Thursday, December 29, 2016

broken treasure

The first art piece I ever purchased - a pottery cat with angel wings - sat broken on my coffee table. Elizabeth was profuse in her apologies. It had certainly been an accident. And I forgave her immediately. There were too many pieces to glue it back together. I threw it in the trash.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

not what the postman brought

In the wee, nippy hours of the Arizona night, while others slumber restlessly or dream of lovely things, I sit awake and ponder this unidentified thing inside my body. Will it be a momentary discomfort that I'll prattle on about some day, sitting with the other ladies at the old folk's home? Or is it a demon seed sent to wipe me from the planet, robbing me of the easy years when I'd planned to travel, write, and paint? Time will tell.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

trumping

Although I have not lost any of the drive and determination to fight discrimination and injustice, my morning meditation took me in an interesting direction today. Since 1995, I've used a small daily devotional called Pocketful of Miracles (Prayers, Meditations, and Affirmations To Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year) by Joan Borysenko. I'll begin by telling you that I don't do a devotional every day. I'm fairly fickle, in fact. So when I do open this devotional, I often feel I've been led to a particular message.

Today, the message was about forgiveness. More specifically, it was about admitting to myself that what qualities I find most deplorable in others, I may discover in myself, if I am willing to release my defense mechanisms and honestly examine my own heart and soul. This is not the first time I've heard that message, of course. But I willingly followed the thought.

Today's devotional used Hitler as an example. Certainly, Adolph Hitler was a horrific example of how one human can lead others to commit atrocities on an immense scale. His behavior and the actions of his followers should be condemned in the most emphatic language possible.

But in looking at myself, the devotional suggests that I view Hitler as an aspect of myself, as one more altar of God. So as I began my prayer and meditation, my thoughts went immediately to Donald Trump, which is ironic because I meditate to calm myself and Trump has repeatedly raised my stress levels. So there I am, incredulous, looking at his face in my mind and wondering what I'm intended to do with THAT.

The answer came, of course. Trump dismisses women as being worthy only as measured by their appearance. Who do I dismiss? Trump often denies his history or rewrites his history in a more palatable version. What of my history have I rewritten? Trump belittles people, openly mocking their physical attributes. Who do I belittle and mock? Trump dismisses whole swathes of people, signaling his willingness to ignore their humanity and right to exist. What group of people do I dismiss?

I see the altar there. I understand what I'm meant to do. I need to let go of my pride, my judgemental nature, and any likelihood I may have to make broad assumptions about people BEFORE I approach the altar. But when I think of Trump and those who happily follow his horrible example, I can see I have many repetitions of this particular meditation ahead of me. Yes, I am a stubborn woman. I fight personal growth. I hold on to the deplorable within my heart and soul. But God's message is that there IS hope for me. I just need to keep the image of the altar in my mind.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

asked him twice

When I came downstairs the next morning, the door to the master suite was ajar and there wasn't a noise to be heard. I called out Michael's name, but there was no answer. In the kitchen, I started a pot of coffee. I checked the fridge for creamer. Milk would do. Where was Michael?

I opened the door to the garage. Michael's car sat beside my own. I closed the door. The wonderful smell of freshly brewed coffee greeted me. Is there anything sweeter? I poured a cup, added milk, and gazed at the door to Michael's door. If he was awake, why didn't he answer?

Were you guys lovers still?

No. Well, yes, but not like before. I had my own room on the third floor. We agreed we could each date other guys. But we still fooled around occasionally.

But not that night?

No.

Go on.

So I walked over to his door and pushed it open. (pause) The first thing I saw was blood splatter on the wall above the headboard. Only I thought it was paint, and I wondered why Michael would do that. I decided to wake him up. I could see he was in the bed. There was a pillow on his head. I lifted it up and tried to make sense of what I was seeing. It was totally unrecognizable as a face. It was destroyed.

Is that when you left the house?

(Nodding) I panicked. I knew I needed to call the police. But we had weed and quaaludes and acid. I gathered it all up, jumped in my car and drove out to the lake and hid it under some rocks. Then I came back to the house and called the police.

Why did they arrest you?

The neighbors saw me leave and come back. The police were convinced I'd thrown away the murder weapon. I had to show them where I'd stashed the drugs before they believed me.

Paul, we've known each other a long time. I know you loved him. Are you sure you didn't snap and do this terrible thing?

(Long pause, then quietly) If I did do it, it wouldn't be good for you to know I did it, Jackie.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

desert dessert

After the drought, and that mourning quiet,
you come to me in sweet expectation.

I drink in the breath of sighs and smiles,
and feel my desiccated soul grow plump with love.

I'll never feel normal again.
I'm on the other side of loss.

But your kisses remind me I'm still alive.
And your touch keeps me nourished.

Each time we wind ourselves around each other,
I'm a little farther from my pain.




Sunday, October 9, 2016

my mother loved blue

She grew up next to the ocean in Norfolk, VA. It seems as if every conversation I had with her during her last few years included some reference to the beach or the ocean. Her favorite painting that hung in her office throughout her career featured beautiful sand dunes with a hint of blue ocean and blue sky beyond the dunes. When she was 82, I took her on a cruise and we were able to rent a little beach cabana on the cruise line’s private beach day. She wanted to go in the water and I watched as she slowly made her way down to the shoreline. I had offered to walk with her, but she wanted to do it by herself. As soon as the water was up to her ankles though, the sand became too mushy and she lost her balance and plopped down on her bottom. I raced down to the water to help her up. I asked her what she wanted to do, prepared to do anything for her in that moment, even swim into the ocean with her, which is not my favorite thing. But Mother, embarrassed by her public tumble, wanted to go back to the beach chairs. After a few moments, she turned to me with tears in her eyes and confided that her fantasy had been to run into the ocean as she had done so many times as a young girl. In her mind, she was still that young girl, running free, unencumbered by age or physical restraints.


My Mother loved blue.

Her favorite ring was a turquoise and sterling silver ring that she bought while visiting her Aunt Ruth in New Mexico back in the 1960’s. If you know her well, you know that she always had that ring on. She had many rings, but wore that one the most. It's a huge ring and her hand was small, but it looked like it belonged there. She also had another ring which featured a small aquamarine surrounded by diamonds. She bought it with a portion of the money that she inherited from her mother when she died in the 1970’s. By today’s standards, that ring isn’t all that fancy, but Mother kept it in the safety deposit box at the bank for the longest time, only bringing it out to wear on very special occasions. Then, she simply kept it in her jewelry box. At some point I told her that she ought to wear that ring every day. Why not enjoy it all the time? But taking the ring out of her jewelry box and putting it on meant the occasion was very special and she liked doing it that way.

My Mother loved blue.

Unfortunately, Mother also frequently got the blues. She suffered from major depression and did throughout her entire life. She took anti-depressants but did not want to. So every now and then she stopped taking them. Eventually another low point would come and she'd go back to the medication. But perhaps because she was trained as a counselor, Mother was not the type to be ashamed of being depressed. She served as a kind of poster child for the Mental Health Association of Georgia, the year that the organization focused on depression. She was interviewed and appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussing her struggles and even toured around the state doing public speaking engagements. After each trip, she would come back and tell me about whatever group she had spoken to and the interactions that she had after each speech. The stories were very colorful and sometimes quite poignant. I like to imagine that she touched a lot of lives through her frank and unashamed discussions about her own experiences, not just that year, but always.

My Mother loved blue.

