The death of a moon cowboy

I am a somewhat-youth with ideas and thoughts and too many dreams that sometimes overflow as these little dribblings from my fingertips. I guess you can try to collect and capture them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We had a group presentation last night in Communications. We did well, as we were the first group to present, but the group that followed us was quite a bit better. We have to do this again next Thursday, so we shall be warned.

I love music. I can just drive and drive on backroads and freeways and sing my heart out and drums the steering wheel to death. It's great. It's motivating. For instance, Audiokarate. They are the perfect tear-your-throat-out singalong.

So I guess we are putting in our 30-day notice today. I feel a bit creepy about it. I will be moving in with my mom, and bringing along my wife and two kids. Could anything possibly sound worse than that? I know it's temporary, so we will make do and save money while trying to pay off more debt and searching for things that life can direct us towards. And maybe we'll purchase airline tickets to Long Beach and Chicago and buy season snowboarding passes.

We will soon rent a different house, and perhaps one year in our lives we'll buy a home with a backyard and a front porch and three bedrooms. All things change, in time. Yes, I will make do.

Ears: Lady Melody|Audiokarate
Eyes: Gong Fu (Kung Fu Hustle) [2004|Stephen Chow]
Mind: newest issue of Alternative Press

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The circus: What I know about the stars [III]

I had never walked on a highway before. Sure, I'd driven on it plenty of times, but walking on it was like entering a gateway into some foreign realm, an alternate reality in which I was an alien with questionable intentions. Whereas a tenth of a mile is but a footstep while driving, it becomes the length of a marathon on foot. The lowly on-ramp alone seemed to forever extend into nothingness.

Once I had traversed up its slope and tiptoed gingerly onto the vast stretch of pavement, I stopped and surveyed the scene. It was inky black out, so much so that the asphalt blended with the horizon in a perfect harmonious sphere, starting beneath my feet and winding its way upward until it was interrupted by a smattering of crystal starlight shards. I was fascinated by these stars, probably the same way a baby is fascinated by that ridiculous turning mobile that hangs overhead in its crib. Anytime I stared up at them, they stared right back down at me and I was stuck in that double-edged stare until good sensibility kicked in and I could rip my eyes away from them.

Tonight the gallant Perseus watched while I roamed, and her highness Cassiopeia sat throned merely a stone's throw from Pegasus and his great square. For a moment I pretended I was Perseus, confronting that vile Gorgon, Medusa. In one sweeping stroke I jumped across the vacant road, lopped the head off her shoulders and picked it up, held high for all to see. The frantically writhing snakes of her hair didn't alarm me, even as they leapt about, attempting to strike, and the dissonance created by their combined hissing nearly deafened me. With a mixture of heroics and disgust, I sheathed my sword and heaved the head as far as I could manage, far over the roadside sagebrush and into the invisible rolling hills I knew existed somewhere in the distance. I dusted off my hands. Good riddance.

My father had taught me about the stars when I was younger, when we would stand outside in a treeless field together, he holding me on his shoulders while signaling to the constellations and stars and identifying each by name. But he had died five years back.

It was the river that took him, in a malevolent act of its always fickle, ever-heartless temperament. That cursed, vengeful river! I remember it well; it was early springtime then. My father had tried to save a friend who'd slipped while crossing a fallen tree that connected the banks above a particularly wild section of the untamed waters. As his friend was swept downstream, my father courageously hurled himself into the river's laughing mouth, only to be likewise taken away by its unpredictable current. They both disappeared, their cries drowned out by the rushing roar. A massive search and rescue attempt ensued. Well, it was massive for my town. But fate was against us in those days, and their lifeless bodies were found two days later, washed up in separate eddies within one mile of each other.

It was so strange and disheartening to me. My father had always been a strong swimmer, a brave man. He and my brothers and sister and I would frequent swimming holes and take turns leaping off of the steeped granite cliffs. We would stay for hours, absorbing the sun with our browned bodies while taking temporary relief in the biting cold of the water.

"Let's see a swan dive!" He'd shout as one of us stood at the edge. We would wait just long enough, until the ability to reason drained out of our bodies and from the tips of our hair to the base of our feet we were carefree and one with the wind, and then we'd blithely jump into the open water. He brought books and we'd all lie on the heated rocks while he read to us from Robinson Crusoe or Of Mice and Men or even A Tale of Two Cities. His voice was gruff but soft, like a shepherd raised by wolves, and he would often stop to see if we understood what had just happened in the story. We would always nod our heads in comprehension, and though much of it was over our heads, we desperately wanted to enjoy the same stories that our father loved so dearly. We would take turns wrestling with him before marching back to our truck to drive home and tell Mother of our daredevil acrobatics and the transpirations of our books.

But like a snake that river took him away, away from me and my brothers and sister and mother and all those whom he loved and loved him back. Our Zeus was stolen by a crooked, heartless Titan of a thief. His granite gravestone in the local cemetery was the last clinging remnant of him that I had. Sometimes I ran my finger along its engraved figures of oak trees and read its etched words aloud. "Here lies Nathaniel Jedidiah Hughes. A loving husband, devoted father, and undying friend. Through his good works, the world has been blessed." I visited him there often; he alone I could speak candidly to – I could open up and flood him with my worries and hopes, my dreams and desires, and all my hatreds, passions, pains and fears.

And I hadn't gone for a swim since he died. I avoided that river as if its waters were polluted with venom.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Toll bridge crossing

Another August weekend has passed. Amy was gone Friday night until Saturday around noon. So it was just me and a couple babies. I enjoyed the extra time with them, but I feel like I was just a wee bit stressed. Bonny came over with Carl and Joe, then William and Jessica showed up to pick up the boys. At this same time, Jarom climbed up onto the entertainment center and the shelf holding the TV collapsed. It was sheer mayhem. After remedying that situation, I put the kids to bed (against their will) and finally settled down with a huge cupful of candy (a proud mixture of Peanut M&M's, Red Vines, and Starburst, provided ever-so-kindly by Bonny) and finally finished watching The House of Flying Daggers. What an awesome movie. It's a tragedy, but it's so well-filmed and cinematographed that you can't tear your eyes off it. Unless, of course, you seem very hot and tired and you're falling asleep, like I proceeded to do the first time I tried to watch it. I love the Japanese language. I just found out Bonny is learning it. It makes me want to also. Add another to my list.

Saturday we took this extravagant journey to Piedmont to attend the wedding reception of one of my old college roommates, Sean Mills. He and his new wife are apparently filthy rich, as this reception was extremely fancy. Luckily, Ben and Whitney showed up also, mere minutes after us, so we had some companionship. Other than Ben and Whitney and Sean, we didn't know a single soul there. We hung around long enough to get some vittles and some free bamboo shoots, then left to go see Ben and Whitney's pad in Martinez. They live in a bit of a dump, but it's free for them and they've made it nice enough. We had a great visit and ate some wonderful cowpies thanks to Whitney's health-conscious sensibility and ingenuity. Then we went home to pick up our tired babes and go to bed.

