25 August 2009


...the things that I want to say, that need to be said, cannot easily be put into words...

...but at least I'm not writing alone...Slainte, one and all.


Oh, my brother
Won't you stand here beside me
We shall carry each other
And should your soul grow weary
And the strength leave your bones
Oh my brother
I will carry you home

I lost a lot of good intentions
Deep in watering eyes
Crystallized blue
There's a whole lot of fear
That kept me here
I know fear ain't nothing new to you
Fear ain't nothing new to you

White on white
Hospital eyes
Should have been there
Now I know
And singing this song's no way to say goodbye
But it's the only way I know
This is the only way I know

And singing this song's no way to say goodbye
But it's the only way I know
This is the only way I know


*"Oh My Brother" is a beautiful song, written by Robbie Schaefer and performed by Eddie From Ohio on their album "I Rode Fido Home". Do yourself a favor and check it out.

24 August 2009

Original Guitar Hero, Unplugged

On His way backstage, God kicked the cord out of the wall. The amplifier fell silent, the aural void near to bursting the eardrums when my Big Bro passed away. The Stratocaster solo that was his life cut off, the guillotine falling and we were in shock, unaware that a sentence had been handed down.

Sentence is unfair, perhaps. I am fully cognizant that his death was not a punishment. It is an inescapable fact of our existence that we are all not meant to last. Knowing it is inevitable does not lessen the pain, I am sure you would agree. Pain. Far too often it has been my travelling companion in the last few years. I have written three eulogies, now, in my life. I daresay I am becoming an expert.

Terrible occupation, it is, writing signs for people that I may be a limner of the departed. It is a spike of irony that Big Bro essentially taught me to read when we were kids, before I even started first grade. His eulogy another sign for me to paint:

Big Bro had a kind heart and beautiful, troubled mind. Growing up that trouble made him hard to reach, sometimes. As time went on, we drifted apart, the moon and the sun shining on the same sea but different waters. Our orbits were no longer the same. If I thought I was the sun, I forgot my partner the moon.

The sun, however, has a long memory for love. Eventually I came to see that Big Bro was my reflection, and I was fortunate to have it. We began to reach one another after years in different parts of the sky. I was humbled by his love and pride in me. I was astonished at his protectiveness. I was blessed that we could share these things.

Big Bro fought a lot of demons in his life, in his body and his mind, but one place he was happy was out on a boat, deep-sea fishing. It was there that he was happiest, absorbed in the joy of rolling waves and catching fish. He was happy, I think, because some demons cannot cross open water. It was there that he could be at peace, and I am pleased to know that he found some relief.

Big Bro made me realize that I am not the sun. If anything, I am closer to being the sea: restless, hungry and not the same without the moon to change the tides.

Big Bro was also a skilled guitar player, self-taught, and in love with music. It made little difference to him if he became a rock star, he simply loved to play. He could listen to songs and just start playing them, as if it were like breathing. His favorite guitar was a blue Stratocaster, and it had pride of place on his living room wall.

God kicked out the cord, the Marshall stack went silent and the stage was suddenly bare. My hands grasp at the phantom shape of that guitar neck, and my heart aches at the thought that he won’t be around to teach me to play. Big Bro is gone now, and I sit silent in the front row, echoes of a brilliant power chord fading into memory. Brilliant, strange and lovely.

Rock on, my brother, wherever you are.

10 August 2009

Take You Higher, Take You Home

It is with sadness and regret that I have to let everyone know that Irish Gumbo will be on hiatus for the time being.

My Big Bro passed away suddenly yesterday, unexpectedly, and time is needed to get my head around losing a member of the flock.

Sometimes you have to blow out the flames to preserve the fire. Peace and blessings to you all.
" 'Good-bye, Sully. We'll meet again.'

And with that, Jonathan held in thought an image of the great gull-flocks on the shore of another time, and he knew with practiced ease that he was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all."

