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.

Jon-Dog Versus The World

The Gods of the Internet have spoken. And they've said "Today, you will be unable to upload photographs to your blog." Why is that so disappointing to me right now? Probably because I'm a control freak & I spaz out when computers don't work right. The fact that computers are as mysterious and baffling to me as a Speak n' Spell would be to a howler monkey doesn't help.

I have no idea how these things work. Not even the most primitive understanding. Vaccuum cleaners I get. Toaster ovens? Sure. I even get cars, to some degree. But every time I turn on my laptop, it's like Maori magic. It's like spotting Nessie. It's astral projection, UFO's, and every episode of In Search Of, in my very own living room. And when photos don't upload, it's like the Gods are against me. Maybe I should sacrifice a goat...or pray for deliverance. (It's raining, by the way, and has been for a couple days now.) Here's a video of Mr. Rogers breakin' instead:

Anyway, and speaking of The Gods' opposition, apparently, in order to collect unemployment, the bureaucrats want me to "keep a record" of the many, many places I'm applying for jobs so that I can get off unemployment ASAP, which makes no sense, since obviously I'd rather get paid for not working than working. (Duh.) Should I tell them that, in search of a lucrative record deal, I sent a demo tape of my rap music stylings to Time Warner? Why not? Click below to hear, in 3-D stereophonic surround sound, my latest battle rap. It's called Jon-Dog Versus The World. (Fans of Deadwood and Donnie Darko may recognize a sample or two in this amazing battle rap.)

25 November 2007

Movie Theater Photo Essay

Last night, Eleanor was awake constantly, struggling with a cold and teething on top of that. At 4 a.m., The Missus & I were using a bulb syringe to try and remove mucus from her tiny nose. From the kitchen, we heard a mousetrap snap shut. For those who are curious, being a new parent doesn't mean that you don't get to do any of the activities from your old life. It just makes you prioritize and appreciate the things you do like to do. It's cool when your baby can be part of those things. Sometimes, though, she can't. Yesterday, for example, Janelle & I went out to the movies for the first time since Eleanor was born. We both love going to the movies. It's probably our favorite thing:

American Beauty. I guess the people who own this theater really, really love America. And why shouldn't they? After all, we introduced Hot Pockets, cluster bombs, and democracy to the free world. She looks happy here though, doesn't she? That's the face of a woman whose child is in safe hands (w/Grandma & Grandpa from up Minnesota way), and who is only minutes away from popcorn w/extra butter syrup.

This is the film we saw. We've been wanting to see it for a while now & had been curious to see what Sean Penn and Eddie Vedder could come up with. I read in an interview that they collaborated on the film and the score simultaneously, like American film auteurs did in the 1970's. Cool idea. I knew Penn was cool ever since I saw that crazy bastard on When The Levees Broke, trying to remove Lake Pontchartrain from the 9th Ward with a 5 gallon bucket.

These are the urinals in the men's restroom. Into each and every one, the Urinal Faerie had gently tucked and nestled a tiny pink urinal cake.
Self-portrait here. Notice that my heart cakra is radiating Pure White Light. That's just how I roll.

24 November 2007

3 Eggs

This is one from the archives. Timely only because yesterday my father-in-law asked me "how many cc's" my scooter engine was. The answer was "49," which is sort of like if somebody asks how many dozens of eggs you have and you say "3." And they go "3 dozen? Not bad." And then you have to clarify, "No, I mean three eggs. Just three...total." But then it is 49 cc's of pure fucking mayhem.

23 November 2007

The 12" Skillet

Yesterday, while I was navigating the maze of Wal*Mart, I happened upon a 12" cast iron skillet. "My gawd," I said, "that mother's only $10.99!" It was pre-seasoned and - best part: It was made somewhere within the contiguous United States of America! "Hot dawg! What a rarity!"

Even though it felt somewhat icky to buy a brand new cast iron skillet at Wal*Mart on Thanksgiving, it also felt like an exceedingly patriotic thing to do. I took it right home and made breakfast in it. Bacon, eggs, texas toast, & grits. And moments ago, Stella licked that bad boy clean after Breakfast #2 in what I hope will be a decades-long extended series of breakfasts, dinners, & suppers. That's what's so wicked about cast iron: You keep it for life. FOR LIFE, I tell you!

