31 December 2007

"Original"

This is J.B.'s sausage wagon - sort of an Athens institution. If you're out late at a show and hungry as hell, maybe you'll find your way to J.B.'s wagon, parked out behind the 40 Watt club. He'll make you a hot dog and slather it in something called "Comeback Sauce" ('Cause it keeps you coming back for more,' he once told me).

Naturally, I rarely see J.B. anymore, due to the fact that I'm no longer 23. But today I saw him, at Wal*Mart of all places. I drove past him on my way to the dump. That's how me and my ladies spent the last day of 2007: We went to the dump and to Wal*Mart. That sounds bad. But we did follow it up with our usual hike in the woods. Saw lots of mushrooms too. And in so many ways, are not mushrooms the comeback sauce of the forest?

Anyway, what I like about this photo is how my man has the word original in quotation marks. Just what's he trying to imply anyway?

30 December 2007

Socklets and Chocolates

It's been raining for the last five days. Our garage is flooded. The front yard is a swamp. Some things have been ruined. It's a good thing. No complaints.

I'm warm and toasty, and wearing a pair of socks I lifted from the psychiatric unit before the doors closed for good. They are grey and thin. They have no-slip treads on them. We used to hand them out to patients who had cold feet or who otherwise required sockage. The hospital probably billed insurance companies and patients $145 a pair for them. They're actually quite horrible. They're not even full length. They're ankle socks. They're booties...socklets. Horrible socklets.

Yesterday, Eleanor & I hiked in the rain. She slept, mostly, while i held the umbrella, traversed slippery slopes, and forded usually dry creekbeds now running with fast flow chocolate milk that overran my boots and flooded my feet. I saw an old cornfield. Its topsoil was washing away into the forest. Goodbye, topsoil. Goodbye, dry feet.

28 December 2007

Cool

A Georgia Cadillac. My father's, actually. Moments ago, I popped in a mix tape and slid on down to the post office and deposited the final application materials for the first wave of writing program deadlines. (The next wave are due before the 15th of January.) I have therefore officially applied to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of Montana, and the University of Notre Dame. In the next week and a half, I'll be finishing up the other applications as well. Then it's simply a waiting game.

Janelle and the baby went to the post office with me. Family adventure! They waited in the car while I plied the poor postal employer with my obsessive queries about approximate arrival times and best case scenarios. When I came back out, Janelle asked me, "How'd it go?" I told her it was cool.

27 December 2007

Electricity

Electricity is, in fact, mysterious. I have no idea how it works, how it makes my coffee maker grumble and chug, or how it gets the old hi-fi to spin. It's part of my everyday tableau. It flows through my every activity. It's even pulsing in my brain. And yet if I stopped to think about it for very long, I'd probably have a psychotic break.

When I was a kid, I had about a half-dozen near-fatal close brushes with electricity. Like the time I tried to climb an electric fence in order to get a closer look at a bear at the zoo. Yup. That really happened. When I regained consciousness to the delicious aroma of smelling salts, there was a circle of worried tourists looking down at me. My head was elevated on somebody's bunched-up t-shirt. There were also some pretty girls in the mix. I started crying.

Nikola Tesla figured out pretty much everything we know about electricity. He even invented something called the Wireless Energy Transfer, which is a way of beaming electricity from one point to another without the use of wires. Everything was irie until Thomas "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration" Edison actually employed Tesla to overhaul his motor and generators, which Tesla did expertly. After 2 years of 'round-the-clock, fruitful labor, Edison out & out refused to pay Tesla the money he promised and told him, basically, "Now take yo' ass home to Croatia, sucka." Tesla, the real man of the hour, ended up digging ditches.

What I think is interesting about Nikola Tesla is that he had plans to invent a pocket-sized machine that could induce miniature earthquakes. Bet'cha he would have liked to have used something like that on Tommy Edison. He also had theoretical designs for a camera that could photograph thoughts! Check it out:

"I expect to photograph thoughts... In 1893, while engaged in certain investigations, I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought, must by reflex action, produce a corresponding image on the retina, which might be read by a suitable apparatus. This brought me to my system of television which I announced at that time..." - Tesla, 1933

26 December 2007

Pleopeltis polypodioides



Resurrection ferns. Nature's opportunists. When it's dry out, they go on powersave, turn brown, and shrivel up. To the untrained eye, they look totally dead. In fact, however, they're just playing possum with precipitation. Cause when it rains, the resurrection fern perks back up and turns as verdant and fluffy as Oscar the Grouch. They're a parasite, really. In fact, if granted free reign, they'll eventually kill their host, robbing it of its nutrients and weakening its metabolic functions.

Damn, what a lovely way to go, though: Death by fern. I love resurrection ferns, and I don't mind that they're as much a menace as a decoration. (Ain't we all?) These pleopeltis polypodioides have been growing on this old oak in my parents yard for years and years, giving the old patriarch the effect of wearing bushy green shirtsleeves. But only after a rain. When it's dry out, that oak is as naked as the naked eye.

24 December 2007

The Way of the Luna Moth

Actias Luna a.k.a. the noble Luna Moth. I used to see these a lot when I was growing up. They'd plaster the vinyl siding on my parents' house on hot summer nights. Anymore, though, they're pretty rare and hard to come by. Apparently that's because most of their habitat has been claimed by Homo sapiens, Taco Bells, and track housing. It also hasn't helped that the air has become more polluted, causing the tender moths to recoil in winged horror. Making matters worse, a certain foreign pest (I forget which) was introduced a few years back to combat crop-destroying insects here in the South. Unfortunately, said pest unknowingly had a taste for Luna Moth flesh. All those factors added up to Luna Moth megadeath.

Things come and things depart. That's just the God-damned fact of the matter. This morning, hiking through the Appalachian foothills with my wife & baby daughter, it occurred to me how lucky I was to grow up here in this magical place. It's the kind of environment I'd like Eleanor to grow up in, or at least be familiar with. But places like this one are getting harder and harder to find. Where all they all going? They're going the way of Actias Luna. By the time Eleanor's my age, will wilderness even exist anymore?

Damn, this is a depressing blog entry. I must be in my right mind.

23 December 2007

Three Kinds of Light

We're here in Manchester, Georgia for the holidays...where the moon is full, the faces are familiar, and the magic of winter is alive in the foothills...

Moonlight. I watched this moon rise in the East tonight and said to my dad, "That big fat moon's gonna shine like a spoon." And he said, "Yeah." And then we talked awhile about psychosis, Indians and a few other things. Stella attacked the moonlit darkness, and it melted into her starry fur. I'm pretty sure that's Mars off to the right.

