Saturday, December 31, 2016


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


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

watching the ball drop

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

what comes after 'penultimate'?

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

calendar musings

Soon December turns to January, and 2016 to 2017. I get that we don't live a year at a time, not even really a day at a time. It's this moment drifting or dissolving into the next and the next and the next and the next. You get the point. Still, I'm eager to bid good riddance to 2016, its upheavals, violence, tumult, blooms, blossoms, sunrises, sunsets, roses, rusts, and secrets. And that's talking about my personal adventures! Let's turn the page!

Saturday, December 24, 2016


It is 4:41 p.m., and I have yet to leave the house today, spending time wrapping presents, napping, eating, and now napping. (Though the last sentence is long-ish, it is NOT a run-on sentence, which has nothing to do with sentence length, longevity, rhythm, or cadence. Look it up.) Is my staying in a reaction to the aforementioned frenzy or a tidal opposite of activity or mere holiday depression? (How dare one call it mere, ma mere.) But, having shaved and showered, I shall now venture out into the world, beyond the insular confines of my pauline walls.

Friday, December 23, 2016


You see it. A palpable tension. An agitated hum. More voltage, higher speeds, greater impatience, fear in the eyes. Pressure! It's the holidays!


I've surrendered most of that, though I understand it.

The fear of failing at the height of transactional trauma.


Maybe instead of saying "Merry Christmas," we should invoke a salute to stillness or silence.


Some way.


winter haiku 1

crystalline dancers

melting snowflakes on window

sliding into stream lines

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

autumn haiku 8

:  :

sun-throb cumulus

etymology of sky

murmuring cirrus

:  :


Friday, December 16, 2016

... and speaking of arrivals ...

... not meaning the Arrivals terminal at the airport, or alternately the Departures edifice at the same locus or terminus ...

But something else.

("That is not I meant at all.")

Hold on a second. Try on for size, color, and style these oft-quoted lines, by T.S. Eliot, in "Little Gidding":

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.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

arriving at 'Arrival'

Having seen the movie 'Arrival,' I am left to wonder: ah, why was there not more wonder in the movie? Why was there not more 'ah'? They tried, but mostly missed the dazzling facial glows of 'Close Encounters.' They (the scriptwriters, producers) tried, too, to touch on the inevitable nexus between immanence and transcendence. But it is, in the end, a movie, a Hollywood one at that. I salute this much: despite the cliche of the threat of military intervention (I won't spoil the plot) and despite some other tropes, the production had some gravitas. 'Arrival' touched on our human yearning for connection, as well as our propensity to sever connection (e.g., kill, destroy, alienate). And 'Arrival' touched on language in a fresh way. As a wordsmith, I enjoyed that. It earnestly sought to be optimistic. I'll give it that. I did not dislike the movie. (Is that damning with faint praise?) It had more simplicity and less noise than most films like this. I confess to having experienced a chill run down my spine at some moments. So that's powerful, right? I will close by saying that the immanence and transcendence the movie sought to evoke is ineffable ultimately. (Is it not?) Which is why we have art and silence and poetry and image and dance and breathlessness and pulse and no-thing-ness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

good day sunshine day

Sunshine, even for a few hours, is welcome in the month of December in these northern climes.

autumn haiku 7

icicle shards drip

in sunlight just before noon

cumulus shadows

Drying Out

the dusty rose petals

October's faded gourds

besotted by habit

memory's fodder

sobering up

from 'it'll be different'

to 'this is this'

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

autumn haiku 6

capillaried branch

leafless breezy pantomime

before the storm breaks

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


a word left on a plate

a syllable in mid-air

digital deletions

the unspoken shout

closing doors

no more static

radio silence

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Grayer Truths

I saw it in a horoscope
Yours not mine
Trumpeting grayer truths
I wondered why
That was fine

I wandered off the grid
Of black and what
A vacant landscape
No rock, sand, water, air

Is this horoscope for real
Something neutral
Less invested
Cooler scale
Hues of medium

I wondered
And wandered unbleached
Indeterminate and old
Searching for grayer truths

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

autumn other-than-haiku 1

She said she had to sort things out
I figured it was her and them
She had to sort some things
I found it was me and her
This and that
Those and them
What's the difference
Besides black and white
Far and wide
Me and you
Then and now

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

autumn haiku 4

oak beech elm maple
spare bronchiated branches

squirrels scurrying 


Monday, November 14, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

and this is America . . .

We sat in tiny chairs at tables made for kids. In the school library, the tops of tables and the seats of chairs were closer to the floor. We paired off, a dozen adults and a dozen first and second graders. We were reading. We read to each other. The adult would say a word that the child stumbled upon. The child would repeat it. (Incidentally, this is the sort of quiet volunteering that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has done for many years, but that's another story. Or is it?) Some children wrote letters on erasable white boards. One could hear the mysterious sounding-outs of letters and their combinations, the gentle coaxings and coachings that shed light and pattern. Sight words, flash cards, stapled pages we called books. Voices blending. Encouragement. Ears yearning. One boy reached out to touch a man's gray hair. The child seemed baffled and amazed at the hair's texture, its novelty. Sometimes a child would navigate a whole book, maybe twice. And at other times, the adult and child would mirror each other's narration or take turns in some improvised manner. Perhaps they'd discuss the new words or the plot or the informational content. The boy remarked on the veins in the old man's hand. "My hand is a different color," the young fellow observed matter-of-factly. "Yes, I see that. Isn't it wonderful," replied the man. They turned to tackle another book, the chorus of learning filling the room.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Manhattan paean

