28 October 2009

Yellow Sky Blues and the Panic

Man looks up on a yellow sky
and the rain turns to rust in his eye
Rumours of his health are lies
Old England is dying

It wasn’t too different than any other Monday, but these days I can’t take that for granted…

The sunrise was grey through the blinds, weak and oyster. Sleep the night before was just this side of being okay, which for me is saying a lot. Sleep. An exotic locale that looks good in the brochures, but getting the money to travel is a different story. I shook it off, as I am wont to do and bootstrapped myself into another day.

His clothes are a dirty shade of blue
and his ancient shoes worn through
He steals from me and he lies to you
Old England is dying

I count my blessings when I get to see my daughter in the mornings, now. It is brief interludes of sanity preservation in between fits and starts of trying to ignore the pressure of self-dissatisfaction on one side and corporate obeisance on the other. No matter if she is trying my patience on chatting on about how she prefers her Cheerios without milk. The princess speaks, and I strain to listen, ignoring the sick betrayal of my workaday mind.

Still he sings an empire song
Still he keeps his navy strong
and sticks his flag where it ill belongs
Old England is dying

I’m numb to a lot of the commute, or getting that way I hope. Occasionally the old me rears his big noggin and barks out a curse at the stupids on the road, blind weak anger at the absurdity of sitting in traffic on the roads supposedly designed to make transit easier. It just doesn’t make sense sometimes. Well, most of the time. Aside from my daughter’s voice, music is one the few things in the world today that I take refuge in, find some space to breathe.

"You're asking what makes me sigh now
what it is makes me shudder so"
Well, I just freeze in the wind
and I'm numb from the pummeling of the snow
that falls from high in yellow skies…

There was a bit of a yellow sky that Monday, but not the kind of yellow that Mike Scott would be singing about later. I didn’t really think much about the difference when I sat down at my desk. Computer on, headphones alighting on my ears. The gnawing in my gut fluttered a bit, as if I had swallowed a sleepy bat. My hands trembled slightly as another workday began. Press the keys, and no one needs to know but me.

…where the well loved flag of England flies
where homes are warm and mothers sigh
where comedians laugh and babies cry
where criminals are televised, politicians fraternize
journalists are dignified and everyone is civilized
and children stare with heroin eyes
heroin eyes, heroin eyes
Old England !

The iPod was on shuffle, which seems is my modus operandi in the present. I’ve tried listening to albums in entirety, or groups of songs by the same artist, but…it wearies my ears, I have no way to explain why it just does. Too much, I guess, and it pushes me into impatience. A signal it may be of the diffracted and diffuse nature of my thoughts, a grayware cloud that won’t condense into rain. Until that Monday, when I had my first (near) panic attack in months. I say “near” because I’ve had some full-on panic attacks and the awfulness of those is unmistakable in its rapaciousness. This was not the same, but close. A half-brother to the real bastard itself. The memories it stirred up were unpleasant enough that I had no desire to repeat it.

Evening has fallen
The swans are singing
The last of sunday's bells is ringing
The wind in the trees is sighing
and old England is dying

I sat there, blinking, stunned, sweating and wondering what just happened. I think no one noticed the sudden bolt upright posture, the rapid breathing, the confused blinking as I tried to figure out what was happening. For once, I was glad of cubicle walls. It gave me a chance to recover gracefully. I tried not to think about the cause. On the drive home, it finally dawned on me, and I felt stupid and ashamed.

I know Mike Scott was singing about a different kind of empire when the Waterboys played in my headphones, the fading and troubled England that had lost its way when that song was written. But when I heard the lyrics Monday morning, I started thinking of the empire that used to be me, and how my borders have shrunken and my flag is flying low. I was overwhelmed by the fractures in my earth, and the losses incurred, and how it came to be.

*Lyrics used w/o permission, from “Old England” by The Waterboys. The version I’m diggin’ these days is a live take off of ‘The Best of The Waterboys, ’81-‘90’. I hope Mike Scott will forgive my impertinence, but that line about ‘rust in his eye’…damn, I wish I’d written that.