Christmas tree lights. Incandescent. Representing the five Tantric Buddha Families. Conjuring up Tibetan magic. You can't tell, but the tree pictured here is actually a tiny ceramic tree that my grandmother made in her ceramics class at the senior center. That fact gives me hope. I'm not sure why.

Candlelight. Not really. It's actually electric candle light. These are wired so that they actually pulse and flicker weirdly. My Ma places these on her windowsill every winter. From afar, perhaps they look like real live candles. Probably not. That's okay.

22 December 2007

The Strand of Pearls

This is a solarized photo of one of the many street lamps in downtown Athens. I like how the globe is rendered to look like a black pearl. I like the idea of black pearls, especially.

Recently, I found out that Eleanor's birth stone is the pearl...though that's kind of weird, since a pearl is not a stone at all. It's a pearl - It grew on the inside of an oyster. Why are pearls prized as gemstones? Because they're rare. Rarity = Value is supposed to be the equation at work here. That's not really true, though, is it? I mean, if that were the case, mind-blowing experimental films and poems would be prized possessions. But no, not so much.

A few days ago, I accompanied my friend Sean into a jewelry store, where he bought a string of pearls for his girlfriend. Sean's book of poems had just come out, and he was feeling expansive and weirded out by the experience of having a book, complete with a Library of Congress number. The girl behind the counter flirted shamelessly with him. She wore a black sweater. After some deliberation, he handed over his credit card and - bam - my man had himself some pearls. "She told me not to get her anything," he said to me on the sidewalk. "You did the right thing," I replied.

I don't know why, but I left out the part about the girl modeling the pearls for him. Some things don't need to be said...like the way she pulled her hair up off her neck to reveal the pearls. And how they hung. And how she set her gaze deep into Sean's eyes, who tried hard to stare at the strand of pearls and remember what he was supposed to be contemplating. She was good, in other words. I said that to Sean, back out on the sidewalk. "Yes, she was," he replied.

Pearls form naturally. But they can also be "grown." Naturally, a pristine natural pearl is more valuable. This is because natural pearls are the experimental films of the sea. Since both kinds look pretty much alike on the surface, you have to use an x-ray to tell whether or not a pearl is natural or grown on a pearl farm. Imagine that: shooting all that electromagnetic radiation into a wee, little pearl just to reveal its past.

To take the mystery out of something can be a real tragedy. Then again, every scientist knows that pearls don't really come from oysters anyway. Like everything else, their story is a crazy orgy of millions of forces, causes, and conditions. They arrive to jive from beyond the veil. They assume their forms like businessmen donning fedoras. And they slap high fives in the Void way before manifesting as bling-bling in the oyster's mouth. And that's cool. But I wonder if oysters flirt with one another on the ocean floor. And I wonder if they agree with Federico Fellini, who ate acid, made experimental films, and once said "All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

21 December 2007

Hexagrams


I: Compost decaying in the frozen rain. I just threw the I Ching with Eleanor in my arms. With regard to my manuscript, it yielded two hexagrams: “Limitation” and “Youthful Folly.” The counsel is to know balance, to be patient, to assert, and to receive. In short, the counsel is a paradox. It says, “Don’t throw the I Ching. Figure it out for yourself.” I ask it to be more specific.

II: Compost glowing in the freezing rain. I throw the I Ching again. I ask it about my travel plans and our family’s holiday down South. It replies, “Consider quoting Bill Moyers as infrequently as possible” and “When confronted with injustice, intervene.” I ask it why it never dated in college. It is silent and wounded.

III: Compost thinking about its past lives in the pin-points of rain. The I Ching throws me. I tumble in space, past plates, quilts, and scrambled eggs. My daughter catches me. She says, “Only play with toys, not life. Life is serious. It needs your attention and balance.” I ask her if she has become Confucian. She says, “ I caught you, didn’t I?”

IV: Compost meditating on the county line. Me: “You are learning about death, and you have arrived in multiples. Given that, how does one find balance in art and life?” The lemon rind curls. The broccoli wilts. A translucent grub pushes an apple seed into its hungry maw. Above, the clouds are peeling apart. I am caught again.

V: Compost becoming dirt in the winter rain. It is a story about loss, and a certain kind of speed that carries us through time. My life is simpler than ever before. The world, more complicated. I sift through the father figures in my mind, in search of comfort. I search the faces of friends for what endures between us. I hold her at the waist, and we talk.

VI: Compost composting in the bin I built. The I Ching looks comfortable on its shelf. The dog has stopped scratching at last. All the rain rolls downhill and my wife has driven off to take a yoga class. I am tumbling with my daughter, past my hang-ups and old hangouts. We wear our winter coats. We sing the song of the grub.

The Judgment:
Compost decaying in the frozen rain. A dream of quoting Bill Moyers just the right amount. A dream of a world full of old growth and pines. We get the eggs perfect, and baby can dance. We wear our antlers out and stomp the galling malaise. Fathers and mothers know all the songs by heart. Rain drifts to earth like a million soft hammers.

20 December 2007

Sleep Is For The Weak

Eleanor has been teething hardcore for a month now. Hardcore. Which means that, for a month now, her Mom & I have gotten progressively more and more loopy, nutty, sleep-deprived, and edgy. 'They tested this kind of thing on soldiers during the Korean War,' I've thought to myself many a night, lying awake to the sounds of Ella, kept awake by her own budding teeth. 'Bad shit happens as a result.'

Rearing an infant without the help of an extended family network is some difficult, difficult shit. Janelle & I both have parents & other family members who would step in and help us out in a minute. Problem is, they live too far away. We're doing this all alone. Folks, let me tell you: It's hard as hell. Like Janelle said to me last night, 'I now know why people who still live in the same town as their family of origin, when they have kids, they never leave. They live their whole lives there. They get support there.'

The fact is, like a lot of postmoderns, we're of at least two minds. We want community, but we don't want to put down permanent roots anywhere just yet. We hate suburbia, yet we can't survive in a smallminded town. We love nature, but we gotta live somewhere where we can work and make a living. In every direction there's a double bind. That's just the facts of existence right now.

Before Eleanor was born, I already knew these binds well. But now, they've all been driven home in a way that I could never imagine. It's put up or shut up time for us now. Theories and beliefs won't do. We have to create the reality that will support us...and that's hard on little or no sleep.

Last night, our little starling woke up every twenty-five minutes. Gawd knows we've put some serious late-night miles on our rocking chair, and on our bedroom slippers. I'd do anything for my daughter. And I'll keep seeing to it that she knows she's taken care of. I'll keep getting up and soothing her. But good God, man...good God.

19 December 2007

The Difference Between Summer & Winter


The difference between Summer & Winter is that in the Winter, I don't have to worry much about poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, ticks, chiggers, fleas, or mosquitoes. And in the Summer I don't have to put Vic's Vapor Rub in my nose, Theraflu on my gut, and this ridiculous wool hat on my head.

