Thursday, December 31, 2015

what shall I read?

What shall I read while en route to or in Iceland? Today I will finish "1954," a fine book by Bill Madden about that year and baseball and integration and other stuff. It will have been the thirteenth book I read in 2015. When I told my coffee-shop friend Bill B. that I was going to Iceland, right away he told me he had read two books by Icelander Halldor Laxness, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. Bill is admirably well read. I bow before him. So today I went to the DeWitt branch of the Onondaga County Public Library with the hope of securing a Laxness tome. No such luck. Instead, I came away with Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and Mr. Bones by Paul Theroux. I was inspired to pick up the Nabokov because I had just finished an article in The New Yorker about his letters to his wife, Vera. I chose Theroux because he is such an acclaimed travel writer, though this is a collection of twenty short stories (fiction). I will begin one of these books tonight, Deo volente, and will likely continue one of these books on my flight to Reykjavik. Come to think of it, it will make much more sense to buy a Laxness volume in Reykjavik, maybe in his native tongue or maybe in English. I cherish in advance a lovely bookstore in the world's most northern capital city. There's a selfish motive involved here: imagine how impressed the lovely woman sitting across from me at the cafe will be when I breezily mention Laxness or if she sees me reading one of his works (if it's the Icelandic version I will be faking it; but they say "fake it till you make it").

p.s. Thank you, Wikipedia, for the aural pronunciation of the author of Lolita. iIve had it mostly right all these years, while other pronunciations I've heard over the years were not quite on the mark, which is fine. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Iceland itinerary

This is already kind of crazy, as in cuh-razy. I am slated to fly out of Newark on a Monday night and land in Keflavik on Tuesday morning. Stay three nights in Reykjavik. I've booked an apartment through VRBO for three nights. Leave Friday evening but land in JFK. Smart, eh? That would be one major reason for the good price on the flight. 

While in Iceland, what to do? I tend to be a take-it-as-it-comes traveler, open to serendipity. I've been exploring the excellent I Heart Reykjavik blog and website, including its tour offerings. Very appealing. I have never taken a tour as a traveler -- not in Ireland or Germany, for example. I felt a tour would have restricted me, limited my possibilities. But I am not thinking that way now. I am thinking that some guidance and direction will actually open possibilities, relieve stress, and enhance the whole experience.

So, as it stands now, I am thinking:

  • Tuesday: wander around Reykjavik in a self-directed get-acquainted way, eat, blog, tea or coffee, nap at apartment, meet "never-met-before friends with like interests" [that's code; can't say more without compromising principles and traditions]
  • Wednesday: a tour that includes some awesome nature things outside the city
  • Thursday: a mix of Tuesday and Wednesday's agenda
  • Friday: another tour
That is pretty vague.

Gotta think about this a little more, but not too much!

Monday, December 28, 2015

-ism

I see that Merriam-Webster for the first time selected a suffix as its Word of the Year: -ism. Their selection criteria include various calculations based on lookups and combinations of lookups and year-over-year increases etc. So, 2015 evidently saw a lot of search activity (lookups) related to socialism, communism, feminism, fascism, racism, terrorism, and capitalism. I am mildly surprised not to find "alcoholism" on that -ism word-lookup parade. Am I being a grouchy growler (hate that word, though why should anyone hate any word?)? As for "-ism" and "alcoholism," there have long been clever and insightful pop-culture associations, with "-ism" representing the solipsistic "I self me" of the disease or the "I sponsor myself" approach that is said to thwart recovery.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

winter haiku redux


rain to gloppy snow

soundtracks this silent dark night

train whistle blowin'

Saturday, December 26, 2015

French Foreign Legion, Iceland Division

I don't know how the legend started, the one about heartbroken or unlucky-in-love men joining the French Foreign Legion. Ah, the dark romance of it all, made for film noir. I mention this for a reason. Is this the sort of reason I am embarking on a journey to Iceland? Could I be that type of man, hurling himself into danger, mystery, or adventure in order to cure himself of failures of the heart?

Only my hairdresser knows for sure, to paraphrase the old award-winning ad for Miss Clairol hair coloring. 

(My mom worked on the assembly line at Clairol for many years; her chronic cough is likely a result of the chemicals she breathed in those many years working there.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

questions for Iceland and me

Questions about my pending Iceland trip (answers pending; or not):


  1. Am I trying to escape duty, pain, or quotidian routine? If so, is that right or wrong? (Are "right" and "wrong" notions of culture and custom more than morality?)
  2. If Iceland is a personal metaphor, what is it a metaphor for? If not a metaphor, can Iceland be a simile, a song, an icon, a template, a slate, a temple, or a geothermal self-reflecting pool?
  3. Upon landing at Keflavik, will I say to myself, "What have you done now?" though it will not be possible, or practical, to scoot back home?"
  4. Can one conjure or force to happen a satori or epiphany? And can a new-found-land be the locus of such enlightenment?
  5. Will I be able to resist the urge to sleep upon landing?
  6. Which course of tourism will be most beneficial and rewarding: wringing everything out of Iceland and tapping all its wellsprings insofar as this human and his endurance and budget can withstand it, or a more passive, let-it-me-revealed onto to me approach?
  7. What if I love Iceland so much I want to stay, I mean really stay? (And would Iceland even want me to stay if I could?)
  8. Will I encounter a San Francisco Giants fan in Iceland? (I would not be shocked at such an eventuality.)
  9.  Do Icelanders believe in the existence of elves (National Geographic says 54% of Icelanders do)? Better yet, quite simply, do elves inhabit Iceland, spiritually or physically?
  10. If this journey proves transformative, how so?

Iceland poem 2



As a baron of barrenness, I

Implore your springs to geothermalize me

Your pure waters trickling

In my dreams wake

My frozen flesh

Torched in sunset

A tango of serenades












Wednesday, December 23, 2015

an interview with my self

Q. Why do you want to go to Iceland?

Why not?

Q. How did you manage to pick that land, as opposed to say, Ireland, Finland, or Queensland, Australia?

I'm not sure. It popped into my head. The idea of going to Iceland began to intrigue me. Kind of an impulse buy. I needed to relieve some stress, so I figured, Go north. True north. True self, self. Plus, I recalled reading in Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling on Happiness" that people in Iceland ranked highly on happiness scales.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish with your trip to Iceland?

"Accomplish"? Maybe nothing. Maybe some self-reflection. Maybe a good time. To be fair to myself, I do have to allow for the remote possibility that I will have a dreadful time. It's not my hope or my expectation, but one must be prepared. Nevertheless, I am confident Iceland and I and its people will have a splendid time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Iceland naked

I am tempted to study very little about Iceland before going there. Sure, I have checked out a few things online or heard from people who have visited Iceland or learned things from my putative host: the tall church, the Old Town, the Blue Lagoon, the port, Nordic or Viking this or that. But I want Reykjavik to unfurl before me like the pages of a unread book. I desire that Iceland surprise me like a heart-pounding first kiss with someone. I seek a naked Iceland, unclothed by expectation, artifice, experience, or notions. O Iceland, let me see the veins on your hands, the curve of your neck, the fire in your eyes, as well as the keratosis of your skin, the limp in your gait, the sag of your flesh. Iceland, greet me with open arms and heart.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Iceland poem 1

I have heard it said Iceland's people are among the world's most literate. They are bards. Therefore, to honor that, here is my inaugural attempt at Icelandic poetry, in advance of my journey there.


