Thursday, November 29, 2007

Our Town In Five Acts

Tonight I am driving.

And, as is my wont, I am observing, too. I am on the way to downtown Austin, our town, to meet Heather.

Characters from all sorts of stories, plays, and even the motion pictures, appear on almost every street corner.

No animated screen-crawls nor any rolling film credits appear before them so it is left up to my own devices to tell their tales.

Here is what I have found out so far...

North Lamar Boulevard & 29th Street:

You are both standing on the corner next to the traffic light waiting for the WALK sign to grant safe passage.

One of you, a twenty-something woman, wears a blue overcoat. Your wickedly fluid brown tresses nearly cover up your entire shoe-gazing stare. I can just barely see your face but one feature stands out: a frown so cartoonishly curled downward it would make for a fine inverted Dali's mustache.

When you finally reveal that you do, indeed, have eyes they are opaque and haunted.

Your partner: a wildly gesticulating young man in a black pea coat and kafia scarf wrapped around his neck. He holds a heavy looking book bag in his left hand and empty night air in his right. He gestures like he's a balancing scale, mockingly teetering back and forth with a fierce expression. You shrink into yourself because there is cold and then there is being frozen to death. His lips recede back into one last open mawed, bare-fanged snarl.

As I pull away he is holding the heavy bag up high and his now clenched, empty hand down low.

The scales have been absurdly tipped.

I am wondering... is that her heart you imagine gripping so heavily in your right hand?

Frankly, Scarlett, Rhett doesn't give a damn.

Colorado Street & 7th Avenue:

You are alone.

A long, red, dirtied winter coat has chosen you, not vice-versa. Perhaps you have somehow picked the silver-haired wig that is carefully propped on top of your head, though. You're being fussy with it as both your rickety hands constantly brush its uncooperative locks back behind your ears. You do not want to hide your face, your identity. Everyone must know it's you, it's you ... the one and only!

You hold out your hand and stare into something. It must be a mirror - I cannot see it - but I know you can. You are looking right at You, and You is looking back and straightening her hair. And You is smoothing something into her grooved and weather worn mask. Beauty reflects back from a very distant past. You once had all the good looks that God's Good Earth could grant you. It was most likely your undoing; it made you carelessly forget about Time.

Time would not forget about you.

You walk by the front of my car tip-toeing and elegant in high heels. You are not wearing high heels; you are wearing human feet.

There's no business like show business, Ms. Monroe.

South Lamar Boulevard & Barton Springs Avenue:

I have never seen a person strike a cellphone onto the side of his skull so forcibly and then kiss it like he were kissing a lover for the first time in many ages. I can see your lips move as you shout into the receiver, "I love you! I love you! I love you!"

You are smiling through your tears as if the clouds, in some act of farcical improbability, just burst Rose petals.

Tonight there is Forgiveness in the Universe.

Because somehow, Jack Dawson, the Titanic just missed that iceberg.

West 5th Street & Baylor Street:

OK Go. No, wait. Stop. Hold on a sec. OKOKOKOK! Gogogogogogogogogogo! But hurry up; traffic's coming!


That's a pretty cool lookin' contraption you got there, fella! And, speedy, too! But what happened? Something denied you movement in your lower half. Now you're reliant on this motor-driven, four wheeled, road warrior's chair to get you around in. Your big belly is pushed up against its handle bars making steering tough. A river of mutinying white hair abandoned your head awhile back to take on new life as a grizzled, unruly beard. Gravity makes for a great punchline, doesn't it?

You're aged but, strangely, ageless.

A Christmas wreath is hung on the back of your chair! Hey, you are celebrating the holidays with somebody this year, right? Right?! Please, tell me that you're not alone in this world, on these nights, in that chair?

(eeeeerrrt!) "Wait for me before you go again, okay?" She gently admonishes you as she pulls up alongside on her own four-wheeler, hair tied up in a proud little, gray bun.

How you found each other is a miracle.

Kris Kringle and Mrs. Claus on their modern-day sleighs bringing good cheer and hope this holiday season.

Duval Street & 53rd Street:

You have just finished reading what sounds like a very inspiring book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. You describe a chapter wherein the writer discovers that every city has its own Word. A friend tells her about this curiosity. For example, the city of Rome's Word is "Sex".

Gilbert gets to wondering about what her Word might be.

Now, so do you.

You can't find it at first and this is frustrating. But for whatever enigmatic reason you recall the last scene in the third and final act of Thornton Wilder's classic play, Our Town.


The now deceased, Emily Webb, is in the Graveyard waxing nostalgia over her 12th birthday. The theatrically symbolic "Stage Manager" is by her side.

She is overcome by tears because she realizes now just how much she took for granted in youth and how fast life goes by, "We don't even have time to look at one another." She observes aloud to the Stage Manager.

Resigned Emily eventually declares that she is ready to go back to the grave but not before asking, "Doesn't anyone ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?"

The Stage Manager responds. "No. Saints and poets, maybe; they do some."


Then you suddenly find your Word.

"Well, maybe I'm not a saint but I do remember when I used to write poetry all the time back when I was younger. Maybe not so much anymore but it's still how I see the world everyday: through poet's eyes."


Well done, Heather, and on this particular evening how poignant the serendipity of it all!

Not even Hollywood could come up with a better ending than this...

A Heed Of His Times

"No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices."

