30 September 2010

Pleased to Meet You, Won't You Guess My Name?

Assignment, Part Deux:

Continuing along with the them of yesterday's post, on the class assignment I am working on,  I am (was) supposed to write a post introducing my blog and myself.  Welllll...I am pleased to recall that I had already done something (or several such somethings) already right here on Irish Gumbo.

But it never hurts to have a refresher, does it?

To wit, I dug up some previous posts of mine in which I explained or attempted to explain a little bit about myself.  So if one is so inclined as to dive into the mental Loch Ness that is the brain of Irish Gumbo, please go for a linky drive on the following bloggy backroads:

Irish Gumbo, Explained

Portrait of Irish Gumbo As a Punk Rocker

Dudes Who Lunch, Or What I Learned About My Animal Nature

So if you are interested, the above can hopefully offer some insights into This Person Who Blogs.  Or at the very least, you can point and laugh at the dork who writes this stuff!


This is one of the things about blogging I find fascinating:  this recursiveness, the ability to metablog, to figuratively step through the looking glass.  Dr. Wesch was right in some ways...nothing for it but to dive in!

29 September 2010

A Poem About a Book About a Mirror Reflecting a Picture of a Mirror Reflecting a Book About Poems

Delightfully recursive, don't you think?

I know, it made my brain hurt just thinking about it.  There is, however, method to this madness.  It all started, as many of these things do, with an assignment.  This time the assignment arose in the class in which I am enrolled on the topic of Web development.  The assignment?  Create a blog, post on it and link with other blogs to be created by classmates.  You can see why I would be intrigued by this activity.

Long time readers are probably saying "Dude, you're aces! and DONE already!"

So it would appear.  Truth be known, this blog already satisfies nearly ever criteria required for completion of the assignment.  That's all good.  Part of the assignment is to write at least three new posts before the deadline next week, and I think many of you know there is no way I could resist it.

It did make me reflect on this blog, in a way I hadn't done in quite some time.  The why, the what, the who.  It hit me that there are a lot of questions about identity involved when blogging.  Why do I do this? What do I get out it?  Who is this person who blogs?

After all, a blog can chronicle deep life experience like this: Blood of My Blood...

It can serve a bowl of goodness: Soul Food...

It can ruminate on personal identity: Plume...

It can tell good stories, and poems: Maw of Winter, Mirror Cracked...

It can be funny and fluffy: One of My Favorite Things...(this is one of my daughter's favorite posts)...

It can be all those things and more.  Text and pictures and videos and music, everything that the everyday miracle of modern electronics can bring you, all right there for you to skim or swallow, chew or spit out.  Really, a blog can be about everything and nothing.

The important thing is that it be true to you, because in this age of instant communication and viral spread of information, the only real editor you have is yourself. Control the information, or it will control you.

Blog if you will, there are rewards: connectivity, friendship, knowledge, personal expression and creativity...many wonderful things.  Don't worry if it doesn't seem important.  Everybody has a story to tell, and a unique voice in which to tell it.  I am still learning to raise mine, while writing this poem about a book about a mirror reflecting a picture of a mirror reflecting a book about poems.

27 September 2010

Feeling the Split

Tonight, a very rare occurrence at Radio Free Gumbo:  I had to turn off the radio because of the song that came on while I was winding down.  It was "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson.

It was too much.

I like King Crimson, but their music in general, and Robert Fripp's in particular, can be a bit of a mood thing for me.  When I'm ready for it, it is good.  High-energy prog rock, groovy, man.

When I'm not, it's too jittery.  Too all-over-the-place.  Too...disassociative.

So it was tonight.  I couldn't make it to the guitar solo.  These days I'm a little too close to a disintegrative state of mind and the music was widening the cracks.

So I turned it off, and read a good book.  Good to be back together.

26 September 2010

Taking Three

Walk in the woods
Escaping from you
yet the trees: my cathedral
not thinking: my Mass

I gave you five minutes
to get out of my head
Should have been three, yes?
You like threes

Threes are nice, but not all the time
Like today, the third day running.
From you, from creation,
because I beseech, unheard.