Escarpments of escape

Humming under the wind

Springs eternal

Borealis sky

Aurora antiphons

Surging in my skin


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Iceland terrain

Already the terrain of Iceland is craggy, windswept, cold, barren, and biting. And I have not even set foot there yet, so that is a biased viewpoint. It is not a depiction of the terrain of Iceland. Not really. Not in actuality. As I said, I have yet to journey there. No, it is a description of the concept of my taking a journey to "Iceland" as a concept, a notion. There those who are aghast at my proposal to do so. How dare I? How dare I spend the money or take the time, me the frugal one, living on two meals a day, abstemious and sober, thrifty yet supposedly incapable of certain monetary "equalities," shall we say? The nerve. The boldness. Who will take care of Mom, 99? Who will do this or that? How can such roles be abdicated so cavalierly? These are the craggy, windswept, cold, barren, and biting questions. Iceland, what say you now?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Icelandic ponderings

"Do not travel to other dusty lands, forsaking your own sitting place; if you cannot find the Truth where you are now, you will never find it." Dogen

That is today's quotation on my Zen Calendar.

Point taken.

But I am nevertheless inching closer in my plans for a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland.

1. It's not that "dusty" a land, is it? (Maybe it is, volcanic ash and all.)

2. Hey, if I don't find Truth, at least I can find a Good Time.

Friday, December 18, 2015

previsions of Reykjavik, v. 1.1

And what if I chicken out, just another example of verbal bluster? I hope I go to Reykjavik. I want to go to Iceland. What is stopping me? Nothing should stop me, not even that my mom is here, a few miles away, in her 100th year, on her own, more or less, mostly less, these days. People ask me, "Why Iceland?" My glib reply is "why not?" though there must be more to it, stretching north, digging deeper, the geothermal bubbles, new languages, rugged terrain, foreign sands, fresh air.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

previsions of Reykjavik, v. 1.0

So, will there be bubbling hot springs, roasted coffee, Bacchanalian abandon, sobriety, serenity, escarpments, or wind? Some or all? I suspect I will conduct little research beforehand, on Iceland or its most-northern-in-the-world capital. I doubt I will take a camera. My unsmartphone is not camera-adept. I will likely visit that tall church I found out about online before I decided I should let things unfurl, like the sails on the Viking ships. Is it nonsense to go somewhere to find out something about one's own interior spaces? Will people speak English. (Yes, I am sure.) Iceland and Ireland differ by one letter. I could offer a meaning there, but that is a stretch. 

What if I want to stay?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

visions of Reykjavik

Reykjavik. Once you learn how to spell it, you're halfway there, right? Iceland. The thought of journeying to Iceland beckons to me on an unseasonably uncold Tuesday night in Syracuse, New York. Go north, and then north of there. Go to the planet's true north, its northernmost capital. While others go to the Cayman Islands (as I once did) or Belize or Puerto Rico or Mexico, you name it, to a warmer clime, I am fantasizing doing deeper, going into the cold, mine and Nature's. Solo. And why not. Just the name of the country invites stoic challenge, though geothermal springs dispel those notions, as do stories of all-night revellers and Nordic, guilt-free abandon. Why not. Having flown to Ireland and Germany and seen the in-flight map of Transatlantic flight progress displayed on the screen on the back of the seat in front of me, and in those instances flying over Iceland, and thinking, wow, we are almost there, in Europe (though not quite; is Iceland in Europe?), I am thinking, Let's skip the continental Europe part and see what Iceland offers, even if no ice is there, literally or metaphorically.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

81 (True) North

ribboned white line pines aspens grassland farmland cumulus azure sunset crenellated treeline contours shoulders yellow stripe winding road cooler balmy homeward beckoning tires humming thrumping windshield framed maples beech diesel vista valley hillock verdant sienna hunter emerald lime lemon stratus striated shadow visor oak arching yawning yearning coasting hardscape cattle curvilinear hamlet village crossroads straightaway hum highway northward hawk raven sparrow deer scimitar moon speed song

Monday, December 14, 2015

microaggression

Yesterday the Merriam-Webster website listed "microaggression" as one of its "Words We're Watching." M-W cited it as "subtle comments that are demeaning to a marginalized group." I, however, came at it from another angle, though I had never heard the word or seen it in print before this website happenstance. I see microaggression as a more precise, yet alternative, term for "passive-aggressive," an oft-used coupling in modern American parlance. It seems to me that microaggression fills a void. We needed a term for something active, not passive, though not cogently belligerent. It's a way to describe the coded reference, the positioned object, the provocative phrase or look, an altered pattern, a throat-clearing, dirty dish (or clean), unanswered prompt or prompted halt, the shredded receipt, the untied lace, the dirty laundry.

Friday, December 11, 2015

streets with no name

I have stood at the corner of Straight and Narrow (I believe Paterson, New Jersey has such a juncture) as well as at Crooked and Wide. These are thoroughfares, avenues, or dead ends -- take your picks. Today I perched at the curb of Relief and Regret, wondering what the pavement holds, gravel or soapstone; marble or sand; parched or flooded; trafficked or sojourned; singular or multitudinous.

To be revealed.

Friday, December 04, 2015

stet stat stet


Stet. "Let it stand," in Latin, meaning: one makes an edit and then has second or third thoughts and concludes, "Disregard the change; let it stay as it was originally. I erred in judgment. My bad. Proceed as you were proceeding." A nifty do-over tool. Would that we could shout it out after the wrong word has been spoken to the wrong person at the wrong time with the wrong tone. Stet! Perhaps we'd even be able to add a "stat," a call for immediate action, just before they place the paddles on the chest to try to revive the human heart. Stat! [short for statim, in Latin, the adverb for "immediately"] You hear it on TV medical dramas all the time. Oh yeah. Stat stet. Or stet stat! 

If only.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

backing in

What's the obsession, the compulsion, with backing in? Go to a large parking lot, say a mall or a superstore, and voila! you are apt to see someone, typically in a big boat of a vehicle, a ponderous and ostentatious truckload of metal and chrome, stopping, pausing, and slowing up the works by doing a K-turn just so they can back into the parking space they have found. Sure, you can accuse me of my own solipsism, posturing an indignant attitude because said drivers are slowing ME, ME, ME. But honestly what's the point? It escapes me. They always seem to want to make a big deal of it, as if to say, "Hey, plebe, look at me. I not only found a space for my metal hull on wheels, I am ready to zip outta here, unlike you, you moron. I'm ready to go. A modern speedster firmly and sure-footedly planted in The Land of the Free and Wait While I Do This." True, no one has ever uttered one syllable expressing such thoughts, but I have a fertile, and febrile, imagination.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Danger: Safe Sex