22 November 2007

Wal-Mart Thanksgiving

Apparently, grocery stores aren't open on Thanksgiving. I never knew that...until today, that is, when me and the Missus attempted to do last minute shopping for a potluck offering. Luckily, Wal*Mart was there to save the day. Yes, it was a scary scene in there, but behold nonetheless my Wal*Mart photo essay:

The wife made a modified green bean casserole and I conjured up 2 pumpkin pies. It was all very good. I will now fade into a food coma. Goodnight & good luck.

21 November 2007

Effort Is Key

So, the ladies are back in town safe n' sound & this is Eleanor subsequently destroying my 3rd draft of the 9,000-word short story I have been working on for the past six months. It's okay - I have a backup.

Here, six months into this "short" story, it's finally shaping up...into something. I don't know if it'll be good enough to get me into a writing program (hope so), but I think it's not bad for a first attempt. Not too bad, anyway. A good effort...and effort is key...so I've heard (repeatingly).

When I was a kid, growing up Southern Baptist, I learned that God's judgment is based not only on a person's deeds, but his efforts, his intentions, and yea, even his passing thoughts. And so at a certain age, I remember trying not to think "bad" thoughts - which seemed to make the bad thoughts multiply, then swarm in droves. Though they sometimes freaked me out and/or aroused me, the bad thoughts were always a lot more interesting than my good thoughts, which was a situation that confused me and sort of made me think I was damned to eternal Hellfire. I got over that, of course, but it took time. Ideas like "God will hurt you if you think bad thoughts" can be very damaging to the psyche - which is why Christian (or any) fundamentalists are, for the most part, Nucking Futs.

Back when I was working on the psychiatric unit, I worked with a lot of patients who were tortured by their own "bad" thoughts. Quite a few psychotic patients were terrified of Satan and other, more elaborate and refined demonic presences. And more than a few depressed or anxious patients were depressed and anxious essentially because life had managed to rip into their goody-goody persona and exposed some of the big, bad repressed material underneath. What am I getting at? God must hate the mentally ill. Maybe if they just tried a little harder God wouldn't send them to live forever in the lake of fire with The Devil. Same for the gays.

Lenny Bruce said that "Every day, people are leaving the Church and getting back to God." I don't know exactly what he meant by that, but I tend to agree. Then again, I haven't visited every church on the planet, so I can't pass judgment on them, either. I grew up in The South, though, so I have been to enough to know this: I am not impressed. (And my little girl certainly isn't gonna get sold on Original Sin. Fuck that. She's gonna get the opposite: Original Ahite-ness, Original Shapeliness.)

I talked to the Unmoved Mover last night in a dream, and it said "The universe does not revolve around our religious beliefs. Gawd don't care none too much about all our pretty little individual decisions to accept or reject dogma. There's bigger fish to fry, in other words. So fry 'em. Show a little goddamn effort. And eat 'em, too. Why? Because God in Heaven smiles upon those enjoy their fried fish and feed their daughters short stories - esp. ones about trolls and imps and faeries and kids navigating a magical world with keen wonderment." That's what my dream told me, anyway. But maybe I'm nucking futs - maybe I belong on a psychiatric unit.

20 November 2007

The Ashram

When I was a little bit younger, I traveled around America and saw some interesting things. It was not that long ago - the late 1990's - and somehow, I kept ending up in intentional and unintentional communities where people were defining themselves as "seekers" of one kind or another. I guess I defined myself that way to some degree as well. Hindus, Muslims, Sufis, Zen Buddhists, Cultists, Trappists, Sexual Yogis, Devotees of Buckminster Fuller, Renaissance Faire Carnies, Ufologists, Conspiracy Theorists, Philosophers, Freemasons, Temp Workers, Musicians, Poets, Social Servants, Artists and so on. Some of these people were absolutely insane. Functional, but insane. Others were intelligent and empathic. Most were somewhere in between. Most had a good sense of humor.

Today, I long for the American West again. But today I want to be in a very specific place: A little ashram in Colorado's remote San Luis Valley called the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram. Right about now I'd like to be sittin' up there, cross-legged, watching the pines sway against a blue sky and the air full of the kind of positive ions that make everything you observe taste sweet in your mouth. I wanna smell that thick, perfumed Indian incense that's caked onto the stick so heavy it looks like a smoking corndog, and fills the valley with its aroma of beeswax, rose gardens, vestal virgins, deer musk, tea olives, resin from unknown trees, tiger civet, and a truckload of smoldering cardamom. I wanna have no idea where i'll sleep tonight, but know that i'll be taken care of because the Universe is electric and alive with a beneficent sentience.

