31 March 2008

Friends

My old friend Victor and his esposa Jenny came for a visit this past weekend. With them, of course, was their 14 month old boy, Temoc. I snapped this shot of Temoc during one of the rare occasions when he and Eleanor weren't locked in preternatural conflict over who's gonna get to play with the bouncy ball. It was a good visit.

Victor and I know each other from a long time ago. We met one day on a landscaping crew. He was landscaper number 99-A and I was landscaper #99-B in a long list of scapers of the land. For a while we worked for an insane maniac, Kevin, who turned out to be a connoisseur of crystal meth as well. Sometimes, if we were working on a project anywhere near his gated community, Kevin would take the work crew over to his house for lunch. Once there, he would unfurl large amounts of mary jane and offer it to the crew. Because it is senseless to smoke grass in the middle of day, at work, usually no one joined him. But he never seemed to mind. "Am I the only one here who likes to get high? All right. Whatever."

One day, on a lunch break at his suburban home, Kevin wolfed down some leftovers, got high in his kitchen, then skulked into the back room of his house, emerging with a fully automated sub-machine gun. "This is an M-16, boys. Read it and weep," he said to us guys having our lunch on his back door steps. He spoke with a grin, from behind tinted shades. "This bastard's insane," we decided that day.Perhaps it is needless to say, but I could tell many stories about Insane Kevin From Suburbia. Most needless to say of all, perhaps, is that he crashed and burned his landscaping business before too long, ran his wife off, lost his house, and had to move back in with his parents in Polatka, Florida, at the ripe age of twenty-nine. In high school, he had been the star quarterback. But last I heard, he had eaten a bunch of psilocybin mushrooms laced with speed and wrecked his motorcycle. Who knows where or who he is now...

But anyway, Victor and I met on Kevin's work crew. At the time, Victor was still pretty fresh from Mexico, so he spoke only a little English. We communicated through Spanglish. In time, we became good friends. He and his girlfriend Jenny would have me over for dinner after work. We were all broke, so we'd make beans and rice in the kitchen of their tiny apartment. Somehow we'd always find money for a couple of cold beers. We'd talk about work, the future, and social justice. We'd tell ghost stories or try and predict when Kevin was going to blow his lid. That was seven years ago and a different world.

30 March 2008

Sunday Night

It's 9:54 p.m. on a Sunday night. Why did I just spend twenty minutes watching a cirkus of old, bad music videos on YouTube, including Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" video?

Sunrise

Last night, Eleanor woke up crying 8+ times, averaging about once per hour. This is Teething, an endless saga of sleep deprivation, it seems. Her Mama tended to her during the first half of the night, then me. Finally, she & I got up at 7 and greeted the morning. As I walked past the coffee maker - "Hello old friend. I miss you too." Day 3 of Phase Two of the fast commences. Mama sleeps. Lester Young blows hot and cold. In our spare bedroom, our friends sleep with their baby boy. Behind the thick bank of fog and rain clouds, the sun also rises.

29 March 2008

Six New Paintings

Week Two of fasting has begun. Only fruits, vegetables, rice, juice, some oils, and mild seasonings for the next week. Last night, after a meal of the best stir-fry I've ever eaten in my life, we all went for a neighborhood walk at sunset. Along the way, I found a couple of envelopes in our mailbox. One was addressed to me. It was from the University of Oregon. As far as rejection letters go, it was a pretty direct yet empathic one. (The worst, by far, was from Montana, followed closely by Purdue.)

On our walk, we talked about the clouds. We saw a concrete angel attached to a wooden post. And out in front of the old Christmas tree farm - now a homestead - we saw some of the trees leftover from back in the day. Uncut, they had grown to mammoth proportions. They were forty feet high. Maybe more. In the distance, in the middle of a field, an old T-model Ford was quietly rusting.

I built a fire last night and Eleanor stared into the embers. At the perfect moment, an automatic fluorescent security light popped on in the front yard, casting eerie blue-green shadows. Certain gnats danced in the glow. Old Stella rolled over and grunted.

In our last week in the old house on Tallassee, I painted six new paintings. These...are they.

28 March 2008

eom

Dream Hon

I walk into a cafe with birds nesting on the roof. I sit down. The waitress reminds me of my aunt Julia. She calls me "Hon" and brings me a plate of breakfast. The breakfast consists of fruits, meats, and scrambled eggs. I did not order hash browns.

Outside, a peculiar man is attempting to change a tire. His spare tire lacks air, he will soon discover. "Why is there no air in this tire?" My waitress inquires as to whether or not I would like more coffee. "Top that off for you, hon?" she says.

The word "Hon" travels through the air, from her mouth to my ear. Once inside my brain, it looks for the appropriate door to enter. It finds one marked "childhood" and considers entering. But further down the hall, there is a door that says "comfort." There are millions of doors. These are just two of them the word "hon" considers entering.

Outside, the peculiar man is searching for change. He needs to make a call. He does not own a cellphone. All around him, people on the sidewalk are talking on their cellphones. He thinks about asking someone if he can borrow their cellphone. A man, he decides. Not a woman. He will ask the next man he sees.

"Hon" has found its home. I am finishing off my coffee. The bacon is a little fake-tasting. "How does this bacon taste fake?" I wonder, but only for a second. It is a small thought, a tiny wonderment. Julia is now nowhere to be seen. Through the window, I am watching the peculiar man. I am journaling. My big journal is on the table, beside the coffee cup. I am journaling about his plight. Will he succeed?

A new man enters the frame. He seems nice. He is talking on his cell phone. He is the sort of man who appears to be on his way to a job he enjoys, with well-intended co-workers who share his enjoyment of their particular job. Old Peculiar - that is what I am calling the peculiar man now - Old Peculiar (who looks like the sort of man who wishes he owned a cell phone and who maybe had a hard night last night) mouths the words "Excuse me." His expression is both hopeful and tired.

I cannot see his words. I cannot hear his words. But by watching the shape of his mouth I see "Excuse me" happen. "Excuses, excuses," I say to myself. Can a man in this world be excused for something he did not bring upon himself?

27 March 2008

What's Cookin'

This is a closeup of the mobile Janelle & I made for Eleanor shortly after she was born. She's fascinated by it. Lately, she's on a quest to grab, by an y means necessary, the items on the mobile and consume them with extreme prejudice. My job is to prevent this from happening. It's called fatherhood. Welcome.

We've got roughly 20 days left in Athens, Ga. before moving on down the line to my place of origin. Strange ripples of deja vu are coming to me now that now it's time to say goodbye to Athens. I feel like I've done this before...like, I don't know, maybe 2 or 3 times. Maybe that was all a dream, though.

Chuang Tzu was a dreamer. He wandered all over the wide hillsides of the vast campo, carrying only a flute and a bottle of wine. Once, he had an illicit affair with a seventeen year old girl. Public outrage ensued. This event helped him grow, however. His art became much better afterwards. He said, "Once I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. I was conscious that I was quite pleased with myself, but I did not know that I was Tzu. Suddenly I awoke, and there was I, visibly Tzu. I do not know whether it was Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that he was Tzu."

Moving on from Athens will be bittersweet. In many ways, I hate to leave this place. It's been a good home to me. Like Chuang Tzu's nubile concubine, it has inspired me and helped me to grow. It saddens me that all the land developers are ransacking this old town and paving all the kudzu and ancient buildings, putting up plastic houses and Bed, Bath, & Beyond where oak trees should be fighting their war against Chinese Privet. So it goes. And but for the grace of Fortuna go we, the family atomic.

