31 October 2010

Spirit Lamp

Brakeman slumps over the iron rail,
cold truth digging into his ribs
and graveyard air filling his lungs

Stoking a cigar with precious tinder
the ash floats down, a gray luna moth
kissing liquid silver of the river

Tattered hat removed by grimy hand
of three fingers, plus memories of more,
plume of smoke roiling the October air

Brakeman likes the quiet after the trains,
down by the bridge, his second home,
across from the graveyard.

Indigo sky, cold tips of wind, he thinks
Tonight I'll see her, the ghost holding
my heart, down by the Ohio

...Happy Halloween to one and all...

30 October 2010


Day 16,243: lights are on
In the lab, the seals secure
Subject startles awake
this time no screaming

Lab coats take notes
Crablike cyrillics neatly scuttle
across ivory lined pages
accompanied by laptop clicks

Team leader leans forward
to the glass, intently staring
at subject become ward
and wonders if it knows

Subject sits up, stands up,
scanning the room with motive
Gaze fixes on the door lock,
as if in true understanding

A flock of labcoats rustle nervously
when Subject reaches the door
hand on the lever, pulling,
but knowing it is locked

The labcoats whisper together
when Subject stares at the glass
they flinch as if he stepped through
but only moving to the nightstand

In the half-dead fluorescent glare
Subject opens the drawer
pulling out wires and a shank
and attacks the lock.

Labcoats scatter and panic
Alarms go off in rocket's red glare
They scribble and type frantically
Heading for the airlocks

The axis shifted, plates buckled
the scientists fled the country
because its Day 16,243 of the Experiment,
and Subject learned to escape

29 October 2010

So This Is Love...?

"What would I think of myself if I walked away from love because I was scared of death?"

The question settled in my mind tonight as I drove home from a chiropractic appointment and the fast food dinner afterward.  It spiked me and I winced, and the deepening color of the sky made me weep, a little.

It is cooler and windy here as I write, weather I find comforting and conducive to being in my own head.  The change in temperature is welcome after a few days of warmish, humid days.  We had some rain and some sun, but the days did not jibe with my notions of good fall weather.

I'm not a big fan of the humid and warm.  It's October, not July, and I digs mah partly cloudy breeze.

The whisper and rush of the wind, that raspy scrape of dry leaves along concrete sidewalks, the promise of change in the air...it makes me want to sit in my deck chair and smoke a pipe.  I have an image of sitting on a wooden deck outside a seaside cottage, listening to the wind and watching the waves in the faint moonlight.

Sitting in that chair, on that deck, and pondering the difficulties of love in this modern life.  In particular, the difficulties of love in my modern life.  Because, honestly?  I do not feel so modern.  Technology has supposedly made it easier to meet people, and in some ways that is true, but it seems weak at true connection.  A conundrum for me.  I am a pen-and-paper sort of chap in a PDA world.

I use technology because I have to, its inescapable, and it does have some advantages.  Speed, convenience, connectivity and everything on demand.  That's great, if one's primary concerns are rooted in efficiency, productivity and timekeeping.  But what about simply living, knowing true love, which I believe is difficult if not impossible to do if one is plugged in all the time.

Even connoisseurs of wine would get tired of it if all they ever had to drink was Beaujolais Nouveau.

I had nothing to drink tonight.  Though the weather is perfect for a wee dram, not even the fine single malts sitting on my kitchen shelf could stir enough interest for me to pour one.  No, tonight, I wanted clear-headed rest while I sat and meditated on the sound of October wind and the clicking of the keys.

And love.

What would I think of myself if I walked away from love because I was scared of death?  Probably not much.  The kind of love I'm talking about isn't a fling or a simple infatuation.  It is the kind of love that is deep and broad.  It is the kind of love that means you want more for the person you love than you want for yourself.  It is a love that sees the calluses, the bad spots, the crises...and accepts the other anyway.

It is a love that accepts loss as a part of growth, and communion.

I do not want to and would not willingly walk away from that...but life sometimes forces the issue.  This is why the darkening sky made me weep: the sun goes down, the sky fades from cerulean into indigo into black, and we must live with it.  Sometimes the dark seems like it is all-consuming and that it won't end.

Not having love is like that, and that is part of life.  I know now that I, like everyone else, do not have the luxury of turning aside true love because it may be difficult or present impossibilities.  This is what the wind and the night sounds tell me.  And as hard as it is for me to accept, I believe them.  I'll sit in that chair on the deck, waiting for the dawn which I have to believe must come.

I tell myself, this time, when Love rises I'll not walk away from the heat, no matter what.  I cannot.  I have to live with myself, if someone else is to live with me.  

28 October 2010

That Which I Hope Never Comes True

"Aphasia is the inability to use or understand language (spoken or written) because of a brain lesion."

I took that quote from the delightful word blog, Words, Words, Words (and Phrases), because it struck me deeply when I read.  Scriptor Senex (the blogger of aformentioned blog) has been providing wonderful nuggets of language for some time, and I get a kick out of the new (and sometimes not so new) words that he brings to our attention. Subfusc is a good recent example.  Go on, click through and read for yourself!

Sometimes, though, like the wreckage thrown up by the sea during a storm a word pops out and really grabs me in a visceral way. "Aphasia" is one of those words.  I read and re-read the sentence many times, and each time I had two reactions: 1) That really can't be, can it? and 2) That frightens the hell out of me!

The inability to use or understand language because of a brain lesion...or for that matter, ANY reason gives me a full-on case of the yammering fantods.  I know it can happen, I know I've heard the word used in context, but seeing it so succinct and stark on the page made me shiver.

It also made me give thanks that I can use and understand language.  I love language, words, phrases, even if my depth of knowledge is woefully incomplete and my mastery of technical issues is far from professional.  Language, language, language: the keys to understanding the world and making sense out of it.  I need language, crave it, fear it, and love it.

I wondered what I would do if I suddenly became aphasic.  How would I say what I want to say?  How would I empty my mind, so that I would not go mad?

My Big Bro was asked once, if he were to lose a sense, would he rather go blind or go deaf.  He said he would rather go blind, because he could not imagine a world in which he could not listen to music and hear things like birdcalls.  He said he could take not seeing, but to not hear music?  Too scary to contemplate.

I understand what he meant.  I feel the same way about words and language.  I hope I never experience the condition of aphasia...but at least I know there is a word for it.  That's something I'm likely to never forget!

27 October 2010

I Got Stones In My Passway...Medical Adventures Redux

"...And my road seem dark as night
I got stones in my passway
And my road seem dark as night
I have pains in my heart
They have taken my appetite..."

So sangeth the blues master Robert Johnson, those many years ago.  I don't know if the Master was singing about kidney stones.  If he had been, it probably wouldn't have been his heart where he was lamenting the pains.

Speaking of pains, I  can say that today was a much better day, stone-wise.  I was mobile all day, did not have to resort to any of the painkillers I was prescribed.  I had a few twinges, but none of that eye-watering, curling-into-a-ball, "I am the King of Pain" nastiness that I experienced on Monday.  So far, so good, moving with the flow so to speak.