The Slavic voices at Starbucks near the Asian straight black hair cascading off shoulders; the woman talking to herself or the sidewalk air loudly declaring 'I ain't that bad'; leaving the $37 for 24 hours garage on 110th, pivoting from Broadway to West End Avenue, the green lights in synchronicity, counting the cross streets down, even ones one way west to east, odd ones one way east to west, with a few thrown in for both directions, such as 96th; yellow cabs white NYPD black Mercedeses red Mustang silver VW; Verizon cable being snaked downward cranes upward; a city reinventing itself old new old new flashing like brilliant Times Square HD billboards; skimming the tops of skyscraping apartment buildings the splash of late-afternoon sun; amber then red light; honey locusts maples poodles schoolkids fire engines sirens; filigree pedigree wrought-iron gateways doorways window grilles and bas relief designs in concrete from the Gilded Age; uniformed doormen; strollers nannies headphones crosswalk scarf-wearers in the wind; grocery carts; bicyclists insanely threading a life-and-death needle of time and space and daring; tall apartment buildings by the trash transfer station with the tall stack by the car dealers where last time more than a decade ago I parked in a cheap lot with razor wire now gone; West End becomes 11th no one told me; the Hudson River Jersey light nearly blinding; breeze downtown; Lincoln Meatpacking Chelsea Piers; by the water; boulevard; contours; swerve; smooth. Manhattan.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

dream lover

At the stoplight, he glanced into the rearview mirror. It framed a vision. She was looking down, obviously at her phone, at a text or a message, who knows perhaps a YouTube video. She was young, with dark hair, dark eyes, dark eyebrows, long, dark hair. Time stopped before the light changed. What a dream, he thought, relieved the light was turning green, relieved she never locked eyes, as can happen in those mirrored exchanges. "Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream" floated into his head as he put his left foot on the clutch, pressed the gas, and turned left.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

autumn haiku 1

rolling green meadows / tawny cornstalks sunset-drenched / before bonfire sparks

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

summer haiku 10

tiny butterfly / wings still on dandelion / white exclamation

This really happened. A moth (is that not the same as a butterfly?) with a black spot or two on white wings landed on a yellow flower. The wings were still. Folded together. A gorgeous moment in the sun. And it is almost, not quite, the last day of summer.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

canal haiku triptych

two sunning turtles
abiding our twin footfalls
stone above water

one regal heron
alert shoreline sentinel
tracking our chatter

shrieking blue jay cry
sweat in the small of the back
wood bridge, dusty shoes

Sunday, August 21, 2016

summer haiku 5

after the showers

night lamp of cloudless moon glow

chilly crickets hum

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

summer haiku 1

sweat trickling down spine

cricket songs, cicadas trill

murmuring thunder

Saturday, August 13, 2016

hugs anonymous

I bought the Friday $3 lunch special at Wegmans (with its absent apostrophe). Hot dog, soda, chips (Fritos). The cost for lunch goes to the United Way. It was sweltering outside. Heavy, dense, the wet heat a blanket. I went inside the cafe area to eat. Cooler. After a few bites, ketchup dripping off, I noticed, almost felt, a figure come toward me from my right, just beyond and then into my peripheral vision. Before my mind could calculate, I'm being jostled, hugged, but not harshly, playfully not violently. Almost the way someone would administer a noogie but this was around the upper body, my chest, my neck. It was a heavyset young man, late teens or early twenties. It scared me until it didn't. Before I knew it, he was walking away. A caregiver was upset. "Don't do that. Stop. You can't do that." The caregiver, a tall young man, apologized to me. I waved it off. I ruminated for a few seconds on semantics. No, we didn't use phrases like "developmentally delayed" as I was growing up. The designations were harsher. And yet in today's culture, America's current environment, let's be thankful I was not armed and quick-triggered, paranoiac, quick to defend, protect, and save myself and all others from all harm or threat.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Almost Jaywalker

She stood at the corner of West Genesee and Avery, by the Rite-Aid. She had gray hair and was in her late fifties or early sixties. She was in a hurry, or impatient. And confused, as if she was unfamiliar with how to cross a street, when to do it, with the light red, or the light green. She pressed the button on the pole, the button to change the light. She slammed it repeatedly, the way we do that while waiting for an elevator, with no speed-up of results. She was angry at the delay. Slam slam slam. She frowned. She seemed to be taking the whole challenge personally, an affront to her freedom of movement, impeding her progress, hindering her day. The light changed. I crossed the road. I saw her crossing in my rear-view mirror. I traveled south, now looking forward through my windshield, lessening the chance of a collision.

This is America today.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

summer day

AC off. No fan spinning. Siren. Thunder rumble. The mattress creaks. Where are the birds? For that matter, what happened to the dogs? Parched lawns. Other people's AC humming. The curtains swaying. Now the chirps. Tires on pavement. Wind chime.

Monday, July 11, 2016

nature bling flash

A shock of yellow. Is it yellow? What's a canary? A winged flash. Swooping amid the green branches. Is that green? Reeds, meadow, shrubs. Brilliant yellow. Here and gone. Goldfinch. Into the sky. Is it cerulean? A vision. A blessing. Mirabile visu.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

happy blogaversary, selfie

Ten years ago, I started The Laughorist, appropriately enough on Bloomsday. I've kept at it. Not every day. I'm glad I did.

Thanks for reading my words.

I invite you to browse backwards into the archives, strolling through the streets of my imagination and the precincts of my world.

Call me Boulevardier.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

family values

Each of the seven kids received a "diploma," a certificate. Pre-K graduation. They sang "Kindergarten, Here We Come." As each youngster went up to get his or her certificate, the daycare director made declarations of future aspirations, what they want to be when they grow up. One girl wants to be a mermaid, another "graduate" wants to work at the large factory down the hill and across the street. 

My grandson?

"When he grows up, he wants to be a . . . Dad."

What a testament to my son's fatherhood.

Monday, June 13, 2016

amid the geraniums

"Let's go outside. It's not too bad out there, Mom." We walked out of the dining room. She used her cane. I slowed my pace yet was slightly ahead of her. We found two chairs facing the setting sun, partly in the shade. A man to our right sat in a chair, slouched, eyes closed, mouth open. Facing us, a man and a woman, he in a wheelchair. "Those geraniums are really something, aren't they?" "They're beautiful." Eight hanging baskets in two parallel rows. Bright red geraniums, full, lush, some buds still to blossom. "I love that tree like an umbrella. They get it to be just right." Sparrows jumping into the bird bath or leaning over for a sip and then darting off. Bees landing on the ground-cover flowers. She kept coming back to the geraniums, mentioning them over and over, with the same phrase, as if we had not already spoken of them. And I'd reply likewise. The sun was too hot for her. I said it was because her black pants absorbed the heat. The couple in front had left. We took their seats. The sun was at our back; we were in the shade. She could smell the fragrance of flowers. I could not. Purple. White. Green. Yellow. "That guy is dozing off." She replied: "You never know. Maybe he just doesn't want to talk."

Sunday, June 05, 2016


As the rebar comes flying through your windshield, you flinch. You flinch as the ponded puddle at the curb is about to inundate you. An infinitesimal moment before the crash, you flinch. As would I. Similarly, we hunch our shoulders against the wind, rain, or snow. We squint at the blinding light. We brace ourselves for the verbal daggers flying toward us.