I made all that up about Chuang Tzu and the concubine. I think maybe I was trying to merge him with Jorgen Leth...in my mind.

26 March 2008

Don't Think Twice/Advice

I finally finished A Tidewater Morning. Eleanor was in my arms when I read the last few pages. She was laughing at Stella, who was hungry for a treat, and the sunlight was streaming into our home from the West. William Styron, man. If he were still alive, I'd write him a letter. This is how he starts the final paragraph: "We each devise our means of escape from the intolerable. Sometimes we can fantasize it out of existence." Jesus.

Night before last, Janelle's friend Jessica came over for dinner. We talked about a bunch of things, including flow psychology, church, and the idea of destiny. She broke out her guitar and started to sing a few songs. Luckily, I had my recording equipment handy, because she sang some of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I said, "Know any Dylan songs?" and "Yeah, I know one. 'Don't Think Twice.'" It turned out to be one of the most beautiful versions of that song I've ever heard, and right in our living room here in the death house. It's now available below, at the click of a button. If you listen close, you can hear the insatiable, up-past-her-bedtime Eleanor in the background from time to time.

I don't know what I'd write in that letter to William Styron, exactly. Probably a long, twisty drawn-out "thank you," with a request for some writerly advice. There's a lotta people I wish were still alive. Tonight I have written about just one.

The Final Frontier

This is a photograph of The Red Planet descending a staircase. No, it's not. It's a closeup of LED lights on the baby monitor, which flare up whenever Eleanor stirs. It's a very helpful tool for finding a way to micro-manage and obsess about your child even when she's fast asleep. This thing's gonna be the death of me. But once you get hooked on the baby monitor, it's very hard to let go of it...like long johns in the wintertime, if you wanna think about it that way.

I just put an important envelope in the mailbox. A signed contract, wherein I agree to teach two sections of Rhetoric this Fall (and one in the Spring). So there you have it. Two big things have fallen into place. We have a place to stay in Iowa. I now have a job in Iowa. Now we just need to find some work for The Missus that will either allow us to keep Eleanor out of daycare, or else place her in the world's awesomest, safest daycare. We're not sure how that's going to work out. At this point, we can only hope for the best.

I'm still trying to finish the last story in Styron's A Tidewater Morning. I think I'm averaging about a page per day now. Oh, yeah, I'm also filling out financial aid paperwork, in the hopefully-unlikely event we'll need to borrow more money from Uncle Sam to get through the Fall or Spring. I'd really like to avoid that. My student loans are already, well, shall we say sizeable?

It's weird that The Red Planet is named after the God of War. I mean, I get it - wars are bloody. Blood is red. Mars is red. It's a little obvious. I'd rather call Mars something like "Steve" or "Elroy." It has that kind of loyal, quirky buoyancy. When Ella stirs in her sleep, the baby monitor lights up like Steve descending a staircase. Like Elroy on an escalator.

There's a literal connection between baby monitors and outer space, too, you know. Yeah, A few months back, this lady in Chicago started picking up a live, transmitted satellite video image ('cause, in case you don't know, the really upscale baby monitors are actually video monitors that allow you to watch your infant dozing, which is retarded, but whatever, anyway) of a space station being constructed...you know, in space.

I wonder if Eleanor will become an astronaut...

25 March 2008

Murder In Coweta County

"Busy, busy, busy is what a Bokononist whispers 'whenever [he] thinks about how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.'" -Kurt Vonnegut

It's not exactly cutting-edge, nor was it particularly awesome, but I like The Usual Suspects. It's the film that made "Kaiser Sozay" a household term. What I like best about it is the opening, during the shipyard massacre/explosion. The camera plods forward on a slow tracking shot, for a closeup of - of all things - a tangle of rope hanging from a hook. Cinematically, one might say that an unconscious foreshadowing takes place in this moment, where the viewer is being warned that s/he's entering the topsy turvy territory of the postmodern narrative form. Kurt Vonnegut says it a lot better, though, in the Books of Bokonon. And without the use of pyrotechnics.

The Missus & I have officially found a place to land in Iowa City come August - a modest 2 bedroom duplex for $700/month that's in a good (i.e. non-undergrad) neighborhood 5 minutes from campus, 5 minutes from the health food co-op, and 5 minutes from a city-style bodega. Parks and sidewalks abound. In short, we scored. How did we score this amazing score? Luck, intuition, and Craig's List. So let me just say thank you, Craig. Thank you for your awesome list.

When The Usual Suspects came out, I remember that my hometown newspaper interviewed the girlfriend of the writer of that screenplay, who, as I recall, was, like me, from Manchester, Georgia. In the interview, she said a fair amount of insipid, shallow, "Lookit me, I made it all the way to California" things. But, then, who knows? Maybe she was misquoted. But we all sorta wondered, "Why'd they interview her, anyway?" It was weird. She said something like, "We were there in Manchester for Christmas last year and he (the writer) thought Manchester would make a great place to shoot a movie!" We all said, "Wha?! Of course it would. In fact, that movie's already been made! It's called Murder In Coweta County, and it stars none other that Johnny Cash & Andy Griffith. Who is this nut, anyway?"

I remember when the big trucks and crew and lights and cameras rolled through my hometown. I was just a little kid. I didn't know much about Johnny Cash, except that he was the Man In Black. And I never got to actually see him or Andy Griffith. Some of my classmates did, though. We'd sit around and talk about it during lunch, trading stories. Some kids were extras in the movie. Some kids' parents were. Most weren't. Most had bills to pay & jobs to work.

I bet Iowa will be a lot of work. A lot of writing, a lot of teaching, a whole lot of trips to that bodega up the block for big cups of coffee in the freezing snow of Iowa's deep winter.

24 March 2008

Birdy Bird

Today I woke up realizing that the phrase "two big cups of coffee" is about the sweetest phrase in the English language. It is an utterance made for some bodega in New York City, something you follow up with "light cream and sugar."

Day before yesterday, while Janelle & Eleanor were out for a walk, I strung up my trusty Puerto Rican hammock between two trees. Since we live on 5 acres of wooded land, I drew a little map for The Missus, so she could find me upon her return. It's nice to leave notes for loved ones.

While in my hammock, a tiny little grey-brown bird flitted around me, hopping from branch to branch. He chirped quietly but insistently, & seemed to regard me with an eager curiosity. His ways reminded me of my daughter. "I'm gonna call you Eleanor Part Two," I laughed. But my voice scared him away! Come back oh child of mine!

23 March 2008

Ruby

There are many things that I will not be eating for the next 27 days, as part of my fast/cleanse. Corn, wheat, soy products, sugars of all varieties, gluten, caffeine...It's gonna be all about fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains. And 70 ounces of water a day. What will I learn from this adventure? Will my dreams be affected? Will I look eighty years younger?

The family atomic and I just got in from a nice Sunday supper out in Winder, Georgia, which is a rural enclave that will probably be suburbanized and subdivided within ten years. For now, though, it's as it has been for the past hundred years or so: a pastoral paradise. Anyway, we have a friend who lives out there. Her name's Connie. She has a tiny house perched on the edge of a forest. Attached to the front of her house is one of the world's greatest porches.

Connie keeps horses. And one of 'em - "Ruby" - gave birth 9 days ago. Now, today I learned that a wee baby horse is called a foal. A few days after it's born, though, you either call it a filly or a colt. Ruby's progeny is a colt and his name is "Blueberry." He's all lanky and nubby and wobbly and he sticks to his mama's side like white on rice. He nurses from her a lot, too.

