Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Milestone

Happy Halloween, ya'll. This one has been most interesting, for a lot of reasons, the best of which is Dear Daughter announced that this will be her last year trick or treating. Now this statement brings me joy for about a million reasons, the least of which is I WILL NEVER AGAIN HAVE TO SEW A COSTUME FROM SCRATCH AT THE LAST MINUTE.

Any of you out there who know me at all know two fundamental truths: 1. I am quite possibly the most disorganized human on this planet (this includes every musician, drummer, lawyer and person named Billy I know); and 2. I have never bought into the commercialized version of any holiday, preferring to whip myself and my household into a frenzy by creating holidays out of leftover remnants, hot glue, the occasional sequin and a glass or two of red wine. Past costumes for Dear Daughter have involved feathers, duct tape, florist wire, 36-inch long zippers and the same kind of fleece that usually goes into the creation of fast-food mascots.

This year was no exception. I added to my repertoire slipper satin, which looks great on brides, but is an absolute #@*%(#^% to measure, cut and sew. Throw in a little left-handed dyslexia, a grueling deadline and an already anxious child, and it's just a recipe for disaster. The short version of the story is that her costume (Athena, the goddess of wisdom, in case you couldn't actually TELL what she is supposed to be) turned out okay. I only ruined about a half yard of the $7 material. I didn't break any needles, hearts or federal laws in the creation of this year's costume. After all was said and done, she had a good time, and the costume stayed in place and in one piece until the night was over.

Yay me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Long, Long Time Ago...

On this day in 1886, one of the world's best-loved works of public art was dedicated. Standing in the harbor of New York City, Liberty Enlightening the World was intended to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American revolution. For millions of immigrants, however, what we now know as the Statue of Liberty became a literal beacon of hope for a new life in a new land. Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus. the poem inscribed at the base of the statue, welcoming newcomers to the United States.

It was also on this day in 1995 that my very favorite Emma was born. She shares a birthday with the likes of Bill Gates, Bruce Jenner, Joaquin Phoenix, Edith Head and Dame Joan Plowright. Every day of her life has been an adventure of some sort, and as John Hiatt put it, "there's no telling what she might do/before her doing days are through..." Me, I'm in total awe of the girl. Happy birthday, Miss Baby. I won't load the embarrassing photos of you doing the Chicken Dance to your musical birthday card, but it was a great day anyway.

A Few of my Favorite Things

My good friends over at Fine Old Famly had a new arrival this week. Already a lovely, larger-than-life family, they increased their carbon footprint (totally out of necessity, of course. These are hardly materialistic people, by any stretch of the imagination.) with the addition of Fine Old Famly-sized van, big enough to carry their entire horde, plus any and all of the part-timers and hangers-on (which on any given day, usually includes Dear Daughter) that may be with them at any given moment.

Heck, there's even space in there for a couple dozen flying squirrels, should they be inclined to tag along.

We're very happy for their acquisition, and wish them many happy miles in Lulubelle, and hope that fire hydrants everywhere will stay out of your way.

Dear Daughter and I were fortunate enough to be included in an outing in the new van, and joined FOF for a wonderful evening of ice cream and book-browsing at the used bookstore next door to the ice cream parlor. People, it just doesn't get much better than that.

I don't know what it is about Children of a Certain Age (of whom Helier and Crispina, pictured here, are) that makes bright colors that rarely appear in nature so appealing. Still, it was not so very surprising that the two youngest in our party gravitated immediately to the bluest of all blue ice creams in the freezer case. Now, as George Carlin famously pointed out, there really are no blue foods ("not even blueberries; they're really purple!"), but for Children of a Certain Age, the gaudier the color, the better it is sure to taste. It was a delight watching Helier and Crispina enjoy their treat, which apparently felt as good as it tasted; a multi-sense experience if there ever was one.

