Blue on Blue


Late night or early morning? I guess it really doesn’t matter.

In either case, I’ll probably sleep right through “Wait. Wait. Ask me Another” …  again.
Damn. That classic Saturday afternoon NPR show has become a staple of my Saturday afternoons.

Now, that would be a rather large “damn” compared to a tiny “damn” … like the one I screeched earlier this evening! Let’s just say that particular one involved Jon, a television, and Wanda, the remote control.

That episode led to a 45 minute long internet journey. Henry rolled the mouse, leaving the cursor prompting me to a page devoted to our ever-gilt guru, Gustav Klimt.

I figured it would drive me to curse or, at least, stir with some degree of distraction. My alter ego’s Id did share a tidbit: the beautifully and soulfully-executed patchwork of colors bore me just a little. (“She said …”)

I do enjoy Gustav Klimt’s murals, however. They stir my loins … this one especially. (That innocent lip-twixter refers to the mural not my loins.)

It would look great, albeit it dreadfully out of place, somewhere here at the humble home I share with my beloved. Frankly, I’d awaken each morning thinking “I’ve died and gone to Biltmore”.

Damn. Damn. Damn. We couldn’t even get it into the house to start in the first groggy place!

Ooops. There, I’ve said it again, Mr. Vinton. You too, Mr Carter. Please accept my untethered apology for my blasphemous lyric-sampling of your 1960’s gold records.

It’s late. That actually translates to: it is four o’clock without so much as a yawn.

(Image: Mural from Vienna’s Old Burgtheater, Gustave Klimt, 1889.)

And It’s Only Tuesday


There are mornings on which I think back to how life actually “felt” in the days without computers and instantaneous communications and transactions. Although it becomes increasingly difficult to do with any clarity, it is still comforting to visualize life with dial-tones, newspapers, and night-long election returns.

We were less likely to rush to judgment; rush to physical reactions; and to rush to verbal responses. It was worth the time to sit down.

Nowadays, the constant barrage of “all things instantaneous” is exhausting, depleting, exacerbating, and a bit frightening. The word “stress” is used probably ten times as often as it was in the 80’s, and perhaps only five times more-so in the 90’s.

I’m tired. It’s just Tuesday. And it’s just past seven in the morning.

There did seem to once be a time when we looked forward to our days.

We also got more sleep. There was such a concept of “bedtime”. And intimacy was more likely to flourish in the home … whatever its components were.

My hatches are unbattened. My guard cowers listlessly on the floor. My motivation is sleeps fitfully in the guest room.

Wasn’t there a time when Tuesdays were less tiring, less dreaded?

Now, I’m just tired. And it’s only Tuesday.

(Image by Ricardo Renedo.)

Before We Had Friend Lists and Since


I have four Facebook friends that date back to my elementary school years at St Pius X Elementary School.

Then with neither intent nor effort, my recall harkens back to junior and senior high school. There were about twenty students with whom I attended every class. Every one. Except, of course, Physical Education. We even all shared “les cours de Français” with the sad Monsieur Bright and the perky Mmes. Norris and Grady.

Of those, I have reconnected with maybe ten and, sadly, disconnected with another two or three.

And then there’s today. I can’t even fathom the number of folks who entered my life in the past forty years. Nor can I guess as to those who, just as quickly, left. I am just thankful that I was never lonely. I had good friends. I had good lovers. I had good partners, except for the anti-Christ.

Thank God, though, that my compulsion for statistics, data, and trivia orts has disappeared into a blur of age, medications, and ever-evolving and ever-dwindling priorities.

Today, on this very Tuesday, however, I can only think about kind and compassionate people. That’s all I have the energy for: in both my painfully ironic surreal “real” life and my social networking.

Further analysis scares me. It’s difficult to believe that I share the very same being with the fifth grader who read Statistical Abstracts before bed each night. Or read U.S. Census reports, for fun, the following year.

Conceptually, I keep coming back to those two grades and the few remaining relationships that I have from the Sixties. Henry suggests that, what once seemed infinite, now can only be readily managed at a meager count of four.

As an aside and on a terrifying level of social network mania, I have a Facebook buddy from my crayon days at Chapel Hill’s Little Red Schoolhouse.

When we were only five.

The Foresight Saga

imageI’ve had a love affair with my eyewear for half a century. I say “eyewear” because it is the term that aficionados and retailers use. Henry calls them glasses. But then again, although he has occasional brilliant moments, he’s nonetheless provincial. After all, he’s a puss.

The optometrist first prescribed glasses when I was in Sr Jane Raphael’s fourth grade class in Chapel Hill. Squinting never really phased me but it must’ve frustrated her and Margy. Three days later my mother brought me home with my new black glasses, the type one sees on a typical elementary schoolboy.

As I got older I became increasingly focused on my glasses. By my mid-twenties, I was referring to them as “eyewear”. They became my constant accessory so that I could always justify the expense. Well, I wore them all the time.