27 October 2009

I Don't Like To Brag, But...

...I've been awardified! The Queen of Spice, Angie at GUMBO WRITER, so very kindly and graciously bestowed upon me the cheeky award you see above. I am humbled and honored to be in such good company. Wonderful, marvelous and just what I needed after a particularly hectic and stressful day.

Which I may blog about. After I've had a cocktail...

26 October 2009


On those days when you feel swept away...

...and you can't tell if you are the leaf...

...or the ripples all around you...

...just remember, something is holding you up...

Even if you can't see it.
Love, pure and clear.

A good day shout out for my friend The Mister. Show him some love, y'all.

23 October 2009

On Not Being Russian

I must not be Russian, because I lost my ‘pov’.

Arrggh. It is a bad joke, I know, but it leapt to the fore of my consciousness when I sat down to tap out my thoughts this day. It was another play on words among the thousands that have branded my hide with the mark of ‘dork’, almost from day one of me being able to speak English.

I fear it to be true. I am afraid I have no ‘point-of-view’. POV has escaped me. Sigh.

This mildly disheartening epiphany blossomed in my po’ lil’ head bone as I dallied in the upper reaches of the blogosphere, skimming on the currents, drafts and vortices that the lovely Interwebs offers to them that cares to read. I was dipping into some of my favorite blogs, catching up on reading, and just generally digging the flow of information.

The more I read, the more I sensed a somewhat common thread to many of the blogs oozing across the screen: themes. Many of them have a theme, even if unstated. By theme I mean that core set of ideas, guiding principles or vibe that gives them a digital “fingerprint”. The subjects vary, but in most and certainly in the best, I can recognize the voice of the author. Sort of like listening to music by U2 or Bob Dylan, or reading a book by John Thorne or Cormac McCarthy. I dig that sort of thing.

I’m not so sure it diggeth me. I was on and off of Irish Gumbo a few times in my travels, and it slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t getting that same sense on my own blog. I mean, I know what to expect, because I write the spooge that ends up getting posted. But I would be hard pressed to describe to someone who had never read this blog, what it is that defines it. What’s the hook? Humor? Sex? A fresh take on cruciferous vegetables (“…consider the broccoli rabe, the surly cousin to good ol’ broccoli…”)? I think maybe a better analogy is, how would I pitch this blog, if it were a book proposal? What is it that is the “voice”?

I find it mildly upsetting that I don’t seem to know.

There are so many fine folks out there who can do so many things so well, so much better than I that I often feel like I’m looking through the window of the bakery. Every so often, the door opens up and a pleased customer rushes out, baguettes tucked under the arm. I stand there swathed in the yeasty goodness that is the aroma of fresh baked bread. The door shuts, my hand is too slow to hold it open, and I am left wondering how I will ever bake my own.

20 October 2009

My China Syndrome

One day last month, Wee Lass and I sat at the dining table with paint, paper and brushes under the light of the banker’s lamp. The paints are all watercolors, some tubes of which I bought years ago with the intention of teaching myself to paint.

I know it was because of the beauty of the colors I had seen that I wanted to paint. I was fascinated and enraptured then, and still am now, by the shades and tones and hues I saw in paintings. I bought some books about the subject, for the pictures alone.

I fell in love with Ultramarine. Viridian. Cobalt. Purple Lake. Cadmium Yellow. So pretty…

All this before I realized just how much practice it takes to get good at watercolor painting. A few small starts, and then I was distracted by the rest of the pretty, shiny things that constitute Life. The paints languished in a drawer for a long time, with me occasionally taking them out of the bag and just looking at the labels.

One of the pretty shiny things that came along was my Wee Lass. The care and feeding of such a lovely flower put a lot of leisurely activities on hold, certainly in the case of learning to paint. Still, I could never bring myself to throw or give them away. The tubes of paint and the little plastic trays I bought, along with a small number of brushes just held too much sway over my imagination.

