Dawn’s Early Light

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Long ago and once in Greensboro, I had a friend who had been trying desperately to quit smoking cigarettes. Dawn had tried everything! She tried yoga, hypnosis, various medications, and “low involvement” support groups.

What she wasn’t able to do, and this had always been her downfall, was muster even an iota of willpower or determination.

And then one evening, after a rather robust and fulfilling carnal romp with her husband, she lit a mighty Salem. She puffed away in a rather seductive manner as befitting the mood, focusing on lip expressions and smoke formations. Mind you, I wasn’t present and she confessed all to me the following day!

What she didn’t notice was that a cinder had strayed, landed on her sheet, and sparked a small fire. Before Dawn was aware of this errant ignition, the smolder had penetrated the sheet, the mattress cover, and finally the mattress itself.

Unfortunately, Miss Dawn and her dutiful hubby slept on a waterbed.

The burn ate through the synthetic casing just enough to weaken its fiber and, naturally, force a leak. A mighty geyser sprung forth … at that very moment. Dawn, in her rather dim yet charming manner, was rather relieved that the water extinguished any potential of further fire.

Of course, that was until she realized that the ashes had probably washed into the hallway. The weight of two bodies was further forcing water out with such pressure that, within moments, almost half of the mattress’ filler had been “evacuated”.

Dawn and her husband were on a king-sized island … about twenty feet from dry land.

That, my friends, was the day that Dawn knew she finally had to kick the nasty habit and quit smoking once and for all.

Mind you, Dawn’s sense of reason was not necessarily well-developed. After much forethought, she devised what seemed like the ideal solution … for her. She would simply smoke a joint whenever she craved a cigarette.

Of course, she wouldn’t sublimate ALL of her nicotine urges in this manner, just the excruciating ones that made her restless and perhaps a little bitchy.

Within a few days, she was smoking nine or ten such hand-rolled delights a day, including one in the morning as she enjoyed coffee and Jane Pauley’s banter. And yet another on the way to work, I am certain!

No one was actually the wiser, except for a few confidants who were privy to her new regimen. Dawn, remember, was already a kooky, rather pixilated woman with a very slow, very Southern drawl. What did change were some of her habits:

She once took rubber bands to her pant cuffs and made harem pants. Sadly, she wore these to her office and was thus admonished.

She lost her car in a shopping center parking lot, took a cab home, and ultimately infuriated her husband. Again, she was thus admonished.

And she started going to lunch at 9:30 each day. She likewise was taking her afternoon break by noon. She not only had gained fifteen pounds within a month, but she had created an endless cycle in which afternoons at work were simply Hell. And it was those times at which she really craved a cigarette.

Poor Dawn! Within a few months, she realized the folly of her strategy to quit smoking. She resumed that awful habit, normal lunch hours, and her previous lifestyle. She was quickly smoking over a pack a day again, having the last one right before going to sleep at night.

But when Dawn and her husband turned off the lights, they would cuddle in their new sleigh bed. Dawn found it finely fitted with a more traditional mattress system, a Serta pillow-top!

Dawn confided in me once that they actually slept more soundly, but that their carnal romps were much less robust than those atop the waterbed.

But she never feared such a flooding again!

And yes, Dawn did finally quit smoking … about a year later when she found that she was pregnant. She never again resumed the habit, at least according to local gossip and reports of the local fire volunteers.

That child is now in graduate school. And dear Dawn is president of a thriving software company.

She is also now fully aware that rubberbands are not appropriate accessories, and that harem pants are best worn behind closed and well-secured doors.

(Image: “Santa Maria” by Ray Caesar, 2007.)

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The Complexities of Speaking Simple French

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Michael was kind, witty, gentle, and given to endless amusing quirks. He’d wear his tortoise-shell reading glasses at the very tip of his nose and, often, drive the long route home, simply because it was more scenic. And he’d respond often in casual French, usually in idioms or “buzz” phrases. He was neither a scholar, nor French, content with interjecting “Mais oui!” or “Zut alors!” or the beloved catch-all, “Mon Dieu!”