Tell me. Does the flinching, hunching, squinting, bracing, wincing, cringing, or shrugging alter the results one iota? And yet we seek these armours, these paltry shields, involuntarily. (Are they ever voluntary?)

Powerlessness 101.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

out of the blue

why blue

not azure cerulean opal hues

out of the blue

thin air

laden with promise







in the space

of a heart-


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

our lady joy of all who sorrow, philadelphia

and who doesn't sorrow

seeking joy

or all


seeking nothing 

the dolorous faces

of the icons


the joyous ones

our lady

succoring our sadness

savoring salvation




Saturday, May 28, 2016

author! author!

Here is authorial click bait: a one-source venue for buying or browsing any or all of my six books.

Or if you prefer something more overt and blatant:

Thanks for browsing, buying, mulling, sharing, seeking, or any other gerund you want to add.

Friday, May 27, 2016

the small hours

The small hours, the ones prone to silence or scream. The small hours with no voice or vision. The hours invisible. How small beyond measure. The small hours incalculable. What follows the small? Smaller? Minutes? The small hours beyond time zones. The glaciers. Waterfalls. Sand dunes. The eternal hum of the refrigerator. The breeze swaying the curtain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

100 days of solitude

One hundred days of solitude? More like 910, closer to 1,000 days of solitude. But who's counting? Let us define our terms first; one term, singular: solitude. We (the royal, solitary, sovereign we) are referring to the self not cohabiting, which decades ago might've been termed the bachelor's life, or "estranged" in a cheap novel or B-movie. Truth be told, though, in those numbered (sometimes numb and unencumbered) days of solitude not every day, or night, was a solo flight, with or without radar, with or without moral or immoral compasses. All of which might yet reduce the count of days significantly. But who's counting?

So solitude has its virtues, or at least its goals. Whether it is encountered in Reykjavik or Syracuse, solitude forces the issue of self. You gotta confront it, on some level, and see what you come up with after sifting through the sands; see what specks of gold you find, or sprinklings of fine ash and black dust on the beach. Is it volcanic debris? Or metaphysical flotsam (or is it jetsam?)?

I get confused.

Last night, I watched the shadow of a tree against the stark white backdrop of a garage in my horizon. The shadow, the light, the fence to the left on a slight hill. It was an utterly ordinary sight I soaked in at sunset as I peered through a window while sitting in a meeting. By meeting's end the tree still stood but the shadow was gone. The sun had set. It was enough. It was abundance.

I was not confused.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday, May 07, 2016

you turn

At the intersection of Lowel and Whittier (Syracuse streets named after authors), the driver in the SUV slowed, stopped, and began a U-turn. (A woman in her fifties, she was -- to recall more accurately -- driving a CRV, one of those so-called crossovers, and for all I know it was literally a Honda CRV.) She completed three-quarters of the U-turn. I was at the intersection's stop sign, getting ready to turn left. The only other traffic was a car to my left on Lowell. I slipped through and proceeded to make my left turn. I wasn't in a big hurry, though I was a bit later than I'd planned to be on the way to a pre-Mother's Day "tea and dessert" with Mom, 99, and the seniors at her independent-living facility. I didn't impatiently beep my horn or wave my arms. The driver witnessing all this, on Lowell to my left, who couldn't go anywhere anyway except backwards, sported a beaming smile. In her twenties, hair tied up, she flashed an exuberant, bright-toothed smile of wonder and delight. It said, "Look at you, maybe you are lost. you've decided to correct your 'mistake' and do a 180. How sweet. Isn't life grand!" Or notions along those lines. Her smile was rich, patient, buoyant -- and unmistakably genuine. I was immediately grateful that I had not beeped my horn or waved my arms. I was also relieved I had not given U-Turner the finger or yell to no one in the car, "What's the matter with you? What are you doing? How dare you slow me down? What is this country coming to?" I first thought the two female drivers knew each other or were related. I assumed Smiler's breezy tolerance was several doses of "hey, that's cool, we'll find the place, no hurry, we'll get there, I'm good." But as I drove on, on Lowell, with U-Turner in my rearview mirror, Smiler was nowhere to be seen. Now it appeared that Smiler and U-Turner were strangers to each other, as they were to me. With U-Turner in my rearview, searching Tipp Hill slowly for her destination, I had a revelation. Why is familiarity the pretext for kindness? Why couldn't Smiler be someone who took the world in stride, as it came to her, at its own speed, someone who took the "good" with the "bad" equally, not personally offended or distraught by life's disturbances or challenges? Before you dismiss this view of life as either sappy/sentimental or deranged (and I get that, I really do), think again. (Or feel again. Neuroscientists tell us there is no difference biologically and neurochemically between thinking and feeling.) Aren't we offered many moments in every day with an opportunity to be either the Smiler or the FingererGrowler? I am not suggesting that I (or you) can inhabit a Hallmark, gauzy world of inhuman tolerance, or walk or drive in a hazy, psychotic fugue of benign delight. 

Well, maybe I am.

p.s. This episode reminded me of Splashed Woman of Times Square, in the Eighties, who got doused by a cab. It drenched her. I witnessed this, fifty yards away, on my way to work. She laughed.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

spring haiku 15

clarion sunlight

mute during these shrouded days

before the bright fugue 


Sunday, May 01, 2016

spring haiku 14

gray drizzled daylight

bathed in cumulus, nimbus

sun above, unseen

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016


run the numbers







in my blood


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

imagine this, or that

While driving today, I listened to "Imagine" on the John Lennon "Wonsaponatime" LP. It's a secular hymn, an ode. When I was young, I thought the lyrics were simplistic, almost trivial. Now that I am oldish, I seem to embrace the lyrics ever more. It's haunting. A lament. I wanted to pull over and weep. Why? for me? Or the planet. But I didn't. My eyes welled up, but I lumbered onward into the brilliant and lustrous day.

Yesterday, I noticed on a sidewalk the graffito "FAS." Was the writer so hurried that he or she could not complete "FAST"? Or tragically halted? Graffitus interruptus. Or was it the tag of Flemington Angus Smithson, WASP scion?