Of course, the light strikes the earth at different angles, and sticks around for different durations. It's warmer. Or it's cooler. You're drinking hot coffee or cold lemonade. You're trying to cozy up. You're trying to chill out.

In Winter, I always tend towards depression. Not a clinical depression, and not Seasonal Affective Disorder (depression caused by seasonal lack of UV light). It's more like my own psychic energy is running like sap, back down to the roots of my mind. I tend to withdraw socially, laugh less, and ponder the more grave issues of my provisional life. Often, during the Winter, I listen to more Leonard Cohen, and I worry about where we are all headed.

Today, I was downtown, watching all the shoppers darting in and out of the upscale gift shops. "I lack their mirth," I said to myself. And then I bought a cup coffee for a dollar. On the cup were written the words, "Have A Nice Day."

18 December 2007

Jingoistic War Cartoon

I drew this on one of my last nights at work, before I got canned. I was trying to make the charge nurse (Judy, from Kentucky) laugh. I did that a lot at work. Judy was a cool lady. An interesting thing about her is that her sister dated Jerry Lee Lewis. To prove it, Judy brought a photograph to work one night. In it, you could see The Killer, plain as day, and Judy's sister, her beehive tucked under a silk kerchief. Judy once told me that childbirth was the most unadulterated, honest moment of pure rage she's ever experienced. She said a lot of intense things like that. There is more I could tell you about her, but I won't. Some things just doesn't belong on the internet. Judy's life story is one of them.

17 December 2007

Warrior-Poets

This is a cardboard cutout of warrior-poets. I used to have a cardboard cutout of a shaman too, but he has escaped my clutches and returned to Shamanlandia. I got these warrior-poets from a buddy of mine (Ryan) and they have brought me much joy. And luck. In fact, I could start my very own Joy Luck Club. But I won't. Because I'm not a middle-aged Chinese woman. Not yet, anyway...

Ryan was with me on a nice long camping trip in Olympia, Washington several years ago, after which, on the long drive home, I prophesied that fish and chips and mugs of beer would manifest for us. That those items did manifest granted me a certain supernatural status for about twelve seconds. It was cool. I felt like Freddie Mercury must have felt.

This is a controversial topic, though, isn't it? The concept of manifestation, that is. As differentiated from precognition, which is also a controversial topic. Lo, for it is one thing to say "there will be fish and chips, as I have seen it in the cards" and quite another to say "there will be fish and chips - and mugs of beer - for I have faith that it is so."

I don't wanna get into a whole thing about faith versus non-faith. But I will tell you that, well, at least in my opinion, around 50% of the time, one can pretty well manifest whatever the hell one wants by sheer force of will. Oh, but it has to be a gentle, tempered will. One not driven by violence and aggression. It's gotta be a whimsical, deadpan serious false knowing of what will take place...which is all faith is, I reckon.

Anyway, these warrior-poets remind me that it's okay to state plainly what I want to happen, and that it ain't always an inflated ego game. It's the game of manifesting what you want, maybe of what you came here to do. In that way, I can totally see the benefit of praying for rain, deliverance, etc. Of course, it's always dicey territory to be askin' God to be on your side. I prefer, then, not to pray, but to quietly murmur to the trees and daughters and things what I hope will be so. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. No big deal. My wife has helped me to see that.

What Happened

Sometimes, I wake up with a bad, bad feeling that my letter-of-recommendation writers are going to cause me to miss my deadlines. I hate that feeling. It gives me the all-over willies. Of course, other things give me the willies even more than that.

What's there to say, for example, when a local hero with a wife and kids leaps to his death off a tall building downtown? Or when, for a fistful of dollar bills, a lone highwayman robs 3 convenience stores and murders a cashier in the middle of night? How about when a monster with a butcher knife climbs on top of a lady cop and stabs her over and over in the supermarket you and your family shop at every week? And no, this didn't happen in Newark or NYC or Denver. This has all happened recently in Athens, Georgia. Home of the love shack. What the fuck happened?

Well, let's see...Almost everyone I know is broke and paying through the nose for gas, so they can drive to drive to jobs they can barely stand, to earn a wage that barely supports them. Here in Athens we're the 3rd poorest county in the nation and our nat'l government is shoving hundreds of billions of dollars at a war that makes no sense. From the federal to the local level, social programs have been slashed and burned to the ground. Public school teachers are clipping soup coupons. Cops are living on Wonderbread. And megachurches are on every corner, right down the road from the megamarket and the megamall, telling us to pray for the t.v. babies who are gunning each other down over girlfriends and iPods. Half the world loathes us as a nation, but they can't criticize us too loudly, or we'll fuggin' bomb them where their babies sleep. And all this only 230 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Nice work, pilgrims.

I know those are some cold words I just laid down. This morning I just woke up with the feeling that the whole planet's gone down the crapper. Man, I sure hope that's not true. I hope this feeling passes. And I hope I can contribute something positive to the swirling mad chaos.

16 December 2007

Trapped

This is a rabbit box. I built it on Friday in the hopes of catching a local rodent that has plagued our domicile. He's a big bastard, too. In case you've never seen a rabbit box, basically they're a way to trap small animals without hurting them. Once caught, you can kill the animal inside, set it free, whatever...My grandfathers both used rabbit boxes to trap rabbits in their gardens. Sometimes the rabbit got eaten. Often, the rabbit box would catch other animals - possums, squirrels, rats...and sometimes they got eaten, too. If I catch my guy, he'll be relocated about fifteen miles south of here, in a nice, wooded area like ours here.

They way it works is, the animal - enticed by tasty vittles at the far end of the box - enters. Once inside, on his way down the wooden corridor, he bumps into a stick right in front of the vittles. That stick releases a lever, to which the front door is tied. Gravity takes care of the rest. It's all over before the li'l animal even knows what's up. An hour later, he's free again, kickin' it fifteen miles away from our house.

I built this box on Friday and all the while could hear Janelle & Eleanor in the kitchen. Janelle was making dinner. I was drinking beer and putting the finishing touches on the box when the aromas of supper filled the air. "I hope I get him," I said to Stella, who then licked my hands gratefully. I haven't gotten him yet. But I will. I can feel it.

"Rabbit Box"

While I was still in elementary school
I discovered Daddy's tools
and amassed a small pile, of scrap lumber.
And I built a rabbit box.
And i set it facing north.
But i caught a possum and a kitten,
both of which were a bitch to set free
cause I thought they were going to bite me.
But we all three escaped safely.