In the summer of 2001, he was quite ill. His disease had robbed him of any cognition — his ability to speak, practical motor skills, and a lifetime of memories and friends. Essentially, all he was indeed able to do was eat and walk, although both activities need qualification here. He no longer sensed any taste, only temperature … and he could no longer chew. Walking was strained because he was somewhat paralyzed on his left side, which meant that he dragged one leg while he held one arm. He had just turned 49, but no longer understood the concept of birthdays or their celebration.

Usually, he was incredibly good-natured and resigned to what was happening, if he indeed had an inkling as to such. His frustrations were many but he was nevertheless easily distracted. You can only imagine, friends, what his days were like: empty and void of an ability to express. I would make him as comfortable as possible and just pray that any torment would stay dormant and that he not be in any pain.

However, one such late August day, Michael was restless. He painfully shuffled from room to room, knocking things over as he’d brush by. He found a tool box, mustered the strength to lift it, and hurled it against a window … breaking the window and scattering nails and gadgetry all over the kitchen tiles. He knocked over lamps, books, mementos, anything within his strained reach. Whether from intention or accident, his anger was spiraling into fury.

I was finally able to calm him down a bit: I held him tightly so he could feel my heartbeat and hear the timber in my voice. I never really knew at what point his understanding of my words stopped, for his stares were ALWAYS empty. But talking at least gave me some hopeful comfort. I gave Michael his afternoon dose of thorazine and prayed that it would soon take effect and his rage, subside.

He followed me into the bedroom where I cajoled him into getting into bed, with my hope that he would soon be able to sleep. After ten minutes or so, he’d close his blue eyes and I would head back to the kitchen to start restoring order to the chaos.

No sooner was I on my knees, scooping nails, he walked in and approached me with a reluctant tremble. I took his hand, led him back to the bedroom, and again was able to get him ready to nap. Again, I waited and then returned to the mounting “clean-up” tasks in the other rooms.

Perhaps, my optimism was unwarranted as we repeated those “steps one-through-three” at least a dozen times. At that point, I got in bed next to him, urging him to just stay still for fifteen minutes. That was all I asked. I felt certainly that was all the time needed for the medicine to calm him enough to grow drowsy and, at last, sleep.

But, no! Fifteen minutes later, he stiffly sat up and started to head into the next room. I was beside myself. The day of frustration, bedlam, and such agony had awakened an anger in me. Before I knew it, I had forgotten my role as a dutiful, compassionate care-giver. I grabbed Michael by the shoulders and just yelled (as if in an unleashed last attempt):

“You need to get some rest, dammit. Stay in bed! What, am I speaking French or something?”

Terrified at my outburst, he looked at me and simply said: “Oui!”

We looked at each other and I held him. I couldn’t cry for he’d have no comprehension of “tears!” I just held him, assuring him: “I love you, Michael!” He quietly replied: “love”. I might’ve imagined an intonation but desperately needed to hear it.

Somehow we both understood that moment: each with so much to feel, to express, yet couldn’t.Those were the only two words he spoke at all that day. On many a day, he uttered none at all. And with those two simple words (seven letters, total), he was able to finally sleep as I regained my focus and hope … for that very long day.

“Oui.”

That, my friends, is the moment of joy or hope that I offer you today. This anecdote was never intended to incite melancholy or sorrow, but rather to emphasize the power of a singular instant. And this instant with Michael was both timely and wondrous as it gave us each a craved morsel of hope, dignity, and humor.

Michael passed away eight weeks later, surrounded by the dearest of friends and loved ones. He wasn’t scared, but I don’t think he knew why.

(Image: “Loud Sing the Hours of Eden” by Joe Sorren, 2010.)

Wee Hour Ramblings

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It’s just shy of 4am and here I ponder. I obsess. And I explore the metaphysical haze that rises from the February dew and the balmy breezes that stage my fictional village settings.

My beloved and I usually watch television at night. Downton Abbey, Call the Mid-wife, Doc Martin, Sherlock Holmes, Elementary, Mr Robot and an increasing roster of guilty pleasures. I enjoy crime shows (Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU). Jon enjoys science fiction dramas (The 100, Expanse, Extant) that follow absurd storylines and Telenovela-like spaceship shows.