Imagine that.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

spring haiku 8

blanching tidal waves

named noonward April sunlight

blanket early green


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

one sentence

Bearing grief and hope, he silently placed fragrant flowers upon the earth scorched no more, at least to the naked eye, Hiroshimaed by memory and loss.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

living color

Shards of robin's eggshell on the sidewalk brick. That robin's egg blue, so called: a teal of bright sky with speckles sleeping. No remains of the egg. An incomplete mosaic. Shrapnel of life, as well as death. On Plum Street. By Solar. Remnants of rain. Beads on windshield. Hint of the hint of sun behind dusky cumulus. The suggestion of buds on branches. This day.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Monday, April 04, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

spring haiku 1

sunsplash on her face 

silent footsteps in the crowd

I looked up -- and froze

Saturday, March 26, 2016

distracted walking

New Jersey wants to fine people for "distracted walking." Kudos. But what about distracted talking, listening, watching, working, sleeping, loving, hating, ad infinitum?

unread deleted

Unread deleted. It made me laugh. Imagine in the world of online dating that someone to whom you ventured -- dared, risked -- a message deemed it so unworthy of attention or curiosity as to delete it unread. That amuses me. Talk about honesty or open-mindedness or willingness! Um, I guess it wouldn't have worked out, right? Grateful to laugh over it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

when in doubt haiku

Feeling dull, listless, uninspired, possibly because I am sitting at a mall. The perfect antidote to this malaise? Haiku. here goes.

pale fire cloud skyscape

metallic flatness dreaming 

sparrows fly away

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Welcome to Happyland

People forget, or do not know, that Thomas More's 1516 book titled Utopia comes from a Greek word coined by the author that means "nowhere" or "no-place." The book is a satire. That's what I was taught in college decades ago. Happyland doesn't exist, not in any perfect form.

Nevertheless, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network measures happiness and ranks countries. A mythical Dystopia anchors the bottom of the list.

Denmark was judged the happiest country in the latest findings. The indices of 157 countries are compared and ranked in the organization's report. The publication coincides with the United Nations' World Happiness Day on March 20. Hey, wait! That's today! Phew. Almost missed it. Happy Happiness Day!

The top 10 countries of happiness are Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden. I'm glad Iceland made the top 10, ever more justifying my trip there in January.

I have one tiny, rather unscientific observation. Of the top 10, how many are in hot, tropical locations? Two. Of the top 10, how many are in cold zones, or at least not hot-weather regions? Eight.

So much for those paradisiacal fantasies of blazing beaches and hot sands. 

Brrrrrrrrring on ice-cold happiness.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


the deliciousness of pluvial abundance pouring down no other direction for it 'cept sideways 'round through trickling rivulets sky to yawning earth running rushing to unseen fate and transport pure wanton freedom of rain its indiscriminate blanketing biblical in scale and equality "rain" one of The Beatles' most underrated songs celebratory simple childlike in delight if you will rain in my memory a clear vision the Eighties Times Square walking to my desk at Random House driving torrents rain inverting umbrellas into skeletal art cascading splashes from tires of Yellow Cabs arrested by the sight of a pedestrian inundated by a curtain of rain's results splashdown no splashup her own miniature tsunami personal impersonal and I swear she stopped and smiled even laughed as if what are you going to do might as well exult in it and here I was lamenting my soaked feet she never knew what I witnessed never will never can this benediction this rainworthy anointing

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

in a world with no editors . . .

Headline, March 6, 2016, The (Syracuse) Post-Standard:






Granted, the story was in the Auto section, but in this day and age one could argue that the writer of the "hed" should have been sensitive to, um, alternative meanings.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


The priest quizzed the congregation as he was giving his homily. "How many of you know what 'prodigal' means, raise your hand." One, two hands went up. He gently and half comically chided people for not reading the Bible, as he had urged them to do as a Lenten practice, though one might argue that his question posed a vocabulary issue, not a theological one. I didn't raise my hand. That was because I just didn't feel like it. I was sitting in back with my mom. She can't hear well. If I had gotten called on, it might have confused her or scared her. "What's my son yelling about in church?!" The other reason I didn't raise my hand is because, I am ashamed to admit as a wordsmith, on a Sunday morning I was not fully confident I knew what "prodigal" meant. Sure, I knew the parable, from Luke. I love it. Who doesn't? I believe it may be the most frequently quoted story in the New Testament. (It is such a human drama; we sympathize with the Prodigal Son, but aren't all of us sometime the grouchy, law-abiding Good Son who does not understand the extravagance of mercy?) I was going to blurt out that it means "lost." A so-called verbal artisan should know better. It's a great word, prodigal, ain't it? Extravagantly wasteful, rashly wasteful. (Maybe I was conflating "prodigal" with "profligate," but the two words are roughly synonymous; so, I don't know where lostness entered in. This is where a reader chimes in silently to herself or himself and editorializes on the measure of my evident lostness articulated in these spaces.) There's also a denotation for prodigal that is positive: lush, profuse, abundant. Charles Darwin, on the sea of the tropics, wrote: " prodigal of life." Prodigal. Work it into conversation over by the coffee machine today.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

excuse me? excuse me

A young man (late teens or early twenties) was walking a bicycle, on the other side of the street, against traffic. I was walking toward him and then veered left to go up a sharp hill, to get some cardio exercise (second day in a row!). As I walked uphill, my back turned toward him and the street we were on, I heard, "Excuse me? Excuse me!" And then a third time, louder and with impatience and anger thrown in, "Excuse me!" For good measure, he threw in a whistle, as you would toward a dog. It was all meant for me. No one else was around. I continued my march up the incline, never breaking stride or looking back. (In my experience, a person who greets you with this sort of "excuse me" is bent on a) panhandling b) hustling) c) robbing or d) all of the preceding.) After reaching the top, I surveyed the surrounding village, the lake beyond, and the mall on its shores. No sign of Excuse Me Hustler Bicycle Dude.