I forgot to tell you, dear readers, of what was quite possibly the funniest (unintentionally so) thing I heard during my visit to the ER day spa.  At one point I had two docs examining me, after I had been hit with the first round of IV painkillers.  I was sleepy and disoriented as the lady doc was asking me questions, did it hurt here, hurt there, I'm going to touch your belly...I mumbled my understanding and assent, and then she said, in what seemed an unusually loud voice:

"I"M GOING TO TOUCH YOUR TESTICLES NOW."  The room got very quiet. 

Yes, ma'am, don't let me keep you from your appointed duty...

I was too dopey to laugh...out loud, at least.  Fortunately, the other stones were pain-free.

26 October 2010

That Boy Sure Has Some Stones, He Does

Come with me now, on a brief journey into the world of modern medicine...

Let me state categorically and for the record the following:

1) Kidney stones totally suck.  Really.  The pain?  Is all the bad things you've heard about it.
2) Modern medicine may be considered terribly complex and overly expensive by some, but there are things it does very well.  Pain relief is one of those things.

At 7:00 am Monday morning, I was on the road and near to whistling while I worked.

At 7:15 am, I was clutching at my side and wondering who had left the flaming pair of vise grips attached to what I assumed was my appendix.  After I stopped by to see my Wee Lass, I decided it might be best to go home, lay down and wait for it to go away.

Ha.ha.ha.  It didn't.

I did my best Toughest Man in the World impression.  Which lasted all of about 45 minutes.  So it was I found myself calling for the paramedics, because I was truly concerned that I would not be able to safely drive myself to the emergency room. 

Lucky for me, the closest fire and rescue station to my house is less than a mile away.  I heard the truck leave the station, so I was ready and waiting when they parked in front of my house.  They let me sit on the back of the truck while they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive (it was at a station a little further out).

As an aside, may I say how cool it was to sit on a fire truck?  I guess I've always wanted to do that, ever since I was a kid.

Anyway, the ambo shows up, and for the first time ever in my life, I went for an ambulance ride.  The rig itself is pretty cool, although most folks who see it from that angle probably aren't in a good position to appreciate that.

The paramedic who was in back with me asked if had any nausea, and I did, and she remarked that the bumps in the road weren't helping.  She then grinned and said "Well, just in case, I'll give you this bag.  Sorry about the size, but we don't have any small ones.  But better than nothing!"

She handed me this bright red plastic bag with big biohazard symbols on the side, and warning language about contents and handling.  The thing was about the size of a large shopping bag.  If I hadn't been in such discomfort, I would have laughed out loud.  Still, as she said, better than nothing.

Fortunately I did not have to avail myself of the Le Barf Sac, as we arrived at the hospital without regurgitatory incidents.  I was wheeled into the waiting area, and did not have to wait long before I was in a ER room, hooked up and wired in.  And that's when the miracle of modern painkilling technology became very clear to me.

I don't recall what it was they gave me through the IV shunt, but it worked like a charm.  Did the pain go away completely? No.  But there is a huge difference between unbearable and manageable.  And I learned just what that difference means. 

The end result was that I scored the Daily Double:  the CAT scan I had showed a small hernia AND a kidney stone.  Woot!  Me so lucky!  So that 'splains all the agony.

All in all, much more adventure in my life than I wanted for my Monday.  But I did get a good, long nap.

25 October 2010

Blue Roses of Nightfall

The Captain collapsed, falling to his knees and onto his face, frantically trying to avoid crushing the flowers that were everywhere in the meadow.  Bloody foam sprayed from his lips to coat the nearest stalks with a sheen of rubies almost black in the deepening twilight.  He gasped wetly while a nearby blossom swayed in and out of his dissolving focus.  He knew he was going to die.

He smiled at the irony.  An attempted laugh came out as a reedy, wheezy rush.  He closed his eyes and savored the predicament.  A thousand suns, a blur of planets, to find his grail and death from exhaustion and radiation sickness.

The blue roses.  They were here, all around him, smiling and nodding their frilly heads, pursing their cyanotype lips and caressing him.  The Captain whispered "Finally, my love, I found you.  All these years, and you were ever here.  Forgive me, I have been weak."  The roses murmured sympathetically and bent low to comfort the burns and the sores exposed under the tatters and shards of his armor.  He slept.

He shifted slightly at the voice.
"Captain, love, I'm here."

He moved, limbs twitching as his eyes fluttered open.  The pain, he noticed, was gone.  Tears flowed from swollen eyes blinking into a corona of sunlight that haloed the face hovering over his.  Green eyes glowing like cabochons of cymophane peered at him, from a face the color of coffee and cream.  He smiled feebly.

"You...here...I've missed you."  He made a feeble attempt to reach up and touch her.  She grasped his trembling hand in hers and held it to her cheek.  Smooth and warm, just as he remembered it, or imagined he remembered it.  It had been so long.  Her cheek felt like love.

She gazed back at him, stroking his hair softly.  A smile that pulled every string in his heart while he gathered strength to talk.  He whispered, "Where were you? Where did you go?  I've looked so long..." he began to weep, "...and now, I'm going to die at your feet."

Her gaze softened more then he thought possible.  Those eyes, perfect yet slightly imperfect, glistened under a thin sheen of tears.  She said in a voice like honeyed balm, "I'm sorry, love.  So sorry.  It was for me to leave, to stay would have meant a chain reaction, and hurt you beyond repair."  She paused, looking away and then closing her eyes.  Her hand continued to stroke his sweating forehead.

"It had to be.  But just as it was,  I was always there with you."  She bent to kiss him.  He struggled to speak.

"I know.  That pain...told me so, even as my heart continued to beat."  A pause, liquid breath rushing in and out of his failing lungs.  "I never wanted to imprison your beauty...I wanted to bask in it."

She smiled, fingertips like feathers closing his eyelids.  "And you shall, Captain, you shall.  Sleep, and you will join me in our dreams."  The Captain reached up, weak, and felt cold void.  His hand dropped back into the grass.  His body convulsed,  the last of his blood leaking into the emerald coolness of the grassy bier,  and in the indigo light of an alien sky, he died.

The blue roses lowered their heads under the gathering dew, small green leaves like hands welcoming him home.  On certain nights with the right wind, the natives hear whispered songs of love.

24 October 2010

Take One Before Bedtime

Take one capsule before bedtime
Indictment from the shelf
In the medicine cabinet

It glares out the open door
reaching for the bottle while
mumbling "its okay" again

Hand trembling from bitterness
that can't be swallowed away
as you gulp and swallow

Hot flare of resentment
Miles above your skin the sun,
drowning the black hole once more

23 October 2010


This week was, in a psychic sense, a long one.  How the same amount of hours could last longer than the equivalent hours of last week, I'll never know.  Frankly, I am too tired to care.

The physical demands of my daily bread-winning activities are not great.  The mental demands are somewhat more strenuous, and maybe that is why I have been so sluggish this past week.  I left work this Friday at quittin' time, dithering over dinner, and watching the sun go down in a spray of white gold.  Hunger, physical hunger, was not an attention getter.  In an odd turn for me, I didn't feel like eating.

Yeah, I know.  Shocking, yes?

Truth is I was exhausted, facing an empty fridge and having no energy and patience to get to the grocery store.  I toyed with the idea of stopping at a favorite Italian eatery, but even the prospect of some tasty leftovers for the next days' lunch couldn't budge me from the trenches of my ennui.  Since I couldn't decide to decide, I pointed my car in the direction of home and switched on the autopilot.