Oy. We both mumble a bit and slip into a hoarse Sotte Voce derision of each other’s choices. Why don’t murder victims stay dead? Half the time we are told ludicrous backstories.

It must be hard out there for an assassin. It happens so often that one of us always predicts: Oh, he’ll be back. Years ago, on One Life to Live, there was once a long-lost brother to a Llanview Grande Dame.

Half a year into his storyline, he was killed off. He drove his sport scar into a the side of a big “Big Rig”. His fate? He was decapitated, reminiscent of Jayne Mansfield’s end. A few years later, that very character just rolled into town to liven up those lost scenes.

Yes, I must be strong. I best avoid CNN. Those 10pm shows of yesterday still prompt my viewing:

Monday was Medical Center Night. Tuesday brought Marcus Welby MD. Oh, how I am indeed becoming my parents with their Hal/Margy peccadillos. Sure, I claim all the differences, improvements, and more recent popular trends. But Polly and I are so much like our parents … except for social skills and temperment.

So, in closing, I confess my more casual trespasses. But I’ve already deeply-analyzed my issues. And that’s when I fall into the Persian Blue abyss that holds my dreams.

I may study the sky … imagining a kingdom of clouds. I seed turrets, fountains, and windows. I find myself trying to peek in. And therein my blog post begins to take form.

And as I stand up erratically, I see faces in the turret.

(Image: by Alan McDonald.)

Holiday Bow Jobs: Supplies Not Included

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I worked with a young designer once who, although she was incredibly gifted in matters of both design and detail, was rather innocent, naïve, and occasionally dim. I say that lovingly, matter-of-factly, and without the slightest iota of measurable judgment, I assure you.

Normally I would disguise her name as to protect her anonymity and honor, as well as shield myself from her scorn and revenge, but her very name is so apt in this situation that I shall no longer take the risk. I shall simply and most-fictionally refer to her as Beauxette. You, dear reader, may wonder most privately as to what proper given name could be so appropriate and quick to incite a blush.

One day at the office, Beauxette was preparing a holiday flier announcing her availability for home decoration and fluffing, as well her fee schedule to which she would gleefully add her hourly rate:

$75 to create a custom wreath (excluding materials); 
$250 to decorate a Christmas tree, or similar plantlife (again, excluding materials); 
$50 to create holiday flourishes intertwined in a chandelier; 
and $100 to create a seasonal mantle vignette (yep, excluding materials).

I think you get the picture, my friends. My friend offered a full-service holiday treatment for the home!

Needless to say, Beauxette knew her way around French ribbon and could tie an effulgent, gorgeous bow like no one I had ever or since met! Further, she adored Christmas and would certainly treat each assignment as if it were special and her only one … offering the job both uniqueness and full attention.

After completing her flier, she summoned me to proofread her rough draft, as I was the official grammarian at our firm. While she took a break, I corrected the few spelling errors, reformatted it a bit (perfectionisto that I am!), and started toying with various ideas for a better heading.

I had the naughtiest of epiphanies, if indeed there is such a mixed moment or sentiment. I typed in my fake title, with every intention of eventually returning to the project and creating a more suitable and tasteful banner!

I printed several copies and placed them on my coworkers’ desks, squelched any laughter, and awaited Beauxette’s return. She indeed joined me a few minutes later, read the “final” product, and was delighted: 
”Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”

She looked at me blankly as I finally let loose in an uproar that only could emanate from one as naughty as I! Oh my God: I was going to have to explain it to her! Reluctantly, I did. She was embarrassed, not because of any vulgarity but instead because it went right over her blonde, well-coiffed head!

She had no realization that she had fallen victim to (let’s say) the “aural” version of a trompe l’oeil moment.

Beauxette corrected the phrasing and we printed one hundred pristine tasteful copies of “Seasonal Stylings by Beauxette”.

She then hurriedly mailed them out, anticipating a flurry of responses, yet her efforts only yielded one such Christmas project. At least, it was for a full house of decorations, involving myriad rolls of festive ribbon and what must’ve been a mile of juniper garland. Beauxette did, however, share with me her reluctant irony in this matter. When she was finished, and her client was writing her a substantial check, she noticed her flier on the counter. As she approached it, she soon realized it was one of the original “gag” ones I had prepared. Neither she nor the client ever mentioned anything to each other about this most glaring of “errors”. She simply got in her car and came back to the office.