When I moved into a new house in 2008, Mother sent me a check to buy some new towels. She always said one should buy new towels at least every other year or so. I looked at a lot of towels. My master bathroom was devoid of color. The huge walk-in shower was surrounded by glass, so there was no need for a shower curtain. The large picture window had the look of stained glass, but was all just pattern, no color. The towels I kept going back to were a beautiful marine blue. I finally bought them, two bath towels, two hand towels and four wash cloths. Mother always said to buy more wash cloths because they don’t last as long. When she came to visit for two months that winter, she exclaimed about how beautiful the color was. I didn’t realize until that moment that I'd bought the towels for her.

My Mother loved blue.

But when I think of her, she's a kaleidoscope of colors with her rich life experiences and her broad knowledge of so many subjects. She joked that she was a jack of all trades, master of none. But that's not really true. She was a well-read and smart woman. She could have done or been anything during the course of her life. She chose to be educator, counselor, missionary, mother, musician, music lover, minister, world traveler, speaker and avid reader. She was many things to many people. She was my worst critic, but also my sometime champion. She rescued me when I needed rescuing. She laughed deeply at my stories and antics.

Sometimes I like to think about her as that little girl, on a beach somewhere, running in the surf, arms outstretched, hair flying, legs covered with sand, the smell of sea salt in her nostrils. For the rest of my life, I'll look for her in the blue ocean, in the blue sky and in every young girl I see running on the beach. Maybe you will too.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

chained (and a note to john mccain)

It's raining in Phoenix again. This morning when I took the dogs out, I studied the gray clouds and thought it might rain, but it didn't look like a thunderstorm sky. But we've had lightning and thunder so loud that both dogs are glued to my side.

I can't help but think of my friends who have evacuated the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts ahead of Hurricane Matthew. They're tired, depressed, and worried about what they'll find when they return. Sitting here, enjoying the sounds of the rain on my patio, I almost feel like I'm being disloyal.

My thoughts also wander to the people of Haiti. The devastation and misery is overwhelming. The people must feel chained to their circumstances, with no choice but to fight for survival. A lot of really smart people have tried and failed to "fix" Haiti. I see so many "pray for Haiti" memes on Facebook. The cynic in me thinks a check to disaster relief would be a wiser choice.

This is also the morning that American voters are reeling from the newly released audio/video of Donald Trump bragging about getting away with sexual assault because he's a "star." He obviously thinks that sexually assaulting women is funny and he looks forward to doing it with great anticipation. It's not shocking to me because I've believed Trump to be a dangerous, disgusting pig for many years. But I am still amazed that so many people still support and defend him. I believe they're chained to him, unable to admit they were wrong all along. And rather than free themselves from his dead weight, they'll drown with him, their last words being, "He's not THAT heavy," before their chains drag them into the abyss.

John McCain, I'm talking to YOU. Jeff Flake is obviously an idiot who will never let go of the Trump chain, but there's still hope for you, John. Prior to unleashing the moronic Sarah Palin, your legacy was solid. I disagreed with you on almost everything, but I admired and respected you. You had honor and integrity and you courageously spoke out if your party made a drastic wrong turn. Even after Sarah nearly destroyed your reputation, you quietly soldiered on. The day you stood on the Senate floor and denounced the attacks on Huma Abedin, I thought, "He's back. The decent, strong, courageous Maverick is back." But your silence on Trump will prove to bury your good name permanently. Yes, you've said a few things here and there. But where is the Maverick? It might cost you this election, but here's what you need to say RIGHT NOW:

"I made an error in judgement endorsing Donald Trump. The man is unqualified to serve as President of the United States. He has said horrible things and I have mostly stayed silent, for which I will forever feel ashamed. But I'm speaking up now. I can no longer endorse Donald Trump. I will NOT vote for him. I strongly urge you to vote for anyone BUT him. He is NOT QUALIFIED to serve as President of the United States."

Yeah, I know. John McCain will never read those words, much less say them. But he should throw off that heavy, fetid chain and try to rescue what little is left of his legacy.

So here I sit in my temporary paradise, listening to the dripping of water off the eaves of my house. The sun is shining again. Rain never lasts for long in the desert. I savor it when it comes. I just wish it could be a source of joy for everyone today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

zut alors

Dappled shade decorates the retaining wall at the back of the yard. Tall oleanders rise in front and above the wall. And somewhere beyond the wall, voices are rising in arguing tones. And even though I can't make out every word, it sounds like the practiced fuss of a couple who has disagreed about something on many occasions. I know that sound.

Today brings contemplation of my own love and life. What felt forever may, by my choice, become quite ephemeral in the grand scheme of things. Looking back in time, forty years seems a very long time to be in relationship. But if I live forty more years, it could seem like a blip on the radar. The thing is, I think I might like myself better in a life without him in it. What a strange precipice I find myself on.

"Zut alors!" I heard that clearly enough! And now I understand why I couldn't make out what they were fighting about. They're speaking French. In Phoenix? I guess people come here from everywhere. And as I'm learning, even if two people do speak the same language, they may still find each other incomprehensible. Common language never guarantees common understanding.

And so it goes. In these quiet days, I gather the strength I'll need to make this change. I'll throw out canceled plans, too much texting, and his inability to focus on my needs. But with them will go hilarious laughter, passion, and history. What a mixed bag. But self-respect really does trump romance.

Mohsin Hamid said it best:

“If you have ever, sir, been through a breakup of a romantic relationship that involved great love, you will perhaps understand what I experienced. There is in such situations usually a moment of passion during which the unthinkable is said; this is followed by a sense of euphoria at finally being liberated; the world seems fresh as if seen for the first time then comes the inevitable period of doubt, the desperate and doomed backpedaling of regret; and only later, once emotions have receded, is one able to view with equanimity the journey through which one has passed.”

Something to look forward to, no? My goal is a simple one. I want to feel authentic. I've done a bit too much bending, reshaping, and stifling. I'm in a stuffy little room of my own making. I simply must get out of here! So, hand on doorknob, I pause. Zut alors, indeed. Just a sec - almost ready.





Sunday, October 2, 2016

mosaic






A sweet Arizona morning.
Rare, magical rain creates a mosaic,
dancing circles on the surface of the pool.
My coffee is cold,
my heart is sore,
and my dogs just peed on the floor.
But isn't that cool breeze lovely?

The oleanders sway,
scattering red, pink, and white blossoms,
a carpet on which to dance.
My mother is dead,
I miss her peal of laughter,
when a shared memory moved us.
But those colors are beautiful, aren't they?

Mosaic of life,
each moment a potential mix,
of precious joy and life-changing sorrow.
My philodendron is fading,
I really should vacuum this dog hair,
and I ought to fix some lunch.
But doesn't that rain sound amazing?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

on different hollow

For decades, I knew the shape of my life,
and could predict a general future course.
Familiarity of purpose and outcomes,
and you a constant compatriot.

Now on different hollow, I listen
for the sound of whatever my future may be
without you, or the rumble of your voice,
without the comfort of habitual love.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

green stuffing

Old dog bed,
worn and tattered,
(beloved by a canine,
who looks so relaxed,
laying sideways,
with her head over the edge,)
green stuffing emerging,
decorating the tile floor,
like tufts of cotton candy.
Festive chaos.

Monday, September 19, 2016

through the bubble








In the depths of the oasis,
exists a way point.
You run out of breath,
just as you reach it.

You suck in the air
that bubbles from the fissure,
and you're faced with the dilemma,
multiple souls have confronted.

Do you rest for a moment,
and breathe in that sweet air,
then swim back to surface
and its relative safety?

Or do you suck in as much air
as your human lungs can cradle,
then swim even deeper
in search of lost treasure?

Through the bubble?
Or back up to surrender?
The current buffets you,
testing your resolve.

Azure fish skitter
this way and that,
drawn to the bubble,
and your curious presence.