Green gold light on decayed trees,
lost in beauty undeniable,
a voice on the breeze
asking what's wrong

Startled glance overhead,
searching the gaps between leaves,
saying, the problem is not belief
The problem is faith.

21 September 2010

A Gringo in America

Bonus night at the burrito joint, thought Colin McInerney as he stood in line for a weekly installment of frijoles and carnitas, Not one but two, count 'em, dos, ponytails workin' the line.  Rosa and Carmelita, the Burrito Sisters.

He fingered the worn bills in his pocket.  It was a nervous habit, exacerbated by the butterflies making lazy loops in his belly.  That he was nervous just made him flustered, and he could tell by the heat there was a flush creeping up his neck and over his face.  The ears in particular felt hot, like fleshy heat sinks riveted to his head.  Colin blinked rapidly from the effort of trying to appear calm.  The effort was tremendous, that of trying to catch glimpses of the pretty ladies behind the counter without being caught in the attempt.

There were gaps in the line of people, odd voids shaped by the heads and shoulders of the other customers standing alongside one another.  Colin was using them as a sort of hedgerow in which he could hide and see without being seen.  He hoped.  Every so often one would look his way.  It took all his concentration to avoid flinching, like he had been hit by rubber bullets from an invisible riot gun.  Still, anyone close would have seen the jerks and twitches, the rapid side-to-side motion of Colin's head, and would probably be wondering what sort of nervous affliction he was carrying.

The line moved forward.  Colin was next up to the counter.  The Captain of the Comal, as Colin had dubbed the man working the griddle, was a friendly sort.  "Colin, amigo! Good to see you!" called the Captain; Colin liked it because it made him think of what Cheers would have been like if it had been set in a cantina, and Norm walked through the door.  On another level, Colin thought it was a nice touch considering just how many of his weekly calories came from this place.  Of course, the Captain was the only person he had the nerve to actually talk to on his many visits.

"Hey, Captain, que pasa!  Gimme the usual, please."  The Captain slapped a tortilla on the griddle and closed the lid.  "This time, add a double scoop of the frijoles, please".

Out of the corner of his eye, Colin had seen the first counter woman, the one he called Rosa (the cashier lady he called Carmelita, although he had no idea why; they didn't wear name tags and if had heard someone call her name he hadn't really been paying attention), glance over at him when the Captain had called his name.

"She knows I'm here, at least.  Probably knows I've been staring," Colin muttered to himself, suddenly feeling warmer as the Captain ladled the beans and meat onto the tortilla and slid it down the counter over to Rosa.  He gulped.  He was next, and he would have to look her in the eye.

He inched down the glass to look up into a pair of the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen,  perfectly sized roundels of mahogany-colored stained glass.  She was smiling at him in that way peculiar to the front lines of fast-food joints everywhere: friendly, perhaps, but not overly so and looking a bit clip-on.

He didn't care.  She was talking to him.  Brown eyes, ponytail and corporate polo shirt just so, and Colin hoped he could get the toppings without sounding like what he was: a dork with a crush.  Her eyes seemed to get bigger as he stared at her.  Her lips, that lovely smile, began to part and Colin knew what was going to happen next.  She was going to ask him what he wanted on his burrito.  He gulped.  She spoke.

"What would you like on it?" she said, in English tinged with the hues of Mexico.  Colin blinked, once, twice.  His mouth opened. 

"What would I like? You, of course.  Just you.  Come out from behind the counter, right now, and let me kiss you on the mouth, twine my fingers in that ponytail.  Rosa.  Is that your name?  Not that it matters.  Your name could be anything and I would love it.  Just like you.  Love you, that is.  Am I being too forward?  I hope not, I hope I'm not bothering you, because really, I am in love with you.  Just like that.  I come in here every week and you, well, you are one of the reasons I do that.  Because its stupid and silly and I can't help myself.  So please? Let's leave here and get married and live somewhere where its warm in the winter and we can sleep with the windows open. Please?"

Colin blinked again, suddenly realizing his jaw was hanging slack.  Oh, shit, did I say all that out loud? he wondered. There was a rustle of impatience in the line behind.  Rosa was staring at him, half-bored and half-annoyed.