So it has been a great pleasure and wonderful surprise to see that Wee Lass has an interest in drawing and painting. She is fascinated with markers and colored pencils (a big stash I have left from my student days), and loves to scribble and color. She was very excited to find out about the paints. We even have a ritual that must be followed: Both trays on the table, each little bin anointed with a small amount of every color. Multiple pads at the ready, each of which must have at least one page daubed with most, if not all, of the available colors.

That particular day Wee Lass was on a “flower” kick. Me, I was seized with the notion of Chinese calligraphy. Yet another subject I knew almost nothing about, yet felt compelled to try. Not unlike my fascination with Chinese cooking. Are you sensing a theme here? So we set to, her with the bright colors and broad swathes, me trying to play ancient scholar with a bamboo brush and a small puddle of ultramarine paint. Wee Lass dove in with gusto, eventually producing what I found to be a quite fetching little “flowertree”:

Tres bon, oui? For some reason I really liked what she had painted, and she did as well. Simple, unpolished but exuberant and glee-inducing. We both had a big smile once she was finished.

While she was doing that, I was sweating the details on a Chinese character, taken at random from the glossary of a Chinese cookbook on my shelf. It is the character for ‘raw’ (sheng), and I picked it by opening the book and sticking out a finger, and that is where it landed. Good thing, too, as it also appeared to be one of the simpler characters to emulate.

Simple it may have looked, but simple it was not to actually paint. Over and over and over I swiped at the paper trying desperately as elegant as the picture in the book. Wee Lass even looked over and quizzically asked, “Daddy, why are you doing the same thing again? Draw something pretty!” Gee, thanks, kiddo. I told her it was because I liked the shape and the color. It took me quite a few tries to get something approaching what I had seen:

Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was the best of the bunch until I set the pages aside to dry. Professional it may not be, but I gasped in surprise and satisfaction. I double checked the book, and sure enough, it was a reasonable facsimile. I felt that illumination of experience blossom in my head. For a brief instant, I was there.

Making these letters does not make me Chinese, and watching my daughter paint out of sheer joy will not make me five years old again. What those things can do, however, is take me outside of myself, and for a few moments I was able to see the world through a different set of lenses. The view was fresh, new and exciting.

I am Chinese, I am young, if only through paper, paint and the joyful mind of a beautiful little girl. I am blessed.

19 October 2009


Candle flames dot the bookshelves and dresser tops, swaying golden cypress trees in a miniature graveyard. They burn bright and steady.

In an empty apartment with no drafts the flames stand tall and slim. Nothing disturbs their radiant beauty, except the silent passage of the sole occupant from room to room. The occupant may think himself a ghost, but the wavering of the flames belies his corporeality. The ghost sinks into the couch cushions while his hands run over a face temporarily forsaken by love. Red-rimmed eyes peer out from under sodden lids in a torpid effort to focus on the candles flanking the television across the room; the television sat blankly absorbing light and thought into the satiny black surface of the screen. It offered no counsel of its own.

The small suite of rooms seems a compact necropolis, bereft of life with a silence broken only by the breathy whirr of traffic. The glossy black sarcophagus of the refrigerator offered counterpoint, intermittently humming as if to announce the interred remains of yesterday’s leftovers. The ghost blinks slowly, mesmerized by the languid dance of light. The eyes of the ghost widen as he recognizes the emotion worming its way into his freezing heart.

He is jealous.

Jealous of the flame, gritting his ethereal teeth, near to weeping to know that the flame has purpose which it executes without doubt, regret or failing nerve. The ghost sets aside his glass and wipes his eyes, a moment too late to stop the brine of loss from spilling down his cheeks. The flames diffract and sparkle across retinas become prisms swallowed by waves.

The ghost wraps trembling arms over aching ribs with a deep sigh. Watching the pale gold dancer, he remembers when his heart burned bright and pure, enraptured by the runaway oxidation of the soul.

He remembers, and envies the votive its place on the shelf.

18 October 2009

16 October 2009

Come On In My Kitchen

A chance encounter with smoky temptation...


...led the mind a' wanderin'...


...the not-so-strangers in the night...

...eyed each other across the aisles...

...and a little mood music...

That's all it took, and something wonderful was about to happen, oh yes it was...