Except that I didn't go to bed. I wasn't all that tired, and I ended up staying up until 3:20 (!) writing. Writing is so fun, but I am not sure if I'm going in the direction that I would want to at this point. But I've resigned myself; that's okay - I don't need to craft a masterpiece my first time around. This will be my initial attempt, and I'll go from there.

Sunday we were up late for church, but my class was ausente so I got to spend some time with Amy and Bella. That night we made an interesting dinner, I cooked edamame and some salmon, along with prepackaged angel hair pasta. Then Amy made some peanut butter cup brownies and we went up to Dad's house for a couple hours. I was in this mood, something was distressing me. I think I was upset that Jarom is so disobedient at times, and depressed that I want to write so well but haven't really lived up to my own expectations so far. I just needed to spend a moment or two calming and centering myself, and then I was fine, all worries forgotten. I tried reading my textbook for my Communications groupwork homework, but it bored me quickly and I fell asleep.

Tonite is baseball nite. Hoo-ray.

Ah. I do love life.

Audio: Album of the Year|The Good Life
Video: Shi mian mai fu (The House of Flying Daggers) [2004|Yimou Zhang]
Text: my Communications textbook

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The circus: The conversation [II]

Once outside, I walked slowly toward the sidewalk, letting my body soak up the night and eyes adjust to the dimness. I paced a few more blocks, nursing my cola and swallowing hunks of licorice as I passed under the highway overpass, heading towards the strip - even though most, if not all, of those shops would be closed at this hour. There wasn’t an ounce of fatigue in my body. I suppose there was something in the air. A bottle clinked somewhere down an alley as I passed it on my right, and there arose some unintelligible exclamation of anger. With a more hurried pace, I crossed the street.

Up ahead was the least impressive of the strip malls, housing the tattoo parlor, some realtor, and Deb’s Suds laundromat. Deb’s was the only place lit. Inside, two dryers rumbled and shook, but no one was in sight. Three opened and half-drunk bottles of beer stood to the left of the doorway, and a laundry basket was left on one of the washers. But I wasn’t interested in this dead part of town; my legs were leading me down the side avenue, behind the storefronts and on the way to the park, to the left just past the strip mall.

Two soaring pines marked its entrance, next to the splintered wooden "Parsons City Park" sign. There were about twenty benches around here, each one engraved like a tombstone, always 'in loving remembrance' of someone or 'honoring' some unknown hero. The paved walkway weaved past each bench, and I sat on the fifth one from the entrance to finish off my drink and licorice. Some cat yowled in the distance. I looked around the park and its trees and playgrounds, places where I'd laughed and thrown sand and jumped from swings about a hundred times before. Something seemed awry in this limited lighting though, for it was not the old familiar sight I had grown accustomed to. I didn't recognize a thing: not the picnic tables nor the playing field, the climbing trees or the swingsets. I let it go - the darkness was thick and hallucinogenic, plus it was late and my mind may not have been functioning properly. As I sat so pointlessly, I thought I saw something rustling on a bench about four down from mine. I squinted steadily. It looked like someone was there. A pale hand slowly grew skyward, palm facing me – it was a greeting. Without considering the possible consequences, I got up and started towards the ninth bench.

"Hello," I productively began as I neared. I could already tell it was a bum – there was the expected crumpled newspaper acting as a blanket and shelter, and a nest of a head with natural dreadlocks of matted grey and brown hair. He wore an almost respectable but soiled navy green coat with huge pockets and large felt buttons. He was lying on his back, hands behind his head, eyes open, smiling.

"Company - how odd. What, pray tell, is a young lad like you doing wandering dangerous parks at this time of night?" He had sunken eyes, but a warm and welcoming voice, with a bit of a glow about his smile. Normally I am wont to turn and run in a situation such as this, but something comforting emanated from this homeless wanderer, and I decided to humor him with some conversation.

"I couldn't sleep," I replied truthfully. "The streets were so quiet, and I felt like something better than sleep was to be had. Plus it's a wonderful night. I love the nighttime."

"Ah, well something better than sleep is always to be had. You must be a thinking soul my friend. Your name?"

"Uh, Clayton."

"I am Sven. Glad to meet you Clayton."

"You too." I stared at my feet. What was I to make of this? This Sven, a seemingly kind vagrant, coincidentally here and awake on the same night of the new moon that I took to aimlessly walking the streets? Being a rather blunt individual at times, I gauchely began the conversation of all conversations, one that would predestine a great deal of my future choices, though I wouldn't know it for some time. "If you don't mind my asking, why are you here? I mean – well, in the sense of - why aren't you at home resting with your family, getting ready to wake up for the next hard day's work? Is this really your life? This kind of thing has always bothered me." I think it must've come off condescendingly, which wasn't what I intended, but how could it not have?

A pause. Not a long one, but a pause nonetheless. "An appreciable set of questions my young friend. And let me give you a word of advice before I answer." He drew up close as if his next words were a deathbed secret. His breath came whispered and his fervent eyes blazed. "Don't let this old fool influence your hungry mind any, as you have seen tonight with your own eyes what life may do to the seeker who fears the unknown and the path that leads one upon it."

Oh boy, two old crazies in one night. This guy was probably roommates with Gas Station guy. In a town I'd lived in most of my adolescent life, this was about as unanticipated as it gets.

He continued, "I was once like you – an inquisitive mind, a strong youth with high hopes and a passion for life and experience. My parents were immigrants who broke their backs with penny labor, painstakingly saving everything to build a small home for me and my sister, to always provide food, warmth and love, and to teach good values. They prided themselves on being able to send us both to a small private school with the best of rankings and the finest of teachers, even with all of our misgivings. As students, we were ridiculed because we were meager foreigners with odd names and of poor blood. But we did not mind. We studied and worked hard, gaining the respect of our teachers and the best grades in our classes."

He faltered a little, then cleared his throat and seemed to steady himself.

"Ah yes, but this is excess information. What I'll tell you, Clayton, is that my parents were killed in a granary, and it remains an enigma to this day. Murder, accident, suicide – I'll never know. I was about your age. Yes, right about your age, I'm sure of it, and I did not take lightly to this. Everyone and everything was criminal and conspiring: the world, my parents, my sister, even myself. I fell ill many times in those days, and in one of my fits of despair and rage I defaulted my small inheritance to my sister and took to a nomadic life, leaving all that I once knew behind."

"That all sounds pretty terrible. I'm sorry." I was being honest, but I was starting to finally feel tired, and what with all this sitting and storytelling and everything, I wasn't quite sure if I wanted him to go on. "Go on," I said anyway, reluctantly.

He detected my lack of enthusiasm.

"I'll make my point and I'll make it fast. That highway over there," he gestured, "is a grave you see, a grave that is open at both ends. You either die in this town, or you die beyond it. We're all walking towards death, each hour we approach it, each day is one less you have in your hands and one more the reaper has shaved off your existence. I've made my choices and it looks like I'm dying in this town. To you, my friend, I recommend dying outside."

I sighed, with a little smirk, and thought on this a second. "Yeah. Well that's great and all, but what do you say about all these people, you know, the merchants, their employees, families? Should they, too, die outside their town?" I motioned towards the first strip mall I had passed, and all the other buildings behind it.

