Wednesday, September 17, 2014

litteral danger

I walked outside, toward my car. Across the street, he dropped a can in a bag. Flippant, breezy. Careless. Insouciant. Without care. (Etymologically "without sorrow, anxiety, or grief; without burdens of mind; serious mental attention.") In flagrante delicto. Broad daylight. Almost twilight. I changed direction. "No direction home," to use a generational phrase from Bob Dylan. I walked across the street, telling myself silently, over and over, as if it were an incantation, a Roman Catholic litany, "Do not say a word. Don't say a thing." I picked up the can in a bag. Arnold Palmer iced tea. Near it, a Keystone Light tall boy. Not being a drinker, even to pick up that can, with its dregs and alcoholic odor, a risk. I picked it up too. The clutch of three or four bus-stop waiters staring at me, their eyes on me. "Hey," he said. I kept moving. "Hey." I focused on picking up the litter, the desecration of land not considered holy, not considered unholy, not considered at all. "Hey, mister, over here. You missed this. Hey. You missed one." Do not say a word. Don't say a thing. Do not say a word. Don't say a thing. I gathered the detritus. I held it. I stopped. I looked at him. We locked eyes. If looks could kill. I turned and crossed the street, my back to him, to them, my hands now shaking.

some dream

I was at the offices of a local, prominent law firm. I don't know which firm or why I was there. It was as if someone, not anyone visible, but a mere presence, was giving me a tour or introducing me around. We came to a room. Very high, tall ceiling. And very narrow. It resembled a closet. Painted. Simple. Not decorated. The narrow, tall room -- it was hardly a room -- was filled with people. Lawyers and support staff. In fact, I was told, or discerned, that the whole staff was assembled in the one cramped space. All looked back at me. All were silent. It had a whiff of Dante about it. They were just there, employees and partners. Something my host said or did revealed that much. I said, "Why is everyone here? Where is your office equipment? How can anyone work in this crowded space? I mean, I understand you are trying to cut back on overhead, but you are a prominent law firm. Come on." I do not remember the answer and do recall if I awoke then, or later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

in the nick of names

A group of guys I know are big on nicknames. Male nicknames are often half-needling and half-praising. (I can't claim to know a lot about female nicknames.) Of course, I'm known as Pawlie Kokonuts, though few if any of these guys I know tie my nickname to this blog. If they only knew. Nicknames are fraternal (or sororal) signifiers. They affirm identity and ranking. Think of mobsters, gang members, fraternities, sororities, clubs, teams, family members. Nicknames are also terms of endearment. Did Jesus have a nickname among his boyhood friends? Not "JC," because we know his last name was not Christ. Did Gandhi or Buddha or Marie Antoinette have nicknames? Chairman Mao? Joan of Arc? I'll stop with these unseemly speculations. In the nick of time.

Friday, August 29, 2014


It pleases, it soothes, me to massage my forehead, that knotted epicenter of tense tightness. I delight in taking a knuckle at the base of my index finger, either hand, and pressing, kneading, hard, into my furrowed forehead. It is pleasure pain pleasure pain. Have you ever done this? Try it.

what if

What if, when my uncle 'taught' me how to swim by casting my boy's body in the deep of Long Island Sound, I did not merely panic and gulp salt water and thrash and somehow rise to the top and stagger to the shore but instead . . . drowned? How would this mishap be explained? Almost as shockingly, I suspect no one else knew the frightening agony I had just endured. Were my parents even there on shore? My brothers? Grab a towel, business as usual. And what if is the same question asked about my younger brother's 'swimming lesson' by the same uncle, in a pool, probably my aunt's. Same question. Somehow we carried on. Am I being melodramatic? Or are these two what-if scenarios replete with infinite implications? Sure could explain my fear of water. That, and my friend drowning when he was sixteen, me fourteen. And I cannot recall if my 'swimming lesson' was before or after my friend's drowning.

I can't tell you why this incident surfaced in my mind recently. It's not like I've been swimming. Boating, yes. Maybe because I'm assisting someone with a memoir or because I have worked on my own memoir. Recollections.

Anyway, glad it turned out the way it did.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Four men, all over 60. (For an inning, 5 men, one under 60.) Syracuse Chiefs game. Section 204. Common bonds, shared stories. What do older men share? Family, work, loss, youth, survival, names. And talk. Of the game. And what once was. Stories. Jabs. Laughter, lots of it. Camaraderie. Comrades. Comrade: "One who shares the same room." Even when it is a ballpark. We skipped the fireworks. We've seen enough of those for ten lifetimes. Life is grand. In the grandstands.

