Thursday, November 30, 2006

' This Little Light of Mine . . . '

The following are words I wrote -- and managed to deliver only partially last May -- in memory of my brother (technically, my half-brother, but nothing 'half' about him), Thomas Richard Hayes, who died on this day one year ago. The names won't matter to you; the emotions will. My apologies if this is an imposition. Thanks for listening, if you choose to read.

Requiescat in pace.

Anyone here who knew Richard, or Tom, even casually, knows that he is the one in the photograph with the easy smile, he is the one with the ready laugh, and he is the one with the gentle manner, the easy touch. That we know. And that we honor and celebrate today. Before going any further, thank you, Beverly and Laurie, for asking me to share these few words, however difficult it may be.

He was a good man: a steady worker, a devoted husband and father, a caring son, a faithful friend. But for me, most of all, he was my brother. And since he was so much older than me, I idolized him. When he left, around 1955, to go to the Air Force, we missed him then, as we do now. And so did a squirrel he had befriended, a squirrel he apparently had taken to feeding. These many years later, I can still see that squirrel scampering up to our second-floor apartment on Oak Street, scratching at the door, somewhat angry and confused, missing his treat, missing Richard, wondering, Where did he go?

He went to places like Bellevue, Illinois; Baudette, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Wyoming; and Japan. And he wrote handwritten letters to me, little treasures that came in special red, white, and blue airmail envelopes. Nothing more extraordinary than a retelling of his day, and asking about his little brother. One hot summer night, we heard a tap at the door at our home on Myano Lane. Richard was home! An unexpected leave. He had driven all day or all night, or both, to thrill us with a visit. Home--only to leave again, some 30 days later.

If I recall correctly, when I was in Fourth Grade, Richard was in Japan. Sapporo, I think. His being there inspired me to study all about that land and its people and its customs. I probably knew more about Mount Fuji than anyone else in class. Richard sent us chinaware from Japan (why do they call it china?), and a beautiful ornamental doll with jet-black hair held by a comb. The doll still stands in a glass case in Mom’s bedroom. And he sent Jack and me these real cool reversible jackets, silk on one side and velour on another; mine was decorated with a fierce-looking dragon. Very cool. Plus he gave me a little military reflector mirror for signaling to rescuers. I’m sure I annoyed everyone around with it. I treasured it.

Fast forward many, many years, and I was to learn that Richard’s greatest gift to me (and to so many of us) was yet to come. I am not a golfer. Richard was. One Monday afternoon, early last November, as his days were dwindling down like the crisp sparkling leaves falling from the trees up North, we spent, an hour or two at a driving range not far from his beloved Florida home. I believe it was Beverly’s or Laurie’s clubs I used, no less. The sun beat down on us. We both wore straw hats. He was too weak to play. He sat on a nearby bench and what did he do? He mentored me, encouraged me, nurtured me. Try this club, now this one. No, you did all right. That’s good. Your’re doing fine. No, that’s okay. That’s better. A little slower. There you go. Now try this. There you go.

And he took a few snapshots of that snapshot of our lives, and I of him, we with our straw hats, our shorts, our smiles. Our perfect moment in the sun. And so, in death as in life, there was Richard, Tom, as always, ever kind and gentle, patient and loving, easygoing and comfortable. Uncomplaining. Grateful. Our moment in the sun. Literally and truly, who could ask for anything more? Where could I buy such a precious gift? And so, like a young airman leaving in the middle of the night, I bade my brother goodbye in the early November morning, the following day. We knew it was goodbye for now, as he rested his head on the pillow covering his childhood prayer book, as I told him I loved him, and in my heart thanked him for this great lesson, this final gift. The gift was this: be not afraid, it’s okay, there you go. He taught us how to die with grace and serenity, just as he had lived. And for that we are all here to thank him today.

I confess I am like that squirrel long ago, scratching at the screen, angrily or sadly wondering where our Richard, our Tom, has gone to. Perhaps the answer is in the Gospel of John from this year’s Easter reading. Mary Magdalene is at the empty tomb. She, like us, is weeping. Twice, an unrecognized Jesus says to her, “Why are you weeping?” In her grief, she does not recognize him. Then he says her name. It clicks. She gets it. She recognizes him. “Teacher!” she exclaims. And, for me, the teacher who taught me how to whack golf balls on a Monday afternoon, he himself shone with the light of that same Teacher recognized near the empty tomb. And the lessons are the same:

“What falls away is always. And is near.”

