31 December 2010

Miracle of the Clementine

I bought a box of sunshine late last week.  It is from Spain, and full of ripe clementines that have been keeping me going ever since.

I sat down all alone at the lunchroom table, late this past afternoon to take a break and clear my head.  The stress levels at work have been ratcheting up.  In combination with the cold, gray weather descending on the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin, the stress has been a real knockout.  Any opportunity to brighten the day or gain some breathing space is a welcome opportunity indeed.  Hence, the box of clementines: sunshine incarnate.

I had a clementine as my snack.  The act of peeling the fruit was a meditation on slow time, a celebration of having to be nowhere, doing nothing in particular, except existing in the moment.  The sweet citrus perfume that arose from the rind was heavenly.  I could feel my muscles relax, my heartbeat slow down, as I inhaled the wonderful aroma. 

As I ate the segments, one by one, slowly chewing and listening to the squeak of pulp on my teeth, I meditated on the idea of miracles.  The sweet juice trickled over my tongue and down my throat and as it did so I could not help but think I had just experienced a small miracle: that of the existence of the clementine. 

Such a small, seemingly ordinary thing may not seem a big deal in this age of so-called Reason and Big Science.  But to me, I found it fascinating and uplifting, and considered myself lucky to know that clementines exist, and even luckier to be able to eat one.  Biology and agriculture, chemistry and physics, yes, these are indeed great achievements of the human mind.  They may even explain a lot about clementines, how to grow them, take care of them, make money by selling them.  But none of them explain the why of clementines, their very existence.  Their existence is an amazing thing unto itself, far beyond reason or faith.

I don't necessarily need to believe in the Periodic Table or in a Divine Creator to understand that a clementine is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes, I don't want to trouble my head with reason or faith.  All I want to do is to sit quietly, peel the fruit and eat my way to bliss one miraculous segment at a time.  And that is good enough.

30 December 2010

I Don't Want to Do This Alone

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it
The wind blows hard outside, snow powder swirling around the eaves and across the porch.  There is no music tonight, a conscious decision to take a breather, let the gray matter cool off.  In the gaps between gusts, the rasp of leaves and ice strikes up the band with the tick and murmur of the radiators.  I knew this would happen, helped along by a finger of Bushmills Black Bush, and I give myself up to the music playing in my head.

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mystic
I get it, Van.  I really do.  I mouth the words as I can remember hearing them on the radio and live by other people, and it puts another crack in the stone of my heart.  A duet needs two, and there is only me.

Lyrics from "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison.  In case you really did not know.
P.S.: In a nice turn of events, I was published in Indie Ink today!  Please visit and drop some love!

29 December 2010

The Blizzard is a Conspiracy to Let the Terrorists Win. Really!

A long day here in the Republic of Gumbolia, culminating in a slow commute home to a turkey sandwich snarfed down in front of the tube.  Because I do not get a newspaper anymore, most of my news comes electronic form, and I have recently fallen back into the habit of skimming the television news while I eat dinner and decompress.

This troubles me.  Television, and its cousin the Internet, have a way of becoming a digital briar patch.  Filtering becomes critical when faced with information 'push', 24/7.  Effective filtering becomes increasingly difficult in proportion to the degree of weariness on my part.  Ergo, I too often get sucked in.

Or irritated.  The news has really been taking a bastard file to the raw ends of last nerves, yet I find myself too tired to stop watching.

Since I am very tired right now, I'll keep this rant short:

"Dear television news people:  please stop running feature stories on just important the holiday season is to retailers across America.  Sure, shopping is fun, but its just another business, and I don't live life waiting for the next big sale.  If the headline stories are to be believed, if retailers don't have a good (i.e. lots of money in the till) holiday, then life as we know it will crumble and we will have to live in the stone age or something.  And please, please, stop running continuous stories about how the recent horrible weather will have an negative effect on retailers, thereby leading to the stone age scenario again.  Here's a tip for you: money doesn't disappear just because a blizzard kept people from going to the mall, it only rests. Don't worry, it will be spent, one way or another.

Oh, and as far as bad weather ruining a day of shopping?  I think stories about strangers and neighbors braving the weather to take dialysis patients to treatment, or helping someone get food and heat, trump another puff piece about vacationers in Disney World complaining because they had to buy a jacket.  Enough already!

Thank you,

P.S.:  An occasional story about kittens or puppies romping in the snow would be nice."

Here endeth the rant.

28 December 2010

But True Happiness Comes With A Side of Mash

Sometimes, these things write themselves.  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and those undecided, I pass along to you The Secret, courtesy of g.oog.le targeted ads in my sidebar:


Perhaps I'll change my handle to Irish Bangers...

27 December 2010

she is my am.eric.an girl

Walking from kitchen to the next room,
the voice of an angel singing softly,
I turned the corner and my heart burst
into crystalline vapor in the Christmas air

North light through the windows, opaline grey,
the flower of my heart stood, singing,
a doll in her arms, held like a sibling
and I managed not to raise hand to heart

A nursery rhyme of unknown origin, cherub smile
to melt glaciers and split stone: I did not gasp
but stood, dumbfounded, to see such grace,
fighting the lump in my throat and tremor in my lips

She holds the doll tenderly, brushes a hair from its cheek
I chew the insides of my cheeks:  Please, my girl
never forget this, never forget such care, such bliss,
someday when you found your own dynasty

She sings, my composure slips its fragile leash,
the room blurs,  I find a space she cannot see,
will not know my heart has shattered, instantly,
refired in the kiln of her innocence

Dabbing at liquid eyes, towel between clenched teeth,
I hear her say "You are so pretty, the doll I always wanted"
knees near to buckling, overwhelmed by beauty:
I resolve to live forever.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have to say, the above prose poem (is that a phrase?) is not yet the piece I wanted to write.  It is crude, unrefined, compared to that which was in my head and inspired me to write.  I want to try it again.  Writing it over might do it justice.  Then again. it might not.  This is the dilemma.  It is almost a certainty that there are no words, no matter how skilfully arranged, that could do justice to what I saw Christmas morning.  I am also glad I had no camera with me at the time; to stop and photograph that angelic countenance, in such a golden moment, seems to me to border on a minor blasphemy.  The look on her face, the softness of her voice as she sang...

If I could truly describe, dear readers, the glimpse of the divine that I was granted I think you would agree that words sometimes fall far short.  I am reminded of "High Flight",  a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the last line of which reads:

"...Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

That poem is about a brush with the Divine in an entirely different setting, but it comes very close to what I mean.  Perhaps that is the essence of all genuinely moving experiences in life.  Words can bring us right to the edge, but in the end, we stand mute before Beauty.

26 December 2010

Crackerbox Reverie

The ghost of my maternal grandmother said hello to me on Christmas Eve.  It was right in the middle of the grocery store and I amazed that no one else heard her.  It was on the bottom shelf, on the cracker aisle, a bright red box asking me if I wanted some crackers.  Of course I said yes.

When I was a boy, the many visits to my G-maw's house were always a treat.  She always had some kind of snacks, ones that I liked, and she was generous in sharing them.  Brownies, cookies, crackers and even homemade chocolate candies during the holidays, or when the mood struck her to make them.  One of my favorite memories of childhood is of me perched on a stool at the counter between her kitchen and her living room, a big glass of iced tea (liberally laced with lemon juice) and two or three pecan sandies to munch on.  For some reason those cookies always tasted so much better in the summer time, washed down with that iced tea poured from a chipped enameled pitcher she kept in the refrigerator.

I still have the buttery, nut crunch combined with a slight grittiness, on my tongue to this day.

I remembered those cookies for years after I got older, had fewer visits with G-maw and then went off to college.  I think I even got a few boxes in some care packages I received while I was away at school.  Once I moved away out of state, though, I don't recall having purchased another box in all that time.  At least not for years, anyway.

I kept that memory.  Or should I say, it kept me.

It was a little surprising for me, this past Christmas Eve, when I stumbled across the crackers at the grocery store.  They were the kind that G-maw always seemed to have on hand, and ones that I scarfed down in probably greater quantities than the cookies.  They weren't the same ones my parents would buy, although those were good as well.  In fact, it had been my tendency as an adult to buy the same brand of crackers that I ate at home as a kid.

But it was G-maw's crackers that stayed in my mind, somewhere in there with a shipload of memories.  On Christmas Eve in the grocery store, I saw that bright red box, for the first time in years.  I did a double take.  I wasn't quite sure I was seeing what I thought I saw.  I stopped the cart and went back to look at them.  Sure enough, it the same ones.  I picked up a box, and immediately felt myself standing in G-maw's kitchen,  glass of tea in one hand and a stack of crackers in the other.  She smiled at me and turned to put the box back in the cabinet...