Last week, on the roadway in front of my car, a bit to the left toward the yellow centerline, rested a condom. I say "rested" because, after all, this open-ended (one side) sausage casing, was tired, spent, used, discarded, exhausted of any capacity for further employment. I spied this object in the morning. What carnal circus or mayhem had taken place overnight? I was relieved to know my car was not a venue for whatever tryst or ambush or dalliance had occurred. My car was still locked and had not been broken into. I was annoyed, embarrassed, and irked at the sight of a post-coital condom. This was not a merely puritanical or judgmental response. Such objects in one's environs are hardly welcome; they don't raise the value of surrounding properties. Still, why does this particular bit of detritus rankle me more than, say, a gum wrapper or cigarette box, though I abhor all litter, as I have noted in this space abundantly? Is it the cavalier disregard of others or of others' surroundings it hints at? (What else was the penile perp to do?) Some might celebrate the object as forensic evidence of safe sex. Yippee. (Such hurray-shouters would inevitably reside from afar, proponents of No Condoms In My Frontyard, NCIMF.) So, what did I do? I went to the trunk of my car and retrieved a pair of work gloves. I daintily picked up the thing, using two fingers, squinting in disdain, averting my gaze. Then what? I wasn't going to waltz into my apartment and put it in the trash. Nooooo. It would make for a rude and uninvited guest, an awkward visitor. I walked up near the house, by some bushes, and tossed it amidst some thickets, where it can rest, unseen, for centuries, known only by me. And now by you as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

dial tone

Terms from the last century, artifacts from another age, which if said rapidly, fait la liaison, as the French say (and as Phil Ochs did it in song), sounds like "another rage": dial tone, land line, busy signal, modem hookup, Polaroid, dial, rotary, party line, long distance, directory assistance. What did these words mean in the 20th century? And what do they mean in this age? Each of them meant something. Each has a lexical hangover of some sort or another, masquerading and strutting as if these words could declare, as they used to, quite automatically, "Everyone gets it. Everyone knows what I'm talking about!" Who could not be jealous of such linguistic surety, such bold certitude? Now, these words or phrases are relics, on the shore, verbal driftwood, polished into alien sculptures.

Monday, November 16, 2015

all hung up

On the corner, dangling from a pay phone, a relic from another age, like hardware we left on the lunar landscape, a piece of plastic attached by a metal umbilical cord: the talking and hearing implement. Is there a busy signal? A dial tone? Hello? Hello. Anybody there? Anybody walking by? Excuse me. Hello?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

metrics

One measure (the hip and already worn out word is metric or metrics) of my well being and well bearing today is to succeed in avoiding metrics. By that I mean, I will have achieved some measure of serenity if I have enough spiritual stamina to AVOID going to the Createspace website or the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website, both tentacles of Amazon.com, to feel the pulse of my paperback or e-book sales, more typically, lack of sales. It does me no good whatsoever to gauge the financial or egotistical temperatures of these ventures. It costs me too much in the wages of attachment. I do better to ignore such empty calculi, laden with expectation and self-validation. And stuff like that.

Friday, November 06, 2015

woman down

As I open the door to exit the senior-living facility, I am startled by someone facing me, in my face, more accurately. A thin, frail elderly resident, trying to get in. Do we both scream? We surprise each other. She is falling backward. It is all happening in slow motion, as they say. But it really feels that way. I am somehow summoned out of my slo-mo reverie. By what? I grab her, brace her, sort-of catch her in midair as she goes down. I break her fall. She lands on her rear or her arm or her leg. I cannot say for sure. Does she bounce against the railing? She does not hit her head. I help her up. We were both scared witless. Are you okay? Yes, she says. She says she thought she heard someone (me), from the outside, as if to scold herself for not preventing the incident. She talks about how easily she bruises. She lives next door to my mom. Are you sure you are all right? Yes, she says. We talk some more. As William Carlos Williams put it, "so much depends." Yes, so much depended. Could've been far worse. Phew. Hashtag grateful. You sure you are all right. Yes. Boy, I'm glad I wasn't speeding out that door.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

on the spectrum


surely I am on the spectrum

but whose or of what

spectrum of hues


missed cues

crowded by static

or worse yet stasis

hyperfocused or is it hyperfocussed

socially obtuse

you don't get it
 
I got it

who doesn't

fumble fear

being


off the spectrum

floating in dark matter

alien

alone

huddled

solipsistically


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

sign, interrupted

I woke up Sunday morning to see a street sign lying on the ground, injured or dead (who can say?). The sign had two messages affixed to its pole: one prohibiting parking from the posted spot to the corner, the other permitting parking on odd-numbered days starting at 6 p.m. How the sign found itself in the prone position, rather than the standard vertical one, is a mystery. It's a mystery to me, but not to everyone. The normally-rooted-in-the-ground metal pole holding the sign's message was severed near the bottom, seemingly sheared. An unbloody stump remained in the ground. How did this happen? It would take some force. A thump was heard in the night, the morning hours. Did a vehicle hit it? I saw no tracks to indicate that. Did Halloween mischief makers make mischief? How? What are we to make of this, if anything at all?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

luxurious decay

Luxurious decay. Obvious name for a punk band. But I'm talking leaves. October. October 31, to be exact. Autumn. Fall. Emerald rust burnt sienna crimson gold amber honey tangerine flame cream verdant straw ad infinitum. Luxurious and ample and lush and abundantly wild colors, textures, shades, hues, intensity. All that. And guess what? It's all from one thing: death. Yet what a carnival! A riotous festival. Swirling rot. Achingly gorgeous life and death cavorting together, or lazily reclining side by side on the welcoming earth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

stop means stop

You see the signs adorning many corners: an addendum, or gloss, on the larger sign on the same metal post sporting the imperative STOP. (This codicil strikes me as a suburban phenomenon, reflecting a hyperattentive concern for propriety and rectitude one associates with American exurbia.) That STOP surely is a verb, not a noun announcing the type of action required at the junction. STOP MEANS STOP presumably means drivers who are supposed to be stopping are merely pausing. Or not stopping long enough, or not at all. If we are going to parse propriety, let's go further. Perhaps the editorial sign commenting on STOP should instead say: 'Stop' means stop. Or "Stop" [not the single quotes you see in headings] means stop. But let's go further. STOP MEANS STOP actually risks sending the opposite of its presumably intended message. You would never post such a message unless the word "stop" were being routinely ignored. So, how does replicating the word, repeating it, strengthen its force? Does it not weaken the word "stop"? Does it mimic the situation of a parent remonstrating a child, perhaps loudly, as the child clearly knows the word carries no force if not enforced? As a codicil upon a codicil, let me say that I suspect some visitors who read the title of this post arrived here by serpentine paths. They may have twinned STOP MEANS STOP with NO MEANS NO as an expression of sexual consent, or rather its lack. So, how does that alter the arc of the conversation? Or does it? We can milk this; we can explore endless variations. Peace means peace. War means war. Love means love. Hate means hate. Go means go. Walk means walk. Buy means buy. Sit means sit. Listen means listen. Talk means talk. Stop this means stop this.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Man Down