Arriving at the Crib de la Gumbo, I still had little interest in eating.  To assuage the mental programming that says "Eat because it is dinnertime, and we always eat at dinnertime, appetite or no", I undertook a quick scan of the pantry.  There I discovered a can of tomato soup wearing a crown in the form of a smaller can of green chiles.  As I contemplated this turn of events, I recalled that I had a pepper grinder newly filled with fresh black peppercorns, and a small chunk of feta cheese in the refrigerator.  It dawned on me that with the addition of a small amount of the herb mix I keep in the spice cabinet, these humble ingredients could very well be the solution to my Weary Belly Blues.

Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting at the dining table, luxuriating in the humble contentedness of hot tomato-chile soup with herbs, black pepper and cheese.  I was tired and still not terribly hungry...but I was eating.  Simply eating.  All I needed to do was lift the spoon and put it into my mouth.

Sometimes hunger begets appetite, and sometimes it works in reverse.  The bite of the tomato and chile, the salty creaminess of the feta, and the mild heat of the pepper set all right with the world.  For that precious interval, all I was, all I needed to be, all that I am:  everything was on center, and it was good.

22 October 2010

Trying Not To Seem Weird

Across the way, in the bar
she sat there under his gaze
moth in the lamplight
while he sat and didn't stare

he muttered to himself
turned away in the nick of time
always looking over to see
if she had seen

her phone rang, she left her chair
Walking past, mere inches away
while he froze in the glare
of a woolen skirt that fit

His eyes turned to follow
hips like a magnet
pulling at his eyes, until
she looked up

and he swallowed his tongue

21 October 2010

Take Me Home, Socks It to Me

It isn't often that trains and socks have much to do with each other, especially when they produce feelings of contentment and gratitude.  Tonight, they did.

I arrived home at Casa del Gumbo after dark, and after my web development class (note: the podcast is still on the table), and on top of a long work day I was all in for some

Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of school

No, wait, that was the Fresh Prince, not me.  I don't play b-ball, because sadly, Gumbo don't got game.

Anyway, I pulled up in front of the crib, got out of my hoopty and...

Damnit, I can't seem to shake the urban slang.  Something's all up in my grille...

Anyhoo,  I came home, went in the house, and opened some windows to enjoy the cool night air and relative peace and quiet.  As I was taking off my shoes,  I heard a train horn from across the way.  It sounded a lot closer than it really was, maybe some trick of damp air and the nearby river valley was amping up the noise.  It sounded lonely, as most train horns do, but at the same time it was comforting.  It reminded me that I was glad to be home, safe and dry.  I had a belly full of dinner, and some new (clean) socks on my feet.

Having new socks is like brushing your teeth after missing a time or two.  Its one of those small, simple pleasures that make a person feel at home and relatively civilized.  I like that feeling.  My feet like the plushness of a new pair of socks, and that in turn relaxes me and takes the edge off of stress.

So sitting on my bed, luxuriating in having a roof over my head and comfy feet, that train horn put the sonic cherry on the sundae of my creature comfort evening.  The semi-mournful wail reminded me that the World is out there, and I am In Here.  I'm not stuck in a war zone, or a hospital, or trapped hundreds of meters underground wondering if I'll ever see the light of day again*.  I'm here, at home, and thankful.

*That rescue of the miners was the best ending to a real life saga I've seen in a long, long time.

20 October 2010

Search and Rescue at the Bar

The clank of the pint glass was louder than it had any right to be, and Jason cursed through a mouthful of Guinness as the stout sloshed over the rim to puddle on the mottled surface of the bar.  He had misjudged the distance, glass smacking hard against what Jason now realized was concrete.  Swallowing like a thirsty bull, he risked a glance around.  So far, no one seemed to have noticed his minor indiscretion, except maybe Tara the barmaid.  She looked up and smiled in a small way, then went back to her conversation with Danny, the route driver sitting in the middle of the bar.

"Whew, good thing no one saw," Jason muttered, "or they might think I need to be cut off."

He raised his glass once more, tilting his head back for a swallow.  The stout was cool and toasty bitter in his mouth, just the way he liked it.  It was a prime reason he came to the Cobh Rambler Pub; they knew what they were doing when it came to stout.  It was one of the few things he could count on.

They also knew when to leave people to themselves, and lately Jason had been keeping much too much to himself.  Losing a job, a partner and a lot money in less than a year would take the starch out of any man, and he was clean out.  The staff had taken notice of the shell he seemed to be carrying, not ignoring him, but not drawing him out like they did with the other regulars.  Tara was the only bartender that seemed to know best when to talk and when to back off; that discretion combined with her dazzling emerald eyes made Jason think he had a crush on her.  He smiled.

The smile faded as a gout of memories rushed through his mind, reminding him of what was gone and the damaged man that lived inside.  Jason was certain it showed through the surface.  It made him feel like he had a bad rash, and that made people nervous.  They could sense it, he thought, that's why I have this dead zone around my bar stool...

"Another pint, Jason?"  Tara was standing in front of him, looking wary and hopeful.  Jason grunted.

"Sure, darlin', I don't have to get up early tomorrow."

She grinned and put a pint glass under the tap.  There was a lull in the tinkle and chatter of the bar.

"You okay?" she said, with what Jason wanted to believe was genuine concern.  She was watching him carefully as the Guinness oozed into the glass.  He sighed.

"Yeah, I'm alright.  Tired.  Getting used to being alone, now that things are final."

Tara knitted her brow.  "Sorry, lurve," she said, handing him the glass, "Everything done?"

"Yep.  Official copies are in my hands, signed, sealed, delivered.  It's all over, including the shouting."  Jason took a long swallow of stout.  Tara opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by a muted crack sounding, as the door to the pub opened and closed, shutting swiftly.  Jason didn't turn around, but Tara looked up with interest.  A sly smile crept onto her face, small but bright.  Jason failed to notice, he was too busy studying the swirls in the foam.  Tara spoke.

"She's here."  Jason's heart lurched.  He sputtered "My ex?", wondering what fresh misery was about to dump on him.  Tara shook her head, still smiling, and said "No, you idiot...her."  She was grinning widely now.

Jason looked up at Tara, confusion rounding out his face.  He felt thick.  "Her?" he whispered, "Who's 'her'?"  He forced himself to to turn and look.  It wasn't his ex-wife, it was a woman he vaguely recalled having seen before at the pub. She was about Jason's height, with longish chestnut hair sweeping back over her shoulders, held in check by a headband.  She smiled and nodded at Tara and began making her way towards the counter.  Tara leaned over and said quietly into Jason's ear, "Her name is Alison, and she has been here before.  And she even asked me about you, last week.  I told her you were available, do you mind?"

Jason whipped his head around to Tara, saying "You did what?" suddenly panicked for no good reason.  But Tara had stepped away, moving down the counter where Alison was sitting down two stools over.  Jason didn't register the pleasantries they exchanged.  He tried to appear nonchalant, and then struggled to swallow a mouthful of stout when he realized Tara was introducing Alison to him.  He turned on his stool to see Alison extending a hand to him, saying "Hello, it's Jason, isn't it?" while winking at Tara.  Tara was studiously pouring Alison a pint, carefully avoiding Jason's incredulous stare.  He remembered his manners in the nick of time.  He saw she had deep brown eyes, like mahogany coins, and he forced himself to concentrate as he took her warm hand in his and shook.