I, of course, was mortified: filled with mental images of humiliation, embarrassment, and tawdry discourse! Fortunately all was averted.

It seems as though Beauxette’s client was also innocent, naïve, and dim. In this case, I remark thus not-so-lovingly and perhaps indeed with a modicum of seasonal judgment!

“Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”. We all still smile about it, except for Beauxette of course. Then again, she was never fond of innuendo!

I think of my coworker often. That is especially true whenever I finish preparing a gift, with a particularly spectacular bow, with all its perfect and dramatic flourishes.

Don’t even go there, my friends! Don’t even look for the key to that filing cabinet!

(Image: “Red Ribbon” by David Stoupakis, 2006.)

Commuting Fate & the Daydreamy Mr Tapper

Art AuctionsWhen I was 30 years old, I worked from 8am to 5pm, endured an hour’s tedious commute to/from, and generally worked every Sunday. I did all the cooking, shopping, housecleaning, and gardening. The anti-Christ and I entertained often, the detail of which were left to my discretion and execution.

YET somehow I managed to get everything done on both my work and home agendas. The anti-Christ and I went to the movies each week, attended most of the Kennedy Center events, and made time to go shopping in Pentagon City.

We also traveled frequently and impulsively: monthly to New York and three or four times a year on some indulgent holiday to Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, or somewhere more exotic. The AC got all the airline travel points in the separation decree. I got the playbills.

Today at age 59, I am retired and have given up volunteer work. Jon does all the driving, marketing, and household missions. I spend most of my oddly-configured day on various writing projects and watching CNN. I’ve been an election junkie since 1968, but Jake Tapper somehow makes it sexier and wittier.

I no longer can cook anything substantial … and certainly not a complete dinner with courses. The oven is almost exclusively for heating DiGiorno frozen and self-rising sausage pizzas.

These factors weighed and considered, I still end my day with frustration and self-flagellation because I leave so many tasks incomplete or untouched.
Time now gets away from me and does so rather quickly.

I am never able to reach forward and just grab it.

What I can do, however, is reminisce back to a time when I could do it all. Of course, I am much, much happier with my beloved.

(“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” by Francis Bacon, 1969.)

The Scent of a Virtual Memorial’s Roses

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We always seem to come back to a problem that never has resolve or relief. How do we grieve for the loss of internet friends? Yes, I mean “death”. Yes, I mean folks whom we’ve never met in person but, through time, have become important. Yes, “we” is the collective of modern internet junkies who actually breathe deeply every know and then.

As in our “day to day”, hopefully extant, and certainly three-dimensional world, such sorrow can be debilitating. And it can be pesky: zapping us with a poignant, weepy, and charged bit of nostalgia.

For me, thoughts of departed friends and family can cascade from my memory right down to the table top. Slideshows of faces can stare back and almost challenge me to “go there” and face those losses that are still raw. Within moments thoughts and being begin throbbing with anger, guilt, and melancholia.

So today, I am thinking of three friends who have passed away in the past year or so, the deaths of whom I cannot seem to move past:

Karen G, who was always lyrical, witty, and certain to always react with kindness.
Scott B, who was a gruff, opinionated, and reactionary asshole. But he was an immensely loyal and enlightened egalitarian.
Farrah S, who was bedridden and spiraling into life’s painful denouement. We’d often talk for hours late at night, solving any and all conspiracy theories as well as predicting political trends.

Perhaps, my subconscious honors them by keeping those profiles valid in my heart. I usually reach the same conclusion each time. Such friends are unexpected and blessed gifts from the Universe.

This year, however, I realize that I am thankful for the time I did have with these friends. We shared joy. We poured our “melted” hearts out to each other and allowed ourselves a relationship without pretense.

I do believe that these three friends helped me grow up just a little more.

(Henry picked this Vuillard bouquet just for them.)

The Big Bopper in a Brechtian Adaptation of Götterdämmerung.