Well once I took my single shotgun
and put on my camouflage
and hid in the neighbour's pasture by the little cow pond.
And finally after a long time
a bunch of doves flew by
and landed in a huddle on the power line.
And so I aimed with an eagle's eye and fired,
but it was two pigeons that fell like bean bags into the weeds.
Well they sure looked like doves to me.

-Vic Chesnutt

15 December 2007

Family Photo

It's raining all day long. It is now 8 p.m. and, still, the rains continue to pound the earth. I applied to the University of Massachusetts Creative Writing program today, and then I rolled around on the floor with my daughter. We hiked awhile, and then the sun set. I just went out for Indian takeout and saw a large truck nose-down in a ditch. A man on a cellphone stood by the side of the road, wearing a raincoat. He was getting pelted by the freezing rain.

In our house we are warm and dry, and that is something I am thankful for. Out there, in the droughtlands of Georgia, the trees, animals, and reservoirs are all benefitting from this natural extravagance. I am thankful for that, too. It occurs to me that Lao Tzu was right about pretty much everything. Balance is essential. And the rains sure do sound nice.

This photo was taken a few days ago. It's our family photo. It's obvious in this photo that we're just a bunch of sock monkeys in a needle and thread world.

14 December 2007

Ten Minute Cookies

Why did God give us ten toes? So that we could paint them to entice lovers. Why did God give us lovers? So that painters could paint them and make them immortal. Why did God make immortal? Because in his youth, God worked very hard to master it. Now, having long since become its master, God has become generous with immortality and sees no use in hoarding it.

A crying baby is a very sad thing. Little babies have no words, however. Crying is their word. Perhaps they are quoting Yeats or singing a song. To cunning men and women, it sounds only like the noise of a baby crying. Maybe that is because crying is the universal language. God, invented to solve the crying, has no interest in performing such duties. He wants to live, to smoke cigarettes, and flirt with the waitress. He does so. And a cloud of starlings etches their signature across the Southern sky.

13 December 2007

My Front Porch: A Photo Study

If a house was a body, the front porch would be the mouth. There are many things on my front porch. In the Spring, I string my hammock up out there. This Summer I fell asleep in that hammock to the sound of chirping birds. It a was a private paradise. This photograph, though, is of a wreath on my porch. I made it from green wisteria vines (which are ubiquitous down here). When these vines dry out, they're hard as nails, almost. Back before nails were invented, people used to build houses that way, too - with wet, "green" wood that dried rock solid. Of course, when they dried, the boards twisted and gnarled into weird shapes, causing the houses to look like Tim Burton creations. But it didn't matter. They were built to last. That was the old way.

This is a mask I bought at a place called Reed's Odds n' Ends. I don't know where the mask came from or who it's supposed to represent. I think it's just a cheap souvenir from somewhere. It has a glass marble for a left eyeball. It's missing a right eye, though, so I call it Cyclops. In Greek mythology the Cyclops were hardcore. They were grumpy hellions who manufactured weapons of mass destruction. My Cyclops reminds me of Joseph Campbell when he talks about "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" and the collective unconscious and how God can be a parking meter. Last weekend I put this mask on and danced for Eleanor, who found the whole affair only mildly interesting...which was funny.

Yesterday, while hiking with Eleanor & Stella (who officially does not have cancer, by the way), I came upon this deer skull & rack in the woods. It was in the middle of a path I walk every day. Since it was small (probably a yearling), I think our local bobcat killed it. I like to see signs that our local bobcat is making her living okay. Here it is legal to hunt bobcats, which is stupid since they're an endangered species. But I take it personal, since my daughter's birth was precipitated by visits and sightings of the bobcat, which is by nature a very furtive animal. A week after Eleanor's birth, the bobcat again appeared in our front yard.

I still see Lady Bobcat from time to time... Quite rarely, actually. More often, I see signs that she's making her way in the world. Good for her. Because the bobcat is essentially Ella's totem animal, I took the sighting of this deer skull as an auspicious sign. It's now on our front porch, too...staring out at the world.

p.s. Blossom Dearie is the female Chet Baker. Except she's not a horse addict. This video is about birds, though. Not horses:

12 December 2007

P.M.A.



I have a friend who swears by this: Supposedly, most of America is underhydrated (i.e. we don't get enough water). The formula for "enough water," my friend says, is to divide your weight in lbs. by 2. That, in ounces, is how much water you should be drinking per day in addition to whatever else it is you're drinking...Diet Coke, Jose Cuervo, whatever. The reason I bring it up is because if you try to get your quota out of the way first thing in the morning, you'll be amazed - and possibly frightened - by what gastric happenings are spurred by some pints of water. It's intense.

These two photos are of my daughter, who has learned to crawl at the age of only 6 months (which makes her a prodigy, really) and who is running me and her Ma ragged (in a good way), and of a pamphlet I received at the Department of Labor yesterday, respectively. These two photos also represent opposites. Eleanor is the poster-baby for life, electric energy and jazzified, complexifyin' authenticity, while the "Guide To Obtaining Your Next Job" is more of a tombstone stuck in a sandstorm, boxed in styrofoam, and lit with fluorescent lights. You know, opposites.

I got this pamphlet when I went to my first scheduled meeting at the DOL yesterday morning. They require these meetings if you're drawing unemployment, and basically it means that you have to go in and watch a Powerpoint presentation on something like "Dressing For The Job You Want" with a cadre of other down-and-outers, and then prove - by way of something primitive called a "green sheet" - that you really are trying to find work and not just, you know, living off the sweet cream of Uncle Sam's dime. It's ridiculous. But they do what they can there, I suppose. Mainly, it's an acronym party. Acronyms like SOAR and P.M.A.

I'll tell you right now that P.M.A. means Positive Mental Attitude - which is an idea whose significance to the down & out was stressed repeatedly yesterday. "You gotta stay positive, y'all. Being out of work is depressing." True. Well, sort of. It's true if you don't actually have a ton of other things going on in your life that you rank high above your "career," in terms of both joy and existential importance. I cite Exhibit A: Family and Exhibit B: Art. But I get it. Not everybody shares my view. Opinions vary. Plus, it's 'Holiday Time' - and being out of work is scary. We must remain optimistic in the midst of compromising conditions. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. Check.

Now, to adequately explain SOAR, I must tell you that the SOAR pamphlet pictured above is chock full of clip art. There's eagles flying all over the place, a "ladder of success" icon, and (my favorite) a big hand making a "thumbs up" gesture. Oh and the hand is shaded sort of light grey to suggest that the DOL is here for jobless bastards of all creeds and colors. Not just snowflakes. Okay, but you're probably ready to know what SOAR means, right? I mean, one day you might find yourself out of work and then you'll need to know that the key to competing for jobs in today's marketplace is:

(1) Setting your goals.
(2) Organizing your job search.
(3) Achieving your goals.
and
(4) Retaining your job & advancing your career.