"Some folks are content on stagnating, living each day peddling jewelry and insurance and fancy clothing, standing on street corners and barking at passersby to get that little shred of comfort that their successful selling buys them. That way of life steals the soul, my friend, and it is not for me. They can die in their expensive coffins, in rented tuxedos with formaldehyde faces, letting their empty bodies infect the soil in which they lie; I'll die here on a bench, with a smile on my face, in hand-me-down clothes, as pleased and full of life as a dead man can be!" He had raised his voice for this last part. He was obviously senile.

"Sounds like a little too much focus on dying to me." How's that for witty.

"Ah, my dear young friend, you have missed my point. Death is but the rind to be peeled off and cast away, life is the fruit that is hidden within! But this in time, you will see. You will see."

"Okay, okay. Well anyway, thanks, Sven, for your time. And it was nice meeting you. But I really should be getting back home now; I've got to get some amount of sleep tonight. So yeah, thanks again. Maybe I'll see you here again one other sleepless night." I said it sincerely but wasn't counting on it.

"Then go, young one, and be free. Come again if it pleases you, I escape during the day but am often here at night, especially when it is as clear and fine a night as this. Rest and be peaceful." He turned his head away and appeared to focus on the stars.

I took this as my queue to exit and turned around, backtracking my way out of the park. Our entire conversation had occurred with me standing and he lying down. I looked back once, just to make sure he was still there, and there he was, an immovable lump on his four-legged bench stallion.

That Sven, what a character.

Now that I'd started walking again, the drowsiness that was creeping up on me immediately faded. Straight ahead, past the rest of the park and the lighted business strip, was the on-ramp to the highway and not a car was in sight. My feet made haste towards it. It sure was a beautiful night.

Friday, August 26, 2005


[This is the in-class essay I said I'd post if I did well.]

I am an advocate for compromise, for finding common ground between the most different of individuals or ideas, and somewhat satisfying the desires of all involved. It helps us to analyze and learn of the reasons that others feel the way that they do, and brings us all that much closer by loosening the ropes which bind us separately to ourselves and our egos. But compromise is not easy, and without it, what would happen to our right and left-wing zealots, to religious extremists, to neonazis, traditionalists, talk radio hosts and the like? The truth is, few are willing to overtly compromise or otherwise change the views that define them, that are inherent to their individualism. William Shakespeare sums up my thoughts concisely: "In time we hate that which we often fear."

Oftentimes, I find the games that are played in politics unsettling. Outspoken 17-year-olds are self-described liberal activists, advocates of freedom, while others are built upon tradition, conservatives following in the foundations their fathers built. Fueling both sides is the innate ability to hate, to despise their political opponents and find their viewpoints laughable, unworthy of consideration, diseased.

This game is not limited to politics. It is played in race, religion, gender, citizenship, and sexual orientation, among others. Life consists of precision stereotypes, black or white; we are all continually marked or categorized as "white Christian female", or "Indian Islamic male". People found their beliefs and stances on half-truths and heresay, and inevitably, hate. Shakespeare has pinpointed a major flaw in human thinking, to regard that which is foreign to us as something to fear. With repeated exposure, this fear ingrains itself into the consciousness as a hatred.

Compromise is my idealist notion of finding the best way to satiate everyone, yet providing the catalyst for learning more about others in an effort to fell our own fears. Soren Aabye Kierkegaard states, "People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid." Compromise. Empathy. Placing some amount of importance on that which someone else values, treasures, or believes. We, as Americans in a free nation, demand that our rights be upheld. We are free, and we say what we wish as a result of that freedom. So we hold conventions, and lambast political opponents, and point fingers, placing blame on the "evil" foreigners and "enemies" to our cause. In our black and white world, we deal in absolutes. You are one of us, or one of "them".

It is my hope that many of us can come to enforce a way of thinking that values all humanity, exploring our differences instead of fingering them as ways to catalog us and lessen our uniqueness and collective individuality. Fear is not necessarily a path to hatred, it can also be a pathway to knowledge and fulfillment. Let us use our fear as a tool to learn, our minds to consider that which benefits mankind and any great good, and our voices to preach unselfishness and a willingness to compromise, so that we may love others as much as we do ourselves.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The circus: Something in the air [I]

Summer's humidity kept me from sleeping. I'd lain on my sinewy futon for three hours with no respite. It felt like hot steam kept collecting on my skin, mingling with the sweat that had already formed at my brow and about my body in an unwelcome baptism of sweat and condensation and heat. My solitary blanket was ruffled at my ankles. I occasionally pulled it up over me for a minute or so before indecisively tearing it back down again, leaving it coiled near my feet. It was one of those nights where the streets called out to you, longing to be navigated, and the clear but empty midnight beckoned with curved fingers and long nails. I had to do something. There was much to be done, I could just feel it.

Silently groping about in the darkness at the foot of the bed, I found the pair of shorts and worn t-shirt that I'd left there earlier in a clumped heap. Somewhere on the floor next to the comforting tick of my alarm clock were my glasses. I fumbled about until my fingers felt the fold of their hard plastic arms; they had slipped from atop my stack of books and onto the wooden ground behind the head of my mattress. Without glasses, my eyes may as well have been the bluish white of a blind man's. They brought an added sense of comfort and renewed equilibrium as I slipped them on. I stood slowly and began to creep across the room, nearly tripping over the weathered old black belt that was given to me as a birthday gift when I turned fourteen. I picked it up and began dressing in the black approval of the conveniently absent new moon, making sure not to miss a belt loop. Once finished I headed towards the back hallway. There was a creaky swath of floorboards on the way to the front door. I could usually avoid it with ease, but I wasn't up to the risk. I didn't want to wake the others.

A small screenless window framed the wall to the right of the back door, and I knew that it was already slightly cracked open, just as I had left it earlier. I slowly slid it open all the way. The whole of me just barely fit through its boundaries, and I hastened to join the leaves strewn about the base of the house's exterior. Oh, the joyous call of freedom! I left the window as it was, hoping it'd facilitate a smooth and quick reentry.

Life was missing from the smug asphalt streets in front of my porch. Huge green-black trash cans, dry rain gutters, and lonely streetlamps pretended to be entirely disinterested at my presence. I decided to stand under the glow of the streetlamp closest to me. Its light flickered and popped around me: bing bing bing. A rebellious breeze created a tornado of fallen leaves and flew past me on the opposite side of the street. Save for the front porch lights, none of the houses exhibited any sign of light or movement. The streetlamp flicked another bing, and then went out in a sputter of orange luminescence. I walked to the center of the road and shoved one hand into my pocket, conveniently finding two one-dollar bills nestled against each other, and then began walking toward the highway. It wasn't quite as warm out here, but that didn't bother me.

After two blocks of blank homes, I made a right onto First Villa Street. This would eventually run perpendicular into the highway and the marketplace part of town, where salesmen left their shops to heckle you directly on the streets, inwardly hoping to lure you into their parlors so that you'd sacrifice your money at their altars of commercial satisfaction. It was so clear and dark out that the stars shone brighter than ever, but the night was like a fat low-lying fog; luckily I had the streetlamps lighting my way, staggered on each side of the street. An old gas station lay a few blocks ahead. It had no major signs, just two pumps and a small white rectangular building with peeling paint that housed the front counter, a restroom and a host of prepackaged comestibles and drinks. The curbs crumbled beneath my feet as the charming gardens of the residential district merged with the dead neon and barred windows of the business district.