The family atomic and I walked right up to 'em both today and said, "Hey there, Ruby. Hey there, Blueberry." And Ruby gazed into Eleanor's eyes like she had nuclear secrets For The Horses tucked away inside of 'em (and for all I know maybe she does). Ella laughed and reached out while Stella The Feral Fang barked at Blueberry and I said, "Stella! Be cool, dammit! That's a 9 day old baby you're barking at!" Ruby was cool as can be, though. Sort of a boddhisattva-type animal, full of Spring sunlight, chilling winds blown in from the West, and milk for her Little One. A funny thought enters my mind: She coulda trampled us all if she'd wanted to!

22 March 2008

Forsythia

Forsythia blooming. I tried to photograph the Japanese Magnolia exploding blooms in our front yard, but it was weird - it wouldn't photograph. The f-stop kept coming out all wrong. "Hell with this," I eventually said. So here's the Forsythia instead.

Yesterday a jet pilot named Chris came and bought a lawnmower, three chairs, our old kitchen table, a tiny end table, a couple of window shades, and a bookcase that was so big it held half our book collection. In the course of our dealings, I learned that he had just divorced and was trying to set up a new apartment for himself. Nice guy, but as soon as he said "divorce" a wraith of sadness seemed to linger about three feet above our heads. His twelve year old daughter was with him. She picked out the end table for her room. Joint custody.

Chris was middle aged and spoke with the voice of Mike Brady. Perfect for a jet pilot. I kept imagining him saying, "We're now at an altitude of 30,000 feet..." and almost asked him to "do a talk" like John Lurie asks Tom Waits to do in Down By Law, but the wraith kept batting my ideas down with his scythe of sadness.

I gave Chris a hell of a deal. He walked away with all that stuff for a cool $200. I wished him luck, and he said "Good luck with writing." Then, getting into his car, he said, "Have a good life," while Janelle & Eleanor watched from the back porch. It was just about the most depressing thing I have ever seen - a newly divorced father getting into his old beat up Cutlass full of secondhand furniture for his new apartment, his doe-eyed daughter sitting shotgun, waving and saying "Have a good life." I liked having that $200 in my front pocket, though...

Most of that cash is gone now. Lo, for today the Missus and I begin our...ahem...cleanse. I've never done a cleanse before, but so many people swear by them, and now that my acupuncturist and chiropractor are both saying that it's a good idea - that it will actually help ease my seasonal allergies - I'm doing a cleanse. All this really means is that my diet will be drastically altered for the next 28 days. I'm assured that a systemic detoxification of vital organs will occur. I'm assured that I will feel better. I'm assured that, in four weeks, I'll emerge from my cocoon as the Uberman, capable of feats of superhuman strength. Anyway, a cleanse actually costs money, since you hafta buy all kinds of stuff to eat that you wouldn't normally buy. "Anything for the sinuses," I say, skipping my morning coffee and pouring a cup of peppermint tea instead.

20 March 2008

V.E.

When I lost my job at the hospital, I had to turn in my i.d., keys, security clearance, and so on. Moments before I did, I had the idea to take a photo of my i.d., because I know that in twenty years it'll all seem like a faint dream. I might even wonder, "Did I really work at a hospital? Was it really my job to occasionally hospitalize people against their will? Did I endure the godawful bureacracy and medical politics to make a difference in peoples' lives and collect a steady paycheck?" A strange dream indeed.

By the way, if I offended Philip, Chandelle, or Scott with that last entry, forgive The Jonathan. He doesn't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard...

I made $200+ dollars yesterday by selling off some major material possessions. I also made some perfect strangers perfectly happy. At the end of the day, I used some of that bread to go buy a sorely-needed battery for my Honda scooter. I celebrated the rainy sunset with a few victory laps around the neighborhood. I then headed out way past the cornfields, passing a sad old man walking on the side of the road who looked like he'd just lost the playoffs against the Mets. Or something like that. He raised his hand gravely like a preternatural force.

Synchronicity: Day before yesterday, as I was JPEG-ing my worldly possessions, a man in Australia started an internet auction on his "life," which was basically a big package deal of all his possessions, including his home, automobile - everything. Right down to his wallet, job, and "introductions to great friends." Basically, the story is that his fiance left him waiting at the altar. So he decided to scrap his life, put all his cards back on the table, and "start anew." He picked the perfect time of year to do it, too. In fact, let me be the first to wish you a happy Ostara, a.k.a. Vernal Equinox.

At 5:48 p.m. today the sun will be positioned directly over the Earth's equator. That said, if you want to make a nice pitcher of sun tea, go ahead and, after you mix everything together, place your pitcher right on the equator. What could be easier? The equinox is here to make life easy for you...

Know what else, though? It's also World Storytelling Day. On this day, those inclined to do so will tell and listen to as many spoken stories as possible, in as many languages as possible. This year's theme? Dreams.

19 March 2008

Philip, Chandelle & Scott

If I offended anyone named Ananda with that last blog, please allow me not to apologize for the eyes in my head. Desiree is not an actual doctor, nor does he play one on t.v.

This is one of several photos I've placed in an online classifieds ad for our major physical possessions. (If we're gonna jettison our Jeep to Iowa, we gotta junk the flotsam and jetsam.)

...A man named Philip, covered in tattoos & driving an old beat-up Ford pickup just bought out washer & dryer for cash on the barrel head. Poor guy tried to bargain with me, but my Dadaistic unintentionally nonsensical skills of bewilderment won the day.
"You're asking $125 for both, right? Well, I want the washer, but not the dryer. So instead I'll take both off your hands for $100."
"Um, okay. Well, other people will pay me more for both."
"Well, I'll let you sell it to those other people then."
"Okay."
"Wha?"
"I said 'Okay'."
"Oh."
"Look, man, it sounds like you need this washer. Make me an offer."
"Uhhh..how about $75."
"Okay."
"Well, maybe I'll take both off your hands for $125."
"Okay?"
"Yeah."

And in a little while, "Chandelle" is coming to buy the beloved barstools about the same time "Scott" is coming for my big stenographer's desk. I love this!

18 March 2008

The Anandas

Eleanor just fell fast asleep listening to "Isis & Osiris" off Alice Coltrane's Journey In Satchidananda. Know what "satchitananda" means? It's 3 Sanskrit words that all add up to one long one: "Sat" means "True Being." "Chit" means "Pure Consciousness." And "Ananda" means "Bliss."

I once lived in a suburban neighborhood. And there was this neighborhood Indian boy, about ten or eleven years old. His name was Ananda. He was a little bastard. He peed into styrofoam cups and tried to sell cups of his urine at a lemonade stand. He once stopped me and asked me if I was gay, and if my roommates were gay. I told him "no" and he started laughing. "A kid like this will probably do well in this crazy-assed world," I remember thinking.

Later in life, I went to graduate school with a girl named Ananda. I guess you could say we "dated" for a few weeks. This Ananda wasn't Indian. But her grandfather was the mayor of Pasadena or something like that, and he left her a huge inheritance. "This Ananda, too, will do well in this material world," I surmised. On her mantle, she had a big sword, which was a prop from the epic movie El Cid. It was also a gift from her grandfather. Apparently, El Cid couldn't have been made without his support. "Is it worth a lot of money?" I once asked her. "Yeah," she said.

I'm guessing the world is filled with Anandas. They probably pepper this world in exact proportions so that, if viewed from outer space, all the Anandas would look like sugar sprinkles on the cupcake surface of the globe.

17 March 2008

Madison McCrackin



If I offended any Caution Horses with that last entry, please send me a SASE with four proofs of purchase from any Riboflavin-containing product and I will issue a formal, notarized written apology written in fourteen-point "Fajita" font. Thank you.

