Archive | June 2012

Here in the Middle the Weather is Fine.

Politics, schmolitics-

I have some questions.

What’s so bad about the EPA?

Is an national educational standard necessarily a flawed concept?

Is it 1832 and should I get my musket out from under the floorboards?

Why are state governmental intrusions preferable to federal ones?

Do only wealthy Americans have good ideas?

If it takes more coal produced electricity to run a hybrid car than petroleum and oil, are you really reducing any carbon footprint?

Guns are great, but do you really have to carry one on your hip while at Johnny’s soccer game?

On the same topic, if your favorite shooting spot is dry and the plants all yellow and spent, shouldn’t you bring along some fire suppression materials, or perhaps shoot your gun at a gun range that day?

Why is how I treat my body exempt from the list of personal freedoms I am “guaranteed” under the law?

If two adults (or ten for that matter) want to marry each other, how does that alter my monogamous heterosexual relationship?

Why is it that heterosexuals are allowed to flaunt their sexuality at every turn, every beach, every movie theater, every sidewalk, and gay couples are asked to keep that sort of thing private (this one really isn’t a government issue, just a personal observation)?

Does helping the poor through taxation by default mean we are only giving free shit to drug addicts and lazy assholes?

When did God and Conservative become synonymous?

When is someone going to bring me a taco?

 

 

 

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Girl

They knock on my basement window. I sneak out through the screen. Two faces, two bodies. Mine makes three. A hint of anticipated disappointment on her face. She cannot forgive me. It was her forehead that drove me away. Her darting tongue-tipped kisses that entice me back. He does not see it, her look away, though he will later condemn her for her silence. They tell me you are waiting.

In that epic blue summer dress, exposed shoulders, freckled skin, store bought black colored hair just touching your shoulder, you sit on the water warped wicker chair in witch pointed shoes, legs crossed, the darkness of another July night spreading out before you. The porch light obscures me from your sight, yet you look up, hearing our unnatural rustling, the rub of our walking, the smell of our skin alerting you.

I follow the cement crack from the steps to the door, left indiscreetly open (television commercials promising complete satisfaction, something sounding like boiling water, Walter’s snoring from the sofa), then to the right where you look at me with eyes that seem all pupil.

“He’ll sleep through noon.” Waking up with angry, tequila fed dreams in his head.

Which doesn’t comfort me. It makes you laugh.

“Let’s walk.”

Behind me I hear her sigh a deep, Marsha sigh. Jeremy grins.

Your hand in mine. Dry, work worn skin is what I offer. You don’t complain.

Last summer, we walk like this up a mountain trail. A sweltering Saturday afternoon and hundreds of others with similar ideas.

“I know a secret path to a secret meadow.”

We take it, winding upwards and away from groups of people, families with children, some younger couples on dates, who follow the popular path toward the waterfall. I hear them shuffle and saunter by, laughing, pleasure filled voices, swinging past and into the trees that quickly mute them. A hollowness lingers. The popping of sticks as they break, a tumble of rocks kicked loose, a breaking down of nature, a change, shifting, as we trespass farther up the mountain, our breathing heavy, sweaty spines and dirty faces.

In the meadow, you show me your tattoos.

I trace the serpent on your wrist.

Now we walk past houses where sleepers dream, past discarded papers, plastic bottles, a length of chicken wire you will later use as a prop, a self portrait, naked and bound. You’re whispers in my ears- “Say my name,” Janelle.

Medusa in all her glory inked on your side and down your hip. I turn to stone.

With One L

Some bands capture you from the first time you hear them. Voices of certain singers are so powerful, so beautiful that you cannot help but stop and listen. Sun Kil Moon was neither of those for me.

One of the perks of working at the library was I came across a great deal of new music. It was a risk free investment to take a CD home, listen to it, find out if it was worth owning, worth a second or third listen. Some times I uncovered a gem, other times…ugh.

Another perk was coming across donated material and ‘borrowing’ it for an unspecified amount of time. This was the case with my first exposure to Sun Kil Moon.

I knew of  Mark Kozelek from his work in Red House Painters. It was a band I had heard of, even recognized a few songs, but I never owned any records. I knew they had disbanded and that was about it. A friend had mentioned in a sort of off hand way that he really liked this current work by Kozelek (SKM) and even recommended a song or album I might like to try. I had brushed off the suggestion and forgotten about the band entirely. Then, one night, there it was in the donation bin, a pretty black album called April. The conversation came back to my mind and I decided to take the CD home. If I hated it, no harm done. It would be back by my next shift.