---from Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

09 August 2009

Sunday Contest: Caption That Stupid Picture, Fifth Edition

Come to me my pretty, and your little dog Toto, too…

Well, a pretty good turnout for the 4th Edition of the Caption That Stupid Picture Contest! I have to say this was a toughie. Some good funny stuff. I had some belly laughs with this set! However, in any contest a winner must be chosen. So here goes, the winning entry from Douglas at Boomer Musings:

"Now, after planting the ginger snaps and marking the row, carefully water them..."

I don’t know why, but I kept coming back to it and giggling like a giddy schoolgirl*. That, and Douglas even said in his comment “Here’s the winning entry…”

So a big round of digital applause, raise a glass and give a hearty “Woot!” to the winner and to everyone who commented:

Rawan at It’s All Good
Joanie at Joanie’s Random Ramblings
Beth at What I Should Have Said
The King at King Of New York Hacks (I’m out of Spam, bro!)
Ron at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox (He’s an author!)
Mike at Rambling Thoughts
Pseudo at Pseudonymous High School Teacher
only a movie at Only A Movie
flutter at Flutter Dark & Divine (see the photos)
IB at Idiot’s Stew (go.read.dig it.)
Jeanne at The Raisin Chronicles

Thanks so much, one and all! Now sharpen your….whatever it is that you sharpen when you get ready to use your noggin, because here comes the Stupid Photo Contest, 5th Edition:

I have faith in you, my lovelies. Make me proud! Mostly, make me (us**) laugh!

*Not that I know what that’s like, really. I mean, I’ve never wanted to be a giddy schoolgirl. At least not since I got rid of the saddle oxfords and plaid skirt. Damn, I had the legs for it, too…
**I don’t mean that in the royal ‘us’ sense. I mean, ‘us’ in the sense of ‘you and I’. And ‘you’ meaning all of those I am blessed enough as to have as visitors to my humble blog.

08 August 2009

On The Ocean Voracious, Part Three

For a few degrees of arc, I thought my back was broken.

The pressure of the waves had driven me backwards, hard into the mast. The water was cold liquid lead, filling my lungs as I struggled to free myself from its grip. The howl of the wind was now lost to the gurgling shouts of the ocean. I was drowning and there was nothing, nothing I could do about it.

My limbs were cold and numb. I lay in the dark, freezing and unmoving. Unmoving of any impulse from me, mind you. The matrix in which I was embedded refused to stay still. Any motion of my limbs was purely the result of external forces. I was unsure if I had been caught in an explosion or an implosion; the net result was devastation. My eyes did not want to stay open. It hurt to look and see a tiny person-shaped void where my daughter had lain.

Nurses, family, and my son…the constellations by which I managed to navigate once I could keep my eyes open. I could see the stars occasionally through gaps in the clouds as I clung unsteadily to the mast, rocked violently by the heaving seas. Having a fixed point is of great comfort to those racked by seasickness; so it was with me. My eyes clung to this human horizon as it was the only source of strength for miles around on this desert ocean.

Her funeral another violent tempest.

If not for my journals, I’d likely not recall much of the experience. A small, precious life is gone and we are discussing music. And how to write a eulogy for a life of six days? I sat down to write, and got up from the table when I was done; the thing itself I only know from having saved a copy.

If tears had been rain, the desert of my soul would have been covered in green. The door to the hearse opened, and I wrapped my arms around her spirit resting in a box much too small to contain it. The walk to the gravesite was a long trip between points side by side. How could my arms ache so much from a burden so slight? I knelt to set my daughter down and tumbled over the gunwale into a sea the color of molten coal. Blind and unthinking, I clung to my son the life raft. He was all we had, on this violent waterscape. The source of life, light and heat. I wrapped myself around him and prayed in a fever that he, that we would free ourselves from this maelstrom. Every minute, every hour that passed was another step closer to shore. I nurtured the hope, like a tea candle in a hurricane lamp, that our son would come home with us.

I was swimming as hard as I could, pushing clawing my way to the light and the entire time I didn’t see the walls of the whirlpool growing higher and reaching deeper. A claw reached out of the gelatinous dark and sank into my heaving chest: phone calls in the sodden hours of the early morning. The first to tell us that something serious was going on, the second to tell us to come to the hospital.

If the hours of the dark and the dawn are cruel to you, how can you ever sleep again?