None can advise you.
Only you can decide,
if your fate is behind you,
or a blind road ahead.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

fish out of water

Tribe. Pack. Crew. Squad. Team. Belonging feels good. Warm acceptance and feelings of allegiance boost self-esteem and confidence. But I'm a perennial outsider, springing to life as an outlier no matter where I go.

It starts in Japan. I'm a Caucasian child with curly, white-blonde hair. For homogeny-valuing Japanese, my appearance is a wonder. I stand out against the background of my dark-haired siblings and parents. Random people exclaim over my looks, touching my hair while staring with wide eyes. I grow accustomed to the petting. At the school for expats, I start kindergarten with 5 year-old boys and girls from dozens of countries. My best buddy is David Wang, a chubby Chinese boy the other kids make fun of.

Later, I'm starting the first grade in Massachusetts. Nobody cares what I look like. But I'm on the outside looking in again because I don't speak English well. "Speak some Japan!" the other kids demand. I learn to lie and say "I can't remember any." I'm tired of their laughter and crude mimicry of what is, for me at that moment, my native language. I find a friend, Joanne, a Catholic girl who lives in my neighborhood. With flaming red hair and a mass of freckles, she's been the victim of teasing as well. We understand each other.

My parents divorce when I'm eight. Now, even to my extended family, I'm an outsider. They're well-bred Southern Christians and they don't "do" divorce. My parents are the first in the family to divorce -ever. I'm not Southern and there is pity towards us as the children of divorce. In their eyes, we are now crippled. Any achievement will be seen as an amazing feat of courage.

Fifth grade finally finds me in the South. But moving to Georgia from Massachusetts means I'm a "damn Yankee", a fate worse than death. I am shunned. Only one girl befriends me, the class oddball, Lisa. And I hesitantly follow Lisa down a dangerous path to all sorts of exploits. I'm terrified at first, but she's my only friend. By 7th grade, we're smoking pot, hanging out with grown people - amateur pot dealers, musicians, and opportunistic 19 and 20 year-old men who recognize vulnerable girls when they see them.

Tenth grade and we've moved to rural North Carolina. Given some of the crazy shit I've done, it's a small miracle that I'm still alive. But now I'm a quadruple threat outsider. First, I'm not from there, a grievous sin. Second, I'm a "hippy", or so I'm told. Third, my vocabulary is WAY too big. I'm constantly being asked "what does xxxxx mean?" I'm too stubborn to change by this point.

The fourth and final threat I bring to this new environment is that I'm not a racist. My parents were members of the SCLC and have raised us to see people as people. My high school is highly segregated socially. I neither understand nor conform to that way of seeing the world. I'm soon labeled a "nigger-lover." After that, I'm bombarded with taunts and threats almost every day. A few people are kind to me - not nearly enough. By this point, I've perfected my tough exterior. Nobody knows how much I'm hurting. My circle of friends are all older people. I feel safe with them. I play guitar and sing in a band. I go to school. I graduate - barely. (Forty years later, a high school reunion photo on Facebook features a sea of white faces. Some things, it seems, never change.)

College is a huge breath of fresh air. There's a live and let live feeling that allows me to relax. And there's plenty of other weirdos with whom to bond. It's okay to be an oddball. In fact, we celebrate each other's wacky free spirits.

I've never stopped being an oddball. I no longer expect to fit in. I anticipate wariness from others. Other unique people recognize and embrace me. And I've become adept at spotting those who will be most likely to reject me. They're the conformers and the insecure. The conformers have strict rules in their head about what people SHOULD and should NOT think, say, do, or be. The insecure are those who are so fearful of rejection that they choose small, safe spaces to occupy. A few people are both.

I'm very blessed to have found good friends over the years. Not surprisingly, they're all very unique people. They're bold and colorful. They take up space. Generosity of spirit is a common trait. They're all really smart. And they are fearless.

I'm forever grateful that I never developed that skill of making myself smaller in order to fit in. I'm a kaleidoscope. And I really love all of my colors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

cheeto






Scene at a public pool in Phoenix:

"What is that?"
"What?"
"That."
"Where?"
"Right by the drain."
"See where the ducky is? Right under there."
"What is that?"
"That's what I'm asking you"
"Well swim down there and see."
"I don't want to get my hair wet."
"I think it's a Cheeto."
"It can't be."
"Why?"
"Cheetos float."
"Oh. Well, what is it then?"
"I don't know any more than I did two minutes ago."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

reflection

She mourns.
Her second marriage is over,
and she's no Spring chicken.
But he wasn't in it,
so how could she be?

Soldiering on,
putting on a happy face,
caring for others,
as is her way.

But hope is an elusive thing,
and she struggles to accept
that this may be, after all,
as good as it gets.

Monday, September 12, 2016

to the ground








In your post-career wanderings,
you model a variety of costumes,
seeking a mélange of new moments,
and surprises in human experiences.

You're a wannabe sociologist,
wishing Studs Terkel could mentor you.
You collect. You question. You listen. You remember.
You marvel at your thirst and hunger.

"You're not old enough to retire!"
"How will you pay your bills?"
Snatch up the naysayers,
drag them to the ground.

Don't look back.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

habitual fantasy

When the big game hits 200 mill or more,
my personality undergoes a subtle change.
I house hunt in multiple cities - Savannah,
Asheville, Charleston, and Phoenix.

Maximum vorfreude, minimum investment. Maximum time waster. Minimum actual payoff. Sheer entertainment..

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

hot pink sunglasses

Driving into the sunset like this,
with the visor no help,
and I'm squinting my eyes
to try to see my way.

Exit to the Flying J in Tucumcari,
I need gas anyway
and a coffee if I'm going to
drive into the night.

Some postcards since I'm in here,
and some hot pink sunglasses,
because I'm 57, and I want them.
Now what are you looking at?

I'm a walking Bell curve,
with respectability at my apex,
and wild abandon on either end.
Even my stats are confusing.

I'm finally that different drummer
that I used to be,
before normal sucked me in,
for a brief, boring ride.

Now if you'll excuse me,
I've got a sunset to ride into.
And through my hot pink sunglasses,
I see infinite joy and courageous splendor.

Monday, September 5, 2016

julio

Yo como una manzana.

Eres un hombre.

Encantado de conocerte.

"Will you stop??? Nobody expects you to speak Spanish. You're an American, for God's sake."

Su hijo está enojado.

Nos vamos?

"I give up. I'm scrambling eggs. Do you want any?"

Esto es delicioso.

"Ahhhhh!"

Ha perdido la cabeza...

...pero él tiene un culo lindo.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

new moon

When dusk was settled and the sky first hinted of stars, a new moon hung over the oleander, reflecting just enough of the sun's light to illuminate our happy faces. We three, just joined at the recent Wisterius Festival, lay naked in the basking pool. Like spokes to a wheel, only our feet touched as we stared up at the night sky.

"I could eat entire fields of berries," Paul sighed. Jax and I laughed. I scooted over to sit between them.

"Should we order something?" I suggested. Jax turned to me and touched my hair, sliding his fingers through my curls. He smiled languidly, relaxed from our lovemaking.

Paul turned towards us. "Let's ask for our Honey Basket."

I pressed the call button and two minders appeared. "Bring us a Honey Basket, please," I asked, "and some champagne." The minders disappeared.

My life was so different now than just two weeks ago. In the weeks leading up to Wisterius, none of us knew whether we would be chosen for joining. This was my third and I hadn't been chosen before. I thought I might remain a minder for life, as some do. But my name had been called. Then Jax and Paul had been assigned to me. Amazing. So far, they had been wonderful, each allowing me to set the pace and tone of our intimacy. Truly, they had been well-trained.