I put the CD in the player during the ride home. “Lost Verses” was the first track I heard. Nearly ten minutes long, it consisted of what I though of as bland guitar, bland singing, unemotional music. I skipped ahead to the next track, then the next; same boring voice, boring guitar. I was unimpressed. Then, two minutes deep in a track called “Lucky Man”, something changed. I finally got it. I stopped the car about two blocks from my house and finished the song. The voice I found uninspiring just minutes before was digging its way inside of me. I played “Lost Verses” again. It was like hearing an entirely different song. Beauty is an often overused idea and so abstract, so difficult to understand that I hesitate to use it, but that is what this music became to me, beautiful. The songs were full of such longing, a pining for something I couldn’t verbalize, but totally understood. There was no way I was ever giving this CD back.

I wish that I could write one song as good as the 11 tracks on this one CD are. How pleased I was to find that I had two more records to devour, plus a solo record and another chance to like Red House Painters (which I do).

I often link to heavy songs on this blog; loud boisterous music that is hard for many to really appreciate. I get that. Sun Kil Moon is not one of those bands. If you already like them, enjoy the songs below all over again. If you haven’t heard them before. Find a nice quiet place and listen. Headphones are the best option. Get yourself someplace where you can really pay attention to your emotions. See if you don’t feel the same.

Since first listening to April, there have been two more full length releases. The newest record came out at the end of May. The songs get better and better.  Listen. Enjoy.

Tiny Cities Made of Ashes– from an album of Modest Mouse covers. A very different take on the song, which is what a clever cover should do, right?

Carry Me Ohio– from the record Ghosts of the Great Highway.

Lucky Man– The song that changed my opinion.

Blue Orchids-Off  April as well.

Half Moon Bay– From Admiral Fell Promises. Perhaps my favorite song from SKM

Elaine– from the newest release Among the Leaves

 

Collision

The first auto accident I remember took place when I was between 4 and 6 years of age. It was a nice little fender bender. A large dump truck decided to reverse and collide with my parents car. We were in a parking lot, waiting for the truck to turn when he began backing up. I am sure he could not see us at all and was as surprised as ever to find he had smashed up our little family car. I have no memory of before the accident or right after. I do remember the sound of the collision and the sight of the truck backing up.

I have been in three accidents where I was the driver.

The first is a story my family loves to recall. Sheryl and I were not yet married and I was driving us home from work.  We decided to stop off at a local ice cream shop and get shakes first. My tiny GEO Metro was just over three months old and I was finally comfortable with the standard transmission. I remember driving down 3200 west and at some point glancing to my right as someone jogged along the street.  I looked forward in time to see a stopped car preparing to turn left off 3200, oblivious to my fast approaching car. I was confident that I still had time to veer out of the way and pass on the shoulder. I braked and steered to the right but I completely misjudged how close I was to the other car. As I depressed the brake and my front end dipped, the hood of my car collided with the rear bumper of other car. The front end of my GEO crumpled accordion style, and I ended up a bit underneath the other car. No one was injured, though the other driver was a bit sore and shocked. The best part-both Sheryl and I let go our shakes during the collision and ice cream splattered all over inside of the car and all over us. It found its way to our faces, hair and clothing. We looked ridiculous. I felt completely stupid.

A second accident was a completely idiotic situation where one vehicle was stopped, waiting to turn left and the car in front of me stopped short. I tried to quickly stop but was unable to avoid denting the vehicle in front of me. Of course, my car took the worst of it; one fender ripped off and a smashed headlight. Again, totally my fault and I felt like a fool.

Both of these accidents I remember vividly. I can see myself trying to slow, trying to avoid the collision and seeing my car hit the other. The world around slowed and though I couldn’t avoid either collision, it seemed as if I had time to look around, see the trees, the darkness, the pizza place to the right.

Last Saturday, I was again involved in a collision. This time, it was not my fault.