“…we saw / The God within him light his face…”

and, finally:

“…redeemed from death, and grief, and pain, / I soon shall find my friend again / Within the arms of God.


Quotes:

John 20: 13-15
John 20: 17
Theodore Roethke, “The Waking”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Charles Wesley, “If Death My Friend and Me Divide”

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bye, Bye, Mr. Kierkegaard Pie

Today's Zen Calendar reads:

"I stick my fingers into existence -- it smells of nothing."
-- Soren Kierkegaard


"Oh, so the lack of fragrance is at the root of my existential malaise?!"
-- Pawlie Kokonuts

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Can't You Just Hear That Slice of Minx Pie?


Did you hear about this? Or taste it? Because of the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia (or synaesthesia), the sensory apparatus of some people is joined. Synaesthetes taste the sound of words. According to a study by Dr. Julia Simner and Jamie Ward published in the journal Nature, a person with synesthesia might hear the word castanets, and taste tuna. (Cast a net?) They might hear the word John and taste cornbread. They hear mince, and taste mincement. They hear minx, and they taste a [PARENTAL CONTROLS INVOKED]. (Wasn't this the rage with the French poets Rimbaud and Baudelaire?) For one person, road signs flood his mouth with the taste of flavors like pistachio and earwax.

I get that too. When I see an image of Dick Cheney, I get that earwax-navel lint thing in my mouth. Or worse. It's just offal.

When I hear the words saucy knickers, I am treated to the taste of creamy havarti with a tender undercurrent of salty anchovies and a slight suggestion of dill.

You get the picture. It's on the tip of my, um, tongue.

Artie tastes, Artie swallows, Artie chokes.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (I just had to find a way to get in another photo from my available supply, this one from Kylemore Abbey, in the Connemara Mountains.)

Gulp.

Laugh. Or....

Else.


Find out more at Livescience

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Walking the Walk

Yesterday, the Day After Potentially Gluttonous Ruin -- Resisted, I was out of sorts. So, I took a walk. It wasn't like my more or less daily walking of the dog. Call it a Destination Walk. I walked downtown, from my home, about 2.5 miles.

Walking in this fashion is out of fashion in America. (I remember last month seeing people in Galway, Ireland, walking from downtown to the suburbs, young and old, walking.) People jog, they even walk vigorously, swinging their arms like militant evangelists of fitness. But we do not have too many walkable communities anymore. We are a nation of drivers.

It helped to clear my head.

You see things differently while walking. If you are fortunate, the city leaders will have provided sidewalks, good sidewalks for walking, as well as synchronized traffic- crossing signals. Yes, walking takes more time. Yes, you see things up close, like abandoned buildings from a long-lost industrial age, tossed food wrappers, old leaves. You encounter few, if any, other walking humans. You encounter cars, snarling by almost like caricatures in a cartoon. You smell their exhaust. I guess you become more fit and become smugly superior-minded in doing so, but not necessarily. (I hope I didn't and don't.)

I stopped briefly at an art gallery. Then I made it to Armory Square, a section of town popular as a night spot. Old buildings. Adaptive reuse. I read the paper at a popular Seattle-based coffee joint. Drank a Pelligrino mineral water. Didn't want coffee.

Walked back in the sunset.

I realized, quite literally, I could walk to my workplace during the week. It's a different direction, but I could do it. We used to walk to school. By ourselves.

My walking yesterday was the quintessential anti-mall statement on so-called Black Friday. My walk wasn't very black at all. It was washed in golden sunlight and chilly air. And I spent something like $2.75.

That's all.

A walk on the most unwalkable of American days -- except for those sauntering in sealed cathedrals of commerce.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One Bugger, Well Done, With Wings

I haven't blobbed (I mean, blogged) in a while. It's thyme. I mean, time.

Would you like fries with that bugger? I mean burger.

And you say typos don't matter?

As a former copy editor, I say: They do!

A front-page article in yesterday's McPaper, a.k.a.
USA Today
, got me thinking. Evidently, a few typos here and there have wreaked havoc with a few laws. Such as inadvertently setting the wrong limits for drunken driving (such that every driver would be guilty). Or adding a grand total of 1.5 cents to a state treasury, um, instead of $8 million. All because of sloppy editing.