Monday, February 22, 2016

counting clicks

Sure, they say it is all about clicks, and "they" are talking about calculating website visitations, drilldowns, pageloads, pauses, meanderings, and that sort of digital thing. SEO. All that. Not that I for one have ever been fully persuaded by such sales pitches and alleged monetary equations. Back in 2008, when I first started my business, I had people pitch me this or that "SEO optimization" scheme with robust assurances that such clicks would yield the sound of coins jingling in my pocket, or the silent chafing of high-denomination bills in my pants. I never fell for such outsized pitches, not for the type of work I was doing and still am performing. But I want to make a point about "clicks," and the point is this: is there any more resolutely and resoundingly certain a click than the sound of clicking shut the plastic top of your shampoo container in the shower? (I don't use conditioner, so we're talking shampoo, unless the shampoo has a conditioner built in.) Click. I love that sound, its unmistakable identity, its signature backstory of rushing water, frothing hair, cascading suds. Click. The signal of an act completed, the transition to rinsing and then the steaming nudity of inescapable self. Click. Where there is no counting, save the solo aria of One. (Or is it Zero?) Click. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

thread tread retread dread

As one progresses through the local mall, one sees kiosks -- even a store or two -- for "threading." Look, I don't even want to know what it is. I avert my eyes when threading is being performed on a live human being or when a promotional video depicts it. It grosses me out. I cringe at the thought of it. I cringe at the near-thought of anything remotely resembling threading. I do not care what its perceived benefits are. I won't bother to Google "threading" to learn more. Spare me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

over and over and over again and again and . . .

She stood by the mail slot in the post office, twenty yards diagonally to my left. An old Italian lady, short, with a kerchief. Did I say "old"? She could be my age. She placed the envelope against the wall, near the slot, and rubbed where the envelope seals, pressing the sealed area, rubbing it like a grave rubber, transferring every particle of memory from a forgotten soul. She was a person whose life depended on the unbroken, secure fastening of this bill to be mailed. And she rubbed her fingers over the stamp too. And flipped the envelope over, to do it from that side, for good measure. The rubbing continued. It was now a ceaseless ritual. It was a compulsion and an obsession. Back in the Fifties, she might be called "neurotic." We now know better. We know something, perhaps only a tiny bit, about OCD. As I moved toward the counter, I continued spying on her. I did not mock her in my mind. I managed to quiet the voice in my head yearning to shout, "Enough already!" How am I different when I cannot stop from tweeting or reading tweets at 2 in the morning? How different was I in high school when, on the way home, I could not help stopping at every stationery store that carried every skin magazine allowed to the general public? ("That's not for you, son." It's not? If it's not for a teenage boy, then who is it for?) Another customer half-interrupted her, to insert his bills (does anyone mail anything else, thank you's, encouragements, condolences?) His disruption was not severe enough to break the chain, to challenge her rhythm. Having purchased my ten stamps, I exited the counter and entered the lobby. She was still there, now working on her Verizon bill. I was several feet away. I was not able to blurt it out. I was not able to voice it. It's okay now. You can stop. It's okay. It's all right. You can stop now. It's all right. Really. Trust me. Look at me. Come here.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

three-syllable cold

It is co-o-old out there tonight, with the winds a howlin' and the snow a-swirlin'. The packed-down snow crunches under wheels or feet. I love that sound. I'm even tempted to take a walk in the extreme conditions. But won't succumb to that temptation. Not tonight.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

what is my saga?

Never mind asking, "What is my sign?" (It is Sagittarius, but that explains or predicts very little, in my worldview.) It is more apt to ask, "What is your saga?" Now we're talking. Epic tales of conquest or defeat; heroic journeys; enlightening discoveries; noble orations.

My saga is in progress.

It is often ordinary but sometimes surprising in its twists, its shocks, its steps, its songs.

Isn't that what I've been reciting or humming here, my saga?

Characters come and go.

The tune morphs.

The plot thickens.

Or thins. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a free lunch

On Saturday, I not only had a free lunch but I was paid to eat my free lunch. I answered some questions as part of a research panel. Three questions, four tops. Over 100 participants in the audience. Fifteen minutes of my time answering questions from the moderators. Twenty minutes max. Myself and two other panelists. We were veterans of two earlier rounds of this research. $150 to wag my tongue. And eat food. We felt like kids in the plastic-balls bin. Oh sure, you can grouse that SOMEONE paid for this free lunch, some entity or entities that awarded the research grant blah blah blah. But that is ever and always the case. Someone pays. Of course.

It's a wide world.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

'suspended' animation

I love how candidates who quit their campaigns for the presidency like to say they are "suspending" the campaign. Suspending. Really? True to the political norm, they like to sugarcoat the reality. I got a secret for you: they are quitting. Imagine if "suspend" gained a wider usage like that employed by these candidates.

"We have decided to suspend our marriage."

"As of Friday, we are suspending your position at this company."

"Kids, we are suspending the use of your electronic devices."

"This is your captain. Due to engine malfunction, we are suspending in-flight operations."

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I went to Destiny USA today not to shop but merely for human intercourse, meaning not that but the sounds of footsteps, blather, shrieks, cries, laughs, arguments, mumbles, interjections, interruptions, sulks, swerves, objections, enthusiasms, profanities, sneezes, coughs, and the incessant undercurrent of fingers brushing across or up and down the screens of "devices." The new town square is neither in downtown nor square. I sat on a bench in front of the Apple store and wrote about Iceland. I exchanged texts as my unsmartphone chimed owing to its Outdoor setting. Some texts I ignored in deference to finishing a thought as I composed my Icelandic travelogue. I bought nothing. I sought to "create coincidence." As I was leaving, I ran into three people I know. We spoke. By then, the blare of the place was getting on my nerves. Had to go. And did.

Monday, January 25, 2016

last day in Iceland

[This is old news, but I felt obliged to finish the chronicle of my journey, in some form, fact or fiction.]

Just before going through security at Keflavik, I asked two guards if I could go through with the Icelandic Glacial water that Icelandair had given me upon entering the plane in Newark. I was told I would have to empty it or drink it. “Will I be getting another one for my flight home?”
“Yes, you will. Once you pass security, you can fill up your empty container from tap water and take that with you. It’s just as good.”
”I believe that. I just may.” (I did not but carried the empty homeward.)

At the Icelandair check-in counter, I could not resist one farewell flirtation with the native Nordic beauties. But I added a twist.

“Where’s all the women my age? Where’s your moms?” I asked the two associates checking my bag and issuing a boarding pass.

They looked a bit puzzled and annoyed. (Tiredness must be a factor in my social tone-deafness.) After a pause, one of them replied, “They’re all taken.” She added a shrewd marketing promotion, “Come back this summer”  — which evoked my unspoken rejoinder, “Because they’ll be divorced by then? Their husbands are hunting or fishing?”