Kitchen Stories: Romance for the Belly  

14 October 2009

'This Is A Public Service Announcement....with guitarrr!'*

Well, okay, maybe not a guitar, but while you are here, do us a favor, luv, and check this out:

Angie Ledbetter a.k.a. Gumbo Writer, and Kat Magendie, the lurvely ladies behind the Rose & Thorn literary journal, are having an open house on October 15th, in celebration of their new (and hard worked) renovations of the aforementioned journal! It's open house time!

Now, I don't know about you, but when lovely Southern belles** extend a gracious invitation, I find it very difficult to turn it down. So please, tomorrow, click on the link above, see the new digs and tell them I sent you. I'm sure they would love to have you over. Plenty of appetizers and an open bar, I've heard!

*Know what  that is from? Do ya? Huh? Do ya?
**I confess; I suppose I'm just a sucker for lovely belles of any geographic persuasion. Sigh.

13 October 2009

Teapotta and Fugue in mE Minor

Unloading the dishwasher almost made me weep. I had washed my teapot, by machine.

This is no great thing, not on the order of a car crash or horrible elevator accident, but it caused me a great deal of consternation. I haven’t a clue why exactly, other than to say that standing there in the chalky bluish glow of the overhead fluorescents, in the middle of the kitchen with my little black teapot cradled in my hands, I was overcome by a fit of melancholy.

This was on the heels of a busy day after a long week, with another long week ahead. I was weary to the bone, and trying to keep from being pecked to death by the ducks of household management. I had looked for my teapot earlier, a little perturbed that I could not recall what I had done with it. I was too preoccupied and angsty about unfinished tasks that I abandoned the idea of a full-scale hunt.

I know what happened, now. It was the night before, and I was at the sink working my way through an unkempt pile of dishes to sort them for hand or machine. Ordinarily, I would have washed the teapot by hand, but I was robotically wiping glasses and utensils and automatically placing them in the dishwasher. In my fugue state, the teapot was just another lump of ceramics, to be dealt with expediently and quietly. So into the dishwasher it went.

You should know, dear readers, that I haven’t really washed my teapot in years. I use it every day, and it was a constant cycle of fill-heat-steep-pour-repeat. Always in motion, and engorged with boiling water, washing seemed unnecessary. There is a also a school of thought that believes a good teapot takes years of use to “age” and make great tea, and to wash it is a small heresy. It would disturb the patina. I do not necessarily subscribe to that theory, especially given that my teapot is a little, unprepossessing number glazed inside and out in glossy black. It is not one of those fantastic Japanese or Chinese cast iron or clay dragons (which I still covet), it is a humble bit of pottery made in production in England. It was given to me many, many years ago as a gift. I have loved it ever since. It was a bit like finding a lost puppy when I pulled it out of the dishwasher. I was so relieved to find it had survived the buffeting of the machine.

I felt at home, really at home, holding that teapot in my hands like a long-lost relative. It has been too long since I have had feelings like that, and the bittersweet pangs tightened my throat and made my eyes glisten. We are the little things that ground us: books, a string of prayer beads, teapots: all are bearers of memory and comfort, the subtle avatars of the parts that make up our whole.

Small, quiet, humble: it is my teapot, and it looks good. It is home.

11 October 2009

Souls Among The Ruins

The forlorn remains took me by surprise, that day I came back the same way I went out. There they were, at the bottom of a hairpin turn that I had negotiated about an hour before. So intent on making the turn looking right, the ruins passed unnoticed on the left. It was not until I came back down the hill that I saw the two chimneys thrusting up from a lion’s mane of grass, sprouting at the elbow of the turn. I gasped, thoroughly surprised, and actually screeched to a halt. The brief yelp of tires on pavement sounded loud as howler monkeys in the quiet air of a drowsy afternoon. Fortunate I was that no one was coming down behind me. I pulled the car over to the shoulder, stepping out into the breeze.

The air was cool and faintly humid. The sun played hide and seek with fast moving flocks of clouds while the rustle of leaves and grass whispered in my ear, urging me forward into what used to be the front yard of a home. Is it trespassing when there are no walls, no doors?