"That's right, it's Jas--" he began to say, only to be rudely jolted by his cell phone ringing.  He stifled a wince, excused himself for a moment and pulled the phone from his pocket to check the number.  He was sure he flinched then.  It was his ex-wife.  He tried not to let the sinking feeling travel from his stomach to his face.  Alison spoke.

"Please, don't let me distract you,"  and she turned back to the counter.  Her profile, to Jason's eyes, looked lovely in the soft light from the bar.  The phone continued to bleat.  He inhaled sharply, and silenced the phone.  He would deal with it later.

"No, no distraction at all,"  he said sliding the phone back into his pocket and moving his stool closer to Alison's; she looked over and smiled. Jason reintroduced himself, finding himself suddenly eager to know what he looked like reflected in mirrors of mahogany.

Inside his pocket, the phone blinked rapidly in silent irritation, only to sputter out in a fit of electronic pique.

19 October 2010

"Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not"*

Over this past weekend, I committed a minor act of rebellion by not shaving.  Decided to give my purty mug and the bristles protruding therefrom a bit of break.  Given that I have slipped back into the habit of shaving with an electric razor (efficient, but boring) instead of blades (slower but smoother and very soothing), this doesn't seem like much of big to do.

In the grand scheme of things, maybe not.  But the idea has reared its head again, that I haven't determined yet why I was shaving every ding-dang day.  I wasn't in the mood for it, lacked the patience and the energy.  Plus, I was feeling my oats.  Heh.

My daughter doesn't seem to mind my beard, not since this last winter made me get all Grizzly Adams-ish during the Great Blizzard of '10.  She thought it was weird at first, then hardly noticed, then was somewhat surprised when I finally shaved it off.

Lately, I've been freaking her out by telling her I'm going to grow my hair out like ?uestlove of The Roots.  She has the double take down pat.  She hasn't quite decide if I'm serious or not.**

What I find more interesting these days is the reactions I get from the grown-ups.  Today I was asked if I forgot to shave, I was told that my 'rugged' look was nice, and most interestingly...I was told "It's not you."

I managed to not laugh at the last one.

Not me?  Really?  Why, whatever does that mean, it's not me?  Who do you really think I am?

If it means the beard does not fit preconceptions or the premature conclusions or the mold that others expect me to fit into, well then, I guess it isn't "me".

It doesn't irritate me that someone would say that, not anymore.  Now I'm just amused.  Because the beard is me.  It's all me, even if it isn't something "I" wouldn't typically do.  Rather, something that others think I wouldn't typically do.

I consider it significant that my reaction now is what it is, rather than what I used to do whenever someone commented in such a fashion on something that seemed "not me".  I used to immediately get embarrassed, and feel like I had done something wrong.  And usually, my reaction was to not do that thing again because I didn't want people to think me odd or unruly.

But...maybe I am odd.  Maybe I am unruly, in my own way.  For the first time in my truly adult life, I'm beginning to feel okay with the things that I am.

Some days, I am a beard.  Some days, I am not.  All days, I am me.

*Yes, that's the name of the debut album from the Arctic Monkeys.  Sorry about the Wiki link, I couldn't get to the official band site of www.arcticmonkeys.com.  Anyway, I heard "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" on the radio as I drove home tonight.  Good stuff to snarl along to, on a cool fall night with the windows down...the album title was just too perfect.
**I'm not.  Maybe.  Who knows?  I might be able to rock a 'fro.

18 October 2010

Gumbo Time: It's In The Air

The sunlight around these parts, this time of year, has got to be among my favorite things to watch.  The days and nights are getting cooler, the haze and smog of August are gone, and "The Land of Pleasant Living" begins to truly live up to its name.  Much of the day today was spent outside, doing nothing except goofing around on the playground and watching the leaves and lake.

Fall makes me hungry, in a good way.  My appetite tends to perk up in the fall, especially in comparison to the dull sluggishness it feels in summer.  My appetite in summer, especially late summer, reminds me of that old, blunted knife in the drawer, the one that gets cursed every time it gets used because it works...but only just so.  More "push" involved to actually cut something than the result seems to justify, although it could be rectified if only the body could be moved to sharpen the knife.  Sharpening rarely happens when its needed because the heat and grit of summer quickly abrade motivation.

But, Fall!  Ah, my body revives in the coolness.  The fog in my head begins to lift, and my tummy begins to look forward to eating.  A rejuvenating activity, and most welcome when the body truly wants what it is ingesting.  I feel it coming on, slowly warming up like a radiator and spreading the vibe through my body.

This year it has also sharpened my focus on what I have been craving, but was so befogged in the head I couldn't put a name on it.  This is doubly ironic, in light of the name of this blog.

Gumbo.  It's gumbo mah belleh wants.  Gumbo in any way, shape or form.  Whether it be the sultry and thick chicken-sausage version I usually make, or a lighter seafood gumbo, or even the semi-mythical gumbo z'herbes* doesn't really matter.  What is important is to make and eat some gumbo.

Full disclosure: I haven't made gumbo in months.  This is a sad state of affairs.  It has been a perfect storm of busy schedule meets fatigue meets personal upheavals meets induced laziness.  But that is no excuse.  It does, however, explain in part my prolonged battle with ennui.  Or even better, as Jim Harrison is fond of saying, "being off my feed".

I think that about sums it up.  I let the cares of the world and the oppressive heat of summer knock the chocks from under myself.  I forgot about some of the things that mattered to me, the small domestic comforts that can shore up a weary soul.  For weeks now, whenever I would write out my grocery lists I was seized by this nagging sense of missing something.  I would look at the ingredients I would need to make the things I said I was going to eat**, and I just stopped caring.  I couldn't figure out what I really wanted.

The answer was right in front of me all along.  Today, in the glorious golden wine of beautiful sunny fall afternoon, my belly spoke to me, and it said: Gumbo, c'est bon, c'est tout.

I may not get to it during the week, but if I have time (and I will make time), more than once in the coming weeks I'll be stirring up some roux and making good things happen in the kitchen.  My stomach is growling, and my soul is pulling up a chair to the table.

Gumbo: like Guinness, it's good for what ails ya!

*Gumbo z'herbes is also known as "green gumbo", because it is traditional to make it with six, ten or even more kinds of greens put in the pot.  I say semi-mythical (to me, tongue in cheek) because I have not yet had the pleasure of encountering it in the physical world.  Reading about it is nice, but I want to wrap my gullet around it. It sounds wonderful!
**Sadly, so called 'convenience' foods have begun to insinuate themselves into my life again.  Ah, to resist their siren call requires discipline and strength, two things I have felt in short supply.  I must turn things around soon; the weariness of my epicurean self must be overcome!

17 October 2010


A few months back, in these here Gumbo pages, I wrote a little something about feeling irrelevant in modern life.  I reread that tonight as I was languidly trolling through my archives to refresh my memory vis a vis my random thoughts for this year.

Sort of like a kitten discovering a mirror, and being totally freaked out by it.  Plus, a little "can't-take-my-eyes-off-the-trainwreck" phenomenon thrown in for good measure.