...and I blinked myself back into the present, surrounded by the rush and clatter of the store.  I realized I was grinning, for no other reason than a humble box of crackers had just taken me home.

Later that afternoon, after I had brought my daughter home with me for the Christmas weekend, I realized I might have a small hurdle to cross.  The Wee Lass is particular about her juice and snacks.  Not just anything will do.  She once refused to drink some apple juice because it was the kind that came in the yellow box, and not the green box, and "it tasted weird", in her opinion.  Her cracker preferences had always paralleled mine, by dint of habit and my control of the grocery shopping.  But here I was, possessed of a crackers in a red box, and not the white and blue box.  I was uncertain if she would like them, as I had when I was small.

I needn't have worried.  She asked for crackers to snack upon, as was her usual custom, so I put some in a bowl and handed them over.  About the time she bit into one, I was crunching my way through a cracker myself.  The taste was memory, years rolling back and summers revisited.  Humble, in no way extravagant, and so very good.

Wee Lass sat at her princess table, contentedly munching and watching television, as happy as I think I used to be in G-maw's kitchen.  Standing in the archway into my kitchen, watching my daughter eat, I heard a noise behind me that sounded like G-maw's chuckle, followed by the soft clack of a cabinet door shutting.  My pantry, my heart, became full.

24 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #7

I sigh, Luna smiles,
Ice mumbles among the rocks.
Laughter, awaiting dawn.

23 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #6

Green scent of pine boughs,
Motley lights cradled, sparkling,
waiting for her love

22 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #5

Venus overhead,
heart rising, fumes of the glass,
Winter toasts her name

21 December 2010

Blogjam: Redux

 (Author's note: This post was supposed to up after the other Blogjam piece.  I was gobsmacked by the photo, so I ran that instead.  It's all cut from the same cloth, though, so hang with me...because I don't want to hang by myself!)

I apologize, dear ones, for the interruption in my Winter Poetry Slam, but a Muse of a different sort has taken the reins, and I cannot still my tongue.

'Zounds, I must be channeling an Elizabethan libertine.

Not really.  But I cannot escape this fascination with formal language, even when I want or need to swear.  And I need to swear a lot.  Or I think I need to swear a lot.  Feckin' language...

Yestereve, I wrote of the unbloggable.  Judas Priest, is that even a word?  Does it matter? Do you care?  I'm not sure I do.  I suppose I should.  After all, I am the Great Pretender when it comes to language and the written word.  The basic problem is that I loathed the study of English when I was a younger Gumbo, enmeshed in the tentacles of 'Publick Education, for the bettrement for the younge minds of our Society'...

I hated rules, I guess, even though you have to know what the rules are before you can break them.  I guess I felt in my heart, although I had not the courage to say so, that I did not want to follow rules.

So, where was I?  Oh, yes, unbloggable.  Things are still at that point.  To borrow from the military, the situation on the ground remains the same.  The difference tonight, dear readers, is that I have had an adjustment in perspective, courtesy of some friends and their lives, topped off with a good libation.

Does this solve their/my immediate problems? No, of course not.  What it does do is bring me up short, pulls me back from the precipice, and gives me some time to catch my breath.  Every time I have the good fortune to have someone share with me that which makes them human,  I am by turns mystified and gratified.  I have not often felt that I am human enough to truly "get" other people, but this state of affairs has become increasingly rare as of late.  For that I am also grateful.

Was it Woody Allen who said that "90% of life is just showing up"?  Much truth in that.   I have become increasingly interested in it as of late.  It helps me feel human.  It helps me understand people, something at which I have never excelled, at least in an emotional sense.

Am I making sense?  I hope so.  Even if I am not, I hope you find this of value.  After all, what I write here, in this state of unbloggability, is nothing less than an honest attempt to confirm my membership in the human race.  Whether I like it or not, that is something I want and need.  It is a major motivation for me to keep this blog alive.

I apologize for being so obtuse and elliptical.  This fullness of heart is new, strange and wonderful for me.  Eventually, my big head will get itself around the idea that I am okay with the notion of being...human.

19 December 2010



To borrow the term from my bloggy friend only a movie, on whose blog I first saw it, I have to say things are near to that state in the People's Republic of Gumbolia.  Unbloggable.  Give it a space (Un Bloggable) and it looks like something important from a language other than English, a language in which I wish I was fluent.

It is an odd state of affairs for me, to be in a position where I can't seem to, or maybe don't want to, write out what is going in my head.  I pride myself on words and phrases, but just now: blogjam.  It feels like I am at the bottom of a waterfall, and the deluge will not let up, and it is carrying rocks and logs, and the occasional fish.  All of these, with velocity most overwhelming.

I can't tell the cause.  It could be any number of things: fatigue, fear, cowardice, anxiety, the season.  Or simply an inability to find the words that can say what needs to be said.  Assuming, of course, that I truly have something to say.  This I also do not know.

I want to say...but I can't.
I want to understand...but I don't.
I want to be brave...but I'm not, not now.

Words usually give me courage,  but they escape me at the moment.  Is this how the sculptor feels when he picks up the mallet and chisel, only to find his heart won't let him swing his arm?

I don't know.  What I do know is that I need to find a way to get my voice back.  I held things in for too long, for years, and I'm paying the price for that silence.  This, my current silence, cannot last.  It simply cannot.

But I don't know what to say.

18 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #4

Stiff leaves kiss my feet,
water caressing stones, shh!
a voice I once knew

17 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #3

Rising Lucifer
shines the river silver-black.
I awake, in frost.

16 December 2010

15 December 2010

Winter Poetry Slam: Patuxent River Meditation #1

Breath fogging the glass,
Her name, mist before the sun
Heart contracts, shatters

14 December 2010

Music Lesson

Oh, Lou- I'd like to let you know that I do not feel welcome.
All the birds, the trees, the falling snow
No they were not made for me.
And all this is where her heart resides; we met in California
She saw cities, promise reaching through my eyes
And she turned her self away
With the weather here being cold and wet, and conducive to keenly felt melancholy, I was all set to park myself at the keyboard this night and bang out a finely crafted paean to being adrift.  I made one mistake.  I listened to the song that produced the above lyrics.  The title is "That Western Skyline" by Dawes.  It a great song and a master class in rich, deep storytelling.  Yet they do it with an economy of means that leaves me astounded.  Like 'jaw-on-the-ground' astounded.  No, no, make that 'head-on-the-table' astounded.  This song had me in tears, face in my hands, because it was so heart-breakingly beautiful.

All because of one simple lyric.
Well how I curse that western skyline.
And yet I thanked it for my start.
Oh Lou, no my dreams did not come true; no they only came apart.
Oh, lawd...one line, twelve ordinary words...but what a punch.  How is this possible?  What is it they are channeling?  I have on occasion produced some powerful and provocative sentences (or at least I hope I have!), usually with bigger or more numerous words.  Yet I think I have only scratched the surface where Dawes has sunk a whole damn mineshaft into the broken heart.

The song revolves around that pithy gem.  The rest of the story speaks to leaving some important things behind in search of love, maybe home or even the 'who' a person used to be, only to find that love unrequited.  It is truly a hell of a thing to go that far out on a limb, only to discover it has been sawed off behind you.
So I followed her here to Birmingham, where the soil is so much richer
And though my aching pride might guide my hand, she did not ask for me to come.
So I wait for her all through the day, as if I wait for her surrender.
And every time I get her to look my way, she says I'm not where I belong.

But I watch her father preach on Sundays.
I know the hymnals all by heart.
But oh, Lou, no my dreams did not come true; no they only came apart.
I listened to the song three times in a row.  I could not tear myself away from it.

So I hope you understand that I could not bring myself to write the story I was going to write.  Not after that, no.  I reckon it will have to wait for another day, when the weather is better and I'm not sitting at the dining table and staring at the Christmas lights that illuminate my empty living room.  I need to meditate on stitching dreams back together, and that may take a while.

Listen and learn:

13 December 2010

The GoodFather Clause

Sometimes, nice things just arrive out of the blue, catching me completely by surprise.  Like this weekend, when I received a gift most cool, from this righteous dude, Jeff at GoodFatherBlog.  He took a shine to my post of last Saturday, "On Not Reading Books, Occasionally" and decided it warranted some recognition.  To wit, I am humbled and honored to be the first recipient of the GoodFatherBlog Seal of Approval:

I don't need no Good Housekeeping or UL Listing...I've got the GF seal!

