Wednesday, December 31, 2014

lost and found and lost

"The only people who get anyplace interesting are the people who get lost." -- Henry David Thoreau

Tell me about it.

Still searching, after all these years.


Have you ever spent a day willfully not speaking words?

I have not.

I think I could.**

I think I may, some day.

The point? To clear, to see and hear more clearly. To BE more clearly, like still water that was muddied.

Or I'd just nap more on such a putative wordless day.

**(Many who know talkative me would howl with laughter at this claim.)

the unknowable

"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops."

Who is the author? 

Some evangelist?

A philosopher?

A cynic?

H. L. Mencken 

Monday, December 29, 2014

the sparrows

I descend the stairs. I am halted by the sight of a sparrow in the tree just outside the window in the hallway. Often, there are many sparrows. Do sparrows have families? We eye each other, the sparrow and I. Faint hints of yellow in his feathers. Or hers. I don't know. The sparrow knows I am there, on the other side of want and coldness. And I know the sparrow is out there, enduring the wind and cold and snowflakes, protected slightly by shrubbery branches and the paltry warmth of fellow or sister sparrows. Does he care? My impulse to take in the sparrows, offering them shelter and warmth, borders on the insane, I quickly realize. Plus, to do so -- despite its do-gooder-ness, would prove fatal to the sparrows, I am sure. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


You know what annoys me? I get consumerism, commercialism, mercantile madness. All that. I understand these -isms have a manic magnetism, even if I keep a safe distance from them myself, mostly. But the thing is this: the stores and radio stations and TV networks can't wait to get on the Christmas bandwagon. They start, what, in October? The trouble is, many of them jump off it after Christmas Day! The Christmastide season is just beginning. It starts Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on your tradtion, and goes 12 days, to January 5 or January 6, depending on how you celebrate it. You know, as in TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS or that play by William Shakespeare, "TWELFTH NIGHT." They all jump on Christmas, then drop it like a radioactive ornament. Even for crass commercial reasons, one can keep it going. Maybe that is better and no need to be annoyed. It allows us to celebrate the feast unencumbered by our acquired baggage.


Ever notice that in the popular parlance "absolutely" means sure, emphatically yes, truly, verily, amen, very much so, I ain't lying, for real, totally. Not exactly absolutely. It's okay. Absolutely.

Friday, December 26, 2014


I saw a sign.

I saw a sign in front of St. Ann Church, just outside the City of Syracuse -- "in the world but not of it," you might say, if you are not suburban-minded (as I am not).

The sign read:


I liked it. I like it.

Did the pastor give a Christmas homily on that?

It's a facile declaration.


But what would it mean?

Fewer physical gifts and more staring into eyes, more hugs and holding hands?

I talk a good game.

This would be harder than I first thought.

give or take

In this season of voluminous gift giving, it might be wise to explore why the holidays cause such stress. The transactional burdens of giving or receiving gifts must be one factor. How many people give a gift with no strings (or ribbons) attached? Likely, few. To be that pure is a level of detachment difficult to attain. Thus, you give a gift and you expect something in return. Deny it if you want, but you at least want a "thank you." You may say or think or believe that you want or need nothing in return. A laudable goal, perhaps. But hard to do. And you may not do a calculation weighing values of gifts given or received, but many do. Maybe we all do to a degree, influenced by a consumerist culture. To broaden the discussion beyond the holidays, how many of us can give a gift (let's widen the conversation to mean "gift" can be words, compliments, gestures, etc.) while expecting nothing whatsoever in return, including an acknowledgment? I know I am not such a person. You might even argue whether "pure giving" is a worthy goal. These are talking points. Or listening bullets. We say "it is better to give than to receive," but I am not so sure of that. Receiving has its own demands and challenges. Perhaps that's a topic for another time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

just for today

Sunday, December 21, 2014

means to an end

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." 

T.S. Eliot

Every ending has its seeds in its beginning.

What to make of that?

Do we see those seeds? Do we recognize them at the outset? Likely not.

Why would we? Why would we want to?

Knowing these things does not make anything automatically easier. (I don't even know what that means. What ending is "automatic"? Or "easy"?)

Or less painful.

Aptly, today, Day 355, has these words from Thich Nhat Hanh in a compendium of his wisdom:

"Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things."

Friday, December 19, 2014


Expectation, the act of expecting, pregnant with meaning. Expectation, connoting hope or desire (or wish fulfillment, consistency, constancy, as in "I expect the sun will rise tomorrow," or obedience to mathematical laws, as in "I expect two plus two will equal four tomorrow"). Expectation: a Latinate thorough looking at. But also a burden. You expect that X, Y, or Z will happen. Or you expect Z, or Y, or X to happen. At least one of them. You are sure of it. It is ordained. Preordained. You anticipate the outcome. You can see it. You can see clearly now. Except for one tiny problem: "it" is not yet now, and when the cosmic clock strikes "now" (where is "now" on the clock's face?) what you saw so clearly turns out to be different. Entirely different. Or nano-different. It is not a matter of better or worse. It is different. It is not what you expected. This new now turns out to be different from your expectation. If you were honest, you would be forced to admit that the outcome, the outcomes plural, of your expectation, your expectations plural, are always different from what you envisioned, what you saw so clearly. Be honest. Isn't that always the case, at least to an infinitesimal degree? To an infinite degree? When did something, anything, ever turn out to be exactly as you expected it to be, fully, in all dimensions, in duration, in intensity, hue, proportion, sound, and sense? So expectation is a setup, if not for disappointment, at least for surprise; if not for surprise, at least for a shift (closer, farther, dimmer, brighter, fuller, emptier) in what you thought you saw, before it even happened, even though you really weren't "seeing" anything yet because there was nothing to see. Except expectation.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

nada zilch zed

Sometimes you just ain't got nothing to say, cleverly or prosaically. Not that such a condition ever brought talk radio or TV to silence.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'm only sleeping...

less often
even less often remembering
not one of the 100
chosen by Marina Abramovic
in The Dream Book
to retreat
into solitude
and then
relate my dream(s)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

sounds like . . .

Yesterday, an ad on the radio for "Lights on the Lake" declared something like "many new displays."



Upon quick reflection while driving, those sound-alikes came to me, who likes to noodle with words.

A friend later pointed out he has a similar misfire when he hears an ad for a local restaurant (a very good one) named Laci's Tapas Bar.


In the Eighties, when I worked on audiovisual programs, a producer told me of working on a script for a kids' program about Paul Bunyan. The script said something like, "He dragged his axe around the country," but during recording they realized "ax" sounded like a posterior part of Bunyan's anatomy.

Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Friday, December 12, 2014

the healing touch

You got there late, as is your habit, character flaw, or constant misjudgment of time constraints. St. Paul's Cathedral. Downtown Syracuse. The Hadley Chapel, a dusty taste of Olde England or late 1800s America. Four men, including yourself, scattered in straightback, wicker (?) chairs, a priest at the altar. She invites all to join her around the table. Communion. Co-union. Eucharist. Thanks. The men look sad, you think, but upon reflection find that a misperception. Sadness, yes, but a calm, subtle smiles, serenity, a hunger. You wonder, does the priest feel threatend by these four men in this cramped space? No sign of it. Besides, the sense of spiritual surrender perfumes the air like incense. After the Eucharist, the priest asks you, "Do you want the healing? You were late, and . . ." "Sure, I'm always up for some healing," you interrupt (another habit or flaw or branding characteristic). She walks up to the front. You kneel at the communion railing with its cushions. The priest, who happens to be the rector of the Cathedral parish, tells you how even if you were not present earlier, the fruits of the healing service were yours to taste. She has a small container in her hands, the holy chrism. She asks if there is any need or person you want to mention, on whose behalf you want healing extended. You are caught by surprise. You can't speak. You can name (or not name) dozens of people, endless needs, candidates for unction, salve, and balm. The emotion embarrasses you and you check it, contain it, at least outwardly. "Josephine," you say. "My mom, 98," you get out. The priest anoints your forehead with oil. Her hands touch your forehead. She lays her hands on your head, firmly, not superficially. She holds her hands on your hair, on your head, saying prayers of healing, invoking Christ to heal, repair, comfort. It's not so much the words. You may even have misheard the words. It was the human touch. You wanted to empty yourself by sobbing. Of course, you did not. (How indecorous would it be?) But this hearty touch. And when her hands lifted, you were lighter. Residual moisture rimmed the corners of your eyes. Did she know? You wondered, what if this were the moment your mother died? Does it matter? All would be well. All things would be well.