And lastly, I should note that today is the 12th birthday of Dear Daughter. Oh very dear are and always will be the very best of my favorite things. Oh, happy, happy day that you were born.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This Week's Photo

I snapped this moment yesterday while walking in the rain on the post where I work. It's been raining off and on for the past week, and I've truly enjoyed the final shift between Indian summer and autumn. Cool drizzly days and dark, chilly nights where the rainfall on the roof lulls you to sleep just bring out the nesty/nuture/happy in me.

This photo was made with my phone camera, so it's lacking something...maybe a little more color on the left side. It just seems a bit pale to me there. There is a stand of pine trees at the northeast corner of the building in which I work, and as I passed by them these cones caught my eye. Something about the way the droplets clung to them and the pine needles was so very precious.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

For David, in the rain this morning

The man in the rain that walked past the dumpster,
following the two dogs—one leashed and one not,
shuffled his feet as he trudged to the door
of the room that he rents
by the week
near the cloverleaf exit
where I commute every day.

He could have been anyone—
his blonde hair receding,
the height he once knew
is less than it was.
Weighed down by his years;
though not really so many,
each doubles or triples
with each drink he takes.

His shoulders are sodden
with rain and with anger.
His feet don’t remember
the days he would dance
through leaves with the careless
abandon of childhood,
or with a laughing blonde baby
atop of his shoes.

His pockets are empty
except for his fingers;
his dreams have all dried up,
his memories are gone.
Where have you gone to,
my blue-eyed brother?
And do you remember
the days we were young?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dark Night Alone

We don't talk about tomorrow anymore.
In fact, even when we're face to face, I wonder
what it is you're telling me.
I don't know how to read the lines anymore than the in-betweens
and all I have left these days are the spaces, empty spaces, the long, dark, wondering out-loud spaces.

Bless the Beasts and the Children

I woke up this morning to day six of the Headache That Will Not Die (Although I Might Soon). Hacking and coughing, I hobbled to the bathroom (hobbled, because as usual, I woke up with hamstrings so tight that my feet just won't function) and blew as much multi-coloured crud out of my head as I could. The hot shower beckoned and actually helped both my head and aching joints. I slept well, thanks to NyQuil and a nice long chat with the Loved One, who is currently in Vancouver. Still, it was a rough start.

The start got a little rougher when the phone rang and a tearful voice asked for Dear Daughter. Not sure who it was, I gave her to phone and hovered a little, pretty sure that whatever was going on was bad. Turns out the beloved bunny of Best Friend had passed away sometime this morning while Best Friend was home with one of her young siblings. Her mother was at a book fair with the other two children and their dad was out of town for a conference. Bearing a box and some clean, worn cloth diapers, we ran over to see what could be done.

Now the death of a four-pound bunny isn't exactly the end of the world, unless of course it's YOUR four-pound bunny, or the four-pound bunny of a very dear friend. And this particular four-pound bunny was a very great bunny, in his own bunny way. Charlie the bunny didn't much care for being held, but he loved company and to give bunny kisses. He had an endearing habit of sitting in the window of Best Friend's bedroom, watching the world go by and conversing with the cats and squirrels on the other side of the screen. There's something warm and dear about driving up to a house in the evening and seeing a little dark shape in a window, watching and waiting, and thinking his bunny thoughts.

Humans are so fortunate to have the companionship of pets. They love us like no one else does, and without strings attached. They love us because we are there, and even when we're not there. They are grateful for what we do for them. They bring peace and beauty into our lives. They share their warmth, their space, and sometimes their opinion that 2 a.m. might be a good time for a little walkie and perhaps a nice treat.

When God made the world and all that is in it, it was to humans that He gave dominion. Naturally, we don't always do such a bang-up job of wielding that power. It is in those times we would do well to look to our friends in the animal kingdom, and practice the gentleness, peace and humility that comes so easily to them.

We wrapped Charlie the bunny tenderly and gently laid him to rest in a corner of the yard near where Best Friend and her three siblings often play. It's cool and shady there, and squirrels and birds have been known to visit as well. Brother Bee carefully marked the spot with a piece of wood in his "favorite shape" so we'll always know where to look for the little quiet black bunny, dreaming his bunny dreams forever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Random Body Parts

On my way home from work today, I was zooming through the country past the orchard and the roadside stand where I buy produce. I looked up at the western sky where the storms that stomped Oklahoma yesterday were beginning to rumble across our state. Here is a photo I'm rather pleased with. It looks rather like my heart these days.