Thank you, GoodFather!  Truly a great way to start off the week.  So please drop by Jeff's place (link above) and drop some luv.  Tell Jeff that Gumbo sent you, and that's gets you a digital coupon for 20% more good karma!

12 December 2010

Every Light My Love

"Pine or fir?" following her eyes
Then she looked at me to say
"Pick the one you like" and smiled
So fir it was, on top of the car

Rode home with windows open,
Just a bit with cords stretched taut
While she sang doggerel, softly,
sanding down the edges of my soul

Electric jewels strung across green tips
Porcelain doll hands carefully place an orb,
as if she were hanging up my heart;
She likes it, pronounces it "Pretty",

and I pronounce it Love.

11 December 2010

On Not Reading Books, Occasionally

She's good at it, you know.  Persuasion, that is.  With me the willing victim, always falling before the power of those blue eyes and that sweet voice.  Especially when she says "Please?"

It came down to a choice.  A regular occurrence when she is with me: "Do you want to do this or that?  We won't have time to do both", I intone in a voice not serious enough by half, "So pick one."  She does, as always, but not without a half-dozen or so flip-flops in the space of a minute.  This time she picked the television show over the books.  I was only a little disappointed.  The show she wanted to watch was "Chopped", on the Food Network.

This was nirvana, after a barrage of Spongebob and iCarly.  To her credit, she asked me to change the channel when "Big Time Rush" came on.  Perhaps the ad hoc music indoctrination, er...lessons...I have been impressing upon her are beginning to pay off.

She pulled the comforter off her bed and brought it to the couch, saying she was chilly.  She unfurled it as best she could and asked me if I wanted to stay warm, and I did, so the end of the comforter was mine to share.  She wrapped herself up and settled in for the show.

I was struck by how interested she was in the subject.  She asked me what the ingredients were, did people really eat deer, what do yams have to do with dessert.  I was alternately amused and distracted by her questions and comments.  She even did some critique of one or two dishes, saying that "Keith should win, because they said he was more creative.  Daddy, why did he put marshmallows in the chicken?* That doesn't sound very good".

She watched with interest as the episode unfolded, as did I.  It was fascinating to see her level of interest, even willing to forgo reading books before bedtime, for the sake of seeing who would win.  She fought off drowsiness, and she did make it to the end.  She seemed pleased to have seen the winner.  Yawns were yawned, eyes were drooping shut.  I had feared a bit of a scene ("Please, just one book!") but she was true to her word, and went to bed without a fuss.  I turned out the light, and said "I love you, sweet pea".

From under the covers, her muffled voice drifted back.  "I love you, too, daddy."

For the first time in years, having spent an hour or so watching television didn't seem like a waste of time at all.

*Yes, there were marshmallows, and it was turkey, not chicken.  But she asked a good question.  I couldn't find a good explanation on the FN site, but maybe this link might help.

10 December 2010

My Daughter She Done Told Me: A Clarification

Oh, my.  I am behind, dear readers, on my reading and my writin'.  Due to a flood of work and school and personal commitments, I haven't been able to keep up with the world beyond my shoulders.  I haven't been able to respond as promptly to the many wonderful comments I have received on the Gumbo recently, and I want everyone to know I'm very grateful for the kind words and some cool links that folks have been leaving for me.  If I haven't gotten back to some of you, it's only because I'm swimming upstream as fast as I can, but life is like drinking from a fire hose sometimes.  Whew.

One thing I did want to clarify, from yesterday's post.  I see now that I may have inadvertently created some concern amongst some folks, based on the passages referencing bottles and pills.  Please know that the post had its roots in the temptation to reach for such things, and trying to come to terms with it.  I  generally avoid self-medication, I've seen the terrible consequences, and even though some might disagree, I am smart enough to stay away from such things.  They aren't much of a short-term strategy, and they sure as hell don't qualify as a long-term solution.

Besides, a daughter's gifts give me all the reason in the world to treat myself right, something I remind myself of almost every day.

And now, apropos of nothing, just because I feel it, I leave you with the following video, "Father's Son" by Fistful of Mercy.  Clap your hands and give me some testimony!

09 December 2010

Starry, Starry Night, with Friends

'Whatever gets you through the night' the song says, 'is alright' yet I can't help but wonder if that is true.  The presumption is that one has something to get one through the night.  What if there is nothing, or no one?  What if the only solution is a bottle or a pill?

Progress has made it so easy to find a fix, nearly always within arms reach.  This may be a problem in and of itself.  Why figure it out inside, why listen to the body, when all you need to do is open your mouth and swallow?

really, why?

Sometimes, alas, it may be the only way to get through a tight spot.  This lies uneasy on the mind, especially one that is dulled by lack of rest.  Not just sleep, rest.  Rest, the forgotten country.

I thought of this tonight as I drove home from class, under a clear sky and cold to ache the bones.  I watched the lights shining through the trees bare of leaves.  A diamond necklace, twinkling and civilized, and choking the life out of life.  To see so many lights reminds  me that the season has changed, leaves are down and the trees are showing their bones to the sky.

I am also reminded of how long it has been since I have walked in the woods.  I felt the river calling to me, and the rocks and leaves.  They wondered where I have been, and I told them I been away, trying to keep up with life.

They laughed, and reminded me that they are life, and that I can rest with them.

This I could not refute, and if I had more fortitude (and a sleeping bag) I would have walked down by the river, and slept on the bank.  The earth, the water, the rocks and the sky: get me through the night, please.

If only.  Right now, I have as my companions two small stuffed animals, bequeathed upon me by my thoughtful and wonderful daughter.  She hand picked "Mr. Eagle" (stuffed eagle that, when squeezed, emits the call of a bald eagle) and 'Ballou' from "The Jungle Book".  Wee Lass even carefully placed them next to the pillows on the other side of the bed, so they could watch over me as I sleep.

Tonight, as always, I am grateful for their company.

08 December 2010

On The Hook

Moment of enlightenment
comes when the hook is set,
you on it, no matter what.

07 December 2010

Vena Cava Syndrome: Elegy

Awakening in the night, or is it dawn?
I used to know time from your slow breaths
and warm flank under my palm
The only clock I needed

Now i don't know, it's just dark
but the flush on my face
a Pemberton's sign, limning
a mass in the path to my heart

I raise my arms from under covers
Blood waves in the wetlands of my soul,
Salt reek and slick cheeks faintly glow
I whisper your name, and weep.

06 December 2010

Thin Side of the Sea

Dance of Moon and Sun
playful chase of giants
unaware of plankton me

Delta between neap and spring,
I swim, frantic, to not be caught
always on the thin side of the sea

05 December 2010

Nightfishing in the Mare Cerebrum

I wonder sometimes, what will come out of the depths of my head.  I worry, occasionally.  It's dark down there in the caves.  Not much room in some places, all those ideas crammed together, piled on the floor and dripping from the ceiling.  Assuming there is a ceiling.  It doesn't feel like it when all alone in the murk and the batteries just ran out.

I liken this exploration of my head to net fishing in a subterranean river, with only a feeble and shaky miner's lamp for illumination.  The water rushes by, mostly unseen, while I stand in it thigh-deep and shivering.  The lamp casts only a small circle of light around me.  It often feels more a nuisance than a help.  Just enough light to see by, but not enough to see really far.  It also attracts...things...from the Stygian dark surrounding my little island of light.

Big things.  Scary things.  Things with fangs and slime.

I've never been comfortable in water through which I cannot see.  I'm fearful of what it might hide, of the terrors that might sneak up on me.  Yet I have no choice but to cast my nets, over and over, to haul in whatever may fall into the strands.  I run the risks because every now and then, the net captures good things.

Shiny things.  Golden things.  Things made of love and heart.

I'm learning to whistle, down there in the dark.  When the mood strikes, I sing, and the nasty things with teeth retract their claws while retreating back into the gloom.  They may terrify me...but sometimes, I confound and trouble them.

So tell me, what's in your psyche?

04 December 2010

Awake in Tierra del Fuego

It wasn't bad  pizza what made me start writing tonight, nor was it a virus, or too much alcohol (or any alcohol, for that matter).  This probably isn't my Jerry Maguire moment, supposing I ever have one of those.  No, really, this is the result, I think, maybe...

...see, I can't even pull the trigger on that thought.  'Cause apparently I have commitment issues.  Or something like that.  And I write a lot like I often talk.  In short, choppy disjointed sentences.  With odd punctuation.

So the problem is maybe the way I think.  My thoughts are like ball bearings rolling down a billion narrow tracks placed side by side on a shaker table, which itself is randomly whacked causing the bearings to jump their tracks and start all over again.