Today the Family Atomic went for a hike at Dick's Creek up in Rabun County, off War Woman Road. We passed a church along the way that spelled out in clear terms exactly why Jesus Christ died on the cross. "Oh, now I get it!" I said, and wheeled off, over onto the side of the road, where the wife & I scrambled down to a creek and performed ritual baptisms of one another, then baby Eleanor, then Stella, even though she, as a natural animal, is inherently freed from volition and therefore the ability to sin. "Better do her to, just to make sure," the missus said, grabbing Stella by the scruff of the neck and dunking her in the ice cold mountain run-off, "I'd hate to get up to them pearly gates only to find that only good Christian dogs are allowed." Stella shivered free and skulked up the side of the mountain, now one with Christ. As we drove away, I noticed that the pastor's name was listed on a small wooden sign. It said, "Pastor: Madison McCrackin."

On our hike, I found a shotgun shell at my favorite campsite. There was trash everywhere, and even a condom laying dead in the dirt. "Whoever does this ain't worth a damn," I said to the missus, and she agreed, squatting to photograph a muddy Hershey bar wrapper, mashed into the pine straw girding our beloved trail. "Madison McCrackin would be doing a whole hell of a lot more for humanity if he'd organize a cleanup or at least start preachin' out against defiling the natural world instead of confining his rhetoric to the concerns of the ethereal hereafter," the heathen pinestraw whimpered.

16 March 2008

Sunday Blog


The "Caution" is from my mind/the Cowboy Junkies' The Caution Horses album. And the Easy Cheese "Indeed" is for my man Omar from HBO's The Wire. What do these two things have to do with one another? Not a whole hell of a lot. Unless you believe in synchronicity, non-locality, or the unconscious.

This weekend the family atomic and I went down to Manchester, Georgia, my hometown and in fact a magical place still, despite the Kali Yuga. "I really like this place," the Missus said whilst I flipped burgers on a grill. (We were all watching tornado winds dominate the stratosphere and wind chimes a-clanging' underneath the car port, sittin' in porch swings and lawn chairs, drinkin' wine, feelin' fine & listenin' to Leonard Cohen.) "Yeah, it's a good place. It was especially good to my childhood, even though it was hard for me to be here as a teenager," I said back to her, through the flames. "Yeah but Jesus, what place is it easy to be a teenager?" she replied. "I dunno. Europe, South America, maybe."

The "Caution" is what you should sometimes toss to the wind. The "Indeed" is for the court jester, who can make the monarch laugh and spare the peasants his whimsical wrath. My wife has the scruples of a muslim cleric and a heart that could span the cosmos...

14 March 2008

Mystery: Solved

If I offended any dead people with that last blog, I apologize right now. Forgive the Jon-Dog. He knows not of what he speaks. Do not haunt him.

Anyway this is Roberto Clemente and Felix The Cat, in heaven. You'll notice that Felix has really bad post-nasal action going on. He's like the Jon-Dog in that way. These Bradford Pears are killing me with their sex dust.

Nevermind all that, though. The mail just came and I just solved the mystery of Lightning Fair. In case you forgot, Lightning Fair is the name on the tombstone in our front yard placed over what I'm assuming is the shallow grave of a beloved family pet. Most likely a dog. I mean, a cat named Lightning Fair? Maybe. Could be a ferret, too, I guess.

But anyway, the mystery was the name. I thought "Lightning Fair" was a pretty weird name and now I know why. I suppose I should have figured this to begin with, but I'm not exactly the sharpest detective in the 'Yuga. "Lightning," I thought, "makes sense. Not a bad pet name. But Lightning Fair? What is that anyway?"

Know what is is? First and last name, that's what. Yup. First name: Lightning. Last name: Fair. I discovered this when a piece of mail came addressed to Dorothea Fair.

This is, of course, further fodder for my death house ideations. I just hope that I don't, in one of my walks around the property with Eleanor, stumble upon 2 shallow human graves. That'd pretty much be it for me.

When I was in college, I worked in the dining halls to make ends meet (i.e to buy pizzas and c.d.'s and add drops to the bucket of my checking account). One of my managers was a great big rotund doofus named Ron. Last name: Fair. Of course, we all had to call him Mr. Fair, even the poor, workaday old black women that worked on the serving line and lived in the projects and used their paychecks not for pizza and beer, but for electricity and water. He'd stare at them. They'd stare back. Then, eventually, a "How you today Missuh Fair?" He rarely answered back. He didn't do much, in fact. Ever. He just holed up in his office half the day, until it was his whim to float around in his clippity-clop Buster Browns, a toothpick perpetually perched on his lip, dishing out looks of narcotized disdain to us unlucky fellahin bastards.

At the dining hall, I worked on the Pizza Line with a good guy named Ken. Me and Ken, we'd work hard and laugh all the time and churn out pizzas in our little kitchen area. It might sound okay, but don't think it was fun. It sucked. But we managed. We'd talk about rap music and anthropology and Isaac Hayes and other concerns of the day. We had a good system. It worked. But one day a new face arrived in our kitchen. The face of a new, totally unwarranted employee. His name? Doug. Last name? Fair. And guess who his uncle was.

Doug Fair, whose favorite band was a band called "Ugly Kid Joe," lasted about 2 weeks in the dining hall. Turns out, his employment there was a favor to his Mom and represented the Fair family's last ditch effort to save Doug from "throwing his life away." He told me and Ken this when he wasn't stealing food from the freezer or trying to mack on college girls who looked at him with a kind of narcotized disdain that would have been no doubt familiar to him, had he any insight - which he didn't. As I say, he lasted about 2 weeks, during which time I heard him call his uncle - behind his back - a "fat ass sonovabitch" about forty times. It never got old to him.

I guess La Familia Fair figured, "Let's stick him someplace where he can't screw up too bad, and will generally be out of the way." And so Mr. Fair would walk into the pizza "prep" area, stare us all down, and say something like, "Everything coming along in here?" And we'd all mumble "Yah," and then Mr. Fair would stare like a wild animal at Doug and say, "Everything good, Doug?" and Doug'd say "Yes, sir." Then, as soon as Mr. Fair turned and walked out, Doug'd add, under his breath but loud enough so Ken and I could hear, "you damn...fat ass sonuvabitch." He always paused between the "damn" and "fat ass sonuvabitch," like he always had to search for the words like it was the very first time.

For all I know, Dorothea was Doug's grandma. He might've, as a lad, hunted Easter eggs in this very yard, running wild as the gentle pup Lightning ran alongside him in the green grass of precious Youth. I guess I sort of wonder where Doug is now. Probably he's in the appropriate place. The appropriate place generally tends to find each of us, no matter how hard we try to get there - or not.

13 March 2008

Death House


Before I begin, let me say that if I offended any of my Rastafarian readers with that last post, allow me to apologize. Forgive Jon-dog. He knows not what he does.

Well, the new place sucks. I decided that yesterday. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad we were able to get into this place, elsewise we'd be stranded on the mean streets of Athens, Ga. And it is a very nice house on plenty of acreage. And while there are praises worth singing or at least humming about the new, ephemeral digs - the coyotes on the perimeter, droves of deer in our yard every morning, Bradford pear trees now erupting into full bloom, and those crazy windmills handmade from old bicycle rims - there is one major drawback. Lo, for this is the kind of house meant for someone about to die.

There are a few things that make it a death house, which I'll presently describe. And then you'll see what I mean, and you can then apply these criteria to your own domicile and ask the burning question Do I live in a death house too?