As we flew into the sun (“running blind...running into the sun,” as the Jackson Browne song goes,) I was neither blind nor running on empty. Flying above crenellated clouds that looked like a sea or a sky under sky, I wondered if we would beat the sunset and land in brightness (we would not). To bookend my landing on Tuesday, which seemed ages ago, I listened to Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) again. The title of their “Beneath the Skin” LP suited me. I went to Iceland seeking skin and what lay beneath. I received one, the latter. “Hunger” was one of the tracks of this journey, and of this album. Did I satiate my hungers? It turns out to be the wrong question. I looked at my hungers and my self and the wider beyond. Did I need to go anywhere to accomplish that? Perhaps not. But I sorely needed a retreat. Caregiving and grieving were taking a toll on me. I paid that toll and walked through the gate. And Iceland was the perfect choice: a glacial oasis of gray and blaze, geysers and lagoons, new tongues and ancient sagas. As I noted in my book Seeing the Signs, the world is adorned with signs for us to decipher. On a construction plywood fence on Hafnerstraeti in Reykjavik, I saw this graffito sprinkled with symbols that looked like ancient runes and the word “Berlin,” where my older daughter once lived and where I have journeyed:

you have to be who you are now . . .

you can’t wait until later

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Iceland, day 3: threads of meaning

Just seeing traditional Icelandic sweaters in shops, and worn by tourists and locals alike, I knew I was going to get one. I was determined to allow myself this indulgence. I am not a person who buys many clothes, I live simply, and I have to resist feelings of guilt just for purchasing something for myself. 
I walked a few blocks into the main shopping district and stopped at Te & Kaffi. Perfect. Hot black tea, a toasted bagel with Smjör butter and as is customary in Iceland some cheese or meat or fish (cheese for me). I chatted with Alexandra and Jeremiah behind the counter. Jeremiah, wearing a Harry Potter-inspired medallion on a necklace and what looked to be premature gray hair, spoke in American-inflected English. He related having lived in Minnesota and Tennessee. He did a humorous Minnesota accent in English after I tried my own version. His was better, with an exaggerated American-Scandinavian lilt. I browsed through a local newspaper, not succeeding in parsing the meaning of the front-page story.

“Where’s a good place to shop for a real Icelandic sweater with good prices, not too touristy?”

“The Nordic Store, right across the plaza,” Alexandra and Jeremiah suggested.

I walked the twenty yards there. It’s a splendid display of sweaters, gloves, scarves. I walked to the men’s section and a very helpful sales clerk let me try on a few pullovers. I avoided looking at price tags. I decided I would not get the zippered cardigan. I liked the sweaters she showed me and let me try on, but I am a fussy buyer capable of an impulsive move. I wanted more color, I said. There was a green design I liked but she did not have it in my size. She was not pushy, and I greatly appreciated that. She was so cordial, I had to buy something. I bought a skein (is that what they are?) of hunterish green authentic wool for knitter/quilter Beth, from whom I've been cordially separated for more than two years, for her to knit or to have as a souvenir. The customer can choose from a robust palette of colors, demarcated on a chart reminiscent of a Pantone Matching Scale. This wool is authentic, the double-ply fiber used in the sweaters. (Beth later enthused it was the best gift I’d ever given her.) Locals proudly boast of how warm the sweaters are, wet or dry. And they are right. It’s all in the wool of their sheep, we are told. (Sheep outnumber people on the island. Speaking of “island,” two things: the Icelandic word for Iceland is Ísland, and domain names there end in .is. This invites wordplay and silly conjecture. Well, it is an island, but not the only one in the world that is a nation. More tantalizing, for my little philosophical musings, is the notion that I have found my being, my “is,” in the land whose websites end in “is.” It must’ve been preordained. Or not.)

I had to do more exploring. Up the street, on Laugavegur, the Icewear store had gorgeous selections. I can’t articulate why I did not buy one there. Size? Style? I just was not psychologically ready. The fellow there was also gracious and patient. Both Nordic Store and Icewear were curiously empty of customers around noon. The guy at Icewear told me to try their store down the hill, closer to my apartment. Before that I stopped at 66º North. A decent but limited assortment of blacks, blues, grays. I went to the Icewear store, downstairs to the Vault. A few folks from Maryland were there, a couple. The woman seemed to be on the same sort of mission and knew sweaters. Then the fellow there mentioned The Handknitters Association of Iceland store. That was it. I would have to go there. Trond had mentioned it to us as he dropped off tourists at the end of the day the night before. I had to see what it offered.

I was hungry. Time for lunch. I was arrested by a sign at Prikid, on Bankastraeti, that declared it was the “oldest restaurant / cafe in Iceland.” (What does that even mean and how would one prove it?) It was inviting, giving off a simple 1950s American diner vibe. And looking at the menu sold me on it. I was up for a breakfast meal in the afternoon. I sat at a table by the window, able to view the streams of tourists. I had the Breakfast of Champions, the title of a Kurt Vonnegut work: scrambled eggs, tea, toast, oranges, bacon, and skyr. I had been urged to try skyr. I am glad I did. It is the original “Greek” yogurt that Icelanders have been eating a thousand years. Some crunchy granola or nuts on top was a literal crowning achievement. Prikid had the weird feel of a bar and a diner. It wasn’t rowdy, and was akin to an Irish pub in that it served as a haven for regulars, including an ostensible writer or two (counting myself). Old black and white photos of writers adorned the walls. I thought one was Henry Miller, but Geoffrey, one of the managers, informed me it was not.

While on Bankastraeti, I saw the lady who had waited on me at Nordic Store. We exchanged smiles. I nearly blurted out to her that I had yet to buy a sweater.

Even for one who is not a knitter (owing to clumsy hands and a restive nature), The Handknitting Association of Iceland store was dazzling: shelves lining the walls with cardigans, pullovers in several colors and styles, though not dozens of styles. I suspect they go through cycles as to what varieties of color and design are offered. Just as I love the smells of a hardware store in America, I loved the playful kaleidoscope of colors here (not that I could specify a smell or fragrance; more a woolishness in the air). You would have to work at feeling gloomy. I tried on three sweaters, all pullovers: a white one with gray and black subsidiary designs; a red one with blue and green; a charcoal one with white and gray. I was torn. I’d try one on and then waltz up to the front room and ask the clerk at the desk what she thought, seeking validation per usual in my life. (Is it a writer thing?) On the white one: “Sure, it looks very attractive. It’s good.” Me: “I don’t know. I look washed out.” Then the red one. Again, positive reviews by two clerks, and a Chinese young woman trying on more sweaters than I was. “Get that one. Red is a lucky color in China.” Me: “But I’ll look like a Christmas ornament. It’s too flamboyant.” “All the women in the room will like it. The design pattern stands for the church,” she said referring to the spire of Hallgrímskirkja, which dominates the city’s viewshed. That would be the tiebreaker. The sanctified endorsement would seal the deal. Hold on. Not quite. I eliminated the white one. Down to two. I tried on the red one and the charcoal sweater again. I concluded the red one was too special, as if reserved for Christmas or special occasions. It had too much of “lookie here!” The young clerk at the front desk agreed. I finally went with the charcoal, with a design signifying waves. It picks up my gray hair and gray goatee as well as the remnants of black hair I have (or persist in believing I have). 

