual ecstatic discombobulation of All The Things. I did myself no favors by visiting sections previously unexplored, including a Middle Eastern section, the seafood counter (Oh.my.god. Story for another time.) and the meat counter. Focus was slipping fast and I had nothing in the basket yet.

Strolling the refrigerated cases brought me to the kimchi. The jars of kimchi. The BIG jars of kimchi. And not just cabbage. There was radish and cucumber kimchi. Plus, some kimchi new to me that was pickled fish and shellfish. The belly growled as it settled upon the snack it so desperately seemed to want.

I bought a big jar of kimchi. Perfect for that impulse buy mingled with a disregard for heartburn.

Discipline of a sort reemerged as Japanese noodles and a bottle of chili oil ended up in my haul of swag. No sesame seeds or sesame oil yet even though those items had been the impetus for the visit. The dull burn in my chest added its own urgency to the situation. Oil and seeds were swiftly tracked down to wrap things up. Arriving home to settle this matter of the imperative of the belly. Still a fire in my gullet and a growling in my tummy. Heartburn versus appetite. I was hungry, so I ate.

Some may think that kimchi with chilis would not be the most efficacious balm to apply to a case of heartburn. In the abstract, I would agree with them. That seeming contraindication looped around my brain while the kimchi worked its way to my stomach. Sips of fresh-brewed jasmine tea served as lubricant between swallows of pungent cabbage. Any anticipated squabbling between the kimchi and my aggravated esophagus failed to materialize, at least not while I was standing in the kitchen.

I returned to my workstation, graced by a short series of garlic-flavored hiccups. A sated belly makes for a pleasant working experience even at the risk of an odoriferous workspace. A few minutes into my late afternoon labors it sank in that my chest was no longer burning. A faint prickle, but no burn. I no longer felt the need to reach for the cherry-flavored chalk that seems to never be far out of hand these days. Maybe it was the tea, maybe it was the kimchi that helped knock back the pain. It is an experiment worth repeating, because I'll take garlic burps over chewing chalk any day of the week.