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Here’s a fine topic for my first entry here: tomorrow, crack of an hour before dawn, I’ll be at the Mayo Clinic to find out if Alzheimer’s is gnawing my brain: it took my grandmother. It took my mother. It’s my one deep terror, back in the closet, behind the monster, in among the hangers. Fifty-four is too young, isn’t it?
How about if I’m 25 really, and the lines and the gray are courtesy of the makeup department? I hope my posts will be witty, or moving, or insightful, or at least fun. Tonight? I’m fresh out.
So there's nothing wrong with me neurologically, no Alzheimer's. (Just focusing problems.) A Death Row reprieve!
I knew the date, the season, the President. (That hurt.) I showed I can draw pentagrams and spell "world" backwards and walk a straight line and obey the written direction "Close your eyes". And I nearly fell asleep in the MRI and came home with some comfy white MRI pants.
...and I found I love life more than I thought.
...and I walked awhile in the land of the decrepit, deteriorating, and dying, and like Ishmael, "I only am escaped, alone, to tell thee.”
She held her cardboard cup in the bookstore cafe, awaiting him: he, whom she had loved impossibly, utterly, consumingly. The days in San Francisco, that night on Cape Cod... how long ago, and how far. Then the months of bills and squabbles... the bed grew cold, the breakfast table silent. Yet he still wanted her, needed her. How could she tell him? She couldn't, it was not possible to snuff his hope and tread on his heart.
She felt a soft kiss on her cheek as he smiled and sat across from her.
"Whatcha thinkin' about?" he asked.
I'm looking at a photo of Booker, the world's best dog. He's gone now.
We adopted him in 1993; he'd been chained, outdoors, alone, twenty-four seven three sixty-five, for three years. It took him just a little while to accustom himself to being free, to being speed, to being joy.
And here he is in the photo, alive again, leaping down the snow-covered trail toward me. His tongue's out. His tail's wagging. His front paws are folded back against his ribs, he's pogoing with one back foot on the packed snow. He's so alive. He's so here. He's so
Why do I love baseball? Better, why do I love the
of baseball? Sitting on the couch in front of a game and I'll flip channels three times an inning. And I haven't been to a game, which is my favorite thing to do with my pants on, in fourteen seasons.
But the romantic ideal: the glowing green of the field as you come up the ramp... a stubby little pencil and a smudged scorebook... a hundred years of statistics. I hit .467 for the Fall Creek Cardinals in 1965. The best summer of my life.
I miss you, Dad.
Did you ever see the morbid little cartoon by James Thurber called "Destinations"? It teems with typical Thurberites: long-skirted women in cloches and pearls, harried businessmen, delivery guys, all duck-walking like Groucho, rushing fro and to on a sidewalk in the foreground, big-nosed and doughy and squashed in the Thurber style. Behind them is a cluster of tombstones in a gated cemetery. The caption says "Destinations".
our graves our only destinations? This cartoon's always haunted me because I believe that's all there is, deep down. Six feet deep down.
There has to be more. There has to be.
I heart chickadees. Out of all avian species, it's the chickadee that always makes me smile.
They're cheeky little guys, in two ways. First, of course, they have white cheeks (and black caps). But more than that, they're impudent little buggers: fill the feeder, they'll wait six feet away. Approach the feeder, they're the last birds to fly off. A cardinal drives them away, they're back in five seconds.
They're Jimmy Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", hopping and bouncing and strutting. They don't sing pretty, but they're enthusiastic. Their caps are even tipped over their eyes!
. Chickadees need tap shoes.
I have a bone to pick with God. (That expression is, in this case, ironically appropriate; you'll see.)
Here it is: At this moment (as I'm writing, or as you're reading: pick one,) there's a pack of wolves ripping the guts out of a baby moose, an orca eviscerating a terrified seal, an osprey gripping and flying away with an agonized, suffocating, very confused fish.
Shouldn't the Creator of the Universe have designed animals-- even the homo fairly sapiens-- to be compassionate? If I were creating a world, I'd make one without the savagery and gore.
I'm just sayin'.
101 Words five April 10, 2009
Sometimes I like three exaggernine. I might lose a game by a little but say that I two it. When I recount a drive three the mall, it’s more exciting than Alice’s trip three Twoderland. I’ll come back from dinner and say I had three desserts when I only really nine two. Easy as two three four, everything seems bigger than it really is.
I don’t know what I do it five; it only brings trouble three me. I’ve fivegoteleven all the times I’ve stretched the truth. I only hope people will fivegive and fiveget.
I've never been any good at meditation. My thoughts race, my back hurts, my butt itches. (Hard to be holy when your butt itches.) Nothing helps.
But what does work is becoming a camera while I walk my dog, Bodhi. We get to a quiet road with no cars and the switch flips: I see the pines, I hear the mockingbirds, I feel the breeze. (All right; there goes the camera metaphor.)
But I don't process, I don't think; I just
. And just
, for me, means just being happy. Apparently, the less I think, the happier I am...