I am glad with the choice I made. If my buying process paints me as as a fop or a dandy, so be it. It was an investment coupled with a statement. I knew it would be a remembrance, iconic of a journey. “Waves”? Sure. I’ll take that as a framework for this journey. I’ve even slept in this sweater. It is cozily warm and a work of art. I view it as a wise move, and unabashedly a conversation starter.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Iceland, day 2.5: not all is as it appears

I was tired but hungry after a Golden Circle Wednesday teeming with sights, sounds, and other Icelandic stimuli, so I went for the second evening in a row to Icelandic Fish & Chips in the Volcano House building, across the street from Katla, which is how my apartment 405 is termed in the Ice Apartments. 

Let me digress for a second to illustrate the scene from my bedroom window: a view of the Old Harbor; Volcano House to the left; a mountain or mountain range in the background that looks close enough to walk to but is, I am told, more than an hour's drive away; the modernist Harpa concert hall to the right (suitably attractive but I never did walk over to there and go in it); some ships, including work on one or two in dry dock; the library across the street closer to the right; and directly in front a construction site with ostensibly fewer than a dozen workers for a structure slated to take up half a block. They worked on concrete forms and seemed unhurried. Who operated the crane? was a big mystery to me until I tentatively concluded the crane operator was up near the top. The workers were my alarm clock, with their radio blaring pop music and their hands hammering forms securely in place, though I suppose getting up past nine was inevitable anyway. Do workers around the planet require the blare of distracting theme music while they pound, saw, cut, weld, or rivet? 

The night before I tried white hake, and loved it. I found it light and not very fishy, over roasted potatoes with a side tin cup provided for tartar sauce (it was some other zesty concoction; it changed every night). My server said she believed hake is the fish depicted on the 10 kronur coin. The place is not pretentious, very inexpensive comparatively, and low-key, friendly. I liked it. And it was less than a hundred steps from my apartment. The second night I had cod, spread over a salad with mango sauce to spread over the fish. Again, I liked it a lot, even though I am not that much of a fish eater (mostly salmon and haddock). At the table next to me, to my right, a couple spoke more quietly than Americans do. They spoke French, from what I could discern. She started weeping. He touched her elbow. I, an old stranger, wanted to comfort them though I was curious about the emotion. He seemed detached but not uncaring, leading me to conclude her tears were not about "them" but some outside upset. It passed, as they were able to eat calmly, and find smiles and laughter.

Being awake, a tad restless though tired, I strolled in my downtown Reykjavik neighborhood. I stopped at the Stofan Cafe, where I had gone for breakfast (tea, bagel, cheese, salad greens). I ordered asked for decaf tea but ended up getting Earl Grey (not decaf) and engaged in friendly conversation with my server, asking if she was the owner (no). I was promoting this book, already in its early stages. Just as I was sitting down amid the cozy and comfortable couches and warmly inviting wooden antique furniture, I spied Gordon and his wife across the street, the Irish folks from the tour today. I walked out to the doorway and called out (you have to think of downtown, at least on Wednesday, as a quiet village): "Hey, Gordon and wife! Hello!" They came in and joined me. I was wrong in my assumptions (one of the temes before, during, and after this journey). It was not his wife, but his sister, Denise. We managed to secure a table (it was fairly crowded), and chatted amiably. She's a doctor, in Newfoundland; he's an entrepreneur and consultant, who lives near Dublin. Shortly before 11 p.m., we were told upstairs was closing; we'd have to go downstairs, which would stay open for an hour. We repaired down there, where it was harder yet to find a table amidst mostly twenty-somethings conversing, playing chess, drinking, laughing. And it was louder.

This was my first inkling of Reykjavik's fabled club life: in this instance civil, orderly, gregarious, a weeknight vibe.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Iceland, day 2.4: Geysir, onward upward

The sun was setting and dusk falling as we approached Geysir, just before 1700 hours. The area is a bubbling cauldron of fire and ice, just what Iceland is known for and marketed as. As one first approaches, there is a small steaming hole atop a small rise, surrounded by ice. Little signs throughout warn that the water is hot: 100 degrees Celsius or more. That means: boiling hot. Still, I wanted to reach in and just touch the water quickly, the way a WET PAINT sign counterintuitively beckons one to touch. But I did not. Some of these hot springs, which abound in Iceland, are always percolating and are not active as geysers. Our word in English borrows from the Icelandic place name of Geysir and the Icelandic word, which borrows from Old Norse: to gush, gusher, to pour. As a wordsmith, I had reverence for the place for this reason alone. How often does one experience such etymological originalism, or word-birtherism? Icelanders bake bread in the hot ground near here and other places, for 24 hours, but I neither saw nor bought any. I saw one or two other bubbling craters before seeing the large, active one, Strokkur, as in "churn," which had people shrieking and jostling some twenty yards away. The experience is oddly lunar, here and elsewhere, though how would I know, never having traversed the lunar landscape. (And there's no water shooting into the air there.) I walked up to THE geyser. It had just "gone off." some little kids were laughing; perhaps they were a tad too close and got doused with mist. Up on a slight incline, I was not worried about that. From the prior bursts, you could see which way the wind was carrying the steamy plumes. A low, chained fence kept people at a safe distance. We were told this active geysir goes off approximately, but unpredictably, every 2 to 8 minutes. A pool of water, perhaps 20 to 30 feet in diameter, percolated and rippled. Then it would start to heave, as if it were breathing, or as if it were a creature getting ready to cough. without exact warning, BOOM it bursts upward vigorously like a rocket launch with an iridescent blue at the bottom hurling skyward and turning steam white and exploding into the air. It pauses as a column, some 75 feet high, and starts dispersing downwind. I stayed to witness two or three eruptions close at hand. Having been warned about the difficulty of timing, I did not attempt to photograph or video record it. My battery was low anyway. More than that, I knew it'd be a futile attempt and I wanted to take this in and let it surprise me. Of course, that was in line with the explicit purpose of the whole trip: to reset my true north bearings by taking in new surprises, to see what would be revealed -- around me, in front of me, in me. The eruption was cleansing. And innocent fun. Erupt, release, spray, spout off, churn, release pressure, recharge: it was all there as the perfect natural metaphor machine. And onward and upward, too. As is said of the wind itself (as well as spiritual matters), one never knows exactly where it comes from or where it goes, or when. Same here. This seemingly endless geyser gives the appearance of everlastingness, though it merely happens to be "alive" now. It has not always been active and, like Geysir itself, can become dormant or more quiet.