(1) This house has five frickin' acres of lawn. Why? Because only an older person, on their way out, would need such a lawn to mow, rake, aerate, and de-thatch and thus keep him (or her) occupied during windmill construction and the latest Reader's Digest. For a young, strapping laddie such as myself, five acres of lawn = Headache Royale. It is, therefore, a Death Lawn.

(2) This house is located down a long gravel driveway off the cusp of a cul de sac at the end of a quiet street in the middle of nowhere. The property line is flanked with tall, ethereal loblolly pines that stand like faceless sentinels, waiting, watching - but for what? For the occupant to slowly die alone in the middle of quiet, peaceful nowhere, that's what. For a young, nubile thirtysomething like me, the everyday effect is one of eerie Oblivion. At these digs, late at night or in the middle of the day, you don't even know you're in America, much less Athens, Ga.

(3)This property is filled with low voltage electrical power lines suspended about twenty feet above the ground, which run along and intersect the yard in about ten different places. This is something you don't notice at first. But then you start looking for a good place to build a fire to safely burn some brush. You look up and notice that any fire you build pretty much anywhere on the land is gonna send heat and flame up to the ubiquitous power lines, which would then catch on fire and come hurtling to the ground like a flaming, electric archangel of death. Naturally, you decide not to risk this. But the nascent awareness of those power lines rests in your consciousness in the form of an easy feeling of knowningness at all times that, at all times, a dense interstitial network of low voltage electricity is buzzing twenty feet above your head like the ceiling in a bumper car lane. You wonder what unresearched, unknown health implications this might have on your physical person. And while you know you can't really worry about stuff like that with everything else you have going on, the presence of those power lines ends up being just one more thing that makes the house a Death House, because you know that the former occupant was probably some old WW2 veteran who was for some reason unconsciously really comforted by the presence of all those power lines. But you know why he was comforted. It's because he was getting senile and a little demented. He therefore equated electrical power with the power of life, and on some unconscious level held the magical belief that as long as he was surrounded by electrical power lines, he'd be safe from the Reaper's midnight ride.

(4) Everything about the house itself is, as I said earlier, really nice. That is, this house, unlike our old, rustic cabin the woods, is filled with amenities, niceties, and comforts that make you feel like you're in a moderately-priced hotel room. It might have been somebody's home once upon a time. But now it feels sterile, plush, and a little too comfortable. Basically, it's the kind of comfort one expects to receive at a nursing home. Easy access, no fuss, nice and clean. Ick! Is that Father Death I hear coming down the gravel driveway?

With all this Death House talk I can see, I guess, that basically, I'm still mourning the loss of our old place in the mushroom, wishbone, dreamscape woods. It was a good place to live and write, and a terrific place to be a family. Sure, we'll make do just fine wherever we go. And this place ain't all that bad, really. In fact, it's kind of a dream house. If I was more settled, if my soul was more settled, perhaps I'd wanna put down roots right here in the Death House. But, no, there's other fish that need fryin'...

12 March 2008

Crazy Baldheads

Right now the sun is setting, which finds me listening to Burning Spear and drinking beer while the barbecue sizzles outside. My ever-optimistic Stella is keeping close watch on the grill, just in case. Cause you never know...

Could life get any better than this moment? Maybe if it was the middle of summer and we lived on a lake. And had a hot tub. That'd do it. That'd be my nirvana. But this is pretty g.d. close. No complaints, that is.

Man. Burning Spear...I feel bad for all those poor Rastafarians who learned that Haile Selassie was pretty much an Ethopian dick and not so much the Lion of Judah. But then again, it's pretty easy to overlook a man's mortality if you smoke enough of that wacky weed. So smoke up, Rastas. Chase those Crazy Baldheads outta town. I dig your peaceful, groovy, black-empowered style...

11 March 2008

Tres Generaciones

Four generations, actually. Eleanor will carry the torch. And, you know, having a child makes you contemplate your mortality on a deeper level than, maybe, neurotic little you ever did before. You thought you had seen all aspects of your death anxiety. You hadn't. Now there's a hundred or more new aspects.

When it comes to death, I think I'm a little preoccupied with the moment of "consciousness ejection," as the Tibetans call it. I have this idea that it's a time of heightened mental activity and...I don't know...maybe everything that's unresolved comes out to say "Hi." And that sort of freaks me out, because I haven't resolved anything, ever. I dwell in questions, suppositions, paradoxes, and basically I have Salvador Dali's mind without the talent. So if I'm supposed to enter death with some kind of a "clean slate," well, I'm screwed.

Then again, maybe death is the final reckoning. Maybe that's where resolution really happens. Not exactly a Hallmark moment, but at least you get to go, "Yeah, I did this and I'm proud of it. I did that and there's no reversing it. I have regrets. I did all these other things and am pretty ambivalent about them...Oh well, I'm lying here, dying and these are the final moments of my brain's electrical soft-shoe and presently I shall become food for earthworms. Adios, physical plane of existence! This sucks!" Then total darkness.

I don't know and can't know, of course. Hence the preoccupation, the unresolution with Death itself. Fact is, I haven't made up my mind as to whether or not I ever even want to die. Of course, we all gotta die. Doesn't mean we have to act like we're okay with it. For all its pains-in-the-arse, Life still commands a lot of respect from me. Why would I wanna give up on life, which hasn't once (yet) given up on me?

Basically, we here in the West - and possibly everywhere else - are conflicted about death on a cultural level. If you're young and you're ready to die, it's called "suicidal ideation," and it's a mental problem. If you're middle aged and are psychologically ready to die (i.e. can "accept" your mortality), it's a healthy level of psychosocial and existential adjustment. Well, I'm in neither canoe. I just have a feeling that the moment of death is gonna suck for me. I hope it doesn't. I hope it's filled with "Fern Hill" images from my pine scrubland childhood and that I'm surrounded by only the most helpful ethereal beings. I hope that when the final annihilation comes, I can accept it as the price you pay for having taken the ride. The cashing in of various chips. A hearty, tear-struck "Goodbye."

Knowing me, though, I'm gonna cling to life like seaweed clings to the shoreline. I'm gonna say "No! More! I'm owed more. I need more. I just want more!" Unless, of course, I have one of those sudden deaths, where I don't even have time to get the words "Aw, Shiite!" outta my mouth. That'd be okay, I guess...No. No. That's a pretty freaky thought too.

*******************************************************************************

FERN HILL

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

-Dylan Thomas

Un Poco de Cayenne


2 breakfast mascots, one representing rice. The other oats. Just add water. Boil in pot. Let simmer to desired thickness. Sworn enemies. A black man in America, and the well-fed colonizer. Is he a really a Quaker? (Does he truly quake?) Does he sit in a silent circle once a month? As for the Cream of Rice man, the bow tie suggests Nation of Islam affiliation. Perhaps a stint in prison led to his conversion, his record marred by a string of oat-related misdemeanors. Can a man find God or just his own ideas about God?

Rice is grown in swamps. Oats grow in fields. There is sowing, growing, harvesting. Photosynthesis to commerce, a chain of interrelated activities. Human hands. Give and take. The product arrives in bulk, in barrels, is cut, chopped, heated, cooled. Stored in drums. During packaging, these are placed in containers that bear the likeness of either an elderly, friendly black chef or a blue-eyed, white-haired pilgrim whose serene countenance implies membership to the clergy. But who are they really? Ben Vereen & Robert Bly? Morgan Freeman & Alec Baldwin? Malcolm X & Buckminster Fuller? Inside their hermetic packages, the oats and rice lay in total darkness.