There it is. How to get work. All splayed out like a Thanksgiving turkey. If I wasn't so happy being unemployed these days (what with my grad school applications keeping me busy and my home life being so bitchin'), I'd be like "Thanks for the retarded acronym, you penis factory. Any advice for getting from Step 2 to Step 3?!" Instead, though, I can appreciate SOAR-ing. And I think it's kinda funny that even at the Department of Labor they're basically like, "Look, man. What can I say? Times are hard. And I ain't gonna lie - You need the good love of Lady Luck to get a jayo. Sheeit, you were lucky to have a damn job to begin with. Roll the dice, bitch."

Don't believe me that they're all about fate and kismet at the DOL? The last page of this pamphlet shows our eagle friend, Mr. Ubiquitous, once again soaring high above a sea of white. Behind him are block letters in 25-point font that read "GOOD LUCK AS YOU SOAR TO CAREER SUCCESS!" Oh, except for the word "SOAR." That's actually in 60-point font. As it should be, I suppose. I mean, it's all about the acronym, baby. Unh.

Here's what I'll do. I'll trust that one of these days I'll be practicing real psychotherapy again. And I'll be writing. And making my living far outside the sectors and vectors of acronyms and banality. I'll be happy with my job and I won't have to serve any time in anything as hideous as an institution. I'll have all Chet Baker's albums on vinyl, then, too. (See what I just did there? I flexed my PMA. Word.)

11 December 2007

The Departed


We live off a very busy highway, out in the country. During deer season, the deer get flushed out from what's left of their natural habitat. This fawn was killed just a few minutes before I happened upon it.

The speed of this world is immense. Everything is moving fast. Ideas are multiplying. Houses are multiplying. Cars are multiplying. People are proliferating. Our lives are throttling forth.

Whatever exists has survived the speed of the world. The speed and the weight and the entropy and the chaos and the accidents and the natural disasters and the casual warfares, too. Hundred of fawns like this die every day. When you stop to look at one of them, it makes you wonder how you got so lucky to be here and survive all the way up until right now.

When I took this picture, a neighbor's dog was barking its head off, unnerved by a man walking instead of flying by at 65 mph. I said "Shaddup, you damn dog," but I said it under my breath.

10 December 2007

Southern Lights


Evidence that, indeed, lights look better at night. I probably didn't need evidence of that, though, did I? Eleanor is fast asleep right now. She's been learning to crawl lately, though, so she is constantly waking herself up at night by sleep-crawling. That, coupled with teething pains and a general desire to stay awake and explore the world, adds up to not much sleep for Janelle & me.

Sleep deprivation is the hardest part about rearing an infant. It makes every other aspect seem trivial and totally navigable. Luckily, we humans seem engineered to be able to adjust to less sleep while our young are so tiny. New parents are thus able to function on very little sleep. But it's hard. Don't ever let anyone - esp. me - try to tell you otherwise.

Ease is overrated, though, in a way. I mean, what's so cool about things being easy? If everything was easy, nothing would be fun anymore. I gotta be honest - because of my general sleep deprivation, whenever I get to steal a nap, it feels much better than it ever did before Ella was born. Kids that are easy and compliant are rare...and creepy. Who wants a manageable little robot child? I do, sometimes...especially when I'm exhausted. But for the most part, I'm more relaxed with things being hard. Even sleep.

09 December 2007

Light Pollution


As I type this, I have a sore lump on my head from two nights ago, when the Missus & I went to a Christmas party downtown, and I drank too much free beer and wine. I clocked my head on a bell tower afterwards. Hence, the lump. How did I clock my head on a bell tower? By drinking too much free beer and wine, then attempting to ring the University of Georgia victory bell louder than it has ever been rung. I ended up getting pulled up and off my feet by the rope, right into a wooden crossbeam. I could have just let go and avoided the injury, but I did not.

These lights are strung across our front porch. They're a lot prettier at night. Not unlike fireflies, that way. And stars. And most cities. When I look at this picture, it makes me feel the same way that Sunday afternoons do: Somber, tired, and looking forward to the future, when things hopefully will be a little bit more incandescent. It's sort of like cabin fever. Sundays are almost always like that for me.

08 December 2007

Bolshevik Blog


This is Peanut. We used to work together, back in the day. It's sad to say, but I've lost track of him. Peanut dipped Beehive snuff, prayed to High John The Conqueror, and called shit like he saw it. He made me laugh approx. 1,000,000 times. We washed a whole lot of dishes together in this cramped, little dish room. Last I heard, he was working on an assembly line somewhere in middle Georgia, manufacturing babies' clothes.

Co-workers like this enter our lives, are meaningful for a while, and then disappear into oblivion. I often think about my old co-workers, though, and I wonder what they're doing, how they've fared, and so on. This is probably a sign of my general resistance to goodbyes, closure, and the passage of time. I don't care, though. I have always felt a real sense of solidarity with my co-workers, especially in retrospect. I guess that makes me a Pinko Commie. So be it, then. I am a Pinko.

07 December 2007

Suburban Photo Essay

Strip mall suburbia is like a car accident on the roadside. You don't actually want to look at it, but you can't not. So you slow down, roll down the window, and take a long, deep look and what God hath wrought. So here are a few pictures which capture, I think, the essence of Anywhere, U.S.A:


This is a Tex-Mex place called "On The Border," which is an awesome name. Just walking around the parking lot, I felt like I was actually on the U.S.-Mexican border. I can only imagine that, inside, the finest foodstuffs from the Southwestern region are made available to the consumer at prices too reasonable to ignore. Actually, I heard they have good margaritas here. I wouldn't know, though. I would rather have an Afghani flagpole shoved into my right eye than eat at a place like this. When I walked around back, this older white lady in a kitchen smock was trying to get her car started by jimmying a coathanger into her engine. I asked her if she worked at On The Border and she said "unfortunately."


I took this photo because it reminded me of the time I spent doing commercial landscaping in Boulder, Colorado. I worked for a company that had these fairly huge accounts with corporate, technological monoliths that all had ridiculous compound names like Qualcomm, Digitech, and Servcorps. I hated that job. One of the things I had to do was walk around GIGANTIC parking lots and spray herbicide on the little weeds poking up through the mulch in the islands (which is what they call the little landscaped strips in parking lots all over this fine land). To do that, you have to wear a few gallons of herbicide in a tank on your back. It's uncomfortable as shit, and oh yeah, it kills living things, so I assume it's toxic to humans even though my boss once assured me that I could drink a pint of it and it wouldn't hurt me at all. "It's species-specific" he said, trying to sound all scientific, when I'm sure he was just quoting some PR shit he read and saved in his mental list of quotes for whenever an employee expressed concern about their safety. Most of the guys I worked with were from south of the border and were just happy to be making some real money for once. Nobody complained.