Gahhh.  Scrap that.  I don't like the machine analogy.  I am not a machine, although I sometimes feel like one.  A tired, stressed out machine about to be replaced by the next generation of shiny, noisy things.  They may not be better, but they look better, and therein lies the rub.  I may have the content, not sure I have the form.  My surface, maybe it ain't so shiny.

So there I go again, off on another tangent which barely makes sense to me.  If it doesn't make sense to me, I can't expect it to make sense to you, dear readers (to whom I'm very grateful that you've stuck it out this far).  Analogy, analogy, I'm looking for an analogy.  Or is it a metaphor?  A simile?  Gahhh, again.  See?  Distracted by my own self, or the shiny things that are my thoughts.

Crows.  My thoughts are like crows.  Bright, clever but so easily distracted.

This rambling edifice is the result of being tired and run-down.  "Shagged out from a long squawk" to borrow from Monty Python.  The stresses and strains of the week have taken the starch out of me, and tonight for the first time in a long time I laid down on the couch after eating alone (again) at my neighborhood tavern, and channel surfed the television.  Watching things about which I either cared too little or cared too much.  I melted into the couch cushions.  My eyes absorbed food porn and real-world obscenity, and suddenly I was off my feed.  Two sides of a very disturbing coin.

I gave up, eventually.  Watching stories about people stuffing their faces and about humans killing each other for the sake of flag and religion, well, it was too much.  I laid back on the couch and fidgeted with my camera, thinking I would take a picture of myself and use it as source material for a Really Intense Post about the life of a would-be Artist...and I did take some pictures of myself and the view from the couch.  But I don't know if I'll share any of those.  The notion took on some absurdity as I scrolled through the pictures I still haven't downloaded from the past week or so.  A strange melange of my daughter, an aunt of mine, and scenes from the church of my boyhood.

The images of my blood and kin, of the cross, of the stained glass panels aglow with afternoon sun...an intensity of emotions I am at a loss to describe.  I sat and stared at these images, scrolling back and forth, zooming in and out, while the radiators creaked and popped in little echoes resounding through the barren temple of my house.  Friday night, and a payday, and what am I doing?  Laying on the couch, wondering just how I got here, and analyzing the best angle to create a weird photo of the ceiling fan in my living/dining room.

I am attempting to surround myself with artifacts that mean something to me on a deep personal level.  I have a start with three big framed prints of mine, but it isn't enough.  The three prints only serve to highlight just how much room there is left to fill.  The echoes of the radiator gain amplitude in the remaining emptiness, a feeling only intensified when I look at the images on my camera, tiny pictures of a big lonely head.

It's cold here tonight, with the possibility of snow flurries.  Perhaps it is time to turn in, gather the blankets around and keep in the heat.  Yes, it is time.  I'd better get to it, because if I'm still awake when the next train horn blows, I may just jump in my car and drive to Tierra del Fuego.

03 December 2010

Happy Friday: The Nice Files

Let's just get it out there that this week has been a stinker.  Not catastrophic, not my-house-just-fell-into-a-volcano kind of bad, but a stinker all the same.  A big, greasy wurst of Too much to do, wrapped in a charred pastry Blanket of Angst, topped off with a nasty dollop of Too Many Bills.  Oh, and I was going to be home later than usual.  So it is safe to say that I was all prepared to get home, change into my sweatpants and hide under the pillows on my bed.

Fortunately, there was an alternative waiting for me, times two.

NICE THING #1:  The tea I ordered a week ago, shipped the cheap, slooooow way, finally arrived and was perched on my doorstep.  Hooray!  I likes me some India black tea, of the Assam lineage, and now I have fresh malty/smoky/brisky to warm me up these chilly mornings.

EVEN NICER THING #2:  Earlier this month, I commented on this post by Unmitigated, and made a remark about a book in the background of the photo.  Well, to my pleasant surprise, the lurvely and thoughtful Mary replied to my comment and offered to send me the book if I would read it.  So today, in my mailbox, was the package containing the book*.  How about THAT, dear ones?  That is all kinds of nice, and that made my day.  In New Orleans, they would call that a 'lagniappe', a little something extra, which warms the heart.  If you can, drop by her place and say hello.  Thanks, Mary!

*"The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller" in case you wanted to know.  Yeah, yeah, I'm a geek. 

02 December 2010

El Tigre

The jaguar is the most feared and respected big cat in the Western hemisphere, according to some.  To be expected, I suppose, given that the jaguar has an incredibly powerful bite, is extremely fast and very lethal to its prey.  The jaguar, it is said, seldom goes hungry.

Jaguars are elusive.  They are hard to find, difficult to track.  There is a lot that isn't known about jaguars.  Maybe this is as it should be.  Maybe dangerous beauty isn't meant to be completely understood.  Yet know them we must, if they are to survive the insensate appetites of man.  So we keep studying, chasing, tracking.

In my more mytho-poetic moments, I feel el Tigre is my spirit brother from another mother.  I feel the jaguar, understand it, want to be in its skin.  Most days, though, I can only admire from afar, knowing that I have miles to go to match the power, vitality and mystery of the jaguar.  Maybe I never will, but find myself not wanting to give up.  I will probably go hungry more often than the jaguar would, I'm not so fast or powerful.  Still, I will hunt.  Someday, I will hold the keys to the spirit world, just like them.

Image from Wikimedia.org

01 December 2010

Living the Dino Lif

A damp, gray day and warm for the season to boot.  It put a twist in my drawers and a pall on my demeanor, which spilled into the workday.  Today was a headphones-on-more-than-off kind of day.  The only thing that could have put the cap on it would have been to walk around with a lemon wedge in my mouth.

Her Majesty's evening swim class was cut short because one of the toddlers had a "bathroom incident" in the pool, so everyone had to exit and the pool was shut down for cleaning.  Poop in pool = total buzzkill + hilarity for the Lass.  To her credit, she did acknowledge that it was "gross".

"Soulshine" by Government Mule was playing on the radio when I arrived back at the Casa del Gumbo, and it put me further into the funk than I already was.  Pensive and soul-searching wasn't what I was in the mood to hear.  I was gearing up to write it all out, get the cynical and jaded pollution from my head to clear it.  I was thinking how I fall into that trap too often, seduced by the dark side, and how I was tired of being a grown-up.

Good thing I saw the picture.  Heh.

It has been sitting on my kitchen counter for about a week or so.  Wee Lass drew it for me as a gift, of her own accord.  It is of a happy little dinosaur, cheerily munching on what looks like carrot-shaped tree with a single large leaf at the top.  Overhead, a pale yellow sun shines down as a butterfly the size of a condor flies above the dinosaur.  At the top left hand corner is a title, scrawled in that unmistakable penmanship of one who is just learning to write.  It says "The Dino lif", and Wee Lass assures me that it does mean "The Dino Life", missing 'e' notwithstanding.

It makes me smile.  I forget, even for only a little while, about the crappy day and malaise and the cynical, corrosive air we often breathe as adults.

I sat down on the couch, with a glass of tea, and resolved to more often "live the Dino lif".  And I won't even worry about that missing 'e'.

30 November 2010

Scent of Our Archaeology

Sighing deep, the aromas inhaled
curl around a memory trigger
firing bullets of the past

Heart folds around the impact as
radiators emit the smell of toast
and us, back when the world was young

Aroma of adulthood rising from the glass,
and desperate swallows drown the sting,
to disinfect the past, or bring it back

29 November 2010

The Tree at the Center of the World

The countryside is a particular shade of gray-brown outside of the towns, everything the luster of a dirty hen's egg laid bare in the wan November sunlight.  It is a color that has no name, I think, or at least not one you would care to remember.  Because who would want to remember something that reminds them of ghosts and distant love?

The trees all start to look the same, except the pines (of which there are more than a few) and the occasional leafy holdout showing off in a  last gasp of red or gold glory.  Even those few specimens look downcast, like a king who just lost the war, taking off his crown to hand over to the victor.  The only thing missing is a cast of crows alighting in the barren fields.  The few birds to be seen usually manifested as seagulls and waterfowl down by the many rivers crossed on this journey.  Every rule has an exception it seems, and this day was no different.  Somewhere close to the halfway point a quartet of turkey vultures was observed sitting on the ridge line of a small outbuilding on a farm that was passed.  Fitting for the time and mood, they had their backs to the sun and wings outspread, like exotic flowers soaking up the heat on a cold fall day, their feathers the petals.