Standing there, pondering the outlines of history slowly crumbling into the earth, a slow wash of uneasiness spread through my gut. I felt as if someone was watching me from just inside the trees that ringed the foundation. I shivered.

The sun moved a degree or two of arc as I stood there watching.  A gust of wind tousled the leaves and a burst of purple caught my eye. It was there next to the far chimney, and something was moving amongst the greenery. I made my way carefully around the top of the foundation, hoping the brick and tile would not collapse under my boots. It was as I stood behind the chimney that I saw the beautiful purple flowers on a bush growing next to the stack.

The bush appeared to be alive, moving not just under the influence of the breeze. I inched forward to get a closer look. The bush was bedecked with numerous butterflies, flitting softly among the purple blossoms. The breath caught in my throat. Beautiful, so beautiful, the colors of vibrating gemstones in the slow strobe of the afternoon sun. I crouched carefully beside the chimney, the blossoms caressing the tips of my boots. Scarcely breathing, I relaxed under the hypnotic influence of the butterflies. Then I understood. Then I knew. I realized I had been watched, from the moment my feet hit the pavement of the hairpin turn.

The walls were gone, long ago. The charred bones of the house lay in a shallow grave with a lid of clay and leaves. The plaster bits slowly succumbing to an impassive sun and the relentless turn of the clock, the chimneys like the ragged fingers of a giant beckoning to me…

Come and see, you who hurry, and greet the souls of those who called this home…
There was beauty here, once, and life.

I see the butterflies, and know Truth.

10 October 2009

Corona Borealis, My Heart

Hers is a mind that knows nothing of spreadsheets and billables and contracts. As I stood there watching corn silk hair waft about in the wind, I told myself this is as it should be.

A mind like the second coming of the Hope Diamond, sharp, brilliant and captivating. Me, I felt dull and lifeless next to her. Picture a comet on the outbound swing of its trajectory. Time and distance pile up and the sphere of ice and rock grows colder and dimmer, the glory of its tail fading into the intergalactic black. The comet is servant to gravity, and the sun doesn’t know its own strength. It gazes upon those who orbit with the wonder of a child, fascinated and reaching out with invisible arms to pull them in.

Just like me, that sunny fall day in a small patch of pumpkins. She carries her treasure, confident it is the finest in the field, and I cannot refute her claim. The sun clutches the orangey globe, a solar presence writ in miniature.

The wind kicks up, hay and leaves awhirl around the shining brow of my queen. She turns to me with that megawatt smile, her eyes wide open and gazing at me. My heart leaps, the Universe unfolds around me as her gravity pulls me in. I dive headfirst into an azure sky studded with diamonds. She laughs as a crown of light rises from her brow, into the blue…

…My God, she’s full of stars…

09 October 2009

Half An Onion: A Tale of a Small Miracle

The drive home took nearly forty-five minutes.

Forty-five minutes I'll never get back. Fatigue was too deep in my marrow for me to gripe about it. I was in a state of fugue. My eyes were open and I was driving safely, by all appearances. My mind was off somewhere else.

Apparently in the kitchen.

Arriving home, I quickly set my briefcase and lunchbag and camera down. I kicked off my shoes and slid into my bedraggled slippers, shuffling into the kitchen. I had no idea what to have for dinner. The kitchen god smiled, though, and opportunities fell out of the pantry and into my waiting hands.

Half an onion.
Two cloves of garlic.
Small quantity of peppered bacon.
Half cup long grain rice.
Quart of chicken broth.
A can of pinto beans.
Bay leaf.
Pinch of dried thyme.
Fresh ground black pepper.
Quarter teaspoon smoked paprika.
Pinch of cayenne.
Two carrots.

A small smile tugged at the corners of my mouth, as I sliced the bacon into small pieces, setting them to brown in my trusty saucier. I held the onion and cut it into large dice. The bacon was getting fragrant.

A knot unloosened in my belly. I may have actually chuckled.