-- Edward R. Murrow

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Greatest Bumper Sticker Ever...

Spotted in Hyde Park, Austin, Texas (Friday, November 23rd, 2007)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

Can you find the turkey in this picture?

How about in this one?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night

In my old neighborhood of Indian Village the D. family had a shed in their back yard next to 'The Swamp'. 'The Swamp' was soupy woods mostly and offered an amazing, messy playground for us young boys to romp around in whenever we were bored ... which was often in the suburbs.

A long dirty cement drain pipe, just perfect for single filed troopers to crawl up and clog their noses with moldy dust, and god knows what else, snaked itself down from the road a few hundred yards up a weed and vine entangled hill. It emptied its effluence after rainstorms into a small pool at the mouth of the conduit. That pool would often harbor crayfish and other pincered and antenna'ed alien life forms put there undoubtedly for our amusement.

'Check for ticks!' was a common exclamation upon exiting this mysterious and murky land of skunk cabbage, shoe sucking quick-mud, curly prehistoric fiddlehead ferns and voracious sock clinging burrs. The more bloodthirsty parasitic denizens of 'The Swamp' would contentedly start consuming you alive if you sat in one place for more than a few minutes time.

One of youth's most poignant and impressive lessons: sit still too long and the world will begin to devour you!


'The Shed' was used to store wood - it was a woodshed.

Every summer the woodshed would inevitably get infested with mice. The tiny gray and black rodents would hide under the heavy cord of dried cut logs stacked there in preparation for the long New England winter months. These unwelcomed pests were nesting inside the wood and making a mess of it to the point of ruination so the argument went.

In that event, Douglas D. would dutifully go out to the Shed by order of his parents with a flat iron shovel and 'slam' mice. He did this without so much as a twitch as he struck each rodent square on its back, crushing its spine and then watching it convulse until it finally broke its lease on life. Perhaps another blow was delivered to end any unnecessary suffering.

Though his tactics were severe Doug was neither cruel nor sadistic; he was merely professional in his demeanor. I think he may have even been paid a small allowance to partake in this gruesome undertaking. A quarter per mouse maybe? Decent wages for the time.

One early Fall evening my brother, and I went with Doug out to the Shed (purely as observers mind you!) to hunt for the wilier mice: the ones that would only come out after dark. Doug had a large lensed plastic flashlight with him to illuminate the way down the grassy path to the Shed. Once inside we would all sit quietly in the corners of the structure in total darkness. At the first instance of any scurrying sound the light would dilate the gloom and the slaughter would commence. A good night would normally harvest him between three and five kills. His practiced accuracy made him extremely lethal. He usually met that quota easily.

When that evening's run of mice were finally done away with and disposed of we entertained ourselves by reading the penciled prose offerings left on the old shack's inner walls. There were several years of limericks, initialed hearts with arrows piercing them and crass iambic pentameter to leave young boys in stitches for a very long amount of time.

There was one particularly memorable piece of foolish poetry scrawled on one side of the wall closest to the Shed's sliding door. It was written in a crooked penmanship and given the title One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night.

It went something like this (and there are several variations but the following verses are considered the most common):


One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.

One was blind and the other couldn't see,
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout "hooray!"

A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye.
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all.

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to arrest the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this story's true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too!"


Scholars have since dissected this doggerel and given it credence as a legitimate folk poem. Those same scholars have described it as a "Ballad of Impossibilities" as it follows no reason in its rhyme. Nonsense poems such as One Fine Day... date as far back as the mid-19th Century and were originally collected from children's playgrounds and schoolyards on the British Isles.

Whatever the academic merits it was mostly just a form of wild entertainment for us lads.

In fact, after invoking each stanza aloud we would play-act out how these actions might transpire in spite of their defiant opposition to one another. Our lofty imaginations failed us time and again as we could never quite muster decent enough visualizations that would do any adequate justice for the poem.

But Doug was so humored by this contradictory brain-teaser that he laughed himself pink.




It was a deliciously devilish riddle that could never be divined! No solving this one any time soon...

What a hilarious hoot we had!


Of course, I simply had to memorize this subversive in~verse for myself in order to enlighten the elementary school masses of its outlandish nature. Once my ability at recall was proficient enough I recited it to friends at recess time, in the cafeteria lunch lines and during gym class. The Two Dead Boys Town Crier! Gleeful bemusement would surely follow each performance. Soon afterwards many of the schoolyard rank-and-file were all merrily repeating its phrases. Subsequently the boys' bathroom stalls were eventually vandalized with its various black inked interpretations ... only the word fight was replaced with fuck and the word swords replaced by dicks... you get the picture.

It was a small victory of sorts for me, though; to think I was aiding in the propagation of a cultural phenomenon! Hoo-Wah! Score one for the viral nature of human language!


But then something really frightening happened that changed everything.


One fine summer day several months later, in what would become Doug D.'s darkest middle of the night, he was in a terrible motorcycle accident.

The front wheel of his bike sideways'ed on a patch of "Caterpillar Grease" (a mash of road- crossing gypsy moth caterpillars crushed into a dangerous and slippery pulp by passing cars) while speeding up Route 2 on the way home from high school one day. He tumbled several terrifying times down a long stretch of highway pavement before finally coming to rest in a busted heap.

He broke his arms.

He broke his legs.

He broke his back...