These exercises in trawling the seas of the past, and wondering what the nets will bring up, are a regular part of my writing life.  Sometimes, I wonder just what in hell I was thinking on any given day.  Sometimes, I am amazed that I actually wrote some of the stuff I have put to the page.  Not in a narcissistic self-love fest sort, mind you.  I think of it as more like an autopsy or forensic engineering.  I always wonder at the ideas and themes and wordcraft, studying them to see what I could have done differently or better.

Not the most forward thinking way to get things done, I know.  Good for a laugh or two, even if some of those laughs seem a little nervous.

So, back to the irrelevancy post.  As I was saying, I wrote it back in July.  Since then I have been running it through the millstones of my mind without yet coming to any hard conclusions.  That is, until today.  Today,  my daughter and I went to the National Zoo for a long outing in great weather.  The air was cool, the skies were blue and the sun was just right.  Wee Lass and I took the subway because I thought it would be an interesting trip for her (and I'm a weenie when it comes to driving in our nation's capitol), and I was right.  We had a wonderful time on the subway, counting the stops and tracking things on the map.  She was having fun with all the names of the stations.  She even told me the escalator out of the stop before the zoo was "the longest elevator in the world!"  Had a good chuckle over that one.  We thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt to see the animals,  even with the tigers steadfastly refusing to get up from their naps.  And did you know, clouded leopards are incredibly beautiful?  Made me want to go to Tibet just to see one in the wild.

What does this have to do with irrelevancy?  Nothing and everything.  It happened when we left the zoo to head back to the Metro station.  Wee Lass wanted me to take her picture while she sat inside one of the big concrete 'O's that form the ZOO sign at the entrance.  She held the little stuffed monkey* I had bought her for a souvenir and she (sort of) grinned for me as I snapped away with the camera.  Standing there, warm and feeling good in the smooth white gold October sunshine, I looked at her eyes through the viewfinder and thought:

What does it matter if I am relevant only by the standards of culture?  I am her father, she is my daughter who loves me, and that's the only validation that truly matters.  I have purpose.

I pressed the shutter button, and the click sounded for all the world like the cosmos had righted itself.

*More accurately, a stuffed monkey residing in a fuzzy purse emblazoned with the words "Go Bananas!", dubbed 'Bananee' by Her Royal Cuteness.

16 October 2010

Heart of the Sun

No no no, this can't be but please let it be, oh yes I won't mind, but for the love of god can it please stop distracting tormenting pleasing exciting me, for a little while at least?  That's why sleep good sleep is a distant memory and the measure of days is how much can be accomplished between flights of fanciful insecurities and transient lonely glories, images of loveliness behind the eyelids.  Afterimages dancing on the retinas like they said the glow of atom bombs could be seen through hands over closed eyes.

Not something that he believes but the idea of it makes sense, carries its own weight its own logic, because he knows, he knows like a wise old dog that has been beaten one too many times by someone he adored, he knows that white-hot intensity of heart-forged ecstasy that mutates into pain and back into love, a crazy sine wave ripping stitches through the soul...

All it takes is a glimpse, a trace or a full on field of view, seeing that cast of skin or color of eye, a waterfall of ravens down the back along with a voice to melt stones and iron, that's all. And it can happen anywhere, anytime, isn't that right? Honest-to-God, in a noisy crowded room, or the hushed stacks of a bookstore or holy smokes grabbing dinner in a hurry.  He hears his master's voice, or sees her hair curled over a shoulder, or those eyes, dear lord, those eyes, why do all dark eyes remind him of those Dark Eyes, the Dark Eyes, the ones at the heart of the Sun where temperatures rise to numbers that don't matter, and fusion occurs and there is no barrier between Ego and Love?  Why, why?

Because after the fusion comes the burnout, the ejection of soul on a plasma wavefront of exploded passion that sprays fragments of the man he became and no longer was, out into the supercold ecliptic, pushed on the solar wind of the Sun he held in his hands once, and lived and wants to live again but dammit, its happening entirely against his will.  All that can be done is to grasp frantically at gravity to stop stop stop the fall among the asteroids, wearing a Kuiper belt of shattered hopes and wants while the heart slowly cools to absolute zero...

He thrashes desperately, fearing superfluidity or worse, which would be no motion at all , god, no that wouldn't be fair, damnit damnit damnit not after knowing infinity and peace, knowing what it was to be revived from freezing in the interstellar black of a foundering soul.  That would be unfair, too unfair, even by the standards of a universe known for monumental unfairness, at least that is what he tells himself every time orbits intersect, suns grow nearer, him clinging to the idea that life was reborn in a frozen heart, and can be born again it can it can, it has to be and for the love of god take comfort in that the battered stone of his heart can still feel...

15 October 2010

Exhaust Ports on the Death Star

I don't know about you, but coming face to face with personal weaknesses always disconcerts me.  Lately, it has been happening more than the law of averages would account for.  In my opinion, any way.

It used to make me angry and embarrassed with myself.  Now I just seem to sigh bemusedly and mumble to myself.  Today, I underwent two separate episodes of Weakness Realization, of two very different sorts.  One made me self-conscious, the other made me a bit worried and sad.

Second one first.  It has to do with my internal struggles on being a writer, on wanting to be a novelist.  Two years ago I would have scoffed loudly at the idea that I could/would write a book.  In the light of those days, that notion would have reeked of absurdity.  It just didn't seem possible.

Then I stepped out of my personal journals and went Webby with the blog.  Not with the idea of writing a book, mind you, or becoming an author.  It was simply to get the noise out of my head, and maybe find out what other people would do with that noise.  With the positive feedback I received, I felt more empowered to keep at it.  Again, this was without a plan to become a writer of books.  It wasn't until I started writing some things in series that people (i.e. you, dear readers) began asking me if/when I was going to write a book.  The idea then took root and certainly fired my imagination.  So, then, to the book!

Astute readers will already be saying to themselves "But, Gumbo, where's the book?"

Ah.  You see the problem.  The elephant is in the room, and it's sitting behind me, isn't it?

I begin to hear whispers about the emperor's clothes, or something like that.  This is truly the nubbin of the problem (or the "Crux O' De Biscuit" as my late brother was fond of saying).  I have not written a book.  I don't have a hard outline for a book.  Writing a book...intimidates me.

And that is the real problem.  I have a lot of ideas, but they usually manifest themselves in poems and short stories.  A lot of one-off happenings, and I have been unable to find the bridges between them.

I think in titles.  I think in short stories.  My brain seems to compose writing like DNA: small molecules of few components that have the potential, potential, to grow into something great.  Under the right combination of nature and nurture, all the noises in my head could maybe be turned into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Yet, this has not happened, and I'm unsure as to why.

Well, that's not quite true.  I have an inkling of a trace of a ghost of an idea as to why.  I think there is a certain courage, or discipline, or nerve one needs to make that leap from random scribblings to coherent novel.  And I?  I can't figure out if I have it.  Maybe I do, and am just scared of the commitment.

But I sure would like to write books.

The first thing I mentioned above, in the second (long ago) paragraph?  Is not so much a weakness (or weaknesses) as it is something that could be potentially be used to take advantage of me and the soft spots in my heart.  Not necessarily for malevolent purposes, mind you, but that which could put me in a position of not being able to say no due to not entirely unpleasant befuddledness (is that even a word?).  It has to do with a realization I had today, one that I voiced to myself in the safety of my car...and put into words some wants long held but never acknowledged out loud.  Talking to myself, I had to laugh.