The bacon was crisp, so I scooped it out of the pan. The grease I spooned off until I had just enough. The onions hit the pan, and oh, smelled so good. I laughed. They fried gently, crispy brown on the edges. The garlic made nice with it, turning over in the pan. I was smiling broadly now. At that right time, in went the rice. I spooned it over and over, getting it good and coated. Just about the time it smelled nutty, that moment, I poured in the chicken broth to sizzle and bubble. A quick stir, and I tipped in the pintos.

I was whistling now.

A squall of herbs and spices: bayleafthymeblackpepperpaprikacayenne, mmm, mmm, so nice to get lost in THAT storm. The little flecks of goodness swirled around and around as the liquid came to the boil. I was hopping a little, almost...dancing.

On went the lid, down went the flame, and few minutes to simmer. I reckoned twenty would just about do it. At about the ten minute mark, I sliced the carrots medium-thick and put them in the simmering broth.

My kitchen smelled delicious. Somewhere, I heard the tinny clank of a rusty lock being slipped from the door to the cage. I growled softly, spoon in hand.

Cook 'til its done, that's the key. I pulled my big white pasta-cum-soupbowl-cum-allpurpose dish from the cupboard between the stove and the sink. My glass of iced tea stood patiently sweating, awaiting the reunion with the bowl of...soup? stew? I was about to ladle up.

Off with the lid, and a fragrant cloud of steam gently caresses my face and nose. Breathing deep, I feel slightly dizzy, uncoiling like a watch spring finally run down. I ladled up a big helping of whatever it was I just made, and took it outside to my humble patio. The tea gladly tagged along.

I sat down to my repast, joined by the soft whisper of wind and the rustle of leaves. I stuck the spoon in to bring a big mouthful of goodness to my waiting gullet. I paused. Sitting there, alone on the patio with book, bread and soup, I suddenly realized I was witness to a miracle.

Small, humble, but a miracle just the same. I put the spoon in my mouth, closed my eyes and sighed. Half an onion and some time had just made me human again.

For that, I bowed my head and gave thanks.

08 October 2009

Wetware Filter: Skipping Stones On The River of Knowledge

The humor, to me, is obvious. This is not at all what I was supposed to write. Ha. You laugh, too, I can tell.

You see, what I was supposed to be writing was a third draft of another report for my job. It’s a worthy report, for a good client, with some interesting work to be done. I even e-mailed the draft to my home address, to whittle away on it after I stuffed some calories down my neck.

But it didn’t turn out that way. My heart whispered in the ear of my subconscious, and the two conspired to make the meat suit that is my body move in a different direction. Fatigue, hunger and the drive home became a drawn-out smear of rebellion against the long days I have already put in, with no more tolerance for the “have to do” and maintenance tasks.I was tired to the point of being weepy, almost. And so hungry I didn’t feel like cooking.

So it was that I found myself turning off the high road home and onto the low road ending in the dodgy embrace of a nearby purveyor of fast food, the golden brown and delicious crispy variety. I was too tired and hungry to be ashamed. Raw need and impatience created the Prime Directive my jittery mind could not ignore. To my credit, I exchanged the fries for a green side salad. The fast food equivalent of one or two Hail Marys and an Ave Maria.

Sitting at the table, chewing slowly and steadily while gazing with bovine lassitude at the surge of suburban life lapping at the service counter, my wetware performed a ‘count zero interrupt’. My brain decremented to zero, the grey matter quietly rebelling against the straitjacketed evening I had originally planned.

There would be no rewrites. No text edits. No rephrasing, no cutting and pasting of dry ideas and cost estimates. No, not now.

Instead, I ended up in the bookstore, i.e. ‘harem for the mind’. Ahh, books…I even had a vague plan to buy a specific book, but…but…they are all so pretty behind their brightly colored veils. I dallied, I lingered, exchanging sly glances and knowing looks with pretties of all stripes and shapes and bright colors. But even the king has to make up his mind as to his concubine…

This, dear readers, is what I came home with:

Tell me, O rapt ones, what does this say about me? What, oh, what was I thinking? I ask, because I confess that I do not know, only that there was a gossamer thread I followed in my mind…

07 October 2009

On Her Majesty's Not-So-Secret Service

"Daddy, I want to go to the park."