Of course, I can create a lot of that here, now, and with the added benefit of knowing where I'll sleep and knowing that it is, in fact, A Very Good Home. My home. The best. Sometimes, though, I just wanna be alone & out on that mountain for a little while, in the golden sunlight, underneath the pines, which are magical pines, hanging on for dear life. It's all a nice fantasy and a way of saying "Thank you." And in that same fantasy, I'm able to condense everything and everyone that I love into one single, beautiful, lyrical thought - a thought that I can think whenever I want.

For all my pessimism about where humanity seems to be headed, I really do like existence. I love my five senses - even though they bring me pain and pleasure - and I love...well, whatever else I love. I wanna wallow and wrestle and muck around in it all, and I wanna drink up the pine trees with my eyes, because there's a clock tower in the middle of town and it's ticking down the minutes. On a bad day, that clock tower is my nemesis - the steam drill to my sledgehammer. On a good day, I know that the clock tower has as much of a right to exist as I do.

19 November 2007

The Bane That Is Malotic

It all began with an ear infection. No matter how much gunky, funky ear wax I scooped out, it just wouldn't clear up on its own. So I took my dog Stella to the vet, who swabbed her ear, took a culture, and eyeballed it under a microscope. He found yeast and bacteria and all kinds of groovy things like that. Then he gave me some pills to give to Stella and said "come back in a week." I did. He looked at her ear again and said, "It looks a lot better," and I said, "I know." But then he said, "It's still not totally better, though." That's when he gave me a tube of MALOTIC, pictured above. He squirted it into Stella's ear and said, "Do this three times a day."

I followed his advice and, over the course of a few days, Stella's ear infection totally healed. On the 3rd or 4th day, though, it gradually became somewhat apparent, then painfully obvious, that Stella was no longer responding to my - or anybody's - auditory cues. Not only that, she wasn't greeting me at the door when I came home. She wasn't even responding to the phrase "Do you want a treat?" with the usual bright eyed conniption fit. That's when I realized that some bad juju had gone down.

I called the vet. "Hey, I know this is a weird question, but is there any chance that the MALOTIC is making my dog deaf?" He replied, "It's an extremely rare side effect, and in most cases the hearing comes back in a few weeks - but, yes, it is possible. You should stop giving her the Malotic." Relieved but freaked out, I went online and googled MALOTIC. I got a bunch of results that included more than a couple poorly written music reviews wherein the critic had misspelled 'melodic.' But I also found what I suspected: blog after blog and thread after thread about how MALOTIC had robbed a beloved pet of his hearing. Apparently it mostly happens with geriatric dogs. But guess what - Stella's a geriatric dog.

If you happen to be a dog owner, be forewarned that this shit could make your dog deaf as a doornail. We're still sort of hoping and praying that Stella's hearing is gonna come back, but there's no guarantee that it will. It's already been 2 weeks and, though we think we've seen some minimal improvement, even that can't be substantiated. Stella, who is a cool and laid back individual, now hates going to the vet. I can't blame her.

But anyway, all those trips to the vet for Stella's ear got the vets to poking and prodding - which is when they found the lumps. Those lumps are now at centerstage of this whole drama. It is thus that within the space of a couple of weeks I went from hoping that Stella's ear infection would clear on up to praying that my deaf dog doesn't have cancer. Unbelievable.

18 November 2007

Sunday Morning

The ladies fly back to Georgia today, which means I'll once again be navigating the city streets of Atlanta. I will also be listening to a mix tape as I do so. The mix tape I'm currently into is one that my pal & classmate Nik (from Naropa days) made for me back in the day. It features then-cutting-edge underground rap music. But that was over 3 years ago. So it's no longer cutting edge. Also, I haven't spoken to Nik since grad school, so I guess that makes both him and me "no longer cutting-edge" as well. No, that can't be true...

17 November 2007

WSMHS & Other Acronyms

Yesterday while I was at the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFACS) attempting to get food stamps, my good buddy Micah dropped by. Since I wasn't at home, he left this note on my front door, Martin Luther-style. Too bad I missed him.