I love storms, but prefer them to be external.

Another photo I made recently is this one, of the Artist Not Formerly, Nor Is He Ever Likely To Be Known As Prince, But We Like Him Anyway. As I've often said, interesting portraits don't always have to be of someone's face. Suffice it to say he's a very good writer and a darn fine karaoke singer as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Weather Report

Oh my, is it ever thundering out there...I love it!

I think it's about...

Day three of the Headache That Will Not Die. I wonder how long this can go on before something vital, like my piano lessons, or how to ride a bicycle or where I live simply melts away.

I finished reading The Kite Runner tonight. Oh my. It's a beautiful tale, not in the conventional sense, of course. Nothing with that much horror in it could truly be called beautiful. Rather, it is beautiful in the sense that along with the very worst of human nature, this story also shows some of the best of human nature in the protagonist's quest for redemption, and ultimately forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a theme in our house these days. Dear Daughter was hurt recently by a friend in the careless, thoughtless way that good friends do hurt one another. I don't think the other child even realizes the slight that has been paid, but Dear Daughter feels it keenly nonetheless. We talked tonight about the power of true forgiveness, and how it can relieve the forgiver of the burden of the original hurt. She's promised to consider forgiving her friend, and I hope, for both their sakes, that she will be able to.

On our roadtrip this weekend, I revisited Don Henley's stunningly brilliant album The End of the Innocence. For all it's careful production and orchestrated background vocals, it really is a rare collection that offers an unflinching look into a man's soul. I've thought before it would make a good soundtrack for a musical, so long as the librettist took good care not to become maudlin with it. Henley visits a lot of themes in these ten songs--including guilt, depression, gluttony, despair, loss--all with lovingly crafted melodies and a voice that knows whereof he sings. Twenty years after it was first released, it's still a good listen now and again.

And that last song (which, if you're reading this and you care to, you will have to look up for yourself) is the one, that despite being played only a bazillion times on every FM station in the free world, really crowns the collection. It really is about forgiveness...even if you don't need me anymore.

Monday, October 15, 2007

List of Things I've Been Thinking About

Okay, so I've fallen off the radar for a while. There's a lot going on--inside and outside my head. I could have been blogging more often, but for reasons that are legion, I haven't. I will try to ease back into it. It's raining outside--a long, slow and noisy rain without thunder and lightning. It's the best nighttime kind of rain. I'd rather be listening to it than tapping away at the computer.

We saw this praying mantis tonight. She must have been seven inches long, and had crawled into a wrought-iron trash receptacle to hide from the rain. When we peeked at her and whipped out the cell phone camera to try and photograph her, she came out for a look at us. I don't think she was one bit scared of us. This is what I think aliens must look like.

I'm tired of being sad. I'm trying not to be anymore. It's going to take me a little while longer though. Bear with me, please.

Some people have disappointed me lately. Now, I know I'm not supposed to step up unreasonable expectations for others, but sometimes a let-down is justifiable. And yes, by the way, I'm on the top of this list too.

I really miss ice skating. I was never great at it, but I was adequate for someone who started in middle age. I feel young and nimble on the ice, even if I'm not quite either. I'm sure there are draft horses that dream of flying too.

Nothing smells better than fresh sliced ginger, with the possible exceptions of sesame oil warming slowly in a pan, or that spot beneath the ear of a sleeping loved one.

Isn't it funny how years later certain songs and moments can trigger a memory that has lain dormant? Startling, sometimes.

I dream in black and white these days, if even I dream at all...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Word to Yo Mother...

While I'm up here on my soapbox, surveying my domain like some free-wheeling, redheaded socialist Yertle the Turtle, read this blog. Gotta love a home-schoolin', cheese-makin', chicken-raising, compost-cooking mutha....

