Friday, December 16, 2005


Fictional Friday

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people’. Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree’. (Is 53:2-4)
The trees - the trees! - wagged their skeltal winter fingers at us but we huddled against them and each other for warmth, the warmth of companionship and bonhomie against the frigid wind. Responsibility was a small herb in the kitchen garden then, not the huge shade tree it is now, now that we are battling demons both real and imagined.

We dabbled at irresponsibility beside the Village Green while our elders went about their bustle, their hustle, and you and I wanted to figure it all out beforehand, to walk into it prepared, with all of our equipment on, while never realizing for a moment that to wait to be prepared would be to wait forever.

The words of Isaiah sang to us, the scripture cribbed itself in our blood for we were foreigners in a foreign land and this was the first crack of sunlight. Youth we extended as far as we could, like gamblers who ran till the money ran out. We never bought into the system because the system was flawed. How could we feel responsibility when the system was flawed? It never occurred to us that Someone bought into a flawed system. He didn’t wash His hands.

We tramped from Maine to California looking for authenticity while scrupulously taking care not to infect it with our lack thereof. Wherever we found it we ran from it quickly less we corrupt it, but we saved the sliver we caught and had it laminated at the nearest Kinkos and carried it with us like a totem. We planned on collecting authenticities till we had a "set" although how do you collect a set that was limitless?


I once haunted the rail cars outside Kansas City looking for hobos since I'd read that such folks once existed and I wanted to see the last American hobo if I could. And I came across an Irish troubador named Makem and I asked for some sort of proof, some sort of Hobo's Union card, and I wasn't sure if he was real Irish. What if his brogue was affected and I didn't know it? How would I know it?

But he sang and talked, and talked and sang, and carried on deep into the night and a convergence of things made me think him real. There were echoes of the hard-living actor Peter O'Toole in his earthy blend of honesty and poetry. It didn't hurt that he was older than the hills since there is something authentic in someone so old, so close to the exit door.

He sang simple songs because he said God was simple and people were complex and he'd rather be close to God than people. I pondered that for a moment, pondered if I much liked simplicity. I thought if I'd had my druthers I'd druther God be complicated. But Makem said that once you go simple, you don't go back. I eventually agreed only because complicated wasn't much working...

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Friday, December 09, 2005


Went out to the old family history website to see if there was anything I could add and to look at the ancient pictures.

My dad looks like such a cherubic little kid in the old photo with him and his mom & dad. There’s surely something unnatural in a son seeing his father as an eight-year old. Ten thousand years of recorded human history and it’s been only the past couple hundred when it would even be possible to see what your parents looked like before you were born. We live in an amazing age.

He looks exactly as I would’ve wished he look. Smiling but shy, shown by the downward cast of the head. There’s nothing cocky or jaunty in his attitude but he's no shrinking violet either, his shoulder blades back and chest confidently stuck out. The blonde hair is neatly combed, the sign of a caring mother? It seems like it must’ve been rare to have his picture taken alone with his parents as they had six children.

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I'm always surprised at being surprised. Afterwards I ask myself how to have not been surprised, as if surprise was something you can anticipate.

But there it was. It was one of those see how much my ol' heart can take evenings and it reverbs still.

First I was driving home from work like any other night, smoking a cigar while listening to the cheerful Irish chunes. A little bit o' heaven.

And then I notice an odor, like someone's burning leaves. I open the window a little wider, sniffing. Next thing I know my eyes are burning and the darkened car is filled with smoke. Dang nab, the car's afire! She could blow! Scottie what should I do? How long can I ride 'er?

And yet why isn't there any smoke coming out the hood? It appeared to be coming from the steering wheel column.

I opened the window wider but the smoke became heavier so I pulled over and took the keys out of the ignition. I try several times to call the local Ford dealer, to see what they think it might be (low on steering wheel fluid cause this?). Meanwhile the cab of the truck continues to huff and puff.

They tell me to bring her in and so I reluctantly re-enter. By this time it's not too bad. A few minutes and I'm at the dealership getting out of the truck when I notice...a pile of ash...a nearly burnt-up CD...

Yes a cigar ember hit some paper and the rest was history.


After that adrenalin rush I get home, check my email and it's from the editor of a well known Christian magazine wanting me to write something for them. I rub my eyes in disbelief. Someone I'd seen on TV had emailed me. Someone I'd seen on TV, an editor from the isle of Manhattan, had taken notice of my blog.

The world is an awfully strange place sometimes, capable of as it is of surprises good and bad.

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Friday, December 02, 2005


Carol’d in the catacombs
of a university reading Greek
myths benumbed by
"Incidit in Scyllam, cupicns vitare Charybdim"
meaning little than one might get credit
for picking Scylla over Charbydis...

Innocent as a boy-scout botantist
studying the Venus fly trap
incurably incurious as to why
it would be called “Venus"
till soon the subtly-set trap
held wide as the Sargasso Sea
would snap shut on this unsuspecting shuttlecock.

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Desperately Seeking Retirement
..a situational comedy
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