. . . and ever notice how intellectuals ooze with bland excitement over the word "text"? Oh, they love the word "text." Heaven (or God or Goddess) forbid they say passage or paragraph or poem or piece or article or essay or sentence or gospel or speech or novel or novella or epic or sermon or excerpt or rendition or reading or account or version or edition or narrative or lyric or hymn or paean or prose.


They insist on T  E  X  T.

sort of

Ever notice how academics and so-called articulate people use "sort of" in a manner, and just as habitually, that is similar to the use of "you know" by their more plebeian counterparts?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

fearful symmetry

I experienced a "fearful symmetry," a phrase from William Blake, upon watching the movie "The Railway Man" a day or so after the Senate released a report five years in the making (which I have not read) on "enhanced interrogation techniques," which is a euphemism for torture.

Yes, war (though the "war on terror" was a misnomer from the start, but that's another topic for another day) involves unspeakable, unbearable, obscene acts of treachery and degradation under the guise of honor, cause, duty, or patriotism. And it also elicits acts of heroism, bravery, selflessness, valor, sacrifice, under the same banners.

But don't people (don't I, don't you) have both a right and an obligation to ask:

What are we? What do we espouse? What do we stand for? What defines us?

I do not pretend these are simple questions evoking simple answers. Nor do I pretend to speak with authority, as I type this in a comfortable chair in a public cafe in a free society. (Allow a digression: are you "free" if you are cajoled, motivated, nudged, coerced every day by forces you do not recognize or acknowledge? I'm not talking conspiracy or paranoiac whisperings. I am referring to the relentless onslaught of consumerist stimulation that tickles our fancies and enslaves our wallets.)

At any rate, I propose the asking (and the potential answering) of these and like-minded difficult but profound questions as part of our civic discourse  -- beyond pieties, cliches, jingoism, chauvinism, and bromides.

As G.K. Chesteron said, " 'My country, right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' "

Monday, December 08, 2014

comma sense

Who says punctuation doesn't matter?

Don't get me wrong. Although I posture as a purist, I recognize, mostly through texting, that we humans who speak English tend to figure things out, despite missing apostrophes, periods, commas, whatnot. And I thought I heard in my linguistics course decades ago that simplification in language is actually a mark of sophistication. (I would have to research that now; comments invited to affirm, explain, or invalidate that assertion.)

On the black-pepper grinder and shaker, the instructions declare:


followed by directions for counterclockwise hand turnings for coarser or finer results.

Imagine adding a comma:


as in:

to adjust to your quotidian challenges, grind through them, yielding either coarser or finer results, peppery or not, seasoning your day, discovering its flavor and zest despite any blandness or bitterness.

Friday, December 05, 2014

MVPs, continued

. . .

morally vacuous pretension

macro vitamin potency

micro virginal paucity


Heard and saw author Martin Amis read from his Zone of Interest yesterday, at Colgate University. Always a tad intriguing how a person turns out somewhat different from what you imagine or suspect from merely reading words on paper. He was more slight than I pictured, and softer voiced. He fielded my question, the last taken, about Lionel Asbo: State of England. I asked how, using his "novelistic" imagination (a word he just used regarding Hitler and Hitler's sexuality) he might "transfer" the novel's location and character's race and class if the book were to have taken place in the United States. He replied how he had lived in the U.S., in Princeton (is that America?) when he was nine and ten, and that America was so vast and wide and varied and encompassing -- that it would be too hard, impossible. Somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), he referred to England as a little "pressure cooker." He started off his response to my question quoting Henry James: America is the world, or words to that effect.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Techies use "MVP," or "M.V.P." if you prefer, for "minimum viable product." Wikipedia says:

"In product development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk, what is known in the investment community as the Sharpe Ratio. The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson, and popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries (for web applications)."

Along those lines, ponder, if you will:
  • minimum viable person
  • maximum valued peer
  • minimum viable poetry
  • maximum viable person
  • minimum valuable potential
  • maximum vaunted potency
  • marauding vagrant penis
  • maverick vaginal polarity
  • minuscule vaunted paradise
  • multifarious victorious parades
  • marooned vacant pandering
  • most vallecular player
  • my viscous paradigm
  • minotaured vicious personifications
  • moated visible pangs
. . . and so on.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

the light in their eyes

You hear the stories. You read them in the paper. You read them online. The gray blanket of negativity. The curtain of fear. The dead end of despair. Smudged icons from a dusty, dark church closed long ago. But look again. Stop. See the light in their eyes. Whose eyes? The eyes of children, boys and girls, first and second graders. They are trying to read. They sit with grown-ups, side by side, in a school library. The children sound out, scan, struggle, surmise, and smile with surprise and discovery and delight. The light in their eyes flickers like a votive candle. It is alive. It is a fire called Future. It will melt your heart if you let it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

counting crows

As I walked along the Creekwalk, I disturbed the countless crows. They hawed and screeched; they flustered and fluttered. One man, a rude intruder of the tree-limbed confab. What harm posed I? What threat? I kept walking, toying with the crowy sentinels, sneaking a smile but wondering who'd get the last laugh.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

what I heard today

  • the chink of glasses
  • spoken prayers
  • unspoken prayers
  • knife cutting turkey with gravy on white plate
  • Manuel and Junior, servers, and their accents (Central American?)
  • the whirr of my 2007 VW Rabbit engine
  • the hum of acceptance from the insertion and pullout of the plastic hotel room key
  • the elevator's churning
  • tires on pavement
  • heating fan in room
  • football on the car radio (Seahawks score TD against 49ers)
  • family voices on the phone
  • family voices, including my own, in person
  • a door closing loudly in a hallway
  • ice machine making ice
  • ring tones of messages on a cellphone
  • keys on a keyboard being tapped, not all of them, mind you, but some of them, selectively
  • gratitude

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

what I saw today

  • a few dozen vehicles either off the road, facing the wrong way, or on the road, same calamitous circumstances, owing to the slippery slope of snow
  • whitened and crystalline branches, limbs, tree trunks, and mini-palisades
  • rain or snow or ice against the windshield
  • windshield wipers
  • the tired yet wise and kind eyes of the 98-year-old woman who gave birth to me
  • my hometown, remarkably recognizable
  • toll booths
  • lines of people at the rest stop, also called text stop
  • road signs
  • heavily mascaraed and tired-beyond-years eyes of a gas station sales clerk
  • a McDonald's crispy chicken sandwich
  • a holiday bouquet of not-very-fresh flowers
  • a coffee-to-go, from Wendy's
  • apostrophes
  • the digital readout of mileage on my car's dashboard surpassing 100000

Sunday, November 23, 2014

cui bono?

The movie "Birdman" did not soar for me. Although the acting performances were excellent across the board, and the filming techniques intriguing, the movie was drenched in the existential searching and posing I thought went out in the Seventies. I liked some of the takes on Manhattan, evoking the somewhat squalid Eighties, when I worked there, more than the current Disneyfied version of Times Square and its environs. Oh, I get the reality versus fiction versus fantasy stuff. And the back story about worth and authenticity and identity blah blah blah. Cui bono? To what good? The writers and directors took themselves ├╝ber-seriously. Sorry. Pretentious claptrap. Not buying it. Save it for the Gauloises-smoking crowd.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


You see the stickers on vehicles.



