Archive | March 2013

Last Sunday

The first taste was cinnamon. The second something more sour. Strange.

In the corner, he saw cluttered clothing piles, tossed aside in moments of passion or pure laziness. Imagining both, he looked at the plate in front of him, then across at her. So many voices and images, all telling him different things. Run. Stay. Love her. Leave, now. He swallowed the emotions, savoring each one, like they were baked into the food she had prepared.

The third taste was salty.

“It’s all in how you prepare the cabbage. Boil it too long and it is useless. My mother taught me how, though I always add a bit more spice than she did, I loved her cooking.” She was slender, always slender, wearing his favorite white denim pants, baby blue blouse that made her eyes look sea blue, her skin pale like the moon after a storm. “She would fold the edged just so, securing the filling so none would escape. I can still see her fingers, olive oil slippery.” She stood and looked out the window. “Let’s go to the park, walk around, sit on a bench.”

He followed the curve of her spine.

 

Like Standing on the Edge of the Earth

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few minutes with a good friend. Her life is in some turmoil, and friendly faces, ridiculous words can be exactly what she needs to forget, or at least enjoy things for a while.

Lately, I have felt my life has become pretty stagnant, doing the same five things over and over each week and while those things are not in themselves, worthless or dull, getting out of the usual is always welcome.

After meeting with my friend, I jumped in the 4Runner and started home. I usually avoid the Interstate, not because I hate driving home at higher speeds, but the exits I use are often annoying. Plus, I hate the way most people drive (knowing full well that I likely annoy some with my driving). I feel like I have more options if I use the surface streets. Yesterday, wanting to shake things up, I jumped on I-80 at 7th East, planning to exit at Foothill Drive.

Having only owned the car for a few weeks, I am not quite used to all the lights and gadgets and as I approached the 13th East overpass, a light flashed on the dashboard. It was one I didn’t recognize and in the few seconds it  took to register the light, ponder its meaning, the steering wheel started shaking and pulling to the right. A flat tire. I contemplated driving the mile or so to the next exit, but realized that would likely mean damage to the wheel.

The 13th East on-ramp ended just ahead of where I was, and though I considered driving through to the shoulder, the tire was completely deflated. My options were now reduced to one. Stay where I was, parked in the V between the end of the on-ramp and the right lane of  I-80.

No big deal. I have changed tires before. If things were disastrously slow, this might take me 30 minutes. At best, I would be back on the freeway in 15. I turned on the hazard lights and opened my door. I had forgotten the sound high-speed traffic makes. Cars rushing by followed by the wind and instantly I was disoriented. My head was spinning; I was in trouble.

I opened the rear hatch and removed the jack and lug wrench.  Staring blankly at the pile of metal objects in front of me, I had no clue how to get started. The parts for the jack handle seemed to require a screwdriver, which I did not have. The instructions in the owners manual were vague at how to assemble the handle and worse, the handle was required to lower the spare. I wandered back and forth from the front seat, looking for something to act as a screwdriver and standing near the open hatch staring at the items strewn across the carpet.

Almost by accident, I discovered parts of the handle could be used as a wrench (moron), and I was able to assemble it. Sounds kept rushing  and wind blew the owners manual shut several times. With the hastily assembled handle, I started trying to lower the spare. Again, the instructions were useless and I attempted to find the lowering screw over and over. The sounds kept getting louder and it started to feel like the noise and wind were now constant. I kept thinking it was only a matter of time until someone  passed too close and collided with my car. If cops could be hit hundreds of times a year passing out tickets and attending to accidents, it was not a stretch to imagine the same or worse happening here.

After the tenth failed attempt, I crawled under the rear of the car, hoping to see where this elusive lowering screw was housed. Of course, the spare was in the way and every object obstructed. As I slid out from under the car, feeling quite at a loss, I realized a Mazda had stopped behind my vehicle and the driver was exiting.

I was relieved and embarrassed at the same time. Finally, someone to help, but seriously, it was only a flat tire. It still took us several minutes and one of us under the vehicle to find the lowering screw. After that, the rest was gravy.

Something had lodged itself into my tire, leaving an inch wide hole in the tread. 45 minutes after first pulling over, I was finally driving away.

Chadwick (yes, what a great name), was very friendly and helped me feel a bit better about my pathetic tire changing moment. Once he arrived, the sounds from the freeway seemed less intrusive, less frightening, though my heart really didn’t calm down until after I was getting the tire replaced (the inch wide tear had left it useless). The attendant at the store told me he would never have stopped on the Interstate. “I would have wrecked the tire, the wheel, the hub, whatever it took.” And after my experience, I am not sure he was wrong.