He was sitting on what might be termed a grassy knoll, not far from the arboretum. Sitting on a patch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk. A man with a dark beard, and glasses. Maybe in his forties. Or fifties. Or sixties. Who can tell anymore? Sitting, almost reclining. Not looking ill but possibly so. Not looking anxious; but possibly so; looking tired. Looking like someone with COPD who can only take so many steps. I was driving by. I was on the way to the bank, already late for an appointment scheduled after my stop at the bank. (Actually, my appointment was scheduled for 10, but I was late by virtue, or vice, of squeezing in this bank visit, a visit later deemed beneficial owing to the fact I paid with cash.) I gave a glancing thought to stopping, at least to ask if Man Down was okay. He wasn't writhing. He looked almost comfortable. (What do any of these ludicrous adjectives or perhaps a participle mean or imply? And who is to say?) Still, I fought back feelings of guilt. I even sternly lectured myself, in imaginary, half-comical fashion: "Sure, if it were a lovely damsel in distress you'd stop, wouldn't you?" Would I? What would I say or do? I drove to the bank and conducted my bit of business. I then drove up the hill, in the same vicinity where I had spotted Man Down. This time, however, he was sitting down, almost reclining, looking tired but not injured, on a grassy knoll on the golf course, meaning he had advanced, perhaps a quarter-mile at most. He had seemingly progressed in his journey (was it a purposeless stroll? or a challenging walk toward a destination?), leaving me with a half-ounce less guilt.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

human trafficking

An upside-down neon-orange-red traffic cone, in a hole, in a sidewalk. West Fayette Street near South Geddes Street, Syracuse, New York. Although the traffic cone cannot speak, it evokes questions:
  • How did the traffic cone get there? Did a human or humans place it there after a human or humans fell or tripped at that spot? Did a human call another human at City Hall or at the DPW?
  • How long will the traffic cone reside there?
  • Where does this urban not-quite-infrastructure problem rank amidst the parade of priorities inexorably marching in place?
  • Is the mayor aware of this? Is the Common Council?
  • As with many problems in distressed cities in America, will this problem-concern-issue be ignored, becoming a "cone of uncertainty," or more aptly a cone of neglect, or cone of temporary potential caring, or cone of insouciance?
  • Is this upside-down silent traffic cone a megaphone shouting into the void, its cries muffled by traffic, concrete rubble, and indifference?
 "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." Simone Weil

autumnal haiku 2

I wrote this after strolling in the serene and evocative Fayette Park, in downtown Syracuse, with its touching memorials to fallen firefighters.


splurging fountain spray

firemen's statues, still silent

squirrels gathering


Friday, October 09, 2015

white space

Is white space like white noise?

I submit they are infinitely different -- at least in shading and texture.

Not much to say today.


But listen, anyway.


Or look.


And see.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

cone of uncertainty

The projected paths of hurricanes are surely not the only examples of a "cone of uncertainty." We are born (and borne) through and into a cone of uncertainty. Our cone of uncertainty encompasses the all-direction maze of life, death, and all stations in between those two terminals. Uncertainty about meaning, lack of meaning, direction, no direction, beginning, middle, end -- it's all there, entwined by faith or fear into a conical conundrum, comedic or tragic -- take your pick.

Monday, September 28, 2015

staples for life, a mystery

Months ago, I noticed my stapler was out of staples. More accurately, the stapler was likely almost out of staples. I purchased staples at -- where else? -- Staples. I bought a package of staples. The purchase encompassed two plastic-wrapped cardboard packages of 5000 "standard staples" each, or "agrafes standard," in French. From a glance at each cardboard package, the staples have yet to be used. At all. They are arranged in 12 rows, with each row piggybacked oppositely with its twin set. Staples of beauty, order, precision. (Allow me to do the math: 5000 staples divided by 24 rows, equaling 208.3333 in each row. That sounds wrong for this assemblage of one-quarter-inch (6.35mm) staples, made in China. Nevertheless, I am now disquieted by this observation of staple abundance, overabundance, if you will. 

I will not be able to use up all these staples in my lifetime.

Not even close.

Perhaps if I went on a binge, an orgiastic, frenetic outburst of stapling activity, I could approach the use, the employment, of 10,000 staples (remember: each little carton says "qty 5000" [without the comma]). Still doubtful. 

I could try some sort of performance art or stapling obsession of loose documents, papers, receipts, bills, notes, scraps.

Still doubtful.

Why does this bother me?

Supplies of salt, pepper, and paper clips do not disquiet me in the same way.

Something to do with grasping versus letting go? Mortality?  Numerology? The metaphors that "staples" invoke?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'we apologize for any inconvenience'

Isn't that a business's most lame statement? (Or any other entity that declares it.) It's false, phony, insincere, inauthentic, self-regarding, fraudulent, shallow, unimaginative, superficial, provocative, one-dimensional, wrongheaded, insipid, and dumb. And the icing on the rancid cake is the fact that "inconvenience" is often spelled wrong!

Monday, September 21, 2015

pair this

Foodies, gourmands, and assorted oenophiles love to toss around, as in a salad, the verb "pair." You've seen it. Or heard it. "The escargot retains its maritime yet diffident character when paired with a 1973 L'Armandaise Bleu." That type of pinkies-out remark is readily slurped up by aesthetes. "Via Va Voom Venuto's menu boasts a zesty pasta sauce, called 'gravy' by the local denizens, that pairs well with a bottle of handcrafted red from the nearby GMO-abstinent, non-frackable vineyard."  

Pair. Pairs. Pairing. Paired.

Such a genial word, with its seductive invitation to couple, twin, or more! 

And yet.

And yet let us admit to its linguistic impediments.

Some pairings are ill conceived and ill fated, are they not?

You wouldn't pair a Trump with a Sanders, would you?

Or a vegan with a carnivore, a liberal with a conservative, a dove with a hawk -- WAIT! Maybe those are the very pairings we in fact covet and crave. Maybe we indeed need to conspire and courageously conjure oxymoronic pairings that will yield unexpected civility and eruptions of harmony and blasts of bonhomie.

Ya think?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Knowledge is power

I rolled up to Colonial Laundromat. From Bubble-Up car wash, I hear a voice. He's talking to me in rapid-fire fashion. Shades of the Midway. Step right up. Something about $15, wash and wax and polish your car, $20 inside and out, while you do your laundry, $50. Hunh? I walk up to him. One five or five oh? I ask. One five, he says. Twenty, inside and outside. I have to go up the hill, I tell him. Which I do once I start my wash. I come back. I go for it. Inside and out. What's your name? Knowledge, he says. You should have a T-shirt that says Knowledge is power. I take him up on it. This entrepreneur with a bit of the showman and the entertainer. Philosopher, too. You gotta love what you do, he sings out as he makes some change at the laundromat. As I dry my clothes, and he does my car.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

fragile liquid perishable hazardous

The postal clerk asked the typical and mandated question: “Does this parcel contain anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous, including lithium batteries and perfume?” 

(Technically, I believe she did not mention "including lithium batteries and perfume.")

I responded, "I don't think so. Are words perishable or hazardous? It's a book. I guess words can be perishable or hazardous."

She half-smiled.

"I guess you have a point."

Upon post-shipping reflection, I concluded that words can indeed be fragile (the infinite space between yes and no is but one fragile example), liquid (flowing in several directions, pliant, not solid, moving, healing as a balm), perishable (even set down on paper, words can be lost, burned, evaporated, forgotten), and potentially hazardous (yes, subversive too; think of the Declaration of Independence, or a declaration of war or marriage vows or divorce decrees or papal bulls or misreadings of traffic signs).

But I nevertheless betrayed my vocation and craft by answering "no" to the clerk's query.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

'true medical emergency'

You've heard it. You call the doctor's office. (Excuse me, you call the office of your aggregated healthcare practitioners.) Before a human with a voice attends to your need or query, a recorded voice declares: "If this is a true medical emergency, hang up and dial 911." Curiously, though, later, as one of the options presented, you are invited to press 1 if it is for a medical emergency. Hmmmmm. Which summons the obvious cerebral (in my head, at least) debate about what constitutes a "true" versus an "untrue" medical emergency.