We headed into the sunset, darkness enveloping us. Trond played some Icelandic music. It was a long and wondrous day in the Golden Circle. I drifted off to half-sleep on the way back to Reykjavik. We stopped in the cold dark to view the Northern Lights, off the highway, taking advantage of the absence of light pollution. If it were not for Trond pointing out the subtle greenish-blue wave above the horizon, which became two fairly distinct waves, I would not have discerned it as aurora borealis. I would not known where to look and would have expected (there's that word again) shimmering, Technicolor flamboyance. So, it was not postcard-dramatic, but observable and a fitting cap to the day. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Iceland, day 2.3: Apres le lagon

After the pleasingly languid lagoon, I resisted the allurement of napping on the bus, even though the post-lagoon experience was conducive to torpor. I didn't trek to Iceland to nap on a mini-bus while splendid scenery rolled by. Next was lunch and a tour of Gullfoss waterfall. I obeyed Trond's suggestion and had the lamb soup, apparently a national favorite. Very tasty; reminded me of the beef-stock-soup-bone homemade "red soup" my mom often made for Saturday supper, with paprika to spice things up. In the dining area, which looked out onto a white expanse with the falls sending up spray, I sat next to a man and a woman from Ireland. Gordon was the name I caught for the gentleman. The three of us walked together for a while outside and they snapped a rare Iceland photo of me. For whatever reason, it was wicked cold here. It was later in the day, not especially windy, but cold. The sun was going down behind the waterfalls, completing the "picture" in "picturesque." Trond, who was now being extremely explicit and repetitious in his meet-up instructions, would wait for us down by the falls overlook, below a boardwalk that was slippery in spots. It was so cold, I decided to occupy some of the time until 4:30 by marching up to the gift shop just to be in a warm place, since the bus had yet to arrive. I milled around the gift shop and took a bathroom break for five or ten minutes, and then went down the wooden steps again to the bus, which was idling in an attempt to keep us warm. The waterfalls? Impressive, with the ice chunks and natural sculptures. Not unlike Niagara Falls in the winter, if it is sufficiently cold to create the ice tableau. The landscape context of white quasi-tundra added to the scenic quality. It was odd how this was the coldest spot all day, several tourists agreed.

Next was Geysir.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Iceland, day 2.2

Thingvellir is the historical and cultural epicenter of Iceland. An assembly of chieftains met there shortly before the year 930, so Iceland had the world's first parliament. Around the year 1000, Iceland chose to adopt Christianity at this spot, even though the head guy was not a Christian. A number of stipulations were made, including a married priesthood and the permitted continuance of ancient ways (that's a vague euphemism, since I do not know which forms of Viking debauchery and mayhem were allowed). As our guide put it, the Icelandic compromise meant agree to certain compromises and conditions, but in reality things peacefully stay the same. As for my take on the place, I gladly absorbed the broad view, shall we say, and the pristine air and the pure water rushing through the rift we were in that straddles North America and Eurasia. I loved the idea of engaging this rift valley of seismic movement. Indulge in metaphor mania! I meditatively looked out as far as my eyes could see, perched like a sentinel on the viewing boardwalk. I walked the footpath lower into the valley, figured I had had enough and walked back up to the visitor center. It was about 1150 hours. A discomfiting site greeted me. The mini-bus was go. I double-checked the parking lot. Gone. I had the fellow at the gift shop call the tour company. The tour folks called back and instructed me to go back from whence I came, all 800 yards, give or take. So I jogged and fast-walked back down the rifty-looking pathway, almost brushing into clutches of other tourist groups. I calmed myself by knowing they would wait for me; they would have to. I pictured my being a laughingstock. When I reached the lower parking lot, the one I was supposed to have originally gone to, our bus was just arriving. I greeted it and our driver, relieved. Trond said all was fine and assured me I was not holding things up. Our folks were in the cafe, gift shop, rest rooms, or outside. Whew. That was a workout. But I was not mocked or derided.

Then it was on to the Secret Lagoon, which is a natural hot springs in the village of Fludir. All this is part of what is termed the Golden Circle. I should note that the famous, everyone-says-you-must-visit Blue Lagoon was closed for "repairs" consisting of maintenance, cleaning, and dredging. So if anyone castigates me for missing the Blue Lagoon, I've got this "secret." Walking into the visitor center, I heard one of those leaving the place, a man with what sounded like a British accent, yell to us, "Don't believe it. It's freezing in there." Great. I figured I was going to hate this. I'm neither a swimmer nor a lounger of hot tubs. I would give this a few minutes with my teeth chattering in the cold and my lips turning blue, as they did when I went swimming in my childhood.

We were required to take a shower before entering the hot-springs lagoon. Signs instructed us to take a naked shower, sans swimsuits, but I can report that the male participants showered with bathing trunks. I sure as hell was not going to be the lone exception. Leaving the dressing room and shower, I stepped onto the deck. . . the deck with ice on it! Right then and there, I almost turned back and shelved the whole thing. I would have been the only one to do so, from all the evidence. I walked over the icy deck into the stinging cold air and into the luxuriously steaming, welcoming, inviting, relaxing, comforting hot-springs (in some places very-hot-springs) lagoon. It was immediately soothing. And surprisingly social. (Maybe that's why people like hot tubs.) I was so gracious as to not only talk to bikini-clad lagooneers. There was a gal from Australia who was a lifeguard traveling through Canada, New York City, and Iceland; a retired couple from near Manchester, England; several others from Australia (which is a long, long ways away, isn't it?); a small handful of Americans.

I didn't want to leave. Who ever wants to emerge from the decadent languor of a perfectly warm bath -- into the cold?

(Incidentally, I took no photos. Cameras do not record the warmth enveloping mind and spirit, not even the waterproof cameras a few of the Aussies had.)