"Sir?  What you like on your burrito?" she repeated.

"Uh, the mild salsa, lettuce, cheese and guac, please," he squeaked.  His neck flushed hotter and he wondered if anyone could see him glowing.  Rosa swiftly added the toppings and rushed the burrito over to the counter.  Colin looked away, embarrassed, but felt a little relieved that she had already turned her attention to the next customer.  He pulled the bills from his pocket to pay.  A fine tanned hand at the end of a fine tanned arm put his meal on a tray and slid it across the counter.  Colin froze momentarily, then jerked a little at the voice.

"Any chips and salsa with that? A drink?"  Carmelita asked, a feminine bell calling the faithful to prayer.  Colin looked up across the counter...and into a pair of the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen,  perfectly sized roundels of emerald-colored stained glass, and a ponytail the color of ravens.  She was smiling.

Oh, lord, groaned Colin inwardly, here we go again...

"What would I like? You, of course.  Just you..."

20 September 2010

Shut Up and Listen

This is the last time
(no its not, fool...)
you'll be told by me

Night breeze, swaying bird feeder,
felt pretty good, looked good
for a minute

the moon comes into view
and you promised, you did,
to lay in the dark and watch it

but you didn't, damnit, so now
put that down, back away, turn off the light,
shut up, just shut up and listen

19 September 2010

Home for the Shaman

So I have this dream, that has crystallized in the first half of this year.  A lifetime in the making, or most of my lifetime.  In its essence the dream is a simple one about being possessed of home, hearth and work.  Oh, and love.  Love is in there somewhere.

I know now I have had this dream, or a version of it ever since I was a teenager.  It grew stronger while I was in college but remained unformed.  I would wake up with a vague feeling of contentedness that quickly evaporated in the sunlight of my overheated higher education adventures.  I chased it many days and never caught it while I was awake.  After graduation I moved on to a fairly average existence as a responsible (mostly) career man living in the suburbs of Baltimore.  It was then the dream began to wane.  Perhaps because I convinced myself that I had everything I needed, even while my subconscious held the unsettling truth that I did not.

The dream has come back, powerfully, and it starts in a house.  The location of this house I have yet to determine but I feel a strong suggestion of New England or maybe South-Central US.  The dream never lasts long enough for me to experience much weather and I cannot tell much of climate.  All I know is that it is early fall,  there is chill in the air and the house is nestled somewhere among some hills.  I suspect there are mountains nearby, as well.

In this dream, I am my own boss, although I cannot say exactly what I do.  I think I may design houses.  I think I write, successfully, for various publications spanning many aspects of fiction and non-fiction.  It is entirely possible that I make things.  I have seen handcrafted pottery and maybe metal sculptures.  Definitely pottery.  I had a semester-long workshop in architecture studio, in college, and the idea of making pots and tiles never really left my mind.

The dream starts in the kitchen, I think.  I have seen out the window over the sink, and it overlooks a barn-like building sitting a relatively short distance away in a back lot.  There is a flagstone path leading from the back door to a door in the front of the barn.  A gravel driveway leads away from the barn and out of sight beyond the side of the house, presumably to a road out front.  I've never been out front in this dream, so I cannot say.  There may be an old tree out back with some slightly rusted cast iron lawn furniture under it, a table and two chairs.  It pleases me to think I nap in those chairs some weekends when the weather is good.

It is only recently that I have clearly begun to see myself in this dream.  It's very strange, my thoughts are my own but the point-of-view is from somewhere else.  That somewhere else, I believe, is from behind the eyes of another person in the dream.  It starts abruptly like a spliced-in video clip.  It is early morning, sometime after sunrise.  A screen door can be heard to slam faintly, and the POV feels like the person/me is standing at the sink, about to wash some breakfast dishes, and looking out the window.  It looks up.

I am strolling across the back lot, dew wetting my workshoes.  I am wearing a flannel shirt, untucked, and jeans.  Under the shirt, I have the feeling that I am wearing a thermal undershirt, the kind that has the waffle-like surface to it.  In one hand is a big travel mug or ceramic cup.  Faint steam leaks from the top and though I have never seen it I swear it has hot tea in it.