The minders returned with our victuals, lighting lamps as they prepared the table. Paul stood and stepped out of the pool. He helped me out of the water and dried my body before his own. Jax helped me into a sheer robe.

In our Honey Basket, we found berries, of course, along with melons, sweet breads, protein pockets, cheeses, nuts, and golden raisins. A minder poured champagne. I lifted my glass. "To a successful joining," I said. "May we be blessed with productive years."

"May your choice include us both," Jax and Paul responded in unison.

Friday, September 2, 2016

residue









I'm run over.
Tire tracks across my history.
Hard, angry, or weak souls,
damaged by life or lack of life,
in turn attempted to harm me.

The result should be
a bitter, hopeless woman.
But I choose my response.
I display residue of my choosing.
What you see is the me I choose to be.

I'm not a dart board.
I'm not the dart.
I'm the air the dart flies through.
I choose which way to bend,
after the dart is long gone.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

stack of

We were riding the rainbow flash
of post-splendor smiles and sighs,
breathing hard and giggling,
marveling in our shared power to please.

The tables shook and the sky opened,
she stared down at us, our mouths agape.
"I'm pleased," she said, "and you do me great honor."
I clutched Mary's hand and stayed perfectly still.

Time? What is time? We slept,
awakening to find a normal room.
Mary sat up, her breasts bearing lines
from the folds in the sheets.

"Did Aphrodite speak to us?" I asked,
"or was that just the garlic from dinner,
causing a curious dream?"
Such is the way of goddesses, here and gone.

Over grapefruit and poached eggs,
we made our plans for the day:
house blueprints, stack of mail,
dry cleaning, market, blueberry picking.

I'm pleased.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

sweven

Like looking at one clear, cut crystal,
I turn my head this way and that.

The angle of my gaze determines what I see.
Tilted this way, I see only an opaque facet.

But move my head ever-so-slightly,
and I see brilliant light and prisms of color.

You are my sweven, my sweetness, my light.

Monday, August 22, 2016

a cut above

Some long for romantic love,
two hearts reaching and touching.
They want a soft landing,
a relaxing of the endless search.

You and I have jagged edges.
The pieces come together at odd intervals.
Occasionally, I cut you,
or you cut me.

But it's a relief, isn't it?
To expose it all and be embraced,
even while knowing the danger?
We bleed for love.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

splatter











On the long drive
up I-44 from Tulsa
to St. Louis,
trees breathed on me,
and the sweet air
kissed my cheek.

"I could live here,"
I thought,
"in these rolling hills."
And I made
a mental note
to explore
later in life.

And when I stopped,
to get gas
and clean bug splatter
off my windshield,
I picked up a real estate book
and some rental cabin brochures,
just in case.

But I never did go back.
Yet.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

between you and me

It wouldn't have been the first time I'd had to fend off a horny bloke. I set myself up for this by agreeing to let him stay on the sofa. But he kept coming in. Finally, I went out and took his place on the sofa, hoping he'd fall asleep waiting for me.

But nope. Here he came, walking naked towards me with his average pecker waving about in front of him. I honestly thought, "Let's just get this over with so I can get some sleep." Disgusted and defeated, I led him back into the bedroom. I did what was needed to get through it as quickly as possible. Then, mercifully, he was asleep.

The next morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee. I left the lump in my bed and walked to the kitchen. My friend and I made eye contact, her face a curious question. I rolled my eyes. She laughed. Her boyfriend was making Eggs Benedict. The three of us sat, talking and eating, discussing our plans for the day. Eventually the lump joined us, looking overly pleased with himself.  He leaned in for a kiss. I held up my hand. "No," I said, not looking at him.

My friend's boyfriend got up to leave. "You need a ride?" he asked the lump. The lump looked at me. I answered, "Yes, you need a ride."

At the door, he said, "That was aMAZing."

"No," I said, "it really wasn't."

After they left, my girlfriend started laughing. "What the hell?"

Between you and me, I wanted to slap her. Part of me was so angry. But she wasn't the cause. It was anger at being coerced. I also felt like crying. I had been very nice each time I said no to him. Maybe I should have screamed at him. Would he have given up? Or would he have become violent? He was much bigger than me.

In the end, I forgave myself. It was just sex, I thought. I'll eventually forget this. But it's been 35 years. And I still remember. And it still makes me mad.

Between you and me.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

stop dark









Business as usual
A love connection continues
Here, there, it's a continental chase
I let him win
Or he lets me

Fire eats us each episode we dare
Audiences have mixed reviews
Some find us darling
Others fear one of us is harmed
Which one? Depends who's looking

Stop dark, the water's just fine
We ain't no fireflies
This here's a permanent glow
Whether you see it
Or not

We're alive


Saturday, August 6, 2016

xenization

Here is the history of my homes:

1958-1959 Durham, NC
1959-1964 Nishinomiya, Japan
1964-1968 Wellesley, MA
1968-1973 Gainesville, GA
1973-1980 Misenheimer, NC
1980-1981 Jersey City, NJ
1981-1983 Cedartown, GA & Aragon, GA
1983-1984 Misenheimer, NC
1984-1985 Thomson, GA
1985-1993 Statesboro, GA
1993-1998 Morrow, GA
1998-2002 Jonesboro, GA
2002-2004 Phoenix, AZ
2004-2006 Morris Plains, NJ
2006-2008 Phoenix, AZ
2008-2010 Memphis, TN
2010-2012 Eagleville, PA
2012-2013 Duluth, GA
2013-2015 Peoria, AZ
2015-2016 Phoenix, AZ

I have never experienced being from somewhere. I call North Carolina my home state. But I honestly have no home state. I am a nomad with no roots. I am, forever, the stranger in the street, a foreigner. I'm always hopeful that the next stop will be my last. But then the road beckons.

Friday, August 5, 2016

you have no name - choose one

I am Nomalanga, for I live in this desert.

Call me Aloysia, for I am fierce.

Know me as Sahar, for I begin anew.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

interview

It's about 45 minutes from Thomson, GA to Louisville, GA. I allowed myself a little over an hour, just in case. My Nissan pick-up wouldn't be a problem. It was fairly new. No, other drivers were the only potential obstacles. Get behind a tractor on a winding, back country road and your journey could seem like an eternity. Or a log truck. Follow a log truck and experience the duel emotions of frustration and terror. If you want to pass a log truck, you're going to have to get close. But everybody has a horror story about a log flying off the back of a truck, straight through a car windshield where it instantly decapitates someone. (PG version: Missed him by THAT MUCH.)

But on that day in 1985, I experienced no delays and arrived at my potential employer's building with more than 15 minutes to spare. This was a state job, which I had applied for by filling out a generic state application for "Human Services Technician, Senior", indicating on the application which counties I was interested in. Louisville (pronounced "lewisville", not like the beautiful city in Kentucky) was a small town in a rural no man's land. It had once been the state capital many years before, but it was now just another small, south Georgia town.

Inside the nondescript building, I announced myself and was seated in the lobby to wait. The secretary/receptionist looked like she was about 19 and I marveled at her loud gum smacking and chewing. She seemed unaware. At one point she caught me staring at her and startled, stopped chewing for a minute. I smiled. She smiled and went back to chewing.

Eventually, the phone on her desk buzzed and she told me to go down that hall to the conference room on your right. I gathered my purse and notebook and walked down the hall. I entered the conference room to find three people sitting at a conference table that could accommodate ten people.

Let me stop this story for a moment - only a moment - just long enough to tell you that I do not play poker, nor any other game that requires one to hide reactions. I can not do it, except in very specific situations.