I probably wouldn't have missed him if DFACS wasn't way the hell on the other side of town, right next door to the big Death Star-esque mental health agency here in North Georgia. I guess you could say that yesterday, while Micah wanted to hike, I was caught between two bureaucratic acronyms.

In case you're wondering why I'm trying to get food stamps, it's because I was recently downsized, along with my twenty or so fellow employees. The hospital top brass decided they no longer needed a psychiatric unit, citing our historically low census as a vague affirmation that the mentally ill population of Athens, Georgia was obviously no longer in need of an emergency stabilization unit. "They are obviously finding support elsewhere," we were all told in a staff meeting. Welcome to the surreal world of privatized health care...After that meeting, Human Resources sent out an unofficial memo to the employees of the psychiatric unit that said "Do Not Talk To The Press" about the closing of the unit. A few days later, a brief story ran in the local paper about the closing of the unit. it was carefully worded and contained little actual content, save that the decision to close the unit was an "economic" one.

The real reason our census was low was because the hospital itself has been, over the years, placing ever-increasingly restrictive limitations on criteria for admission to the psychiatric unit. The hospital I worked for is not alone in this. Riding the arc of Ronald Reagan's lean, mean deinstitutionalization of mental health patients, psychiatric units all over America have become increasingly harder to gain access to. Once there, patients in crisis have been receiving less and less specialized care, and for a shorter duration. "Emergency stabilization" has become the new standard of care, which is really industry code for "expedite everything, and get them back on the street as soon as possible."

For any community hospital, the next logical step in the continual deterioration of mental health services would be to erase them altogether. This makes economic sense, because psychiatric units are viewed as somewhat of an economic thorn in the side of any hospital. Schizophrenics and drug addicts usually can't pay their medical bills, in other words. The assumption is that, once back on the street, a newly "stabilized" (i.e. medicated) patient will be able to find adequate support at an understaffed, underfunded bureaucratic quagmire of the state government that functions as well as can be expected given the circumstances. Am I the only person that thinks this is the World's Shittiest Mental Health System? (WSMHS)

Anyway, all that is to say that I now no longer have a job. I am an unemployed psychotherapist trying to get food stamps. And if the Gods smile on me and I actually qualify for food stamps, I have to say that it will have been worth it to have missed a hike with my friend Micah. Perhaps then I will invite him and his wife over for government cheese nachos. From my back porch, we can watch the sun set on Western Civilization...

16 November 2007

Brother From Another Planet

I made a big pot of soup yesterday. I also drew some cartoons, edited a home movie, had some 'domestic adventures' (i.e. did chores) and watched Ella's birth video all over again. I'm not really a cryer. Some people cry. Not me. When I get overwhelmed with strong emotion, I do this other thing that resembles a bark/dry heave/moan. I never get tears, though. I must be, in fact, from another planet. A planet where no one cries. I don't feel especially inhibited, but maybe I am.

Anyway, that birth video really shakes me up every time. I cannot pinpoint the emotion it evokes, exactly. It's somewhat mysterious. I guess it's one of those religious peak experiences that transcends the usual distinctions between feelings like exuberance, awe, marvel, wonderment, compassion, relief, love, and so on. I've told people in the past that seeing Eleanor come into this world was like being hit on the head with a 12 lb. sledgehammer made of pressed rose petals. That's weird.

If our dog Stella has cancer, I will be very, very sad. I might even cry. Our trip to the vet yesterday was not a happy one. They found another lump on her - this time on her neck. It was hidden amidst her fluffy coat. And so anyway they shaved her and took a cell sample from the lump, which has to be be sent to some far-off lab for analysis. That's two lumps now. The other one is in her mouth. We're scheduled to have her anesthetised next week so they can biopsy that one. Jesus Christ.

I fucking hate cancer. It's been all around me my whole life. When I was a kid, my best friend's mom died young from cancer. It traumatized him pretty bad. He's strung out on meth now. And my other best friend was a cancer survivor, too. He had brain surgery and did okay for the most part. Except he had a problem controlling his impulses and grew up to become an outlaw of some kind. My little niece also had brain surgery. She's no outlaw, though. In fact, she's a really cool kid that says hilarious things all the time and has fallen in love with Eleanor. My mom's mom died of cancer, though. In fact, a number of other people in our family have died of cancer. Perhaps I will die of cancer as well.

