Monday, September 29, 2014

Dead End

Dead End
The hospital's maternity ward is at one end of the street. On the other end of the street the cemetery awaits us all. This street is not a through street. It's a dead end street and the analogy is pretty stupid and not well-conceived.

Along this short street there are the familiar landmarks: the elementary school, any favor of church or temple or mosque. These things are all the same thing on a short street with birth on one side and death at the other.

On this street, there are mailboxes and tenements and trashcans. There are fast food wrappers in the gutter and mumbling black marketeers. There are fancy commercial outlets and even a bookshop. The latter is quiet on this street since most people gawk at the wide windows of the electronics palace next door.

There are plenty of place to leave scars on a person on this short street. There are tattoo parlors and bedrooms. The biggest scars in life are often on the inside.

When it comes to love on the dead end street, you must ask yourself what it is you want to achieve. There is only one way to fall in love and despite the variety of circumstances, there is only one real way to fall out of love. When it's time to fall in love, where you find it is not important. It is not important if it's love between two races or one. It is not important if it's between two genders or one. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is best to travel it with someone you really love.

There are dreams on a dead end street. If these dreams have that element of money or power, however it's manifested, please remember it is a short-short street. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

Unlike love, dreams come in a couple of different flavors. The first flavor is the subconscious, we're all familiar with that one. In the morning (or the afternoon if you're a reasonable person) when you awake, there are the reminisce of your contact with your inner mind. The dreams of our sleeping hours are worth an examination, a reflection or at the very least, a giggle.

The second flavor of dreams is the one that happens in the quiet parts of the waking hours. These dreams are proof, absolute proof that the distance between our ears is too vast to measure. Whatever these dreams are, we have absolute control over them. Make these good.

There is seriousness within us on the dead end street. But as soon as you look behind and see the maternity ward and as soon as you look forward and see the cemetery, it's probably best to reconsider why seriousness is important.

There is one sure outcome to all it. This street is a dead end street because all streets are dead end streets. If this is difficult to think about, remove one of these three words: DEAD, END or STREET.

I like to remove STREET. When it comes down to these days, to this life, DEAD and END are not such bad words to have. If there wasn't an end to it, whatever it is, there is probably no beginning and no middle. As far as I can tell, no one can remember the beginning, so I hope you're enjoying the middle.

The middle of the dead end street starts at the first breath and it ends with the last. That said, please reconsider your dreams. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

In the middle, remember the length of this dead end street and what exists on either end of it. Find love. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is est to travel it with someone you really love.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quietly Awaiting the Autumn

Happy Vernal Equinox September 22, 2014.

There is no secret to this: I have never liked the autumn. It has always meant the end of carefree days to me. It has meant the end to the summer jobs, the summer mode of life and the introduction of something much more serious or menacing. Autumn always meant school. Everyone I've loved who has died, has died in the autumn. And the quality of light during autumn has an eerie nightmare cast to it, dreamlike in a bad way. Melancholy.

Every few years I think: well autumn ain't that bad. I think this only after an excruciatingly hot summer. After being cooked day in and day out, I feel like I can take the longer nights, the cooler mornings and death in autumn. Every few years I think I should just accept autumn for what it is: September to December.

This year is perhaps no different. It wasn't all that hot this summer here in Colorado. Quite the opposite, actually. It's been a cool wet summer, and that means a long colorful autumn. It's a simple equation: a longer cool wet season means that the trees will hold onto their leaves longer. The longer they hold those leaves as the nights get longer and longer and cooler and cooler, the more colors we're going to see.

Incidentally, this autumn will be the first autumn that we'll be living in our new town. Our new town has plenty of trees. There are three rivers flowing through our new town. At the base of the mighty Rocky Mountains and the promise of a winter to come, this autumn will be most stunning.