How do I describe these three people without sounding like a horrible human being? I will try. I will probably fail. First let me say that six of the ten chairs were pulled away from the table and stacked in the corner. At the closest end of the table sat J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon. You remember Wimpy? He was the fella who loved hamburgers. "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Sitting on either side of Wimpy were ladies with very modest dresses and gigantic bouffant, beehive hairdos. About a year later, I learned that the two ladies were probably members of an Apostolic Pentacostal church and, therefore, chose not to cut their hair. But I didn't know that at the time. So turning the corner to find Wimpy, flanked by these two magnificent hairdos almost did me in.

Wimpy rose to greet me and shake my hand. He introduced the two ladies. I was so flustered, I retained none of the names and titles. He then gestured to the fourth chair, which was situated at the farthest end of the table. I hiked down to that end of the room and sat in that lonely, isolated chair. I felt like I was in a Saturday Night Live skit. And then it got worse.

Wimpy picked up a piece of paper from the table (my resumé) and announced, "Well, Mizriz Jones, we have had an opportooonity to look over your ree-zoom, and I must say we were impressed with your skeels and expeerience." Candid Camera could not have written a better opening line. Given my severe lack of a poker face, I would, today, happily pay $10,000 to have a video of my face from the time I entered the room up until he spoke those words. I must have been a sight.

The interview progressed with questions that alternated between standard interview questions and "stress" questions that were popular in those days. "How would you redesign an elephant?" was one of those. (My answer: "I would take away the tusks so humans would stop slaughtering them.") All questions were asked by Wimpy. The ladies took copious notes, but otherwise did not participate in any discernible way.

I knew from the moment he asked me about my ree-zoom, that I could not possibly work there. I finished the interview and drove home. I did receive an offer, which I politely declined. They weren't ready for someone like me and I wasn't ready - yet - to sentence myself to rural Georgia.

But soon I would find myself working in Millen, Georgia. And that's an entirely different story.

Monday, August 1, 2016

pickles

She was a wide woman, blessed in the hip department. She couldn't keep a job over to the cotton mill 'cause the other ladies complained about her taking up too much space in the narrow aisles. Even her best friend, Euna Lee, turned on her ever so slightly.

"I'm sorry, Pickles," Euna Lee said sadly, "but it's embarrassing for people to try to get around you. You can't blame them."

Pickles didn't blame those other people. She did blame Euna Lee, though. A person ought to be able to count on a best friend to take up for 'em.

It all worked out for the best. Her Mama cleaned house for Mrs. Brock, wife of the assistant pastor at First Baptist. The big church at the center of Murrayville needed help in their nursery. Pickles had helped raise seven brothers and sisters, so she was called down to the big church on Wednesday to speak to the education director.

Two days later she was assisting in the 2's on Mondays through Fridays and in Infants on Sundays. Turns out her wide hips were just right for tending to babies. And although it took her a while to get used to being around fancier folks than could be found at her own tiny Pentacostal church out on River Road, she eventually felt at home at the big white church she'd only ever studied from a distance.

Euna Lee accused her of being stuck up when Pickles showed no interest in going to the dances at the VFW. But Pickles was still smarting over how easily Euna Mae had joined the other mill workers in calling for her to leave. A person ought to be able to count on a best friend to take up for 'em.

Besides, Pickles was being courted by Jimmy Davis, the maintenance man at First Baptist who had lost his wife to cancer less than a year ago. Jimmy and Pickles ate their sandwiches together nearly every day now. He was going to ask her to marry him, she felt sure. Men don't like being alone and most widowers didn't stay widowers for long. Everybody in the church said they were real cute together.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

nobody knows

The child with child carried a secret that even she did not yet know. But any seasoned male eye could see the words etched on her brow. NOT PROTECTED

There was early damage that contributed to her vulnerability. She expected more abuse and when horror visited, she greeted it with resignation, having given up hope of rescue.

Eventually, her personal armor developed, though her self-esteem did not. But she learned the right words to say to fool people into believing they were interacting with a confident, capable, forthright woman. Hers was a language of steadfast sureness, a soothing communication style.

She studied strong women and copied their posture and the proud lift of their chins. She practiced facial expressions in the bathroom mirror, imagining bits of conversation and trying on various reactions. She tested laughter to find one that conveyed a relaxed and happy existence.

Nobody was allowed too close. Distance is important when you're not protected. Partners were chosen for their unavailability. Safety first.

And nobody knew.

Nobody knows.

Friday, July 22, 2016

hardly

Watching from afar,
You marvel at her courage.
Her answer? "Hardly."

Monday, July 4, 2016

skedaddle


Jump, skip, tumble together across the cool, green, summer grass.
Drink cool water from the hose pipe, then hook it to the Slip'n'Slide.
Ruuuuuun across the yard and belly flop down the yellow plastic.
Giggle crazily in your huddle of girls as the boys watch from the basketball hoop.
Drink cherry red Kool-Aid with ice that melts too fast and gives you a red mustache.
Dance a first slow dance with Corky Bolenz to Otis Redding's "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay."
Hunker down in sleeping bags and play a scratchy "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on the record player.
Scare yourselves silly with every unidentified sound until Mom yells "Hush up!"
Skedaddle to the store in the morning to buy blow-pops and Cokes.
Ride out to Lake Lanier to swim, water ski and picnic on cheeseburgers, potato salad & fried okra.
Summers in Gainesville, Georgia, with the Conner Family.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

bunch of

When I got home from the hospital, the usual church ladies were there.

Mrs. Sampson from the choir, who believed in the miraculous healing properties of a good broth, had ownership of my kitchen. She stayed for three days, going home at 9 p.m., and returning at 6 a.m. She made tea and coffee throughout the day, heated up portions of casseroles on demand, and she cleaned. The only time I saw her was when she peeked in to see if I was drinking the broth she had sent in for me.

Widow Adams took charge of the front door and the telephone. She was sweet and gracious but she allowed no visitors for the first 36 hours. Bud joked that he barely gained admission to his own house when he got home from the auto dealership and only after he was sent back to the Kroger for some flowers. "No self-respecting gentleman greets his wife home from the hospital without flowers," Widow Adams had said to him. He brought me a beautiful bunch of tulips, which one of the ladies whisked away. Later, the tulips returned, arranged in a lovely vase.

I hardly saw the children. There was a whole plan involving several families to keep them busy and happy. I asked Bud if anyone had explained the baby to them. He shook his head no, so there was that still to do. They were brought in each night to kiss me good night. Benji, at age seven, looked solemn and worried. I had to reassure him that I would be up in another day or two. Cilla was only three, so she was just glad to see me. "I miss you, Mommy." I held her body close and kissed her face and head a thousand times.

Preacher Darning stopped by every day and sat in the easy chair next to the bed. He was not at his best on home visits. He always had an air of wishing he was anywhere else but there. But he spoke the appropriate words of support, which infuriated me. "All part of God's plan" and "another angel in heaven" and "with the Lord's help, the pain will eventually dull," all combined to make God sound like a selfish asshole. I didn't say that to Preacher.

Mama always said that preachers had to be able to do three things: preach, minister to their community, and handle the business of the church. She said a preacher might be real strong in one area, but the other two would suffer a bit. And sometimes you'd find a preacher that was strong in two of the three areas. That was a day to rejoice. But you almost never found one strong in all three areas. Preacher Darning could preach, let me tell you, but he sucked at the ministering to your flock part. He was too focused on himself and trying too hard to say and do the right things. It was obvious he hated it.