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The past few days have rekindled my ponderances concerning ‘an’ or ‘the’ apocalypse. They fuel the closest of Nature’s anti-Christian propaganda. We give them jaw-dropping instruments and clever tools. Curiosity is center-stage, the greediest principle of these discussions. Our innocence, faith, and hope can all be bartered for what might ultimately become shrapnel for a Merry Modern Apocalypse.

We’ll be lucky to escape the days of dramatic, destructive DeMille-worthy Draconics. Our withered, twisted, pallid bodies writhe before both Satan’s messengers and his Middle Managers. I’d be terrified if I didn’t know how to conjure up the ghosts of Dorothy Maguire or Irene Dunne. Hell just cries out for a woman’s touch.

The terms and mission statements differ among all the speculated time tables, outcome, and long-term results, such as the Prodigal Daughter’s election to safeguard that papal orb.

Not everyone buys into the religious implications and innuendos if the Apocalypse is more of an event: a Passion Play, orgy, or skirmishes pitting our inner demons with the professional ones that Dante made poetic reference to. There are metaphysicists, palm readers, New Testament scholars, the jaded Daughters of Perpetual Scepters, and catechism teachers who soon realize the hopelessness and folly of schedules.

While God seems to often function on a broad but focused itinerary, Lucifer embraces streams of consciousness that eventually dry into a sticky, gooey, and pasty ball of evil. The various Mephistophelan minions might perhaps plan a campus wide sex party at East Carolina University, or leak a faulty list of Target’s Black Friday doorbusters to all of the Pilates classes in Western Civilization.

Of course, we have no idea when the Apocalypse might step forward and finally harken: the end of the world. It may actually represent a long, devastating era in which we are increasingly bombarded with ugly visuals, ugly voices, ugly hairstyles, and the ugliest of souls. How did such a beautiful, dignified, and pedigreed word such as apocalypse become the nadir of time and its crush of humanity?

I tend to probably oversimplify my theories. I am always quick to tidy the room of any mislaid emotions, bitter tears, voodoo dolls, spilt milk, and dead insects that suggest little sill cemeteries. I’d pack them carefully into a box that would make Wells-Fargo proud. And I’d place the box in a vault with a short scribbled message: “Dear Pandora, You fill up our senses like the night in a forest. Fondly, the RNC.”

One popular theory in my household is that the Beginning of the End began in the arid, soulless months that led up to 9/11. The events seem to be escalating. Further, we risk the sad reality that our very fears alone may well end Humanity.

The countless predictions have left us all numb to the concept. We laugh. We joke. We try to bury our terror. And venerate our Tenors.

That terror always seems to be the last soldier standing.

With all the theories of the anti-Christ unnecessarily poised for debates, it seems as though they’re, in fact, all the same. They may be drawn differently. Or have a different name. Or a conflicting font of experience. It is the vocabulary that mind-fucks our senses of reason, compassion, and justice. Our homemade religion might be our downfall yet.

That is: if we empower it or Him. Or the ghost of Berthold Brecht. I bet there’s a lost, now found, musical adaptation of Götterdämmerung just waiting to be produced. Such a gross pastiche of melodies, weaponry, and humanist mythology could usher in the Apocalypse. I can see it.

Yes, I do believe we’ve stumbled head first into something big … a jazzy, peppy, and lyrical Apocalypse. I can just hear the soundtrack queuing: Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross in “Endless Love” or Anne Murray’s entire repertoire. The Big Bopper is not dead.

Perhaps he will save us.

 

 

Dash My Wig and Bitch the Pot, Eugenia

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On my nightstand in a stack of books, you’d find Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary” along with unmentionables, and a book of short stories by the Algonquin maven herself, a Most Real Dorothy. They’re both dusty from neglect with tiny paw prints forming swirls and arcs upon them. I am saving all of my modern era reading to the many months of anticipated convalescence at UNC. I will put that license to procrastinate in my wallet.

I refuse to be bored. I refuse to be lonely. I refuse to feel guilty.