The radio kept to a murmur, because the flower of my heart was napping in the backseat.  There are only so many farms she can see, barns and twisted oaks before the novelty (for her) wears off.  I didn't mind so much.  She needed the rest and I needed the quiet.  This drive through the eastern Virginia tidewater flatlands, from my boyhood home back to the place where my adult self keeps a bed, it lends itself to reflection and rumination.  There is a general lack of elevation, a scattering of 'artifacts' of civilization (silos, houses, tractors, signs) in combination with a sparseness of actual humans in the landscape.  I am attracted to this terrain, yet unsettled by it.  I want to live in this place, but fear I'd be more alone than I feel now.

So how far away is far enough?  How close is close enough?  These thoughts loop over and over as cruise control takes me closer to where I'll sleep tonight.  Almost all of the family that gave me life is slipping further and further behind.  I am a lighthouse keeper on a far, frozen rock and I'm watching the supply ship sail away into the mist.  I wave until my arms ache, the ship dissolving into the gray rim of the horizon, and I can only hope things will last, that the ship will come back.

It is no ship I'm on, only the 12-year old fading gray seat from which I captain the nondescript vehicle that is my car.  The wheel is worn under my hands, as is the shift lever, but they feel good.  Solid, in their own way.  The analogy I can think of is like well-made tools used for decades by the same craftsman, or perhaps a well-worn saddle perfectly broken in.  I do not kid myself that this car is a miracle of modern engineering, like some Swiss watch on wheels.  It does make me a tad melancholy to think that soon I may have to replace it.  It has indeed served me well, but the pasture beckons, as it were.

If only I had the stable in which to keep it.

Lunchtime approaches, as does the small town which is home to where I will eat, as is my new tradition.  The daughter isn't so thrilled, claiming she doesn't like their food, but my craving for a fried oyster sandwich will not be denied.  We always stop here on our way back.  The restaurant proclaims it is a family "tradition since 1938" and that simple phrase sends a pang through my heart, as we sit and scan the menu.  I look around at the old wood paneling, the heavy brown wood tables, the lines on the faces of some of the patrons.  A few look as if they have been coming here since 1938, but today I don't see that as the punchline to a joke.  I see it as a lifeline.  A thread.  A root connecting people to their past, through the soil of the present.  I am envious.

There is no drama to our order, the fried oysters a fait accompli for me, and Her Majesty confessed that she might eat a turkey sandwich, should one be brought before her.  And so it was.  I devoured mine with gusto, she had to be alternately plied with humor and threatened with loss of wishing well privileges in order to secure passage of a few nubbins of turkey down her gullet.

The wishing well is in the back, a treat for the kids, where they use a small "fishing pole" to snag any one of a number of plastic fish from the bottom.  They can then redeem the "catch" at the register for a trinket selected from a case at the front.  Her choice today was a plastic link bracelet, multi-hued and adorned with a green frog motif cast into the surface of each link.  Quite fetching, she thought, and just the sort of thing that her mommy would like. I smiled as she tried it on, and we turned to go.

It was then the insight flashed on me.  Watching my daughter skip-hop-march to the car,  I felt my earlier envy fade.  I have my lifeline, my thread: she is right there in front of me.  As she laughs in the November sunlight, I feel my roots spread out a little further, a little deeper.  Home may not be so far away as I think.

28 November 2010

Double Star

Looking out the back window
on leaves dusted with the silver
November moon like a polished dime

They skitter and frolic in the wind
while the heart spins with them
and the eyes track the sky

Taurus, the Seven Sisters and Orion
his belt a beacon, and a question,
begged by a soul beset with doubts

Is it true? Is it real, a twin system
of incandescences can survive together
even in hard vacuum all around?

Because this system is twinned no longer,
second light spun into interstellar black,
The first now dimmer, poorer, colder.

27 November 2010

Leaving House, Looking for Home

Jack Marlowe left it all behind, in his forty-ninth year.  It was a train that did it.  Jack was sitting at the dining table, staring down at the solitary plate, when he heard the train horn blow from across the river valley.  That wasn't the sound he wanted to hear on the 26th of November. 

A tear tracked down his right cheek as he picked up the lone wine glass and hurled it straight into the antique mirror on the wall across from his seat.  The resulting crash of shattering glass affected him not at all.  He calmly brushed a few errant crumbs of glass off of his sleeves, careful not to drag any into the skin of his fingers.

The cat sat mute, wide-eyed, scrunched under the couch.  Its eyes darted back and forth while a terrified mewl escaped from its mouth.  Jack acted as if he had not heard.

He stood, flipped the table over on its side, and marched upstairs.  The cat took off for the safety of the kitchen, a fuzzy streak of light beelining for the pet door into the mudroom.  There was a loud series of slams and thuds upstairs and then an abrupt quiet.  Softly, almost delicately, Jack padded down the stairs.  In his hand was a small suitcase, battered black plastic, and crammed with as many clothes as Jack could grab in five minutes.  He set the case down.

Walking into the kitchen, he grabbed two bottles of water from the refrigerator, leaving the door open.  He reached over to the stove and slammed open the door.  He rapidly turned on all the burners, skipping past the tickticktick of the automatic igniters.  The scent of rotten eggs suffused the room.  Jack spun around on his heels,  raced back to the living room and picked up the case.  He ran out the front door, not bothering to see if the door shut.

Lights flickered, the alarm yelped.  Jack slid into his car to push the key into the ignition before he had the door closed.  He saw himself in the mirror, briefly, and found to his surprise he didn't look panicked or upset.  Mostly tired.  The eyes of resignation and resolve.  The eyes of change long overdue, wide with recognition.  Starting the car, he raced the engine and took off leaving only a screech of tires in front of the house.

Three miles and five minutes later, Jack heard a distant thud almost like thunder.  He thought he felt a wave of pressure through his chest.  Looking in the rear view he could spy short black cloud forming, somewhere back there in the vicinity of his former home.  Flicking his eyes downward to check his speed, Jack decided he wasn't moving fast enough.  He pushed the accelerator down hard.

Behind him, sirens began to wail, but he knew they weren't coming for him.  He sped off into the evening.  Up ahead, the train was coming to the intersection, horn blaring.  Jack ignored the sound, foot on the pedal and dreaming his dreams of home.

26 November 2010

Cellar of the Devil

In the aqueous humor of bar light, the wine in Jason's glass was looking like blood, and this disturbed him to the point that he hesitated to bring the glass to his lips again.  The bottle was near two-thirds gone.  Jason's stomach trembled a little.  His arm relaxed as he gingerly set the glass down on the worn zinc of the bar top.  A ragged sigh escaped his lips and he wiped at tired eyes gone dry.  He was tired, and slightly drunk.  Contemplating the implications of wine and blood was nothing he cared to do even when sober.

Jason leaned back in his bar stool and gazed owlishly at himself distorted through the bottles on the back bar, arrayed in front of the mirror.  He was shocked at how tired he looked, and rumpled.  He straightened up, embarrassed.  This was no way to end a shitty Wednesday, no sir, he told himself.

It was a semi-quiet night at the Mort Subite, Jason's watering hole of choice when his hankering for a good Belgian brew outweighed his normal fondness for stout.  Looking about, he could see the regulars in their usual spots.  The Lawyer and the Countess sharing breath at the far end of the bar.  Vincent the Broker and his cronies staking out the middle ground, laughing a bit too loud at their own jokes.  Moody Jim, or Eeyore as Jason called him, spinning another downer story to Angelique and Jock, the native Belgians who owned the place.  Angelique usually took pity on Jim, but Jock just rolled his eyes and looked to serving the customers as an escape route.  Tonight was no different.

No different, Jason thought, except I'm drinking wine instead of lambic and I've no idea why.

He took a deep breath while refocusing his eyes.  On the bar top, the cork from the bottle lay next to his glass.  He could just barely make out some writing on the side, it was too dim to read at arm's length.  Jason realized he had forgotten what he had ordered.  He reached out and picked up the cork, squinting at the blurry ink.  It read "Casillero del Diablo".  Jason chuckled grimly, his rusty college Spanish rendering it as "Cellar of the Devil".  Looking up and around the dimly lit bar, he thought it a fitting moniker.  He brought the cork to his nose, to inhale...

...and tumbled into a pool of memories, soundtracked by a laugh, a voice that could stop time and mend broken bones.  Hair that felt like straw and silk, skin like cream in your coffee with a taste of salt and sunlight.  She was sitting across the table, the patio door open and copper-salt smell of the ocean breeze surrounding them.  Wineglasses sparkling like huge rubies on the glass table top.  Hands together, eyes locked on his and that smile, oh, that smile.  That last weekend getaway of theirs played out in his head.  Jason swayed in his seat, feeling that whirlpool opening beneath his feet.  He grabbed the edge of the bar, desperate to stop the spin before he fell, like he had the day she left...