Designations of marathon or triathlon mileage, they are the proclamations of The Saved, the self-aggrandizing evangelism of The Fit and The Wholesome.

"I am better than you are," they all but shout.

"I will outlive you and your lazy ways."

"Take that," is the challenge to the reader adrift in the vehicular wake of the message.


As in zero.

You are invited to steal this concept and bumpersticker or T-shirt it.

You are invited to proselytize on behalf of no-thing.


As in non-attainment, here and now, acceptance, mindfulness, emptiness, detachment, resignation, awakening.

Go for it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fifty-one Shades of Slate

You gods and goddesses of climate and color, you grayed us today, oh yes, you did. You sent us scurrying to thesauruses (thesauri, if you prefer) of dank drabness to describe the day and its discontents. Slate. Pewter. Lead. Argentine. Smoke. Steel. No, those are all paltry attempts at circumscribing the curtain that descended on our quotidian tasks, or avoidance of them owing to crippling dismalness. Are you pleased? Are you satisfied with your prodigious display of blanketed doom? Are you proud of such meteorological talents (on a Monday, no less!)? What next, cascading ash from the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pavlof in Alaska? R.S.V.P.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

the tide

I received an email yesterday (read it today) from a friend. They have surrendered. She won't survive leukemia. A very tough two years. Forty-four years married. Devoted. Words mere water. Mercy. God's mercy upon them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

hoopster hoopla

Three tall young men. SU Orange jackets. People posing with them for pics. Mall food court. Presumably SU basketball players. Affable and accommodating, from all I can discern. Hoopla over hoopsters. Not a tidal wave of celebrity commotion, just a ripple. But likely more than if the 14th Dalai Lama or Nancy Pelosi or Anthony Doerr or Stephanie Miner or Daniel Berrigan or the city's best teacher strolled by. Maybe that is how it should be. Maybe it should not matter, either way. Maybe. Maybe not.

Monday, November 10, 2014

epitaph laugh

Oh, stop, don't go getting all nervous just because you see the word "epitaph." I'm not trying to send a secret message or evoke a mortal concern or any of that. As a former headline writer, I love the brevity of epitaphs. A life in a few words. Succinct. Pithy, as in central core, the organic essential substance. I suspect epitaphs are out of favor these days. I won't get into that. I just want to share a few candidates for my self, some verbal trial balloons, while I am above the dirt.







*I'm not saying I favor this one (I don't), but it encapsulates my overeager tendency to please, or be pleasing, or need stroking, or reassurance, thereby inviting, almost begging for, a swift left to the jaw in the boxing ring of life.

innocence and victimhood

The person to my right at the coffee shop has on her left a book titled Innocence and Victimhood. On the spine I see the words "critical human rights." It looks like a textbook. Innocence. Victimhood. I can't claim to have written the definitive text on either, though the latter would seem my specialty more than the former. That self-judgment may be a tad harsh. Does it victimize me? And my personal innocence was lost a long time ago, and I seem to recall it most in my grandson's eyes, though that is a naive and sentimental view, is it not? What is innocence? What is victimhood? Are they merely personal traits (attributes, states, concepts) or more broadly incarnate (corporate, national, global)? I know not. Which is more appealing? (That is a facile question; or maybe not, on closer scrutiny.) And beyond words as words, and notions as notions (as our Buddhist friends like to note), what are these matters, after all?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Berlin, and beyond

When the Berlin Wall went up, it scared me. I was a postwar boy. Images of tanks facing off triggered fears of nuclear war.

When the Berlin Wall came down, I thought, "Who would think, in our lifetime?" After so many deaths and muscle and might and barbed wire and concrete, it seemed the Wall would prove indomitable, impregnable, intransigent. It seemed the Wall would be permanent, at least in our lifetimes.

The Wall came down 25 years ago today. May father died in May of 1989. I  always thought that he, a soldier in World War II, albeit in the Pacific Theater, would be moved to tears by the Wall's collapse.

I've been to Berlin.

I've seen the remnants.

I've pondered the metaphors.

beautiful solid free

In my reading today, Thich Nhat Hanh said he vows at the outset of the day to make each moment beautiful, solid, and free. That is a worthwhile goal, is it not? Even moments that embrace one of those elements are valuable. Amen.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Kava Cafe, or is it Cafe Kava, is buzzing with voices, young and old, male and female, mostly Caucasian but perhaps more mixed than you'd expect. Speaking of the Caucasus Mountains, most of the voices are Ukrainian, with aural patches of English and music that might be Ukrainian. The hum and wave and rhythm of voices. The throb of commerce. Saturday morning. November.

Friday, November 07, 2014

autumn adagio

Freedom of Espresso percolating

November sun stains

cumulus streets named Plum and Solar

lazy wind fans burning bush

branching scarlet melon peach burgundy bronze

emerald naked rain


don't say it


Monday, November 03, 2014

spin cycle

Doing my laundry at Colonial Laundromat, I was taken aback, a little, seeing a young couple, in their early twenties or younger, come in with a little girl. It was around 8:30 p.m. I get annoyed and dismayed when I see parents or guardians out and about with their kids when, in my view, it is bedtime. Worst is seeing a whole family traipsing through Wegmans or Tops at 11 p.m. of a school night. Inexcusable, in my old-world view. This wasn't that late, yet I did muse to myself, "Now? You have to do your laundry now?" But as I extracted my clothes from the dryer, I noticed the father presenting reading flash cards to the girl. He was patiently helping her sound out words or try to decipher sight words. The woman looked on, not saying a word or joining in. My head had a lot of questions about these roles, but I seized on positive aspects of this observation, and I did not want the moment to pass.

I approached the young man. "I applaud you for doing that. For reading with your daughter. Good for you. It's important."

"Nobody did that for me," he said. "I don't want her to be like me. They had to read the questions to me when I took an exam. I'm trying to help her."

"Well, good for you. It's never too early. How old is she?"

"Six," the girl interjected.

"You like to read?"

She scrunched her face up.

"You will. You'll get to like it. I read every day."

I'm not going to lie. I was lifted by this simple act.

And then I was deflated. Shortly after our little conversation, another guy walked in, with two girls, presumably his daughters, maybe slightly older than the six-year-old who was working on her reading. These girls might have been twins. It was now closer to 9 p.m. No books. No flash cards. Just laundry. No bedtime story, from a book or from memory. Not in the laundromat. Not tonight.

Friday, October 24, 2014

the faster the slower

During the NLCS of 2014, a reporter asked Buster Posey to explain his, or even perhaps, the team’s success. “Just slow it down” was the gist of Buster’s answer. I heard that sentiment more than once in the playoffs. Slow it down. It reminded me of hearing John Wooden, the famed UCLA basketball coach, say in an interview: “the faster the slower.” At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. But it does upon reflection. Don’t move too fast, or else you will get ahead of yourself. You’ll be out of the zone. You also hear athletes say, stay within yourself. I’m not an athlete. I never was the athlete I fantasized I would be or could be. In these early-latter days, I am content with that. However, I can relate to these maxims as metaphors. Zen teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh speak or write about the value of “stopping.” I suspect it’s a similar concept, or notion, as slowing it down. It means being here, being now. Sounds simple but it takes me practice and discipline. After his win in game 1 of the 2014 world Series, Madison Bumgarner was asked about the excitement of being in the World Series, the biggest stage of practicing his art and craft. MadBum’s answer went something like this, “You can’t really enjoy it like that. It’s a great thrill being here and all, but I just need to make good pitches.” There you are. So if I say these are metaphors, what does that mean for me? Slowing it down, stopping, the faster the slower — for me they mean: restraint of tongue and pen, don’t react, find solidity, breathe, HALT, pause. All that stuff. I’m really not very good at any of those things, not even after all these years. That’s why it is so easy to preach about it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

vulnerable adult

I saw a sign. Upon entering the highway, Route 690 West, an electronic sign alerted motorists to a VULNERABLE ADULT, and gave a description of a vehicle, possibly accompanied a plate number. No respect or insensitivity whatsoever intended for that person or the person's loved ones (the ones whose concerns elicited the alert), but it gave me pause. Vulnerable Adult. vulnerable adult. (With or without the initial caps, with or without the proprietary nomenclature.) Are you a vulnerable adult? Am I? Yes, we are all sometimes vulnerable adults. Some of us, all the time. And we are vulnerable to the slings of time, the arrows of circumstance or history. We are at risk to fame and fortune, or at peril to poverty and perdition. And when we find ourselves vulnerable as adults, either individually or collectively, who is there to shield or save us? Should they? How? Or should our vulnerability merely introduce us to the icons of impermanence, the faceless faces of Nirvana?