I don't know why I took this picture. I just thought it looked kinda creepy, I think. It sorta reminded me of that scene in Mulholland Drive, when the two guys are at the diner (Winkie's) and the hirsute creature is lurking out back by the dumpsters. That scene terrifies me every time I watch it. This is behind On The Border. I wasn't about to photograph and therefore further exploit the poor lady trying to start her car, so I took this photo instead. The dumpster reeked...as dumpsters will often do.


At that same job I worked in Boulder, I also had to use a weed-eater to mow down the tall weeds that would grow in the islands. This was difficult, because you were always in danger of bumping into or scratching some executive's Lexus or Range Rover. It was also difficult, because after about 7 hours of weedeating, your arms get pretty tired. And slowly making your way across a sprawling complex of parking lots, breezeways, and sidewalks takes its toll on the psyche as well. On my first day on the job, we were working at Qualcomm when my gas powered weed-eater kicked a rock into the back window of a shiny, new, yello X-Terra just like the one pictured above. It fucking shattered into a million pieces. When I told my boss, he was cool about it. He said they had insurance to cover things like that. I didn't lose my job or anything. And though I felt like a loser for doing that on my first day of work, I was secretly pleased to have caused damage to what, in my mind, is one of the ugliest vehicles available for consumption. That shit looks like a Gobot.


I never had to weed-eat at an Old Navy parking lot. But at that same landscaping job, one day we were having our lunch break and listening to Classic Rock on the radio when a newscast interrupted saying that some teenage girl was just stabbed to death in the checkout of the Old Navy just down the street. Apparently some maniac just leapt on top of her with a knife and killed her right then and there. It later came out that the girl was murdered for revenge because of some star-crossed lovers situation or something convoluted like that. Anyway, I passed by that Old Navy on my way home from work that evening and saw that the whole parking lot was roped off with yellow crime scene tape. The whole event gave me nightmares and intrusive thoughts for a while. The girl's loved ones had a vigil out in front of the store. They also built an altar with flowers and photographs and candles. One day, to get closure, I went and paid my respects, even though I never knew her and they had already dismantled the altar. At any rate, I can't see an Old Navy without remembering that time in my life.

06 December 2007

Morning Wish While Ella Sleeps



Today I want to disappear into patterns, with my daughter, and let beauty explain itself to us both. If I could, I'd let us both seep like spilled milk into the kitchen rug, which is actually a horse blanket, and yes that horse was once a foal, and we could descend into the woolen geometries knitted by Anonymous in Mexico. In the pattern, various explanations would be revealed. Like what it means to conceive. Or renounce. Or locate the hidden fear. Eleanor knows everything except for one thing: everything else.

If I could, I'd storm my wife from the tackle box of work and we'd roadtrip all day long in expanded minutes, through Moab, the Painted Desert, and the Devil's Playground. We'd watch dolphins evolve from weirdo land mammals. We'd see stars implode. If today was that kind of day, I'd put all her images of freedom into my own mind. They would assume the shape of trees. I would sit in their shade, eating mangoes of ethical philosophy. I would invent a labor union for the little guy with no arms or legs. He would become king. Janelle & I would trade eyes for twenty minutes or so and see the kingdom through the eyes of the other.

Today I'd also like to remove Pablo from his NYC playground, where he photographs his dog, makes a home by the window, and every day rides the iron caterpillar from Brooklyn to Harlem, where he meets with the youths who will inherit the earth. I'd upset Pablo 2 degrees to the left of this physical plane. And I'd join him. And then we could play basketball with poltergeists, ping-pong with Ascended Chasid Masters, and fetch with the star dogs from Freedom City, then on back to Dona Olga's sister's cave in Queens for arroz con pollo frito and spaghetti. The youths would be problem-free in this twilight zone, blighted with the empathy of the land mammal. Pablo, then, would be out of a job.

If today wasn't a cold, dry, windy day, and if it wasn't the day it is shaping up to be, but another day, and if I had my "I would rather's," I'd have every Southerner who claims to be 1/8 or 1/16 Indian be a full-on Cherokee warrior. I'd take my father off the road, and place him & my mother in a total embrace. I'd have every tree on earth be decorated and lit up like a bisexual Christmas tree. I'd have all my friends in one place at one time, readily available for divinations and explorations of the patterns of the horse blanket in real time, and communion with wine made from fermented Sourwood honey, too. We'd play ping-pong with poltergeists. We'd let ourselves evolve into dolphins. Anything dangerous would become a fronded fern, contemplating the abyss with its invisible eyes. Time would be cool. God, a coffee cup.

05 December 2007

The Idea of Purity Can Be A Dangerous One


About a year ago I made a movie about a girl and an imaginary ziggurat that haunted her dreams. As art director as well as prop master and filmmaker, I handmade the ziggurat myself, out of cardboard boxes and plaster. I even painted the whole thing white. Time passed, and after the movie was completely shot, I for some reason kept the ziggurat around the house here. Because you just can't casually get rid of somethig like that, it mostly just sat around, looking weird and Sumerian.

One day this summer, while waiting for Ella to be born, I blew off a little steam by attacking the ziggurat. I kicked, stomped, and tackled it until it was rubble. Interestingly, the crowning tier of the ziggurat sprang off almost immediately and broke into a perfect rectangle with a 2”x2” inset square center – apropos for adding a tiny piece of micro art!

I made a tiny mural out of an Arm & Hammer baking soda box from our kitchen. I then glued the mural to the plaster. I also added some paint here and there. A few touch-ups. The photo above displays the end result. Like its ziggurat predecessor the mural, too, has sat around the house awhile now. I’ve been meaning to give it to Andrea, the woman who played the girl in the movie. She was very hardworking, patient, and professional. She deserves some art. Then again, it looks a little severe and gruesome. Probably not the kind of art I’d wanna give away as a gift.

I like how this was once part of the cardboard ziggurat. In fact, it was the crowning piece. Now, it’s a strange, vivid little mural. I don’t really know what should be done with it. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of the movie I made. Know what the movie was about? The Unconscious. Sort of an instructional, really, except with a magical ending. That was my movie. That’s where this art came from…and it’s basically a mandala. Or something like that.

03 December 2007

Note From The Edge, pt.2



Space Is The Place


This is a closeup of the world's thinnest t-shirt. Seriously, it could function as cheesecloth, without a hitch. Because of the ancient Egyptian theme, it's also my most favorite t-shirt. You see, I love ancient Egypt.
I got this shirt about ten years ago, out of a community free box. Is there anything cooler than finding the world's awesomest shirt in the community free box? I think not. About half my wardrobe came from a free box. Wardrobe. What kind of a word is that, anyway?