"Jason, are you okay?"  Jock's voice shattered the bubble Jason had felt forming around him.  He opened his eyes, blinking and breathless.  Embarrassed, he shook his head to clear it.

"Yeah, Jock, I'm okay," he said with a weak grin, "That's what I get for..." he trailed off, not wanting to say That's what I get for drinking wine that tastes like a lover long gone, on top of a heart too full to swallow anymore bitter.  He cleared his throat and started over.

"That's what I get for having one glass too many, my friend."  He stood to leave, taking his wallet from his jacket pocket and tossing some bills on the bar.  "It's good, but I believe I'm done with that bottle."

Jock shrugged, offered a noncommittal smile while scooping up the money, saying "Good night, my friend."

Jason thanked him and made his way on wobbly legs towards the door.  Just before he got there, he remembered the cork in his hand.  He stopped, swaying and confused.  turning around, he made his way back to the bar and dropped the cork in front of Jock, who raised an eyebrow to Jason.  Jason smiled.

"Some things, " Jason said, "are best left in the cellar.  Goodnight, again."  Jock just shrugged. Jason turned back, navigating his way to the door like a tanker in shallow water, and surfaced in a cool November of forgetting.

25 November 2010


Often the simplest, humblest things make the best gifts.  The challenge for us, as humans with filters, preconceptions and biases, is to recognize the simple, humble thing as being a gift.  No easy task these days, when Thanksgiving is often over-commercialized as a day to "spend time with family and share good times and a meal", when what they really mean is a time for eating too much, watching football and then prepping for the Black Friday sales.  Because nothing says "I'm thankful" like a shopping spree one can't afford, to buy things you want for people you may not like.  And keep doing that all the way through the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Ah, I digress.  This was not meant as a Scroogey screed against one of the biggest holidays in America.

In the spirit of simple is better, I'll keep this short.  The best gift one can receive, in my opinion anyway, is one that often isn't dressed up in shiny finery.  It doesn't necessarily advertise itself, or stand out from the noise and clatter of everyday life.  It may even sidle up to you quietly, waiting patiently for you to notice...and when you do, you'll be forever grateful.

When others open up their lives to you, invite you in, break bread with you, no matter how humble or grand...this truly is worth the price of admission to be a human being.  Excess and consumerism pale in comparison, when you have the honor of sharing space, time and nourishment (for the body and the soul) with those who offer these things out of love.  Remember that, this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, to my fellow humans.  May we share bread and salt.

Special thanks, and love, to The Missus and The Mister for the inspiration.

24 November 2010

Lament of the Silverback

On a quiet Saturday night
the primate stares into the mirror
seeing pewter amongst the chestnut

it wonders then, if its lineage is true
does that make it king of the forest?
Or a silverback beset by the young?

23 November 2010

Travelogue of the Seeker

I wonder if I could live my life as a traveler, if a living could be made from roving from place to place and writing whatever came into my head.  Picture that: a life illuminated by random throws of darts at a map, to go where the sharp end takes me.

That sounds vaguely like the life of a travel writer, doesn't it?  I'm not so sure I could do it.  Still, the idea of it appeals to me.  More so because the chance to get away, than for the opportunity to write a "review".  Wait, reviews would mean 'travel guide' writer, not so much just travel writer.  Maybe that's what I mean.  I could be a travel writer, if that entailed me traveling, then writing about the aspects that interest me, not critiquing things or experiences for others.

There are days where I want to do it.  Sell all my stuff, by an RV and drive around observing, watching, listening.  I'd want to know more about how life is conducted in places outside my own.  How people earn their daily bread (or how they make their daily bread), the terrain of their surroundings (urban, rural or in between), and what they like to eat (and where they get it).  The flesh and bones of this world enchant me.

Then, I could retreat to my room in a local bed & breakfast, or hotel, and calmly, deliberately, parse out the evidence of my senses on the page or the monitor.  Would that not be grand, to lay eyes on a different body of water, fill the lungs with different air, anoint the ears with the sound of a different voice?  Then, have the luxury of writing it out?  Yes, yes it would.  To travel far, and see the moon from a different angle, and shape it with words: that would be contentment.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Nantucket Sound are a shared ocean, but the waves in each are separate voices.  I want to listen to them all, write their biographies.  That way, when I return home, as I always do, I'll have some company at the fireside.  We'll raise a toast, and dream of our next adventure.

Where do you want to wake up next, what voices do you want to hear?

22 November 2010

Lake Effect

Seen but not seen
murmuring waters whisper
over the wind

Over the horizon
waves caress the beach
pas de deux, sand and water

Head lifts, eyes emerge
nose up into the breeze
sensing a heartbeat

Grayish pearl of the sun
breaks through the clouds
hands pressing chest

Drumbeats pounding inside
a cage of flesh and bone,
calling love home

21 November 2010

Sound of Semi-Silence

Another quiet night here at the homestead, finally, after more time running myself into the ground, full up on activities and work and stuff.  The radio is off, had to give my ears a break.  I was listening to the iPod all day, then put a CD in the player while driving hither and yon.  Slow traffic makes for interesting listening sometimes, and in this case I was diggin' the grooves laid down by Cut Chemist and Shortkut, two California-based DJ's who reminded me that turntable scratch, in the right hands, is just good stuff.  A colleague of mine loaned me a CD of a collaborative project they did back in 1997, and it is earworthy, no doubt.

So, as I was saying, a quiet night.  The noises are refrigerator hum, an airplane and faint wind plus traffic.  Soothing in their own way.  Funny, on nights like this, I don't often think of the click of the keyboard as 'noise'.  It most certainly is, though.  I wonder why.  Maybe its like fish think of water: it's there, all around them, they are fully immersed in the stuff...so it ceases to register.

Writing is like that for me.  No, its more accurate to say typing, but typing as a function of writing.  When I write for myself, which is a lot, I tend not to notice the clicks.  When I'm typing at work?  Then the clicking really starts to grate.  Fortunately, I am home, and writing.

And listening.

To the cars outside.  The sound of my breath.  The hum of the appliances.  In this house, when the radio is off, the sounds tend to fall off faster than I had come to expect, from living in newer apartments and houses prior to this one.  Maybe its the plaster interior walls, or the mass of the brick and stone.  Whatever the reason, I like it.  This place is, on average, a lot quieter than my previous house and certainly over the apartment I lived in last year.  It makes me feel calm.

Which I need.  Calm, that is.

The calm makes me introspective in a way different than being wired or anxious.  It's slower, more contemplative.  Earlier I looked at myself in the mirror while trimming my beard, and in the snicksnick of the scissors I flashed on the notion that my life is not really under my control, nor is it completely out of my control, and that I really don't know where I am regarding just who I think I am, what I want, and how to figure it out.  To wit, in the past five days, I felt like running away to Rio, becoming a potter, learning how to weld stuff, staying home and doing nothing but cook good food and taking up the art of DJ'ing.  Go figure.

At that realization, I looked at myself again in the mirror, just stared.  I had the feeling that I didn't really know that person staring back at me...but I felt like I really wanted to know him.  To make that happen, I suppose I'll have to sit down with him and listen, really, truly, listen.

There's something going on in there, behind those blue-gray eyes...and I want to know what it is.

20 November 2010

WOFF: The New Music Alternative

Another night, just another night and the goddamn radio or mp3 player or streaming audio or whatever the device du jour,  it is possessed by demons.  Sonsabitches get inside the head and play whatever they want to play, DJ's from the hell, for sure.

Because every song you hear is a song that drives another needle into the heart, and you curse the bastards and tell them not to stop.  Think to throw the diabolical device out the window, and you know you won't be able to.  Because then you won't be able to hear every song as a love song, a heartbreak song, a love gone wrong song, another blow to the heart song...a love gone away song.

When did this happen? How did it happen? Even the goddamn shuffle is the enemy, because no matter what comes up, it brings memories with it.  Some good, some bad, many just too much to bear for one reason or another, and some days it seems overwhelming.  Elevator music for 100 floors of melancholy.  Too planned.  As if directed by intelligence, or malice.  Thousands of songs, days worth of music...and the ones that get played are the ones that play you.

So, for it...the only thing to do, as you often do, is hit 'Skip'...

...or find a quiet spot where no one can see, and listen to the memories...and learn to embrace them all.