Monday, August 18, 2014

a surprise of snails

After my post-office errand, I walked down Solar Street, in Syracuse. I had two pieces of litter in my hand, a flattened beverage cup with straw and a flattened cigarette pack. I had already recovered and delivered to the USPS doorkeeper (closing time had passed while I was writing a check in the P.O.) a white paper plate stamped with tire tread and some remnants of plastic bag that resided in front of the P.O. (Or something else. I am already forgetting.) I did not want to bother the affable clerk to open the locked door once again. Plus, he might see me as some litter-gathering psycho. In the shade of sunny Solar, I spotted, on the border of cut grass and overgrown shrubbery, a split-open empty potato chip (or similar contents) bag. I hesitated. Why pick it up? It will dirty my hands. What difference will it make? I could do this all day and not make a dent. Just yesterday, strolling through Solvay, I passed the lawn of some young people with kids adrift and noise aplenty. At the edge of their lawn, garbage, litter, filth. I paused and looked at the detritus, angrily hoping to catch the attention of the residents. And then what would I say? And would my life then be in danger for saying it or silently conveying it? Killed over litter. Not the way to go, I guess. Or would it be a bold statement? Um, no. Walking home, I had a revelation. If they could care less about their own house or (most likely) rental property, why should I be surprised if they toss junk from their car window or from their hands as they walked? It makes no difference to them. Just as, perhaps, nothing makes much difference to them in their lives. As I picked up the shining foil of the snack bag, I was surprised to fine dozens of snails in the dirt. I jostled the shells. They all seemed vacant of snails. I guess they would be. So, it was a surprise of snail shells, not snails. I know little of snails, despite my reading of the fiction of Anthony Doerr. Naively, I expect shells like these to be found near the sea. The closest water is Onondaga Lake, and the stream leading to it, Nine Mile Creek. James Lipton compiled An Exaltation of Larks. Are snails, or shells, included in his taxonomy and lexicon?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

walk don't run

Wasn't that the name of a movie? I walk. I don't run. Pretty much never have run except as a free-range kid or on a ballfield or when pressed for time or in a basketball game in youth or around Westover School in Stamford, Connecticut, when my brother Jack and I would time the quarter-mile with a stopwatch I still possess. I ran in the woods, cross-country, a few times in high school. For a time, only a brief time, I "jogged" during the jogging craze in the Seventies. When various companies I had worked for participated in the Chase Corporate Challenge and I was asked to join the herd, I'd say, "I wouldn't run out of this building if it were on fire." What do runners run to or from, if anything? I loved seeing and hearing Jackson Browne in person last week. I love the lyrics of "Running on Empty." He sang it. I got it. I get it. I am a walker. It is more the speed of life as it is. Not really. But it's a scale and speed I can handle. I like to walk. Form metaphors as needed or wanted.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

post preapproval removal

Wait just a New York minute. Maybe "Everyone is approved here!!!" is no longer true [three exclamation marks]. [See my post of July 30, 2014.]

This afternoon, I saw a man at Floyd Creaser Quality Used Cars move the sandwich board that shouts "Everyone is approved here!!!" He moved it away from its location alongside Hiawatha Boulevard, to -- where? Inside? Out back? To the dust bin of history?

It's not as if the proprietor or manager would be closing the shop on a Saturday afternoon, since one would assume that Saturday afternoon (great song by Jefferson Airplane) offers primetime used-car salesmanship hours. Right?

So, what was going on?
  • Had the owner read this blog? Unlikely.
  • Was he cranky, not feeling very approvalish?
  • Had Fox News alerted him to the arrival of an unpreapproved busload of unpreapproved-by-Tea-Party immigrant children?
  • Was the meaning of the word "everyone" now being modified, qualified, and calibrated by a freight train's worth of adjectives or adverbs?
  • Was the sign merely being brought in for a wash?
  • Most ominously, did the person moving the sandwich-board sign know something about credit markets that we don't know?

I'm a hit!

You'd think it'd have happened sooner. What with having attended so many baseball games over a long span of years, I was a statistical candidate. You would think baseball and moi would have had a close encounter sooner than this. In the 1980s, a fly ball came right next to me in the box seats at Shea Stadium, near where the prime seats rose up and almost met the second deck seats. At the last second, as the ball reentered the earthly atmosphere, I chickened out. I thought it might hurt. It was a pop-up, not a liner. Someone else got it. I could have had it. I can't say even now if it would have hurt my bare hand (or hands). I tend to think not. (Dear Armchair Shrinks: Don't read too much into this regarding risk, fear, reward, benefit, fear, success, failure; did I say fear?)

Fast forward to last night, at the Louisville Bats at Syracuse Chiefs game. I was sitting with friends six or seven rows behind the dugout, third-base side, gorgeous night. Great seats. Late innings. A ball came zinging off the bat of a lefty batter, one of our guys, I think. The ball was racing to me, right at me, no doubt about it, had my name on it. It hit me square in the upper arm, right shoulder. It hurt. I knew it was going to hit me. I was oddly frozen. Just like they say about accidents, time slowed down. I saw the stitches on the ball. To me it looked like a "heavy" pitch, not a lot of rotation. But it was coming at me. Fast. Weirdly, I think I put my shoulder into it. Maybe figuring I'd protect my head or those around me. All I know is I was frozen. And I knew this would hurt. I even felt some whiplash, like my neck and whole body tightened up in recoil.

It hit me. It bounced off me, back a ways, I think. Everyone asked if I was all right. I said, yeah, I think so. Ushers were there right away. Medics were summoned. I told them, sure, take a look at my arm and shoulder. I walked with them through the stands to the first-aid station. Someone tossed me the ball. A few people clapped. Several asked how I was. Fine. Waving to them. Wearing my San Francisco Giants pullover. No hat.

The medics gave me an ice pack, took some info down. I asked for ibuprofen or something. They weren't allowed to dispense that. The upper arm was red but not terribly so. They said it felt warm.

I walked back to my seat. An usher checked on me later, brought me a new ice pack.

Talked about it. Gathered more details from those sitting around me. Whew! Sure glad it missed the young girl in front of me! If it had hit her in the head, no telling how awful that would have been. 

The locals lost in extras.

Yeah, stiff and sore today but otherwise okay. Not even noticeably bruised. Yet. Hashtag metaphor.