Although I haven’t a clue as to when this might transpire, I am none-the-less reclaiming that time as mine. I’ll use that time in any way that I want: wisely, foolishly, or just gazing out a window and pondering. While it may very well be mentally exhausting to dissect and deconstruct my family’s dysfunctional legacy, it is still by my choice. I am cranky and cantankerous that way, not unlike Mr Bierce, were he in St Louis and if the air were permeated and thick from the Mississippi’s fragrant steam.

Crank is as cranky does. Aye aye, Ambrose, I challenge thee to a rather literate bitch-fest. We, as in you and I, can both reach into our bags of curmudgeonly metaphors and musty malapropisms. You have your “Devil’s Dictionary”, the Satan of which has yet to be authenticated. I can cite snippets and quips from J. Redding Ware’s “Passing English of the Victorian era, a Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang and Phrase”. Whenever the mysterious Mr Ware found himself in a jovial way, he simply referred to himself as Andrew Forrester.

But I digress as surely both Bierce and Ware would as they too enjoyed the art of pondering. Bierce was British, a bit foppish, and five years quicker to rush such a compendium to print. Neither men, however, ever saw such a print, Mr W in 1909 and Mr B in 1914. We could suggest that the two books were both compiled from notes and then printed posthumously. With American writer and occasional bon vivant Bierce, we never really knew: he disappeared along with the world’s innocence. The Great War was demanding a forum for global communication and  a feverish media. Ferdinand made that so. Economics, politics, fashion, and transportation all followed suit, each in its own time.

All of that said, I too admittedly relish rate both wicked and caustic wordplay. Obviously I’d benefit from having read both books, having compared the implied unfold of Dandyisms, and from looking for shared lexicons. I’d also have computers and applications to do my bidding, without so much as a name. Even a century ago, a first name immediately gave the bearer a responsibility and a humanity.

It oddly would at once denote the gentility of a hard drive and a playful fondness for feeding obsessions their due.

(“Dashing My wig” = exclamation like “Fiddle-Dee-Dee” or “Egads!”); “Bitching the pot” = “pouring the tea!”)

Methinks I best go out and tickle my innards.

(Image: “Interpretation of Color” by Vincent Desiderio, 1997.)

Acceptance Seems to Suit Me

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Young Man, it’s beginning to look as though we made it. The ideal lover must’ve skipped a few decades. I found him waiting for me when I neared fifty.

I no longer remember the litany of traits that he absolutely had to possess. Nor  do I recognize the unshaven, long-haired man who sternly looks back at me when I blow the dust off my razor.

Those previous relationships did little to prepare us. That’d be doubly so if the scorekeeper knew that my mind’s eye no longer compares or ranks or bandies the random regret around the sunroom.

Love gave my decades their Smiling Faces.

As he listens to NPR in the next room, my Beloved is wailing, albeit internally: “Oh, woe is me!” or “Oh, woe is he!” The over-enunciated names, the coy smiles, the romantic affectations no longer matter.

The anti-Christ is unable to fill my water glass with that delightful and most Southern of familial combinations. Guilt. Fear. Desperation. Dread. Emptiness. Of course, those feelings linger. I reckon that they always will. They, however and hardly ever, grab a chair and bully me with unspoken intentions.

My heart has reclaimed all of those well-intended moments from that ever-so-sweet sweet Icelandic boy.

The bigger, more boastful loves need neither resolution nor amends. The players are gone, having packed up the world before today and, perhaps, stacked boxes inside one of those millennial “Pods”. I don’t care. I can’t care

My heart only has room for today. And I’ve already given Jon any “Power of Eternity”.

I am ready for the ceremony and its pomp-less jubilee.

That would, of course, refer to both my pre-transplant and my post-transplant hearts and my ability to call them up for circumstance.

Young Man, save a seat for me near the front. Acceptance

(Image: “Untitled [Thinker]” by Esao Andrews, 2006.)

And It’s Only Tuesday

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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.)

Time is More Than an Alan Parsons Song,

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Time waits for no man, and it certainly never has for me. I ponder its diminish and gain in importance. It frustrates me. It scares me. It humbles me.

The Universe owes me nothing but hope, the “walk-away” of Divine interventions. Yes, hope is still mine although, increasingly, less visible and less called to the game.

