Monday, November 24, 2008

Ink

I finished my first volume of poetry, Ink, this weekend.

Though I would like to say here that it was published, I can claim only to have assembled fifteen of my most recent poems and printed them in a hand-made book. There was a time, I suppose, in the history of books and book-making, when what I have done would qualify as 'publication', but even that broad categorisation requires some qualification. I think that, besides simply making the first copy, in order for it to be published, I have to a) make more copies, and b) disseminate them.

My goal in writing poetry is expression; my goal in publishing poetry is permanence.

I would be lying if I said that I don't care what happens to my work. I don't think I would even write if I thought it wasn't going to last; if I had no desire for it to represent me in the world after I am gone. It's not fame but persistence that I seek. There is ambition in my work, arrogance in the assumption of genius, hubris after all. But why not? Without the folly would anything ever emerge from this chaotic dance? Who among us creates but those without the sense to know better or the humilty to refrain from the desire to be God?

To the poet belong the spoils, for no greater act of courage won a battle nor a war averted. If, that is, said poet can manage to get published.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Driving to South Central LA

(Yeats comes to Amerika)

That is not a city for old men. The young
Men are armed, children in the street
--those dying generations--rap beat riding
The boulevards, and in the body-filled bars where
Crack, bullets or aids conspire all summer long.
Many are conceived, some are born, all die.
Trapped in that deadly dance they disparage
Treasure of their intellectual heritage.

An old man gets no respect.
Worn out values stuck to pride, unless
He goes to church and sings and sings louder
For every murder his children leave on the street
Abandoning the schools where all that is taught
Is that the System takes care of itself.
So I got in my car and drove today,
To the violent city of South Central LA.

O homeless mercenaries living on the street
Lost in the shadows around the neon,
Leave your cardboard box, stand by the curb
And come clean out that shit behind my garage.
Fill my heart with guilt; fat from indulgence
And inserted into an atrophied frame,
It has no feeling; let me just pretend
That I am helping you.

When I die I don't want to be
Brought back as a living being,
But with a Madonna body made by Chinese slaves
Of moulded plastic and pink lead paint
To keep a drowsy housewife awake;
Or set upon a taxi dashboard and wave
To the men and women of South Central LA
While the driver tells them all what it is, or what it
aint, or
How it ought to be.

12/18/92

Night

Words fall from my eyes
like charcoal.

Black ink leaks from my heart,
Staining the page with blood.

Cataracts cloud my eye,
Salt coats my tongue;
Now too barren,
too shallow for words.

Shadows fall but are lost
in my eye.

Do not come back.
Turn from this desert.
Le me wander till night falls
And I am gathered up
To fill the space between the stars.

07.31.08

Shadows

Bring me
A mountain of paper;
An ocean of ink.
A billion more words.
Will it make people think?

To shout down the tyrant
Don't act the fool.
Shut up. Pay rent.
Don't piss in the pool.

Words are mere shadows
Cast on the wall
Clever allusions,
Vapors, that's all.

Grief

Like meat
Dragged across concrete.

Like meat
Shriveled on the grill.

Pulse pounding still,

Like meat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mementos

Henry and I were talking about our dads last night, thinking of what we had saved, as mementos of their presence now passed.

I showed him what turns out to be the only object of his that I keep on display in my room, a small carved cufflink box that sits on my dresser next to the clay mask of Agamemnon and the crude little figurative clay statuette that still bear the fingerprints of Lynda. If Bill's imprint on my life is yet visible, it is most obvious in the mirror and the viewfinder, but an observant visitor would find it also in the eclectic collection of objects o n my dresser and my desks, all carefully arranged for my convenience and aesthetic pleasure.

He asked if it was ivory, which, though I told him it was not, it is. I stumbled on the answer because it's actually from an animal that one would not ordinarily expect to harvest the now politically incorrect material known as ivory: a whale.

One of the most interesting and possibly the grandest adventures upon which Bill embarked--literally--was his trip on a whaling expedition to the Antarctic as a free-lance photographer for LIFE magazine when he was in his early twenties. The carved ivory box, which sat on his dresser until I picked it up the day after he died, was just one of the mementos he had from that trip. He also had a piece of baleen--the krill filter in their mouth--and a bizarre looking shell-shaped piece of ceramic-looking material that was actually the inner ear of a sperm whale. He also had a lot of photographs, of course, and a yellowed copy of the magazine in which they appeared.

Now LIFE magazine is still around, I guess, but in the sixties, it was still a very famous and even important magazine, perhaps even the most read and loved by Americans--though LOOK was a stiff competitor--at the time. This made my dad, by association as a photographer, somewhat of a celebrity for me during those middle school years when I could, and did, bring my Dad in to talk about his adventure for show and tell. He would bring all the stuff, including a sperm whale tooth that was inscribed with skrimshaw and the little cufflink box carved from an even larger tooth. He'd answer every question, too, from facts about whales to the goriest details that the teacher would let him get away with. The stories at home were uncensored, thankfully.

His photographs of the expedition were quite good. Over the years, he would retell the adventure as we looked through the magazine or perhaps reviewing old slides one day, and I honestly never tired of it. I learned, first of all, that it was Ant-arc-tica, with the hard 'c' before the 't'. He told me about toilets flushing the opposite way below the equator. He talked about the equator crossing ceremony, the penguins that came to visit the boat and, mostly, about the hard work and rough conditions that the men who called themselves whalers endured.

I saw--over and over again--the bloody and brutal pictures of the whales being cut up and shoved into tiny--compared to their once majestic girths--holes in the deck of the ship and cannot still forget the grim faces of the men who did the hacking and slicing with long-handled knives, ropes and winches.

This was no modern day factory ship. It resembled, in many regards, what it really was: the last of the American whaling fleet to ever set to sea; a vessel not too far removed in time or size from the original Yankee whalers. The methods for catching, killing and cutting up these giants changed but little up to the end. Harpoons were not thrown by hand, but fired from a crude gun, and the final death blow was often not delivered till the ship drew up alongside. Bill took pictures of the whole process, but he concentrated on the faces.

When he talked about it years later in front of groups of gaping mouthed middle schoolers, we were interested in the blood and gore, but he was most interested in relating what it had been like to work with these tough and dedicated sea-going workmen. His photos resembled those of Weston's New York or Brassai's Paris; studies in dark and light, images of sharp contrast in the form of powerful human portraits.

He was, even then, outspoken in his opposition to whaling, and used his experience as a cautionary tale. This was long before 'Save the Whales' ever entered the American consciousness, and from his point of view, one that had little to do with saving the planet and everything to do with simply being humane. In some ways, his was an experience not unlike Upton Sinclair's, and he was never hesitant to speak about the injustice that he felt was being perpetrated on these wonderful animals.

I don't know what happened to the inner ear, not the scrimshawed tooth or the baleen or even the original copy of LIFE that he saved, but I do know where the cufflink box is, and, more important, where the photographs are. It's time I brought them out and collected them in a book. As the curator of these items, it is up to me to see that they are both preserved and documented, for his sake as well as mine. After all, my interest in photography links me directly to Bill, more than a mere memento on the dresser.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

Three million people?

What does that look like? How can that many people come together in one place at one time? Where will they all stand? Sit? Eat? Erm...go to the bathroom, to use that most American of euphamisms?

We are going to the inauguration. These are just a few of the questions I've been asking myself.

Why, for crying out loud, would I want to be in the middle of that crowd? Well, for starters, it's no rock concert I'm talking about here. This event can accurately be described as something often ascribed to movies and television programs; a "Once in a lifetime event", but unlike mere entertainment, this event is one of some actual historical significance. The number of people at this event will be a powerful and delightfully tangible proof of the change that will finally come to our country and thus, to our belief that the political system, rife though it certainly is with difficulties and ripe though it is for fraud, as we have seen as never before, is both sound from a philosophical standpoint and self-correcting, from an emperical point of view, as we have, in fact often seen before in our history.

I find it both remarkable and inspiring to think that this country, this grand and humbly simple system, concieved by enlightened philosophers and indegefatigable pioneers and industrious rejects from Europe's stifling economic caste system and embodied in that elegant document we know as our Constitution, is so organic, so adaptable and humane that, despite the long odds, we find ourselves today in the remarkable situation of having elected a President who would have been ineligible to vote when that noble creed was written, simply because he wouldn't even have been considered to be a man at the time!

This alone is reason to hope, but there are many others. Thinking back to stories I've read about Andrew Jackson's inauguration, when the 'common people' were invited to, and subsequently ran amuck in the White House, I am tempted to believe that this will be one very wild party-- perhaps more than I really hoped for--but I also know that it will be a moment to express the relief and joy and optimism I feel with, literally, millions of others.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Making it Look Hard

He makes it look so hard!

A colleague recently reminded me of this observation I made during a basketball game long ago, referring to the free throw shooting 'style' if I may here briefly abuse that word, of the legendary Shaquille O'Neil.

My friend remembered this telling remark because, he said, it was to him a fitting metaphor useful for describing many forms of human behavior that transcended mere sports. Of course, professional sport is always a good metaphor for life, as we all know from advertisements and any corporate training sessions for self-esteem and team building that you've been unfortunate enough to endure, but wait, for the message is not always positive.

As usual, I am ahead of myself. The metaphorical implications notwithstanding, the actual incident was indeed 'a sports moment' if you will. Now, I am not a basketball fan, be advised lest you think I routinely watch the NBA, which I do not, of course, but I am also a not-so-closeted sports junkie and trvia collector and thus have the usual smattering of knowledge of the dilletant; enough to know a little something about whatever game, match or race is on the television in the restaurant kitchen on a given night.

Now this is usually football, of both the American and World varieties, which I still stubbornly and un-politically correctly refer to as 'soccer' but we watch any sport. Tennis, golf, horse racing, even, gulp, NASCAR. This all 'all sport all the time' even includes Ultimate Fighting Champions, which, to me, is simply at the level of nude mud wrestling, there's no other way to say it. It's obviously staged, in the manner of boxing and wrestling. Both of these testosterone-laden types of contests between sweaty men simply turn me off for that reason alone; sadly, for cable anyway, the entertainment value of boys wrasslin' just isn't up there on the charts for me. Of course I see plenty of that in the NFL, which has it's butt-patting male moments, to be sure, but I accept that because is still my favorite sport.

But to watch Shaquille O'Neil attempt a free throw in the course of a game, especially a playoff game, where the consequences for failure are magnified, is just plain painful. I mean, it looks like it hurts, the way he strains to put the ball up in a simple ten to twelve foot arc. Not to brag, or anything, but this is even something I can do. In fact, though I am still more likely to miss than make it on any given try, I would bet that over the course of even ten free throws, I could at least tie, if not beat Shaquille. Realistically, your thirteen-year-old girl cousin could beat him at HORSE in the driveway if he were to show up for a pick up game one Sunday afternoon while you are working around the house. She might not even get to HOR before he dinks the iron and backboard enough times to spell out FAILURE.

But my intent here is not to trash Shaquile, who could not only outplay me at basketball but likely every other sport as well, to say nothing of the damage he could inflict with but a tap of his little finger should I go around publicly calling him out for his lousy free throwing ability. Nor is it my intent to brag about my own prowess, obviously as one may not argue in favor of an absence of such an ability, but I do feel the point that my friend made about how some people manage to take the easiest things in the world and make them look hard is worth considering, especially since I seem to be one of those most afflicted by this degenerate condition.

We have all heard how some people make hard things look easy, by virtue of their talent, hard work or both, but have you ever considered how many people make the easy things look hard? In fact, we'd be hard pressed, any of us, to claim that this was not us, every day, making a mess out of what should have been an easy ans straightforward task. I know I do this often enough, but I tend not to notice it so much in myself as in others. For those things that I find hard--like math, and finishing task around the house, for example--I realize now that it is because I make them so, not necessarily because the tasks are hard in and of themselves.

So, it would seem that the biggest stumbling block would be my own preconceptions and tendencies to over-analyze my life and work. Introspection can be a good thing, but I have to learn to balance it with action. In other words, simply getting something done every day shouldn't be all that hard. Wish me luck, mockingbird.

Your Best Table

Although I have promised not to rant about the restaurant here because it is simply self indulgent to complain about what I choose to do for a living, there are moments when a situation has so aggrieved me that I am unable to escape it even the next day, so I write about it to in some way clear the awful vision from my head. So it is, today, a Sunday, and I have to tell the story about the folks from the big city.

Now, I could have called them something much worse, and, in fact, I did, shortly after my first encounter with them, even knowing that I would have to rid myself of this resentment because I still had face them again later in the evening. Of course, thanks to a combination of their personalities and my on-the-edge-of-burnout attitude, I was not able to accomplish this feat, and my second encounter with them went only slightly better than the first. But I am ahead of myself as, always.

Saturdays are my long day at the restaurant, often ten or twelve hours--beginning at noon. When I arrive, I immediately take responsibility for answering the phone and tending to guests who wander into the lobby, as did the foursome from H-Town that this story is about. I was packing cases of wine from the office up to the lobby when, on kicking open the door about two o'clock, I found my 'friends' waiting for me at the host stand.

Hey!

A large man with obviously blow dried hair and a thick mustache that reminded me of the seventies greeted me with the kind of artificial enthusiasm and aggressive posture that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up; call it my 'waiter-sense'. With just a single word and his look, with a scan of the other three gathered round the stand I knew this was not going to be pleasant.

Can I help y'all?

We want to make a reservation. We want your best table.

Oh, now that's one of my favorite phrases, and a darn fine way to begin our interaction, but they have no way of knowing this is, so I will have to set them straight. I begin by setting down my case of wine and assuming my post at the reservation screen. At this point, the two women have a menu out and are perusing it, but one of them doesn't even have her glasses on, so I know she's just pretending to look.

Well, I begin, it's going to be a busy night. What time were you thinking about coming in?

Sensing my stiffness, this large seventies throwback decides to push to see how far he can go.

We've come a long way to eat in your restaurant. We want the best table you have. But not in with the crows.

Now, there is a crow 'theme' to one of our dining rooms. There are several bare varnished branches emerging from the wall on either side of the fireplace, and on the branches are several stuffed crows. There are some paper-mache crows that look fairly realistic on the mantel and a couple of paintings of crows by the Chef's ex-wife. Chef says it's for good luck; it creeped me out a bit at first but now I'm used it it, of course.

Now though mustache man and I may this this one thing in common, I am no ally. I do not like it when people tell me where they do or do not want to sit. I understand that people have preferences and we do try to accommodate them, but ultimately, for it's own sake, the restaurant has to set people when and where it must in order to maximize the space and time.

This whole thing about demanding--or even requesting politely--the best table in the house is something I've written about before, so I'll not belabor the point, but if it is simply annoying on the phone, dealing with the an individual who would ask for such a favor in person is downright maddening.

And, I think, they felt this. I have long known that mine is no poker face. I may control my words perfectly, but the eyes do not lie. Nor do I wish them to. I hope that sometimes people will read my thoughts beamed directly into their brains via the blue eye and act accordingly, but in this case, I don't think the jedi mind trick worked.

What time were you thinking about coming in? I repeated, ignoring, for the moment, the best table ploy.

Oh, I don't know. What do you think? He turns to his big buddy, who is eyeing me suspisciouly; he see my UT cap.

Don't matter to me, says buddy, in his best Texas country boy accent.

How bout 7:30.

Great, I say. I tap the computer screen to start the process that will, in the short term at least, get them out of my presence. Last name?

Say, where are you going to seat us? Inside I hope?

Yes, I say, but we have a big party coming in this evening, so two of the dining rooms--I gesture to the majority of the restaurant behind me--are occupied. the three rooms we will be using including this one--I point to the fireplace room, a la crow--and I am afraid I cannot promise any particular table.

He looks surprised, so I press on. We have the patio reserved as well, and quite a crowd on top of that, so let's go ahead and get you in the book.

We'll take this one! One of the women calls from the back room, having chosen a prime table in the middle of the dining room.

I cannot promise any particular table, I repeat, but I can make sure you are inside. Now, what was the name?

He gives me his name and phone number, but asks for my name in return.

Phillip. Thanks for asking. I smile, giving him the blue eye.

You the owner? He asks with just a hint of respect.

No, I just work here. Now a thoughtful person might wonder if in fact I was just being modest, but my mustache man sensed that he was in the presence of a minor player in his league and decided to press.

Well, we've eaten in some might fine restaurants. Your's seems good.

It is. I am in no mood to 'sell' them on the reservation. In fact...no, that's not going to happen. He is not reading my mind, but he does back down.

What time's the game, asked the oblivious buddy, proving that wasn't paying attention and worse, he had no idea nor interest in said game.

It's already on, I shot back. Now, I've got you down for four at seven-thirty, I say. We look forward to seeing you tonight!

Their departure is none to quick for me, as my blood pressure is skyrocketing by this point. The assumptions that the pseudo wealthy make about their position in society relative to those who serve them is just warmed-over and barely disguised antebellum elitism. At a time when that word carries more than a hint of pejorative subtext, I believe that use it fairly here to describe the sense of entitlement that allowed reasonable men and women to own slaves with a 'good' conscience.

Never one to give an entire village a bad rap for one of it's members, I'll nonetheless not resist the temptation to give an oily city a hit for producing and exporting something more pollutant than hydrocarbons and call them out for propagating a culture the racist undertones of Southern gentility with the most obvious materialistic morals of the carpetbaggers they pretend to hate but whom they secretly admire and not so secretly imitate.

Lynda once told me that she was eighteen before she realized that the South was not going to rise again. I think some of these folks have never grown up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall is Here

This is about as much as we get, when it comes to fall colors.  And, sadly, this camera phone has a blue cast that distorts the true color, so I must add that these leaves were actually red.

Taken at Waller Creek.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spam

This from the BBC news wire:

"A recent study by computer scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) found that spammers manage to turn a profit despite only getting one response to every 12.5m emails they send."

12.5 million? Damn, those are some amazing numbers! That makes cold calling look a bit weak!

Bit by the Devil

So, today I do not feel well, and I know exactly why.

One of our cats, appropriately named Diablo, bit me--twice--on the right wrist Monday night. Of course, it hurt pretty bad right after he attacked me; his bite, when delivered with intent, is very forceful. His teeth broke the skin in three places, and one tooth penetrated to deep muscle.

That night, it was hard to sleep because it hurt so much, and all the next day I tried to shake it off, to no avail. It just kept swelling and the infection was obviously spreading. So much so, that when I went to a long-standing dentist appointment Tuesday afternoon, he advised me to go straight to a doctor, which I did. The doctor at the minor emergency clinic told me that ninety percent of cat bites become infected, so it was almost inevitable, even if I'd cleaned the wound properly, which I had not.

I took the day off from work yesterday and though I expected to be active and not allow the injury to slow me down, in fact the infection has dragged me down further than I ever expected to go, especially considering that I got treatment fairly quickly. Last night was still a bad one, full of crazy dreams and fears, like I literally have bugs running around in my brain.

This is not the first time that Diablo has bit me, or others. He has bit us all at one point or another, and he doesn't stop with us. He regularly ambushes the other cats--especially the youngest, Peaches--who avoid him at best and are downright afraid of him at worst. In short, he is a bully. And, I think, he knows it.

I can't help wondering why he would attack me. The act was deliberate, even though the doctor was required to indicate that the attack was 'provoked' by me because I was petting him at the time. Had he crossed the room to attack me for no reason, it would be considered 'unprovoked', but to me the distinction is a false one. This cat really had no reason to bite me, especially twice, for we were not 'playing' nor was I teasing him. I sat down on the floor and he came over to let me pet him. No sooner than I touched his head, he turned over and seized my wrist with a force that would surely end the life of a small bird or rodent.

But I am not a bird or--depending on whom you ask--a rodent, so it seems to me that he had to know what he was doing. It is not enough to absolve him by say, 'Oh he didn't know what he was doing' because, I think, he did know what he was doing. It wasn't a simple scratch or warning; in fact it came without the warning I needed to protect myself.

So, I have a new way to keep from getting hurt; I will not touch him again for some time. It's his loss, really, but I haven't any choice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Half

As Zeno's arrow falls
Short by half,
We are dancing round
A Golden Calf.

Zeno, let your arrow fly
Logic does good sense defy.

A million mouths have been fed
Ten million more hungry went to bed.
Ten billion souls with no place to go.

Tell me, then, your tale of woe.

04.19.08

Beam

Razor saw ripped
From the Earth
The beam now raised over head.

Water-stretched fibers
Once reached for the Sun;
Now for the stud
On opposite wall.

Stained, nailed but
Not long enough dead
To forget.

It knows yet what it is
And longs to sag;
Corrupting the pure line
Of the saw's awful will.

04.21.08

Twist

It's the Helix
Not the Spire
Brought us in
From the Fire.

But why the twist?
Is that why Space and Time exist?

Truth is neither
Particle nor Wave
Cast the shadows in
Plato's Cave.

04.18.08

Beg Not

Death does not make us proud.
The Shadow falls and
Bargaining begins.

What do you want?

More Time?
Less Pain?
More Love?

What will you give?

More Money?
Less Suffering?
More Sex?

The game is over.
Beg not
How nor why
Lest you lose the rest.

08.13.08

Death Abundant

Savage seas
Are ripe with Life.

Clear waters disguise
Death abundant with
Prismatic raiments.

Hide in plain sight.
Still, it stalks you.

08.15.08

April

Come in young poet!
Dust the snow off
Precious April, and
Hear from me about
Winter's call.

Summer has yet to appear on
Your horizon, while
I am set.

Sit by the fire with me,
For what it takes
Read not words but
Meaning take from
Nimble old hands.

Cut out your words and
Dry them in the furnace Sun;
If you'll feed me in old age,
Though toothless I will still
Eat your Poems.

09.13.08

Tapestry

One hundred eleven and one half kilos.

This one weighs more
Than the morbidly obese
Englishman munching salad.
Our tapestry is woven with
But a single golden thread.

To me it is seamless
But to all others a
Disjunction of face.

We piece together the
Whole, and smile
To keep it blurry.

9.22.08

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hope

As I reveled in the optimism spawned by Obama's election, it occurred to me that he is the first president in my lifetime who is actually younger than me.

At 47, Barak Obmama is also the first President who is of my generation, so to speak. Bill Clinton, while fairly young, was still from a generation just prior to my own, and thus, though he was cool, he did not, alas for us, 'inhale'. Obama, on the other hand, is more than young and cool, in the way that has nothing to do with inhaling, but everything to do with hope for change. This, I suspect, was the same hope that President Kennedy represented for my parent's generation.

I know, of course, that there were plenty of Americans who despised Kennedy, because now I know how polarized our country is and has been for many generations now, and that his margin of victory was slim at best. But as a child whose parents clearly respected and admired Kennedy, I had the impression that he was a popular, if not the most popular President, an impression actually formed well after his death.

In some ways it was because of his death--or the way he died--that this political consciousness was born in my brain. The day was November 22, 1963, and I was in my second grade classroom when the Principal came on the loudspeaker and announced to the class that the President had been shot and killed. School was out that day, and I do not recall much more about it on going home. I do recall how my teacher began to cry, and how upset my parents, particularly my Mother was. I was seven at the time, and understood well enough what it meant to die, though I had no sense of how devastating this was for the idealists like my parents, whose time it seemed had come and gone in all too brief a moment.

The fact that it was a Texan in the White House mattered little other than to drive home the differences between Kennedy and Johnson. Though he was a good man, with what my parents considered to be good intent--where have I heard this one before?--Johnson did not have the grace, the excitement or the optimism that Kennedy represented to intellectuals like them.

Ironically, after his death, they remembered Kennedy not so much for what he did, but for the vast potential for change that they had lost. In death, to Lynda in particular, his was the perfect Presidency, a 'fact' I only later learned to be false in the larger political context that emerged in the Sixties.

Now, since I came of age in the early seventies, Nixon's presidency was for me the 'Anti-Presidency'. This was to stand until Bush, Jr. ascended to that title, and though Clinton gave us some change and reason to hope, his peculiar blunders cost him, and us, more than it ought to have.

But hope has returned to my horizon. I know now what my parents must have felt now nearly a half-century ago. How time flies!

So, now we have another President cut from the same cloth in Obama. At a time in my life when it is at such a premium, I am pleased to feel again s sense of hope.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sugar

I am back on sugar. I bought a candy bar again today, and it's not the first. I've also been drinking Dr. Pepper and Coke again regularly, almost, but not quite, to the exclusion of water.

Though I have no doubt this this is unhealthy, I have managed to convince myself equally logically, that this is a rightful response to the depression I've experienced as a result of Pierre's death. In other words, even though I attempted to quit consuming so much sugar, especially since the illness that almost literally consumed me during the months leading up to Lynda's death, my reliance on sugar for the metabolic energy I need to get through the day is actually a beneficial return to the lifestyle that proved productive for me for so many years prior to the deaths of Lynda and Pierre.

Is it folly to think that what worked for me then could work for me now? When I was younger, it seemed easy to dismiss the damage done with the substance, yet now it seems somehow vital, literally. My understanding of biology is so crude that I cannot explain why this should be so, yet I think that the peculiarities of my own metabolism are skewed towards a high sugar, low calorie diet.

It seems now like my efforts to reverse those polarities for the sake of my health were misguided, and that trust in the diet that has gotten me this far is not unreasonable.

Waller Creek

And, I can even annote these pictures!  So, I guess this would be 1003 words! Ok that's enough for the day, yes?

On the go...

Well, keeping up with the latest in gadgetry and the web enables me to post pictures as well as words, so if you thought there were already too many words in this journal, you will be dismayed to see them being added in increments of one thousand. 

If, however, you cannot get enough Greyghost, well now you can enjoy some of the sights that I find shareworthy.  It's your lucky day!

This is a shot of the fountain at Jester circle, right outside the building where I work, taken with my phone, the G1.

Greyghost a Genius?

Watching a television program on 'Genius' last night, one gifted young pianist, when asked if he thought he was a genius, responded, "Not yet, but I plan to be."

Well, I have to tell you, that about sums it up for me too. I'm working on it.

Granted, this is a rather arrogant, coming from a 52 year old, rather than an eight year old, but it describes perfectly the sense of becoming that is shared, not just between precocious youth and wistful middle-age, but by all thoughtful individuals. I should add the word hopeful as a descriptor as well, for in fact, it is a function of hope that I still believe I have the potential to be a genius.

Ok, maybe that's a little extreme, but the point here is that, battered and bruised by the events of the past year, I have somehow managed to hold onto some shed of hope. This I have for my life and dreams of being a thinker and a writer; of seeing Madelaine find her way through school and into the stream of life; of securing my love and relationship with Valery as we grow older together.

On a beautiful crisp fall day like today, it is not difficult to imagine and hope for the future, reminded, even as I am, that this crest is merely that, and the trough below is not simply an invention of my battered psyche. It is there, waiting, but I am here delicately balanced on the edge, enjoying the view for the moment, thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Cool Drink of Water

Hot salty tears ran down my face last night as the words of President-elect Obama--eloquent, intelligent and emotional--cooled and refreshed my long-parched pride in this amazing and wonderful social experiment we know as the United States.

Although I have had to hang my head for eight years now, listening to a man who always managed to sound less intelligent and thoughtful than he surely is or was, at last we have a leader in whom I can be proud because he is intelligent, thoughtful and articulate.

He has also sense of history, and this, to me, is particularly important quality for a leader, one that has been sorely missing from the awareness and therefore, the agenda of Mr. Bush. In a historical sense, then, Mr. Obama's statement that "The government of the people...has not perished from this Earth" was more than an appropriation of the word of Lincoln.

In a very real sense--and obviously I am merely picking up on the inference--Obama is Lincoln's successor. Now, it is of course premature and unfair to make assumptions about the nature of Obama's presidency, but it is fair to note that it is by virtue of Lincoln's vision that another junior senator from Illinois has in fact become President, despite his age and race.

The man got it right last night. If we do indeed still need proof that Mr. Lincoln was right to engage in war to preserve the Union, Mr. Obama should be it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote

Well, today is election day, of course, and I can't let it go by without a comment. Since the purpose of this journal, ostensibly, is to record for Maddie and others what my experiences and thoughts are/were, this entry is not therefore about politics but voting, specifically what it means to me.

It is symbolic to me that I wait until the Election Day to actually cast my vote. The threat of long lines--much as I, typical American, detest waiting for anything--is no deterrence. For one thing, as many times as I have voted, I have never once had to wait on line longer than a half an hour. This is simply low voter turnout defined.

Of course, if everyone in my neighborhood decides to get up and go down to the middle school at the end of the block, we could indeed have a long line. But if only those who are self aware and conscientious enough to vote get up and go down there, suffice it to say that the numbers are greatly reduced. If the numbers from past elections are any guide, less than half of those eligible will get out and vote today.

So we are now back from the polling place and sure enough, there was no wait. No line but there was what looked like a steady stream of folks going in and out. Certainly the booths were for the most part occupied when I stepped up, so I guess that over the course of a day, perhaps more than half of us will make the effort.

Politics is an overworked topic, especially by this time, but the culmination of the many months that led up to this day is personal and tactile. It is something that I get to do, at long last, in response to the whole show and charade. This small act of casting my ballot isn't much, by many standards, but by others it is the single most important act of a responsible citizen. I feel privileged to be allowed to act as as a citizen of the United States, and, even if part of me says that it is simply symbolic, or even futile (here in Texas), I will not allow negativity to overcome my sense of pride.

My most fervent hope is that whoever is elected President, he will validate that pride with responsible and positive action.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thanks, Mom!

A friend of mine wrote me from Europe yesterday and she inquired, quite naturally, if I was being affected by the financial crisis. She advised me to stay in for the long term.

Fortunately, this is easy advice to follow, for we haven't any stocks, and our investments, if they may be called that, are in such forms as do not seem to be threatened as yet. Does anyone else just keep their money in a savings account or bonds? I guess we are not sophisticated enough to have made the move to more profitable assets, but then, we are now the beneficiaries of the simple approach. In many ways, I have Mom--both Billie and Lynda--to thank for this fundamental attitude. It is Billie, however, whose example has for me been more influential.

Early in our marriage, she gave us a small embroidered motto which hung in a small wooden frame next to the stove in our house for many years; in many kitchens, many houses.

"Live within Your Means" it reminded us, and though some would argue that we could do no more, I am thoughtful of the way that Billie lived this same advice, as an example for us to follow. Generous to a fault, especially when we were younger and struggling a bit, Billie nonetheless helped me always to think about conservation and recycling. In other words, use what you have and don't be wasteful! Simple advice from the voice of experience. Having this direct connection with the generation who really knew the effects of the Depression has been good for me, and now more than ever.

This reminder, that there was a time when good men could not find work and families went hungry--and it hasn't been so long ago--is useful now when it seem like conditions are returning to that dreadful time. But it was especially useful in times of profit and security, as we experienced for many years up until this past one. Now it is more practical than ever. At the point in our lives where we no longer need or desire more things, we are reaping the benefits of that long held advice from who else but Mom.

Lynda had her influence on me in this regard, but I am particularly grateful to have had Billie's counterbalance to her rather severe responses to the same or similar experiences. The investment in which we have placed the most 'assets' is in each other and reward is the modest, comfortable home that we now enjoy thanks to both of them.

Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Today is Sunday, and that means the NFL.

I know, it's contradictory to my appearance, if only because so many people have expressed surprise on hearing that I not only follow a team but follow the League from week to week. It's as if I just don't look the part, but when the batos in the kitchen hear me hollerin' for the Horns, they nod their heads and marvel at the old egghead who, believe it or not, actually watches football.

I confess, I've been watching football on Sundays since my parents bought our first TV in 1967. While my father listened to Opera--Sunday Afternoon at the Met--on the radio in the living room as he stamped gold leaf letters on black leather Bibles in the adjoining den, I would turn on the TV in the room next to the kitchen (where it was relegated in our 'book' house)and watch tiny, grainy black and white images of the game of the day. With the sound turned down to just above zero so the opera could be heard in every corner of the house, I had to sit six inches from the screen to hear and see the action.

The Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams were my favorite teams, but LA only because I loved their quarterback at the time, Roman Gabriel. Dallas was and always has been 'my' team.

I am a great fan of quarterbacks, as, I suppose, most NFL fans are. It makes sense to me because more than any other player on the team, they define the game on the field each week. No other team sport (save sailing) requires the skill and charisma of a leader like the NFL quarterback. Don Meredith was the QB for the 'Boys back then, and then came Craig Morton and Roger Staubach. I particularly enjoy watching the great passing quarterbacks, like Aikman and Staubach, but I also like the guys who can scramble, like Vince Young and Tony Romo. Both types have the ability to orchestrate the actions of big men, flying around at full speed and doing their best to execute a series of pre-planned yet entirely spontaneous physical actions. Each man is in his own world in the moment of live action, covering his own territory or running his own route, so it is the quarterback who must unite them, often in just less than three or four seconds.

This is the magic of the 'play'; 'the' moment that millions hold their breaths for a thousand times or more every Sunday. The play is a dance, really, but unlike dance, where the perfect execution of the plan is expected as a measure for the quality of the performance, the football play deviates from the plan in the first millisecond after the ball moves. By the time of the exchange between center and quarterback, chaos reigns on the stage; perfect execution is never achieved nor expected. It is assumed that even the best performance by either offense or defense will disrupt the other. It's like ballet with consequences. And I love it.

So, if you are looking for me on a Sunday afternoon, and you drop by my house and see the ladder up on the outside of the house but no paint being applied, come inside. I am in the bedroom, in front of the flat screen TV--about twelve inches, now--with the sound turned way up. No opera here.