No, it was Ms. Price, our assistant pastor, who excelled at the bedside visit. Why? She listened. She knew that I was heartbroken and angry and she opened the door to let me express it. And she somehow helped me make room for those awful thoughts and feelings instead of trying to pray them away. She understood that to be human was to be exquisitely complex and she celebrated that in each of us.

We survived those first few days and went back to our lives. But when you lose a child, in our case a newborn, you don't ever really get over it. Every baby I've seen for the last sixteen years, including Benji's first child, brings the memories back. I can see baby Michael's tiny fist, which would never move or clutch my finger. I could picture the soft down on his head. And I still cry.

But I rejoice in the life I have and in the triumphs of my living children. Not long after we lost Michael, somebody exclaimed to us that we had two beautiful children. "Thank you," I replied with a big smile. Beside me, I heard Bud say in a voice just loud enough for me to hear, "Three." I looked at him and saw his eyes were moist. I immediately thought back to that bunch of tulips for some reason. I took his hand and we stood together watching Benji and Cilla, both of us thinking of the precious one who left us too soon. "Three," I said.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

cozen

Behind her back he
laughed at her. But to her face,
he was all cozen.

It worked. His profit
made her proud, this sad little
woman. Cozened frump.

hook

In Vaudeville days, if the audience wasn't responding well to a performer, a large hook would appear from the wings and pull the performer off the stage. Every performer knew it could happen and prayed that it wouldn't. Or did they? Maybe this is just a trope in comedy and cartoons. Plenty of people have yelled the phrase, "Get the hook!" But did anyone, other than a muppet on The Muppet Show actually get the hook? I honestly don't know.

Most of us can speak of an experience in which we were hooked off our stage. One minute you're singing or dancing and the next you're sitting on your ass off stage wondering what happened. The hook is the death of someone you thought would always be there. The hook is someone betraying your trust. The hook is a cancer diagnosis. The hook is an expense you can't cover. Either way, you're derailed with absolutely no idea how to recover.

But you do. You recover.

There are times when you hook yourself out of a situation. The relationship is never going to be healthy. The friendship will always be one-sided. The family member can only see you as a caricature. The workplace has no sense of your value. The lover never laughs with you. You have to go. You have to hook yourself on out of there. 

So, you do. You go.

I believe people become more interesting after they've gotten hooked. They have more depth. People who have experienced the feeling of being off balance or left out in the cold develop character and nuance. If they're fortunate, they become softer and more willing to help others. But even those who don't can be fascinating to know. 

Have you felt the hook? Who was on the other end?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

babble

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 'cause I'm in your corner of the world keeps turning and turning until you're dizzy, my head is spinning wheels were once very common but are rarely seen these days of wine and roses are beautiful but what about those thorns will poke your fingers and make you bleed.

Wut?

paisley

A desert sunrise
throws soft-washed colors across
a new paisley sky.

tripped

An illumination point is a moment in your life when you are suddenly absolutely certain about what the next step in your life will be. I collected a few from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Hearing these stories helped me recognize those moments when they occurred in my own life.

Debbie was working as the director of a social services agency in Georgia when she happened to see a television show filmed in Telluride, Colorado. She sat straight up in her chair, knowing immediately that she would go there. She picked up the phone and called a few agencies and yes, there was a vacancy. She flew out, interviewed and was gone within four weeks. She said she just knew it was time.

Leonte was pursuing a graduate degree in higher education administration when she met Tim, another graduate student who was pursuing a degree in fine arts. A few visits to his studio later, she was painting next to him, marveling at the mixing of colors and the textures she was creating. Within the year, she was giving up her once solid career path and setting out to explore her creative side. She was terrified, but absolutely thrilled.

Monica calls it divine inspiration, that leads to bold and unexpected change. She says not everyone will get behind life changes of this magnitude. Her bold moves were more quietly done so she didn't prompt any nay-saying. In my case, the most vocal concern trolling came from friends or family who had made very traditional life and career choices. They chose to stay in safe zones and they wanted me to do the same. I couldn't! My illumination points demanded that I step out on faith.

Polly was another artist friend who made multiple choices that boggled people's minds. While in South America, she kept seeing brightly colored woven hammocks, but she couldn't quite figure out how they were made. When she asked, she was told that only certain families made them and the method was a family secret. She kept asking though. Finally, in a local shop, she saw a painting of people weaving a hammock on a loom. She asked the shopkeeper and several other locals about the painting and about the loom. Nobody would talk.

But as she left the shop, a man approached and offered to take her to see where his family produced the hammocks. Polly got into a taxi with him. They drove away from the city. Miles and miles later, the pavement ran out and they traveled even farther on packed dirt roads. Then even that road ended. "This is as far as the taxi goes," the man said, "so we'll go the rest of the way on foot." I wouldn't have gone. You probably wouldn't have gone. Polly went. They walked into the jungle and eventually reached a small village. Inside the largest building Polly was introduced to the man's family - wife, mother, children, and siblings.

And there was the loom. The family taught Polly how to weave the hammocks. With the family's permission, she then used paper and pen to make measurements and draw pictures of the loom. When she got home, she and her husband built a loom. I have one of her hammocks. Any time I look at it, I think of her walking into that jungle. Polly is gone now, but she serves as inspiration to me to walk into metaphorical jungles, even if I'm scared.

One more. Cindy was a nurse. She liked being a nurse. But what really excited her was beautifully packaged goods at the grocery store and other markets. One Friday night she attended a happy hour schmoozing event sponsored by a staffing agency. At the event, she tripped over someone's carelessly placed bag and literally fell into the arms of a complete stranger. Awkward! But they got to talking. Cindy found out that he worked for a marketing firm designing marketing materials which included, you guessed it, packaging. What kind of training do you need to do something like that, Cindy wanted to know. At home that night, she researched graphic design programs. Two years later, she was taking just enough shifts as a fill-in nurse to be able to do freelance design work.

Cindy's illumination point involved an actual fall. Most of us get tripped by an unexpected idea of how things could be. A vivid image of a possible future is illuminated for us. Then we choose whether to follow the path into the unknown jungle. And for some of us, the thought of NOT following the trail is just not doable. We have to know what's around that mysterious bend in the jungle road. We have to go see.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

faded

There was some fade to him, as if he'd once been brightly colored, but had mellowed over time. Chas would tell a story from his teen years or his early twenties and we'd all be slackjawed in response. Lucky thought he was making the stories up as he went along, but I don't think so.

I grew up in a family of liars. Dad hustled in every way to acquire goods for the household and his con jobs often required creative lies. Mama bought crap from yard sales, fixed it up and sold it again, often with inventive tales about an item's origin. We lived about an hour from Hollywood, so her origin myths often hinted at various celebrities and the latest gossip involving divorces, scandals, and windfalls. They were both good liars.

The trick to being a really good liar is to keep it simple and to keep your head and NEVER admit you're not being truthful. Bad liars, which is most of us, get nervous and add way too much detail. Practised liars know they need to remember the lie and retell it the same way, so they'll try to bend truth rather than make up an entire fiction. That way they can more easily recall the core of the embellishment.

So no, I didn't think Chas made up his stories. They were too low-key and unembellished to be lies. Besides, the stories were clearly not intended to alter our perceptions about this rumpled looking, 60-something-year-old man. He usually interjected stories when he thought there was a lesson to be learned.

He had apparently been a high-energy go-getter in 1968 and lucked into an assignment as an assistant to a Rolling Stone reporter. He carried equipment and suitcases, went out for food, made phone calls, and any other task the dude demanded as they attended a series of concerts across the western half of the country. He showed us photos of himself and the reporter at gatherings with famous people.