Speaking of words, tomorrow I take the GRE in lame-as-hell Dunwoody, Georgia, which is a suburb of the A-T-L. I've been studying for the verbal section, as I have no hope of doing well on the mathematics portions. No hope, I say. None. But the verbal I should be able to fairly rock. Of course that depends somewhat on how Eleanor sleeps tonight. Lately she's been up a lot. Teething = God's way of saying eff you to the human race. (One of many ways, I'm afraid.)

I just ran a bunch of errands downtown, with Ella strapped to my chest like a kangaroo. After the errands, I rewarded us with a used copy of Sun Ra's Space Is The Place album, which has been described as "futuristic Garveyite blaxpolitation bop fusion." We played it all the way home, Ella embellishing on the vocals. I must place tiny rewards ahead of myself or I will get nothing productive done. That's just the damn fact of the matter.

Somewhere floating around my life there is a ridiculous photo of me wearing this very shirt while goofin' around on LSD. I'm holding a five gallon bucket partially filled with pasta shells (though I don't recall if they're visible in the photograph). I'm in a timber framed fibercrete house in the high altitude deserts of southern Colorado. It's the middle of the night. UFO's & prismatic beings are hovering in the 8th dimension. And the pharoahs, in all their ancient Egyptian majesty, are with me.

p.s. About six hours after writing this post, I managed to dig up the photo described above:

02 December 2007

Sunday.


This is how I spent my Sunday. Applying to programs/assembling various 'packets.' That is all.

01 December 2007

The Lager In Me




Nothing beats a homebrew. I'm trying to only drink beer that I've brewed. It's partially a budgetary plan (homebrews are way cheaper than store or bar-bought), and partially a gustatory decision, cause they're generally really tasty. And once you get used to good, homemade beer, Corona, XX or even Modelo Negro tastes kinda mass-manufactured, like a robot brewed it and shot it out of its fingertip into the bottle. But since robots can't drink beer, the taste is just a little bit off, but nobody seems to notice or mind much anymore. Well now I notice, damnit. And I can't go back- I'm doomed to a life of good beer. Good as I can afford, anyway.

Anyway It's finally staying chilly here in the heartlands (whatever that means), which means that, for us low-rent homebrewers of El Sur, it's lagering time! Actually, my first ever lager is in the fermenter right now. It's a general modification of the infamous, beloved "Rocky Raccoon" honey lager recipe that homebrewers have adored for years. It's similar to a honey beer we did here last fall, 'cept that was an ale. Anyway, because of the honey it was the bomb. Hopefully this beer, too, will be the bomb.

Anyway, these photos are of my hardcore fermenter & the sweet fruit it yields. It's only a plastic 5-gallon bucket. But man, its been the beginning of so many delicious ales (and now lagers) and yeast life/death cycles, it's sort of like a family friend. No, not really. I don't know why I wrote that. It is a pretty cool bucket, though. I mean, inasmuch as a bucket can be "cool." ...which is not at all. Unh.

Here's the truth, though: the yeast story absolutely amazes me, and since it happens regularly in this bucket, since hundreds of billions of yeasties have been birthed and lived out their entire lives in my fermenting bucket, I figure its either a pretty magical or morbid place. Probably, it's both. Anyway, enough rambling from me. I'm going to eat Indian takeout with my lady now, and maybe watch a little Simpsons....second season, that is. (It's all about season 2 of The Simpsons.)

[Upon re-reading this post, it is evident to me that my overuse of the word "anyway" has gotten out of control. Somebody stop me.]

30 November 2007

Forty-One Cents


Fun with dry ice. Lately, here at the homestead, we've been having fun with science. Our dishwasher's on the fritz again, though, so this morning I got up and hand-washed the dishes from last night's corn starch + water = hijinks in the land of physics escapade. That stuff's hard to clean up. It was like a science fiction movie. (Anyone who's interested in getting freaked out and never got a chance to do this experiment in middle school might wanna try it: mix roughly one and a half cups of corn starch with one cup of water. Pour into a bowl and play with it in your hands...and get ready to be freaked out.)

Yesterday I sent off my first in a series of applications to writing programs. This one - the Stegner - is a highly coveted fellowship. Basically, I would need the mob's involvement to get it. But I figured - what the hell, I'll apply. Anyway, they require that you send them a SASE as part of the application process, and they're very clear about needing this, as that's how they notify you of their decision - which is cool. Whatevah.

It wasn't until I had sealed everything up into an envelope and handed it over to the chippie at the post office @ 5p.m. exactly that I realized that the postage rates had gone up two whole cents. ("When did that happen?" I asked chippie and, "Where you been, baby?" she laughed, and when she did, her gigantic gold hoop earrings swung like 'round-the-way-girl pendulums counting down to my personal psychosis.) So, yeah, I had put a $0.39 stamp on my SASE instead of the new $0.41 stamp. I stood there like a statue of a penguin and weighed my options: I could plead with the chippie to give me my envelope back, let me open it up, add 2 one-cent stamps to my SASE, and reseal everything back up with many layers of tape...or I could say "screw that" and bounce, trusting that, should I gain acceptance into the Holy Land, they'll try to call or e-mail me instead of relying solely on the Pony Express or passenger pigeons (actually extinct since 1914). As you might've guessed, I went with the latter approach.

Anyway, I'm soooooo not getting into that program: When I got back home, homebrew in hand, I was reviewing my poetry manuscript and noticed a glaring typo on the first page. The first page, man! Fact is, even without a jobbie job, parenting and writing and applying to grad schools is a difficult juggling act for me. Little things seem to be slipping between the cracks all the time.

29 November 2007

Note From The Edge


In case writing, filmmaking, and psychotherapy never generate enough income for me to subsist, I figure I cd make a good go of it as an ultraconservative war cartoonist. I know I sort of missed my window as regards cashing in on the WTC attack. Who knows, though? Maybe there'll be another one. What if the terrorists attack on the day of the grand opening of whatever new building/memorial/mega-scraper they're building at Ground Zero? What if they crash a whole fleet of jets armed with atomic bombs and just annihilate lower Manhattan? Man, that'd be the ultimate insult to Uncle Sam. I guess it'd be more than just an insult, though...it'd be the countdown to Armageddon. Whatever, I'm not splitting hairs.