I am having a hard time recalling the sound properly or the sensation of the cars passing. I don’t recall specific types of vehicles passing me or any particularly close calls. What I remember is feeling like being stuck out on a precipice, with the elements around you conspiring to thwart your every effort. So disorienting and frightening, everything was confused and thinking clearly was not possible.

Later in the evening I had a moment when I said to myself, “Why didn’t you just go sit in the car with the doors closed for a minute, collect yourself?” But even that was an impossible thought when I was out there in it.

 

Of Course I Did

Tool announced a few weeks ago they would be releasing a 21st anniversary edition of their first record, Opiate. At first I was excited, then I read a bit more. Only 5000 copies would be available. Ugh, so typical. I determined not to even try and get a copy. The extra perks (signed, new art work, exclusive packaging) only made me more frustrated. This band has constantly drove me insane with things like this .

Records are only released every five years at best. Live DVD’s and albums are promised, never realized. The public spokesperson (newsletters and news updates) is a pretentious, cryptic arse. Rather than just say what the story is, everything has to be in riddles or only hinted at.  This way, if things don’t come together, he gets to say-I never said blah blah. Some in the fan base eat this up, arguing that the rest of us don’t deserve to know what is going on and if we are not ready to work for it, we should find another band to like.

Ugh- Music, people!

We should be allowed to like it for whatever reason we want. I was drawn to Tool for the heavy sound and clever words. I personally like the layers to the songs, both musically and lyrically. Sometimes I like the surface meaning, the overt, often explicit nature of the songs. Other times, I like letting my mind swim and ponder the maybes. I also think it is just fine to like them because they are loud and you like it loud.

Wanting to know when a new CD is coming out should not be complicated and mystic. It’s pretentious in all the wrong ways.

When the pre-sale began for the new Opiate limited editions, I went to the website, sure in my conviction-I would not buy it. I clicked on the link, convinced all the pre-sale items would be gone. They weren’t.

It couldn’t hurt to just look, right?

I looked and really liked. It was cool stuff. Five different editions with different colors, symbols and designs. It looked well put together and it fed the fan in me. Any real fan would want to own something this unique. Curious to the price, I looked again. 150 dollars. What the hell. Ouch! No way would I fork out that kind of money for 6 songs I already owned.

Ouch. Though, it did have clever packaging, all the band signed it. It is very, very unique.

Ouch? I could still walk away. Just close the page and feel good I stuck to my conviction. I didn’t have to buy it. Yeah, right.

Of course I bought it. My hypocrisy is stuff of legend. Admitting it has to count for something.

Anyway, you should at least get to hear some of the songs I like from this band. A track from each record. The songs are quite long, but worth the effort.

Sweat– Opiate. Early stuff from the 90’s but the elements are all there. Heavy riffs, clever lyrics.

Crawl Away-Undertow. The music is getting tighter and the song structure better. Undertow was the first Tool record I bought and I liked most of it, not all.

Pushit-Aenima. My favorite Tool song, ever. It always amazes how more complex this record was than anything previous. It  came out a year and a half after Undertow. I like to point this out when people argue great art takes longer.

The Grudge-Lateralus. This song is really too good for its own face. The time changes, the drumming, magnificent. And it has such a positive message (insert giggle here).

Cover of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter-Salival. Someone claims this song was played at the 98 show in Salt Lake. I don’t remember hearing it, but I guess I could have been otherwise occupied for fifteen minutes.

Jambi-10,000 Days’. Underrated record in my opinion. Seems it wasn’t mystical enough for some fans. I found it refreshing.

Reasonable

I really want to understand why people who usually are staunch advocates of personal freedom are so against allowing consenting adults of any gender to marry.

They are allowed to disagree, but the insistence that the rest of us just go along with it, accept it, make policy because of it, is difficult to understand. Especially when the reason is often “I just don’t like it,” or “My faith tells me I don’t like it.” I get that, but why?

What surprises me is how some think questioning that reason is itself, unreasonable, as if certain things are off limits, or freedom of speech does not require responsibility or accountability when it comes to matters of faith. Just as anyone is free to challenge what I say, argue points and counterpoints, try to understand more fully WHY I think certain things, I should be able to question others in a similar manner.

And I am-questioning.

 

Baiting

The text read, “I pick up Hannah at 3:00. Until then, I will be having coffee at the shop across from the school. Meet me?”

