Monday, November 30, 2009

Twenty Verbs, II

On this the fourth anniversary of my brother's death, some participles and other forms for parting and otherwise:

  1. grieving
  2. remembering
  3. raining
  4. sitting
  5. passed
  6. wondered
  7. said
  8. mourning
  9. missing
  10. moving
  11. breathing
  12. exhaled
  13. touched
  14. tapped
  15. laughed
  16. cried
  17. asked
  18. answered
  19. drifted
  20. held

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twenty Verbs

Hey, you've all heard of Twenty Questions, why not Twenty Answers [which is an answer enveloped within a question]? Better yet, since verbs are more cogent than nouns, why not Twenty Verbs?

This may already be an Internet sensation I am unaware of. Maybe it will become a FW:FW:FW:FW ad infinitum Internet sensation.

No matter.

Here goes.

Twenty Verbs to describe my day, not necessarily in order or proper tense or mode or mood or voice:

  1. awoke
  2. ate
  3. drove
  4. talked
  5. prayed
  6. thanked
  7. listened
  8. watched
  9. heard
  10. walked
  11. touched
  12. washed
  13. brushed
  14. communed
  15. sang
  16. napped
  17. meditated
  18. saw
  19. learned
  20. read

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Decarceration SitRep

Living without a car is doable, so far. I find that

  • I walk more
  • depend more on others
  • consume less
  • eat less junk food
  • feel more restricted
  • consolidate trips
  • use my wife's car more
  • buy gas for her car
  • save on car insurance
  • try to avoid self-righteousness over this condition

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pie in the (Not) Sky

The surprise of it all. The look on their faces. The initial suspicions. The relief. Simple and radical.

We started on Jamar Drive, just down the block from the church. Someone had suggested it as a gesture of radical hospitality. So, on the preceding Saturday, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a group of older and younger members made a bunch of pumpkin pies, more than 20, I'm told. Then we distributed them Tuesday night. Jim drove slowly in his car, stopping as Win and I knocked on doors or rang doorbells on opposite sides of the street. Jim crossed off names of families who were home and made notes of those who did not answer the door in the darkness of an early November evening.

I can only report on what I saw and heard and felt.

People not showing fear or apprehensiveness toward a stranger ringing a doorbell or rapping on a door in the dark, though I surmised fear, or at least practical safety considerations. The flickering light of a television screen in a distant room; television sets: America's new-found hearths, as John Updike once put it.

If I recall correctly, I saw not one male answer a door. Is that possible? Is it only women who answer the door in suburban America? Has Dad, if he is there, popped upon a stereotypical beer or is he living out a cliche by watching a sporting event? Would it be different on Tipp Hill?

Three young girls. I told them I'd understand if they could not accept a pumpkin pie from a stranger, but, see, here's a card from the kids in church school. Then a few minutes later Mom came home, in a van, into the driveway, with another girl, and as I stood in the driveway I surprised the mother, telling her that was the last thing I wanted to do, scare her, and I just want to tell you, I gave a pie to your daughters a few minutes ago. We're just saying Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for being good neighbors all year round.

That was the message.


Oh, how nice of you! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

What was your name again?

No strings attached.

No Bible or prayer card or schedule of services or "Come, join us" or encyclical or chapter and verse. None of that.

A gift is freely given, with no conditions.

Stopped them in their tracks, faces transformed from puzzlement to wonder and gratitude and delight.

What a blast.

Then Kurt and Jack joined us.

Four men, huddled in the dark.

Almost a quorum.

As if giving thanks had legislative requisites.

We knew without saying the motion, the movement, the tidal pulse, was carried.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

haiku redux

Endless Mountains' fog
Dutch Kitchen, Frackville: homespun
Beltway sunset bath

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a litteration situation

Walking illuminates life at a slower, detailed scale, and along Syracuse's West Genesee Street, with its largest former car dealers shuttered, I witness the lonely signs of the Great Recession, ending my pedestrian promenade at the joyfully libertine Freedom of Espresso on Solar Street, but not before seeing the detritus of American consumption, the litteroti of careless consumerism: cigarette cartons (why so many crush-proof boxes of Newport?), a cereal box, a can of Arizona ice tea, lottery tickets, a squashed plastic water bottle, and so much more lessening the landscape, aching for trash cans either missing or brimming over.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I turned in my license plates at the DMV today.