But he was still alive.

However, the operating surgeons added a painful *asterisk to that state of being alive by inauspiciously declaring that he would never be able to walk again.


After several weeks in the hospital Doug was brought home. He lay immobile on his back for what must have felt like an Eternity to him. He was supported by a pulley-and-rope contraption for a bed that a team of medical specialists had designed for just such a god-awful occasion.

His parents grimly looked after him. They would provide sporadic news to the neighborhood of any improvement in cautionary spurts.

After a while even his closest friends became afraid to visit him because he had been such a strong and athletic kid. Now everyone had to pose themselves some fairly dreadful questions: How could this happen? What could one possibly say to a young man who had so much going in his favor, so much life to live? How was anyone supposed to process meaning through this unholy perversion of youth on display; a broken teenage body simply defies all comprehension. This was supposed to be the prime of your life!




Doug... how will you ever 'slam' mice again? Was this payback from the animal kingdom's belligerent rodent deity?

What's going to happen to you now?

We beseech thee, Powers That Be, bring us your Virgin Mary's Face In A Piece of Toast moment! Reveal to us your small, but Faith restoring wonder.

We beg of you.

And then something really amazing happened that changed everything.


It wasn't long before Doug would prove to all of those nervy doctors with their sanctimonious prognostications just how completely and totally off base they had been.

One fine day after a year and some odd middle of the nights later ... I was riding my bike up the street. As I passed the D.'s house my eyes played a dirty little trick on me...

Because right there in front of me ... was Doug D.

In his driveway.


Damnit, standing!

All by himself - standing - in his driveway.

Yes, albeit in a bulky and clumsy looking back brace but he was standing! On his own! With a goddamn broom in his hands! The son of a gun was sweeping his driveway! Sweeping his driveway like some animatronic theme park character in stilted robotic movements - but sweeping as sweepers will do when they sweep with fully operational spines.




"Hi, Dennis!"


One fine day...

"Doug, you did it!" the middle of the night...

"You solved it!" dead boy, at least, did get up to fight.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why The Squirrels Aren't Fat Here

There are pecans in abundance here in Austin.

They fall from the branches as if the trees were playing "War" with you.


Here comes another one!

"Fweeeeeeeeee! THUD!"

The squirrels aren't fat here in town because there is plenty of food to go around for them. The ground is littered with nuts!

Enough nuts to bust a nut over!

They could eat until they exploded if they chose to ... but they don't.

They are not gluttonous because they know there will always be enough to eat.

Squirrels are pretty smart...

So, what's your excuse, America?

Peace On Earth Good Will Toward Men

Somebody was murdered outside our house tonight...



Yes very sad.

Don't know who it was.

Don't know why it happened.

Don't know where or when it occurred.

It is a complete and total mystery to me.

Maybe outside our yard.

Maybe outside of Hyde Park.

Maybe it happened outside of Austin.

Maybe it happened outside of Travis County.

Maybe it happened outside of the State of Texas.

Maybe outside of here.

Maybe outside of the Midwest.

Maybe outside of the United States.

Maybe outside of all of Northern America.

Maybe it happened in a different country all together.

But it happened.

Right here.

On this planet.


And that will always remain a mystery to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tug Of War (A Scene Exercise)

The final assignment in my screenwriting class was simple enough: create a short scene demonstrating a character, or characters, in a state of "preparation" while "lying" to somebody.

The writer could come up with the setting, characters, dialogue (regional dialects encouraged), etc. on their own but had to follow those two simple guidelines (along with the proper formatting of a screenplay, too, of course. That part probably doesn't translate too well on this blogsite but it won't take away from the storyline...).

The scene I chose to develop is based on a short story I've been working on called "Floorboards". It might be described as a dark comic "horror" fable. Easy enough genre to write for film anyway (horror, that is) so I decided to give a whirl at translating one of the "Floorboards" backdrops into a screen act.

Below, in screenplay format, is the result.

First a little background to establish some context: The story takes place in the present day. Through the process of "mountain top removal" a West Virginian coal mining company has blasted a local hillside apart to begin extracting its precious mineral ore contents. While leveling these particular mountains something ancient and unpleasant is unearthed in the process.

Millicent Dubreaux is a young farmer's daughter who has lost her parents several weeks back in a slurry flood disaster brought on by one of the removal operations. She has been taken in by her aunt, uncle and cousin, the Beckette's, who live nearby but have not decided what to do with the Dubreaux family house yet.

While on a walk one late afternoon near to one of the former peaks Millicent stumbles upon a certain infant something and decides to keep it as a "pet". Somewhat containable as a 'pup' at first it has since grown to, let's say, a rather disproportionate size.

She has taken it back home and hidden it in the basement of her parent's old farm house under the floorboards.

You might say the story is an "eco-terror" of sorts, I suppose...

The actual short story's version of the scene happens much later in the tale but for the class assignment the instructor recommended the writer use an opening sequence that would normally begin a film.

A quick screenplay reference key follows for the uninitiated:

EXT./INT. = Exterior/Interior (location in which a scene takes place),

CONTINUOUS = event is happening at the same moment in time as the previous action,

OS = Off Screen (a character who cannot be seen but may be heard),

POV = Point Of View (a camera direction that signifies a character's perspective),

ALL CAPS usage signifies a SOUND EFFECT insertion, a CHARACTER introduction or dialogue heading ID, or a scene SLUGLINE.