He looked at his watch. 2:40. It would take five minutes to get there. He had to leave for work at 3:00.

He drove, the smell of slow cooked beans wafting from the back seat. Pot luck at work, and his beans were always a favorite. Simple really, slow cook them, lots of ketchup. Ketchup made most things better.

She was sitting outside, leaves strewn across a plastic table that was bolted to the ground. When his car pulled in, she stood up, half waved, half smiled. Steam from two cups of coffee blew to the east, a storm coming. He took a deep breath, opened the car door and walked towards her. The diamond she still wore stared back at him, conspicuous and violently cruel, and he wished for the fiftieth time he could just once say no.

Mercy Me

A good missionary friend of mine entrusted me with a box full of keepsakes. He knew I was going home soon and wanted to save himself some postage. He handed me the box, I gave him a paper with my home phone number and address. I went home, expecting to hear from him soon.

So, I waited.

And waited.

Waited some more, then waited again.

And…

well you get the picture. He never contacted me. Six months after I returned home, I cracked the box open,  pure curiosity finally getting the best of  me. Inside, I found several comic books, some cassette tapes, and five CD’s of various artists. One of the bands, Caterwaul, I had never heard of (they ended up being very good). Another band, Sisters of Mercy, this friend introduced me to when we first met. I had almost forgotten about them and quickly put the CD in the player.  Such a great band. I went out the next Saturday and bought the rest of their collection.  I think you should all listen to them as well.

Enjoy.

No Time to Cry– From Fist Last and Always. My least favorite record, but this song reminds me of The Cult during the Love era.

This Corrosion-Floodland. One of my favorite songs. Long and not long enough.

1959-Also from Floodland. This song makes me melancholy, and I like it.

When You Don’t See Me-Vision Thing. The most accessible album, most mainstream, but still totally Sisters.

More-Vision Thing. My favorite Sisters track. Long and not long enough.

And finally, Temple of Love, which I first heard on the Greatest hits collection A Slight Case of Overbombing.

Two years after my friend would have been home, I figured I’d waited long enough, I sold the discs I didn’t want along with the cassettes. I sold the comics to a friend at the library in 2006. He should have left me an address, yeah?

For giggles, check out this song from Caterwaul as well.

Stretching My City Legs

Found myself pondering the monotony of life today. I walked around the usual places,  the Veterinarian’s office, then Walmart, by the overdone apartment buildings, and up, up the hills.

When I returned home, I felt completely annoyed. Not because of the walk, but from knowing exactly what the rest of my day was going to look like. I would shower, take the dog outside, then go to the coffee shop. Soon enough, I would find myself writing daily paragraphs, then pondering this blog.

It left me feeling bland, boring and predictable. I didn’t like it. I needed some interaction, something to break things up.

When I first left the library, I stayed away because I didn’t want to be a pest. I thought my presence would be too distracting and I don’t think that was a bad decision. Two years since quitting and I still feel like a bother.

libraryI went to the Main library first. Such an amazing building. I recall my first experiences with the construction, walking inside that building before it was open to the public, watching each floor rise up, then entering the building from the basement, entering what we called “the canyon”. What an amazingly beautiful building. I still feel that same amazement when I approach.

Inside, a great deal has changed.

Absence has made many things more glaring, stuff I used to ignore or find charming. Things are in disrepair, staff seem stressed, patrons are loud and rude, everything has a stale smell. My favorite moment-I was looking for a particular book, when from a row of public internet computers behind me, came the wettest, thickest coughing I have heard in years. Over and over, he coughed and in that instant, I had to leave. As I walked by the desk, I stole a few pumps of hand sanitizer. I felt dirty, disgusted by what I was hearing and seeing, and though I had experienced worse during my library career, this was too much.

It seems I am less calloused, less tough, less hearty than I used to be. It’s not like the library is serving a different demographic, and it hasn’t been overrun with transients or sickly persons. I was just acutely aware of it. The library hasn’t changed, I have.

I planned on heading home, renewing my routine, forgetting my discomfort at the repetitiveness of everything.   I couldn’t, not with that horrible feeling in my head. I drove to the Foothill branch and instantly felt better. It may have had more to do with encountering familiar faces, friends and acquaintances, but it restored my faith in the library.  I still don’t miss working there, and every patron encounter I witnessed, confirmed I don’t have that sort of patience any longer.  The more removed I am from having to act a certain way, the less willing I am to every do that sort of work again. I admire my former co-workers for their efforts.

I still need more things to break up the week. I think I want to walk and take photos tomorrow. Anyone want in?