TRUE MEDICAL EMERGENCY: Unasked for amputation.
UNTRUE MEDICAL EMERGENCY: Unasked for ampersand.

TRUE: Cerebral hemorrhage. 
UNTRUE: Cerebral hemorrhoids.

TRUE: Aneurysm.
UNTRUE: Androidism.

TRUE: Four-hour erection.
UNTRUE: Four-hour erection.

TRUE: Fibula fracture.
UNTRUE: Fractured fable.

Got more? 

Comment below.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Monday, September 07, 2015

endless summerish

Even though you hear about Labor Day signaling the end of summer, and all that, you have to wonder: is it? Oh, sure, Labor Day is the end of summer in the sense of "let's get back to work again" and "school is back in session" and that sort of thing. On that note, a few comments: first, in the borderless landscape of constant work tied to constant digital access, not so much. The crossing over from vacation to work to vacation requires no moral passport anymore, which is a shame. As for myself, the Labor Day As International Dateline Between Fun-Lovin' Summer and Work Drudgery simply does not exist. I'm delighted to have very little anxiety concerning post-Labor Tuesday. It's simply tomorrow. And as for the "back to school" theme, ditto. I'm glad to have jettisoned, via age and circumstance, the dread that would accompany the first day of school, both as a student and as a teacher. I don't miss it. But, to "be-Labor Day" the obvious, simulacra of these anxieties continue to wait in the wings of my quotidian fears. I can let these anxieties assault me if I choose. (Do I truly have a choice? Some say yes, some say no.) Or if I feel assaulted by these nervous apprehensions, I can face them or ignore them, embrace them or fight them. Or, to continue this endless summerish wave of speculation, I can surf them, ride them -- savoring the saltspray and the speed and the danger and the whatever else.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

interlocutor interruptus

Yeah, no

But then I

You know

Because

If only

Know what I'm sayin'

And then

You don't understand

Me too

You were wrong

Told you so

Right

Nope

No, yeah

Not me

You're crazy

So I

Never

That was like

Wait

But

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

pebble in the shoe

I put on my socks, yellowish, thin, summery. Then, I covered my left foot by slipping on a shoe, a handsome brown dress shoe, from Famous Footwear. I put on my right shoe. (Truthfully, this sequence may be imposed after the fact. I cannot recall for sure.) Then I felt a pebble in my left shoe. It was an annoyance. It was less than a pebble; call it a pebblette. I removed the shoe and shook it. Nothing seemed to fall out. And I couldn't feel anything with my naked hand as it surveyed the shoe for the culprit. I put the left shoe back on. I walked on it. Pebble (or pebblette) still in the shoe. Problem still afoot, though invisible and not tactile. It has been said such a petty bother can unsettle a person, that it can drive someone (even an abstinent person) to drink. I held that notion in my head to nudge me toward some calmness as expletives prepared to explode into the room peopled only by the author of this blog post. I recalled the broken shoelace and its aftermath chronicled in The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. I removed the offending scruple, "again," this time with more comfortable results (as evidenced by a test-walk). 

The metaphorical applications of this vignette await your parsing.

This, from the Online Etymology Dictionary, may help you in your reflections:
scruple (n.) Look up scruple at Dictionary.com
"moral misgiving, pang of conscience," late 14c., from Old French scrupule (14c.), from Latin scrupulus "uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience," literally "small sharp stone," diminutive of scrupus "sharp stone or pebble," used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, probably from the notion of having a pebble in one's shoe. The word in the more literal Latin sense of "small unit of weight or measurement" is attested in English from late 14c.

Monday, August 24, 2015

sunset boulevard

As he drove on Onondaga Lake Parkway, seeing memorial crosses to his right, before the 10'9" warning signs for the rail overpass, where a Megabus crashed and four died several years ago, he saw what people term a picture-perfect sunset to his left, which would have to be west, would it not, because, after all, the sun sets in that direction, we are told. And, what, he wondered, is so great about this sunset? If he were forced to decide, he would report a litany of visual components (no aural elements came to mind, despite that "music of the spheres" stuff), including, but not limited to (as attorneys and regulators and bureaucrats like to say): backlit cumulus clouds, silhouetted rays of golden sunlight, lambent light off the lake, contrasting blue sky in the dusk, seagulls, rippling waves, willow branches swaying in the breeze. Not that a sunset shrouded in brooding purple storm clouds or pale wintry slate would be any less picturesque, nor would the sunset itself care one way or the other, he wondered parenthetically.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

curvilinear urban legend beauty

You venture out to retrieve the black plastic empty trash can and the blue bin for recyclables, peering at your car and, as you typically do, surveying for slashed tires or a window broken and beaded from last night's anonymous mayhem. On the road surface (a road paved merely months ago), you spy an imprint of white paint that nearly outlines your car, a 2007 VW Rabbit, 111,000 miles, the way the police delineate chalk lines where a dead body formerly sprawled, in its last restless resting place. You look left and see where the paint seemingly originated, several houses south, on Avery Avenue, where a resident likely deposited it, improperly, in last night's trash. This "waste management" accident paints a brushstroke of curvilinear whimsy and beauty. (Curvilinear strikes this observer as an especially feminine word, owing to female curvature merged with sweeping linearity as opposed to male angularity and polarity.) The alabaster alphabet consisting of one long L with hints of an S at the end is punctuated with accidental or purposeful blockprints from someone's steps, or else owing to the fruits of a performance or avant-garde visual artist who has staged this elaborate design, which trails off into the intersection with Chemung Street, toward the final feet of the old West End of Syracuse. And later in the day, and in the remains of subsequent days, you see vestiges of more curvilinearity: the palimpsest of the dawn street sweepers, meandering against curbs and around parked cars, reciting a visual poetry of fading hieroglyphics.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

a secular prayer

Have we lost a sense of commonweal? The common well-being, the body politic. A shared welfare (another word whose shades of meaning are often shrouded).

Commonweal.

A Secular Prayer

Would that we could summon, or have someone, or something, summon unto us, for our own behalf, the solidarity of community, not riven by solipsism or divided by dissonance. Would that we could respect and honor our very own commonweal, even if by not trashing the land we traverse, or by unlittering the litter strewn before our averted or blinded eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

desire, thy name is . . .

Sprout Pharmaceuticals got FDA approval for its libido-boosting pill for women, called Addyi. As with many pharmaceuticals, it is controversial, in this case exposing two opposing lines of thought about the need for the drug and questions about its safety and efficacy. I'll dodge that debate. I'm not qualified to engage in it, for a multitude of reasons.

But I am qualified to engage in verbal foreplay. Or is it syllabic role-play? Anyway, is it vaguely possibly that the pharma pholks considered, and rejected, any of these names for their new product?

Attagirl

Attaboy

Loveya

Likeya

Friendme

Pantpurrgo

Screamy

Warmup

Myagra

Empowerglo

You can see why these were not selected. Suppy your own in the comments, if you dare.

(Incidentally, what do you think of Sprout Pharmaceuticals? What other industries is Sprout in? Seeds? hedge funds? fertility clinics? turf? irrigation? fertilizer? vitamins?)

p.s. The generic name is flibanserin. Play with that one, too, wordsmitherers.


Monday, August 17, 2015

reverse mortgages -- and more!

I saw a sign today that said REVERSE MORTGAGES. I barely know what that means; maybe the bank pays you. Probably not. I guess it has to do with borrowing against your equity. Of course, it got me to musing on the semantic possibilities. How about these?