I kept driving.

expanded polystyrene civil degradation (EPCD)

The burly, dark man opened the driver's door of a new silver Audi in the Wegmans parking lot. I heard a plop. Citizen Utter Disregard (CUD) had deposited a large expanded polystyrene food container on the ground, by his driver's door. CUD closed the door. I walked up to the car.  I picked up the expanded polystyrene container. I did not open it. I deliberately made eye contact with CUD as he breezily drove off. My heart beat faster, realizing that my minor act of civil obedience might be deemed provocative by CUD. I deposited the expanded polystyrene food container in a trash basket in front of Wegmans.

My head swirled with rage and sadness and befuddlement, with a thousand questions as to what moves CUD, or anyone for that matter, to such insouciant disgust toward his or her own surroundings. What permits people to exercise such expanded polystyrene civil degradation (EPCD)?

(Before writing this, I was all set to describe the piece of litter as STYROFOAM [TM]. It wasn't, and never is when it comes to food containers. Thank you, Washington Post for the education.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

be leaf

After having some blood drawn and a urine donation (the stuff that folks do; these monitors; these reminders of zen impermanence; yes, I am fine, relax), I go to my car and see one bright yellow leaf, with a few greenish spots, sitting on my seat, the driver's side. I almost say, audibly, "Hi, how are you, so nice of you to be here; thank you for this visit, this mindful alert." But I don't. Or maybe I do mumble words to that effect. I think them, some variation of them. And mean it. I am grateful for this yellow leaf, striated, labial, thin, light, just under 2 inches long, about 3/4 inch wide at its widest. I just measured it. Yes, I brought it home. In the car, just after the leaf hit on me, just after out intro, the wind blew the leaf to the dirty floor mat on the passenger side. I picked up the leaf and put it on the seat. We've struck up a relationship. There I go again: it's mine, my leaf. Maybe when I go outside, I will just take my leaf with me and cast it to today's warm, robust wind.

But I won't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

imagine this

Maybe I should not be so verbocentric here. It's a visual world, is it not? Not that words don't sail or float or sink or swim in this image-laden universe. Maybe I need more images for your imagining. Enjoy your flight.

white noise

white noise
without the noise
white space
in living

Thursday, October 09, 2014

the silence of the iambs

I just finished a novel by Haruki Murakami imbued with silence. It was as if silence were a character in the novel (in the text; academics like to say text). "Silence descended over them," or words to that effect, appeared on the page many times. As a reader, I felt those silences. They were like white spaces on the layout of a page, or white scenery on a stage, or deep pauses in a conversation, as in a Harold Pinter play. Sometimes the silences were comfortable, reflective; other times, they were painful, anxious. Isn't that a strange thing about humans: that a silence can be rewarding or agonizing? Have silence scientists figured out a way to measure it, gauge its import, its flavor? I suspect they have. And I would not at all be shocked to learn that our bodies give off a smell to provide a clue (or a cue, for that matter) as to what sort of silence is descending, a salubrious silence or a malevolent one. Ours is not a time of silence. Our culture does not care to abide silences. There is little silence of the lambs or of iambs. (Couldn't resist that bit of English-major snobbery.) Silence of the child at the mother's breast, the purring of a cat, the cough in the cathedral pew, the silence of the beads being told. All silences punctuated my minor sounds. Or silence of the phone not ringing, the voice that is no more, the word unkenneled, the interval between lightning and thunder. And so much more. So much less.

taking my digital temperature

I tend to be obsessed with taking my digital temperature. I often take it many times a day. And I can't seem to stop myself. No amount of willpower can prevent it once I yield to that fixation. It's not what you think. It's not a solipsistic medical obsession. It goes deeper than that. Taking my digital temp goes right to my soul. You think I am afraid of fever or variations in body temperature? No, that's not it at all. I told you, it's deeper than that. This solipsistic obsession is very modern, au courant. I go to CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon, and check daily sales figures of my four self-published books. I allow myself to feel glum if nothing shows up or to feel cheerful, even elated, if I find a few hits, a few sales. I check similar data at KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. I check sales of these same books in electronic versions, from around the globe. If I told you the highs and lows of these daily, even hourly numbers, you might find yourself rolling on the floor laughing. Or crying. (Don't we have Internet acronyms for these emotional outbursts?) But what of my own emotional outbursts, no, inbursts? What possesses me? What is this hunger? It cannot possibly be about money. The amount are laughably or cryably or pitiably minuscule. Is it approval or validation? What is this craving? What drives it? What emptiness am I trying to fill? What would constitute enough? And why would I want more after that? U2 sang, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." I have to ponder the question before the question: why am I even looking? 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

if you can read this . . .

. . . thank your genes and lucky stars, your neural pathways, your sense of sound and sight, your phonemic awareness and phonetic phrasings and particular parsings. And don't forget gratitude for the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who read to you before words were friends, before the printed page sang hymns and lullabies to you. Sing praises, too, to teachers, librarians, and the kindness of strangers who coaxed, nurtured, cajoled, and fostered you so one day you could call yourself a reader, and be proud of that triumphant title. If you can read this with pride and pleasure, thank the heavens and the earth and the people therein. Do not take it for granted. Share the wealth and spread the word, one word at a time, one page at a time, one child at a time. Together we are readers.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

let the rain come

and today the rain, off and on, no two drops the same, no two downpours or showers ever the same, bestowing sound and sense and nurture and nowness, bountifully; would that I could share it with my farmer friends in parched California

Friday, October 03, 2014

monarchy; the royal oui

I am walking the dog. Is it my dog? She was. Or is. (Can anyone lay claim to owning a pet? How could this lovely, loyal friend be deemed a  possession?) We are walking in Burnet Park, Syracuse, where we have walked dozens, probably hundreds, of times. It is daytime. We now walk this route less frequently in the Time of Estrangement. October sunlight. An ample, warm breeze. We are walking up the driveway, an incline, toward the golf course clubhouse, toward O'Leary Drive, where, soon, in December, the jangling bells and clipclop hooves of steaming horses will carry Christmas-celebrating families. Riding on the wind, I am arrested. (Not the dog; she keeps going, only halted by squirrels, who are busy and in abundance.) I am gasped by the sight of one monarch butterfly riding the wind, I see it glide and loop for maybe less than 3 seconds. Then gone. Not seen. A vision in broad daylight. Monarch. From the Greek, one who rules alone. Ruling the field of vision, ruling my heart and its beats. A sacramental sign. A sign of what, you ask? Of is-ness. That. Suchness. Yes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

the vacant roof

Today no rooftop workers, neither Amish nor Mennonite nor Sicilian nor Catalonian. Where'd they go?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