Final note: a well written screenplay never employs the TO BE verb in any form during its scene descriptions (its okay in dialogue, naturally; wouldn't get very far without it otherwise now would we?).

No worries; it'll all make sense once you start reading...

The scene is titled: " "TUG OF WAR"



MILLICENT DUBREAUX, 12, a pretty brown haired girl in a dirtied white floral sundress stands near the sink of an old country house’s kitchen. A battered coal miner’s hat hangs on a door peg. She skins a large rabbit and empties its entrails into the sink. She merrily hums an OLD TIME COUNTRY SONG as she guts the hare.


POV something large, hairy and bulbous in the dark stares up from under the slats in the kitchen floor at Millicent and emits several HIGH PITCHED CHITTERING SOUNDS.


Millicent drops the skinned rabbit and its innards into a bowl then places it into a bucket with a rope attached.

Just you hold on one minute, ya hear? Patience, patience. You’re in such a fuss!


The shape shuffles agitatedly as it SNORTS and WHINES. It knocks over a shelf of metal tools with a LOUD CLATTER. Millicent gets on her hands and knees and stares down through the floor slats. Her hair dangles below the boards.

Hey, now what did I jus’ tell you, Apple Pie! Be! Patient! It’s gonna be ready in one minute. I’s removin’ the skin like you likes it. Gosh, I hope you didn’t break anything too valuable down there.

A light blue 1950’s era pick up truck drives up a dirt road driveway. The truck pulls up to the country house and stops. ABIGAIL BECKETTE, 21, an attractive strawberry-blonde haired woman grabs hold of a bag of groceries inside the truck’s cab and exits.


Millicent walks over to a trap door set flush in the kitchen floor near a back corner. As she makes her way toward the door strands of white silky threads begin to float up from between the floorboard slats. The silk strands brush Millicent’s legs as she walks.

Goose bumps rise on Millicent’s legs.

Millicent giggles while she walks towards the trap door.

Stop that! You know how that tickles! Silly!
Millicent slides back two large bolt-latch mechanisms on the trap door and slowly opens the hatch. The hatch CREAKS open revealing a long, dark, dusty hole.

Breakfast time!
A HIGH PITCHED SQUEAL echoes from the hatch opening’s darkness below. Millicent lowers the bucket with the skinned rabbit into the hole.

The country house’s FRONT DOOR OPENS and CLOSES.

Millie! It’s just me. I’m back already! I think I got everything. Milk. Eggs. Butter. Flour. Sugar. Lordy! Everything is getting so expensive now.
Aw, shoot! Shhhh, you have to be quiet now, Mister Floorboards, do you hear me! Shush, now! I mean it.
A long, simpering MOAN comes out from the dark shaft.

Abbie, is that you?
The rope in Millicent’s hands suddenly goes taut and the bucket violenty yanks from below the hatch. Millicent almost topples into the opening. VORACIOUS CHEWING SOUNDS emanate from the hole as Millicent struggles with the rope.

Miss Millie! What in the Sam Hill are you doin’ over there, young lady?
Abigail stands in the kitchen doorway holding the bag of groceries with a look of deep concern on her face.

Uh, hi, Abbie. I’s tryin’ to pull the laundry bucket up from the basement. It seems to be stuck on something’ down there but I’s OK! I think I got it all right.
Abigail places the grocery bag on an old pastel green colored kitchen table next to the doorway. She starts to walk toward Millicent.

What? Girl, now why you tryin’ and bring up laundry like that for? My goodness that’s jus’ plain foolish. Here now, let me help you.
Nooooo! I mean, I’s OK Abbie! Everythin’s fine. Sometimes a girl’s gots to do things by herself. Please! This ole cat climbed this tree and she’s gonna get herself down.
Abigail stops and shakes her head. She turns back to the grocery bag.

Alright, jus’ don’t go hurtin’ yourself and breakin’ everythin’ then.
Abigail puts the groceries into a bulky old icebox refrigerator. A large, black, spindly insect’s leg arches itself from up out of the hatch door and gently caresses Millicent’s hair. Millicent grabs hold of the spiky limb and frantically pushes it back down the trap door.

Abigail turns back to Millicent as she continues to grip the now slackened rope.

You know I’m going out tonight with Raymond, right, Millie? With you’re Ma and Pa gone and no one to baby sit you’ll be on your own again tonight. I won’t be long. I can promise you that. Ray’s folks gotta telephone, too, should you need to reach me. Do you think you’ll be all right?
Oh, heavens, yes, Abbie. I ain’t no baby! I’ll be jus’ fine. Lots to watch on that TV.
The rope goes taut again with a sudden pull and Millicent nearly falls over and into the opening once more.

Millicent! What is going on over there?
Almost fell, silly me! I tried an’ pull too hard again! Heheh! Abbie, you just go on and have yourself some fun tonight. I’ll be jus’ fine. But can you do me a big favor, though, like right away? I believe I left the laundry soap out by the linen lines in the back. Would you be so kind as to go and fetch it for me? I done dirtied my favorite dress and it needs cleanin’ now, too.
You sure you’ll be all right then tonight, Millie? I just feel so terrible having left you alone most of the week already.
Millicent nods adamantly.