I walk the aisles. I go Kroger-ing, looking for our usual foods. Looking for low prices. I hope to find both. If so, I feel successful. If not, so be it. A man's gotta eat. Now everything's "organic." Decisions, decisions. Plastics coming from China are cut with cyanide and goat dung. Baby toys injected with lab rat piss. The spinach is sprayed with waste-water from a local penitentiary. (Buy the iceberg lettuce. It looks less threatening, i.e. not as swarthy. A light, promising green.) I swipe my card. Now I swipe the other one. Yes, I tell the computer screen, I am a member.

Rice for the wife. Oats for me. Sometimes we switch up, though. First things first: Pour the oats into a glass mason jar. Recycle the colonial emperor. Put rice in similar container. Recycle Ben Vereen. Confuse rice with baby's rice. Confuse rice with cornmeal. Miniature confusions: the price you pay for being eccentric. Confuse oats with nothing. (What could a man possibly mistake oats for?)

When I was a lot younger, my sister once had a boyfriend named Carlos, from Carmel Beach. He looked like a chicano Roger Moore and had every bit of magnetism that his origins (West Coast aristocracy) had equipped him with. He wanted away from all his parents' money and social ties and expectations, so he had moved to Georgia, got a job as a waiter, and starting taking classes at Columbus College (just down the road from Ma Rainey's old place).

Carlos was a man of honor. He lived in an apartment with 2 other guys, who I thought were both hilarious, and who only played video games and sweated profusely. One day I visited Carlos at his apartment. One of his sweaty roommates answered the door and I walked in to find Carlos in the kitchen stirring a big blue ceramic pot of oatmeal, maybe five gallons worth. "Hey, Jonathan," he said through the rising steam. He was adding ingredients - cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, and so on. "This has gotta last me a month," he started to explain, "so it's gotta be good."

The guy was broke and in love with my sister. He was eating oatmeal twice a day, waiting tables and taking classes at Columbus College. "This poor, poor bastard," I thought. And now for my secret ingredient, his eyes glimmered in a faux-excited, just-shy-of-sarcastic but still charming-as-hell way ... a little cayenne.

10 March 2008

Gibbon Boy

The gibbons of the world know what time it is. That's right - time to leave Athens and go down South, where there's gold in the hills that'll come in handy when my atomic family packs it up and heads Nawth. "Not yet, though," the gibbons croon, "give it another month and then go. Spring will have sprung, buffalo bill will no longer be defunct, and the world will be pulsing with sunlight and mud." Have you hugged your gibbon today?

09 March 2008

On The Road

The guy that plays the banjo keeps on handin' me the Old Crow, which multiplies my sorrow - I can't take it anymore...

I know someone - a good friend that I nonetheless don't know very well (i.e. she's more Janelle's friend) - who is constantly urging one of us to "just treat yourself," which cracks me up. It cracks me up because it's impossible for me to do so. Perhaps there is a "treat yourself" gene that I lack.

What she suggests is "buy yourself come chocolate" or "get a massage," etc. Again, these are well-intended suggestions, and I'd probably follow through if it was at all possible for me to "treat" myself. For some reason, though, whenever I try, a thin veneer of self-consciousness inevitably slips into the slipstreams of my mind, crippling my ability to just relax and enjoy the self-care: "This is not a spontaneous moment of self-nurturing. It's manufactured, fake, self-indulgent."

Pure relaxation moments are therefore rarities for the Jon-Dog. There's always something I should be doing, someplace I should be driving. Commitments out the yin-yang. But sometimes, a strong lightning bolt of "I AM Here, Now" cracks into my business and I'm all of a sudden on my side with the fact of pure acceptance of all life's measures and vicissitudes and the moment - not me, the moment is swelling with electrical tranquility. It passes within seconds, but those few seconds are generally sweeter than all my attempts to manufacture some state of "self-care." Quickly, it passes. And if I chase after it, it seems to run faster. I've learned to let it go, ease back into my vat of chaos, grab another gear and put both eyes back on the road.

Speaking of which, in about 45 minutes, I shall pierce the bubble of Atlanta's perimeter, I-285, and swoop down on my gals like a friendly hawk of yore. I've missed them. On the ride home, Janelle will ask me if I ordered Indian takeout while she was out of town. I'll tell her the truth: "Naw. Indian food just ain't as good when yr not around."

08 March 2008

Empty Space

Anne Waldman has a poem about Empty Space. This is me flying through it. I often have the Ascension Dream, you know, wherein I slowly drift up, off the earth like the Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2. It's lovely.

A few moments ago, a neighbor lady arrived to ask if she could keep bees on our property. "Sure. Pick a spot. Keep your bees." There is plenty of land. Sometimes my mind starts to drift, though. Like a bee. Or a distracted dog.

Tonight I am watching a Western on Ye Olde Tube. I am also working on a painting, editing 2 films, writing a storypoem about Doc Holiday & Ol' Dirty Bastard, and talking to you about ascension. How is it that so many things are happening? Where does wind originate?

***************************************************************************

Owlie

"Owlie," our cookie jar.

"Owlie" disguised as an owl.

07 March 2008

E.C.

Know what's annoying about cheese? Having to refrigerate it all the fuggin' time. I mean, it seems like every time I turn around, there's cheese - on the kitchen counter, on the dash of my car, on the shelf in the garage - that needs to be refrigerated. Ugh! Why won't someone make this problem JUST GO AWAY?

[glittery trinkling noises, followed by a puff of smoke, which clears to reveal a can of Easy Cheese (c)]

Disembodied Narrator: BUT IT HAS GONE AWAY. KRAFT EASY CHEESE HAS BEEN SOLVING THE FUGGIN' REFRIGERATION-OF-CHEESE DILEMMA FOR OVER FORTY - YES, FORTY - WHOLE YEARS! BECAUSE IT NEVER GOES BAD AND IS SUPER-SPREADABLE, CAN YOU REALLY AFFORD TO GO ANOTHER MINUTE WASTING TIME - AND MONEY - BY NOT PURCHASING EASY CHEESE? SO WHY NOT ENJOY A CAN RIGHT NOW? IT'S GODDAMN CHEESE-TASTIC! CHEESE-TASTIC I SAID!!!

*******************************************************

Ahem. For those who are interested (and you all should be), the following is what should be performance art, but is in fact the bizarre history of Easy Cheese (a.k.a. "Snack Mate"). I lifted this from wikipedia. Um...so...thanks, wikipedia:

History

Easy Cheese was originally marketed by Nabisco in 1966 under the name Snack Mate. After the merger of Kraft and Nabisco in 1988, the product was renamed Easy Cheese. It is sold in the United States, where it is usually served on crackers. Ritz Crackers in particular, another Kraft Foods product, are heavily cross-promoted with Easy Cheese.

It is available in several flavors, including American cheese, mild and sharp cheddar, Swiss, nacho, and bacon & cheddar. The bacon & cheddar flavor used to contain tiny chunks of bacon, which easily clogged the can's nozzle. Kraft Foods has since reworked the recipe to omit the bacon particles in favor of bacon flavoring. In 2007, Kraft began producing a cream cheese variety of Easy Cheese.


*******************************************************

Gratitude

Well the gals are gone for the weekend (off to St. Augustine to visit our friend Edie) and here I am contemplating Eurocentric Christ, who, in this portrait, looks suspiciously like a 3rd Allman brother. What's with these portraits, anyway? Everybody knows Jesus Christ was Filipino.