Sometimes, in this dream, there is a large dog frisking after me, leaping up and wagging his tail.  When the dog is in the dream, I let it rest its paws on my chest as I pat its head before getting him down.  It might be a Weimaraner or a Lab, not sure.

I can be seen making my way across the back lot.  Just before I reach the door to the barn or workshop, I turn to look back at the house.  My eyes lock onto the eyes of the person in the house.  I raise my hand to my cheek, which is two days' unshaven and still warm from the kiss it received before leaving the house.  I smile, deeply, warmly.  The person smiles back and waves.  I reciprocate and turn towards the barn.  It is usually then that the dream ends.

In the afterglow, those precious few moments in the doorway between sleep and wakefulness, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that I am home, I am happy...that I am loved, truly, deeply, unconditionally.

I was close to it, once, my home and hearth in the hills.  Now, I know I'm not.  I dreamed this dream last night.  Never has life and love seemed so clear as then, and never, ever have they seemed so far away.

16 September 2010

My First Slip

Today was a weird-letter day.  Not a red-letter or regular letter.  Just weird.  Well, maybe what I really mean is slightly unsettling, rather than full-bore, freakout kind of weird.  It started with my alarm clock, which I actually slept to this morning.  That is pretty strange.  But then it was just a washed out, dislocated 'two-feet-to-the-side-of-myself' feeling, all day.

The weather was no help.  It started out weakly sunny, and then the sky sort of...congealed...is the only way I could think of it.  Congealed into lumpy clouds, and the air started to turn into thin syrup.  I was hoping it would get cooler without the sun, but the grayer the sky, the warmer the temperature.  Not blazing hot but enough combined with the humidity to lay on some lassitude.

Then the rains came.  Not cloudbursts, torrents or gully washers.  The rain was just enough to require the wipers on continuous.  And to bring out the inner moron in two-thirds of the driving public.  A simple errand was simple no longer; it only took longer.

When I arrived home,  I felt bleahhhh.  I also swore all the birds in my immediate vicinity were staring at me.  This wasn't helped when one of the first songs I heard after turning on the tunes tonight was re:stacks by Bon Iver, and there is a lyric in there involving a crow that really threw me off my feed.

Okay, I hear the sighs, I see the eyerolls...why is he telling us all this?  Simply this:

Today I received my first official rejection e-mail (letter) for a piece I submitted earlier this summer.  Now that isn't earth-shattering news, especially to anyone who writes for their daily bread, or is trying to write for the bread.  I have been advised to expect it, to not take it personally, to keep it at hand at least know that someone took the time to respond.

I know all that...but, still...combined with the events of the day, it did put me a little further in the weeds.

Nothing a little music therapy and an attitude adjustment couldn't help.  The e-mail did indicate that I had made it to the final round of consideration, and the final decisions were not easy due to the wealth of good material that had been submitted.  I was also forbidden to be discouraged (thank you, cher Angie!) and that I should submit more, including poetry.  That was pretty nifty!

I also took a tip from my writer/editor friend Rich (who writes stories and a novel and even a play, and also writes cool stuff HERE), who mentioned he has been printing out his rejection letters and wallpapering his office.  So that is what I did.  I printed out the letter and will hang it up where I can see it from wherever I am writing at the moment.  Gotta start somewhere...

Una pequeña petición, por favor:  Another reason I am blathering all this is because my little writing boat is stuck on a sandbar.  I'm flailing away with the oars and just can't get going.  I have an idea for another in my Henry David line of stories, but it refuses to gel, it won't show its face...and it's making me anxious.  So with that in mind, meine Lieblinge, can you spare a brother a story idea?  Anything, anything at all?  A topic?  Even a sentence fragment?  Maybe that could be the spark that lights my fire, and burns off the funk.  And funk-free gumbo is good for us all!

14 September 2010

Language Barrier

Bard I am not, when the language
is love and the talk is of amour
Words I know, having read the dictionary
but phrases I cannot string together

Homily on love, you ask?
I think not, god, the doubt
The dizzying want, the parted lips,
Wine turning into vinegar

Knowing a little of the language,
Is it worse than none at all?
To speak of passion, hurl an insult,
Yet not truly touch the heart?