Yes, Miss Abbie. Very. Very sure.
OK, Sweetie. You’re a little doll you know that? Where are those soap flakes now? By the linen line you said?
Abigail exits the kitchen through a back doorway.


FLOORBOARDS, a mammoth pony-sized black spider looks up through the wooden floor slats at Abigail as she leaves. The creature makes SLAVERING NOISES as she passes directly overhead and then exits outside.


Millicent peers down into the slats rope tightly wound in hand.

You in big trouble, Mister! Let go of that bucket right now!
The rope immediately goes slack and the bucket hurtles out of the trap door opening. Millicent falls on her backside.

Oof! Watch it, ya Big Oaf! Don’t you get no stupid ideas down there neither ya hear? I heard you slobberin’ up a storm!
Millicent kicks the hatch of the trap door shut and then crawls over to draw the bolt-latches closed.

People are off limits! Especially my cousin Abigail!


The screenplay class instructor gave fairly glowing kudos to this particular scene so I decided it was worth a posting.

Happy New Year,


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Polar? Barely...

Hang in there, Big Guy...

Photograph by Arne Naevra ~ "Polar Meltdown" should be on the way in about a year from now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Literally Eating My Words

I've heard of immersing yourself in a good book before, but now the question is what's immersing itself good in our books?

No need to dust for prints; the evidence is strewn all over our bedroom bookshelves: powdery paper silt. Pulpy yellow shavings. Droppings in the shape of all the letters of the alphabet... written as some sort of ransom note perhaps?

Whatever they may be they're having one hell of a book club meeting and literally clubbing our books while their at it!

They're eating our words

And just look at all of these empty little cocoon sacks weaved to the bottom of each binder! Leaving behind your brood to finish off the next chapter are we?

So, after a bit of on-line research (the bestseller buggers have already eaten the hard copy sources I'm afraid...) we've discovered our culprits!

Seems the volume of our slightly more than satisfactory library is being periodically checked-out by a horde of super slavering cigarette beetles!

Pest: Cigarette beetle"The cigarette beetle (Lasioderma serricorne) is a small, light-brown flying beetle that commonly infests books. The beetle's larvae are one of the types popularly known as bookworms, with eggs laid on the spine of a book and along the edges. Immediately upon hatching, the larvae tunnel under the binding cover, especially down the spine area. The insect then proceeds to tunnel up to 10 centimeters into the paper text, where it pupates into an adult beetle. The adult leaves a round exit hole, as well as powdered paper on the shelf. One of this beetle's favorite foods is dried flowers and spices; these should not be brought into the library."

Massachusetts had it's material munching moths to meddle with now Texas has its book brunching beetles to battle! Irony? Not in our beloved Austin! We're educated here. We are devotees of knowledge! Unless, maybe ... it's a right-winged plot!?

Literally, literature lunching larvae.

Who woulda thunk? Bookworms! Mother Nature has a sentence of humor! And, it'll take more than a bit of manual labor to undo this problem we think.

And, worst of all...

The wicked little weEvils are carnivorous to boot! That's right: Flesh consuming. They have been feasting every night on my apparently woody tasting softcover sheath! I know because I'll find one or two browsing into my skin when I wake up in the morning. Y'ouch! Kind of stings.

It's a mystery as to why.

Maybe I've been reading too much lately and these tiny gnawing nasties are now nipping at all of my tome anointed knowledge? Will I, too, break out in a fuzzy bookworm pupae parade and watch my own spine collapse in on itself as the pages of my life flutter to the floor? Themes there's a possibility...

But hold on just one minute! They don't seem to pester Heather at all! Or, at least she claims she hasn't had a run on with them ... and she reads far more than I do! Period!

Clause and affect: I must be text by some cursive!!

Now, I'll admit I've been called bookish before but never ... wooden!

Well, maybe... just maybe.

I am made of wood! There's a novel thought in the abstract for you! (Essay, chap, do you copy me?) <-- cheap shot... A modern day Pinocchio perhaps? Neo-Gepetto's puppet-boy fashioned from some hybrid tree stalk of lore?

And if so ... what type of wood am I made of exactly?

Wood of...? Alder? Apple? Ash?

Wood of...? Balsa? Beech? Birch?

Wood of...? Cedar? Cherry? Could?

Wood of... Could?

Wood of Could?!?

Would of...? Could have?

Would have, could have ... should?


Damnit. Lost my tract of thought! Guess I shouldn't have written off these bugs so easily; they've gotten deeper inside my head more than I opused for.


I think I'll go outside and roll around in a pile of celebrity gossip magazines.

No doubt that pulp oughtta throw the little bastards off my tale! Or, I'll be fiction to eat my own words...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Paranoiarmal (A Poem With Many Faces)

When I was a boy I saw many strange things
Like a woman in blue with her leprosy skin
Awoke in my room by her visits some morns
Through the bars in my crib this image was born.

S.S.Watertown Faces of Ghost Crewmen at Sea - December 5th, 1924

A "cat" once appeared in my bedroom with me
As I fought off a fever of a hundred and three
She squirmed and she spun by the corner in dark
One flick of the light then she'd disembark.

B-29 Bombers over Korea with Face of Christ in Clouds - June 15th, 1950

A family of trolls made of sticks from a tree
Lived by the side of our house's chimney
Though the curtains were drawn I saw what they did
Making shapes out of branches to scare little kids.