There is no Joy in Memphis

I love my hometown. It's a weird little place with all kinds of odd people, places and customs. We have a spotty history; decaying neighborhoods; startling areas of shiny, perky gentrification; appalling suburbs with mile after mile of identically dull and predictable strip malls. Still, this was a good place to grow up. I consider it a good place to raise my daughter. The cost of living is fairly reasonable, I earn a decent living (even if I manage it poorly), there are kind and generous souls living here. All in all, my slice of the city really does live up to its historical name: The City of Good Abode.

Tonight, I am grieving for my city. It is, or rather was, Election Day, and true to form, we have absolutely squandered the opportunity to rid ourselves of a homegrown despot, the self-annointed "king" of Memphis, W. W. Herenton. Hizzoner has been in office for since the 1990s now, and has just been re-elected for another four years. Roughly one-third of the eligible electorate in the city participated in the election. One-third? A mere three of every ten adults, who are citizens, have not committed a felony and who have actually made the effort to REGISTER to vote got up off the couch, drove or walked to the polls and touched an interactive computer screen and cast a ballot.

And the very best this three-of-ten could come up with was to re-elect Herenton...? Oh friends, it is a very dark day when this is the best we can do. This man has raped the city repeatedly, both literally and figuratively--first as a city school principal, then as city schools superintendent, and for the past 16 years as mayor.

Of the four major candidates who ran for mayor, two of them were actually decent people who care about this city. Neither of them won. We're stuck with the status quo, and I'm mad as hell about it. Three out of ten. Lessee, counting on my fingers (which, due to the amount of Mezzaluna I'm consuming is getting a little chancy), I can account for approximately 25 people I know personally who voted for a far better candidate than Dub-Dub. Gosh, if everyone who actually voted for her had pleaded, cajoled, wheedled and annoyed at least 25 people to get out and vote (and vote responsibly), things might be a little different.

And this isn't just about my candidate losing; this is about Memphis currently being number one on some pretty negative lists--such as the highest murder rate in the nation, the highest crime rate in the nation, the lowest public school test scores in the state, bankruptcy capital of the nation, home to more election felons than any other place in the U.S. I could go on.

I want my city back. I worked hard all spring and summer in hopes of getting it back. We lost tonight. I'm sad.

Congratulations, Memphis. You got exactly what you asked for. Four more years of graft, murder, arrogance, corruption, disdain for the public good, racial division, squandering of public resources and bickering amongst our duly elected "officials."

I love my hometown, but tonight, oh tonight, I'm in tears. We blew it, people. We f***ing blew it bigtime.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I'm blogging from my bedside because I just feel like 30 miles of bad road. I don't know if it's my upward-spiraling age, the weather or what, but I've noticed I'm spending more days hurting than not. Today was a stinker. The day dawned with clear skies and no rain in the immediate forecast, but I spent most of the night shifting and unable to find a position that didn't drag down my big joints or create new pressure on the little ones. The upshot was I woke up exhausted and burning in every bone. I don't like days like this.

Still turning the 8-ball, for those of you keeping up with this thread. No definite answers yet.

Kevan, the check really is in the mail (actually, you should have it today). A vote for Carol Chumney for city mayor is a considerate vote asking for rationality and impartiality in our city government. Yes, she blinks alot--it's because she's human, not a political automaton. Yes, she's made some blunders on the city council, but she doesn't take bribes, swear at news cameras, grant favors both public or private to friends and family, or pass out in local bars. She's a sensible woman with a passionate love for this crazy city that is often very difficult to love. She wants very much to make a difference in Memphis, and I think she will honestly try to work with the council, the school board, local business entities and regional governments to address issues plaguing the city.

Mom is still doing pretty well, despite chronic shortness of breath. She is in Alaska until this weekend and then goes to Park City, Utah. Yes, she really did carry pork barbecue in her suitcase on the trip up there. Only my mother... Radiation starts when she returns.

It's trying to turn to fall here and the leaves aren't as pretty as they could be because of the drought...still, my heart is warm and merry for the changing of the season.