REVERSE MARRIAGE -- separation or divorce.

REVERSE CONFESSION -- the priest tells you his sins.

REVERSE HIRING -- firing.

REVERSE WINNING -- losing.

REVERSE VIRGINITY -- [it doesn't work that way]

REVERSE SAVINGS -- spending.

REVERSE HOMER -- strikeout.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

West of East and Vice Versa

As you drive into West Leyden, you see the Milk Plant Tavern on your right, its outer walls suitably and milk-cannily decorated on a white background. (Love that name.) No, I did not go in. Then you cross a bridge with a sign telling you it's the East Branch of the Mohawk River. Leaving West Leyden, you soon find yourself in West Turin, whereupon a great blue heron almost swoops onto the road in front of you, NYS Route 26, causing you to slow down, as the pterodactyllic creature lands in a field, though you'd think a swamp or lake was its true home. Who knew.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

too true, too often

Provocateur / activist / friend Dan Valenti has video-chronicled pandemic neglect in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He strolls through urban scenes of weeds, litter, abandonment, indifference, foolhardiness, ignorance, indignity, and self-defeat. It all adds up to neglect that reflects a lack of care, class, or hope.

Sad.

Sadder yet is the inescapable conclusion that the locale could have been any of — what? — 137 cities in America.

I don't have a simple answer (or even a complicated answer) except to lament bygone days of community, commonweal, pride, and humanity. How does one teach or inspire those attributes? Can leaders instill those civic virtues? Can these positive energies and exertions swell upward, churning a rising tide? Or are we condemned to cumulative attrition, an oxymoron of loss and despair?



Thursday, August 06, 2015

'bingo as usual'

The sign at the VFW post on Charles Avenue in Solvay, NY declares: "Bingo as usual." Nothing controversial about that. But it got me thinking. If there's bingo as usual, what would be bingo not as usual? How about:

  • Naked bingo
  • Bingo in Sanskrit
  • Braille bingo
  • Uncover the card
  • Hula bingo
  • Clairvoyant silent bingo
  • Bingo spelled b-b-b-i-n-g-o for stutterers
  • Minimalist bngo
  • Pantomime bingo
  • Nuclear bingo
  • Underwater bingo

Monday, July 27, 2015

the sparrow-cicada skirmish

Parking lot of a Target store. A commotion on the pavement to the left and in front of my car. It's a sparrow tormenting and darting toward, attacking, a cicada, or whatever it was making that buzzing summer sound. The insect trying to excape, the sparrow vigorously making a point. "Leave me alone," if nothing else. A brief bit of drama. Not exactly Henry David Thoreau witnessing a war of ants, but the sparrow-cicada skirmish just the same.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a cardinal virtue

I heard the sonorous chirp of what almost sounded like a cardinal, but somewhat off, truncated. It was as if the familiar (to me) sound loop of the male cardinal were skewed, off a few notes. No, more like it was a tape of a male cardinal being played backward, abbreviated. Picture the wind-up bird of Haruki Murakami fame being wound down or rewound.

I looked up.

High in the honey locust tree (I think it was), shading me if I were to stand under its foliage, was, yes, a male cardinal.

The sight shocked me, arrested me.

I was expecting to see a different bird, something unexpected.

But the cardinal himself stopped me, gave me pause as he went through his routine, which I had mistakenly taken to be a tad uncardinalish.

I watched him. And listened.

I wanted to do my mockingbird thing and imitate a typical cardinal song, to see if it would answer my call. (Was the perceived modified male cardinal song modified as some sort of mating ritual?)

But no.

I just stopped and listened.

I wanted to bow or make the sign of the cross through the air.

I did not.

But I was grateful enough to do either.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

crash-wrapped

I woke up to see the mosaic-looking pockmarks of broken so-called safety class consisting of the (now former) rear (driver's side) window of my car. Technically, I was seeing this hours after awaking. But it was my first venture outside. Past 11 a.m. I have typically expected this. Or Something Mischievous, e.g., slashed tires. Call it the cost of urban living, though I suppose it can happen anywhere. I suppose. I suspect a bullet, but when the police officer arrives, within an hour or close to it, he discounts that theory instantly, allowing it could have been a BB (no, not Brigitte Bardot; but what is the origin of BB?) and maybe a rock (unlikely) but some sort of projectile, given the dot and its radiating beauty of glass-beaded destruction. I was more pissed off than -- than what? sad? hurt? More or less, dismayed by the stupidity and annoyance of it all.

Since the glass place said they can't replace the window until Thursday (this "event" was Monday), I drove over there, so I could procure a temporary remedy, in case of rain, and to protect me (i.e., my car) from the exposure of naked air, and from the potential for raw entry into my vehicle that holds no valuables, at least in my eyes (children's books? CDs?).

They put some "crash wrap" on it (sort of like shrink wrapping the damage, or keeping it frozen in time in the hot summer day). I joked with the lady at the desk: "'Crash wrap'? I could use some of that every day." Smiles in the waiting room. 

Crash wrap.

True.

Who doesn't need some crash wrap for one's psyche, soul, spirit, person -- almost daily?

And, boys and girls, what exactly, in your view, would that spiritual balm, that crash wrap, consist of? What would it be?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

deer hart

I took a late-afternoon walk in the neighborhood, though it was easily hot enough outdoors to forgo it. As I climbed the hill in Solvay (Caroline Avenue), a deer caught my eye as I was nearly halfway up the hill at the top of which are some woods. The deer was maybe twenty feet in front of me, a little to my right, in some brush near a house. I don't know if it was a hart, but it was a deer. I don't know its gender. We sized each other up. Its ears were perked up and twitching now and then. It was sniffing me. We looked at each other, eyes to eyes. I said something like, "Hi there. What are you going to do now?" It did not reply, at least not verbally. We stood stock still for a while longer. Perhaps we could've done that for ten minutes, or an hour, longer. I don't know enough about deer. I proceeded up to the top of the hill. I didn't see any other deer in the woods. I walked down the hill, wondering where "my" deer went. Ah, there he or she was, higher up the side hill, chewing something from someone's garden. Looking at me intently.