Unh. It's a real downer speculating one's form of death at 11:17 a.m., when one should be figuring out how to apply for food stamps and maybe even getting some real writing done. So let me pull the plug on this uplifting entry. Today Stella and I will go for a long hike in the woods. I'll wear my orange safety vest so as not to get shot at, and together we'll both enjoy our tenuous stake on the heartbreaking beauty of existence.

15 November 2007

Homesickness & Cancer

I just dropped Janelle & Eleanor off at the Comfort Inn, where they caught the airport taxi and are now en route to the big city of Atlanta. From there, they travel to Chicago for aunt Susan's baby shower. What this means to me, of course, is that I will be undergoing major withdrawal from my Good Gal and my Little Gal. I can already feel it. It sucks. It's like homesickness, but bigger...and weirder, 'cause I am at home.

I won't go into specifics, but the lady at the desk at Comfort Inn, as well as the guy driving the taxi were both douchebags. There's no other, more polite way to say it. I suppose some people feel that it's necessary to be a douchebag in order to navigate the many ups and downs of life in this modern society. Like the first time I went to New York, when I was 21, I scowled at everyone because I was afraid that all them New Yorkers could smell the Georgia on me and would take me for a fool. Maybe mug me. Now that was just me being paranoid right there.

These days, I'm a little bit older and a lot wiser. I don't scowl at people anymore. Unless they're acting like douchebags. And then I sure do scowl. Big time. If the person's being a real a-hole, I'll even make kind of a "snick" noise with my tongue as I scowl. It ratchets up the power and intensity of the scowl and quite often is enough to make an a-hole pause and start acting like they've got what we here in the South call "just a little bit of goddamn sense."

Anyway, blogging about my "snick noise" is not helping the homesickness of it all. I think I'll try and go back to sleep. Later on, I gotta take Stella to the vet - which is a whole other story I'll get to soon. It looks like she threw up while I was out. I think she might have cancer.

p.s. Oh yeah, and it rained last night. Like, all night long. I find that quite a nice touch from the galactic Whimsy this whole universe is obviously fueled by. I'm sure more than one person around these parts has used the fact of last night's rain to reinforce their bullheaded beliefs about "God" or some such nonsense. Luckily, that ain't my problem.

13 November 2007

Praying For Rain

Today Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia, hosted a prayer service on the steps of the state capitol building in downtown Atlanta. People came from all around to help him pray to God to ease the drought that has gripped the entire Southeastn region. "The only solution is rain, and the only place we get that is from a higher power," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said to the press on Wednesday.

How many thousands of years has mankind been praying to God/Gods for rescue from droughts, floods, fires, and anything else that threatens the food supply? A pretty long time, I'd imagine. Prayers like that helps us feeble humans feel pro-active when, really, there is nothing we can do about this situation but let it mellow, stop watering our houseplants, and put a brick in the toilet tank. Then again, there's always Canada.

Photo-op politicians in blue suits praying to their 3-in-one half-man, half-deity sky-God for rain to "Save Our Crops" is about the funniest thing I can imagine right now. But how in the hell am I supposed to explain this kind of thing to Ella? Not that she's old enough to ask yet, but that time is coming, and it looks like shit's just gonna be getting weirder and weirder as the years roll on.

Sometimes it actually looks like humankind is de-evolving and becoming more obvious and Neanderthal every day. Even thirty years ago, you could turn on the t.v. and hope to catch something awesome like The Johnny Cash Show, where Miss June's preaching against 'Nam while badass Jerry Lee Lewis humps his piano like a gibbon on fire. Now what do we have? The same old banal family shows, ER shows, lawyer shows, cop shows, and the glut of "reality" shows with everyday non-special Americans just like me acting like damn morons. It's a horrible mess, really. Unless you have HBO. HBO's a different story.

12 November 2007

Free Angela

I just took some old tangerines out to the compost bin. It's chilly out today, since the sun't not up yet. As I emptied five rotten tangerines out of their orange mesh sleeve, the odor of rancid tangerine juice stung the air. It smelled like the worst kind of rotgut. It smelled like a tangerine nightmare rubbed down with isopropyl alcohol. Some of it got on my hand and I said "Damn, DAMN, man..." The air is dry as Arizona out there. Haven't had rain for weeks. My dog, Stella, is drying up. She looks a little more dessicated with every passing month of this drought. She drains her waterbowl twice a day, but it doesn't seem to help. Yesterday she howled like a coyote when she spied a large doe in our driveway. Even her howl sounded dry. Like a saguaro wind in an unemployment office. Like 007's martini.