The gas station's door was open wide, held in place by a rusted old coffee can full of cigarette ash, dirt and candy wrappers. It was the epitome of true 24-hour convenience. The mindless hum of fluorescent lighting greeted me as I entered. One lonely soul inhabited its walls, an aged uniformed man with slicked white hair and a messily cropped beard. He glanced at me with shallow eyes, then looked back down at his game of solitaire. I had two dollars and I was eager to spend them on something worthless. I slid aside a refrigerator door and selectively chose a bottled cola. Scanning the candy shelf, I grabbed a little bundle of black licorice. The attendant was eyeing me. I gave him the nod, and proceeded to make another round about the interior as if I were still looking for something, trying to shake off the awkwardness I was feeling.

"Stuff'll kill you." He spoke in a gruff voice, but it was timid and quiet, nearly a whisper. I barely heard it; he was still facing his card game.

"Hmm?" I have a tendency to act as if I didn't hear or understand someone, even though my mind sorts out their words immediately after I ask them to repeat it.

"I just said you shouldn't drink that stuff. My granddad died drinkin' too much of it. We found him a day in the winter, sittin' in a wooden rocker, 'bout ten glass bottles next to him on the floor. Little specks of cola everywhere, like blood. Wasn't a pretty thing to behold. I 'spose just about any of that stuff is poison now."

His granddad? This old man had to be in his seventies at least, so his grandfather must have been around that age when he died. I bet cola wasn't even around back then. But I patronized him.

"Sorry." I was always apologizing to everyone, even when I'd done nothing wrong.

"I guess I'll take my chances. Yeah, so... sorry." I apologized again.

I went to the front counter and he rang me up. It came to a dollar sixty-nine. Pocketing my change, I started for the door. I stalled for a second, then swung around. "So, do you even like this job?" I asked.

He didn't hesitate, as if he'd been asked this question a hundred times before. "Well, not much left for me now. Livin' alone, don't sleep that well during the daytime, and I need cash. All I gotta do is keep the light lit and the door propped. This place got no qualms lettin' an old man run the night shift. If I ever get hit up though, they might change their song."

"Okay. Thanks." I didn't really know what he was talking about. Raising my free fingers in some strange salute or farewell bid, I nodded at him again and brisked my way out the door.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My sunless lamentation

'That silly star stalks quietly just overhead, racing to the flat end of our round world. It lingers tirelessly, effortlessly, then as it nears its destination, hurries downward in a burst of fury - a stone dropped into an empty well. So much as one stray glance or the blink of an unexpecting eye and the show is over, stamped out of sight and mind until the next clockwork morning. So is the day and so is the night. Begun with a beginning, ended with an ending. It's a heavenly constant, a routine that torments and domesticates the upward minds of thinking and not-so-thinking men. Of which I am one.'

That's what I wrote as the turbine engines churned and the clouds' horizon swallowed the sun whole. I was watching with strained eyes, never blinking, as the fiery ball diminished and drowned slowly in the atmosphere. It left remnants of its light scattered about the sky. I slumped back in my seat. The double-paned window I'd been looking out was streaked by the hundreds of faceless travelers that had pressed against it. Outside and below me, the airplane's wing shook unsteadily - but thousands of miles of relentless flight had brought assurance in this rickety contraption. There were no birds accompanying us; we were alone in the heavens.

My thoughts were interrupted. "Something to drink?"

"Yes. Tomato juice - with pepper," I replied with eyes still at that window. It needed to be cleaned. I paused for a moment before looking up at her.

She nodded absently with the faux-smile of a flight attendant, then jotted down my request and moved on to the passengers further behind me. I'd had enough of peanuts and crackers and formalities. I was ready to just sit and shut my eyes, not to sleep but to think. I closed my notebook and filed it in the backpack beneath my seat. The chair recline button was stuck, so I put up the armrest and stretched out across my seat and the open one next to me.


"Sir?" Startled by her voice, I jumped slightly but noticeably, and sat up in my chair.

"Tomato juice with pepper." She still didn't look right at me. Couldn't she make eye contact with anyone?

"Thanks." I sort of mumbled it. I guess I had drifted off. Not my intention.

Another abstract morning

I should stop watching so many movies at nite. I love to be aware of certain films and I enjoy watching them and analyzing, but there's much to be done/I could do. I do however, look forward to watching either Pom Poko or My Neighbors the Yamadas tonite.

Crazily, in class last nite I wasn't ready to leave when the clock struck 6:45. I wouldn't have minded if the class stretched on another hour or two. I suppose that's a sign of some kind that the whole Communications major idea is a success for me. Time will tell, but for now I enjoy it and I like my teacher(s).

Hear: Apathy and Exhaustion|The Lawrence Arms
Watch: Alexander [2004|Oliver Stone]
Read: newest issue of Time magazine

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The dangers of [noun]

It's been a busy and extending existence. I was able to guide down the lower South Fork American on Saturday. After two years, I'm not even rusty. It's as they say "like riding a bicycle," I picked it up again quickly and performed better than usual. I had forgotten what fun it can be to sail with the rapids and swim in the current. Except that I forgot to put sunscreen on my face, so my nose and forehead were lobster-burnt for days. A quick day, with a sweet tip and an even quicker ending; it was a worthy day of work. And after all my worrying, my right collarbone has appeared to not worsen, but improve! It was a river-wrought miracle.

Monday nite we played the traditional baseball game. Collarbone still holding up. I was able to hit a few winners, but with the new slick white oversized softball balls, my mitt seemed greased and a few popped out the top. Daylight fades so quickly these days, at first we were able to play until 9:15, now the sun's gone and twilight sinks before 8:30. We have only a few of these weeks left.

Then we watched A Very Long Engagement, beautiful film. The coloring was so unique, earthy tones, brown and golden orange and even somewhat washed out, but it didn't quite look old and didn't quite look modern. Fantastic story, superb acting. I would to speak French. I must add that to my yearly list of things to accomplish. After Spanish of course.

Audio: Fingers Cut Megamachine|Fingers Cut Megamachine
Video: Leon: The Professional [1994|Luc Besson]
Text: The Road to Los Angeles|John Fante

Monday, August 22, 2005

A tale of travel and treasure

[This is the story that I sent up to the A Treasure's Trove publishers for consideration in their solution book.]

It came subtly but strongly as most epiphanies do. My mind was overused, wrung with various ideas and theories on solving the puzzles found in A Treasure's Trove. I had been studying the book in its entirety since early February, the month when it had initially struck my interest and wedged itself deep into my consciousness. But today, I found something concrete.