I hate snobbism. I read a piece online about Starbucks’ new coffee blend, Pike Place. It spoke dismissively about people who feel Starbucks’ regular coffee tastes too strong or burnt. The article dripped (or perked) with disdain for the ignorant masses who lacked the writer’s appreciation for the complex, sophisticated tones of Starbucks’ usual blends.
Well, you know what? Their coffees
taste burnt. I’m sick of being told what a discerning consumer is supposed to like. I like baseball. I like rice pudding. I even like Abba!
And don’t get me started on that whole “tall, grande, vente” crap…
Em’ly Dickinson wrote some stuff—
Its appeal lost on me—
Its style and diction odd—enough—
To earn a big fat D—
For English teacher’s what—I am—
And Em’ly’s poems are weird—
She’s stranger far than Walt Whitman—
And with a smaller—beard—
If sitting in your room’s—required—
To write a nifty—poem—
I should’ve as a child aspired—
For rarely I left—home—
And Dickinson’s bizarre punc—
Tuation-- she should’ve run Spellcheck—
Her wording was quite odd—as well—
Her topics odd as--heck—
My poem’s quite done—though it’s absurd—
And here is--the hundredth—word
Often I stare at the night sky. The planets and the stars cheer me and comfort me. The moon, especially, holds me in its aura: ancient, quicksilver, somehow feminine—the same moon Lincoln and Christ and Buddha and Orgh the Neanderthal looked on.
But once—just once—I felt something more. Out giving Booker his late walk one night, I gazed at the moon, and it wasn’t a flat disk; it was a sphere. And I felt the Universe move, the wheels within wheels, the infinite Spirograph tracing its lines, the planet beneath me spinning, hanging in nothingness.
I’ve hated Charles Dickens ever since I had to read
back in seventh grade (let’s face it, that was so long ago the ink was still wet). He’s wordy. His characters' names are ludicrous. His vocabulary’s more obsolete than 1996 yogurt. Some of the coincidences in his plots are ridiculous.
A Christmas Carol
: treacly, predictable, maudlin, and above all else, done to death. Mickey Mouse was Scrooge. Bill Murray, too. Rich Little. Patrick Stewart. George C. Scott. Edwin Blackadder. Mr. Magoo!
So when I picked up
recently, I had none.
…I was right.
I think all the religious paths are heading to the same place. It’s like Spirit (call it God, call Him He, if you want, but it doesn’t work for me) is in a forest clearing, calling us, and we’re all working our way Home. Some trails lead us through the brambles or drag us through the poison ivy; the path may be as rambling and tortured as this metaphor.
But they’re all headed toward that same clearing;, we’ll get there one day.
The guys with the bombs and the molestation and the Cadillacs? They’re running around with machetes. Watch out.
Occasionally there comes a time of grace, a moment—or a day—of clarity and peace. Here in North Florida, a brisk day is a gift from Spirit. The sky is a piercing blue, the gumbo we call our atmosphere has cleared, and the breeze blows in, friendly and gentle, from Africa. You can move, see, think, feel; you can
. The stickiness of the air, and the stickiness of the mind, have cleared. A spring in the step, a smile on the face: solace, hope, beginnings, life. And that is a gift of grace, tied with an azure bow.
A killer app, loosely speaking, is a device that people don’t want to live without; right now, that would include cell phones, MP3 players, Blackberries, GPS, and email. It’s funny how we (those of us who are of a certain—ahem—age) got along just fine for decades without them, but now we just can’t.
But once upon a time, the telephone was a killer app. So was the incandescent light. The automobile. Indoor plumbing. The fork, for goodness’ sake.
But wild species have never needed us; the human being has never been a killer app. Just a killer ape.
When I was in elementary school in the early sixties, some cereal was offering a choice of toys for boxtops: some truck or army guy platoon or gun (it’s been awhile) “for boys!” or a plush dog “for girls!” I knew vaguely that being a sissy was a disgrace. (I wasn’t sure just what was involved in being a sissy.) But I ordered the dog anyway and worried for years about my masculinity.
But I’m okay now, definitely hetero, and I still prefer dogs to trucks, army guys, and guns. And sissies no longer scare me. Bigots scare me now.
Why would a 54-year-old man, 25 pounds overweight, with bad knees (and always slow to begin with) insist on going out three or four times a week to plod around the neighborhood in shorts in an exercise which he feels terribly patronized if someone calls it “jogging”?
Is it masochism perhaps, or some bizarre need to pretend he’s not getting older and feebler, or maybe a feeling that he owes it to part-border collie, part-greyhound mutt to allow her a hint of running, even though for her the pace is glacial?
Or, like these sentences, does he just... run on?
On the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, after the sun sets over the hill across the water, the gentle waves break on the flat rocks of the beach and the battered wooden pilings of the dock. The last calls of the redwings and chickadees ring out. The night calls of the frogs and crickets begin. The breeze off the lake, mild as it is, carries a hint of the autumn to come. Venus appears, piercingly white against the indigo background above the black hill to the west. Evening has come, night is coming. Then the stars come out to dance.