I'll let it go at that.  Stories for another time, perhaps...

14 October 2010

From The Ground

Pouring from the speakers
Slide guitar from the crossroads
ass kickin' vocals tellin' it right

Believe in "God, the Devil and Love"
he rasps out at me and I flinch
This trinity of everything I am

Or everything I want to be
or everything I want to avoid
hanging in the air, right there

"'Cause there's good deeds and good intentions"
sneered on the back of a chord
far apart as Heaven and Hell, I know

Lips curl in a knowing smile
I sing the blues with Ben Harper
to find God, the Devil and Love.

Italicized phrases used without permission, from "Ground on Down" by Ben Harper.  Badass guitar, indeed.

13 October 2010

Panthera, Breathing

Hey, everyone:  Godl came back.  Something breathed on my neck last night, in what must have been a dream.

It has been close to a year since I last wrote of my jaguar doppelganger, and even then it wasn't about Godl, it was about the jaguar as spirit-mirror.  Since then, I hadn't thought about or had dreams about my favorite Panthera onca...and I was getting really worried.  I missed him.  I was beginning to think he had left for good.

But last night I had an inkling, a tremor, a ripple in the obsidian mirror.  A very blurry dream, perhaps it was a fragment of a dream caught up in another dream, one much more mundane.  This shard was small, its appearance brief, but I felt something.  There was a growl, that unearthly rumble (click the link and scroll down to the 'Sounds' button) that seems like no other.  I caught a glimpse of a jaguar, as if reflected in a piece of broken glass.  I saw the eyes, the eyes, those green-gold marvels.

Godl saw me.  Then it was gone...

Earlier this evening I was chatting with someone about 'animal nature' and learning to open up to it while staying human.  As I was talking, the image of a black jaguar padding through the jungle kept popping into my head.  It made me smile.

I don't have a story yet.  I'm not sure what, if anything, it might mean.  But I can say this: after a long grind of a summer where it felt like my blood was getting thinner by the day...feeling the jaguar inside was most welcome.

He's close, so close, and sniffing the wind.

For new readers and anyone who may have forgotten, the Godl series can be found at #1, #2 and #3.  I hope you like them.

11 October 2010

Yeah, It Does Feel Like Rain

Long time readers probably already know this, but I'm a sucker for a finely crafted love song (this one in particular), and I don't say that lightly.  There is a lot of mediocre to just plain bad music about love, and I don't want to waste my time listening to something that isn't worth it.

Not when it comes to love.

I was reminded of that tonight, scrolling through my iTunes list.  I came upon my favorite version of "Feels Like Rain", by Robbie Schaefer (he of Eddie From Ohio fame) off of  a live solo album he released a few years ago.  I noticed that I hadn't listened to the song since July 26 of this year.

I told myself "Don't do it, don't do it..." because...I knew it would cut to the bone.  This is song is amazing in that it can be interpreted in two ways simultaneously: it speaks to the all-consuming nature of a deep love between two people, and can be heard as a wistful and cutting realization that maybe things are lost.

I know both those states, and the cognitive dissonance of holding them in my heart demands that it stop, but not right now. 

I listened to the song.  And maybe, in another two or three months, I'll listen to it again.

Right now, it's raining.  I'm going to listen to that, instead.

I Got (Indie) Ink on My Fingers!

Good morning, one and all!  And isn't it a fine morning?  I am so pleased to announce that I have been honored once again with a feature on Indie Ink!  Today they are posting my poem "Kudzu", and I would be tickled pink if you would visit and drop some comment luv on it.  Please do browse the posts while you are there, some mighty fine stuff to be found.  And let them know what you think!

C'est bon, c'est tout!

10 October 2010

The Crumbling Vault of Memory

In Heathrow a vast chunk of memory detached itself from a blank bowl of airport sky and fell on him.  He vomited into a blue plastic container with out breaking stride.                                           
That brief passage, from science fiction masterpiece Count Zero, by William Gibson, remains one of my favorites written in any genre I have ever read.  The stark brevity of it, its immediacy and its hints of much larger concerns yet to be explained make me envious that I didn't write it first.

Then again, I have yet to attempt writing a novel of science fiction.  The genre, in this case, is not so critical as the import of the words.  The concept of "chunks of memory" falling from the sky is one that has haunted me most of my life, at least since my teenage years.  It wasn't until I read Count Zero that I saw it put into words.  Finally I had a description for this unnerving tendency for things to (figuratively) fall from the sky to land on my head and knock me silly.  I am fortunate in that I have never reacted by vomiting,  although there have been some very unsettling close calls.

It happened again today.  Unexpected as always, and this time it wasn't memory so much as artifacts glimpsed while walking from one room of my house to another.  Resting on the mantel of the fireplace in my living room is a collection of curios infused with memories, young and old.  I have a small ceramic sake bottle, a rough gray lidded ceramic pot, a hand-made glass lily holding fragments of river glass, a small clear glass bottle, a notebook made from a sheet of roofing metal...and some craft projects made for me by my daughter.

It was the craft projects that nearly brought me to my knees.

Not fancy by any means, not archive quality artwork, but damn near priceless in my accounting of things that matter.  She made them in preschool.  One is a framed picture of her, taken when she was three, I think.  The frame is made of popsicle sticks, the photo mounted on pink construction paper.  Underneath that and written in silver metallic letters it says 'I Love My Daddy."  I have held on to this photo through two lost jobs and two changes of residence.

The other, larger piece is a laminated card she made last Father's Day.  It is of slate blue paper on which she drew a flower, a sun and added the words "Happy Father's Day!" written in that classic child's scrawl of mixed capitals and lower case letters.  Surprisingly enough, the 's' was not written backwards, and that made me smile.

Below the greeting is a poem in the center, flanked by two photos of my darling daughter. In the left photo, she looks at the camera with rose-window eyes and just a faint hint of a Mona Lisa smile on her face.  In the right photo, she is standing underneath a placard stuck to the wall behind her, on which is written the words "I love you!" alongside a big red heart.  The smile on her face is that goofy "I'm-smiling-this-way-because-the-teacher-told-me-to-smile-for-the-camera" grin we've all put on at some time in our lives.  Her right hand is raised and she is making the American Sign Language sign for "I love you".  The poem is a sentimental piece of doggerel that hits me in my soft spot:
Daddy, I love you
For all that you do.
I'll kiss you and hug you
'Cause you love me, too.

You feed me and need me
To teach you to play,
So smile 'cause I love you
On this Father's Day.
It was the poem that caught my eye as I shuffled across the room on my way to the bookcase.  I stopped in my tracks, pinned in the afternoon light seeping through the window and wondering why all of a sudden I felt dizzy and short of breath and what is this moisture leaking from my eyes? Who ordered the waterworks?  I reached out a hand to steady myself against the painted brick of the mantel.

Something fell out of the blank bowl of my living room sky, crashing down on my head.  It was the feeling of being torn in two directions, this realization of love beyond compare for the flower of my heart and the dark, cold swamp of emotion that is knowing that, in the life that is unfolding before me, I am deprived of the necessary luxury of being in her presence full time.

I wept, from sadness or fatigue or maybe just the melancholy coolness of an early fall Sunday afternoon, trying to sweep the cobwebs of loneliness from the rafters of my mind.  This thing fell from the sky and bludgeoned me in my own home.  I stood there struggled for composure as that thing slipped beneath my skin and wrapped itself around my heart.