I was in the midst of working on page 33, my so-called "Firefly page", trying to come up with a solution that would pinpoint the exact location of the Firefly token. I had failed at other pages and decided to try my hand at something new, something fresh to sink my teeth into. The proverbial lightblub sparked when I took notice of the orientation of the acorns around the border, and ignored their sizes and patterns - two attributes I’d attempted before. I found five distinct directions, and with these I created a string of data with which to populate the beloved "5x5 grid" that I had become so familiar with. Many different configurations later, and I was left with a heap of text string results. Some of them looked typically useless, but one stood out among the others. “LAASKTPELA”. It didn't spell anything immediate, but I figured that with the Firefly being the second most valuable jewel, it may require some anagramming to come up with a proper solution. A quick letter rearrangement later, and a vacation-to-be was staring me in the face: Alta Lake SP. My fingers nimbly typed that phrase - substituting "State Park" for "SP" - into an online search engine, and I found that Alta Lake State Park was an authentic, truly existing state park in mid-northern Washington. And the entire west coast had yet to see a token! My solution seemed so solid that I began to grapple with the potential possibilities.

It was a Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, and the next day was a holiday from my work routine. Perfect timing. I did some flight, map, and town research before deciding that this was well worth the risk involved. Regrets are abundant in life, and if I were to come home empty-handed, I’d have fewer regrets than if I never took the journey to begin with.

On Memorial Day in 2005, I flew out to Spokane on a 3:40 flight from Sacramento, arriving at 6:30. I secured a rental car – ah, the privileges of being 25! - and began the westward trek out across Interstate 90. And let it be known that I love road trips, however so small. Windows rolled down, gas station snack stops, and constant map and direction checks are sheer bliss for me. My veins were fueled with exhilaration and my eyes glued to the countryside. I turned off in Moses Lake and took Highway 17 up towards the small towns of Pateros and Brewster, where Alta Lake would lie. It was nearly 10:00 when I arrived and found that the only motel in town was the Lake Pateros Inn – which was less economical than I had hoped for. However, the closest secondary option was six miles behind me; my decision was made with ease. That night I was restless, so I ended up driving the two miles to Alta Lake State Park to see what it looked like in the darkness. I policed the scene, stepping out once or twice to patrol the local foliage and take stock of the signs, the camping areas, and potential possibilities. The park was smaller that I had anticipated. My resolve began diminishing ever-so-slightly, and I decided that a thorough once-over could only be accomplished after a good night's rest. I arrived back at the inn and set about bringing my things into my downstairs room. After I was settled, I called my wife to say goodnight, and shut my giddy little eyes to find some peace and dream of pirate's chests and other such things.

The next morning, I awoke at an early hour to my phone’s alarm. I packed my things, cleaned out, and went to find a brief respite at the Sweet River Bakery down the lane. The smells of a good bakery at an early morning hour are virtually euphoric. With my senses rejuvenated, I headed back up to the state park. Its size hadn’t changed much in the morning’s light, but I was able to start capturing photos in an attempt to document my excursion. I solidified my hopes and began the searching process, starting with the best candidate areas. There was a small picnic area at the front of the park with good knothole-supporting trees (I was determined that the token would be in a knothole). I’d brought gloves, a multi-purpose tool, and a pocketknife as my assistants. Rifling through detritus and debris in each knothole became standard in my search, but always to no avail. Throughout the day I made my way across the entire state park, raiding each different area with renewed vigor and an increasingly time-imprisoned rush. My searches included the beach and commons area at the center, each of the separate campgrounds, the initial picnic grounds, and a scrambling last-minute attempt up a scenic hiking trail. It was a Tuesday, and the park seemed next to deserted as I loped about, looting and pillaging the local foliage. My hurriedness was due to my time deadline: 3 o’clock. My flight left Spokane at 6:55 and I wanted to allow plenty of time for my departure.

That time closed in on me with the stealth of a stalking mountain lion. I could see it happening as the sun burned somewhere high overhead, and in a nonstop fluid motion, raced assuredly toward the horizon. It was all too soon that I reluctantly glanced at my watch and saw those hated hands pointing at the 12 and the 3. Forced to bid Alta Lake goodbye, I slunk away defeated and tokenless to a tired trip home. A few final pit stops were made in Pateros at the local Chevron and the Rest Awhile fruit stand, where I got some food and fruit to help me survive the drive that would conclude my episode in Washington.

And so the routine returned. It was all a short but seemingly endless outing that resulted in not much more than empty pockets and a drift of a hike. I felt some sad sense of longing as I drove out of that tiny town - supposedly holding some 643 souls, give or take - and the smells of the bakery that welcomed me as long as the sun shone. I can't explain why I feel like I am leaving something behind. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe they were too low. I had hoped for an improbable burst of life and excitement, all the while planning for the sad reality that would most likely realize itself once again. I’m not angry or upset; I might be disappointed or discouraged. But the smell of the Washington air that was so new to me, the somewhat-heat of the pollen-tainted breeze that filled my rental car's humming engine vents, those things keep my senses alive. Those people that seemed alien, those Washingtonian foreigners, they are so eerily similar to me and mine. The well-traveled backroad highways, paved decades ago - they speak some testament of my smile for life and the spontaneity and lack of reason that could fuel and refuel me for an eternity. Sometimes it doesn't really matter if practicality speaks loud enough. I guess my ears were muffled at least for a day or two.

Upon safely returning home, I kissed my wife and babies hello, smiled, and quickly got to work on dreaming up my next grand adventure.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bright-eyed and visionless

When I was young and slumbering on my lofty top bunk, there were times when I would see strange shapes and forms floating in the darkness. After all the lights had been switched off, and even that persistent glow of the city had come to rest, they would appear. Clumped together in fuzzy particle shapes, they were some fantastic puzzle from a video game. They would drift every which way, directionless, circular and structured like honeycomb with cotton-swabbed circumferences. The blackscape background would seep through them, as if they were lumps of transparent cells being scrutinized by a boy's microscope. I would remain an observer, silent but aware, following them with my eyes. These sessions could last hours as they scrolled and swayed across the spectrum of my room like a hand-cranked homemade pseudo-television, and I sat there, wordlessly awake, not sure whether I should scream out in horror or celebrate congenially with these flying geometries. Maybe they were disease, virus, pesticide, spore. Maybe curious life forms studying my species. Whatever the explanation, they brought some sort of company to the bleak darkness that held me and my sleeping brother below on the bottom bunk.

These shapes no longer appear to me. The haze of semi-twilight that forms when I press my eyes shut and crinkle my forehead produces a semblance of those friendly airborne visitors I once knew, but they're fraudulent, fakes. The switched-light city-buzzing darkness of my youth is now as barren as the void of space. Occasionally at night, I'll still seek and search the emptiness for my old acquaintances, only to be discouraged by my lack of discovery and fall asleep broken or covering my eyes. And I realize now that my old sights were but illusions, tomfoolery played on the energetic and imaginative mind of a sleepless youth who was confounded by growing up and the oddities that swam in the world he was immersed in.

My, how I miss the nighttime constant of those dear old friends. Now they're not much more than idle reminders of a childhood that once was mine.

Cruisin's not a crime

I met with two doctors last nite. At school. Luckily, I was able to successfully add both the classes that I already was enrolled in and then subsequently dropped from. Looks like my late-nite writing class will be intensive, but that should be nice considering I enjoy writing lately. My teacher, Dr. Thomas Caramagno (the -gn- is like the -gn- in 'lasagna'), has three Master's degrees and a Ph. D. He is a learned man. I do like that, as he's still somewhat funny, with a passion for Monty Python, Douglas Adams, and literature. There will be a lot of essay work, and knowing that my paranoia for essays has diminished of late, the workload doesn't seems so intimidating.