We dressed hurriedly and surfed to the hospital on a syrupy wave of nausea and dread. It was almost impossible to conceive that the same things were happening again. Sailing the same sea, foundering on the same rocks, sinking into the same depths. The only difference was this time it was by the light of day. Horrors do not lessen under the glare of the sun. They only become easier to see. The staff gave us the terrible, terrible news: our son was in a very bad state.

Pitchpoling. The nautical term for causing to flip end over end. The bow gets buried in the back of the wave in front of it, and over it goes the stern. Pitchpoled. We sat there on the couch in the NICU as they told us that our son was not going to make it, and I could not stop tumbling. The lights swirled over and around and I heard someone saying “No, no, no, this can’t be” and I realized with a start that it was me. My stern was in the air and I was choking on the water. I clung to the hope that they were wrong, but to no avail. The waves got higher, the wind howled faster. I walked to the phone to call my parents with the bad news. Another long walk into a bottomless pit, and the sun was not yet over the horizon. We waited, we prayed, but the ocean refused to listen. At about half past noon, on an otherwise ordinary day, the sun went out as if flicked by a switch: we had to turn off the machines.

The life raft disappeared as if it had never been. I felt myself lifted up high by a cold upwelling from the sludge at the bottom of the sea. My head barely above the waterline, I found myself at the top of a tsunami and looking down at a rapidly approaching shoreline of broken stone. My son breathed his last; the tsunami broke and I smashed headlong into the rocks, not caring if I awoke.

St. Brendan was willing to risk his life sailing into the unknown, for the sake of the Promised Land, so I suppose for him dealing with monsters and other horrors was the cost of doing business. For me, the accidental sailor, it was a price I was most unwilling to pay. I didn’t want the Promised Land, I wanted a family. I can only hope that Brendan found it worthwhile for what he learned.

But for me, if this is the price of wisdom, I prefer to remain an idiot.

05 August 2009

Canis Dirus Whispering At The Door

It isn’t like I blame wolves for this predicament. After all, the wolves are doing what wolves do. Satisfying their ‘wolfness’, it would seem, in exquisite fashion. No, my resentment stems from an inability to run faster and farther than they. Wolves are quite good at running down the objects of their appetite.

Dear lord, my heels are bloody.

Ha. A bit of joke that I say run. Run I would, if I had the energy, or the nerve, to arise and open the door. Running is what brought me here, exhausted and curled around myself while shivering in the dark. The door slammed shut behind me, deadbolt turned in a burst of adrenaline panic. The thought raced through my mind that I had actually made it, to home and safety. My own panting sounded horrifically loud even over the roaring of blood in my ears. Looking down I could see my chest vibrating as the heart threatened to pound its way out.

There is a wheezing squeak in the air. I am startled to realize it is me, the breath scouring my lungs as I struggle to slow down my heaving lungs. Shit, dammit all…quiet, I say to myself, you must be quiet or they will find you, again.

(Bitter laugh)

Quite the comedian, I am. They will find you rings in my mind with the power and clarity of a blacksmith’s hammer on red-hot steel. Clang(they)Clang(will)Clang(find)Clang(you). I laugh, whistling through clenched teeth, at my own folly. Of course they will find me.

They always do. They are wolves.

Still, I entertain the notion that once, maybe, I will be able to slip away and find permanent shelter. If not permanent, then at least long enough away from them that I could get some sleep. Deep, sound sleep, oh my god that sounds delicious…like opium to the addict. Addicts, I think in a fit of pique, which have the luxury of dreams. I don’t need to dream. I merely wish to sleep long enough that when I wake I feel part of the human race again. I grow weary of being an animal.

Sorry. That is a bit unfair to animals.

Perhaps what I really meant to say was, I grow weary of being a brute, dull of mind, irritable and easily frightened. It is arrogant of me to think that I am not in kinship with animals. On certain days I cannot escape the notion that I am an animal. A smart, upright being with the ability to curse and write poetry…but an animal just the same. I may have more polish, yes; but they have better clarity of purpose.