Friday, July 10, 2015

barking dog

Barking dog. It sounds like the name of a so-called craft beer, and might be, for all I know. It's been the name of more than one restaurant. (One wonders why.) Last night, for me, "barking dog" was an actual sound in the actual night. I wasn't dreaming. I heard the actual barking dog before I was gifted with actual sleep, in the small hours of 1 or 2 a.m. I stood by first one window and then another, in an attempt to discover the location of the barking dog. It was either a back yard of a house on Avery Avenue or the back yard of a house on Chemung Street, Syracuse. I had a proposal to write, so I did that, listening to some Phil Ochs, with the hope that I'd not hear the barking dog. Not unlike the phenomenon in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the sound still haunted me. In some ways, it bothered me more when I couldn't hear it. (The other day, not in the night, I heard what might have been the same dog barking while I meditated. I concentrated on "barking dog" as a mere notion, a sound among an infinity of sounds, neither good nor bad. It evoked a wry smile in me, or the notion of a wry smile. But it was actual daytime, and I waltzed out of the actual house soon afterward.) After a while last night, I called the nonemergency police number to report the barking dog. I had had enough of the sound of the barking dog. The dispatcher or call-receiver said he'd already received one call about the same dog. Police policy prevented the police from sending an officer out there. I raised the spectre of animal cruelty, but upon being questioned, I admitted the dog was probably not in dire danger, though he or she lapsed into whimpering and crying at times. I half-jokingly threatened to take matters into my own hands, unleashing my frustration. The police gave me the number of Animal Control, which was to open at 8 a.m. I wrote the number down. I put a fan on in my room, blowing away from me, to provide some so-called white noise (why is it white noise, and not black noise or yellow noise or purple noise or rainbow noise?). I am not sure that it helped. In the night, the dog would seem to drift off, after a spasm of plaintive barking. Or maybe I was the one who drifted off, without plaintive barking. I was angry at the owner or owners of the barking dog. How could they allow that? It still angers me. But in the morning, when I awoke, groggy from a night of poor or fragmented, bark-laden sleep, I suggested to myself I did not know the facts. Maybe the owner or owners took ill and were in the hospital. Or the owner or owners died in the night. Maybe the owner or owners of the barking dog worked at night and got called on an emergency, to prevent a nuclear power plant from exploding, for example. I say those things, I type those words, but I do not believe them. I believe the barking dog was a victim of malign neglect, and we the neighbors were victims of callous disregard. My evidence is scant. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I will stop before sundown.



Monday, July 06, 2015

boys and gulls

To my ears, those who speak with a certain shade of British accent pronounce "girls" so that the word sounds like "gulls." But that's just me. So, the other day two seagulls were on the roof, on the roof of an attic window, above and beyond my apartment. I had never seen these two gulls before, not that I recall. They were squawking and strutting. It seemed they were arguing or posturing. As those things go, I assume they were two male birds fighting for territory or mating rights or ornithological semantics.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

fireworks vs. firecrackers

I guess I can understand fireworks, with their pyrotechnical bombast (like this sentence), luminosity in the night, concussive heart-thumping, high-decibel drama, and aesthetic symmetry -- not to mention their evocation of adult and youthful oohs and ahs. I consider fireworks a communal and celebratory ode to military use of ordnance in accord with ancient traditions. We can debate the demerits or merits of corporate or municipal fireworks, but not here, not now.

Firecrackers are something else altogether. I think of firecrackers as one-offs for personal use. I don't get them or their use. What's the point? Especially M-80s, or whatever the hideously loud ones are called. I might even get it if, in America, firecrackers were ignited simultaneously, making a common statement (what sort of statement, I honestly can't say for sure) at an opportune time, such as the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve (apparently this was a huge thing in Berlin, at least several years ago). 

But a random firecracker in the middle of the night? What's the point? Is it some sort of audible chest thumping? A provocation, a spit-at-you-all, a testosterone rant, a protest, a type of trash-talking? 

Perhaps my opposition to firecrackers derives from memories of my boyhood, when neighborhood kids would insert a firecracker or two under the turtle's shell. Just to watch him die, to borrow from a Johnny Cash tune. (I can't be making this memory up.) I was not immune to lighting the little firecrackers that looked like birthday candles. We also had a habit of breaking one in half and then stomping on it. Smart. 

On this Fourth of July I'd gladly forgo hearing one more firecracker, though it is merely 1:23 a.m. The holiday is just beginning.But it's beyond me what this has to do with independence, freedom, and all that.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

'if you see something, say something'

Actually, the Department of Homeland Security has trademarked the slogan, so it is displayed as "If you see something, say somethingTM." Which may mean the U.S. government is encouraging its citizens and noncitizens alike to practice Transcendental Meditation (which is a proprietary name and is followed by a TM; maybe even TM TM, for an abbreviation followed by a trademark declaration).

If you see something, say something.

If you see injustice (verbal, physical, social, economic), say it is wrong.

If you see justice, say it is right.

If you see lies (in print, on TV, online), say something truthful.

If you see intolerance, say something tolerant.

If you see error, say something factual.

If you see something banal, say something provocative.

If you see something grammatically naked, say something syntactically dressed up with every place to go, with gerunds, participles, prepositions, ablative absolutes, infinitives, adjectives, adverbs, articles, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, pronouns, synonymous nouns, and parenthetical asides.

If you don't see something, don't say something.

If you don't see anything, say anything but nothing.

If you see some things but not others, say something to yourself to discern why.

If you see nothing, say nothing. (But say it eloquently.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

comma sense

The billboard, for local baseball, declared:

AFFORDABLE, FAMILY, FUN.

Whoa! I may've been speeding on the intrastate as I spied the sign, but I nevertheless feel my recollection is accurate.

Why those commas, copywriter dude or dudette?

I recognize that some folks believe punctuation is wedded to sound. It is. To a point. Punctuation choices (e.g., employing or not employing commas) certainly can be influenced by desires related to cadence and rhythm. Subjective considerations along those lines might turn out to be important, especially in poetry or in a speech.

However.

Punctuation also conforms to rules of structure and logic. In the example above, logic is defied as to why commas are employed. In fact, the commas nearly make me laugh.

Granted, one could argue that copywriters readily use periods for dramatic effect, to slow the reader down. As in: AFFORDABLE. FAMILY. FUN. That might be mighty fine except in this case the lack of parallelism is jarring. We have different parts of speech. It throws the train off the tracks.

Commas matter.

And no commas matter, too. 


Monday, June 22, 2015

maybe words don't matter

I'm often declaring that words matter. "Words matter" is the tagline on a promotional piece for my business. I make a living flirting, fondling, and fussing with words, as is evidenced in this space. But how and when words matter circumscribes a shifting landscape of context, complexion, and atmosphere. 

Listening to some Beatles oldies has driven this home ("Baby, you can drive my deconstructionist car...") Several years ago, I was driving around. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," from Abbey Road, was playing. My youngest child was in the car; maybe a young teenager at the time, or younger. I was bopping along to the relentlessly cheery and bubbly tune. My daughter said something like, "Dad, are you listening to these lyrics?" Well, I had many times listened to the song's gleeful depictions of MURDER, but never gave it any mind. The narrative was indefensible, if you were to take the lyrics seriously, that is. But who did? I never did. But a new generation of listeners perhaps took away an utterly different message. This has become a family joke, especially if we listen to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" in the car.

I recently slipped in the CD for Rubber Soul. (I am really bothered that Capitol released the British version; it totally messes with my boyhood memory of listening to the LP; different songs, different sequence.) "Run for Your Life" has John Lennon, or more accurately the character in a song, threatening death to a girlfriend (maybe it's an ex-girlfriend) owing to the narrator's jealous rage. As a teenager, these lyrics never fazed me (perhaps because I was such a late bloomer and had no actual 3D girlfriend at the time of the song's release). I don't recall the song causing the slightest controversy. It likely caused less stir than "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones. (Was preconceived prejudice a factor? After all, the Stones traded on their outlaw appeal.)

Would any of these lyrics cause a ripple today?

These reflections have forced me to evaluate some of my easy-access hostility to pop or hiphop lyrics that strike me as patently offensive (though, I don't have ready examples except the obscenities or verbal brickbats hurled from car speakers whose drivers are pleased to give the finger to society as if to shout, "you got a problem with that?").

And it's not just words alone, is it? In music, the lyrics coexist with the melody, whether we like it or not. It has been said that the tune for "Yesterday" started off with "scrambled eggs" as a holding pattern, a place holder, for the immortal lyrics eventually wedded to the musical notes. Imagine if "Yesterday," perhaps the most covered song in history, with its haunting and heartbreaking melody and lyrics, had silly or indecipherable or obscene lyrics. It would not endure.  At all.