This is how I choose to color my autumn:

The Books: Rachel Carson Silent Spring, Normal McClean A River Runs Through It, Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun

The Poets: Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes and Chris Shugrue

The Soundtrack: Rodriguez “Cold Facts”

The Past time: The Holga 120N, cheap imitations of Kandinsky

The Experience: Wandering the rows of rusted American steel in the highway junkyards of Northern Colorado.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kirsten and The Richest Man in Babylon

When we first returned from Portland, I seemed to have slipped right back into my old Denver scene. We had changed, I had changed and Denver had changed. I will, for the sake of good manners, leave the Denver changes out of this. Suffice it to say, I had changed.

There were the obvious changes: the birth of my son, the publication of Dysphoric Notions and Undertakers of Rain, namely. I had grown in the time that I was away from Denver. And I had a certain level of confusion as I tried to slip back into my old Denver life.

I started to work at the restaurant where I'd been in the interceding years between Tucson and Portland. I was delighted at the prospect of working with old friends. They had changed too in my three year absence. And to be truthful, this is not really about them or the restaurant were we all worked. No, this is about a new friend I met there. This friend, Kirsten, was not part of my old Denver set. Rather, I met her when we rolled back in. Kirsten and I had a fresh friendship slate with no past, no former frame of reference, just a new beginning.

I could list off all the great Kirsten traits like how smart she is, how dedicated to math and physics and the technical (not to mention difficult) subjects she studies in school. I could mention her circle of friends who are all interesting and cool. And I could mention that Kirsten is well over six feet tall and she wears heels which is sexy because of her confidence. I like Kirsten a lot. Yet this is all beside the point.

One day last autumn, we were working and especially boring shift. A boring shift means ample time to talk. I had asked with a mixture of curiosity and need of hearing her voice what she was studying in school. I tried to keep up. She's very fucking smart, as I've said. Then, I noticed she had a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. “What does this have to do with physics?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “One of my professors love it, it's extra credit.”

I often saw her with The Richest Man in Babylon. I suspected that this book was not a priority for her. She was, after all, mired in heavy subjects and Mr. Clason's book was extra credit.

Yet there was something haunting me in the spine of this book as it sat on higher shelves at work, the higher shelves only Kirsten and I could see. I always figured that The Richest Man in Babylon was one of those stupid books that a stupid adult gives to you when you're young because it's supposed to impart wisdom in cliché axioms. Books people give you when you're young: The Prophet, The Alchemist, The Little Prince. Although I enjoyed one of these books (I won't tell you which one) for what it was, I have to ask: why give a young person a book at all? If anything, the book that did it for me was not nearly as obvious or in-your-face. For me it was Walden, which was much more real. Thoreau says that age is not such a great teacher as youth. How true. And I will say it, like I've always said it, there is nothing I can teach a younger person, and there is nothing I would endeavor to teach because it's better to go learn it for yourself. Whatever it may be.

Where does that leave me with my friend Kirsten and The Richest Man in Babylon?

Truth is, I had a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon many-many years ago. In the early 1990s I was fresh back from the Army. I was a volatile young man, as all young men who just come home for war are. I came back into civilian life here after being gone for a couple of years. I worked. I got an apartment. I got a girlfriend. Regular stuff. The girlfriend was a high school friend and I had loved her for years. I'm not sure what she saw in me. I figured our time together was going to be short lived.

Her mother fixed me up with a better job. A job working in the office where she worked. Her mother looked out for me, and I realize now it was because she was really looking out for her daughter. She often dispensed with subtle advice, or subtle financial hints. At one point, we walked through a house that was for sale—anyhow, we were too young. I often got the feeling then like I have the feeling now, that she didn't like me very much. In fact, I think she didn't like me at all. Perhaps her kindness was all because she secretly feared that I would become a permanent part of the family. I guess I knew, or at least felt, something that she did not. Long story short: it was her, the mother of a girlfriend who gave me that copy of The Richest Man in Babylon.

In 1993, or possibly a year on either side of it, I tried to read The Richest Man in Babylon. I tried. It was nothing I could focus on. And at this time of my life, like my new young friend Kirsten, I was in college, working full time and The Richest Man in Babylon was not a priority.

I don't know what I was on that warm summer day a few months ago that made me pick up a copy of the book. Perhaps it was because it was in the bargain bin. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic of my friend Kirsten or for former people of a former time, who knows? I picked up a copy, took it home and put it on the shelf.