A brief statement, laced with the solemn gravity that only a 5 year old queen can muster. My heart, the heart of the Captain of the Guard, flutters briefly as those words charge the air. I am a fool to think I can resist.

"I want to got to the park with the green tubey slide. The big one."

I turn away from the computer, task forgotten, no hope of completing it now. The television is muttering loudly, yellow sponges and pink stars running in circles around my peripheral vision. I smile. The Queen doesn't realize that I want to go outside anyway. She just knows that the antics on the screen bore her now, time to saddle up the royal entourage and show the royal visage to the lucky subjects at the park. The geese, the dogs: they bow and scrape before her glory.

"You mean the lake? With the big playground and the tent?"

She scoffs, as if the Captain was sorely lacking in brains. Why else would he have stated something so bleeding obvious? She sighs, and giggles.

"Yes, Daddy, where else?"

I laugh, as we walk out the door to the car. So the green tubey slide it is. I buckle her in to her car seat. Hair the color of a late summer cornfield brushes my cheek as the Queen fidgets. I double check the straps. Woe betide the man who fails Her Majesty's safety!

We pull out of the parking lot and on the access road leading away from Her Weekend Palace. The Queen, oblivious to my ruminations, chatters to herself, singing a nonsensical song that might as well be the aria of an angel. I am rapt, acutely aware of my allegiances. Loyalty? Of course, don't be silly. There is no tainted loyalty here.

Stoplight. I am watching the traffic, and I idly mention going to the boat dock at the lake, maybe looking for geese or Brother Heron. Her Royal Cuteness suddenly sits bolt upright.

"Wait, daddy, I wanted to go to the park with the purple playground!"

Purple? She clearly said green tubey slide. The purple playground, so called because the paint and plastic of the slides and bars is purple, is in the opposite direction. I will not argue.

"If we go there, we won't have time to go to the lake, alright?" I say, glancing into the rear view mirror.

The Queen looks at me with rose window eyes. She smiles.

"It's okay, Daddy, I have a plan."

I can't help but smile. It's good to have a plan, especially if you are a queen. We turn right, instead of left, headed for a child's delight decked out in the color of royalty.

06 October 2009

1 down, 6 to go...

...and your pride is here on earth.

I guess the wages of sin pay pretty good, but how are the benefits?.

05 October 2009

Cat Crackers, Pot-stills and Test To Failure: In Which I Meditate On One Year In The Blogosphere

Sniff, sniff.

Smell that? That oily, singed hair mixed with whisky and caramel kinda smell?

One year. One year ago today, I fell into the blogosphere.

Whew. What a trip. I had no idea then that I would be here now, with the stuff that I wrote being what it is. I certainly did not foresee that I would connect with such a wonderful, weird, invigorating community, many of whom have given my work a warm reception. There are quite a few whom I would be honored to consider as friends, and definitely kindred spirits, even though we haven’t yet met in the physical world. I am grateful that I could take the noise in my head and spin it into signals that people want to receive. I am even more fortunate to have discovered such a deep well of talented, fascinating people who can write and take pictures and narrate the things that catch their eyes, weave the fabric of their lives.

With all the upheavals and changes in my life over the past six years, I daresay the tapping of this well, the plugging in to this outlet has been anchor and sail for me. I was out of the gate fast and ran high before the wind before time and tide reined me in. But sail I do, upon an ocean I care not to quit.

In the petrochemical industry, there is a beast known as a ‘catalytic cracking chamber’. Also known as a ‘cat cracker’, it is usually a tall cylinder which is fed with heavy oil or other hard-to-refine nasties. In the cracker, a wide range of temperatures, pressures and catalysts makes it possible to “crack” the heavy stuff into lighter, more useable stuff.

In the whisky biz*, there is the ‘pot-still’. This charming creature makes it possible to take fermented barley malt and distill it into tasty libations, like single-malt Scotch (to use a particularly fine example). The process has been around for centuries and the shape and size of the still can have a marked effect on the flavor. In both processes, liquids are fractionated to produce something that people want or need or find useful. Some you can burn, some you can drink; the desired result dictates the choice.