How grand that would be, to spend your waking days satisfying the simple needs of stomach and sinews! To howl with your mates, roll in the grass and gift your belly to the sun: surely, there is no better goal in this life. Who could argue with fulfilling ones purpose with a mind free of guilt, shame or fear?

Clang. The hammer falls again, and I laugh like a faint death rattle.

Fulfill one’s purpose with a mind free of guilt, shame or fear.

Would that I was Galahad, and a life free of fear my Holy Grail. It is fear that prompts me to run from the wolves, because who wants to be eaten alive? Especially by creatures who have no conscience on the matter?

Sorry, I am being unfair again. I have no idea whether wolves care for those whom they are about to devour. Does it cross their minds, do you think, to feel guilty as their jaws close on the flesh, teeth crush the bones?

Ha. I am a silly man. I have seen the look in their eyes, hurriedly glancing back at them as I plead for my aching legs to go faster. The look of pure concentration. The focus and certainty of being at ease in your world while fulfilling the impulse that created you.

The wolf, the animal, as soft tool in the hands of the Maker.

My breathing finally slowed to the point of measured sips, my throat protests in a fit of dryness. I am thirsty. Hot pursuit, especially if one is the pursued rather than pursuer, is thirst-making work. I open the freezer and scoop ice into the glass waiting for me on the counter. The metallic tinkling of solid water striking supercooled fluid is comfort to my ears. It sounds simple, domestic. The cubes crackle as I pour tea into the glass. It reminds me of a Christmastime hand bell chorus, except wildly out of tune. I drink.

It is quiet in the room, finally, disturbed only by my noisy swallows as I pad over to the door to listen. I put an ear to the cool painted metal. I hold my breath. One heartbeat, two…nothing. A tiny sigh of relief escapes my cracked lips. The knots inside loosen slightly. Another big swallow of tea in toast to small victories. Ice cubes smack into my mouth as I upend the chunky glass. As my arm swings downward, they land in the bottom of the glass with a tickticktick.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The sound continues for too long after the glass is upright. I blink, staring into the frozen water, and the ticking continues. It grows louder. My stomach lurches when I realize the ticking noise is coming from outside the door. It has the cadence of someone, or some thing walking stealthily but assuredly across a hardwood floor. Something on all fours.

I freeze in place, not daring to move. The ticking grows louder, stopping at the door. I hold my breath in an attempt to make no sound at all. The door creaks, there are scratching noises, and the door moves ever so slightly inward. I stifle a scream. There is a shadow tracking along the threshold, blocking the small light trickling in at the bottom. Faint chuffing noises, like a lover breathing into the back of one’s neck, drift through the door.

A lover or a predator, each to deliver a kiss, to devour, but with wildly different intent.

The shadow moves away from the door, I see. There is the soft sound of fur meeting the floor. Concentrating, I can just barely hear breathing in the hall. I struggle not to faint. The wolves, they wait.

I slowly back away from the door, praying they have not yet found the windows.

04 August 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Oh, Jeez, Not Again Edition

Crikey, it seems like I was just here. Wait, where is here? Oh, that's its:

YEAH, WELL, GOOGLE, YOU SUCK: I can see it out of the corner of my eye. It's there. Hovering, taunting me. You know in the gmail sidebar, those little messages you can post up to announce your status? That's cool and all, but the one that just bugs me a little is the one that says "You are invisible". Gee, thanks guys, my self-esteem was already pretty low, but that is just gratuitous. Pile on, everybody!

GOOD THING I DON'T HAVE TO WRITE A REPORT: Looking around here, I am struck by the quantity of books that I have somehow accrued. As an example, to my right are a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the Confessions of Saint Augustine and a book of poetry by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. Across the room I have a shelf of nothing but The Year's Best Science Fiction, Numbers 14 through 25. (Holy crap, have I been reading them that long?). I have one short bookcase devoted to nothing but books on food, including How To Read A French Fry by Russ Parsons (and which I have yet to crack). There is a two volume set of works by Rudyard Kipling. The Fine Homebuilding master set of collected wisdom on ...fine homebuilding. My blue-cloth covered copy of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (in the top 3 of my favorite books). Now, if I could just find my long-lost manual on Getting A Clue, I'd be all set.