I said I am not a poet, nor can I sing,
at least not well, hunched in the dark
hovering over the tattered hymnal, breathing.
Arias the shadows of my inamorata

12 September 2010

Reggae Head

The southeastern Virginia of my youth was far from a cornucopia of music, when I was growing up there.  We had variety alright, if variety was represented by the Big Trinity of country, deep-fried classic rock and Top 40.  Things like punk, new wave and disco were around but were sort of the red-headed stepchildren of the Tidewater music scene.

I guess that makes me a red-headed stepchild by default.

My brother and I, mostly through his efforts, probably had a wider range of musical tastes than most of our peers.  It explains how we made the transition from Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kiss to the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Devo.  Even with our quasi-cosmopolitan worldview, though, we were still not what would have been called worldly.  Things like jazz and reggae were words we knew, not sounds we heard.  It isn't that those things weren't around, its we didn't really know they were around so we never pursued them.

Later, much later, as adults, our tastes truly expanded.  We were listening to and appreciating everything from speed metal to blues and jazz to grunge, Americana, and even on rare occasions, gospel and reggae.  Reggae never gained much traction on me even far into adulthood.  I don't really know why, unless it was lack of time combined with lack of investing energy in actually listening to it.

That has changed some in the past few years, especially in the last year.  In that time frame I acquired a compilation of old school reggae music from the 60's, through the good graces of a former coworker of mine.  She told me I'd probably like it, so I borrowed it, and yeah, I was taken in.  I really dug it.  It was very different from the reggae I was used to hearing, which I believe now was a result of mostly hearing reggae through the filter of radio stations whose programming directors were more interested in beach party music than roots music.  As an imperfect analogy, I'd say it is like the difference between true classic rock and second generation hair band rock.  One is the real deal, and one is a pale imitation.

Another turning point is what my Wee Lass discovered about Bob Marley.  Rather, it is what my Wee Lass taught me that she had discovered about Bob Marley.  Her Royal Cuteness likes his song "Three Little Birds", and she can sing it almost in its entirety.  I know she picked up its essentials from watching Nick, Jr., and that is okay. What really blew me away and won my heart was one day the song came on the car radio, and she starts singing right on cue, warbling away with the master himself.

I would have sung more of it myself, but I kept choking up every time I looked in the rear view mirror, and her eyes on mine as she sang "Every little thing, gonna be alright..."

I know many times I don't believe that...but when she sings it, it sure sounds like the truth, mon.

09 September 2010

Sound and (Re)Vision

It's been a strange week here in the militantly bucolic Republic of Gumbostan.  A veritable seesaw of angst and elation, laced with a soupçon of contentedness, topped off with a small schmear of being completely in the middle of everything.  The crowning moment was the Mexican standoff in my backyard, between two cats and the rotund groundhog that lives under my shed.  The cats were crouched in the flowerbeds, triangulating on the shed.  The groundhog hardly dared to show his face.  It was so surreal I decided they deserved a toast in the form of a wee dram of Scotland's finest.*

Later, I decided to try a little experiment and turn off all noise-making devices.  More accurately, I turned off the noise-making portions of the devices.  This act of rebellion included the streaming audio on my trusty laptop**, which many of you may know is akin to taking away the cell phone from a securities trader.  I don't often do this.  Silence is something that I want and fear in equal measure.  Without aural input, I am too often forced to face up to the noise in my head.

As anyone who has been there can tell you, the noise in my head sometimes ain't pretty.

Tonight I felt the pull.  I was listening to the radio for a while but something clicked over and I was seized by a sudden desire for quiet.  It must have been the end result of excess input, where the desire for sonic rest overwhelmed my fear of listening to the "freq" in my head.  So off with the radio.  I picked up a book***, some cushions and headed put onto the porch to sit and exercise my eyeballs.