So, I'll come full circle and say that words do matter. But how and when and why are tricky concepts to delineate. 

Just as in life.

Friday, June 19, 2015

letting go vs. holding on

A friend recently introduced me to the saying "let go or be dragged." (Or was it the variant "let go or get dragged"?) It is said to be a Zen proverb, but who can say for sure what the origin is for these slogans. And the origin doesn't much matter to me. For the record, I don't recall reading "Letting Go" by Philip Roth. However, I did read "Letting Go of the Words" by Ginny Redish, and it helped me immensely in writing web content. 

Letting go.

It evokes the question, "Letting go means letting go of what?" Without much forethought, this parade of notions involving "letting go" marches before me: life, death, love, hate, attachment, detachment, fear, expectation, attainment, nonattainment, and notions themselves.

Being dragged.

What question does "being dragged" elicit?  The smart-aleck, rice-bowl-upside-the-head answer would have me repeat verbatim the list italicized above. I don't know; help me out. I guess being dragged translates to holding on, possessing, owning, expecting, anticipating, projecting, reimagining, rehearsing, past, future, notions. 

Being dragged conveys the suffering of not letting go.

Is this mike working? I feel like a comedian who is bombing. (But that's because I am being dragged by preconceived notions I have not let go of.)

I am on the verge of deleting this post or shuttling it off to a bin labeled "draft."

Words, words, words.


“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” ~Ajahn Chah

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

life lessons

You know the type. He or she is going to teach you a lesson. What sort of lesson? Often, a lesson related to traffic, as in demonstrating by position or speed that pedestrians or other drivers should exercise more care in turning, or in moving, or stopping, or slowing, or speeding, or hogging the road, or not signaling, or not walking on the sidewalk, or littering. Et cetera.

That type is me.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

(What's my penance after this confession?)

(Naturally, such "life lessons" never result in the desired changed behavior, right?)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

beauteous Bloomsday blogaversary

Me started this blather storm of laden words in 2006 on Bloomsday, so carry on, keep calm or be qualmed, knickers in pocket, knickknack paddywhack, give the dog a bone.

Monday, June 15, 2015

follow the money

You walk up to the ATM. You prepare to make a withdrawal. You see that the previous customer (or the one before that, or even before that; who knows?) has left a receipt in the ATM. The half-spit-out receipt is sticking out its paper tongue. You extract the thin piece of printed paper. You are curious, in a financially voyeuristic way. You quickly notice that the receipt almost shouts:

ACCT BAL  $140,193.48
AVL    BAL  $140,193.48

You wonder who has ready access to this amount of cash. The receipt noted a $100.00 CASH WITHDRA FROM CK1. You have never possessed a sum even approaching this magnitude; no, not even after selling a house (since you have never owned a house on your own anyway). (We are referring to the ACCT BAL / AVL BAL sum, naturally.) You experience a hybrid of delight, envy, resentment, curiosity, remorse, greed, smugness, satisfaction, preachiness, whimsy. Did anyone want this receipt? Evidently not.

You save the receipt.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

labyrinth

Yesterday I walked a labyrinth. What does it mean today?

The quick answer is, "I don't know." The longer answer is: "I don't know, but I will share here with you my succinct next-day postlabyrinth reflections."

The labyrinth in this case was at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the rolling, emerald, June, cumulus-shadowed hills of the Berkshires. "Kripalu: explore the power of you." It is a winding path bedecked on its sides by swaying or bobbing flowers, the path consisting of wood chips. It is not a maze with false dead ends and blind alleys and false starts and false finishes. It is a winding path that in a sense you cannot stray from. At its end is a statue of Buddha and a statue of an angel with evidence of previous pilgrims: folded notes, (presumably) petitions, and queries. Coins (pennies, nickels), apples and other fruit, candles, burnt incense. The detritus of spiritual search.

I was instructed that before entering the labyrinth, one can pose a question or riddle or quandary. Pose to whom? I don't know. The universe, the inner self, the labyrinth. I posed no specific question, query, quandary, or any other word beginning with Q. Perhaps I was afraid of the weight of such a proposition. I was also told to breathe in and out, a certain number of prescribed inhalations and exhalation, before embarking. I tried some of that but lost count. My labyrinthine companion posed a question or item of some sort to the cosmos before walking the labyrinth. The topic? That's between her and the air.

Although I was not alone on the labyrinthine path, I was alone. And so it must be. Only I can walk my path.

I wanted to know the names of flowers, those aside from the obvious daisies (day's eyes), with their unnameable hues, fragrances, and textures. Why? The are fine without names. They are there, naked and real.

I saw two bees, gathering pollen. Busy as you-know-whats. I stopped. I watched. I delighted in them. I was not afraid of being stung. As I began again on the path, one of the bees swirled toward me. I thought it might sting me. It did not. But if it did, so what.

I walked barefoot for a while.

I closed my eyes at times.

I opened my ears, the birds, the breeze, the rustling branches.

At the end, after the end point with the statues, the end point becomes the starting point for walking back. It was an altogether different path. The same path was not the same path. It was now a path stained by me and my own just-traversed path experience.

The walk back (a relative term) seemed easier. I wanted to hurry.

You know how people say, "God has a plan for me?" I often have trouble with the marionette aspects of that phrase. But as for labyrinths, I felt this afterward, about this labyrinth: we each have a path; it might even be the exact same path for each of us. But it is infinitely different for each of us. (Reminds me a bit of "Labyrinths," or maybe "Ficciones," by Jorge Luis Borges, a favorite of mine in my youth.)

As it should be.

The Online Etymology Dictionary adds this for you to chew on:

labyrinth (n.) Look up labyrinth at Dictionary.com
c. 1400, laberynthe (late 14c. in Latinate form laborintus) "labyrinth, maze," figuratively "bewildering arguments," from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek labyrinthos "maze, large building with intricate passages," especially the structure built by Daedelus to hold the Minotaur near Knossos in Crete, from a pre-Greek language; perhaps related to Lydian labrys "double-edged axe," symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the labyrinth was originally the royal Minoan palace on Crete and meant "palace of the double-axe." Used in English for "maze" early 15c., and in figurative sense of "confusing state of affairs" (1540s).

Monday, June 08, 2015

word of the day

Today, Merriam-Webster selected "youthquake" as its Word of the Day:


(Is "Word of the Day" a proprietary term?)

Here's what Merriam-Webster posted:

youthquake

audio pronunciation
June 08, 2015
noun
\YOOTH-kwayk\
Definition
: a shift in cultural norms influenced by the values, tastes, and mores of young people
. . . which prompts these from me:
oldquake: Baby Boomers' anxiety over their retirement accounts 

slimquake: distress over the amount of one's caloric intake

heftquake: Ibid.
sexquake: performance anxiety
WASPquake: can you wear white pants after Labor Day?
cakequake: Op. cit.  

alcquake: the morning after
billquake: You got this? No? Really? 
agnostiquake: OMG. What if there really is a hell?
datequake: What if she/he/? doesn't like me, or vice versa?
ratequake: The Federal Reserve -- and Wall Street's biggest fear

votequake: The seismic shock to American democracy if more than 80% of eligible voters actually, well, voted