Has anyone ever sung an ode to breakfast cereal? It’s one of the least acknowledged miracles of modern life: take out a bowl and a spoon. Pour in a heaping helping of grainy goodness. Splash on cold, creamy, protein-laden (soy) milk. Eat. Read the box. Repeat. Read the nutrition label. Wonder if you have a thiamin deficiency.
Life is too complex; who wants to spend an hour making food for one? You can prepare cereal in one minute, eat it in three, clean up in one. Cereal is traditional, it’s hip, it’s vegetarian, it’s basic. It’s cool! (Except for oatmeal…)
Do you remember Jesus’ allegory of the birds that don’t sow or reap and the lilies that don’t toil or spin? He was saying to let go, to let be. He was saying what Buddha said, to detach and to trust. And what Albert Ellis said, to not need to force everything to be what we want. And Richard Carlson: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”
These were some pretty bright guys… so why is it so hard to follow their advice? It’s hard to stay afloat with clenched fists. Even when the fists are empty.
“Justice tempered with mercy” is a funny phrase: it’s used frequently, every educated person will recognize it, but nobody knows where it originated. All right, nobody in the first five pages on Google knows; I’m not spending hours Googling a quote for a hundred-word posting.
Everyone says they want justice, but what they really want, for themselves and their loved ones, is mercy; everyone has a rationalization for the selfish things they do. The dividing line, I think, between good and bad people can be found in one answer: when they have the power, do
deliver justice, or mercy?
I'm a small-town boy; I grew up (well, I lived there 41 years; I'm not sure I grew up) in a college town of 25,000 people. I've lived for a dozen years in a tourist town of 15,000. I’ve always thought I had the best of both worlds: a relaxed, green life with access to the big cities (although I will admit that an hour from Jacksonville isn’t the same as four hours from Manhattan.)
But these days, I think of the shows and games I didn’t go to, the people I didn’t meet, and I wonder what I’ve missed.
Neuropsychological testing, it turns out, is just what I thought it would be. Hit the spacebar every time a letter flashes on the screen, but not for an “X”. (Forty Xs, thirteen dammits.) Draw this figure from memory. Repeat these words. How much do you remember of the story I just read? Define these words. (Bird? Wait! I know that!) In one minute, say every word you can think of that begins with “F”. (Yeah, I thought of
one.) Repeat this list of numbers. Retell that earlier story. Replicate this pattern with these cubes.
Here’s a cookie. Good boy.
Ithaca is like no place else, part Ann Arbor, part Hobbiton. There are gorgeous waterfalls running through town. There's a Carl Sagan Planet Walk that covers three-quarters of a mile, one of the world's great universities, and the country's most famous nearly vegetarian restaurant. Ithaca's the birthplace of Puff the Magic Dragon and (we claim) the ice cream sundae.
Mostly there's the lake and the lovely, verdant, rolling hills, and they form a safe little nest that holds the town. And a quality in the air, a smug, whimsical, wacky, dedicated leftiness.
I carry it all with me.
Progressives have been called the “left”, and conservatives the “right”, for over 200 years. Did the Royalists choose the “right” because of the connotations of “left”? The fact is that society is so blatantly biased against “left” that it must color people’s political perceptions.
Ninety percent of people are right-handed. Millions of lefthanders have been forced to “overcome” their “handicap”. Words that come from Latin and French for “left”: sinister and gauche; from “right”: dexterous and adroit.
Plus, in English, you have the right to be wrong, but it’s better to be right. As a liberal, I feel left out.
I v help! I v’t v verbs. Every time a verb’v necessary, I v’t v it. I v no trouble with nouns, adjectives, and so on, but verbs v some kind of block for me. What’v up with that? It’v a strange mental block, I v. Perhaps it v a reluctance for me to actually v anything; I sit and v tv a lot, or v the web, or v these silly little 100 Words entries, but actually
something, not so much. When will I v off my butt and v something? I’v a mystery to myself.
So I come out of the Mayo today (no cognitive deficiencies, but if my blood pressure gets to 180/110, I’m gonna sell), and two women are trying to scare a lizard out the revolving door. It was an anole, what up north they call a chameleon, and it didn’t go with the upscale amenities. So I go down on my knees in the fancy lobby (you don’t really think an MRI is worth $2500, do you?) and scrabble around like an idiot till I get the little dude and carry him outside.
Good to be alive, that’s all I’m sayin’.
When I finish this entry, I’ll have written one month’s worth of 100 Words. So the entries will be posted; somebody may read them. With a gazillion blogs already online, will anyone notice
words? Will they make any difference to anybody, including me? Have I accomplished anything, other than having acquired an abnormal interest in Word 2007’s word count feature? Do these 3000 words show me as insipidly self-absorbed? Will I ever get tired of asking rhetorical questions?
At any rate, or rather the rate of 100 words a day, April’s done. Will I continue next month?
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