Over the next thirty years, I have had titanium, tortoise shell, copper, and leather frames. Although I always felt poor otherwise, I justified an Armani, several Matsudo, a Jhane Barnes, Ralph Lauren, Joseph Abboud, and more Brooks Brothers pairs than I’d care to mention. Friends would laugh at my skill at rationalizing the cost.

Almost all of my spectacles have been round. Over time, my look went from collegiate Bolshevik to pre-requisite preppy and my favorite, bookish Southerner Bohemian. Today, my style is more of a robe, boxers, and eyewear.

Okay. Okay. That was true until this past February. My vision had been getting increasingly poor and inconsistent. Until the transplant, I’d just need to do without any depth perception and any periphery vision.

I retired my entire collection and locked them in a desk drawer. Hell, I couldn’t drive. My beloved and I are always home. There is never a need to: read a menu, follow a film screen, check a price tag, or read a street sign.

As for televison viewing here at Marklewood, I am usually on my iPad whenever episodes of Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, or Downton Abbey are airing.

At the very least these days, I literally have a completely different view of the world. It is no longer clear. In fact, what I actually see is a painterly landscape. My daily life is now appointed with images reminiscent of Renoir’s faces, Pissarro’s streets, and Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

I am growing to enjoy my newfound perspective, albeit temporarily. Hopefully, with a new and improved heart, my vision will return.

However, if it doesn’t, I’ll be okay with that. That is: except for driving. I miss both it and the implicit freedom. Actually (in a whisper), I used to be an obsessive motorist and resistent passenger. I absolutely had to do all of the driving.

This modern world is different. Words such as “absolute” “forever” and “eyewear” have slipped out of both my lifelong work-a-day and scholarly lexicons. Perhaps they’re obsolete.

I am also at last actually seeing. As I gaze out the Jeep’s window, the view is fresh and unfamiliar. Even after having driven on Lake Wheeler Road over 6,000 times, I now notice signs, houses, even cows for the first time.

Obsessions can diminish. The way I now see it, one must keep his eyes and heart open. Perhaps that would make a profound needlepoint pillow for the living room. Obsessions can diminish.

When and if my eyesight returns, I think I’d prefer to just call them glasses.

(Image: “High Wire” by Daniel Vogin.)

Figments Floating High in Mr Kelly’s Sky



I believe we can fly. I don’t use “we” as a pronoun of political, poetic, and regal ambiguity. I refer simply to you and me. As we.

Of course, we’d need a gust of hope and an aquamarine sky. Sometimes, those images segue into my dreams at night and, when I wake up, I’d swear I was conjuring actual memories. That is, unless my dreams were to involve heinous aircraft crashes or surreal chases.

I have had the air travel phobia since 2001 when I saw Tom Hanks’ “Castaway”. I innocently mistook quiet for safety. My eyes were glued to “said screen” just as the jet crashed into the ocean.

As for the high energy chase dreams, they are probably just like everyone else’s. Someone or something is in increasing pursuit of my tattered robe. Just as my ass is almost theirs, I either awaken in Coach on an Eastern Airlines shuttle to New York. Or I’m flying above the ancient Pin-Oaks and the sodium-inspiring light posts.

Hours later only the essence of such flights remain.

But my midlife optimism doesn’t end there:

When I am sitting outside, staring at the sky, I imagine that I am some sort of silly sprite who hops from cloud to cloud. I might be singing. I might be walking with an old classmate. Or I just might be watching … what, I don’t really know. It’s a grand notion so beyond my ken, that its very definition is static, unknown, or incomprehensible.

So here I sit, on an old and extremely worn green leather chair. I ramble on and on. Managing my own figments allows me control of what I see when I close my eyes later tonight.

I believe we can fly.

Do you, Jonathan Howard, Take Yours Truly?


Days are often long, lonely, sweltering spans of time. Others pass with the wear of a moment. In the past few years, My beloved and I have yielded to both, fretting in fear and cowering in some intimate anticipation.

Our separate lives and the one we share will hopefully endure the bloodied sutures of this harrowing unfold of divine operations. I plan on it. Henry plans on it. Jon is an unrepentent skeptic and relies on my plans. I dare you to quote Mr Burns or Mr Murphy.

Now together for almost fourteen years, we have had quite a few candid discussions about marriage. Yes, beachside nuptials are an option for the two of us. But my generation has fought most often and harder for equal rights, not really marriage.

As it is, the topic is perfect for the occasional shared breakfast. We can obsess and brainstorm “ad infinitem” and then retreat to our upstairs/downstairs separate worlds. I can stretch out in my chair to ponder while Jon props up his legs and meditates with the hummingbirds.

Fourteen full years later, we are no closer to a decision. Perhaps you have advice, Gentle Reader. We must consider inheritance, rights of survivorship, and income taxes. We both worry about the other and his coping skills.

For me, it’s a triple wham of a notion. Southerner that I am, the whole process of finances are just not mentioned. We are both aging co-dependents who make acquiescence seem an artform. I am from an extremely liberal and Bohemian Catholic family. Jon grew up among mid-Western “Southern Baptist ” evangelical types.