raise high the rooftop, ye carpenters

Today's quirky urban surprise in Syracuse: a crew of bearded men, each wearing a blue shirt and a straw hat, rebuilding -- actually adding on to -- the roof of an unsavory commercial building, an entity that seemingly sells cigarettes of questionable origin and caters to customers who are decidedly not refugees from Neiman Marcus. Are the rooftop carpenters Amish or Mennonites? They work steadily, quietly (in terms of no profanity, no shouting), and diligently. They make use of a chainsaw, possibly plugged in (which makes me wonder about their embrace of the uses of electricity, or not, according to their religious tenets). They work on the A-frame skeletal structure that will support the roof extension. And as they work, a clutch of neighborhood regulars (or bus stop patrons) sits on a retaining wall across the street, one of them with a tall boy (presumably a beer) in a paper bag. These wastrels watch with idle amusement. They do not know what to make of this foreign activity that goes by the name of "work." The rooftop workers seem to be oblivious of their audience. They are fully engaged in the task at hand. The viewers get their fill of free entertainment, just another uncounted hour of just another day absent of ambition, cognition, and fruition. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

check swing

A player (rookie catcher Andrew Susac, of the San Francisco Giants) checks his swing. He holds back. He has a second thought, within a nanoseconds-limited cage. He reconsiders, and halts the muscular force of an intentional swing. In unintentionally casting his batting fate to Fate, Susac in turn receives a gift from the baseball gods and goddesses: the baseball sails over first base, ricochets off the leg of an umpire, and Susac finds himself on second base. A rally ensues. This is so not Western. In the Western world, will prevails. Will and willpower conspire to conjure results. Or so we are told. But in this instance will was thwarted. Willpower wilted. And the results were better than expected or anticipated.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

arriving at the ultimate

The signs say PLANET SELF STORAGE. I wondered: Where indeed is that planet where you store your self? Do you store your old self in hopes of finding a new one? I suspect it is a planet without a name, perhaps not yet discovered. If you store your self on this planet, is it like a pawn shop where you can get your self out of hock in exchange for a metaphysical fee? Perhaps I am wrong, and the signs refer to Planet Self, where everything but self is stored there, in bins and large portable containers waiting to be pried open as the performers do on those faux-reality shows. Old bureaus, photos, silverware, eight-track tape players, magazines, moth-eaten fur coats, 78 rpm records, diapers, corn husks, rusty fenders, baseballs, petticoats, linoleum, gold bars. But no self. Self is the name of the planet, and it is the only celestial body in the universe called Solipsism. No, that's a stretch. Then again PLANET SELF STORAGE may be a coded message, a preachment to get right with the cosmos, figure out whom to serve, what to keep, what to let go. Naw.

Next door to PLANET SELF STORAGE is ULTIMATE ARRIVAL. ULTIMATE ARRIVAL may be the key to the riddle of PLANET SELF STORAGE. Or else it's a merely a tease. Because down the street a bit further is the GEM. And the GEM may be the answer to all these conjectures, though I forgot what they are.

handicapping perception

The Silverado pulls up into the handicapped parking spot to my right. The truck is big enough to eat my Rabbit in one gulp. The very truckness of my neighboring vehicle arouses an undercurrent of resentment. Its intimidating presence summons an echo of the grammar-school bullying I sometimes endured. (No, it doesn't. That's overstated, too overt. I only say that upon reflection afterward.) Instinctively I look for, and find, the handicapped parking tag hanging from the rearview mirror. Legit. (Isn't that grand of me, to approve?) The driver and the passenger in the back seat look whole and fit and able. They don't look handicapped to me. You're right. Maybe the driver or her passenger who loom above me are legless or eyeless or paralyzed or subject to seizures or handicapped mentally (does that qualify one for the parking privilege?) or dually addicted to drugs, alcohol, gluten, and trans fats. Maybe the vehicle transports someone in a wheelchair who is at home or at a rehab facility. Maybe. And what is it that really nettles me, anyway? The fat, gas-guzzling vehicle? The perception of entitlement? The appearance of injustice? Why should I care? Why should one who says he espouses the simple life, who asserts all manner of progressive values, bother to notice this harmless status, alleged or posed or sanctioned or otherwise? Questions worth pondering. Answers pending.

A few hours later, up at the University, I saw a Mini Cooper (or is it Cooper Mini? I always forget) drive by. I spotted a handicapped parking tag. A young driver, perhaps a student, zipping down the street, seemingly "whole and fit and able." Ah, what about her? What about that sporty car and its occupant?

And what about me?

Same self-imposed questions worth pondering. Answers still pending.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

white canvas

As is the character in the latest book by Haruki Murakami, am I colorless? I think not. In fact, my lack of colorlessness, my heated hues of opinion, bias, prejudice, and passion, often define me, not in ways I always prefer. Such is what it is, what I am. No, not colorless. Not colorless like Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, a fictional character who saw himself, at some point in his life, as drab, background, plain, unnoticed. A white canvas.

Speaking of white canvas, over by the Erie Canal trail in Minoa, New York, today I read about Canvass White. Great name. And quite the inventor and among the greatest civil engineers. He patented hydraulic cement. No small invention. Hardly a colorless background sort of guy. Or maybe he was, in his personal life. (I don't know.) Can you imagine, though, how hugely important the Erie Canal was? Sort of like the Internet of its day.

Give a tip of the cap to Canvass White, ye technocrats. Kudos to Canvass White, you bridge-builders, skyscraper builders, and highwaymen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

litteral danger

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

some dream

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

in the nick of names

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

Friday, August 29, 2014


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

what if

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

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

Anyway, glad it turned out the way it did.

Friday, August 22, 2014


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

Monday, August 18, 2014

a surprise of snails

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

walk don't run

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

Saturday, August 09, 2014

post preapproval removal

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

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

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

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

I'm a hit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The locals lost in extras.

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

Thursday, August 07, 2014

poetry in America

Poetry in America suffers from a branding problem, doesn't it? People in this country think of poetry as prissy or refined or effete or obscure or florid or dull or obtuse or rarefied. Perhaps some of that deserved, but no, not for the most part. not at all.

But mention songs with words, from country to hip-hop, and you've got some interest, some fans.

What's the difference?

So poetry seems to suffer from an image problem.

Too bad.

Some initiatives have tried to remedy that: Poetry in Motion on the subways of New York City and the Syracuse Poster Project are but two telling examples. You may know of more.

As for myself,  I've published two books of poetry, one on baseball, the other on Tipp Hill.

Trying to do my part.

Sunday, August 03, 2014


While driving in my car today, I heard an ad about used cars on my radio. As you know, these ads never refer to used cars as used cars. They are "pre-owned" vehicles. It is a euphemism that has persisted in the commercial lexicon for many years.


Not used. (After all, "used" is so yucky.)

Pre- is so much more pristine, clean, uncluttered, soiled. Free of the human stain.

Pre- ... as in pre-married, pre-divorced, pre-born, pre-dead, pre-speech, pre-virginal, pre-post-virginal, pre-rented, pre-leased, pre-expired, pre-vent (as in just before you vent and blow your top), pre-depression, pre-mania, pre-tiredness, pre-monition (as in just before you load your verbal guns), pre-disowned, pre-surrender, pre-diction (see above), pre-principle, pre-moral, pre-sin, pre-cept (an in just before you say "but"...).

The list is pre-endless.

(Note: my copyeditor self would typically drop the hyphen and "use" solid words, but this pre-obsession is pre-tty hard to pre-stop and the use of hyphens allows for more pre-wordplay.)

applied pulsed power

Drove by Applied Pulsed Power outside of Ithaca yesterday (a robust, full day of Puddledockers canoeing; Ithaca Bakery coffee; Purity ice cream; Buttermilk Falls lounging, semi-napping, and hiking; A&W up the road; Jets training ending with brilliant fireworks).