Our first assignment: we were to write an in-class essay based on two provided quotations. I chose the combination of Shakespeare's plus another's whose name I can't properly pronounce and whom I've never heard of in the first place. I felt mildly confident because the words literally flew from my penciltip, I didn't get the usual writer's cramp even with two pages of hand-written material, and I felt passionate about what I was writing. I took Shakespeare's quote of "In time we come to hate that which we fear" and applied it to my personal views of acceptance, compromise and empathy. I told of the stereotypes and black and white world we live in, categorizing and labeling us all, which is oh-so-convenient for an easy fear, hate, or disregard of a group or a way of thinking. Pending a decent grade, I may post the essay here in its entirety, with some freedom for modifications.

The worst part about a class that ends at 9:50 at nite is that my kids are in bed when I get home. I very much look forward to seeing them and playing with them after work, so I can't help my disappointment in knowing they are asleep, fan on and dreams running. But I did blow them kisses and bid them good sleep, as silently as I could manage. Then Amy and I watched Almost Famous. Cameron Crowe creates some excellent films, I am a huge fan of Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky, and Say Anything was great also. And I am looking forward to Elizabethtown. Watching Almost Famous made me want to be a writer badly, just like reading Ask the Dust did. There is so much out there, so much that I believe in and could share, and writing fulfills me somehow, in an indescribable way. William was so young and full of life, he knew what he wanted and approached it with vigor and determination. I'm the old man filled with timidity and indeterminate goals, swaying this way and that with each new week or compulsion. Ah well... I will just continue exploring myself and searching for those things that define me. There are many. But that's my goal, to be part of many things that I hold dear, to spread myself among my interests instead of pigeonholing myself to one solid 'career' that I play out until my hair grays and my skin thins. Stay tuned for more information.

Audio: Say Hello to Sunshine|Finch
Video: Almost Famous [2000|Cameron Crowe]
Text: The Road to Los Angeles|John Fante

Thursday, August 18, 2005


It is sometimes a relief to just saunter home and relax, as I did last nite. Fighting all urges to swim, shop, drive, and so on, we all just sat around, ate, put the kids to bed (begrudgingly), watched a movie, slept. That was that. August has been such a busy month, and hopefully it's beginning some sort of wind-down, even if it makes for less continual fun.

Tonite I shall enjoy a glorious evening at the FLC - Folsom Lake College for you uninitiated - which starts at 5:30 PM and ends promptly at 9:50 PM. I hope that I can somehow re-enter Dr. Knutson's course. Fingers crossed, smiles on.

Aurally: Crimson|Alkaline Trio
Visually: Beyond the Sea [2004|Kevin Spacey]
Textually: new issue of Rolling Stone

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Southern-bound trickery: Watcher in the sky

That long crack on the ceiling always shook me. Each morning I awoke, broke the cemented encrustment that slept my eyelids against one another, and there it was, the first thing seeking my attention. At times I would wonder aloud, 'How long have existed?' or, 'How many lives have you silently eavesdropped into?' or, 'What spawned you?' I would wait in vain for answers. Such impudence, not even a hint of a response! He was the lone Watcher, an omnipresent and all-seeing lord over my domain. Solitude and serenity were his dear companions.

I made sure to keep my gaze averted as I went about my daily routine: hastily showering, preparing toast for breakfast, gathering my things to walk to my car. Every now and then I would steal a glance, and ah ha! He would be glaring down at me. There seemed no escape. Strangely, Shiloh and Patrick had never even noticed this uninvited guest. At least they had never mentioned it. I suppose I was the only one around there with any attention to detail. So I quietly kept the information to myself, determined to do something before he stole another's sanity.

Later that day I would buy some wall putty and a knife to try and officially end his reign as king of the household. I was so sick of being subject to others and their petty requests. But like all of the greatest villains, the wall putty only temporarily wounded the Watcher. Within a day's time, it looked as if I had never applied it, and his stare was as strong as ever.

This could be your next big thing

School was a fiasco last nite. My beautiful class was over-booked (40 students enrolled instead of 25), and I was #1 on the waitlist. I was forcibly asked to leave the premises. "But can I make a case for my staying?" "No, please leave!" So that was that. But I hung around afterwards, like in the movies, and talked to Dr. Knutson. Cracked some jokes, got buddy-buddy, and he said yes I may return on Thursday to see if the class has lessened up any, and he may possibly add me. That's nice.

So I was free earlier than expected, and Amy and I got to go see The Island in Folsom - which is the last place on earth that felt obliged to show it. It's strange that all the women in my family *loved* that movie. I enjoyed it, but felt this bit of distance creeping between my senses and the movie screen, which didn't help me to feel the same way about it as they do. Anyway, it was Michael Bay, so pretty typical to that, with a cool Logan's Run/The Matrix-esque storyline. The plot was the best part. And we all love Ewan and Scarlett, is it possible to not?

Audial: Let Me Come Home|Limbeck
Visual: The Island [2005|Michael Bay]
Textual: The Road to Los Angeles|John Fante

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So 'fraid

Hello, city.
I see that you've been tucked in for the night,
as your fog blanket covers all but the loftiest
of your head and shoulders.
I'm sorry that you're unable to sleep.
The brightness of your wide-open eyes is unmistakable
from my asphalt hillside.
I wouldn't worry though, it is quite beautiful.

You little city.
Your people are so strange.
They parade by in whirlwinds of night,
perceivable only by that errant footstep,
a timely echo, the mechanical clang of a bicycle.
If I turn my head for but a moment, they are gone--
the breeze left by their passing is all that betrays them.

Your breath is always so soft and cold,
and it smells of damp sidewalks and rainforest.
You act so sure, yet you're so afraid, so timid and meek.
You are grand in size and measure, but remote in nature.
And still, you are not a coward, your courage far outstands mine.
I am mute, and I cling to my small patch of pavement,
governing the sloping streets, the corner clubs
and fluid fluorescences that fill your byways.

Be still, city.
You are so 'fraid, so frayed and fearful.
Let your disciples see only your confidence.
Send your voice streaming down those alleyways in a guided rush.
Rustle the scarves and shirttails of the white-collared.
Spook the step-sitters and the would-be criminals.
Extend your hands of mist and collect all that belongs to you.

The city-dwellers do not control you, city.
Oh no, just as you sleep and wake and listen--
and as you smile, cringe, and sometimes exact vengeance,
these folks are your friends and enemies.
Ah yes, we are your symbionts.
Tread softly, city, and be not afraid.

Knowledge day

School starts today. I look forward to it somewhat, a little reluctantly I suppose. I have Dr. Knutson tonite for the "Communications Group Experience!" or something. I must be on time, or he'll notice. Yes, he'll notice alright. And I must purchase the book. I'm dropping my Discrete Structures in Computer Science class because it's 6 to 9 on a Friday nite and I don't want that. Plus I can take it at Sac State should I be accepted.