 

200

What frightens you the most?  I asked this question on Twitter a while back and while the answers were sometimes silly, some were very interesting and serious.

“Boredom” one friends replied. Yeah, I get that. That scares me too.

“Becoming like my father.” Said another. Point taken.

My first thought was mediocrity. The more that rolled around in my brain, the more pretentious and narcissistic that felt. The only judge of my mediocrity should be me, but I would only be able to compare it to the efforts and results of others.

Today, I am going with complacency, which is the enemy of growth.

What I loved about being in college was the constant challenge to better myself, learn and grow. Of course, that challenge is mediated by the large sums of money I paid to be taught those things. Once that mediation was gone, once I found myself finally in the adult world, it was very easy to step back and let it ride.

Fortunately, I chose to work in the library, a place that again stepped in and demanded I continue to learn new ways to access and find information, better ways to deliver it to patrons. I found myself in school again, this time earning a Masters  degree in Library Science.

Something always between me and my innate complacency. Mediation.

I no long have that job, that motivation. No longer something in between, pushing me. I find other ways from time to time, dig myself out of the stagnant water I find it easier and easier to lay down in, be still.

Today has been a hard one and it will only get more difficult. Sadly, a member of the boys birth family died this morning and while we were not very close, I feel the weight of her passing. I don’t know exactly how to tell the boys this and I don’t know how to make them feel better once I do. Maybe that isn’t the point.

It is hard to not focus on how this affects me but it does make that complacency seem more dangerous than ever.  Every cliche rears its head. No one is guaranteed any more time. Live life while you can. Love those around you.  Tell people what they mean to you. Swallow your fear and embrace the world and all the pain and joy it brings.

Yeah, they are all good things.

Mediation

Have an answer yet?

 

Shards and Winter

45 minutes straight up hill then to the right, dodging inconsiderate snow piles, left by home owners either obtuse or mean spirited. Certainly someone will have to walk here and the dangerous ice, all three inches of it, cannot be easily avoided.

I walk in the street, occasionally grabbing snow from large shoveled piles. Remembering a time when I had not only speed, but accuracy, my first few throws are woefully off target and short. I feel old, looking out over the snow covered valley. Everything was different before, like always, but this particular day is black and white over my head, color on the horizon. I like how it looks and steal a photograph, but it refuses to show what I see until I filter it (heavy black/gray clouds, yellow slivers in the distance).

I decide to try again. Large snow ball in my right hand, I squeeze it tightly, water rushing down my fingers and to the pavement. My first target, a manhole cover. I hit three inches short, but this is better. The next snow globe lands directly on the double yellow center line and I am pleased. A final throw at a tar line and my aim is true, The snow explodes in fragments and I am reminded of other days like this, snow in my sleeves and down my shoes, warming my fingers on Christmas lights, hiding in the heavy fog of another cold February.

I see my 14 year old self, walking deep out along the tilled furrows into the field. Closing my eyes, I dig my foot into the soil and spin, spin, spin until I feel the vomit pushing itself up. I fall to the ground, half lying, half sitting one elbow propping me up. Open my eyes and look around. I can hear the sounds of the road to the South, but as soon as I am certain, the fog shifts the vibrations and I am no longer as convinced of direction. Even the shadows play off each other and I am certain this will be the death of me.

Then I see them, hiding behind a berm near the canal. My friends. I pretend not to notice them. They laugh.

The Gem

Everything worth reading about Johnny Cash has already been written.

I am going to add my voice to many others praising the end of his career as the best part of it. If you somehow have avoided listening to his American albums, repent now and do better. Rick Rubin and Cash put out 6 of the best records I have ever heard. Most of the songs are covers, many of them including guest artists, each song signature Cash. The emotion these songs carry often overwhelms me. Cash knew he was at the end of not only his epic music career, but his life and he sings the songs he wants to, the way he wants to, with who he wants.

Don’t forget to listen to every song on the box set of outtakes and alternate tracks as well. Unearthed is worth twice what you will pay for it.

I am grateful for this music. You should be too.

Down There by the Train– from American Recordings

Rusty Cage-From Unchained, this version is from the Jay Leno performance.

I Won’t Back Down-From Solitary Man

Sam Hall– From When the Man Comes Around.

Help Me– From A Hundred Highways.

For the Good Times-From Ain’t no Grave. The first of this video has a very cheesy soundtrack but points out this record was recorded after the Death of June Carter Cash.

Devil’s Right Hand-From Unearthed. This is so amazing. Just Cash and a dirty electric guitar. A perfect song.