If the Taliban and their scourge of fundamentalist, neocolonialism-hating brethren do win the Ultimate Battle, I guess what's left of the infidels will all be converting to fundamentalist Islam. They'll place a minaret atop the statue of liberty and make alcohol and barbecue illegal. All meat will be halal, and women will at last be subjugated once and for all. I gotta be honest, I loathe neocolonialism as much as the next stay-at-home daddy. And the U.S. is certainly leading the pack. But damn, I'd make a piss poor fundamentalist or even orthodox Muslim. I know because I've already tried. I'm too postmodern, too indulgent, and too resentful of authority. I prefer God dispersed into the Void of Zen, the melting heart of Bhakti, or just good ol' American 'one world at a time' Transcendentalism. That's just me, though. What do I know?

Well, I know that if Osama & his boys win - and rest assured he'll keep trying - I probably won't last long enough to even hate being forced into Islam. Them dudes will take one look at this blog, find this post, and say 'WTF, man? We thought you were down!' And I'll reply, 'Yeah, Malik, but I drew that picture before my conversion.' And they'll be all, 'Thass cool, but wait - Is that alcohol and (sniff) pork I smell on your breath?' And as the swarthy scourge draw their glistening scimitars, I'll go out trying to argue some point about how I'm really not down with neocolonialism, like, 'Come on guys, you know me. I'm the Jon-dog...'

28 November 2007

The Lottery


Even as the tofu sizzles in my brand new skillet, the grad school slamdance has begun. That's right -once again, the shit is on. Washington, California, Montana, Iowa, Texas, Florida, & Oregon - These are the places we could end up living if I actually get into an MFA program. The odds of such an occurrence are difficult to calculate, but suffice it to say that they’re pretty long. After all, America is brimming with literary & poetic talent. One thing i know is that writers and poets are the best at sniffing out a free lunch, and so there’s all these fevered writers and poets vying for just a few chairs on easy street. It’d be easy for a man to get lost in that kind of talent-shuffle. Sometimes, when I think about it, I figure it’s probably pointless to even try. Why bother, you know? Boom – but what if I get accepted?! It’d sure be an adventure, for me and my family. I’d actually get time to write. There’s nothing wrong with any of those states either. It’d be nice to see what they offer in the way of psychotherapy jobs. Anyway, we’re ready for a little excitement, The Missus and me. A little fresh air, some new terrain. All my applications are due by the middle of January. I’m working on those long-winded mothers as we speak. And next week I take the computerized GRE for the second time in my adult life. I drive in to Atlanta at 8 a.m. for that one, too. Blargh. Unh. That it’s costing me $140 of my hard-unearned unemployment check doesn’t help much, either. But whatevsky- u can’t win if u don’t play, right?

27 November 2007

The Willow Garden


Rains continue today. I just put Eleanor down for a nap. She needed to be sung to this time, which is not always the case. There are two lullabies that nearly always seem to soothe her, one of which - the one I sang to her today - is an old folk song called "Rose Connelly" (or "The Willow Garden"). It's a song about a man and woman courting under some willow trees. A brutal murder happens, though, and the man is hung. At the end of the song, he actually goes to Hell! How this song became a traditional lullaby I have no idea, but Ella seems to love it:

Down in the willow garden where me and my true love did meet
There we sat a-courting my true love dropped off to sleep.
I had a bottle of burgundy wine, which my true love did not know.
That's why I murdered that dear little gal down by the banks below.

I drew my saber through her, which was a bloody knife.
I threw her in the river, which was an awful sight.
My father often told me that money would set me free
If I would murder that dear little one whose name was Rose Connelly.

Now he sits by his old cabin door, a-wiping his tear-dimmed eyes,
Mourning for his only son out on the scaffold high.
My race is run beneath the sun. The devil now waits for me.
For I did murder that dear little gal whose name was Rose Connelly.


I love how this song reveals just enough of its story to captivate and make it fascinating. It's a scary story, but a very sad song, to me, full of contradictions about the slaying of beauty and innocence. I guess this is a pretty important psychological theme (meme), or this song wouldn't have survived as long as it has. Why do we need to keep singing it? What is it about innocence, experience, murder, and judgment that captivates us so?

Here's what: You wake up in the morning, flip on the light switch, and salmon are dying somewhere so you can put on your socks. Your kid breaks your favorite vase and you scream at him, just like your Pa screamed at you. Later, you go to church to pray for deliverance or forgiveness, but all you can think about is your guilt & how far away Grace is. Locked into this, you feel like some kind of a monster. And maybe you are.

You might say that these are some of the "plain facts of existence" and that this song lays them out like a mandala....cause there's a little bit of every one of us in that willow garden. Sometimes you're the boy getting hung. Maybe other times you're the man who leads his own son to the gallows. And still other times you're the dear young thing slain on the riverbanks, where there is no one to take up for you.

Beauty, innocence, and even the Divine are often murdered by us humans. That's how it goes sometimes. And how does one escape from something like that? How do you atone for being a human being in this fucked up world of cause and effect? If you ask me, you can't. But you can sure sing about it.

26 November 2007

Fun Facts About Five-Month-Old Babies


The rains continue. And, fate being as fickle as she is, I'm now able to post photos again. Yes. The control freak in me is sated. Sweet control... It's not that I want tons of it. I just want it when I want it. Does that make sense? No, it doesn't. Maybe what I want, then, is the right to define everything and anything in my own terms. That sounds okay. It even sounds rugged and individualistic. It's still not realistic at all, though. The best I can do is play my part well and know that, in the end, whatever Order or Chaos there is to be found will be far, far outside of my control.

And so the rains pound the earth outside and the viaducts run with water and the lakes swell and the trees and animals sigh. Eleanor, Miss Stella & I would normally be hiking in the woods right about now. But what with the deluge and all, we're watching a little edutainment instead, which is to say that we're watching The Simpsons.

I should probably say that, no, I'm not trying to raise up another t.v. baby, like Papa like daughter. But a five month old has mega-huge fireworks continually going off in her brain. It's a time of intense cerebral development and captivation with what psychiatrists call sensorium, i.e. the input of the five senses. It's quite a thrill, the phenomenological world. Babies dig that.

A few months ago, Ella didn't really give a rat's ass about The World. She just wanted her Mama, her safety, and her milk. But now she loves to look at things, for example, and will stare for eons at, say, a bottle cap or the clouds in the sky. She loves faces, especially - as do all babies, as part of an evolutionary compulsion to spot order in the world's disorder. Facial features are fascinating to kids, because every human has them. And while exact facial characteristics vary from person to person, the general pattern is always there. Babies seem enamored by that fact.

Anyway, these facts make television watching pretty sweet for a baby, because there's all these faces and sounds and flickering colors. Ella totally digs it...for about ten minutes. Then she gets thoroughly bored by it (which is another sign of a baby's inherent intelligence), because she's not content to just observe things. She also wants to interact with them physically as much as possible. T.V. doesn't offer much in that sphere, except for the remote control, which all God's children seem to love to gnaw on like wolverines.