The weather here has been great this week, and today was the best yet.  I know some of my bloggy friends****  have been dealing with rain of Biblical ferocity, so I have been extra thankful that it has been so sunny and comfortable here just outside of Mobtown.  And the a/c is off tonight!  Extra special in the land of wet-hot-towel-around-the-face summer days.

Out on the porch, I sat and read my book, quietly, not unlike Ferdinand***** and his flowers.  The breeze was blowing and it was almost completely serene.  It was then I noticed more of the sounds I normally don't hear because I'm so busy listening to the radio or TV.  Crickets.  Birds.  Leaves brushing on leaves.  The faint sounds of traffic from nearby streets, which really were more soothing than annoying.

Later, inside the house, with the windows open,  I made a pot of tea.  The act itself was very Zen, charged with a 'wabi sabi' vibe running through it.  The simple acts of filling the pot with water and getting out the teabags (it was for a big pot of iced tea) had their own simple and unique sounds.  I especially enjoyed the dry crackle of the paper surrounding the tea bags.  It sounded just loud enough against the low hiss of the gas flame on the stove and the crickets outside.  It sounded like just what I needed.

So as I let the glass go empty, cocking an ear to the wind outside my window,  I felt my mind empty as well.  Not empty as in my brains fell out; empty as in cares and concerns, stresses and worries, thoughts collapsing under their own weight in such a huge pile, they drained away.
"The thirty spokes unite in the one center; but it is on the empty space for the axle that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out from the walls to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space that its use depends. Therefore, whatever has being is profitable, but what does not have being can be put to use."  (From the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, as translated by James Legge.)
This came back to me, in that moment of crumpling the tea bag papers in my hand.  The rasp, the crunch, the dry slither of the material on my fingers.  I tossed the ball of paper across the kitchen, aiming for the trashcan.  Watching it arc into the container, I knew in that instant, even of only for an instant, I had achieved peace of mind.

It was beautiful.

*In this case, represented by the Isle of Skye's gift to humanity, 10-year old Talisker.  C'est bon, c'est tout!  And to my friend Rich, he who bestowed upon me a generous gift in the form of 10-year old Laphroaig:  Just a little comparison tasting, to keep myself calibrated. Cheers!
**Surprisingly, the jonesin' isn't that bad.  I only shake...a little.

***"How to Read a French Fry" by Russ Parsons.  A good read, but it made me hungry. 
****Janie, Stiletto, here's hoping you weathered the storms! 
*****Ferdinand the Bull is probably my favorite childhood book, EVAH.  I have a copy that I read to Wee Lass almost every weekend she is with me, and sometimes she reads it to me.  I am blessed. 

08 September 2010

Wearing My App on My Sleeve

You never get a second chance to make a first impression they say,
well, hellfire, I'm in a mess o' trouble because I can't bring myself
to try the first time so what the hell is to be done?  Carrying around
my laptop with my picture as the screensaver

won't cut it in most society, many societies, 'cause they would think
"What an eccentric performance!" just like on Monty Python
Oh, no, I know! I know! I got it!  Maybe I could velcro an iPad to my jacket
sort of like that video where the guy stuck one to his bike and his wall and stuff

Yeah, that's the ticket, I'll look like a new Social Media bling version of Flava Flav
without the hat or the glasses or the Chronic problem, but I'd have the clock
except it wouldn't be a clock, it would be a digital media filter, hopefully,
there will be an app for that.  Wouldn't that be grand?

And its my idea! How do I copyright this?  I don't want to carry my laptop
like an over-sized electronic biz card, that just screams geeeeeek
and I wouldn't want anyone to think I was a geek, no uh-uh
I have enough problems meeting peoiple as it is, especially women

but jesus, man, what am I going to do?  I won't have a filter, I don't have a filter
wait, it isn't a filter it's a screen, an electronic screen that lets me guard my social butterfly
Hah! I'm no butterfly, or maybe that's the problem: I want to be a butterfly, but I think
I'm a larva, so tell me when you see me, what buttons will you push on my touchscreen?

Please, I hope you hit the one that convinces you that I am really alright to know...
or maybe it needs to convince me, instead.