Audio: Out-of-State Plates|Fountains of Wayne
Video: Million Dollar Baby [2004|Clint Eastwood]
Text: Siddhartha|Herman Hesse

Monday, August 15, 2005

Via the 80

I saw the farmlands and the city married in the valley.
I saw the manmade monsters taxi down their runways for an impending takeoff.
I saw the puffed messes of water vapor hanging suspended just over the horizon.
I saw the skirt of the Wasatch, ruffled as far as vision can stretch.
I saw the abandoned tracks and cars of railways long past their prime.
I saw the salt flats, that great sea of brine, become a desert around me.
I saw the studious truckers, patiently fanning the fire of American economy.
I saw the miles of aging telephone poles and their parallel wires.
I saw the highway soak up oily drips from indifferent vehicles.
I saw the setting sun bleed orange through the haze over the mountaintops.
I saw the lonesome Nevada highway towns of Battle Mountain, Lovelock and Carlin.
I saw the purposeful factories in the distance as they mysteriously smoked and churned.
I saw the fields of green shrubs contrasting the white sand from which they sprouted.
I saw the dark silhouettes of the hills past Pumpernickel Valley.
I saw the single-file milemarkers glint green in my passing headlights.
I saw the miles count backwards toward zero.
I saw the midnight lights of gas station sanctuaries beckoning to traveling shadows.
I saw the steeped canyon walls rise up on either side of me.
I saw the wise and wayward eyes of Reno as he greeted his numerous foreign visitors.
I saw the pregnant belly of the gibbous moon watching over us in her ocean of black.
I saw the sweet city of South Lake Tahoe, welcoming me as an old friend.
I saw the familiar highways merge into street signs and stoplights.
I saw the warm nocturnal lighting of an empty carport.
I saw the steps leading to an unlit porch.
I saw the lights dim in time for my eyes to see no more.
And I saw home.

[West Point, UT to Cameron Park, CA 08/14/05-08/15/05]

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Southern-bound trickery: That guitar

Never was there a more dedicated dreamer. My old guitar case was torn and threadbare, held together by the remnants of hinges and old bits of casing. Covered in stickers, it stood out among my belongings as the most telling bit of the my delayed adolescent years. The guitar and case were a gift from my mother. She once played and crooned and softly strummed, schooled by old folk books and "teach yourself guitar" manuals. But this she gave up with the fading voice of my father as she succumbed to the maternal lifestyle. As I sat outside my snug apartment and thought on her dilemma, her face came to me as distinct as the cracked brown paint on the steel pole to my right. The face didn't speak, it just smiled that satisfied smile of motherly love, which was joyous enough to melt my heart like a pat of butter on a stack of pancakes, maple syrup and all. Tasting that sweetness, I was invigorated.

Then I started playing. I quickly wearied of it and decided it'd be best if I stopped, but I couldn't. I was in that mood where you don't want to do exactly what you're doing, but it's much easier to just continue on doing it anyway. I wasn't very good. My poor fingers could only extract so much talent from such small reservoirs. It was actually quite cacophonous to tell the truth. The smiling image of my mother disappeared instantly, replaced by the glare of the nighttime lights above the laundry room just past our door. And believe me, those lights had no smile, no love or comfort.

It was still fairly warm out. In the distance I could hear the shrill sounds of the excitement that existed everywhere except the very place that I sat. I was ready to lay my sticky forehead on the hard wooden body and try to relax, but at that moment the night caught together and swirled as a black typhoon, draining deep down into the soundhole of my guitar. It churned about for a minute, and then spat itself back out into thousands of tiny twinkling pieces of fluorescent glass, anchored into their framework and eternally winking down at me. I tried winking back for a bit, but became frustrated with my right eye, which winks far better than my left, and at that I decided I should fall asleep. Anyway, what did it matter? I was home alone. The mattress was cold and inviting and the fan was on.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The edge of the world

I pushed off the top of the granite cliff and leapt, my arms arced outward and fingers splayed toward the high noon. My breath was ushered from me instantly, taking flight with the wind. I hung there for just an instant, suspended in a immovable hourglass, the sands of time spilling around me but avoiding my body. It reminded me of the old cartoons I would see as a child, when the great Wile E. Coyote sprinted off a cliff, pausing mid-air just long enough to realize his fate, then disappearing downward in a puff of smoke. With this thought, I suddenly realized my own fate, threw my arms clapboard to my sides and knocked my knees tight.

Far below the ledge, the tranquil crystallinity of the lake's surface prepared to inhale me deep into its lungs. Limbs sprawled and sight vanished; my body tangled itself into a rushing bowline as it hit the water with the full force of sixty feet of inertia. Underneath, I regained my senses and set myself right. Probing the rocky bottom with my toes, I clamped onto the moist soil and propelled myself upward in a momentous expulsion. My breathing returned as my head breached the surface and shone victory over the elements. That towering pillar of rock had been conquered by none other than the marvelous (and yet faithfully insignificant) Artie Bloom! Yes, Mr. Bloom, no longer shall the trees call you coward or the children snicker as you walk past! Your status is secure: daredevil, thrill-seeker, adventurer, knight, hero among men.

Sensation started to find its way back into my palms and feet, pricking bitemarks the lake so ably imposed on my flesh. 'Stung by conquest,' I liked to say. Using broad, lengthy strokes - as if I were some world-class Olympic swimmer - I starting closing the distance between myself and the shore, prepared for the short return climb on the mountain wall. Each jagged little outcropping was a new handhold, my spry and limber body was capable of overpowering new and ever-larger obstacles. Something about plunging into depths unknown held a flame to my blood's wick; I was a candle, bent and burning on soaring with the dragonflies and swimming with the catfish. This must be my destiny - what else could explain this heated inner surety? I again stood tall, again inched my feet close to the steep mineral embankment and closed my eyes, ready for the countdown to liftoff. It seemed that every living thing was staring at me, anticipating that carefree moment when my body would lose contact with the world in a brief lapse of logic. A smile formed at my lips. I decided to kept them waiting a minute longer. I liked the suspense.

Tempt me again, Angora

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Electric birds

Electric birds made of flint and steel -
friction sparks each end of their wingspan.
My fingertips ache to touch the sky like they can.

Soot fills the air as my foot hits the brakes.
I'm stuck in this traffic jam.
We're all stuck with a short lifespan.

The crowded streets heat the air that I breathe.
We leave our lives on the nightstand
and walk out with short attention spans,

just to surf the asphalt in tidal waves of start and stop,
stare out the windows and watch our heartrates drop.
Wipers clean the ash as the smoke pours from the mountaintops.
Sheltered from the sun until the church bells ring out 5 o'clock.

Electric storms sometimes light up the air.
Soaked to the bone in my dress pants.
I just stepped out like a blind man.

Now buildings swoon, moved by plates in the earth.
We're just a blip on a timespan.
This world's just one big island

swarmed with flocks of folks going the way of the tunnel mind.
The light at the end is a hoax that coaxes the resigned.
We fight and we fall and we'll always leave a man behind.
My new shirt and tie left in the mud as I stand in line

to take my turn to wave goodbye.
This is no place for a child.
So with our backs turned, and hand in hand,
our shadows will disappear over the horizon
with the setting sun.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I awoke with a stop. Or a start. I'm not sure which it was, but I do know that it was abrupt. Some startling sound had ripped me from a dream. I had been a miner in the caves of New Mexico, endlessly returning to a fabled gold mine day after day, only to become old and decrepit and worn, made destitute by the riches-hungry fever that had stolen the years. I understand the message, of course, that lusting after wealth will only leave you dissatisfied and empty, searching for more.