This proper name of a corporate entity got me musing:
  • Is pulsed power the scientist's term for love?
  • Is it spirit and transcendence?
  • Immanence?
  • Is it what William Wordsworth referred to when he wrote "felt in the blood, and felt along the heart"?
  • Most important, how do we apply this pulsed power to ourselves and others?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

'Everyone is approved here!!!'

At Floyd Creaser Quality Used Cars, along Hiawatha Boulevard, in Syracuse, an A-frame sandwich board all but shouts, "Everyone is approved here!!!" I get that the declaration is an invitation to buy. I get that it says, in effect, "No matter what your financial history is, no matter how reckless or foolish or disastrous, we can lend you the money to buy a vehicle." I suspect such generosity has its own price. And rewards.

Which got me to thinking.

Imagine if "Everyone is approved here!!!" referred to real people! What if actual living humans were accepted here just as unconditionally and with the elan of three exclamation points as a used-car dealer? Just think. "Everyone is approved here!!!" could be a statement of credit beyond financial history, and instead it could apply to personal misdeeds and waywardness.

This is especially intriguing given that Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner recently expressed a willingness on behalf of our community to accept immigrant children. It made national news. Some people hate the idea; others applaud it.

"Everyone is approved here!!!"

Food for thought.

Carry on.

As you were.


The end of July looms. August will brand itself as the height, or depth, of sweltering summer. Or the faint whiff of fall sifting down from Canada. It seems the summer raced by, just began. Is this perception merely a function of old age? The rolls in, the tide rolls out. It's all natural. It's all good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Or buy it.

It's only a few bucks or so.

And a mere 99 cents for the e-version.

Yes, this is shameless self-promotion.

Naked capitalism.

Or relatively harmless non-socialist egotism.



Like, um, I, like, totally got nothing to say. Nada zilch zero zed nil zip aught null. Like, know what I mean? I got nothin'. (Not that such *nothingness* ever prevents us in cyberverse from blathering on and on and on and on and on anyway.) Know what I mean? Like, totally.

Friday, July 25, 2014

my kind of dizzy

My own personal otolaryngologist (they must be great spellers, along with ophthalmologists) just diagnosed me as having benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. I like any condition that starts with the word "benign." I was impressed with the doctor's articulateness, his confidence in the diagnosis, and his overall manner. He suggested a series of odd (to me) head movements as treatment (the canalith repositioning procedure, or CRP) or to do nothing at all (since it does appear to be getting better; I even wondered, "Why am I in this doctor's office?"). So, that's my kind of dizzy (MKOD). And, gee, I thought it resulted from extremely wild erotic positioning (EWEP).
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) i
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) i

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

shorn hills

At the rest stop (cleverly dubbed a text stop by New York State) in Roscoe, along Route 17, a historical and conservation marker poetically declares that "the shorn hills" have grown new timber. The shorn hills. I love it. I really cannot imagine this era producing any sign, historical or not, that employs "the shorn hills" as a phrase.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Cash4Life, the new New York State Lottery game. Top prize: $1,000 a day for life. What does "for life" equate to? My life is in the latter days, not the salad days (though on some levels, you'd never think so; no details forthcoming here). But $1,000 a day. I saw it on a billboard, so it must be true. I thought, Gee, I'd take $100 a day. I would. You say, That's nothing? Not nothing for me. I live simply. It's not a lament or a complaint. If anything, I am boastful, even snobbish, about my simple means. $100 a day would be a sweet cushion. It's possible $1,000 a day would ruin me. You hear stories. That's the prevailing notion. It ruins folks. And then there's the obligatory, "But I'd like to try it. A thousand bucks a day."

Truth be told, yeah, I buy Lotto, Cash4Life, Powerball, sometimes Mega Millions tickets. Quick picks. Typically one shot, one or two bucks. Surrender to the Fates. At their mercy. Or mercies. But truth be told: each ticket purchase is a surrender, is a bowing to the lie. Each ticket says, Your life needs this big fix, this dramatic change, this remedy, this takeaway, this giveaway, this grand gesture. I know better. It does not need any of that. That's the trick, the lie, the shiny bauble.

Because we all know this deep down, even if covered  over, papered over by wants, desires, dreams, avarice, and suffering: you get "IT" and you only want more of "IT."

Which reminds me: my guru, the late Raymond Davidson, would often say: If you have enough, you have abundance.

I do have abundance.

Right here.

Right now.

deer me

Driving home the other day, late afternoon, early evening (who can remember any more? maybe I am making all this up as I type), near the Syracuse border with Solvay, I saw a white-tailed deer gallop off to my right, into some shrubbery, fenced off. Did I say gallop? Gallop with a dollop of prance and hurdle and gambol and leap. Seconds later: a middle-aged bearded man riding a bicycle. I try to catch the eye of the bicyclist, as if to wordlessly say, "Dude, you see that? You see that deer? You chasing it?" Even if I did catch the bicyclist's eye for a split second, he wasn't indulging me. His look was like, "I'm riding this bike. Deer? I ain't seen no deer." I made the right turn. I thought I'd intersect the path of the deer, but no sign of him. In the bush, I guess. Or else it was a very large dog or a fox. Or a figment. (It's redundant redundant to say "figment of imagination.") A 3-D figment of fantasy. But naw. It was real. It was a deer. And don't tell me the bicyclist didn't see it. I'll wager the two of 'em, Bicycle Man and Deer Me, have this bit, this act they've worked out. It's a routine. "Figment Follies."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

blank look

I made a comment, one that was intended as a compliment, if you will. In return, he gave me what I would call "a blank look." He returned a look without comment, seemingly indifferent. Note to thin-skinned, oversensitive, "attached" self: you truly do not know what his response or reaction is or was. So, before you get all pouty and resentful, consider that the recipient of your remark may have been puzzled, perplexed, in agreement, in disagreement, either/or, both/and, neither/nor, thinking about his great aunt, suffering constipation, calculating an equation that could lead to a cancer cure, meditating on Descartes, have a hearing problem, not like me, like me, formulating a diplomatic response for another time, processing other data, undergoing a TIA or stroke, entertaining erotic and lurid thoughts about Marilyn Monroe (or Marilyn Manson), forgotten what I said immediately after I spoke it, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. And nausea is the point here. It is nauseating, what paces we put ourselves through when we are all up in our heads. The sickness unto self, as Kierkegaard put it. Cui bono? To what good?


You hear the word recovery and you wonder.  You muse about what it means, and you do this by a series of questions, not tidily posed out loud, or even sequentially whispered inaudibly merely to your self and no one else. No, you wonder, after the fact; in repose, after you have heard that word recovery more than once, in various guises and contexts but most likely only in English, but maybe in German in Berlin, that time you exposed yourself to a recovery context there. Your series of untidy questions (and let's face it: there really were no questions; this is just a convention, a trope, a trick, a syntactic regime to get your point across, to attempt to get your ponderings on paper, digitally speaking). Questions in and around and above and under and alongside and through recovery such as: what was covered that needs to be covered once again? the naked self? the masked self? the unwalked terrain of sobriety? The overwalked geography of drunkenness? Who does the covering or the uncovering or the recovering? Is not recovery more a verb than a noun, despite its declension, a verb with all its active and passive voices, its tenses, its dynamic, its past perfect, imperfect, pluperfect, and embedded promise of future? And in the end, even in the beginning, aren't you glad recovery defies the straitjackets of category, definition, demeanor, steppes, solitude, sunrise or sunset, and syntax?

And for fun, there's this: recovery.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Several years ago, I said to a friend in Dallas, during a severe and prolonged drought down there,

"Where you gonna get your water from?"


"How you gonna get your water?"

He laughed uproariously at that, thought it was just hilarious.


Water as a resource is not a problem in the Lake Ontario region, and won't be.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

against the rain

Ever notice how people, including me, typically hunch their shoulders as they walk or run through pouring rain? (Not so much for snow or wind or ferocious sunshine.)