Desiree's 4 a.m. Homeland Security Blues

There’s a sale on linens at the liquidation mart.
Maybe that’ll help me make a brand new start.
It’s already 4 a.m. I better get on the go.
Competition’s everywhere, falling around me like snow.

The boss lady’s trying out some new Buddhist ways.
She takes another smoke break and then gives herself a raise.
She is in a big position, and her limo driver just got fired
He failed to deliver the messages that came across the wire.

The reverend's hooked on placebos. Her girlfriend drinks cherry wine.
Probably I’ll make a move when I’m back in my right mind.
Until then it’s important to store up one’s energy
Mean changes coming down the line. I can see ‘em on the periphery.

I am on the sidewalk trying to eat a croissant
And look normal like everybody else who don’t know what they want.
Every time I try to complete a thing I always blow my fuckin’ cool
I lose everything in the last seconds is what the final analysis will conclude.

Conversations lead to complications,
I’m sick and I’m tired of negotiating,
and love ain’t a bargain, at least not if it’s really real.
That's what my good gal says anyway, but I got wounds even she can’t heal.

Well the terrorists are comin’. Better grab your gun.
That’s what the t.v. says, but I don’t own one.
That ain’t no excuse, but it might just be my salvation.
From all these cartoon characters in this fast food nation.

The television’s tied to the supermart.
They're giving away free shopping carts.
All this commotion is one big mystery.
and the CEO's the president of the Rotary.

At three o’clock I gotta meet the man.
It’s two fifty-six, and I can barely stand.
My legs are so weak I think i just might fall out.
There’a big reward for whoever will win this bout.

Lawd I’m lonely. I got plenty of kin.
Maybe track housing has finally did us all in.
maybe instead we just need to eat more vitamin C.
Everything’s deficient. Everything looks just like misery.

They're watching the border. I'm watching the clock.
Everybody's praying to their wailing rock.
Sooner or later we all gotta take what we've been giving.
Better buy some bread, better buy some brand new linens.

10 November 2007


My little girl is learning that if you want something in this life, you gotta reach out & grab it. This photo is a direct result. I was trying to take a photo when she reached out her little paw and snatched the camera away at the last second. I pushed the button and clicked the shutter. I suppose you could call this our first artistic collaboration. Make of it what you will.

When I was a very little boy, I reached out and slapped an elderly woman, completely out of the blue. It was in the middle of a church service, too, which heightened the surrealism of the whole thing. I do not remember the look of shock and horror on her face. And I was too young for morality or consequences. I probably just thought it was some kind of game. I just reached right out and clocked her. No one knows why.

My family often reminds me of the fact that I once surprised everyone by slapping an elderly woman in church. It's part of our family lore. I guess it was a pretty big deal to my parents, who were mortified at the time, and probably also somewhat concerned about their son's moral development.

Anyway, I hope the elderly woman got over it. Probably so. She was pretty old. On the timeline of her life, I'm sure that being slapped in church was at most an interesting, minor blip.

Maybe one day Eleanor will do something like that. Maybe she will shock and mortify me, if that's still possible. If she does, I will have to quietly murmur, "At last, we come full circle..."

Wrens & Fire

"(Meditate) as though your hair were on fire."

-Dogen Zoji

Like November leaves falling into a bonfire, the experience of life burns me up on contact. Sometimes I try to pretend that I am not on fire. Sometimes I try to pretend that the world is not on fire. I don't wanna get burned, after all...

I know that a time is coming, further down the road, when I'll look back on my existence with severe scrutiny. I know me. I want to be able to stand behind my actions and decisions. I would love to take pride in them. I would love to be able to say, "I've got my regrets, but most of the time I knew that the world was on fire, and most of the time I acted accordingly. I didn't argue much about green beans versus broccoli and I didn't constantly lie to myself or anybody else."

I know this moment of scrutiny is coming, because it insinuates itself in tiny ways into my daily life. When I wake up some mornings, I look in the bathroom mirror and all I see is fire. Fire in my hair. Fire on my teeth. Fire in the world of fires. I rub my eyes. Sometimes I just wish somebody would hose down all the fires. No more chaos. No more scrutiny. No more faux security or decisionmaking. No more strip malls and no more anger.