I read the book yesterday.

Here I must say that there is something funny about it. Typically, this is a book given to a young person by someone who is older and “wiser”. Twenty years ago, this was true of me. But now, here in 2014, I came to The Richest Man in Babylon from young people, my friend Kirsten and my former self''s recollection of it.

The book is completely cheesy. It's written in this art, thou, thine sort of language. It's episodic and fable like. It's preachy. It's a silly book. However, I read it in one sitting. If I found the presentation absurd, the concepts are anything but. I mean, here is a book with downright practical advice. Here we have a patriot giving us a detailed way to make the good ol' fashioned 'merican dream come true. Within the pages of this slim volume we are taught to save, to invest wisely, to plan for the future, to pay off all debts and to take care of our family. Everything described in the book is exactly opposite of the current trends in America today. Perhaps many people avoided this book because it was given to them by someone older and wiser. Perhaps it's just not fashionable to read a book with Babylon in the title because Babylon is too close to Bagdad and that just ain't American. Who knows?

The one impression I got from the book, the one thing that made the price of the thing and my time reading it is this: Babylon was the richest city of its time. And it was the richest city because its citizens were rich. Here it's suggested that the city was so powerful because the individuals were powerful and successful. The numbers became the sum.

It's an interesting thought here in 2014, USA, when we consider how financially irresponsible most of our countrymen are, how impoverished our neighbors have become and the fact that our government, local, state and federal is worse off than bankrupt.

What would George S. Clason have to say about things now?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Something Refreshing in the Digital Age Part 2: Realizations

I know that I am not alone with this feeling that the digital age has become too much. I know there are others who have come to this conclusion too. They are not reading this blogpost because they have turned off screens, unplugged toasters and shut off the lights; they are outside playing right now. Or perhaps they've come to a similar realization.

I've realized this:
1—It feels good to read a book, a real book, not a PDF or (as much as I like mine) a Kindle file.
2—A short conversation on the phone to arrange a meet up is more efficient than a text conversation that becomes a needy LTR.
3—Purposefully thinking about someone you love who is far away and then sitting down to hand write an actual letter feels really good.
4—Going to the mailbox to sift through shit only sucks until you discover a hand written letter from someone you love who lives far away.
5—The feel of a paintbrush on a canvas has a physical sensation that cannot be emulated with an icon on a screen.
6—Putting the view finder of a camera to your face seems to attract attention.
7—Buying a roll of film, loading it into a camera, snapping pictures, dropping the exposed roll off and then wanting anywhere an hour to a week to get the results is both time consuming and it costs money. But the act of taking the picture will last longer than the instant FB upload, 35 likes in ten minutes and then forgotten.
8—Chances are, you won't look back over your life, or over the last year and say “I wish I spent more online.” If you say, “I wish I spent more time with my friends and family,” that probably doesn't feel so good.
9—I'm Generation X. We were bred to loath the media. We called it mass media. Today, the mass has been replaced with social. Social media? It's like spreading herpes. If the media is the man, or big brother, it's best not to fraternize.
10—Life is not a final product. Life is a process. It's a finite amount of days. It is not a crime to go outside and play.

So now it becomes obvious, at least to me, where is refreshment in this digital age?

Next time: Something Refreshing

Monday, September 1, 2014

Something Refreshing in the Digital Age, an Introduction

It's no secret that I prefer pen and paper to the screen and keyboard. I carry my 7.5 x 9.75 inch composition notebook with me everywhere. I've always got pens. I would say that it's retro, but the truth is, I've been doing this for 20 years. The thrill of opening a new notebook is only second to the closing of its filled predecessor. I guess it's like this: in all the years I've been writing, I have always enjoyed the tangible signs on my labor. Filled notebooks and empty pens. Aside from this, the pen and notebook, may not be 100% sustainable since I am dependent on paper pulpers and ink manufacturers, but it is pretty low impact. Plus, should the lights go out, the composition notebook and pens do not run on electricity, batteries or gasoline. It's just me under a tree with my thoughts, pen in hand and notebook.