I did a little browsing and, courtesy of a Dr. Jo Koster of Winthrop University, I discovered these, edited to suit my fashion (c'mon, Dr. K, The Laughorist got you a little free publicity):

"To be or to be." Well, I knew Hamlet had some issues; maybe they were just trying to simplify his choices. According to Dr. Koster, six professional proofreaders failed to catch the mistake.

"This contract shall be effective as of the singing of this agreement."
---From a customer’s rental agreement; he was not a vocalist.

“He used his wench to pull his truck out of the ditch.”
---Feminists were undoubtedly outraged.

“I know judo, karate, jujitsu and other forms of marital arts.” (Dr. Andrew, can you weigh in on this?)
---Next time, try love, honor, and lack of dismay.

“Sign up now for our Beauty and Fitness Curse.”
--Open Education Exchange

Laurgh. Or. . .

Else.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Grave Matters

Sometimes an image gives me subject matter for blogging. In this case, it's a grave matter.



Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by.
William Butler Yeats
(Drumcliffe Cemetery; County Sligo, Ireland)


I checked out a site called Brain Candy and of course Wikipedia and found out a few fascinating things.

An epitaph (ἐπιτάφιος literally: "on the gravestone" in ancient Greek) is text on a tombstone or plaque honoring the dead. Many epitaphs are aphorisms. (Yes, you can see it coming: laughorisms will be invited by dear readers.)

Here's my own select sampling of some notable epitaphs:

Hodie mihi, cras tibi
— Famous Latin epitaph: mine today, yours tomorrow

Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo
— Famous Latin epitaph: I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care

Don't Try
— Poet Charles Bukowski

Dorothy Parker suggested "Excuse My Dust," but they ended up putting that and more on her grave.

I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.(translated)
— Nikos Kazantzakis [in high school, one of my fave writers]

Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite
— Spike Milligan, translation: "I told you I was ill"

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288...
— Ludolph van Ceulen, who computed π (pi) to 35 digits.

Finally I am becoming stupider no more
— Paul Erdos, Hungarian mathematician.

"That's All Folks!"
The Man of a Thousand Voices
Mel Blanc
(Hollywood Memorial Park; Hollywood, California)

She did it the hard way.
Bette Davis
(Forest Lawn; Hollywood Hills, California)

Called Back
Emily Dickinson
(West Cemetery; Amherst, Massachusetts)
{self written}

I had A Lover's Quarrel With The World
Robert Lee Frost
(Old Bennington Cemetery, Bennington, Vermont)

Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.
Sylvia Plath Hughes
(Heptonstall Churchyard;Heponstall; Yorkshire, United Kingdom)

VOCATUS ATQUE
NON VOCATUS
DEUS ADERIT
Carl Jung
(Flutern Cemetery; Fluntern (Zurich), Switzerland)
{Invoked or not invoked, the god is present.}

The Stone the Builders Rejected
Jack London
(Jack London State Historic Park; Glen Ellen, California)

Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime
Dean Martin
(Westwood Memorial Cemetery, Los Angeles, California)

Against you I will fling myself,
unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
Virginia Woolf
(Monk's House, Rodmell, Sussex, England)

Here I Done Lay, Or Is That Lie?
George W. Bush

I Blew It.
Monica Lewinsky

I Did It.
O.J. Simpson

Okay. That's your cue.

Give us some epitaphs, preferably funny. Epitaphs for yourself or someone famous, as in the last three.

Laugh. Or...
Else.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Logorrheic Insecurity

In its just-released report about hunger in America, the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn't want to use the word


h u n g e r.


(See my previous post and its talk of the old political promise of "a chicken in every pot." Evidently, we haven't come that far after all.)

That made probably more news than the alleged declining numbers of those going (excuse my impertinence) hungry.

Changing the wording "is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger group.

"We should not hide the word hunger in our discussions of this problem, because we cannot hide the reality of hunger among our citizens," Beckmann said.

The report uses the terms "low food security" and "very low food security" to replace the old descriptions of "food insecurity without hunger" and "food insecurity with hunger."

Food insecurity. Just doesn't give the same picture as, um, hunger, does it?

Which gets The Laughorist wondering, if hunger = food insecurity, does:

-- horniness = sexual insecurity going haywire (SIGH)?

-- poverty = bereft revenues of kinetic economics (BROKE)?

-- ignorance = declining underachievement masking boredom (DUMB)?

Just wondering (part of my imagination insecurity).

Laugh. Or....