Viking 1 Orbiter Photograph of the "Face On Mars" - July 25th, 1976

Bouncing and bouncing on a mattress I'd leap
'Til the springs on that bed grabbed hold of my feet
I screamed and I screamed but it wouldn't let go
But loosened its grip when my Mother came home.

World Trade Center's Face of the Devil in Smoke - September 11th, 2001

A teacher once queried in class at my school,
"Volunteer for reports on goblins and ghouls?"
Later that night after assigning myself
A toy came to life and walked off my shelf.

Piece of Toast with the Face of the Virgin Mary - November 23rd, 2004

My brother was neither denied nor immune
A Man in White suit appeared in his room
Held by the feet at the foot of his bed
White sir would declare, "You scream and you're dead."

Mallard Duck with Ingested Face of Space Alien - May 21st, 2006

No longer a boy, old spooks left behind
Still one spectre lurks from the hand of mankind
A mushroom of sorts keeps me up through the night
The only true shadow that's kept on my light.

Trinity, New Mexico's Face of Mankind - 5:29:45 a.m. July 16th, 1945

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Better Ewe Through Somnambulism!

This relationship has got to end!

My all night affair with Night, that is.

I blame the 24 hour news cycle that I was introduced to back in my sleep formative twenty- something years when I first began my stint in public broadcasting. I did more Overnight shifts on 'Morning Edition' than I care to remember or care to admit. It's an impossible hour these after midnight rounds. I pity nurses! This is the time for sleep, or romance, not terror. These particular 12:00am to 8:00am shifts kept me wide-eyed and wide awake especially, too; news, as we all know, can be so terrifying 24 hours a day (yes, I was working in radio when September 11th occurred ... the one "good" thing about 9/11? At least it happened during normal day time hours...).

Mostly, though, the hard hitting news that occurred on those early shifts back in the day revolved around the Russian-Chechnyan conflict and the Serbian (ahem, former Yugoslavia) genocides. Clinton was in office so this country was reluctant, and sparing, when it came to military involvement. Hey, we were too busy basking in all of that internet boom wealth glory to care what was going on in other countries anyway... wait a minute. Since when did the U.S. ever care about other countries?

Not the point.

I am a bonafide insomniac.

I cannot sleep at night. Hardly a wink to be unseen anymore... one black sheep too many amongst the fence-leaping herd messing everything up for me.

It doesn't matter how hard I work during the day or how much stuff I have to do the next day I remain as diligent a night owl as ever. In fact, another little night owl, a screech owl, sometimes reminds me of this with her hooting not far down the street from us.

Arguably, my insomnia makes the house much safer in terms of break-ins or fires; I am full-time security guard and primed smoke detector.

I have tried everything to win back regular sleep hours short of taking those sanity impairing cortex softeners advertised all over Time Magazine and rags of that ilk. I just can't give into Lunaticesta, Ambienocide, or Razorem as I have heard any number of nightmarish (get it..?) stories about people who go absolutely ape-shit batty on that crack.

For example.

One associate of mines' aunt, currently submitting to the popular Ambien "sleep aid", gets up in the middle of the night and writes emails to her relatives. No problem with that, per se, only these emails are all written completely unawares and often in a very abusive tone, some using language that would even make the Sopranos blush. So far outside of reason and reality are these messages that she finds herself profusely apologizing for their content every day after each new creative nocturnal transmission. The prompting for an apology usually comes in the form of a delicate, but obviously unnerved, REPLY ALL message from her kinsfolk reminding her of these sleepmailed indiscretions:

"My goodness, Dearie, we had no idea we were all a bunch of worthless cocksuckers..."

"Heh, sorry, gang, it was just the ole Ambien talking again! Tee hee!"

Yeah, I believe Linda Blair had a similar problem and it ended up with the murder of two priests...

So, I try to remedy my own dream deprivation instead with 3 to 5 mgs of an all natural orange flavored sublingual Melatonin pill (or the more potent liquid version milked from the teat of some poor bastards adrenal gland I assume), or Valerian Root capsules (holistically recommended from another sleep deprived friend of mine), or reading, writing, and even, yes, the occasional stint with late night cable television movies. I have never been much of a fan of horror films but that's apparently what TV programmers assume anyone staying up past a certain hour is very interested in. As a result I know more about the Australian Wolf Creek serial killings than ever before, that the European Hostel experience for some can be not so pleasant at all (downright hostile!), and just down the road from us here in Texas apparently there were some pretty nasty chain saw massacres... brrrrrrr! I shutter to think at all of the frightening characters dreamed up out there to, not ironically, keep us awake at night.

Heather, for the most part, is mercifully tolerant of my insomnia. Although, I'm sure she misses companionship at some moments during the evening she also understands that me rolling around all night in a state of anaphylactic shock-like convulsion (allergic to sleep?) does her no good for maintaining her own circadian rhythm balance. She knows I will eventually show up, tip-toeing into the bedroom at whatever ungodly hour, to finally make peace with my cerebral cortex. I am up at a relatively normal morning hour to boot given the circumstances (excluding weekends sometimes; it can all catch up to me then to be sure!), and this is most troubling. I am just waiting for a total psychic melt down to come calling any day now due to lack of enough sleep. Even without the prescription medications am I still opening myself up to that ugly sleepmailing habit practiced by my friend's aunt?