I knew from past experience that the best thing to do is not to panic.  Breathe deep,  close my eyes and center myself.  It is a matter of outlasting its presence while keeping the heart beating and concentrating on the memory of the love that I am fortunate enough to have.  It is in this way that the chunk of melancholy slowly melts, to be absorbed into the white-hot core of a heart learning to survive on its own.

I took that thing and pushed it back into its place in the blank vault of my psychic sky.  It stayed put for now, not knowing or caring about the collateral damage from its falling.  As for me,  I think love will become my shield, the invisible dome that protects me from the crumbling vault of memory.

09 October 2010

Saturday in the Park

Sun rose and me just before it
stepping into cool light
glowing like nickel-silver
and green shades

Hiking through the dew
to stand before the ruins
The shutter clicks, crows call,
I see you in shadow and sun

08 October 2010

Pod People

To podcast or not to podcast, 'tis the question.

This is my dilemma.  In the continuing saga of my web development class, we were asked whether we would prefer to set up and use a Twitter account, or post a podcast to our blogs.

The catch?  If we already had a Twitter account, we would have to do the podcast.


I'm torn.  I've been toying with the idea of a podcast for a while, but haven't acted on it.  I'm lacking a mic for my laptop, along with a webcam.  Plus, I don't exactly have a James Earl Jones kind of speaking voice (unless I'm deliberately putting it on).  And, I have no idea what I'd really talk about.

Writing seems easy compared to putting it in motion...and with sound.

Maybe I could do a video of me holding placards with what I want to say, tossing them aside like Dylan a la "Subterranean Homesick Blues". Or "Mediate" by Inxs.

Maybe I could do a spoken word version of "Gun Street Girl" by Tom Waits.  I can carry a credible raspy take on that song...but I don't know if I could maintain it for the whole piece.  And no one wants to hear my slightly nasally drone going on for four and a half minutes.

See, that is part of the problem: when I speak, in my head I sound like quite the orator.  But whenever I hear the playback, I start to squirm.  Maybe its just me and my insecurities.  Oy.

This is where the ability to write does not necessarily translate into the ability to go multimedia.  The more variables present the greater the complexity of any system...and while I like complexity, I have a hard time dealing with it if it is complexity beyond my comfort zone.


This goes back to my high school days and the dreaded oral presentation in English classes.  I hated that shit, man.  I always felt flustered to the point of paralysis.  I just don't know...

I know!  I could read from behind a curtain, like the Wizard of Oz!

Nah.  What was I thinking?  I got it: What do you think?

07 October 2010

The New Scars

I read the news today, oh god...another litany of death and mayhem and personal tragedy because for some reason someone else took their own life rather than face the personal humiliation forced upon them by some uncaring, emotionally stunted pricks who thought it would be funny to violate someone's privacy for a laugh,

violate someone's life in a way most hateful
violate them as a human being

Seeming to forget that they are human too or at least they look human.  But its hard to tell based on their twisted sense of entitlement to appropriate another's private life

tell me asshole

if we were to film your private life, would you want the world to see your "dirty" secrets?  Or do you not understand what dirty means?

god help you if you lived in a world where lack of emotional intelligence made you the new ethnic joke.

"Different" behavior does not automatically translate into "wrong" behavior.  Or maybe we should haul your ass into court and put you on trial for all  those wings you ripped off of flies as a kid...

Getting enough sleep, jerks?

06 October 2010


Bobby felt his leg going cold and warm, all at once.  Funny, he though, it drains out all cold on the inside and warm on the outside.  He attempted to hold still as the medic jabbed his thigh with another styrette of morphine.  Bobby laughed weakly at the tiny pinprick in his leg.  Compared to the supernova in his thigh, that little flash was nothing but a distant star, twinkling in the cooling evening air.

"Hold still, Sack," the medic, a laconic Southern boy by name of Midgett, "I don't want to break off a tip."  He went back to his ministrations.

Bobby willed himself to be still.  A hard thing to do on the shifting deck of the helicopter.  There was a spent cartridge poking him in the back,  and the deck was slick with hydraulic fluid or blood, Bobby couldn't tell.   He gripped the webbing on the bulkhead and feebly wedged his good leg tight against the ammo crate jammed aftwards.  He grunted in pain and a thin line of drool leaked from the corner of his mouth.

"Hurry up, that shit, Midgett.  Hurts."
Midgett looked up, a small grin of sarcasm on his crooked lips.  "Yes, sir, right away sir."
Bobby grinned.  Midgett always was a smart ass, even when the shit was raining down on the ground.  Bobby couldn't recall ever seeing him rattled.

The chopper was pulling away from the drop zone,  backing away in faint hail of small arms fire.  Bobby could see plumes of smoke roiling across the face of the sun, which was setting.  The thick air of Myanmar washed over him while he stared out past the silhouette of the door gunner.  It reminded Bobby of the crows he used to see back home, in summer.

Home.  The thought washed over him on a tide of painkillers, and he surprised himself by shedding a small trickle of tears.  The morphine was making him dizzy.  Bobby blinked quickly, the sun a smeary burnt gold disk scintillating over his eyes.

Jesus H., he whispered to himself, Please don't let the last sunset I ever see be over Yangon.  Bobby's eyes drooped shut, and he passed out.  The chopper held course, a battered raven seeking its nest.

05 October 2010

Gumbo for the Silver!

Two years.

Two years ago today, Irish Gumbo came to life in this here blogosphere.  461 posts, lots of tears, laughs and weirdness later, here I am still at it.  A small miracle, that.

Back then I really had no idea how this thing would evolve, or if it would evolve at all.  Mutate is perhaps the better word, 'cause I'm all about the mutations...

I say small miracle, because it is the second longest personal project I have ever undertaken.  The first was my personal (longhand) journals that I began in July 2003, the month my first children were born.  Those journals I kept up for almost five years, much longer after the twins passed away. 

And then I got tired.  Or something. 

Anyway, I decided I would put them aside for a while, just to see what it was like.  It was nice, not having that personal pressure in my head to "produce" something, to do that daily entry.  But as many of you know, and as I found out myself,  my fascination with and love of the written word did not fade away.  It was there, always, a presence or breathy whisper in my ear:  "Write."

I couldn't resist the call, I'm a sucker for a pretty lady who is kind to me, even if she occasionally makes me nuts.  If that isn't love, I'm not sure I know what it is.

Two years.  A few months back I considered giving up on this blog, too.  The pressure inside and out was piling on and I felt like I needed to hibernate.  Life and stuff, you know.

But I didn't so I'm here, for better or worse.  On this, the two-year anniversary of this the hot mess I call Irish Gumbo,  I want to say thank you to all you kind folks, new readers and long-time fans alike, who put your peepers on my page.  I've made some interesting connections, met some of you in the Real World (and hope to meet many more), and generally had a grand time sharing, learning and reading.

Thank you, one and all.  A long, strange trip...and I hope you'll stay on for at least a few more stops...

04 October 2010

Kickdrum Girl

"She was a fast machine
She kept her motor clean
She was the best da...(skizzzrwwrrrrxxxkkss skids the needle across the grooves)

"Who is that, Daddy?"