It was remarkably simple.

Just hand the clerk the plates and get a receipt for insurance credit.

Nothing else needed.



Evolution must have allowed the DMV bureaucracy to learn streamlined methods.

The new plates almost (with a little color correction) make us all look like San Francisco Giants fans, which is perfect with me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

expository exposure

While viewing the fine and appealing "Turner to Cezanne" exhibit today at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, I discovered that art historians are playing peek-a-boo with important works of art. Well, more than peek-a-boo. Scholars have peered at works via x-ray to determine what's under the paint. For example, the commentary on a Renoir with a woman wearing a blue dress ("La Parisienne") reveals that a doorway was penciled in in an earlier version, along with an object I can't recall. (But maybe an x-ray of my brain would jog my memory.)

This is slightly unsettling, this naked exposure of the painter's work in progress; this raw look at creative vulnerability and trial and error.

Imagine if this were done to writers!

Or bloggers!

Or dancers, sculptors, jugglers, orators, magicians, scientists, priests, and telemarketers!?

Yes, Word allows you to save various versions and drafts of a document or to undo or redo many edits.

But what if all this were left bare to see by simple x-ray? (Of course, libraries and archives are filled with fascinating drafts of works. For example, I've seen Ezra Pound's extensive markups of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" on display at the New York Public Library.)

Worse yet, what if our unfiltered or even our censored thoughts were left as on a palimpsest for all to see?

One word:


(Palimpsest: In college I wrote a paper on Thomas DeQuincey's "The Palimpsest of the Human Brain. Or did I?)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

mercurial authorial

So yesterday over a cup of tea (me) and Coke (him), Father Jim tells me of his longtime friend, "a terrific writer who writes every day." I immediately felt fraudulent and inferior in the sense of posing as an impostor writer. Sure, that's harsh. I make a living at it more or less (the "more or less" referring to "make" or "living," take your quick pick). But my penmanship and compositional habits are more mercurial than that quotidian standard. Alas, I am not a standard bearer (maybe a standard barer, one who finds it hard to resist a pun).

Is it laziness, lack of discipline (the zen word "practice" is so much more appealing), or natural rhythm? I mean, I can't even seem to manage one haiku per day. Being more of a binge character, I find my waves tend to ebb and swell dramatically. I'd rather give you thirty haiku bits in one day, with a long-winded essay on the side or a meandering prose stream, than a tightly regimented one of anythng per day.

Mercury: thief inconstant quicksilver merchandiser sprightly quick volatile unstable eloquent changeable moody rapid

Friday, November 06, 2009

meditation on de-automation

On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Election Day, I elected to become decarcerated, de-automobiled, vehicularly divested, unincarnated, car blanche, carnally challenged.

You get the picture.

Unwilling (and pretty darn incapable!) to pay $1,100 to $1,400 or more to repair the timing belt and valve(s), I chose to hand the car, a 1999 Ford Contour (I believe it was made in Mexico) over to the repair shop for fifty dollars U.S. currency plus credit for the limited time spent trying to repair it or discern the need for repairs.

I am free.

After emptying the car of its Detroit detritus (sitting in a box on the porch) and depositing the check, I later walked home, from Freedom of Espresso, about 2.6 miles to Tipperary. "It's a long way to Tipperary . . . "

All kidding aside, I did feel a degree of liberation, a lightness anchored in humbling dependency, fewer responsibilities, simpler choices.

It's back to the future. As with most of us in the Fifties and early Sixties, we now are a one-car family.

We are only partially incarcerated.

I am driven, learning the passive voice.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009