19 November 2010

Farging Bastiches Friday: The Curmudgeon Files

Apologies, dear readers, as I must indulge myself a rant, in bullet point form:

  •  Being possessed of a pulse, a uniform and a job does not make one a hero.  Being 'heroic' (i.e. showing great courage, exhibiting noble qualities, and great achievements) makes one a hero.  Calling someone a hero because they got out of bed and put on their pants only cheapens the ideal, and means that if everyone is a "hero", no one is a hero.  You want to be a hero? Then do something truly heroic.
  • Being possessed of great religious conviction does not equate with being possessed of superior morals or ideas.  If you ask a stranger what faith they profess, ostensibly to have a polite discussion about belief, only to quickly turn it into a thinly veiled lecture on why their relationship with God isn't the "right" relationship, and that yours is, then you have disqualified yourself from being a truly humble practitioner of faith.  No one can truly know the mind of God, so don't even try, you hypocrites.  Corollary:  When the party you have just insulted and patronized by denying the legitimacy of their belief system reacts by disagreeing with you, said disagreement does not constitute persecution of you as a believer of a different faith, nor does it constitute an insult to your faith.  The person simply does not believe what you believe.  Different belief is just that; different, not wrong.  So get over yourselves, you tinpot martyrs.  Cry your crocodile tears somewhere else.
  • Being a newly elected Republicanfacisticteabaggernutjob U.S. Representative or Senator does NOT mean you are possessed of a God-given, "will-o-the-people" mandate to enact every ill-thought out piece of legislation in your Big Box of Crazy Ideas.  You won that seat because people wanted to change things, and because this supposed democracy is heavily weighted to the two-party system, the people who wanted to change things voted for you because YOU WEREN'T THE GUY/GAL ALREADY IN OFFICE, not because your stupid ideas and close-minded thinking were so attractive.  There were no real, viable third-party alternatives.  So get your heads out of your own asses, and stop looking in the mirror so damn much.
  • Being excited about getting up at 3:00 a.m. on Black Friday does not make you the envy of the neighborhood, or an example to be imitated.  It does not make you worthy of respect, and it does not make you nearly as cool and fascinating as you think you are.  What it does do is make you a tool.  A Pavlovian, programmed consumerist tool, beholden to whatever megacorporations have hoodwinked you into believing that the latest/greatest app/gadget/machine/toy is the only way to show how much you care for the people you want to give gifts to.  Good thing the product life cycles are so short, that way you can do it all again next year!  Seriously, though?  Do you really want to be at the end of your days, thinking "Wow, it was so cool that I was the first one with an xBox 3000, way back in '10!"  Hate to break it to you, Sparky: NO ONE CARES.
  • F-book (or any other Internet-intensive New Economy company) announcing it will be "making a play" for the market by offering services that other companies already offer...is not news.  So, all you local news anchors hawking thinly veiled ads for said companies under the aegis of "Consumer Watch" human interest stories? Shut up.  Just shut up.  I. Don't. Care.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
  • Putting any humble food (like french fries) on a pretty plate, and taking a glossy picture of it, and adding the word "GOURMET" to the description, does not make automatically that food "gourmet".  If you want to make french fries "gourmet",  let's see them fresh-cut to order, twice-fried, properly drained and served with side of say, chipotle aioli or homemade mushroom ketchup.  Plus, a waiter should bring them to the table.  DO NOT let some bored high school kid dump a block of batter-coated frozen fries into stale grease, oversalt them and dump them (undrained) into what will become a grease-soaked recycled paper boat, accompanied by a fistful of 'ketchup' packets.  Really, if you want to impress people, just make them hot, crispy and with the right amount of salt.  If you can do that simple thing well, you will go far in life.
Here endeth the rant.

All of then above items I have recently heard or seen in person or through various forms of media, and the irritation factor reached critical mass, hence this post.  It may be a long winter, folks...maybe I'll just put my fingers in my ears and shout "La, la, la..."

18 November 2010

Blessings of the Rain

Sitting at the table, reading something, can't remember what, but does it matter?  No, what matters is the sound of the rain, that soft sizzle of drops on pavement interrupted by the slow sound of torn wrapping paper as a car drives down the street.  Funny how a sound, a moment can be a life saver, give you focus pull you out of the grips of whatever it was what had its claws wrapped around your ankles and dragging down into the deep.

Thank God or Allah or Yahweh or Krishna or Buddha (in no particular order) for that, for the simple gift of rain on a lonely midweek night.  Another one in a long string of lonely ones.  But hey, stop that, cut it out right now, yeah?  Weren't thanks just offered for the rain?  Yes, they were, of course, because the rain is beautiful when it falls like that: just enough to give life without washing everything out in a flood.

Looking out the window into the diamond-studded dark on the streets, the glints and twinkles of sodium glare and headlights coruscating down the street.  The headlights bring hope, but the taillights, well, the taillights always seem kind of sad.  Something getting away, leaving, moving on.  And there has been too much of that.

But the rain sound, it grounds the soul, and maybe the rain puts a damper on things...but the soul sometimes seems born of the rain of love.  The soul knows this, it responds to love like a desert wildflower in a gullywasher.  Bloom, baby, bloom, soak in that life-giving water and bloom while you can.  Sink the roots, grow the leaves and flower as you will.

Whether that be for a night, a month or once in a lifetime...bloom.

The walls of the house filter out a lot of the noise, mute the sounds, soften them like Miles Davis on "Kind of Blue".  Music and rain, the good metaphors for the feelings, the awakening that once lived here.  The awakening like God coming back to a long-abandoned chapel set alone in a far-away field.  God in the chapel,  and in the heart of the lucky passing herdsman who took refuge in the dust and decay to get out of the raging storm.

This was love.  This is what the heart knew, blazing brilliant, turning the rain to steam as it fell.  Now, the sound of the rain is the memory of love gone on walkabout.  The sound of the rain on the pavement brings a weary sigh and a knowing smile, small on a mouth still aching under phantom kisses that once were real.

The mouth smiles, and for once the lips don't tremble, fighting back tears.  It smiles, and whispers a small prayer of thanks to the rain, for allowing remembrance of past fortune...and hope for future joy.

The rain, it is a blessing.

17 November 2010

Beautiful Surrender

Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm
"Come in" she said "I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Imagination overfull of places in the heart
That once were safe, and always warm

Sundown and the early dark, chill seeping
the bones ache and rattle like leaves in the yard
music leaking from a radio, dripping down the shelves,
flowing across the floor to wrap around cold legs

that push against an unforgiving floor, trembling weary
body melting into cushions like granite floss
the grit scratching and abrasions forming, it won't stop,
because the pain seems more real than real, right now

fingers fluttering, fists clenching, heel of the hand swiping
at Prince Rupert's tears exploding from eyes gone wide
and molten to hear the words, know that vanished love
was nothing less than a beautiful surrender

Passages in bold quoted from "Shelter From the Storm" by Bob Dylan.

16 November 2010

The Sauce of Contentment

The scent of the weekend's batch of pasta sauce still lingers, tucked away in the nooks and crannies of my house.  This kind of scent has existed, in one form or another, in every place I have ever lived.  It is the scent of warmth and comfort, and of that place where they will always take you in, no matter what.

It is the scent of home.

This edition of sauce was something I did a little different than in recent weeks.  I didn't grate a carrot into my pureed tomatoes, as had been my habit for a long time. So a little of the orange-tinged sweetness wasn't there, and that was okay.  I didn't mince the garlic down into a near-paste, as usual.  This time, I sliced the cloves as thin as I could get them, across the grain, in the hopes that they would break down and melt into the sauce.  I didn't grate the onion this time, either, I simply diced it.

The onions started out in cold oil in the pan, rather than the old 'dump-and-sizzle' of a hot shimmer.  I let them sweat and stew.  I had no fresh herbs, so dried it was, along with a bay leaf, some salt, ground black pepper and a small amount of mildly hot red pepper flakes.  I bloomed them in the hot oil before I poured in the tomatoes.

I know what you are thinking: its the end times, he's getting it all backwards!  For a brief instance, I questioned my choices as I watched the herb flecks darken up in the pan.  I had a brief shiver when I thought that this wasn't going to turn out well, and I would end up eating another mistake.  I put those thoughts out of my head and let the sauce simmer.  It would be what it was meant to be, no more, no less.  What it was meant to be, was a measure of home.  In that, it succeeded.

Later, with a full belly, it seemed to me that I had finally trusted my instincts, and it paid off.  I made it home.

15 November 2010

Blacksmith and Carpenter: Meditation

It is only in a technical sense that it can be said that I work with my hands.  My hands, after all, are responsible for translating my thoughts into writing, drawing and photographing.  What they do not often do is create artifacts, although that too can be true in a technical sense.