Uh, oh...

"Dear Cats, I will never, ever, ever fucking feed you again! Ever! Miserable fucking Fuckers!"

Oh, sorry kitties. Sleeptyping again I see... tee-hee! Kissy-kissy, winky-winky!

So, here's what I've started to do to fight back ... and it seems to be working. For the moment.

But, first, some background: I usually row Crew in the early a.m. from late Spring to about mid-Fall every year. I have been doing this since my college days and most recently (when I lived back in Boston) with B.U.'s Summer Rowing program. Rowing the Mighty Charles River was a sure fire way to correct a lot of things, not just sleeping schedules. It's a good 'gut check' method for one and it rids the body temple of all sorts of otherwise nasty toxins (which the Charles will happily replace with one good boat-tip if you're not careful, btw!).

However, with the sun and the heat here in Texas this last summer I was rendered nearly immobile as it was so damned-ably oppressive (high 90's everyday - not like New England heat either which tends to be muggy and tolerable - Texas heat is desert heat and it is scorching and top-heavy). I used this oven-on-high-climate excuse rather successfully to convince myself not to pick up my normal sculling and sweeping exercises on Austin's own Town Lake (now Lady Bird Johnson Lake after LBJ's late great environmentalist wife) much to my, and Heather's, chagrin. I've paid dearly for it as I'm not my normally spry and fit self at the moment... (you may have heard of the phenomenon "The Freshman 15"? I think I just experienced "The Texas 20" over the last 3 months...).

But that's about to change!

And, here's the kicker: I have taken up (drum roll sfx here) running again!

I might also proudly point out that I'm using this form of exercise, to somewhat decent effect, in combating my insomnia, as well.

You see, I run at night.


As in around midnight late.

Extreme Somnambulism (in extremis)! Only I'm very much awake while I'm jogging along...

Duval Street opens itself up as a nice, quiet 6 mile stretch down to the university from our place and that's a pretty good jaunt for starters. Well, I run only about 5 of those miles back and forth all together. That's FIVE miles of a Marathon race, though (I ran the 100th Boston Marathon back in 1999 to the drub-tacular tune of 5 hours 50 minutes... I run my current five miles in about an hours time. Is that bad? Probably. Ugh, terrible, actually!)! Indeed, I am still at my lumbering pace stage right now, but, to my credit, I start out at a good enough clip - its just when I realize that I have to run back that I begin to resemble one of the gorier cast members of Dawn Of The Dead (Ooooo, another late night horror flick!).

Am I worried about being thugged-upon one of these daring runner's nights outs? Not really. I figure if anyone jumps me they'll get, what? My shorts? Please. I don't even carry my keys with me. Worst case scenario ... I run home naked. Not like that hasn't ever hap...

Moving on.

It's still early in this little anti-insomnia crusade of mine but I have high hopes. I'm feeling better already lately, if not a smidge sore, and I have even begun witnessing significant strides towards sleep cycle normalcy starting to creep in. I almost fell asleep 2 hours after I finished my run the other night! Woo-hoo! Take that, Mr. Sandman, in your face! (Wait, he's supposed to be on my side, right?)

I'll try and promise to occasionally keep you posted as to my progress. In theory, this will actually help motivate me to continue my running routine. Else wise I have a feeling if I end up succumbing to inertia again ... (sigh) ... that will be just one more reason to keep me up at night.

Now, in the meantime, if I could just rest my head down for one minute and qwerty!67huji8k 7yh6gtfr 54ed3ftgvy6njhhhhhhhbfg tv54279 g3 048HJ34HTY 6GGGGG39...zzzz.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Don't Talk To Strangers (Just Listen In On Them Instead)

I have never met either of you before but I came to know you both very well this afternoon without having even exchanged a single word.

I am a voyeur (auditeur?) of sorts ... in a purely non-dysfunctional way, of course; eavesdropping is sometimes just forced upon us by indeliberate means and uncontrollable environments.

Our ears are natural receptors and translators for audio of all kinds. Human language, English language, my language just makes it harder to not absorb try as you may. If only the rest of us had voice scramblers to protect ourselves from the other unintended listeners' personally referenced, personally calibrated, personally tuned-to-their-own-current-radio-me ears and, therefore, entirely unfair!, speech transmission decoders.

Listening by accident does sometimes make for a good story, however.

My "meeting" begins while I am sitting at a favorite Hyde Park cafe outside in the patio area during lunch time. You and you're companion, rather oddly, are sitting at separate tables. But you certainly are engaged in a very animated conversation with one another, and you certainly do seem to be enjoying one another's company. I gather you know each other from before today's lunch date.

I think he likes you.


He adores you.

But I know your type. Although, he might not yet in his experience.

Everyone likes you.


You are quirky and smart, you are attractive, you are energetic, you are of a certain highly sought after pedigree, and as a result the world is yours to do with whatever you please. You are very lucky. You, much to everyone else's disadvantage, know this, too. Assuredly, you do, because you're playing a certain game so very well today.

When you're counterpart asks you how you'll be spending your holiday vacation time you indulge his curiosity by offering your plans in painful detail.

"Well, I met this guy in one of my study groups. He has this place that you can't even get to unless you are flown in. It's on an island somewhere. I forget where but his family owns a resort there."