07 September 2010

I Wish I Knew

And so it starts
You switch the engine on
We set controls for the heart of the sun
One of the ways we show our age

He had no way of knowing, but James Murphy gut punched me tonight.  Not literally, I mean, I don't know him personally (although I'd like to) but it was the song he was singing.  I had iTunes set on shuffle and LCD Soundsystem came up, and there was James singing "All My Friends", a song I really like but should probably not listen to when I am alone and tired.

Such was the case.  I was reading some study material for a class I am taking, alone in the light of the goofy ceiling fan (the blades look like giant palm leaves) that hangs down from the middle of my dining/living room.  Tired, too, and my mind kept wandering from the task.  So James gets to the part where he sings the lyrics I quoted above, and I...I had to put my head down and take a deep breath.

'Set the controls for the heart of the sun' put me in the wayback machine, because he 's right.  It did make me show my age.  Indirectly, I must say, but showing all the same.  I recalled that line as the title of a Pink Floyd song, which made me think of my brother.

I thought about him, and how huge his absence seems to me.  All the albums we bought, the songs we listened to, the time (not) wasted messing around with the stereo, cassette decks, tuners and amplifiers.  The insistent electric piano in "All My Friends" came back at me like a new wave version of Philip Glass, a version I could really wrap my head around.  This as opposed to the time back in college, when I spent some days listening to Glassworks and for the life of me I couldn't quite get into it (sorry, Philip.)  The piano reminded me that maybe I should give it (Glassworks) another go.  Perhaps another time.

So it was the song, me and my memories.  James asks "Where are your friends tonight?"  This is a question I could not answer.  I closed my eyes and listened intently to the music, and for a few precious moments me and Big Bro were back in his room at my parents' house, with the low end wood look paneling and that ridiculous shag carpet in a hue that had aspirations of being orange.  And the paneling and the carpet and the cracks in the ceiling didn't matter because we had the turntable and a stack of albums set up.  The tape deck was running and we were making a mix and drawing covers for the cassettes.  He was good at it, he could have been a great graphic artist.  We put the music on and mixed and laughed and quoted the good parts of the songs, which I wish would never end.

I suppose they never did, never will as long as I can remember him.  I wish, oh I wish, I knew where he was tonight, my friend, my brother.

Oh, if the trip and the plan come apart in your hand,
you look contorted on yourself your ridiculous prop.
You forgot what you meant when you read what you said,
and you always knew you were tired, but then,
where are your friends tonight?

Lyrics from "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem, from the album "Sound of Silver".  Used without permission.  i hope James doesn't mind.

04 September 2010

Fire in the Mine

Not heartburn that makes him
grasp at his chest, slyly, furtively,
when he thinks no one is looking
but surely the world is not blind

He is, maybe, or pretends to be,
to deflect the truth, reroute the magma
to burn and sputter in another channel
working its way to his surface

No, it won't be quenched by guzzling chalk,
or pickling in alcohol of myriad hues,
and a thousand shades of bittersweet,
this is acid, slow-acting, on the soul

In the window glass of dark, deep summer
a reflection bends over the table, silvered,
bathed in the light of liquid crystals
and the heat of love, redacted.

03 September 2010

Seven Views of Mount Gumbo

Connect: Unit on. Signal acquired. Broadcast NOW:

Today my favorite local radio station, WTMD, did a continuous broadcast of the "Top 100 Beatles Songs as selected by Rolling Stone Magazine".  They literally took the Rolling Stone list and played them all.  The number 2 song was "I Want To Hold Your Hand".  Wee Lass and I heard it on the way to dinner.  Rather, she heard a version of it.  The part where they sing 'I can't hide'?  She said to me "Daddy, is he saying hyena?".  I am amused.

At the bookstore tonight after dinner, we were sitting on the floor in the art section, looking through books on artists. Why? Because my lively daughter has already learned about Wassily Kandinsky in her kindergarten art class, and she wanted to see some more of his paintings.  I am amazed.

Later in the photography section, we are again sitting on the floor, paging through a book on Ansel Adams because daddy secretly wishes he had been Ansel Adams.  Wee Lass is fascinated and begins commenting on the photographs.  We both were engrossed and entranced.  She begins to understand why I take my camera so many places.  I am humbled and realize I'll never be Ansel Adams.