Does it mitigate by one drop the amount of rainfall falling on one's self?

Hashtag metaphor.

modern life

A few days ago, at Target, in Fairmount, a suburb of Syracuse, I saw a young woman, maybe in her young twenties, wheeling one of those red plastic carts, wearing a T-shirt, maybe it was a sweatshirt, which said this in script letters on her back: "TRUST NO DICK." The phrasing may have differed slightly, but that was definitely the gist of the point being expressed, however blaringly, imprudently, clearly, confidently, or coarsely. That was its core marketing message. Don't censor the messenger here. I mean, here we are in Target, not far from where I bought Simply Balanced organic black tea, plastic storage crates, and tissues; amidst toddlers in carts and senior citizens like me, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, sales associates, and babies too young to talk or read.

I am not a prude. I won't pretend I was offended by this declaration via vulgarity. In fact, I mused somewhat amusingly to myself: "Well, that's true. No self-aware man would even argue the point himself, upon honest reflection." There's a multitude of locker room sayings endorsing the same viewpoint toward male anatomy and its sway over the psyche, from the male perspective. I won't bore you with them. 

I always have questions, though, and this time they are:

-- Did the wearer of the article of clothing in question sport this out of anger or hurt?
-- Was she whimsical or serious?
-- Was it essentially anti-male or pro-female or neither or both?
-- Was anyone shocked or offended to see this level of discourse in the public square?
-- What would be the reactions and responses if the anatomical reference were switched to one of the female variety, using a crude term?
-- Does anyone care?
-- Am I an old scold for even thinking about this?

Monday, July 07, 2014

summer rain

a sudden downpour
not quite
a deluge
morning cleansing
soon over
hashtag metaphor

Sunday, July 06, 2014

start here

The default for digital maps is me, or you. It all starts with me, the little pushpin showing my whereabouts, as a starting point. So Google Maps and all the others are saying, "The world really does revolve around me." Or you, as the case may be. Is this a good default? Does this make the world flat? Columbus would not have gotten very far with notion. Same goes for Magellan, Hudson, da Gama, and the other seafarers. So, solipsism finally wins the day. For solipsists. For me. Or you.

the time of day

It is Sunday morning. I thought of going to church, even wanted to, but staying up so late last night (in the wee hours) now leaves me so tired, after breakfast, that I am toying with the idea of crawling back to bed. It is an idea I hope and pray I resist. Is that depression? The whole feeling has echoes of the days of Sunday morning coming down, with hangovers both physical and existential, now 35 years ago, thank God, but still there for me if I succumb to it. I hear the sparrows and robins. The meteorological conditions seems pleasant. I don't know if any of those factors will be enough to rouse me. Morning is not my time of day anyway. Give me evening, its vespers charms of setting sun, chirping robins, and something something something. Yesterday I browsed two bookstores for a copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Here at home I have one, taken from an Episcopal church more than 15 years ago. Maybe they gave it to me. I guess I'm still a member there but have always wrestled with its suburbanness. I've been thinking of secretly returning it one Sunday, placing it in the pew holder. Why? I guess to allow me to float somewhere else, or because of a secret guilt over stealing that book. Which is nonsense, of course. Maybe I need a book of uncommon prayer. I already have those. In the morning -- usually mornings -- I read from a compilation of writings by Thich Nhat Hank and also, these days, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. The latter was given to me last year as a birthday or Christmas present. My tea has gotten lukewarm, not warm at all.

txtng 1-2-3

Sometimes I feel texting, talking on a cellphone, all that, means I am communicating less. Sometimes I feel silence is the greatest message. But is it a cold silence or a warm one? And yet texting leaves an imprint. The 21st century human stain. Even so, a good impression or not? How to discern? How to tell?

Friday, July 04, 2014


walking back on the Creekwalk after having gone to its terminus at Onondaga Lake after having seen 2 rats or muskrats a bunny that startled me a foot away still by the fence and a heron I was


by a goldfinch stopped in my tracks a double-take frozen stopping me halting me captivating me there in the setting-sun light iridescent in its yellow its black wings its blaclk eyes a bit of orange a hood of black around its beak still and bright and reverent allowing me to look letting me be present then flying a few feet to feast on queen ann's lace but it was something else with seeds and then farther down the path I followed it I walked toward my car the goldfinch having soared and swooped away


We know they come, endings. We know the end is coded in the DNA of any beginning. We know our endings are preordained, happy or not. What? Why say "happy or not"? I say that because I want to believe -- and practice -- that we have that under our control, whether we want to be happy or not, deep down, despite pain or loss or expectation. I don't mean that flippantly or breezily. I'm referring to an inner disposition. Or is it a predisposition? That's key. Maybe not. What do I do with what I have, whether a beginning, a middle, or an ending? What do I do with this ending? How tender am I toward myself and toward the other person (or persons), and toward the ending itself? How do I even end this tiny creek of crooked words? With some T.S. Eliot:  

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." 

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

post-retro-futero-quasi coolness

Some young fellow just walked by sporting designer sunglasses, designer haircut, designer jawline, designer three-day beard growth, designer walk, designer angularity and atmosphere and aura. A Ralph Lauren ad no longer a still life. Do I sound a tad jealous? Or is it envious? Of what? Lost beauty and youth? Lost coolness? Naw. I was never that, nor did I ever aspire to that. At least I don't think so.

Back to our regularly scheduled program (programme, if you prefer).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bloomsday blogaversary

Either by coincidence or by providence, I began this blog on June 16, Bloomsday, in 2006, not pretending to be a pedestrian protagonist of a digital age, a reblossomed Leopold Bloom, nor an associate of Ulysses or Joyce or Dickens or Cohen or an inchoate echo of Ecco, but rather a solipsistic spinster of spindrift syllables in Syracuse, no more, no less, chasing punctuation marks off the screen, nudging meaning to the margins, mumbling along the half-desserted streets of summery scoopers of Gannon's ice cream.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

now is the season

It is the season of bloom, and each species, each flower, each tree, each blade of grass or weed, does so in its naturally ordained time. The irises are out, bobbing their heads. The irises, with their curvilinear lushness of bloom, their varieties of dark or pale purple, yellows, whites, ivories, even in the wild along the canal banks. I see the same time of ripeness for peonies, phlox, and endless incarnations I know not by name. Now is the season of bloom and blossom, at least for these, in their appointed time.

Which makes me speculate and wonder a bit, about the human metaphor, my own included.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

take me out to the (local) ballgame

Last evening, I watched the first-place Syracuse Chiefs (with Emmanuel Burriss) defeat the first-place Indianapolis Indians. Bucs prospect Gregory Polanco contributed a defensive gem, crashing into the wall in right field. Lucky if 2,000 fans were there. A summer shower lasted through most of one inning. The umpires let the players keep playing. Sunlight and rain, then the rainbow over right. Gorgeous. I went to the game on a whim. Ended up meeting baseball author Hart Seely and former Syracuse mayoral candidate Pat Hogan, of Tipp Hill. Macdog and others provided updates of the Giants’ loss. Hart, Hogan, former Post-Standard photog Jim Commentucci, “Doc,” and I settled ourselves directly in back of the visitors’ bullpen. We did not taunt them. The pitchers and catcher or two in waiting talked and restlessly fooled around; some drank Red Bull. Some spat. The five of us fans traded baseball stories, with direct or one-step-removed stories of Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, Don Drysdale, Whitey Herzog, Willie Mays, Tommy Fecking Lasorda, Vin Scully, Cookie Lavagetto, Willie Horton, Ben Gazzara, Dan Valenti, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and others. It was brilliant. One of the best times I’ve ever had at a ballgame. Laid-back, witty, conversational — and the home-team wins, almost as an afterthought.