Other times, though, I'm down with the fire. The fire is a kitten, or my brother. It's a hilarious lizard with bulging eyes. It's a lively railroad yard, or a wren struggling to find a way out of my house, but that keeps smacking into windows, driving itself mad with terror. All I wanna do is cry for all those wrens stuck like that.

09 November 2007


Yesterday evening, while I was burning papers and cardboard boxes in my front yard, leaves like this one rained down all around me. A few fell into the fire and were incinerated upon contact. Most landed softly on the ground, blanketing the sedgegrass like a big, crazy quilt.

Today there are gunshots in the woods. It's deer hunting season here in this part of the world and my family lives in the forest. During deer season, I worry that a stray bullet will end up in my home. When I go for a walk outside, I wear an orange safety vest. I feel like a walking traffic cone.

I am nostalgic for the American West today. I want to be in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I want to be at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. I want to be watching the sunrise with my wife, with no agenda, no plans, and no worries in mind. I want to stand under some pinyon pines, freezing cold, thinking about American Buddhism and Indian lore.

I look forward to Eleanor being grown-up enough to eat breakfast. I look forward to making huge, warm, sensational egg & hotcake breakfasts for her on those cold rainy windblown mornings when you don't even want to leave the house, except that maybe after breakfast we'd drive around with the heat on full-blast, watching the rain fall.

08 November 2007

This is it.

This is the world I was born into. A place of asphalt parking lots and one-stop shopping. A place where they make a pill for everything, and the writing on the pills is much too small to see. Who knows what they've written on all those pills? Not me.

Yesterday, I went for a walk with my 5-month old daughter, Eleanor. Together, we toured the grocery store, parking lot, and strip mall. She's too young to know that a strip mall is just about the most depressing thing on earth, and that she, too, has been born into a ridiculous, disposable American world of bills, cars, pills and bars.

Nonetheless, I held her in my arms and we walked and I showed her the world she will inherit. Automobiles traversed the parking lot, and the November sunlight made everything glow. Some people waved from their cars. Others were on cellphones. At the grocery store I bought: a loaf of bread, a box of cornmeal, and a carton of buttermilk.

07 November 2007

Television Baby

So I'm a t.v. baby, and now I have this blog. I've had blogs before. 2 to be exact. The first one died of old age way back in the late '90's. (Back then they called them "web pages.") The second had a good run, until I grew tired and weary of my constant efforts to remain non-solipsistic yet personal, but also relevant, but also...you get the idea. It was getting in the way of my "more serious writing" as well. This blog will probably end up the same way. (At some time or another, I let everything get in the way of my "more serious writing.") Let's dance this ephemeral dance, then. I'll publish some photos and tell you what I think about things in general. Maybe you'll find it relevant. Maybe it will even "resonate."

You're probably wondering about the name "drdesireesphilologicalfotomat." I didn't really want to be so cryptic and long-winded, but blogger.com, who hosts this blog, asked me to choose a name for it and caught me off guard. I entered approximately 10 names, and each was rejected before i realized that I had to come up with some off-the-wall shit to get a name. Drdesireesphilologicalfotomat was the result. I really regret choosing that name now, especially if I have to type that shit in every time I log on, which I probably will. Anyway, I guess that makes me "Dr. Desiree," which is about the sickest name I've ever heard. I also go by Jonathan. If you're a friend, you know that already. If you're a stranger, then welcome...I have no idea how you arrived here.

As for philology ("the branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages"), well, I plan to avoid that subject as much as possible. I know very little about it. In fact, I picked the word out of my own mental stew, and probably came up with it because Chet Baker recorded on the Philology label, amongst others. Of Chet Baker, I am a fan. I suppose I'm somewhat of a fan of philology as well. I've been described by my friends as "a semantic motherfucker" and by my wife as a "grammar hawk." But fan and expert are not the same. And despite the fact that I'm no expert on Chet Baker, I'm currently writing a short story about him. And 2 kids. And head lice. And a psychotic uncle. And a factory. And interspecies miscegeny. And the railroad. My hope is that this short story will catapult me and my family into a writing program somewhere far away from this dead end town.
In closing, here's Chet Baker & Stan Getz doing one of Baker's classics: