Monday, August 07, 2017

MAKE MINE SUNNY SIDE UP

"The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, even God. The mind's sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy. The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg."
Annie Dillard, writing about an Eclipse

Watercolor by Joseph Zbukvic

Friday, August 04, 2017

A SAD LITTLE LIZARD TOLD ME ON HIS MOTHERS SIDE HE WAS A BRONTOSAURIS


Something has been digging little dime sized holes in my garden. They don’t go straight down. They go kinda sideways. Like a little thumb sized armadillos. They leave a little pile of dirt that is dug out, and this little dime sized hole. I thought “What could it be?”
Then Friday I came home from work. I was startled by an animal making a sudden get-a-way in my garden. A Lizard!
A BIG lizard!
He must have been a foot long and he had been digging. There was a hole about the size of a silver dollar and a huge pile of dirt there. So that’s what it is. Its these little lizards I been seeing, and the great-granddaddy. But why? Why are they digging these holes? For food? For shelter? Hmmm….

So I went inside and got ready for Susan to come over so we could go out to eat. An hour and a half later there’s a knock at the door. Susan!
I open the door, and there is Susan at the other end of the porch. She is freaking out.
“MY GOD STEVE THERE IS SOMETHING ON YOUR PORCH! ITS HUGE AND BROWNANDGREYANDGREEN WITH BIGTEETHANDGILLS WITH A LONGTAIL AND CLAWS”

She’s wild eyed, Susan is, so I smiled and said ‘I know! It’s a lizard! He and a bunch of others live in my garden. Come see!” So Susan eases over real cautious like and I show here the little holes, and then the big one. “I think there are five or six big ones living down there. It goes down about 5 feet into a huge anteroom” I tell her. She’s calmed down a little now, and bends over a little to look down the hole.
That’s when I yelled “AGGGHHHH!” and pinched her on her leg, and she jumped about 15 feet into the air and screamed “AGGGHHHH” and now we are both looking at each other wild eyed and screaming AGGGGHHH and that’s when she clobbered me. “Its not funny” Susan said and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

So we went inside, talked a bit, and decided on Mexican Inn. Its right across the freeway. When we stepped outside I looked again at the big hole. But the big hole was gone! It was all covered up! Why would that lizard dig a hole and cover it up? About then Susan said “Look! There he is!” and I looked down and this great-granddaddy of a lizard was looking up at me, just calm as could be, from right there at my feet.
“Hello Mr. Lizard “ I said.
He bobbed his head as if to say hello.
So I knelt down real slow like, and I swear that lizard was looking at me like a big ol’ Cocker Spaniel, and he swished his tail.
“Do you know how to shake, boy?” I said, and stuck my finger his direction. He cocked his head the other direction lifted a little lizard foot and shook my finger. “Pleased to make your acquaintance”
‘Susan said “Oh my God Steve, you just shook hands with that lizard.”
I said “You know, it aint natural for a lizard to do that. He must be like Mr. Jingles, the circus mouse from ‘The Green Mile’ ”.
But then the neighbor’s cat jumped down from the balcony and POOF, Mr. Lizard scurried away.
So I looked it up today, what Mr. Lizard was doing in my garden with all the holes.
 He’s laying eggs!
You know what that means?
That great granddaddy of a lizard is a girl!
From now on its Ms. Lizard!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

ANOTHER SEMESTER OF THIS SHIT

Somehow I wound up in an Honors algebra class in the 9th grade. I wasn’t smoking pot for another year, but I discovered Rhonda, and how much fun getting my hands in her pockets was, and I also discovered that I was brilliant enough to pass Algebra without doing any homework. This set the tone for the rest of my academic career with the discovery that a class could be passed without actually, you know, knowing the material. I may have PASSED Algebra, but by no stretch of the imagination could I actually DO Algebra.

The chickens came home to roost the next year in Geometry, where I was surprised to find that knowing some Algebra would have been good. That’s how I flunked my first class ever. Oh, the pot probably didn’t help.

The next year I was in Chemistry, and without any Algebra or Geometry skills, I was toast there too, and ended up in a remedial math class as a Senior, because the State required its students to have passed at least one HS math class.

It was Speech Class and the Debate Club that saved my HS experience. Watergate had been going on, and Nixon resigned at the start of my senior year, and I was into it enough to think I might want to be a lawyer. I thought I did until about April, when I was called to the Deans office because I hadnt attended any classes except for Speech and Government in months. I had to sit outside his office and wait while he got ready to bust my balls, and it was while I sat staring at pictures of past Principals lined up on the wall that I had an epiphany.
I was a horrible student.
I didn’t want to be a lawyer, if being a lawyer meant another 8 years of school. I didnt want to be a lawyer if it meant even one more semester of this shit. So I decided then and there to be a chef. Because, well I like to eat.
The last day of school when you clean out your locker and turn in your books? I had to go to the office and find out my locker number and the combination.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

TRADITIONS

My mother asked me if I remembered
The time we got drunk and cheered for the Cowboys.

“It was our first playoff without Staubach” said I 
“I cooked a roast, there was beer in the fridge” said she. 
But there hadn’t been enough beer for a game that close. 
I went to the corner store at halftime.


By the time the fourth quarter started we were down 
Fourteen points with two beers each left.
 How could I forget the way that she howled 
The way that I screamed and danced 
When Pearson put us ahead with forty three seconds left?


We didn’t make a tradition of it, 
The way we made a tradition of playing 
“BugBite” when I was a boy 
The way we sat together at church, 
Me holding the hymnal 
While she sang In The Garden 
Saturday night and Chicken Spaghetti 
Roast beef with homemade giant bread 
Shopping for school clothes 
Meeting the new girlfriend 
The way she called me Stephen when I was in trouble- 
“Wait till your father gets home”- 
And Stevie when I was not. 
We didn’t make a tradition of getting drunk,
 Mom and I, 
(I wish that we had) 
And I‘d never heard her howl like that. 
There was no way of knowing 
Mom would die a few years later. 

The summer had been hot, 
Now the January days were crisp and blue, 
We had no way of knowing that Danny White
Would take us to 3 NFC championships in a row 
And lose them all.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

S'POSED TO KNOW BETTER

When I was about 9 years old I would sneak up to dads room. I’d open the top drawer of his bureau, move aside the three stacks of handkerchief's, and pull out his .22 caliber revolver with the 9” barrel. I’d feel the heft of it in my hand, aim it at the window, feel the resistance on the trigger. 

One day while doing all that I accidentally discharged the gun. Right onto the wall behind the bureau. 
WHOOOPS! 
It didn’t leave a real big hole in the wall, less than the size of a dime. It took a week or two for dad to notice it. 
Dad had taught me about guns. It wasn’t the first time I’d fired it. It was the first time I fired it unsupervised though. I knew better than to do what I’d done. But lifes lessons with me are usually hard learned. Dad didn’t whip me. He didn’t even move the gun. But he took the bullets out. From time to time Dad would get a far away look on his face and tell me how sometimes he would wake up in a cold sweat thinking about me and that gun.
I think about that gun every now and then, especially when I’m tempted to do something that I know better than to do. 

It was weird last night. I was shifting from one dream to another. In a moment of lucidity I thought about that gun.
And I did something I’d never done before. 
Quite on purpose, I dreamed of the house in Detroit with the bureau and the gun. I walked up the stairs. There was the weird purple wallpaper. Take a right at the top of the stairs, and into the master bath, with the tile, glass and mirrors. Then into mom and dads room, with the big wall of windows looking into the backyard, and the fireplace at the end of the room. Turn right, and there is the bureau. 
I’m nine years old again, and have to look on tippy-toes into the top drawer. 
I move the handkerchief’s. 
There it is. Dad’s old revolver. 
I pull it out and wonder what would happen if I put it to my head and pull the trigger. 
Its just a dream, right? 
Or would the whole world change- now-then-everything in between- with me not in it? 
I looked at the gun. Felt its heft. Aimed it at the window, felt the resistance on the trigger. 
I put it back in the drawer. 
Better not risk it. 
Better not risk changing the whole world. 
Besides, I’m supposed to know better, even if knowing better hasn’t always stopped me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

WE'RE GOING TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYONE


There was a great golden maned lion that killed an elephant and brought it home for dinner. He dragged it into his den, proudly`.
The wife took one look at it and said “You cant keep that lyin’ there”
And he said “But honey, its not a lion, its an elephant”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND


Years ago a girlfriend and I drove from Niagara Falls to Texas. Driving through Pennsylvania was gorgeous. Living down here in the south, we tend to think of the northeast as just one big city. But its not that way at all, is it? The big city is the exception, even in New York, is it not? Head north from the city, and see the Hudson. Head west and behold, the Finger Lakes!
So yes, driving through Pennsylvania farmlands, over rivers and streams, both large and small, and past vineyards on the eastern slopes of mountainsides that enjoy the morning sun was very nice. So too were the green fields with perfectly placed golden bales of hay, as though arranged by a great painter. But first…
But first we had to get out of Buffalo.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

BLACK SABBATH





I saw a story today that reminded me of the 9th grade, when I discovered Black Sabbath.
I was in my room, listening to Ironman and mom cracked open the door and peeked in.
"What is that you are listening to?" she asked.
"Black Sabbath mom"
She looked concerned, but only said "Oh my".
I said "Some people say they are satanic, but I dont think so. What do you think mom?"
She scrunched up her face. "I think they might be" she said.
"No mom, I mean do you LIKE them?"
"No, not too much Stevie" and she closed the door.


And here is the story, as gathered at Alive On All Channels:

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir
by Sherman Alexie~


“And then after your mom was done singing in the choir,” Pernell said, “I saw your mom rolling in the aisle and speaking in tongues.”
“No way,” I said. “She was probably just speaking Spokane.”
My mother was one of the few tribal members who were still fluent in the old way of speaking Spokane.
“It wasn’t Indian talk,” Pernell said. “It was her Jesus voice.”

There were quite a few Spokane Indians who fell in love with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. I think it’s rather easy for a universally damaged people like Native Americans to believe wholeheartedly in miracles, in the supernatural. But I’d never thought of my mother as a Spokane who’d go that far.
“I’m not lying,” Pernell said.
“I believe you, Jack,” I said, though I hoped he was mistaken.
When I got home from school, I immediately asked my mother if she’d been speaking in tongues.
“Yes,” she said.
“Weird,” I said, and walked downstairs to my room.

I figured my mother was pretending to speak in tongues. She was just acting, I thought. It’s like a one-woman show, I guessed. My mother had always been so dramatic. And what’s more dramatic than an Indian woman rolling down the aisle of a little reservation church?

I tried to put it out of my mind, to allow my mother to freely practice her religion as much as she allowed me to fully practice my nonreligion. But, a few weeks later, I crawled out of my Sunday-morning slumber and walked the mile to her church.

And there she was, along with the white couple who led the church and a few dozen Spokane Indians, throwing books, magazines, and music albums onto a bonfire.
My mother and her fellow indigenous Charismatics were chanting something about the Devil—about the evil of the secular world—about all the sin-soaked novels and porn magazines and rock music.
I was grossed out.
On opposite sides of the bonfire, my mother and I made eye contact. But I think she was so deeply entranced—so hypnotized and self-hypnotized—that she didn’t recognize me.
I hurried home to make sure my small personal library of books and records was intact and unburned. And, yes, all was safe.

Later that night, at the dinner table, I told my mother to leave my stuff alone or I’d burn down her church.
“You’re a sinner,” she said, and pointed her fork at me.
“And so are you,” I said, and pointed my fork right back at her.




Friday, June 16, 2017

A RECOVERING RAGERS CREED



1. I will practice self-restraint as a top priority today.

2. When angry, I will act the opposite of how I feel.

3. If I feel like my anger is about to erupt I will QUIETLY leave the situation.

4. I will find truth in all criticisms directed towards me today, especially from my partner.

5. I will say “You are right” in a sincere meaningful way when criticized.

6. I will give an example of how the person who criticized me is right.

7. I will repeat this to myself “I am better off being wrong, because when I’m right, I’m a real jerk”

8. I will avoid trying to explain myself.

9. I will listen to my partner when they tell me about their day. I’ll make eye contact, and turn off the TV.

10. I will avoid giving unsolicited advice to anyone, especially my partner and children.

11. I will avoid blaming people for things today, especially if it was their fault.

12. I will avoid trying to make people “understand”.

13. I will look for opportunity to praise everyone today, even the cat.

14. I will humbly commit to removing my angry behaviors today as my contribution towards a more peaceful world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE CARDIFF GIANT



Back in 1850, a guy named George Hull had a 10 foot giant carved of gypsum in Iowa, and shipped to his farm in Cardiff New York. He buried the carving in his yard, and a year later hired two well diggers to “discover” the petrified man. He was called “The Cardiff Giant”, and Hull charged 25 cents a person to see the giant under a tent he had erected. He made, in today's money, roughly 400,000 dollars.
PT Barnum came to see the giant and tried to buy it. Hull refused to sell. Barnum had a giant of his own made, declared Hull’s giant “Fake”and advertised his as “The True Cardiff Giant”.
Hull sold his giant to a guy named Hannum. Hannum accused Barnam of having a fake giant, saying “There is a sucker born every minute” (wrongly attributed over time to Barnum himself) and sued Barnum for calling his giant a fake.
A wise  judge asked Hannum to have his giant "swear under oath" he was indeed the real one. Hannum confessed his giant was a fake.
The court ruled both giants were obviously fakes, and that Barnum could not be sued for calling a fake giant a fake.
A big giant fake, just like our president.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DAVE DREAMING

"We are going through a phase where its less if you can have, have, and more if you can have, have quickly"

I don't know if Dave posted this, or if he said it, but last night I dreamed he did.

Friday, June 09, 2017

DEADHEADING

When I flew back from NYC last fall, I sat next to a stewardess that was “Deadheading” back from France. That’s where they fly out to there working, and then fly back as a passenger.  She had headphones on, but I motioned to her to take them off, and I started talking to her.
“I was in NYC when I was a kid 50 years ago. I cant tell how much its changed since then, if it has” I started “I was down on company business, and I wanted to go to see the Tower, but I was in a company truck, and driving down that highway at night, traffic everywhere, and then it hit, that wall of lights that is Manhattan, I could almost hear it buzz and I still hadn’t even crossed over the river, and I got to the Brooklyn bridge, and I chickened out. I didn’t cross over. I was nervous, in that company truck and all that traffic, and not knowing where I was going”
She smiled at me and said “You did the right thing” and started to put her headphones back on.
I was relieved that someone agreed that I paid attention to my gut feeling.
 I said “You know its funny. I’m scared to death of heights. I cant hardly pass over a bridge without freaking out a little. I don’t even like parking in a two story garage. Going into a 100 story building that had windows, I don’t think I could do that without some kind of safety harness on in case something sucked me out the window. But flying in a plane, and looking out the window, it doesn’t bother me at all”
The stewardess lady, she excused herself, and was gone a while, and when she came back she brought me a little blanket, and some headphones of my own, and showed me how to plug them into the TV so I could watch TV!
She was just really nice, wasn’t she?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

DONALD TRUMP HAS TWO PROBLEMS



                  1) Appearances
                  2) Reality

Friday, June 02, 2017

LANGUAGE RULES

"“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”

From a cool article here.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

OUR HIGHLY SKILLED AND INTELLIGENT STAFF ARE EAGERLY WAITING TO SERVE YOU

Once or twice a month when I’m driving my 6 minute commute to work I think about a conversation I had with a superior at HDQ five years ago.
We had a new program, and I was complaining about it.
All these mouse clicks. Box after box of redundant information. More redundant information, more mouse clicks leading to more redundant information, redundant information that also happened to be SUPERFLUOUS in my expert opinion.
My superior listened patiently as a blew off a bunch of steam.
I’m not sure what it takes to light a fire under this guy, but he is always so calm it makes me wonder what they are giving him.
Whatever it is, I don’t want it. I need my mania, my angst. I keeps me sharp. Keeps me on edge.
He said he would take a look at it all. Nothing really came from it. I think they removed one box that I no longer have to check off.

So like I said , I think about that conversation every now and then driving in to work.
And what it really boils down to is just one question:
“Do you want this job or not, Steve?”

Because for half the pay, instead of doing needless mouse clicks, I could be digging a ditch somewhere.

My Dad, far left and the team at Hobbs Trailers Fort Worth Branch, 1963

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TEX COBB

Lubbock Texas boxer Tex Cobb took a horrible beating for 15 rounds against Larry Holmes in 1982. It was one of the most lopsided matches in boxing history.

A reporter asked Tex if he had talked any trash to Holmes during the 15 rounder.
"No, every time I tried, he stuck his left in my mouth"
Another asked how he thought he'd done
"I was wearing him down, if it had gone 20, I could take him"
Another asked about a rematch and Cobb says "I don't think his hands can take that kind of abuse."

The fight was so lopsided, and the beating so brutal that Howard Cosell quit announcing boxing ten days later.
Cobb was typically laconic. "I have done my sport a great service"

Asked if Holmes hit as hard as Shavers, he says "No, Larry don't hit as hard as Ernie Shavers. No-one hits as hard as Shavers. If there was a fighter that hit harder than Shavers, I shoot him!"


Another asked if he would want a rematch...
"Yeah, but this time I want to fight Holmes in a phone booth"

And on a possible bout with Jerry Clooney:
"Sure, I'd love to fight him. But I have my price, twenty-five cents and a loose woman."

Ya gotta love Tex Cobb.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

THAT BASTARD

I only had one teacher ever lay a hand on me. It was Mr Gittins in the 1st grade. I lived in Detroit, it was November and the water in the sandboxes had frozen over. I was out there with my buddies banging my heel into the ice, and the water underneath was splashing all the way up to my knees. It was probably about 32 degrees being November and all, and I was just about sopping wet and having the time of my life when suddenly a hand grabbed me by the nape of my neck and pulled me out.

Mt. Gittins carried me like a kitten, legs kicking to the office.
They had my mother bring some dry clothes.
That Bastard.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A BULLETHOLES DREAM

Back in the 50's, when Eisenhauer was president, we were doing a lot of research in the Arctic.
For the first time, an eskimo was going to come to Washington and visit the White House.
So he comes, and sets up an Igloo right there on the White House lawn and that night attends a fancy state dinner with President Eisenhauer.
After dinner, the president walks him back to the igloo On the way they talk about Arctic exploration, Baby Harp seals, the Russians and some of the issues of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
They make it back to the igloo, there on the White House lawn and the president asks the eskimo
"So whats it like in that Igloo?"
And the eskimo says "Its fucking cold"

In a dream someone told me this joke. I woke up, and shifted dreams. In my new dream I was telling the joke to  to Denny Crane and James Spader. When I got to the punchline I was laughing so hard I couldn't say it. I couldn't get it out.
"And the eskimo says......ahhahahehee... The eskimo says hahahahahehehe...he says its f-f-f-f hahahaha.......says its.....hahaha..... the eskimo says "Its fucking cold".

Crane and Spader just look at me like I'm an idiot, clink their martini glasses together.
Spader says "Well, I'm satisfied" and Crane says "Lock and load"
Then I woke up.
Where did I hear this eskimo joke? Or did I really just dream it?


Friday, April 14, 2017

FOLLOW YOUR DREAM

Sometimes people ask me if I watch any of the Chef shows.
"No, I cant stand them. But I watch Jacques Pepin."
Coming in May, a PBS American Masters on the great chef, and this, from a lovely interview with him.
"If you’ve never cooked and you start learning about it, you start feeling good about yourself. And suddenly cooking is not such an incredible job to do. You say, “Fine, I’ll pick up a couple of things.” I did a short piece for WNET about pears. The idea is that paradox: that when I do a recipe, I have a great freedom. But when I type the recipe and give it to someone, it’s totally strict and organized. It’s exactly the opposite of the freedom I had when I started the recipe.
When people do one of my recipes, you should always follow it exactly the first time you do it, and if it comes out good and you like it, you can do it again. The second time, maybe you take a fast look. The third time you don’t look at it. By the fourth time, you can probably improve the recipe—you think, “I’m going to put more tomato, and less of that.” And a year later, you don’t even know where it comes from—it has become your recipe. You massage it enough so that it fits your sense of aesthetic. If someone does that with my recipe, that is fine. They’ve taken it, they’ve done something. So that’s good."

As he teaches you a recipe, there is often a recurring line as he shows you how to do something, or how much of this or that to throw in the pot, or what a substitute might be.
"You don't have to worry too much" Chef Pepin says.
And in the article he talks about "massaging" a recipe, and making it your own.
Occasionally I'll teach someone a recipe.
I translate this idea of not worrying, and massaging recipes to "Follow Your Dream"
Can we add more garlic, more apples, or leave out the onion?
"Certainement! Just follow your dream!"

Thursday, April 13, 2017

SEARCHIN' FOR MY LOST SHAKER OF SALT

A few years back I was going to the church I grew up in. Like some kind of homecoming., right? There wasn’t anyone left hardly that I knew from when I went there as a boy.
Anyway, I got involved in the Singles group. There were ten women…and me.
They knew I wasn't much of a believer, but were thrilled to have me around. Sometimes I’d stay for the worship service. That delighted them.
Then one day they asked if I wanted to go to Miguelitos after.  I said yes.
I got there before them, and ordered two plates of nachos.
They came in, sat down and started to tell me about the Singles Group at Gateway.
“They are all about renting limos, drinking, and “hooking up”. We are all about the Lord!”

About that time the waiter brought the nachos.
I looked up at him and said “You might want to cancel those pitchers of Margaritas”
I looked out at the table of my new singles class friends. They looked rather dumbfounded. I did my best to keep my poker face. The waiter looked at me confused, and after a long pause he asked:
 “Oh , you wanted pitchers of Margaritas too? Frozen, or on the rocks?”
 I looked at the lady who had just finished telling me about limos, drinks and hooking up. They were all looking at me, but no one was smiling. My face cracked and I bit my lip. 
First one, then all of the ladies from my singles class cracked up.


I tell you what, for a minute there it was touch and go.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

MY GRAND ENTRANCE

I recall a bachelor party I went to in 1982. Actually, it was two bachelor parties.

The first bachelor party was at a strip club. Somehow I ended up with a strippers thong and G-String. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
The next night, there was another bachelor party, kind of. A guy at work, Jack, was getting married and we went to his house at midnight when we got off work to party. I pulled up in front of Jacks house and remembered I had Crystal’s (the stripper from the night before) thong and G-String. So, I took of all my clothes and put them on, and a catchers mask and mitt I happened to have as well, and went bursting in the front door,  hopped up on to the coffee table singing and dancing to “Dirty White Boy”.
And was horrified to see Jacks three sisters sitting on the couch, in town from Boise.

Monday, April 03, 2017

MY FISH DIED

I'd forgotten about Blue Bayou's immaculate origins. I had bought her for my sisters birthday. Got a little glass bowl, filled it with those pretty glass rocks and some green seaweed, and Blue, a purplish blue and pink fan tailed Boa. I took it up to the rehabilitation hospital where my sister was recovering from a neck surgery.
I entered the room 'Happy Birthday Lisa!" but Lisa had had a bad day. She didnt like it there at all. There was a sign on her door that she was NOT to be disturbed for any reason before 9am, and that day Lisa had trashed her room like a rock star. I don't think she had thrown the TV out the window, but she had given it her best shot. She didn't want any part of me or Blue, and the next day she split from Rehab against medical advice and walked home.
Luckily, it was only about 5 blocks, but I think she would have tried it even if it had been 50 miles.
And that's how I came to have a fish named Blue Bayou.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

BECKETT GOES TO THE GROCERY



I was out of trash bags for a week. Every time I went to the store, I forgot them. Last week at 10 O’clock at night I decided I was tired of the trash that was collecting on my table, on the counter, in a nice neat pile there by the front door, so I went to the grocery.

All the way to the back of the store I go. Past the dish soap, the spray starch, greeting cards, light bulbs, charcoal and paper plates Here at last, the garbage bags!



Why would they put a pallet of chocolate chip cookies there by the trash bags? Cookies are supposed to be at the other end of the store. And its not just chocolate chips, but the ones with M&M’s, brightly colored, and pecan sandies, and even those chocolate dipped marshmallow rosettes on the cookie crust.
I hadn’t bought cookies in a year.

I looked. I resisted. I looked and started to step away, Stopped. Started. Why would they do this. Brightly colored M&M’s. They call. The pastel tans of the sandies. Beckoning, like a white whale. Huge chunks of chocolate.
Away! Away! Get thee away!
Two steps and back.
Four steps and back.
Yet again.
I staggered ten steps to aisle 9 and started to take a left.
Stopped. Started. Away!
I can’t. I must.
I go on. Halfway down the aisle now. I can’t go on.
I’m hooked. I knew from the minute I saw them.
In a half trance I turn and moonwalk back to the brightly colored reds, blues, yellows.
All the little elves, dancing gaily from the hollow tree.
They want to go home with me. I want to take them there.
I limit myself to one package. Only one stop more now.
A half gallon of milk.
And home.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ANOTHER NIGHT IN THE RUINS

"How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
is
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?"

Galway Kimmel

I went searching for "Galways crow",  which was in a Raymond Carver poem, and this is what I found.

PICTURES OF THE WORLD GONE WRONG

“It was a face which darkness could kill
in an instant
a face as easily hurt
by laughter or light

'We think differently at night'
she told me once
lying back languidly

And she would quote Cocteau

'I feel there is an angel in me' she'd say
'whom I am constantly shocking'

Then she would smile and look away 
light a cigarette for me
sigh and rise

and stretch
her sweet anatomy

let fall a stocking” 
― Lawrence FerlinghettiPictures of the Gone World

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MELUSINA




"She is Melusina, the water goddess, and she is found in hidden springs and waterfalls in any forest in Christendom, even in those as far away as Greece. She bathes in the Moorish fountains too. They know her by another name in the northern countries where the lakes are glazed with ice and it crackles when she rises. A man may love her if he keeps her secret and lets her alone when she wants to bathe, and she may love him in return until he breaks his word, as men always do, and she sweeps him into the deeps with her fishy tail, and turns his faithless blood to water.
The tragedy of Melusina, whatever language tells it, whatever tune it sings, is that a man will always promise more than he can do to a woman he cannot understand."

Friday, March 17, 2017

USS INDIANAPOLIS


An old man in a WWII Veterans hat cornered me yesterday and began asking obscure questions like "Where is the most likely spot to find water in the desert?" and "Why is there air?" and How many knots are in a noose" and stuff.
I showed the gentleman all the respect and attention thatn he and his hat deserved, and was amazed at the wealth of knowledge he had.
He finally asked if I knew what the greatest percentage of steel was used for in the world.
I thought for a moment and said:
"Battleships?
"Nope" he shot back.
"Then what?" I asked.
"Bottlecaps" came his reply.
I couldn't help it. I coughed into my hand and said "Bullshit" at the same time.
No disrespect intended of course
.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

DAVE and THE CANCER



"I want to apologize to all of my American friends for failing to either die or get better. I know many of you hate the very word socialism, but as of today I have become a beneficiary of all of your labor in a purely socialist way; as of today, I am receiving . . . ahem . . . Medicare. Yes sir, I am right now enjoying a barium shake that all of you have paid for. Thank you!

I thought I would have died by now but here I am persisting in this not-dead-yet-not-fully-alive limbo, with no end in sight. I never wanted to be a burden to society. I drink very little and have never smoked or done drugs. I exercise. I try to be kind to the people I meet. But here I am, sucking on the big tit.

I hope you all will forgive me for not pulling my weight as Americans of my age are expected to do. People with my illness, who don't succumb to it in a timely fashion, cannot be treated profitably and thus screw up our whole profit-based health care system. I'm the problem and I know that. For what it's worth, I will promise to do what I can, short of hanging myself from the railroad bridge on the Don Tyson Parkway, to resolve my health situation one way or the other as soon as possible. In the mean time, thank you again. The shake is delicious!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REMISSION AND LETTING GO



“Have you ever thought… about whatever man builds, that all of man's industrial efforts, all his computations and calculations, all the nights spent over working draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity?
It is as if there were a natural law which ordained that to achieve this end, to refine the curve of a piece of furniture, or a ship's keel, or the fuselage of an airplane, until gradually it partakes of the elementary purity of the curve of a human breast or shoulder, there must be the experimentation of several generations of craftsmen. In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery



I posted this years ago on Facebook. A couple of Christian friends left comments:
"Ahh! Congratulations Steve! The best ever oral depiction I have ever heard of Christ's gift of redemption and love...."
Then, from another:
"No kidding, that's exactly what it is! Sometimes, the taking away part is so hard, but once it's gone its sheer bliss!"

I'll tell you the truth. I kind of resented the comments. 
Congratulations? Really? Christs gift of redemption and love?
Maybe because these two always seemed to make it a point to turn anything towards Christianity. But I guess that's what people do, the way I sometimes want to relate everything to my 12 Step Program, and would rather see my Higher Power as something named other than Yahweh.

But last week over at Alive on All Channels Beth posted this Richard Rohr quote:


The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327), the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet I think most Christians today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition.

The capitalist worldview is the only one most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, and things—in fact, everything—as objects for our personal consumption. Even religion, Scripture, sacraments, worship services, and meritorious deeds become ways to advance ourselves—not necessarily ways to love God or neighbor.

The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Finally, even God becomes an object for my consumption. Religion looks good on my résumé, and anything deemed “spiritual” is a check on my private worthiness list. Some call it spiritual consumerism. It is not the Gospel.

Richard Rohr:


Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations





So OK, maybe I get it.
Life is often less about hanging on, and more about letting go.
But I don't think "Redemption" means what my friend thinks it means.
Maybe Remission would have a better word

Monday, March 06, 2017

SKINNY POP

It says so right on the outside of the bag.
“SkinnyPop. No artificial ingredients. Non GMO. Gluten Free. Diary free. Peanut free. Tree nut free. Preservative free. No artificial flavors. Zero trans fat. A good source of fiber. And DELICIOUS. We believe in snacking without compromise. …That’s the skinny.”


I haven’t tried SkinnyPop yet, and have no intention to do so. The older I grow the less I trust lengthy disclaimers on bags of food about what is and isn’t in them. There is something they arent telling me, I’m sure of it.
Call me cynical, but SkinnyPop? 
My ass.

Inspired by another great Riding The Metro North at live and Learn

Friday, March 03, 2017

SUICIDE HOTLINE HOLD MUSIC



We play cheerful music on the suicide hotline—
cheerful but not too cheerful.
Nothing with lyrics.


Sometimes, when I finally talk to them,
they're crying, and sometimes they keep crying.
I fight the urge to tell them jokes.


Sometimes they get on my nerves.


Sometimes I ask them to see things from my point of view.
They gulp. They try. Even in crisis
they are polite.


I ask them where it hurts.
They always have an answer.


Here's what they don't know. When I play the music,
I'm still on the line. I listen to them breathing.
If their breathing slows, I keep playing
the hold music. I'm like a deejay and I'm like
a doctor. I adjust the music with care. I fine-tune,
giving them what they need at just that moment.


I'll ask them to hold and play the music again.
I have a button I can press that makes the music skip.
The same sound repeats for twenty seconds.
When I get back on the line with them, they never fail
to let me know about the problem. They're helpful.
"Thank you," I say. "We'll fix that for next time."


It reminds them they are part of the world. Then
they tell me things, sometimes haltingly,
sometimes in one big rush. How they feel,
how bad it is.


I can keep them on the line for hours.


The main thing is to keep them on the line.


Jessy Randall


Gathered at The Vale

Thursday, March 02, 2017

THE TWELVE TRADITIONS



I got a call from the Program chairperson from my NA group.

‘Steve, would you speak on the 12 Traditions of NA on Tuesdays this month?”

The 12 Traditions are kind of like the 12 Steps. But they are dry, boring, confusing, and the equivalent of reading Article III Section 2 of the US Constitution:
"The judicial power shall extend to all cases (blah), in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws(blah)(blah) of the United States(blah), and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors (blah), other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty(blah), and maritime jurisdiction(blah),;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party…blah, blah, blah…”



So I said “You know, I’d really love to, but I haven’t really worked the traditions. I’ve been SUPPOSED to be working the Traditions with my sponsor for the last year, but we haven’t exactly been knocking it out of the park, if you know what I mean.”
‘Which one are you on?” he asked.
“Would you believe Number 1?” I said, ashamed.
“Well this is the perfect time to work them then.” He said.
“Aw man, I know you are right but I’m just not prepared to do them”
And he let me off the hook.

But as soon as I hung up, I knew that the answer should have been yes. I didn’t call him right back, but I saw him the next day.
“Have you found anybody ?” I asked.
“No”
“Well sign me up, put me down. I’ll do it.

And that is how I came to speak on the 12 Traditions for an hour each night for four weeks in February.



1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on NA unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority— a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.

6. An NA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every NA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 9. NA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

JESUS BLOODY HEART



[...] You know the way Jesus
rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming and thorny,
the way he points to it. I’m afraid
the way I’ll miss you will be this obvious.
I have a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus
around my house, for me to find
when I come home; Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked
into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his shirt
and saying, Look what I did for you.
Nick Flynn, excerpt "Leaving Town" from Some Ether , 2000

THE STONE


We go to sleep with the Peach in our Hands and wake with the Stone, But the Stone is the pledge of Summers to come— Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

VOTER FRAUD

They have finally convicted someone of voter fraud here in Texas. Right here in Tarrant County. She was a Republican. I hope they catch them all.
I mean, I hope they catch BOTH of them. (click here)


There was another fellow named Harris who started a fraud investigation in Texas.
He was hoping to find Democratic fraud. But as the story goes, while he hasn’t found any fraud per se, he hasn’t been able to get any Republicans to help him either. He is flooded by Tarrant County Democrats wanting to help, who feel that the elections in the county have been rigged Republican for years.
Now what do you make of that?


And now, in more voting news, Tarrant County has found 15 voters who signed affidavits indicating they didn’t have their ID when they came to vote. 15 votes out of 643,000 votes cast. They are checking them out for fraud.
I hope they catch one. (click here)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

MY FUCKING POOL

My dreams don’t usually need much interpretation. I had one about her last week.
Last year I had bought filters for her pool, 200 bucks. Then the pump went out and I gave her another 200, but she never got it fixed. Her pool looked like a big cup of coffee, and her yard was a wreck. I helped her get it all cleaned up, and it looked good but for the pool. The idea was she was going to sell the house soon, and she would pay me back for the pool.
About the first of June last year, after six years, I decided I’d played the part of the other woman hiding in a closet long enough, and told her to come get her shit from my place, and I hadn’t seen her since. She seamlessly moved on to another friend of mine who doesn’t know about me, and I’m not supposed to know about him. But I do.

Anyway, I had this dream last week that she was going have a pool party. That meant she finally got that pool cleaned up. And I knew I wouldn’t be invited, but I wanted to see MY FUCKING POOL I paid for, so I snuck over there in the middle of the night. The pool looked great, but when I turned around to sneak away, I found my way was barred by briers and brambles. I had a set of clippers, and set about cutting my way out. As I cut my way out I discovered the briers were actually berry plants, and they just needed a good clipping to bear fruit. Sure enough, as I clipped away, they stared bearing fruit right behind me.
Then, the porch lights came on, and a woman came out of the house and walked over to me. I was afraid it was Gina, but it wasn’t. Its was my ex-wife, Shila.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m clipping these berry bushes. They are overgrown, but now they will bear fruit. See, already now, here come the berries!” and pointed to the fresh growth and little pink flowers coming on the vine.
She looked at me, smiled and said “Thank You”.
It felt real nice, and then I woke up.

Friday, February 24, 2017

GENDER BENDER

I got this friend from my youth. He owns a business. His employees call him sir. His wife calls him husband his kids call him dad. He chews tobacco, coaches the softball team, plays third base and bats .330. Usually at home he is in baggy shorts flip flops and a tank top. Shaves his head an wears a beard. He dresses business casual at work, but sometimes wears a suit.
The thing is, when I knew him 45 years ago, he was a girl and one of the best friends I ever had.
So what restroom do you think this fellow should use?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I WENT TO THE STORE FOR A PIE

Or some cookies, maybe some Blue Bell ice cream or something. 

I came home with a loaf of wheat bread, some Almond Soy Milk, Smuckers All Natural Peanut Butter, and Centrum Silver for Men.
Being a bit more feeble minded these days, I had trouble finding the Centrum. The young man came from behind the counter to help. 
“Here they are” he said, and handed me the bottle. 
“Thank you sir” said I. “Tell me, what does the Silver part stand for?”
He looked all sheepish and said “Well, its for, um, for, you know, man I don’t want to say”. 
“Its for old guys like me isn’ it? That’s what the Silver is for, isn’t it?” 
He looked relieved. “Yes sir”. 
I looked at the label. “Has it got that Gilko Bilboa stuff? “ 
He laughed. “Yes sir” 
“How about that Ginseng? Does it have Ginseng? Do you think that stuff really works?” 
He laughed and said “I hope so”. 
“Me too son, me too”

Friday, February 17, 2017

100,000 NATIONAL GUARD TO ROUND UP ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Usually when I get in a discussion with someone about this they start out with ‘Deport them all. Just being here is a criminal act”. But after a while they calm down a bit, and say “just the criminals who have committed other crimes” which was Obama’s policy. But not all of them tone it down.
It was eliminating Obama’s policy that Trump campaigned on, saying ““We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties (DACA and DAPA) in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants,”

I’ll be glad to think that he has softened this approach, but it doesn’t surprise me that they might consider it before realizing it’s a bad idea. I just wonder what his base thinks.

“Wisdom is so kind and wise
that wherever you may look
you can learn something about God.”
St Catherine

GILLIAN

I have kitchen dreams all the time. from when I used to be a chef. I had one a few nights ago, and recently in my dreams I’ve been naked in the kitchen. No one seems to notice but me, and I’m hugely embarrassed, running around bare beamed buck naked in the kitchen.
And I was naked in the one I had a few nights ago.
I was only wearing one thing. A cloth chefs hat. And somewhere in the dream I ran into you, Gillian. You looked at me, and like everyone else, didn’t seem to notice I was naked.
So I asked you “Does my Chefs hat look OK?”
You said ‘yes it looks fine” and I went on about my dream, happy that my hat looked OK.
Because I knew you would have said so if it didn’t.

Monday, February 13, 2017

LA MUERTA



...forgive me. If you no longer live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall in my breast,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but
I shall stay alive,
because above all things
you wanted me indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all mankind.
pablo neruda

Image~Margherita Vitagliano

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

NIGHTHAWKS



"My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.

I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are
a nun.”

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
of me even if he’s not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,
we both know the winter has only begun."
Poem~ Marie Howe
Image~ Edward Hopper

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

ITS ALRIGHT WE TOLD YOU WHAT TO DREAM



“Wow, what a cool dream. Oh man, how clever! No, not yet, don’t wake up. Not until we…yeah, good idea. You are going to want to write this one down. That’s it, do this, this is completely profound. We know just how to write it too. And now this, yes, this is genius! We can’t believe what we are dreaming here. Just another three scenes and we can wrap it up. Yes! That was perfect! We can see the ending now. Magnificent. Makes perfect sense, perfect sense, people will be amazed because its not just smart, its hilarious! Waking now, waking now, what an ending. OK, we’re awake. Get up and write it down, write it down. Shoot, a dream that vivid we don’t need to write down. A dream like that just writes itself. How do we forget a dream like that, and the pillow is cool and soft and we will write it down first thing, positively the first thing when we wake up.”


Shit, we cant recall a thing. That’s twice this year. We have to get up and write them down right then. We know that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

SILENT SPRING

“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.” 
― Rachel CarsonSilent Spring


BELITTLING THE GIFT

A listing of Sufi Nafs, things we should be alert to and try to dissolve from our lives.
It prompted me to answer a text I had snubbed from an old old friend. 

Being proud of one’s spiritual state
Arrogance
Envy
Miserliness
Being vengeful
Denying the giver of gifts or belittling the gifts
Being dissatisfied and complaining about one’s state
Ceasing to have hope for God’s Mercy
Being sure of God’s punishment
Condoning tyranny and helping tyrants
Speaking against decent people
Being hungry for approval and compliments
Fearing criticism
Setting traps for others
Fawning over people for personal benefit
Being happy about disasters that fall upon people
Taking pleasure in people’s suffering
Gossiping
Being a hypocrite
Being a coward
Not keeping one’s word
Believing in bad luck
Leading a life of no responsibility
Making excuses
Not keeping to one’s path due to laziness
Lamenting the loss of things
Not accepting one’s error and continue insisting on it
Being afraid of poverty
Making oneself depressed
Taking pleasure in belittling others
Being disdainful of the poor
Forgetting about one’s own shortcomings and being preoccupied with the shortcomings of others
Excluding from one’s heart the love of God

Friday, January 20, 2017

NOT MY PRESIDENT? NOT MY BROCCOLI.

He might be THE President, but for me, the jury is still out whether he is mine. We'll see. He could win me over the way Clinton did.
Back when I first started working for Hyatt and doing banquets, I went through a spell of overcooking the broccoli. I'd put 500 portions in the steamer, and let it go a minute too long, and instead of being pretty and green, it was the drab green color of an Army tank. And I'd have to go get 8 more cases and try again.
One night it was a close call. It was just a LITTLE overcooked, so I went with it.
As we are plating up, the chef is giving me dirty looks, and the broccoli I thought was just a little overcooked didnt look so good anymore.
At some point I said to the chef "Chef, I'm ashamed that your broccoli is not what its supposed to be"
He looked at me, and took a portion of broccoli and tossed it in the trash can.
"Its not MY broccoli" he said.
I never overcooked the broccoli again.
So if somehow it slips out of my mouth in the next four years that Trump is "not my President", that will be what I am talking about.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DIVORCE AND SEPARATION

ARE HARD, BUT MURDER IS ALWAYS AN OPTION.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

TRUMP AND THE PEARLY GATES

So Trump, Putin, and Clinton all show up to the Gates of Heaven at the same time. St Peter says “I can only let one of the three of you in.”
So Donald steps forward and says ”I gave all my money to Charity”
Then Hillary steps forward and says “I fought for the women and the children of the world all my life”.
Putin gives Peter his best innocent Commie smirk and says “I’m knowing now the stpeter@pearlygates.com” and winks.
Peter raises his arms in glory and says, in Russian:
"Заходи оттуда Владмир, мой товарищ, и сделать себя как дома прямо сейчас!"
which translates roughly to:
“Come inside from there Vladmir, my comrade, and making yourself at home now!"