Thursday, March 23, 2017

watch your head

You’ve heard it, often. “Watch your head.” Someone is caring, urging caution to protect you from injury or pain. Parents say it to children, spouses to each other, friends and coworkers, too. “Watch your head.” Long ago, as a cheeky wiseguy, I chirped, “You can’t watch your head. Not literally. Your eyes can only do that partially. You can watch your nose, part of it. Oh sure, you can watch a reflection of your head. But that’s different.”

Not that funny then and not that funny now.

Despite the challenges of literally watching your head — and only a fussbudget would notice this — we know what the person who says it means. We understand we are being told to proceed with attentiveness. We are are being warned to slow dowm. Does it work? Does proceeding in such a manner guarantee less chance of injury? I’m not sure. An athlete or warrior in the heat of battle might interpret it to be “Be alert.” But you wouldn’t necessarily slow down. On the other hand, I have personally found the dictum “the faster the slower,” from UCLA basketball great John Wooden, valuable when I am tempted to anger or quick to say the wrong thing.

From another perspective, “watch your head” proffers a different aspect of wisdom. If the phrase is telling us to practice introspection, some rewarding results might be forthcoming. If it means, “as a person thinks, so they will act,” then it’s a good reminder. Recovery programs talk about a “thinking disease,” meaning that addicts and others fall off the beam long before a substance is ingested or otherwise taken. It’s the addictive or alcoholic thinking that precedes the action, they are told. So, “watching one’s head” in that context would presumably signal awareness and vigilance.

In my youth, Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick sang “feed your head” repeatedly with fervor at the conclusion of the hit 1967 single “White Rabbit.” The lyrics were considered one of pop music’s early instances of a drug reference, albeit oblique. But the song is filled with characters from Lewis Carroll’s  “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and on that level alone it is delightful. I have long admired the Airplane’s unbridled evangelism for expanding one’s mental and spiriual horizons. They put it out there, without apologies. And why not? I’m not belittling the serious risks of the misuse of pharmaceuticals, legal or otherwise, but I salute the song for being consistent and honest and unabashedly provocative.

I am mildly surprised that booksellers or educators haven’t seized on this notion of “feed your head.” Perhaps they have. Granted, feeding and watching your head are two different concepts. (Notice how I’ve drifted slightly. That’s how my mind operates.) But they go hand in hand. If you watch what you are feeding your head you can reap the most benefits. 

Somehow that doesn’t ring true. It signals a cautionary manner that might stifle curiosity. Can these two notions — watch your head and feed your head — coexist within one person? I suspect they can. I’d go so far as to say they must. They represent a dynamic that plays out in all of us: temperance vs. abandon, safety vs. risk, prudence vs. recklessness. So watch your head, but be sure to feed it, too.

Now excuse me as I take my chances out there, bruises and all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Embarrassment Manifesto

I am embarrassed. I have become embarrassed. I am embarrassing. Switch pronouns. We are embarrassed. We have become embarrassed. We are embarrassing. We are being embarrassed. We are an embarrassment. "We" here stands for the Disunited States of America. The good ol' DSA. What is it to be embarrassed? Embarrass: "to perplex, throw into doubt." The estimable Online Etymology Dictionary tells us "embarrass" comes to us from the French, meaning "to block," which came to us from the Italian "to bar," which came from Latin. Embarrass came to mean "to hamper, hinder," and then later "make (someone) feel awkward." Other meanings over the centuries have even included "mental state of unease." With this FACTUAL word history in mind, no matter where you perch on today's razored fence of political discourse, you cannot deny the reality of embarrassment. Whether you lament it or celebrate, it is here. The Age of Embarrassment. Whether you are on the barricades or hiding from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [Embarrassment] (ICE), welcome to Embarrassmentville. "Welcome" is hereby spelled e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s by edict of Embarrassing Executive Order No. 001. So, get used to it, boys and girls -- and anyone in-between or off the charts. Get used to a state of being perplexed, doubtful, blocked, barred, hampered, or hindered. Get used to feeling awkward and ill at ease. Get used to being embarrassed or making others feel embarrassed. Please show your Embarrassment Visa on the way out the door.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Friday, January 06, 2017

winter haiku 4

last night's snow dusting

searing albino light bath

melting flake by flake


Monday, January 02, 2017

Sunday, January 01, 2017

winter haiku 2

footsteps crunching time's

iridescent snowscape sheen

chickadee's leafy song

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Funny how solid objects "move." Intriguing how angle and perspective alter everything. The five emerald onion domes of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church seem to sit just above the railroad bridge as you proceed west on Erie Boulevard toward West Genesee Street. But in my mind I think of them as residing a ways to the left, up the hill, Tipperary Hill. The iconic (literally and figuratively) church is to the left -- from certain angles. As the road bends or turns, you bend or turn with it. Each turn or bend presents a different perspective. An aerial view offers a whole different angle. Up close, far away, above or below, all different perspectives. Perspective is perception. Hashtag metaphor. 


I walked our dog in Burnet Park, where she gamboled in the snow, merrymaking and frolicking just for me, to give me a smile, as she sported in the fluffy lake effect snow. No. You're right. She did it for pure dog love, total abandon, canine self, yielding to the moment and the next the next the now.

watching the ball drop

I don't watch the ball drop at Times Square at midnight, not typically. Just doesn't interest me. Who knows, maybe it would be fun in person. Maybe some day. But almost certainly not. "Maybe" is a capacious word.

what comes after 'penultimate'?

So now we are at the ultimate, the last day of 2016. Squeeze it out, like someone making orange juice, fresh. Drain it all, seeds and rind and pulp and beverage.