Chas met Linda Ronstadt during the latter part of her Stone Poneys years. She was 22. He was barely 18 and he fell hard. He left the Rolling Stones gig and followed Linda around for eight months. Then she dumped him, just left him in Albuquerque - held her hand up as he was getting in the car. "You're not going," she said, and the convoy of cars drove off without him. He saw that his duffle bag was on the ground and he realized someone had been pulling it out of the trunk while she had her hand in his face. So it was orchestrated. He was heartbroken, not just to be dumped by the beautiful girl he loved, but also that the people he thought were his friends all knew his fate before he did. But he survived.

He told that story to demonstrate to the younger co-workers that anyone can survive heartbreak. Another time he told us about getting arrested with less than an ounce of weed. It was Texas, so he expected to end up on a chain gang or something. But after nine days, they let him go. He never did find out why. Every story had a lesson in it. The moral of this story was to be prepared to do the time if you're going to do the crime.

The only unintentional glimpse into his past was revealed after he gently intervened as a customer was repeatedly swatting the legs of a screaming child. He was visibly upset after the encounter. I put my hand on his shoulder as he slumped on a bar stool. "My father used to beat me," he said, almost in a whisper. "I hated that rat bastard."

So yes, he was faded. But even his fade had texture and richness. He was a tapestry, but the glory of the design was only revealed over time. I'm just lucky I got to see some of it.


slow

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow grow, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation." (George Washington 1732-1799)

By this measure, I have only a few true friends. And perhaps that's accurate. I count many friends with whom I share a warm affection. But friends who would drop everything and rush to my side? Who have been in my life for decades? There are only five or ten. And I'm okay with that.

Slow.

Falling in love is often fast and furious. It should be slow. Sometimes people are so eager to become half of a couple that they overlook what should be obvious red flags. Attaching yourself to the wrong person can leave you broken. It's better to be a whole person standing alone than it is to be a broken person who is part of a couple. Take your time. And as Creflo Dollar suggests, ask questions.

Sometimes you find yourself loving someone you don't know. You thought you knew! But now you've uncovered new information. And it might take a while to incorporate these new facts into your understanding of this human with whom you share your life. Or maybe you just can't. Maybe the new stuff requires you to unravel yourself and rebuild the who of both of you and it's just too much. But if you can broaden yourself, maybe you actually like this new them and this new you. Maybe metamorphisis looks good on you.

Slow.

There is nothing like a great pot roast. New cooks often complain that their pot roast is too tough. Learning that speed is the enemy is part of the path from cook to chef. It takes time, either on stove top or in the slow cooker, to melt the connective tissues and produce that wonderful fork-tender quality. But the end result is so worth the wait, isn't it?

Slow.

When you first read about the tortoise and the hare, you're rooting for the tortoise, but you put your money on the hare. This is true for love, justice, career growth, family or relationship issues, and even appropriate outcomes for nasty behavior. You want quick results. You want to race to the finish line so you can WIN. But these things take time. Slow and steady wins the race.

I had a self-appointed enemy once. His true enemy was his own insecurities which he thought he masked with a tough exterior. Instead he was perceived as arrogant and lacking in self-awareness. He could never quite articulate why he had pinpointed me as his opponent. It seemed that the more I tried to help him, the angrier he became. In the end, he slowly self-destructed. His pitiable attempts to do me harm were transparent and laughable. When someone is like this, you need do nothing. They will always shoot themselves in the foot eventually. You only need to wait.

Slow.

Lovers know the value of taking their time. Well, good lovers do. From opposite sides of a room, the dance can begin. A few well-chosen words. A tone in the voice. A recognizable facial expression. Experienced lovers slow dance towards their lovemaking. Anticipation. Delayed gratification. Sweeter is the end game when lovers take their time.

Slow.

There is beauty in the passage of time. Fruit ripens. Wine ages. Books reveal secrets that the reader couldn't have seen without the benefit of experience and time. Bruises fade. Heartbreaks don't heal, but they lose weight. Wisdom creates recognition and the heart makes room for a kinder love. The soul expands, softens at the edges. Aren't you a better person than you were ten years ago? 

Slow.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

tile

The Toynbee tiles litter the Earth, but are unknown to most. Trivia buffs are almost certain to know of them. You're deciding right now whether to look that up. If you can't resist, you're smarter than most. But now, if you do look it up, you'll never know whether you looked it up because you would have looked it up anyway, or because you wanted to feel smart. Unless you would have looked it up anyway, because you know who you are. Or do you?


Friday, June 17, 2016

bottle

That bottle of Benadryl has been my companion for years. When I'm stuffed up, two pills clears me up and helps me sleep. Now comes the news that frequent use of Benadryl is linked to dementia. Great. Is the damage done? Am I doomed? How young will I be when it hits? How many good years do I have left?

"If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do is to save every day 'til eternity passes away, just to spend them with you." Those Jim Croce lyrics take on new meaning as you get older. There is no one person I want to spend every day with. When my sister and her husband took off in their RV, I could not think of anyone I would want to be stuck in an RV with. Certainly not my lover, although I would miss him terribly if I was galavanting around the continent. Maybe I could make it work with my son. He's kind of bossy, though. I can't imagine where he got that from.

Why do I have bottle songs in my head now? "Bottle of red, bottle of white, it all depends on your appetite ..." I love Billy Joel lyrics. He paints pictures with words. "They got an apartment with deep pile carpet and a couple of paintings from Sears; a big waterbed that they bought with bread they had saved for a couple of years." I can see that apartment, can't you? And they're sticking candles in Chianti bottles. I see lots of different colored wax dripping down onto the basket around each bottle.

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall ... sorry, couldn't resist.

Have you read the novel Ten Green Bottles? Here's the description from the publisher:

"To Nini Karpel, growing up in Vienna during the 1920s was a romantic confection. Whether schussing down ski slopes or speaking of politics in coffee houses, she cherished the city of her birth. But in the 1930s, an undercurrent of conflict and hate began to seize the former imperial capital. This struggle came to a head when Hitler took possession of neighboring Germany. Anti-Semitism, which Nini and her idealistic friends believed was impossible in the socially advanced world of Vienna, became widespread and virulent.
"The Karpel's Jewish identity suddenly made them foreigners in their own homeland. Tormented, disenfranchised, and with a broken heart, Nini and her family sought refuge in a land seven thousand miles across the world.
"Shanghai, China, one of the few countries accepting Jewish immigrants, became their new home and refuge. Stepping off the boat, the Karpel family found themselves in a land they could never have imagined. Shanghai presented an incongruent world of immense wealth and privilege for some and poverty for the masses, with opium dens and decadent clubs as well as rampant disease and a raging war between nations.
"Ten Green Bottles is the story of Nini Karpel's struggles as she told it to her daughter Vivian so many years ago. This true story depicts the fierce perseverance of one family, victims of the forces of evil, who overcame suffering of biblical proportion to survive. It was a time when ordinary people became heroes."

Doesn't that sound like something you want to read? I thought so. I won't give away the significance of the title. Bottles!

The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors is an organization of people who collect unusual bottles. I'd love to see some of those collections. I'll close with a photo of my favorite new bottle. If I decided to start collecting bottles, I'd start with this one. I have no clue whether the vodka in it is any good. But that bottle!




Monday, June 13, 2016

orlando

Cell phones rang,
haunting the room with terrified loved ones,
breaking the hearts of first responders,
as they moved among the dead.

Name them: Stanley; Eric; Kimberly.

Beautiful faces,
previously lit up with joy and laughter,
now remained still,
forever silenced by hate.

Name them: Luis, Amanda, Gilberto.

My rage and fear,
for those I love,
courses through my being,
threatening to freeze my heart and soul.

Name them: Shane, Jason, Joel.