This will never happen again.

Not in exactly the same way.

That's the glory of it; that's the story of it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

aerial yoga

A local billboard boasts the availability of "aerial yoga." The accompanying photo looks uncannily (or cannily) like someone performing pole-dancing.

I'm not a prude.

Go for it.

This has been an exercise option in the U.K. for years.

Aerial yoga. I wish I had coined that.

Monday, June 02, 2014

June rhymes with . . .

and now it is June
month of Bloomsday
anniversary of the start of this blog, in 2006,
anniversary of a certain sort of personal abstinence
if not,
I dare to say,
a certain sort of sobriety
with its moon croon loon tune soon
with its heat and heart

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the balloon of happiness

In the adjoining room of the inn restaurant, at breakfast time, not my peak hour, the sound of gales of laughter. Uproarious. Full-on, awake hilarity. Fifteen or so folks, most if not all bedecked in American-flag-decorated shirts or blouses. They were not drunk. Stone-cold sober, by all appearances. Nothing stronger than coffee and fellowship. Talk about camaraderie! Talk about witnessing confraternity and bonhomie!

It turns out they were balloonists; crews from far and wide. Here's the thing: they were not just one team AND their balloon(s) did not even take off that morning. Too windy or something.

Did disappointment reign? Not at all. Disappointment had no seat at their breakfast table.

They were by all evidence:


Which made me wonder, right then and there: were they happy because of their comradeship? Their friendship? Their seizing of the day, the chance to be together, whether in the air or on terra firma? Or did their happiness have something to do with the nature of ballooning, skimming on air, letting go, surrendering to forces beyond your control, riding the current, soaring, rising, falling, floating, being free? Or is this happiness somehow indicative of balloonists and their personalities, their inclination as people to pursue the risks and rewards of floating on air?

They were happy.

They are happy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'you don't understand'

I'm afraid I don't understand you (or you, either) and I dare say no one understands another. Not completely, not inside the skin, within the neural system, not entirely. Doesn't neuroscience confirm this more and more with every study? (I don't know. You tell me.) What I mean is, "what I want you to understand is," we think (enough with the italics already!) we know what another person feels and thinks. We claim we understand the other person's perspective. We feel we share a perception. We say this especially for those who are related to us by blood (parents and children and siblings and so forth). We say this about those we love. Or hate. Therapist and patient claim it. Business partners. Clients and associates. Intimate friends. Lovers. But it's silly, really, to think two infinitely different universes of experience can somehow overlap or merge or align perfectly. It's absurd to imagine that the river of solipsism can be so fordable. These are not cynical assertions. True, when we have glimpses of this "understanding" of another, they are rewarding, even exhilarating. There are such moments, or we at least perceive them as moments of shared illumination. Wonderful. I celebrate that, I salute it. And isn't this what art, music, literature, poetry, ballet, painting, sculpture, film, even sports do? Yes. But these are fleeting glimpses, glimpses we are thrilled by. We are grateful for such moments. But they are rare, in my view; if not rare, not commonplace. I suppose there is no way to prove or disprove this conclusively. But I posit that "you don't understand" is the norm among humans, except perhaps for conjoined twins. Hence, the study of semantics, semiotics, diplomacy, sociology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum. Mirabile dictu. Mirabile visu.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I saw the sign on Route 298. LIVE NUDE FISH. On one of those little A-frame sign holders. It caught my eye. I don't deny it. And let's be honest, the FISH part was not the hook, shall we say. Echoes of the 1980s, working in Midtown Manhattan, before Times Square and its environs went all Disney on us. The neon signs said LIVE NUDE GIRLS. Or am I misremembering the lures and bait that pedestrians faced then? One had to be curious about the diction, the word choices, though, several blocks from the literal Madison Avenue, the promoters of carnal license seemed to need no lessions in the ad game. The NUDE was an obvious allurement, as old as the hills (well, not the wording but the stark naked commercialism trading on human weakness; nothing new there), but LIVE? Surely, DEAD would be a turn-off, except for creepy necro types. Why not WOMEN? Too much Mrs. Robinson? Or MEN or ADULT PERSONS? We've come a long way, baby, since then. Or have we? On a scale of 1 to 10, how far? Fin de siecle. Finis. Something's fishy here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

I've posted about this before, that Earth Day is a feel-good escape, a chance to feel environmentally holy, if you will. Sure, many of the priests and priestesses of this secular religion practice the same rituals for the other 364 days of the year. But the cleanup rites are typically around Earth Day. It is not unlike waltzing to the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and handing out turkeys. Good for one day, maybe even a week. But I'm no better and my saying this does not exempt me from such criticisms.
p.s. I hate litter. It is contemptuous of civil order, an act of self-loathing and belligerent degradation, a despair.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

hardscrabble, softscrabble, scrabble

If you had one word to describe your neighborhood, what would that one word be? (This is assuming you have a neighborhood. I am not so sure that suburban or rural areas qualify.)

"Hardscrabble" was the first word to pop into my head. But, consulting Merriam-Webster, I'm not so sure it is an accurate adjective:

a :  being or relating to a place of barren or barely arable soil hardscrabble
farm> <hardscrabble prairies>
b :  getting a meager living from poor soil hardscrabble
:  marked by poverty hardscrabble
cotton town> hardscrabble childhood> 
Since there is not too much unpaved or ungrassed soil, I'll skip sense 1 of the M-W definition. As for sense 2, I'll buy that. I'll buy poverty. (How much does it cost? You can't afford it. Don't ask; don't tell.) But even that is hard to tell. Some folks seem to go to work; others seem to malinger, especially by that nefarious-looking cornerstore.

Maybe we're a softscrabble neighborhood.

Or, for those given to wordplay, maybe we are merely a scrabble neighborhood. And if you are talking about that famous board game, cap that initial S.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

parting thought

Group of mostly men in a room. (Rephrase that. It's not a gender assessment. No one is all man or all woman.) I noticed that of those who part their hair (I would part my hair if it were long enough), the men I observed tended to part their hair on the left side of the top of their scalp, right side if you are looking at the person. Why is that? Really, why is that?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Someone corrected another's posture. If it were a ballet class, I can see it. The pupils of dance want corrective measures. I suppose they do in the zendo too, but not in the same way. Imagine walking into church and being remonstrated for not making the sign of the cross "properly." Maybe it's just me. A problem with authority. But who likes to be "corrected"? Then again, one of my daughters has called me, an editor, Mister Corrective. Perhaps it boils down to how; it translates to tone. In a religious or spiritual setting, can you judge moral posture by physical posture? I tend to think not. And yet my morning zen reading spoke of body and mind being unified. So, yes, I understand the Eastern tradition's emphasis on form, such as during the tea ceremony. Perhaps that is why the master archer told Eugen Herrigel, in "Zen in the Art of Archery," you can miss every shot and still be a master archer. I must be a Westerner at heart. You might have a stance and a swing like Ted Williams, but you still need to get hits to be a good batter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

messyanic vision

So, Saturday night, just before the commendable "Hamlet" at the Red House, I strolled on the sidewalk across the street along the so-called connective corridor. It seemed the only thing it was connected to was litter. Is litter too nice a word? Garbage. Crap. Detritus that makes things Detroit-us. Plastic bags (I wish we would ban them), cigarette boxes, paper, plastic, you-name-it. Who does this? Who are the litterati? And if I had more time and work gloves and some sort of trash container, I would have done more than bitch about it and would have stooped to conquer; would have picked some of it up. What an unappealing greeting to visitors or residents! It was as if the melted snow revealed the shame of an entire winter of cavalier disposal. Consumerist caches of junk tossed in the wind amid the shrubs. This is why I hate Earth Day. Earth Day is the salve upon one's social conscience, the balm of do-gooderism that pretends the other 364 days are just fine, environmentally and socially. Right.