It is bedtime, and Her Royal Lightness asks to read some books.  We have two old favorites (well, two for her; "The Little Mermaid" has become a Sprockets guest, and I am Dieter) and a new book: "Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones".  I blaze through the Little Mermaid, settle in with "Wabi Sabi" and really hit the big time with Skippyjon Jones.  I really dig the Skippyjon, and I really, really dig her laughter as we read with the silly accents and clap our way through some of the singing bits.  I am calmed.

Earlier this afternoon, I had occasion to hang upon my bare walls, three framed photographs of mine.  Suddenly, this house of mine changed character, and some of the echoes faded away.  Standing there in the afternoon light, adjusting the prints to level, I held my breath with the realization that maybe, just maybe...this place is becoming a home.  I was soothed.

Bouncing around on the digital ocean tonight, I had occasion to laugh, cry, smile and testify.  Truly a grounding, humbling and pleasing experience.  I was slightly overwhelmed at the number of stories that have come to intersect with mine, and I really felt the need to jump in the car and go visit some of the people who have come to enhance my life.  I was again humbled.

Sitting down to write, a strange sensation washed over me.  Part anxiety, part exhilaration, at the realization of just how important to me words and music and pictures have become to my, to my life.  Today I discovered that Wee Lass finds it hilarious when I sing Beatles songs in a voice like that of Eric Cartman.  Today I discovered that I like it when she laughs at me.  Today, side by side with my daughter and reading books...that was a good day.  Read, sing, write: this is a good life.

01 September 2010

Apologia of the Lupophile

On the nightstand: Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat.  I have found it to be an interesting and charming book*, and one that made me consider that I had some clarifications to make regarding my own take on Canis lupus.

Simply put, I may have given the impression (in posts such as this and this) that I did not care for, or was disturbed by wolves.  This is not the case.

Do I respect them? Yes, very much so.  Anyone with an ounce of sense in their head would do the same.  Wolves may not be the savage, slavering killers so often portrayed in the past, but they are predators.  Intelligent, hungry predators fulfilling their destiny in the food chain.  I have often used wolves as metaphors for the troubles and anxieties of my own disjointed modern life.

I have never really taken it to heart, that wolves are mindless, demonic beasts that kill humans or other creatures for the sheer sake of killing.  I think what I did was unconsciously act on some of the prevailing myths in history and project them in part into my writing.  I find it significant that I chose wolves and not tigers or sharks.  Perhaps I was leaning heavily on North American folklore and legend because that is what I am most familiar with.

Wolves have chased me.  Wolves have followed me around, howled outside the windows and scratched at the door.  Wolves have breathed down my neck.  Because of that I may have inadvertently perpetuated some of the negative stereotypes that Farley Mowat and many others have worked hard to discredit.  For that I am regretful.  The wolf may be a dangerous predator, but it is at the same time a beautiful animal.

Never Cry Wolf has not made me feel as if I could plunge headlong into the Arctic wilderness and become best buddies with the beasts.  It did make me step back from my own perceptions, and rethink my use of wolves as metaphors.  I cannot say that I will never use them again in such a manner; the metaphor is wonderfully apt.  I will, however, be more careful and respectful in my characterizations.

Besides, the notion of totemic animals (wolf, jaguar, tiger, coyote, raven to name a few) is common across many cultures.  They represent artistic or spiritual human responses to the mystery and complexity of the life around us, ones that we (or at least, I) cannot ignore.  The real art here will be to learn how to run with the wolves, rather than being run down by the wolves.  There are worse things one can do in life than run with your mates, under the sun, and then howl at the moon.

*There is a lot of debate as to whether the book is mostly fiction.  There have been moments when reading it that I have raised an eyebrow and said "Really? Are you sure?" because some of it does seem fanciful rather than rigorously scientific.  Having said that, Mr. Mowat writes with such verve and affection that I couldn't help but be drawn in, and part of me hopes that things really did happen the way he describes.  It makes me want to be a wolf, especially the descriptions of the wolves at play.