Your companion is silent. Perhaps a single engine of his own ego-plane just sputtered after receiving this information. But playing his next cat-and-mouse move ever so slyly he rejoinders,"Really? Sounds like he's got a lot of personality. So, he's your new Sugar Daddy?" Touche! Avec l'esprit!

"Ohhh, you know. I'm not so sure."

"What? Confused about whether you like him or not?"

"I dunno. Not really." You giggle your uncertainty, "I'm never sure about these things."

He's hooked again; chances suddenly renewed!

You have him.

Right where you want him.

Because you have been here so many times before, you artful dodger, you! This is your home field and you already have the play book memorized. You needn't cheat at the rules nor steal the opponent's game-plan. You don't need to; it's always been the same old strategy of jockeying yourself into position using that well-worn catalog of stock routines. Then simply: let the contest begin!

'People. They're just so predictable!'

Indeed, we are.

Your cellphone rings. You answer it very chipper because Caller ID says its OK to answer very chipper.


"What?? Who is this?" Oh, come on, you know who it is, "You're sooo funny! (pause) You've been trying to call me for the last six hours every way you can, haven't you? (pause) Well, I wasn't at my house. (pause) Maybe I didn't want to talk with you for twenty minutes..."

Forward march.

The conversation ends with a definite, "Maybe."

Back to the quarry at hand, though, "Oh, just some guy I met last weekend."

"THE guy? Island resort guy?"

"Nooo! Someone else. Hey, are you going to be here for another thirty minutes? I gotta run out and do something real quick! Will you watch my stuff? I promise I'll only be gone for maybe thirty minutes tops! Pleeeeease. I'll give you a dollar if you watch my stuff for just thirty minutes."

Your rates are the lowest of wages with the highest pay-off at stake.

He agrees. Of course, he does. Everyone agrees with you in your familiar Commedia dell'Arte. The same imaginary promise lies in wait for every single interested male or female who agrees to tread water for you: 'I will somehow, somewhere, some day get my due. Just be patient. Persevere!'

Maybe they will, too. Most likely, though...?

Now at this point, I must admit, I am curious. Not about the girl; I know her already. I've held her company for many years beginning back in my more puerile days when I played that game, too. No need to peek; I already know exactly what she looks like, shy of perhaps hair and eye color.

Nope. I want to see the Host.

Ah. Just as I suspected. You're good looking but not Good Looking. You've got decent floppy sandy colored hair. You're probably in a band. Or, in film school. Or, write poetry. You're arty. This makes you interesting. I'm being serious. You and I could be friends, I'm sure. But right now you're your own foil.

She is not sure what circle she wants to play in, ultimately, because she is new to her version of Planet Austin - you can pretty much bet on that. Her aura strongly suggests privilege. You can hear it in every finishing school intonation of hers. While she's busy discovering the different class-types, colors, creeds and breeds of humanity in her brave new world of youth and freedom you are the perfect categorizable and, therefore, representative muse for her.

Hello, "Sensitive Art Boy". Welcome to Princess's shadow box.

There's more. You're kind and gentle. You look like you can get broody and dark. That's NEAT! You're tolerant ... but also suspect. And you should be. I can tell you know better. But Mr. Lizard Brain is only hearing one word right now, "Tits!", and you've been nothing but Holy Sacrifice ever since.

This is a good thing.

No, I am not being sarcastic nor cynical.

Really. It's a good thing.

I loved playing this game, in fact, because it allowed me to finally home in on that precious concept of non-unrequited Love (in my mind's eye different than just requited Love...).

You, too, will eventually bore of this game if not become outright abhorrent of it, Art. The darling faces become reptilian and vague, a soup of pretty colors running into a puddle of nondescript grays.

Flirting is one thing, abuse is something entirely different...

Yes, I have been a Dollar-An-Hour Waiter myself (my rates are adjusted slightly lower to reflect the market at the time ;^).

It was fun, in truth, because soon after, when I finally learned the power of feigned indifference, suddenly that sad-sap's mantra of "Out Of Your League, Dude." became completely irrelevant and one, instead, of "Total Possibility." You see, beauty is its own beast when ignored, wanting in undivided attention it becomes turncoat against its wielder in their desperation.

The art of manipulation (induced by male or female!) works both ways regardless of looks, stature or anything else the TV Shows and "Culture" Magazines (or your very own brainwashed best friends!) school you to believe. It takes a long while to make a craft of it, truth be told, so one cannot expect miracles their first few test-runs out. Albeit, with a little patience... but I digress.

The Austin Chronicle was a good read today so I was able to watch the rest of the drama unfold much to my mild entertainment. Predictably, the half hour turned into forty minutes, then into fifty and then slightly over an hour went by.

She eventually returned, and he had dutifully not moved an inch.

(I believe the contract allowed him a full two dollars and change now!)

"Oh! Soooorrry! Were you waiting a long time?"

(Honey, you tell him! Try this syntax on for size next time: "Oh! You were waiting a long time! Soooorrry!" )

No love lost, though, naturally. Faithful servant to the bittersweet end.

After I finished my last drop of Americano (a Triple shot with just a splash of skim milk and brown sugar) I began the retreat back to my office. As I got up to leave the pretty creature caught my eye and smiled.

'Hi, Princess. Yes, I know you're there. We all do.'

But it was floppy haired, Art, that I turned to and winked at.

'Have fun, man; these are some of the best years of your life!'