After I got back from the airport yesterday evening, with much still on my "to do" list, having narrowly escaped being trapped in Atlanta's traffic vortex, damn if I didn't forget to roll up the windows of the car. And, naturally, even though we're in the middle of a drought and general rainlessness is something we've all gotten used to, this is when it decided to rain, rain, rain all through the night whilst I slumbered. I woke up to the sound of it pounding on the heat pump outside our bedroom window. "Aw shit," and then I'm outside, in slippers, in a deluge, rolling up the windows to our Jeep soaked from the inside out, with four treed crows staring at me through the 6:30 a.m. mist.

There is an interesting problem ahead of me and my atomic family ('cause it sounds cooler than nuclear family) - getting to Iowa. We will do it, if it be Eurocentric Christ's will, but the details are hazy. We're actually a little too stunned to problem-solve. Stunned because we somehow aimed a snowball into the elephant's mouth at thirteen hundred yards, on the hottest day in Hell, with Hell freezing over on top of it, and made one Christ of a badass Kareem Abduul-Jabar skyhook right through the crosshairs and into the geometric center of that pachyderm's friendly ol' mouth.

It couldn't have happened without Janelle being the world's most supportive woman. And I don't mean that in any kind of "vague praise" way. Here's a woman who consistently made it possible for me to get time to write and work on those applications, which was a daunting task in itself, even in the midst of new parenthood and adjustment to the many life changes it entails. She helped phone and fax forms. She annied up some of the necessary funds for all those bleed-these-people-dry application fees (and they do add up). She made time - actually made time in a household where time is always the real commodity. Time to sleep. Time to eat. Time to connect. Time to work. Time to create...She did this. Because she's the bomb. An atomic bomb.

So, after all that downsizing and complaining about this inevitable Kali Yuga we are now in, and strategizing re: how to raise a child in all this cultural chaos, it would appear that our atomic family has been given an actual break. Or at the very least, an Adventure. And I'm glad. I like adventures. And this looks like it'll be a good one. So soon we'll figure out a way to start saving money for the Big Move North. And whatever will happen next will happen next.

One hundred and fourteen posts, ago, I started this blog with the intention of staying in touch with friends and having a means to process a certain kind of thinking and writing that falls somewhere between journaling, e-mailing, and rapping out on the loading dock with a Marlboro. Then I wrote: "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." Well, I'll be damned. (Gotta watch out for them hopes. They can get'cha.)

06 March 2008

A Monastic Trio

It's 9:19 a.m., Thursday morning in America, and Eleanor has just done the coolest thing. But, wait, before I type this, let me acknowledge that I am aware that the rest of the world does not give a shit about the developments of a nine month old baby. (And I know it's not that the rest of the world is mean, cold, unfeeling, and hateful of the little things. Rather, there's bigger fish to fry. Gross National Products, industrial timelines, 401k's, and the rest of the human drama, private and global, bristling with monstrous energy.) New parents often forget this fact, and you have to watch out, 'cause if you're in an enclosed space with one for very long, you'll be treated to story after story about various "cute" things, "cool" things, and, at times, "amazing" things, which are the absolute worst. I'm pretty sure hari kari would hurt less than an hour with a parent who does not know that The World Don't Care None, Baby!

In my pre-Eleanor days, I hated, hated, and HATED stories about people's kids. That's how I roll, though. I dig kids. I can't deal with stories about them. Here's me listening to a co-worker drone on and on, ten months ago:

Co-worker: Hey, Jonathan.

Me: Hey. (Let's say I'm busily typing up some clinical notes.)

Co-worker: So, you know, Toby's a year old and he's walkin' now, and man is he into everything!

Me: (Unh. Total silence. There's no way I'm encouraging this line of dialog, even though I know it won't matter.)

Co-worker: He sure keeps me and his daddy on our toes, though! I guess that's a good thing.

Me: (unenthusiastically) Oh, yeah?

Co-worker: Big time. Just the other day he did the funniest thing...

Me: (oh God, please murder me with a celestial dagger NOW.)


Now that I have a kid, though, something wonderful has happened: I am no longer not only immune to these stories (because I've told forty thousand of them myself already, and Eleanor's only nine months old), I'm actually interested in them. I, gulp, enjoy them. It now happens, quite often, that when a friend, acquaintance, or total stranger wants to tell me about their kid, I'm all ears. And naturally, as soon as there's an opening, I'll start blabbing about Eleanor, until we're both frothing at the mouth like wolverines in some kind of fucked-up feeding frenzy, going on and on, comparing notes about the most mundane details of the Life Of A Baby. I'm sure it's disgusting to the uninitiated. I'm just glad I'm immune now. I'm like a vampire. And I have a vampire wife and a little baby vampire with tiny little fangs. Together, we stalk the night...Okay, so back to what just happened and why it's cool.

Our rented house came equipped with an old school boombox. And because it imparts a really nice sound (even though the speakers are fairly small), lately, morning time has become song n' dance time around these parts. And today, a Holy Moment happened in Songsville: I had a coffee in one hand, and Eleanor in the other, perched on my knee. We were listening to an Alice Coltrane album called A Monastic Trio, which is a sometimes-lyrical, sometimes-skronkfest album of "sacred" free jazz, mostly concerned with peace, enlightenment, and mourning/remembrance of John Coltrane. Anyway, as E.B. & I were listening to the ocean of sound of a song called "Lord Help Me To Be" crash and fall in multiple waves, Eleanor closed her eyes, totally relaxed, and fell into a deep trance while sitting completely upright. "This is new," I thought before carrying her off to her bed, where she dozed for an hour or so while I listened to the rest of the album.

There. That's it. That's my story. Know why it's cool? Because peace on that - or any - level don't come cheap for teething babies. Except that today it did. Frau Coltrane worked her mojo on the nipper. And I was there. It was amazing.

05 March 2008

Dada Nonsensical

Mr. Paul Birdsong, has what Puerto Ricans call a cara de pendejo. "Literally, it means 'face of an idiot,' but its suggestion is a lot less harsh than the English translation. Basically, it means 'the face of someone who is not hardened, who still gives a shit about humanity,' and who is therefore easy to rip off," a mentor of mine said to me in a cargo van headed West towards Villa Sin Miedo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, where the jungle vines reached out like muscled arms and tried to choke the coffee beans right off the tree.

He was describing Paul and he was right. Paul does have that look about him, though he, in fact, is not at all easy to rip off. It's in his eyes, mostly, and the way they shine - or don't - at the appropriate moment. Most of the people I want to know have that look. Empathy. Excited like a schoolkid for someone else's good fortune. When you get right down to it, it's a rare find. And fairly Dada-nonsensical. That is all.

Animal Kingdom

Scary harlequin mask, but it's not meant to be. Inexplicably creepy as they are, I find masks are a fun way to practice non-existence. Why is it fun to wear a mask? I don't know. Why do babies laugh? Why do waves rise and fall? Mystery seems as much an integral part of this material world as carbon-14. So it goes.

Just when I think I want peace in my heart, I remember that peace, that fleeting thing, has never been as helpful or faithful a friend as my preternatural disquiet, which is a useful thing that keeps me looking, going, doing. I suppose I need a carrot, and that carrot I'll call inner peace. But let me say for the record that I find the whole concept fairly suspect. In short, peace looks a lot like laziness, at best, and, at worst, soul-death.

I'm not talking about "world peace" or general non-violence. I'm talking about that narcotized, sedated tranquility that comes with religious submission, heavy duty narcotics, or other escapisms. When I was a kid, I was taught that every man has a God-shaped hole in his heart, until he fills it up with Jesus - which is to say that he fills it up with ideas about sin, redemption, and the image of a peculiar avatar known as J.C. There are many religious and non-religious people in this world. But how many truly, existentially peaceful people are there?