But that sound - it was a blinking, aching, maddeningly repetitive alarm. That cursed clock is always rounding me up from my restful wanderlust. The cattle to the corral! This morning was not unlike the others, and I went through my morning ritual with a complete lack of sincerity. The AM stupor lingered on through the same highway traversal, the lack of beauty in the streetside scenery, and my engine's strained speed-limit performance. Drive 20 miles. Turn south. First left past the white rock. Circular driveway. Right there in the middle.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Our rounds about this town

We watched lightning storms and our children be born
and the way that the wind waved the trees.
We stood outside the theatre, some days I would meet her
just to fashion our own history.

We ran 'cross the sand with our passions and plans
just to pass the afternoon in our arms.
With our shadows stretching longer, the earth we swore we'd wander
til we fell from the tops of the palms.

Years around the towns, sun-up and sun-down,
seasons pass and lives whirl away.
Anniversary four, the same apartment door,
and two loving voices greet every day.

Some things never change as the clocks tick away
and the flowers grow high and then fall.
But when her hand is mine through the rain and the shine,
time simply slows to a crawl.

Her laugh a melody and her smile the remedy
for the woes I occasionally meet.
It is she who's my Venus, my complement and zenith,
without her I'm dust in the street.

The glow of her eyes is pastel in my mind
and their jewels set the crown on her head.
Crafted of bone and emerald and gold,
she's the goddess to whom I am wed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I am Enkidu

She did not come alone, but in the company of one of those slovenly trappers. He led her along, grunting the chant that belongs to the herd driver. I watched as the two grains on the distant roadway increasingly grew, looming in their midnight shadows. I could hear the trapper’s heavy-footed stomp transition into a tiptoed dance, his throaty chant becoming a singsong drawl as the distance between him and his beloved city increased. As they silently arrived at the barrier between man and beast, the leaves rustled with scuttling animals – those brotherly creatures of mine who had always been intimidated at the presence of these aliens. And with seasonal predictability, all of the trapper’s courage perished at the hands and sounds of the jungle, and he balked at the very thought of approaching the brush and the encompassing greenery behind it. He trembled in his murderous boots, his slothful belly shifting its weight across the taut ropes around his waist. Sweat crept into beads across his calloused palms, as he nudged her forward. He himself plodded backwards, and loosed his grip on her arm as he mumbled some strange tongue, too quietly to recognize. His cowardice was sickening. He turned slowly, thoughtfully, and then braced himself into a slight trot, ever-quickening into a run as he sank his heels into the dirt-hewn path that led back to the city. I had hidden behind the thick bark of an elderly tree that marked the entrance into the unknown. Moonlight glinted off the mane that fell on my shoulders, creating slatted bars of hair through which I peered. “I am Shamhat,” she announced into the nothingness. I sensed a fear in the shaky desperation of her apprehensive voice. Shamhat. The beautiful, the mysterious, the divine. What will of the gods would ignite the creation of such a wonder? I began to retreat silently, but the moon gave me away with the blink of a shadow, and I was discovered.

That was seven days ago, seven days that were spent in her companionship. This forest has acted strangely towards me ever since. The branches angle away from me as I walk and the grass groans with my weight. For years I was lord of these surroundings. The animals took to me as the young take to suckling from their mother. I was their protector, the great warrior of the wilderness, the feared and loving one! I foiled the weapons and trickery of the hunters and the trappers. I grazed with the gazelle, drank with the wild, and sang with the flocks. We were of one blood, smiled upon by Ninurta!

The watering hole still beckons to me, twinkling in its starry gleam of purity and life. My arid lips long for the quenching fire of that spring. But I am no longer welcome there. The water itself appears to darken and muddy with each forward pace I make. The animals shrink from me, scattering at the approach of my footsteps, disguising themselves among the foliage and darkness - afraid at the inhumanity I have become. They do not understand that I am their friend, the same Enkidu, the loving, the gentle. Enkidu, born of silence, mighty as the vault of heaven! They cannot distinguish me from the fires of Uruk, the fires that blaspheme and desanctify all that we creatures of the world hold dear to our hearts!

Now my coarse and rugged hair has thinned and shortened. That pale white underbelly, essence of vulnerability, has become exposed as the blaze of the daylight cuts into my flesh with searing willfulness. I was once able to pounce and sprint with the most fearsome and free and wild of beasts. Of that I am now wrecked. My feet wander slowly with new tenderness and timidity. My leaps are graceless, my steps a burden. The land is foreign and unwelcoming to this once-loyal denizen. My best efforts are nothing more than fertile teardrops to water the earth, and the return of order as I depart the forest and leave the wild behind. I am treading toward a shameless existence, one defined by battlements and barricades. One in which a heady king creates the will of the people. This Gilgamesh, this serpent in the vines - it is he who has left me forsaken! He has stolen the life from beneath my feet and taken the very soul from my breath. Ah, he shall pay for tempting me, for showing me the way of the weary. I will prevent his cruelties from scarring one more creature.

I know your kind, Gilgamesh! Shamhat has given me knowledge, made me wise to your ways. I know the purpose in your enticement, and your fear of me. I know of your cancers, your deceit in rule and the suffering you’ve inflicted. I know of the unities you have damned, the gods you have slighted, and the stone walls you have built with the burden of men. I will avenge my newly gained brothers. Gilgamesh, you are a hunter of men, just as the trapper is a hunter of beast. I will loose the ropes that bind the feet of the men of the city, just as I spent my days in the forest loosing and filling the traps of the hunter.

I can see the pillars of lamp-oiled fire burning high, eating away at the base of the clouds. The city is before me in the distance, its massive walls like an unwanted funeral pyre in a sacred realm. The hint of charcoal and roasting meat decries its scent across my face, and the crackles of flames are thunderclaps in my ears. How they laugh at me in my foolishness! I hear the muted sounds of the marital parade echoing on the tips of the trees. Ah, the darkness has come - nightfall has sunk its fangs into the horizon like the helplessness that swims beneath the blackened waters of death. Now I must cross this netherworld of dirt and enter the mammoth stone archways, to assemble a new age of rule among the people.

His fortress waits. I am Enkidu.

[The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Sumerian legend, contained within inscriptions upon 11 or 12 ancient stone tablets. It contains the adventures of Gilgamesh, a true hero-king from around the 26th century B.C. One of the most prominent supporting characters in the epic is Enkidu. Enkidu begins as a foil character, a polar opposite of Gilgamesh. He is a man of the earth, protecting wildlife and forest, while Gilgamesh is a king who suppresses his people. Both are near-deities and very powerful. After Enkidu is tamed by Shamhat the courtesan, he enters into a power struggle and battle with Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh prevails, but both men have newly defined respect for each other and become the dearest of friends. ]

[This is a story I wrote for BYU's Collegiate Post, Summer 2005 issue.]