But I will love instead,
and defeat hatred and ignorance,
by forgetting the killer,
and remembering the lives that were.

Name them: Simon, Enrique, Mercedez.

I will remember.




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

mr. jenkins

Mr. Jenkins teaches Earth Science to 6th and 7th graders at Lily Vandenburg Middle School in East Sedwick, North Carolina. He loves his subject but hates his students. The latter feeling has grown over his twenty-seven-year career, primarily due to the growing disrespect he faces from his students and their parents. His students openly ridicule his wardrobe choices, especially his footwear. He's considered early retirement, but can't afford a reduction in his already meager projected pension.

Roberta Jenkins is having her 25th birthday in Rubicon, New Mexico. She's working her shift as a municipal security guard at the Surrey Park Public Library, where she is regularly called "Mr. Jenkins" due to her very short haircut, boxy build, and tough demeanor. She never corrects anyone because being seen as masculine enhances her ability to do her job. After work, she's meeting friends at Tink's, for what will probably be a rowdy night of drinking and debauchery. She'll play along, but what she's really hoping is that Cynthia has had a change of heart and will show up tonight.

"Congratulations, Mrs. Hodge, it's a boy!" They plop the bloody, crying baby on her belly. She reaches for him and carefully holds him against her skin. She is crying too. This is not the first birth of the year at Pennsville Memorial Hospital in Pennsville, Montana. It's early April, so first births were a long time ago. And it's not the most famous birth they've had. The Grisham Quadruplets were born here just last year. But the staff has still gathered around to witness this miracle. Just three hours ago, this baby's parents were driving to the grocery store, hit a patch of black ice and spun off into a swollen creek. And there they would have perished had John Jenkins not been coming home from the same grocery store and witnessed the accident. He leaped out of his truck and three times dove into the frigid water to get them out. He then drove all three of them to the hospital, the cab's heater on full blast. In a show of gratitude, that baby will be named Jenkins three days from now.

Carl Owen Jenkins is crying in his living room in East Grinding. Alabama. He had his cat, Snowball, put down after work today. Snowball was fifteen years old and predated his wife's appearance in his life by twelve years. "You love that cat more than you love me." Carl Owen stopped denying it about the tenth time she said it. His wife is in the kitchen right now, banging cabinet doors and loudly returning items to their assigned space. She is disgusted by his tears. Carl Owen doesn't love his wife anymore. He decides then and there to file for a divorce.

Leeroy Jenkins at least has chicken.

"My music is so often a lullaby I write to myself to make sense of things I can't tie together, or things I've lost, or things I'll never have." Stephan Jenkins, Third Eye Blind

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

at the market

In the fruits and vegetables section, a man is lecturing a woman on how she should prepare green beans. His tone is parental and unforgiving. He sounds like a man who has tasted far too many green beans he didn't care for. The woman looks like she'd like to disappear through the floor. Her humiliation is obvious. I walk over and hand her a cucumber. We exchange a look. I turn to walk away. Behind me, I hear him ask, "Do you know her?" I turn back. "She doesn't know me," I say, "but I know you."

An elderly woman is reaching for baked goods on the next aisle. I hand them down to her. She thanks me and we move in opposite directions. I'm old enough now to imagine myself at her age. What challenges will I face, if I'm still alive?

I skip the candy section and head into dairy. I'm a sucker for cheese. And right on cue, there's the samples lady. Cranberry Stilton? Yes, please. Goat's Milk? Oh my, yes. Aged Cheddar? You betcha. And we'll need some of those crackers. And wine. Grapes. Maybe pears. And prosciutto.

Should I get some chicken breasts? I'll make Chicken Divan. Broccoli too, then. Let me zip back to produce ... whoa! What's this? Yellow crime tape! And there's a body on the floor ... oh my gosh, it's him! What is that sticking out of his ... Shit! Is that a CUCUMBER???

Yeah, maybe I don't need broccoli. You know what? I don't need any of this. I can shop later in the week. I have leftover spaghetti in the freezer.

Well, maybe just the wine. And the Stilton.

And these crackers.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

brass

"... just as bold as brass."

I've always admired women described this way. There's a shaming aspect to the phrase that the recipient sloughs off like a coat on a warm day. That woman doesn't really care what others think. She's got her eye on a prize and she's not slowing down.

Determination goes well with brass. When we get down to brass tacks, we're FINALLY dealing with the most important stuff. And it's about time!

Grabbing for the brass ring, on a carousel or in life, is also about going for a prize. And the top brass is a phrase used to describe senior military (or corporate) leaders.

We bring out the brass band when we have something wonderful to celebrate. But brass is not always wonderful nor welcome. "Brass bands are all very well in their place," Sir Thomas Beechum said, " - outdoors and several miles away."

And 1 Corinthians 13:1 tells us, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal." That doesn't sound flattering.

Even Shakespeare isn't too impressed with brass.

"Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?"

In other words, if time can destroy even brass, how can love survive the passage of years?

Good question.

The Pretenders already answered it, didn't they? It gets back to determination, to having brass in your pocket. Have a listen to Brass in Pocket.

So that's it then. The Pretenders took us all the way back to that bold as brass woman. I still like her. On my best days, I am her.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

yellow

"Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow."

Coldplay's song "Yellow" is romantic and wistful. It's unusual to see the color yellow connected to such a mellow sound. We typically think of yellow as bright and cheerful.


Or do we?


Yellow fever is not cheerful. Thousands of people in South America and Africa have died of yellow fever every year. Stupid mosquitos!!! The disease was so named because it does its worst damage to the liver, causing jaundice. The good news is that there is now a very effective vaccine.

But Yellow Tail wine is a wonderfully cheerful Australian wine. They've been sold in the USA since about 2001. And they've just released three sangria flavors that are delicious. The price point is doable too..


Coldplay's "Yellow" isn't the only musical representation of the color. I grew up hearing Harry Belafonte sing "Yellow Bird", about a lonely bird that represents the sadness of the singer. Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" was a popular song in my teenage years. Today's equivalent has to be Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow." Then who can forget "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell? And if you never heard "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", well, you just haven't lived. But the greatest has to be "Yellow Submarine" which we all live in. We do! Honorable mention to Frank Zappa for his yellow snow warning. Thanks, Nanook.


Yellowstone National Park is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Spectacular nature is abundant in the United States. Our national parks showcase our commitment to preserving natural places. For now, anyway. There will always be greedy men who would sign away the parks in exchange for a few bucks. That's why voting is so important. I've never been to Yellowstone. Soon.

Are you a reader? The Yellow Wallpaper was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Published in 1892, it stands as an early example of the often cruel outcomes of patriarchy's insistence that women conform to very narrow roles. Although it reads as horror, its message is a simple reminder that women are human and need the same rich experiences that men crave. It was quite shocking in its day.

Minions!!! 'Nuff said.

Vincent Van Gogh apparently loved yellow. Several paintings focused on yellow hues, including his famous "Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers." Did you know that Van Gogh painted his sunflower series to decorate Paul Gauguin's bedroom in the house they shared in Arles? You can see the house in another Van Gogh painting called The Yellow House. And Gauguin was no stranger to the color. His "Yellow Christ" and "Parau api?" each feature the same wonderful yellow.

We'll close our yellow post with an interesting bit of trivia. Yellow pencils. When manufactured pencils first came into existence, the best were made with high grade graphite from China. To mark the pencils as superior, they were painted yellow, which was the color of royalty in China. Almost 200 years later, there are no royals remaining in China, but we still have plenty of yellow pencils.

I lied. Daffodils. I'd like to end with daffodils. And thanks to Jim Haesloop who taught me to love them.