DO I HAVE TO PICK JUST ONE? Favorite object. Favorite tool. Favorite thing. I don't know if I have one. Or at least I haven't thought about it too much. I have a hand-blown glass sculpture based on a calla lily, that I acquired many years ago. I really like it, but just not sure if it is my favorite. A friend of mine gave me this plastic lens-shaped souvenir, it has a real scorpion encased it. That's cool too, if a little unsettling...

GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: From a walk in the rain last Sunday. So much greeniness, I just wanted to wrap myself up in it and take a long, cool nap...

FINALLY, I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY: Once again, dear readers, I have been blessed and honored with an award! This is really nice, and I'm feeling humbled and all warm and fuzzy. This is from Angie at Gumbo Writer, and I am very flattered she thought of me:

Please drop by her place, dig into some good stuff on writin' and eatin, and for the deets on the Humane award. Tell Angie hello and that I sent you. Hoo whee!

slurppp.slurrppp. That sound means we are at the bottom of the milkshake cup, peoples. As good as it is, there ain't no more. Still, there is always next Tuesday and another milkshake!

"I drink your milkshake!" Happy Random Tuesday, everyone! Don't forget, there is still time to enter the Stupid Photo Caption Contest, posted last Sunday, August 2nd, right here on Irish Gumbo! Enter and rejoice!

03 August 2009

Pooh Sticks For One

I had dinner alone tonight, dear heart, as I do most nights. Alone, if you don’t count waitresses and busboys. I suppose I should count them for company, after all, many are friendly and nice to me, and what more could I ask?

Some asked about you, and I realized I missed you, terribly.

When I arrived home tonight, I wanted to go for a walk. The rains had stopped and the setting sun was nestling greenily amongst the trees lining the stream and path across the way. I knew what I was going to do.

Pooh Sticks, at the bridge, and I could daydream of your laugh…

A stream runs through us...

Except for the traffic noise, it was birdsongs and the murmur of water. I looked about for some sticks, and laughed to remember you scampering down the path, on the bank, looking for twigs and rocks and leaves. Your enthusiasm warms me up.

Cast into the stream, the echoes of “Look, daddy, look!”

I toss the first stick. My heart lands in the water, to recall your laugh.

So quickly, the twigs and leaves fall…

The stream was running a little high tonight, as were my thoughts of you, Wee Lass.

Pooh Stick gets away so quickly…

I closed my eyes, and for a moment, I could see you, hear you, and I felt so alone without you, your laughter and those rose window eyes. I stayed there on the bridge, and began to smile. Like the water flowing beneath my feet, this too shall pass. You and I will play Pooh Sticks, and grin like ‘possums under the canopy of trees.

It is not the same stream twice, but we share the water…

02 August 2009

Sunday Contest: Caption That Stupid Picture, Fourth Edition

Holy crap, do you smell that? (sniff, sniff)

Could it be?

Yes, yes, it is! Looky there! Why it's the return of the STUPID PICTURE CAPTION CONTEST! Can I get a woot?!

More Pics @ MySpaceAntics.com

Okay, maybe I didn't need that kind of woot...eeep...and that is not the picture I want you folks to caption for me. This is the one:

Scenes from a nature walk. Beer cans in their natural habitat...

It has been about seven months, seven months! since the last contest, can you believe that? I'm flabbergasted! How can that be?

...uh, mainly because I'm lazy, sometimes. Sheesh. So, a refresher for the rules is in order. Wait, rules? Did I say rules? Whaaa....? Really, all you need to do is leave your caption in the comments, I'll let them pile up for a few days and then, like compost, I'll turn them over when they are ready. Whoever can make me bellylaugh, snort, spittake or otherwise guffaw will be the winner. Prize is the respect and adulation of the Blogspot Chorale Society. And maybe a badge, if I can get off my duff and make one up.

Start casting them lines, people, there's fish to catch!

And, Charmaine? You can stop wagging that finger at me now...your wish is my command (grin).

Special thanks to MySpaceAntics.com for the woot pic. I'm going to wash my eyeballs, now.