Do we marry? Do we simply create indisputable legal documents? We both have sisters who’d likely not dispute anything whatsoever. I have, however, heard that declaration before and seen it throw a grieving mate into the inlaw fury from Hell.

So as this is Friday and “just a day”, please advise me. My mind’s eye debates in gray tones. Do Jon and I just ride out our dotage? Or do we create a magnificent moment?

Look at Me. I’m Bobby Vee!

image image image image

My father used to always chime: “The more a thing changes, the more it is the same.” It enfuriated me.

I was your typical Euclidean Spenserian Jungian teenager. To a wide-eyed dreamer, such a comment struck me as dismissive. A conversation stopper. And impossible to visualize.

That led me to talk less and dream more, at least when my father and I were both at home. Fortunately, our ships passed each other less and less, until we were charting altogether different waters. Hal had meetings and affairs. I had a ridiculous amount of ridiculous extracurricular activities.

Eventually, my father might’ve had ten minutes on Sundays to proselytize and hold his Germanic, stoic, and expressionless court of one. I’d grab my car keys and leave: frenzied, frustrated, and embracing my teenage angst. Hal would never convert, convince me.

Today, on this breezy Sunday, I am reminiscing about those green years in Greensboro. I smile. But then I switch channels to dream-bites of the modern Obama/Boehner world:

There is warfare, of the terrifying sort, in at least four locations. Such horrific conflict is eroding the mid-East.

There is a growing racial tension between under-educated, if not ignorant police departments and righteous, enflamed African American community. It seems to exist in all fifty states, although such hatred is often hidden behind enthusiastic Greek festivals, art gallery shows, and professional football.

I question my values, actions, and secreted thoughts almost daily … except on Sundays. I still have hope for a better tomorrow. My idealism is somewhat innocent but not forced, hollow, or disallowed.

My hair is thinning, graying, and falls past my shoulders, but I never, ever gather it into a ponytail or man-bun.

Any visions of the doe-eyed, hippie-fied Sixties start to blur with those in this new millennium. In fact, I might fixate on Franklin Street and the endless parade of Mustangs, T-birds, Falcons, Valiants, and the occasional Studebaker. I trade those black, red, or white SVUs for wood-paneled station wagons.

Damn. The more a thing changes, the more it remains the same. I’ll give that one to Hal. Nonetheless, his crushing and dismissive undertones linger.

On the other hand, my mother simply let me dream of garden fairies and universal aliens and, now and then, those strapping, brooding Heathcliffe types.

I’ll give that one to Margy.


(Images: from the wonderfully and obsessively detailed “Samplerman” series by Lvang, and first seen on a perusal of the wonderful and quirky “50 Watts”.)

The Fresh Producers: That’s My Watermelon

imageToday was such a perfect August day, one of Lou Reed perfection. At least I think so. It’s been many years since such a Marklewood Sunday peeked at us from the East. And then, upon a positive evaluation, the day opened its eyes from the squint.

My sister Polly and I had a good, old-fashioned “Shelling for Jesus” day.  We shelled two pounds of field peas, cooked them, and took note. We sautéed onions, added a package of my most favorite spicy sausage, and slowly combined the field peas.

You have absolutely no idea, Oh Gentle Reader and Generous Chef. All but a cupful fied into a hand-crafted turquoise tureen. There is a-plenty.

For the rest of the afternoon, we organized and prepped all the produce that easily filled two shelves: squash, honeydews, canteloups, peaches, berries. Polly sliced two watermelons into manageable pieces on which a melon freak might get a little crazy.

For my part, I made a simple scored-cucumber salad with vidalias and balsamic vinegar. My sister cooked ten ears of corn and then sliced the kernels right into some storage piece.

I sliced fresh jalapeños and stirred the slices into two cups of my favorite mayonaise. For those of you who do not live in the US, let me forewarn you. Southerners, if not consumers from all of the continental sbouncerstates, enjoy a rite of passage into culinary adulthood. Most folks seem to have lifelong selections for their “favorite” non-boutique mayonaise, ketchup, mustard, cola. In my case, a nosy guest might find Hellman’s, Heinz, Guldens, and Pepsi.

While there are many, many soft drinks with both many variations and fields of fans, I’m afraid that such a summit would never be a calm, civil display via Roberts Rules or behemoth bouncers.

I swear on the memories of Boar & Castle Drive In, years of transgression therapies have been unproductive. The best kitchen controls are high, broil, and anarchy-fueled domestic dictatorships.

By 5:30 pm, all the produce was washed, sliced, and bagged. Wherever appropriate foods were cooked, we secured the perfect size storage tureens.

We chatted, planned another such afternoon, and just passed away these suggestive dog days. No time had passed in the five years since we had a healthy interrupted visit.

I was so ready. I was so hungry. Eating healthily is its own revenge, eh Emily?

May your dreams tonight be as sweet as fresh Candor peaches!

Shalom. Bon apetit.

(Image: by Kevin Sloan.)