I looked up to see my Wee Lass giving me that quizzical look she has perfected, when she sees me doing something that leads her to question my mental health.  She hasn't gotten the hang of cocking one eyebrow yet, but it should not be too much longer.  Fortunately, none of the other patrons in the sandwich joint had noticed me doing my best Angus Young imitation while mouthing the words, although they could certainly hear the song given the high-pressure volume of the radio blaring through the place.

"What, the music? You know who that is?"  I replied.  I sighed in relief knowing that we managed to drown out the line about ...the best damn woman I have ever seen...It occurred to me that perhaps "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC was probably not the best song to sing in front of my daughter's heretofore unsullied ears.

"It's AC/DC.  One of the best concerts Daddy saw when he was a kid was AC/DC!"  I left out the part about the cannons and Angus Young mooning the crowd.

She scrunched up her face and said "AZ/DeeShee?"

"Ay-cee Dee-cee, sweet pea.  It's a band that I listened to a lot when I was a kid."  I proceeded to break into another round of air guitar, cajoling her to play along with me.  She said "Dah-dee, I don't want to play guitar. Can you play guitar?"

I told her no, I couldn't play guitar.  Fair to middling as an air guitarist.  Real guitar?  I'm a big bowl of suck when it comes to real guitar.  I don't know what made me say it, but then I told her "My Big Bro could play guitar.  Really well, too."

"Did he play air guitar, Daddy?" I laughed.
"No, pumpkin.  He could play real guitar.  One with strings.  Plus, he could grimace musically."

She gave me a startled "Huhhh?" look when I said that.  I could hear the Scooby Doo voice in my head.  I just laughed and tried to explain what "grimacing musically" meant.  I was grasping at the best words for it, when the radio again came to my rescue.  "More Than a Feeling" by Boston: the radio spirits were looking out for me.  This was a perfect song to demonstrate my Big Bro's technique.

So it came to pass, that on a Sunday afternoon I was rockin' the air guitar with my face contorted into all sorts of musical shapes, ones that I remembered from watching my brother play.  He may have looked goofy sometimes, but he did it with honest feeling and verve.  I must have pulled it off successfully, because Wee Lass was laughing that silver bell laugh and asking me to "do what he did again!"

I managed to keep the tears in my throat and a musical grimace on my face, all the while grinding out power chords and banging my head like a pro.  I felt a bit embarrassed to notice some of the other customers begin to stare at me, maybe thinking I had lost my marbles.

That's okay.  They could stare all they wanted.  I had my daughter laughing with me at the table, and my brother playing his guitar in my heart.  And when she picked up those air drumsticks to pat out a rhythm on the table, while watching my feet to learn the kick drum, I felt the circuit close.

Nothing like a little rock and roll with those you love.  Nothing like blood music to fill the heart.

03 October 2010

Aleutian Heart

Linguists argue about Inuits
and Yupiks and Aleuts,
their sophistication on snow
become legend
to non-aboriginal minds

They claim 30, 40, even 70
or more words for snow.
Scientists say they must
because knowing snow
is a survival imperative

You will die easily in the white
when eyes can't tell between
soft and deep, packed and solid,
step in and plunge to the waist
eyes rimed in frost, crystal tears

Its a wonder that arguments occur
about snow and ice, the subtle shifts
between 'aput' and 'pukak'
'mauja' and 'massak'
'mangokpok' and 'massalerauvok'

Because snow, in short, is snow
Like grief, in short, is grief.
Minds see the trees
while hearts see the forest
Truths obscured by language

Numbers of words only matter
to connoisseurs, and professionals;
the broken heart will ever understand
thirty words or none: in the end,
cold pain melts in the heat of love

02 October 2010

Sharing the Salt of the Earth

Assignment, Part Quatre:

No doubt, we live in a very visual world.  As part of the ongoing saga of the class assignment, we were asked to post a photograph on our blog.  Long time readers know I have posted many in the past (but not quite as many here, now that my photography blog has been up and running for a while), and the assignment was a nice reminder to post another here.  Ergo:

I discovered this in my photo archives while browsing.  I like it, a lot.  I enjoy its simplicity and homey elegance.  It also dovetailed wonderfully with the thematic swirl of thoughts in my head, now that I've been thinking so much about blogging and sharing online.

Salt may be ubiquitous to us, but there was a time in history where salt was a highly controlled commodity, with much more relative weight economically and symbolically than it carries today.  "Salt of the earth." "Worth his weight in salt."  These phrases used to mean so much more, when kings and countries controlled the production of distribution of the mineral.  Even the word "salary" has its roots in the Latin word for salt (sal).

What meant the most to me, though, was the symbolic presence of the salt.  In most cultures, in the folklore and social traditions, to share salt with someone, especially strangers, was an act of kinship and hospitality that was not taken lightly.  It meant something.  It implied an extension of trust.  It meant that those who offered salt were inviting those who were offered into their lives, families or homes.

I like that idea.  I like the idea of shared trust, of offering friendship.  After all, they are (like salt used to be) truly valuable things, not offered lightly and with the hope of reciprocity.

Not unlike the words spilled herein on these electronic pages.  Come, sit, read.  Let us share salt together.

01 October 2010

Relief Well

Assignment, Part Trois:

You see what just happened there?  This assignment thing?  It has me on a bit of a roll.  The cap is off the well (again) and today my hindbrain was all up in my mental grill, the Deepwater Horizon rig of my mind.  And I am not equipped with a blowout preventer.  My head may be big, but it isn't THAT big.

More ruminations upon blogging and digital identity kept spilling over into my workday.  Much of it was inspired by the posts I chose to link in my post of yesterday, because I could not help but wonder if they were the right posts to put out there for this exercise.  By 'right' I really mean 'best'.

A common undercurrent to all the blogging I have done is one of mild anxiety.  The anxiety conjured up by always questioning whether my latest effort was my best effort, should I have written that, why did I post that?  When I am in the midst of thinking about a story idea, and writing that idea down, I am usually convinced that what I am thinking and writing about is the best thing EVER!  After all, I wouldn't bother having the thought or invest the energy in writing it out if it wasn't the best, right?


Yesterday's post is a good example.  I spent an inordinate amount of time sifting through my blog entries trying to find just the right example of what I was attempting to convey.  Constantly searching for the 'perfect' post,  I was always convinced that the next one will be better yet.  So I kept reading and reading, ping-ponging back and forth through nearly two years' worth of archived material.  It was an exhausting trip down memory lane.  In the end, I don't know if the examples I linked are necessarily the best of their type, the ne plus ultras  of each type of post I have ever written.  Honestly, it being late, me being tired and needing to wrap things up probably means I picked what I picked because it was the last one in front of me at the time.

So this is what my subconscious was working on all day: searching my memory banks, trying to compare different posts, having a few "I should have picked that one..." moments.  I worried that maybe the ideas I had in mind weren't quite matched up with the posts I used as examples.

Then again, I worry about a lot of things.  Which is among the reasons why I write so much.

Ultimately, it will not matter.  I did my best with it, and that is truly what counts.  It's all grist for the mill.  To paraphrase a saying I read recently, there is no writing, but there is rewriting.  That is a central attraction of blogging (and writing, period): this ability to rewrite, with shared input.  If I feel like I didn't quite illuminate what I had in mind, well...there's always another post.

Another post, another relief well to take the pressure off the gusher in my head.  Join me in this deep, dark ocean, won't you?