Else.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hortatory Exploratory

News reports say John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, and Tom Vilsack have formed so-called exploratory committees. Supposedly they are exploring a run for U.S. president, and these "exploratory committees" allow them to raise money or something. Legally, that is. What a sham. (And, then they want you to check off a box on your taxes to allocate more cash for such charades? Please.)

I am announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to explore the formation of an exploratory committee. Well, I'm just exploring the idea. (Salma Hayek is another concept I'd like to explore.)

In 1928 the Republican Party used the slogan "A chicken in every pot." (Ralph Keyes notes in The Quote Verifier that the slogan is often misattributed to Herbert Hoover; no such evidence has ever been found.)

I haven't come up with a slogan yet. I've got three or four I'm mulling over (but my focus groups haven't all sobered up yet, so we're not sure):

-- I Leap for Kierkegaard

-- My Cellphone Is a Vibrator

-- Be Nice, Or I Shalt Smite Thee

-- Laugh. Or. . . .Else.

Back to exploring. . . .

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fear and Losing

Long ago (at least in blog years, which means months or minutes ago) I declaimed on the temporary, ephemeral, and transitory nature of blogging. Like anything else.

Then, a few moments ago, I had a scare to underscore that fear.

The whole blasted blog was missing.

Internal Error 550. Sounds like a punk band. Or a security alert. Or spiritual malaise of the lowest order. Take your pick.

I had been told to back it all up on Word or something but didn't exactly know how. (Still don't.)

Joseph Heller began his book "Something Happened" with a line that went something like:

"I get the willies when I see closed doors."

Well, I get the willies when I see my blog missing, gone, kaput, ejected, white space, vanished.

I didn't know we had become so attached. I didn't know I was so poor at practicing detachment.

I'll sleep fitfully.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

PissCat Away, Thataway!


I was reading about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team and their Cinderella success this season.

Then I thought of one of our cats.

Why? You might ask? Because Rutgers is in Piscataway, New Jersey. And our cat, call him Pisserfella for now [he has been placed in the Feline Ejection Program], has this penchant for peeing secretly in little corners. Annoying. Very annoying. Pisses me off. He doesn't stop even if I swing him by the tail and toss him "thataway."

He's a friendly sort otherwise. Imagine saying that about a human.

"He's a friendly sort except every now and then he likes to take a secret little piss in the corner when no one is looking."

He's the one on the right. Of course.

Laugh. Or. . . .

Else.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

(No) Direction Home?



I'm glad so many U.S. voters saw this sign I brought back from Ireland (it was not easy getting it through Customs and TSA security; I told them it was First Amendment expression). When I got back, I had these signs erected in front of polling places around the country. You know, trying to make a point about the direction these folks had us headed in.

I think it really helped to get the message out there.

Let's hope "they" heed the warning ("they" being Democrats and Republicans alike, and that Independent in Vermont, too).

Laugh. Or. . . . .

Else.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Obitchuaries: Dissing The Dead


According to a front-page article in The New York Times of Sunday, November 5, 2006, online obituary sites are struggling with ugly postmortems. Rude, crude, lewd comments are finding their way into guestbooks at sites like Legacy.com, the most popular of the type.

People! People! A little modicum of civility, please. Didn't anyone ever hear of "Requiescat in pace," which is Latin for, "Dude, show some freakin' respect!"

Some examples:

Reading the obit, he sounds like he was a great father. His son Peter.

Peter, where did you go to school? If you're going to bitch, put a comma after the word "son."

Or:

I sincerely hope the Lord has more mercy on him than he had on me during my years reporting to him at the Welfare Department.

Get over it, will you?!

The article noted that the Web sites hire full-time screeners to weed out the ghoulish resentment-harborers. Another common one is sneakier:

"Most often it's cases of Sue posting that he was the love of my life and then we check and the wife's name is Mary."


Ouch.

The piece quotes someone named Kenneth Doka, a professor of gerontology. (Shouldn't we either be talking to Miss Manners or a therapist?) Doka notes that people who have "one-click immediacy" in a "culture of candor" are saying things they'd never say in a handwritten note or in a handwritten guestbook at a funeral home.

Really?

Look, folks, do the honorable thing. Hurl the brickbats at me now. Throw the pies in the face while you have the chance. Diss me now.

Before I pull a Virgina Woolf. . .

. . . Or a J. Alfred Prufrock, seen above, trousers rolled, debating whether to eat a peach, listening for those mermaids, baby, singing each to each.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Leave It or Take It

So we get back yesterday from the movies. . . .