Of course I'm not saying I welcome strife. As I said, I need the carrot too. But being me, I think I can say with some authority that I probably won't ever have any kind of enduring inner-peace. I'll always be dissatisfied with something, and working on some ephemeral project right up until the end. If "peace" means that you accept mundane forms of happiness, I can live with that. But if it means high transcendence or the ability to rise above pain, as I said, I think it's not really for me. I like life.

Why this musing today? Because I finally got around to watching The Hours and because Janelle's way into the hip Edna St. Vincent Millay bio Savage Beauty. Because I just read William Styron's short story "Love Day" and the fact that Styron existed and wrestled and wrote some of it down has made me introspective, same time happy. Because Janelle's out working hard and Eleanor is trying her damnedest to stand on her own two feet while Stella eats grass and dutifully vomits in the front yard...these things make me proud. We're all moving along. Because it's business as usual in the animal kingdom. And the sun is out.

04 March 2008

Lightning Fair


Two artifacts the wife & I stumbled upon while walking in our rented front yard. They were hidden amongst overgrown flower beds and tucked underneath cedar bird feeders on long stilts. From these two discoveries, a deduction: This home's previous owner was both an animal lover and a white supremacist.

It's always sad to stumble upon a pet's grave. I tend to imagine the seven year old boy or girl delivering the eulogy ("Boonie was a good hamster and a good friend") before using a coffee can to scoop red clay on top of a shoebox that will later be discovered and exhumed by nocturnal animals. Sad but cool.

Stumbling upon concretized racist stereotypes, on the other hand, somehow doesn't impart the same wistfulness...unless you are, in fact, a white supremacist, in which case I suppose, yes, your heart would probably leap with the good ol' fashioned joy of knowing you're not alone in your Sumpreme SnowflaKKKe ethos. As for me and the missus, we were pretty speechless.

Though they're not pictured here, this home is also equipped with about a million bird houses and bird feeders. There's also two homemade windmills that squeak like the devil whenever the wind blows. Clearly the old owner had a lot of time on his (her?) hands...

Back to those concrete statues, though: To say "man, that's really, really fucked up" is a start. I guess one of the most strange and sad aspects of it all is that there was once a lawn ornament manufacturer who churned this kind of thing out left and right. Not that long ago, either. What a way to make a living.

If you admit that you have done a horrible thing or let a horrible thing happen, there is, next, the living with what you have done. Not facing the fact that you have done a horrible thing, however, means a stilted kind of freedom that really only amounts to living in a cocoon of continual narcissistic self-deception. Lawn ornaments, apparently, factor into such a self-deception.

As for Lightning Fair, he was nothin' but a dog on God's green earth, free from the moral conundrums that plague men and women. He died in March of 2005 - three years ago exactly - and was laid to rest here, about seventy-five feet away from where I sit and type on this rainy Tuesday morn'.

03 March 2008

Valley View

Earlier today, Eleanor & I visited a friend way out on Nowhere Road. His name's Jerry and he's good people from back in the day. Practically family. Anyway, now he & his wife have a huge house on a dried-up river - the once-mighty Oconee - that looks like some kind of privet-choked chocolate stream right outta Willie Wonka's fevered nightmares.

Jerry's in his Sixties now and has a gigantic Rottweiler named Daisy who's on her last leg. Daisy like the bb-gun. This morning Eleanor played while Jerry & I sat around and talked about Iowa and how cool and then how fucked-up the world is. He was in "the shit" in Vietnam and said, "At last people protested Vietnam. No one seems to mind this fuggin' war." Daisy howled like a hound. "That's her death song," Jerry said.

I wonder how this is all gonna pan out. The war and the election and the hours and the babies and me and the world and just all of it, right down to the forks and spoons in my cupboard. Most likely, things'll get worse before they get better. I know I may be a bitter person, but my forks & spoons know that I carry a private exuberance that no one can steal. At least, no one has yet. And I suppose that if that was gonna happen, it woulda happened by now.

The animal-humans are involved with the weather. This one is shaking rain out of 2 clouds, like dishwater out of a sponge. I once saw this happen in Durango, Colorado. I was on my way to Valley View Hot Springs after a long day of wrong livelihood.

02 March 2008

Shapely Creatures








March 2

Things come and go. Of that all men (and women) (and womyn) (and myn) can be sure. Today is March 2, the day upon we which we might celebrate the births of such notables as Dr. Seuss, Lou Reed, Eddie Money (!), Desi Arnaz, John Bon Jovi, Tom Wolfe, & Mikhail "Don't Stare At My Pate" Gorbachev. Likewise, if we're in a mode of remembrance, we might find ourselves saluting those who have passed on this day in history: D.H. Lawrence, Philip K. Dick, Dusty Springfield, & Howard "Hey Let's Open This Sarcophagus" Carter.

Time passes - and pisses - on us all. Daffodils and atomic clouds bloom in perfect symmetry. Lettuce and love affairs wilt. The sidewalk ends, the seafloor spreads. People come and people go. The Upanishads tell us that we're all God, putting on a big ol' play for God's own amusement. The not-knowing you're God is all part of it, they say. Muhammad, when asked why anything at all exists, said, "The Divine was a hidden treasure, and longed to find itself." When Jonathan was asked on Sunday, March 2, 2008 why his front yard is filled with birds, he replied, "Because of all the bird feeders the previous tenants put up out there."

Eleanor's asleep. Janelle's doing yoga. Nag Champa is chomping at the air. I'm neglecting the compost bin. In fact, I've never been so uninspired about taking out the compost. Stella's asleep on her side, like a hieroglyphic in Howard Carter's mind. Soon, I'll get around to getting my shoes on and braving the morning air. And the birds will scatter. The day will progress, discovering itself.

01 March 2008

Southern Beck

We watched One False Move last night, at the behest of a certain video rental clerk. This guy is incredible. He looks like Beck, except he's more ragged around the edges and, unlike Beck, talks with a thick Southern brogue. Janelle & I call him "Southern Beck," though never to his face. And so anyway, Southern Beck recommended One False Move and I have no idea why that didn't make me turn right around, put the box back on the shelf, and pick up 3:10 To Yuma instead, because he's made it clear to us in the past that he has the. Worst. Taste. Ever.

So five minutes into One False Move we've realized that we've made a huge error in renting this piece of shit. But we had previously been quite looking forward to dissociating for 1.37 hours in a healthy attempt (I think) to try and temporarily forget that we have another being's life in our hands from now on, as in forever. So, we let go of all our pretty little expectations of having, oh I don't know, a decent movie to watch and instead eased into the full knowing that we were about to get a lovin' spoonful of full-tilt Bill Paxton and - as if that warn't enough - Billy Bob "I Am The Human Perineum" Thornton.

"What the fuck is Southern Beck thinking, anyway?" I think I said that about forty-five times last night, even after Janelle went to bed and left me alone to sift through the ca-ca. As soon as the credits rolled, I sat up in the darkened living room and birthed the thought "Oh my God, we're actually moving to Iowa City, Iowa."

That's right, Iowa City, pop. 63,000...where the median age is 25.4, the median household income is $35,000/year, and the population is 87% Snowflake. Southern Beck'd probably fit in real good there, 'cept it ain't the South and in the winter stays colder than a Wiccan's mammary glands. But maybe there's a Northern Beck waiting on us to arrive in Iowa. Maybe he's sitting at his desk right now, watching Godard flix & rolling a smoke.