While driving my family on a shopping and dinner excursion, I was stopped at a red light. The cars across from me were turning, a green arrow letting them through the intersection. The light turned green and I waited while two cars preceded through. As a third began to speed through, I started across the intersection. Both Sheryl and I were watching the driver as she finished her turn, a bit annoyed that she thought she could turn at all. Then, almost at the same instant we realized that a fourth vehicle, a Dodge Ram had decided to also turn. I veered to the left, he failed to accelerate and I hit the rear wheel well of his truck.

I couldn’t tell how much damage I had taken but the car was still running. I drove forward, hearing some scraping, but I wanted to get as far out of the intersection as I could. Again, everyone was unharmed and only vehicles were damaged.

I admit, I was livid. Angry at myself for not seeing the truck, for going into the intersection before being sure it was clear. Then my anger shifted as I realized I had waited close to twenty seconds before moving forward. FOUR cars had tried to shoot the light. This ass was totally to blame. When I exited my car and saw the damage, I was more angry. The other driver had also continued thorough the intersection and was now out of is truck and coming towards us. He was apologetic. I thought back to the accidents I had caused and the kind reaction of the other drivers. It was, after all, an accident. I was able to calm myself. No one was injured. My car could be repaired. Nothing would be gained by a poor and mean spirited reaction.

The odd thing-This accident is so fuzzy. I remember looking at the third car as it turned in front of me, but everything else is very hazy. I really never saw the truck until just before I hit it. It may be cliche, but it was like seeing through a tunnel. I can’t even make out the color of the truck, just the large lumbering metal in front of me. Even the sound of the accident, usually a sickening thud, a heavy banging, littered with ripping metal and shattered plastic or glass, is muted in my memory.

In the ice cream accident, the sound was so damn loud, my ears were ringing for hours afterward. I am trying to understand why this time it feels so different.

Cliched Images, Lonely Excursion

I find myself connected to fewer people the older I become. A great deal of it is due to lack of effort on my part. Honestly, I think I like it that way. Being alone is something I enjoy a great deal. Sometimes though, I am a bit taken aback at how few people I interact with on a personal level.  When I go out where people gather, my separateness becomes crushingly obvious.

Today, I met Sheryl for lunch at City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The arrival of this City Creek has added a surprisingly grown up feeling to the city. Something I did not realize we were lacking, but now am actually grateful for. It is a stunning place with retractable roofs that allow the natural light and beauty of an early June day to sparkle throughout the center.

 

The shops are very high end in most cases but the plethora of unique shoppers can be a bit stunning. They run the gambit, from kids out of school and already bored to suburban moms in the city for the day. I saw several professionals out for lunch time strolls and a few transients wandering through, hoping for a kind hand out. A few even had the look of cosmopolitan shoppers, high end sundresses and too expensive shoes adorning their bodies. I love the dressed down feeling I have when I am among such diverse people. My Jeans and T shirt letting me blend into the walls, the pathways. One person even tripped into me, no apology, no acknowledgement.

After letting Sheryl return to work, I grabbed an ice coffee and sat down near the fountains at the west end of the shopping area. I brought along my writing journal and found myself a bench half in shade and began to write.

 

The sun would occasionally break through and burn my eyes, making the page a brilliant white, distorting the ink I stained the page with, blurring my sight. I could only write for a few minutes, then my eyes would need to rest, to focus on something else besides the words I sloppily splattered.

I looked down at children playing in the water and the longer pools and fountains that stretched to the north towards the LDS temple. The sky is summer blue now and the deepness of it can take my breath away. Earlier in the day, I noticed the moon being chased by the sun, its sliver of a self barely half a sky ahead, almost caught. I tried to capture the image with my camera. I failed. Often the most beautiful moments in our lives pass by undocumented.

I could sit for hours, just watching the people pass. It is a difficult thing to express, the alone-ness one can feel in such situations. A few hundred people wandering through, some sitting, some talking and me knowing no one by sight.It brings into focus how few of the billions of people currently on the planet I have any contact with. Masses of individuals with lives just like mine, others with experiences so contrary to those I have had that we share little in common. The things we could teach each other…

I can admit, I was a bit overwhelmed and saddened by the thought. Such a tiny number of experiences, stories and emotions for a life. So much goes unappreciated, misunderstood and ignored.