I cannot point to an inventory of the physical, is what I suppose I mean.  Not a large one, at any rate.  I have my journals, I have some small stock of matted photographs, I even have drawings and sketches I did stretching back over 20 years.

Much of the time I can't quite convince myself that the output is all real, that I was responsible for it.  This body of work seems to lack the gravitas of a wrought iron gate or walnut writing desk, a point that was driven home for me during a visit to an antiques dealer this past weekend.  I saw a number of artifacts, old ones, that made me simultaneously envious and respectful.  The writer in me was deeply impressed by the craftsmanship and elegance exhibited by even some humble oak file cabinets that must have been at least 60 years old.  Glass fronted bookcases with solid brass knobs, leather topped writing desks, a set of solid wood flat files that had been converted into a coffee table.  I swooned at the touch of thick metal pulls and knurled brass knobs...and wished it had been me that had created those objects.

I have a working fireplace in my humble home, with a modern glass and polished metal screen on it.  I like it, but I can't look at it without imagining an elegant wrought iron version, maybe with a fantastic creature scrolled across the front, or the outline of books and letters.  I wish I could make something like that, with my own two hands.

I look on the works of artists and craftspeople, of mechanics and framing carpenters, even the really talented sheetrock guys I have observed on construction sites, and I am inspired and humbled.  I want to be able to do what they do, even if only to satisfy myself that I know for a fact it was a job well done.

My mind works pretty hard, I think a lot, I observe a lot.  What unsettles me is that it often seems hard to tell just what my mind has been doing.  I get immense satisfaction out of writing a story or essay, the whole ritual of typing and editing, or scratching pen across paper.  Someday, I hope I can look on such things as a means of support for my life.

But making gates and cabinets, that would be something wonderful, too.

14 November 2010

American Diwali: Requiem

Blood of our veins
was not turmeric and vermilion,
ours the waters of a different ocean
all flowing into singularity

They light the lamps
dress the courtyards
while I light candles
in the closets of my mind

Buttery glow as they chant
I whisper prayers to you
mineral tang of salt and sea
the currents that carried you away

This Festival of Lights, good over evil,
I wonder, will you return? Somewhere
along the Gulf Stream in my heart,
or melding with the Ganges of my mind?

They light their lamps
I light mine (and yours), to see
your ashes a rangoli on the current
Lit brilliant by the diya of my heart


The Gulf Stream and the Ganges River are thousands of miles apart, but it pleases me to think they intersect in the form of souls.


In memory of Big Bro, out fishing the cosmic sea.

13 November 2010

Jaguar, Collapsar, Tango: Vignettes

Godl awoke from dreams of the chase, and the hot rush of blood over the tongue.  The big cat twitched awake and sprang to his feet.  It wasn't easily startled, but something had disturbed its sleep.

Godl could smell it.  Close, hot and alive.

The stocky jaguar sat back on his haunches and sniffed at the air again.  Its mouth gaped and nostrils flared to draw the scent deep into its lungs.  The scent of meat on the bone made Godl salivate.  Its ears twitched at the sound of movement not far away.  Godl stood silently, gauging distance and wind with that particular trigonometry known to predators the world over.  The jaguar blinked its green-gold eyes, and padded softly into the undergrowth.

Godl was hungry.  Hunting had not gone well as of late and the consequences had made themselves known in slack muscles and a sunken belly.  It was time.  Survival would not be denied, and Godl sensed the end of an empty belly out there in the emerald abyss.  Its claws flexed and softly, softly, a thrumming growl seeped from the throat of the jaguar.

A throat that would know the crimson heat of life-giving blood, before the next sunrise.

 The Captain sat back in his chair, in a rare moment of leisure.  He sipped slowly from the squat tumbler in his hands, an heirloom from a grandfather thrice removed.  The tumbler was heavy crystal, not refined but elegant in the manner of a finely crafted knife or workingman's boot.  He took another sip, savoring the smoky warmth as it flared its way into his belly, all the while staring at the monster on his computer screen.

The tumbler served its purpose quite well, which in this case was the transference, from bottle to gullet, of the single-malt scotch the Captain preferred.  While the Captain was never truly off duty,  the research cycles were at a low-activity point in the expedition timeline.  Even hard-core astronomers and physicists in the Fleet needed some down time, and the Captain had decreed that some rest was in order, for the crew.

Which did not mean they couldn't do research in their leisure time, on their own ticket.  The Captain told himself it wasn't official research, it was simply observing the enemy to know more of it.  He reconsidered:  the enormous collapsar, around which the tiny ship orbited, was not so much an enemy as a force to be respected.  Even if that respect was based on fear.

The Captain was afraid, though he would never admit to that anywhere within earshot of his shipmates.  Black holes did that to him.  Even with all the training and experience under his belt, he still could not quite wrap his head around the notion that there existed a...thing...from which nothing could escape.  Not matter, not light, nothing.  That there were places in the universe where all became one, in singularity...symmetrical, to be sure, the Captain mused, but not exactly comforting.  They had been in orbit for weeks, yet knew little more than when they started.  It occurred to the Captain that perhaps the only way to really find out anything truly worth knowing would be to enter the black hole.

He froze, the glass halfway to his lips.  Enter the black hole, merge with the singularity...he gulped.  Raising the glass, he toasted the seething mass on the screen, and drained it.  He set the glass down heavily, and thumbed his comm module, calling for the Navigator.

"Course change", he barked in response to the Navigator's puzzled query, "We're going to see the other side..."

"It is a serious business, this wanting the love of a woman, no?"

Padraig O'Higgins paused briefly, then swallowed his small mouthful of wine and turned to look at the stranger. A stranger who had interrupted a rather involved meditation on the legs of the lady on the dance floor.  He did not recognize the man, but something about him seemed familiar.  Maybe he was one of the regulars here, and Padraig thought he just had taken no notice of him in his many visits.  He had the look and the clothes of a successful cattle broker, or perhaps a banker.  One with cousins out on the pampas.

"Love, señor?"  Padraig asked in return.  "Were we speaking of love?"  He tried to sound as neutral as possible.  Some of the porteños could be very touchy if they thought one to be undiplomatic.

The stranger smiled, and laughed.  His face was tanned, seamed as if made of the fine leather to be had in country.  His fingers were thick and clutched a heavy glass filled with what seemed to be the same red wine that Padraig was drinking.  Heavy silver rings adorned his thumbs.  Padraig found himself resisting the urge to look at the strangers' legs, to see if he could detect the outline of a boot knife in the fine pair in which he was shod.

"No, señor, you and I were not speaking to each other.  But you, you were speaking nonetheless."  He cocked his head in the direction of the tango dancer.  "You find her beautiful, do you not?"

The question caught Padraig off guard.  Had it been that obvious?  Given what he knew of honor and bravery in this, his adopted country, Padraig decided honesty would serve best.  That, and the wine was working its magic on his mind.

"Yes, I do".  He involuntarily turned his gaze back to the dancer.  Her partner had just taken her into his arms, and her magnificent right leg was in his left hand, raised above his shoulder.  Her head was thrown back, eyes closed, ruby lips glinting in the low bar light. Padraig stifled a gasp and repeated "I do."

"I know. I can tell.  And if I can tell, so can a lot of other people."  The tone in the stranger's voice caught Padraig's attention.  It wasn't hostile, exactly, but it did carry a hint of concern bordering on warning.  The stranger said "I've seen this before, among your countrymen," an obvious reference to Padraig's fair skin and red hair, "and I would tell you the same thing I have told others: be careful, friend.  You know, I am sure, how many gentlemen compete for the attention of the few señoritas here."  He paused, looking expectantly at Padraig, who nodded without taking his eyes off the object of his ardor.  The stranger sighed.

"This need for love can be dangerous.  Tread lightly, my friend, be careful to avoid the pains of a broken heart."

The way he said it made Padraig very aware that he wasn't talking about the heart being the only thing that would hurt.  The Irishman turned back to the stranger, fixing him with a needle-like stare.  The music swelled mournfully, beautifully, and Padraig wanted to weep and rush onto the dance floor to carry away the brunette vision that had overtaken his passion.  He spoke, almost too soft for the stranger to hear.

"I will, señor...but some things," he paused and turned his gaze back to the dancer, "are worth the risk."

The stranger swung his incredulous gaze from the Irishman's face to the dancer and back again.  He shook his head and shrugged.  The dancer turned, the music stopped, and she looked up, straight into Padraig's eyes.

She smiled, and the wave broke over him.

A little lagniappe, for you dear readers, on the occasion of my 500th post.  I hope you enjoyed it.