("Flushed Away." From the Wallace & Gromit folks. Went with E., my 24-year-old son who has a bachelor's in animation arts, and A., my 9-year-old daughter. We all loved it. Witty and fun.)


. . . and after a futile attempt at a nap I notice my neighbor and his son (actually the landlord of the two closely adjoining houses) dumping leaves by the curb. . .

. . . lots of leaves. . . in front of our house. Not theirs.

The landlord's kid asked me whether the leaves go in the street or not. No, I said, scowling, on the edge of a shouting match.

This reminds me of JR's Thumbprints and his dilemma last summer with his neighbor's boat and boat trailer. (Jim, hope you're feeling bettter. Cystoscopies are not fun; I do know that first-hand -- or first-gland.)

I was pissed. But didn't have the energy for it.

Then B. came home. After all, it was her house before I knew her. Plus she's got the Irish temper. She let them know we would prefer that leaves cover the flower beds over the long, hard winter.

Some nerve. (Some lack of nerve, Pawlie -- maybe it was simple prudence. I like Prudence. She's cute. Reminds me: in my growing-up sort-of tough neighborhood one was either classified as a fighter or a lover. Gulp.)

I will say this, though. A couple years ago a huge icicle fell off our house, with a thundering sound, and part of it dented the siding on the same neighbor-landlord's house next to ours (ours, which is now daringly purple with green trim; take that!), and a chunk sailed through the window and blinds of his tenants next door. The perfect weapon, an icicle. Don't look at me; I didn't do it.

By way of closing and apropos of nothing, I was at the supermarket this evening and saw a sign advertising the sale of amarllyis bulbs. I happen to be either blessed or cursed with a steel-tight memory for certain minutiae. Such as a college English professor claiming that the dirtiest line in English literature is from "Lycidas" from John Milton:

"To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?"


Amaryllis and Neaera were conventional names for pretty nymphs, my Norton Antholgy tells me.

Hmmm. He takes that over Molly Bloom's soliloquy? Or Andrew Marvell or John Donne? Or Edmund Spenser? Or some of Shakespeare's lines in "Romeo & Juliet? What about P Diddy or Madonna or Prince? (Oh. Right. English literature.) D.H. Lawrence?

You people should be working, paying bills, or wonking (is there such a verb?).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Motion-Activated

So I'm in the men's room. . .

(Is it still called the loo? How did that term come about? Do they still say w.c. in the U.K.? Doesn't w.c. stand for water closet? Sounds quaint. In the U.S., we call them bathrooms, as a euphemism, but let me tell you, when the homeless guys are taking a bath, at the sink, at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, it ain't too quaint. But I digress. "Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?" The answer is yes. But not any perfume found in a men's room, which is where I started this post. Oh. And in Ireland, they were called toilets. Straightforward.)


. . . and I have a need to dry my hands. . .

(I don't like those hair dryer moronic things on the wall, the ones that never work, and you just end up rubbing your hands on your pants, or under your arms, or elsewhere.)


. . .so the paper towel dispenser claims to operate in a manner that is declared MOTION-ACTIVATED. I wave at the machine like I'm waving goodbye to my youth. Or flirting with the security guard who is observing me on some camera. Or making some gay overture to some Republican ex-Congressman or outed right-wing religious zealot who is against gay marriage.

Hello? HERR MOTION-ACTIVATED DAEMON? !

To paraphrase Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman [whom some strangers have said I resemble] in "Midnight Cowboy":

"I'm wavin' heah!"

I kept waving. I thought of trying some Latin, maybe Age quod agis since it looked as if I was performing some kind of benediction (or as Michelle of Michelle's Spell would add, malediction).

I switched from a testosterone-driven frantic waving to a more gentle, almost regal, wave. Then I remembered where I was. A Men's Room.

And the paper towel appeared. (Not enough of it.) I rubbed my hands.

And walked out.

Into the mall, aswarm in nubile bodies. Meaning lots of hot young chicks.

Friday night. Pheromones in the air. MOTION-ACTIVATED indeed!

(Look, just as the Republicans are trying to shore up their base [I hope they fail], I'm lamely trying to win back my male readers. But they probably weren't my base to begin with.)

Carry on.

As you were.

Laugh. Or....

Else.


P.S. I think I am up for Recent Commenter Lee's 50-word-story challenge. Let me sleep on it. But I warn you. I'm told I snore.