Whether I am a cat cracker or a pot-still, or have brought you heat and light, or taste and pleasure, I am humbled and honored to know you all. Thank you all for being here with me. Thank you for a year of sharing art and life, comedy and tragedy, prose and poetry.

For your edification and delight, I leave you with this:

Bending test for the impatient from Alexander Schreyer on Vimeo.

*And it has many applications for other types of tipple, and in the chemical biz, too.

02 October 2009

Tell Me Tales Of Love

Amor non tenet ordinem (“Love has nothing to do with order”)
Columbanus, Irish monk a-wandering in circa 6th century A.D.

Nutty Irishmen seem to have it in with each other.

Columbanus, perhaps a brother or cousin to me and separated from me more by time than by spirit, knew whereof he spake. His ‘rule’ has earned a special place in my head and heart, as of late. I say this because I get it, and I don’t get it.

Order? Love? Through one set of lenses, they seem a perfect pair. After all, isn’t love the way of things, the path that all hearts follow? We awaken to love in youth, through the spectrum of attachment to Ma and Da, learning to love our siblings and extended family, stumbling onto the precious delights of romantic love as we turn from foals into stallions and mares…eventually diving into the overheated ocean we call passion and sex. It is an arc of which we are very familiar, and we begin to think the lenses we wear to be our eyes. In the opiate daze of passion, we can no longer tell the difference between the two. Cool crystal merges slowly into warm flesh, and we are so distracted the border between mineral and animal effectively no longer exists.

Change the color of those lenses from rose to garnet, and the order we once knew dissolves, igniting into the unchecked fire that is love gone wrong. The petty slights of an unthinking partner, the abandonment of a heart gone cold, the sheer bloody-mindedness of human beings who take things for granted: fuel for an enraged heart and fevered mind. Sometimes the flames eat at the center of our souls, like a coal fire buried in a mountain. Other times, the fire engulfs us on the outside, consuming everything in its path at a breathtaking pace. Consider the forest fire unleashing such energy that the trees explode: the sap and water boil under the onslaught of combustion and runaway oxidation.

In either case, we lose a sense of our discrete identity. As so often happens, we learn this too late the first time around, and shy from it the next. The transformative nature of these emotional transactions can never be avoided, they can only be experienced. One can only hope that we ourselves are iron in the hands of a master blacksmith, or honey in the mouths of bees.

Love. Fractal emotion that defines the swirling edges of an interior self that yearns to be wanted, to be included, to be desired. If our hearts can be described as strange attractors, our minds fervently hope that the mathematics of compassion and desire will bring us to that ideal state from which we need seek no further. Our emotions a mesh in the currents of space-time around which another soul will spiral and spiral, finally coming to rest in the bottom of the curve.

The joke, the prank that the Universe lays upon us is this: just because the heart falls into an ideal state, does not mean that it is the only, best state in which to exist. We can predict with some certainty that there will be a time, a place in which the heart feels at rest and need go no further. What we cannot know, because infinity cannot be known, is if the state we are in is indeed the best to be had…or even if it is close to being the best. Thus, the slow poisons of insecurity and jealousy and fear can knock the heart out of the mesh in which it is embedded. Sometimes it is pure accident, sometimes it is medicine…the heart wanders about, seeking another occurrence, another intersection of want and need in which to lose itself. The lucky ones succeed. The unlucky ones keep looking.

The Beatles, Jesus, the Persian poet Rumi: Many are those who have suggested that all you need is love. As children we accept this without questioning. As adults we tend to scoff at such breathtaking naivete. Eventually, though, experience transforms into wisdom, the color slowly drains from the lenses, and the heart and the mind meld into singularity. Love will not feed you, or clothe you, or put a roof over your head. It will, however, sustain you.

The chaos of love: an order that we cannot perceive, without which we cannot live.
Speaking of the things we do for love, please check out "BEING AWARE CAN SAVE A CHILD'S LIFE" on HotDads, by Kevin at Always Home and Uncool. Thank you to Kevin, for bringing this to my attention. Blessings and all the best to you and yours.