 

Of course, I have no idea how to make that any different. Listen more? Ask more? Extend myself, my circles, my comfort zone? I often feel like I am intruding when I try to dig deeper into people, like I am pushing the boundaries of friendship and casual acquaintance to the breaking point, that I ask too much. I know I feel that way when someone asks too pointed a question, one that invites me to share more than I might be ready to or be comfortable with. It is always easier to just not ask, let the moment pass.

So little time to really see and do things. Our lives get in the way. We get in our own way. I get in my way.

 

 

A man washes windows on a relatively tall building. I wonder if he was ever afraid of it. I watched him for a while as he hung from nylon cord, swinging from window to window. What does he see? Is it only the work he concentrates on? I pretend I understand him, inventing his isolation. I like how it feels putting myself up there, even if the experience is mediated, filtered.

I walk to my car, the heat of the streets comforts me. I really do love summer. It is far too short a time. I want to share it with more of you. I can be alone in the winter.

 

Substance in Thought

I try very hard never to compare my work  to the work of other writers.  Attempts to do so have always yielded negative results, leaving me feeling very inferior, often dropping me into a writing void, where I can create nothing, think of nothing to say. That inadequacy is a difficult barrier to overcome.

I do like to read the work of others in order to inspire myself, see different ways of approaching things, maybe even coming across thoughts I had never considered.

When I was attending the University of Utah, I took a fiction writing class taught by a PhD candidate who exposed me to writing, writers, ways of telling stories that I had never considered. Eric was just a few years older than I, but decades ahead of me when it came to constructing story and writing in general. Not only was he an excellent and thoughtful writer, his critical abilities were outstanding as well. One of my favorite quotes on writing came from a conversation with Eric during on such critical session. The idea was a simple one, but drastically changed the way I approached writing fiction.

We were discussing and comparing writing fiction and poetry. I had written very little fiction as an adult. Most of my work had been in poetry and I had learned how to write what I thought was very tight verse. I rarely wasted words or overstated things. I paid very close attention to the flow of my sentences, keeping extraneous words out as best I could. Somehow I failed to make the correlation between that effort in poetry and the same effort in fiction. Eric said, “I don’t understand why writers fail to pay careful attention to line when they write fiction. It is just as important, maybe more so, in fiction than poetry”.

Constructing tight, clean, powerful sentences is what makes good fiction (good writing in general). Many people are fantastic storytellers, but very sloppy writers. I have tried to incorporate this philosophy into all of my writing. Sometimes I succeed, but I can always do better.

I lost touch (my own fault, I am the worst friend) with Eric for many years and just recently have discovered a blog he writes. I am again blown away by the tightness of his writing, the clarity of it and the sharpness of his observations. I want to write more like that.

Check his blog out. Enjoy the sentences. Tell me what you think.

http://www.thebewilderedeye.com/

Salt Lake PRIDE

Yesterday, over 300 active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints marched directly behind the grand marshal during the Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City. With all the animosity between these two groups (the battle over proposition 8 in California, constant refusal of the mostly LDS legislature to include LGBT people in any anti-discrimination legislation, etc), it is incredibly heart warming to see this sort of thing taking place.

Reading this story, several moments brought me to tears. The willingness of individuals to set aside any anger, fear or animosity, to show support and love for each other is a huge step in a very good direction.

It was very easy for me as a younger person to vilify and despise people for their differences and because of that, I think I can understand some of the fear many LDS people have when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender identification. It is much harder to be full of bile, full of hate and anger when you love and care for someone who is LGBT. Once it was MY friends, MY family, MY co-workers who were gay, I saw how foolish my feelings were, how they were grounded in misunderstanding and fear and while my words and anger surely hurt others, they were very detrimental to me. I am still very embarrassed of the way I used to feel and act, even though I know all of that came from a place of ignorance. That doesn’t justify anything or make it easier to deal with.

When I see people who are willing to take chances, reach across fences and truly love the members of their community, I feel very hopeful for the future. I am inspired not only by the group of LDS members willing to put themselves up for scrutiny and criticism by living what they  believe (love and acceptance being at the heart of it), but by those in the LGBT community of Utah who welcomed and embraced the effort. That is the essence of forgiveness, that is the beauty of hope.

Some will be critical, saying this is an empty gesture, that this is not a message of acceptance. That this is just posturing. I choose to see it in a more positive light. They came out-on a Sunday morning! Baby steps, people. Change will come.