The universe owes me nothing. It would be foolish, ignorant, and arrogant to suggest that it does.

I must own my recidivism. Yes, that is the very recidivism that a university professor once accused me of using as a bartering tool. Not that he accused me of not achieving. As he suggested by his demeanor:

My dedication, motivation, confidence, and compliance would soon erode and eat away at each other. At least that’s what Dr McC indeed suggested.

That damning prognosis perhaps went self-concluded. Today time seems just beyond my grasp.

Okay. Okay. I’ll sneak in through the Jail’s side door, mind you, directly or otherwise. My pace, these days, is mine.

Those salad days of gray-less ways. The briefest of reminiscence evokes a chuckle. There was once a time when time itself seemed more important that any we’d ever encounter. Twilight days of love, lolligagging, looking to our periphery, and unlocking the secrets of the past … they were certainly deferred to the yes-so-distant future.

We’d savor that luxury and toast the clock, don’t you think, Hope, Vicki, Doug, Charlie, and Albert? Yours was a friendship destined to be the one to endure and survive. But it didn’t.

The Universe’s joke is on ME once again. Life back then, at least as we knew it, was frothy and airy.

It is today that brings with it all the trials of yesteryear. The challenge is head on and the resulting decisions, critical.

Some days, I wonder. When did life get so difficult? When did time become the most precious of commodities?

Yikes! I best begin the hunt for a walking stick.

(Image: “Through the Time” By Gyuri Lohmuller, 2013.),

Skipping Along Moon River’s Banks

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I love women. As a gay man, I might foolishly offer generalizations seemingly due the “fairer” sex. Wiser, more compassionate, fairer, kinder, more loyal, less uptight, more nurturing … Hell, they present a more appropriate creativity with the palette that is “style”.

Of course, all of that is seeded from childhood when we first realize that the mother/son or father/daughter paradigms are correct: both primal and essential to survival.

Most menfolk are attracted to a certain type of woman. In my case, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly is sublime and non pareil. The resulting ideal is bold, yet innocent.

Without my trademark “gilding the lily”, probably another 748 adjectives apply, as most of us have pondered this several times.

The Universe has indulged me often. As an adult, I’ve worked with Liana H, Anna K, Julie H, and Carol H just to point out a few.

Liana and I worked together in Washington, DC. One day she came in wearing a smart Chanelish suit, wig, and pillbox hat. It was the only subject of conversation for days. I think most of us would like to have such confidence in paying homage.

Sixteen- year old Julie was an employee in Chicago. She treated all of life as a genre of art. And she was its impresario-in-waiting. I was 28 and considered taking her to my 10th high school reunion. I cautiously passed on the event, not wanting to even lightly spark mention of the inappropriateness of the age difference. She was, however, quite game.

The other two are from my days in Greensboro. Anna was stunning and, oddly, exotic for a doe-eyed, pierced, and Southern “ginger-ette”. During a horrific time of my life, she was the only person I felt could handle the rawness of exposing her innocence to the sadness, grief, panic, and total uncertainty that defined my world in 2001.

My partner was rapidly deteriorating from Progressive Multi-Focal Leukoencephalopathy or PML. Please google it. It is far too difficult to verbalize and explain the disease and its rapid spiral into anguish.

Anna brought smiles and compassion to a still household paralyzed with the anticipation of death.

Lastly, Carol is the epitome of a Bohemian, intrepid, and kind grandmotherly photographer. I shall be brief.

In the late 90’s, she took a rather extensive body of artful nude pictures of me. Actually, I was “nekkid”. In one shot my jeans were bunched at my ankles while I wore a mushroom-brown fedora. It was titillating, well for me. There wasn’t the slightest reveal of genitalia. We did, though, exhaust ways of draping a duvet without adventuring into a lurid and unseemly nadir.

But I obsess.

What started as a goofy albeit private moment of “Georgy Girl” flashbacks took a shower, dressed in something sensible and Head-like, and turned on Liam, my iPod. Of course, such MP3 players all aim to mature into moderately flashy and trendy timepiece.

The playlist was a “no brainer”: gems from the Zombies, Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground, the Poppy Family, Timi Yuro, and the Ronettes. Add four or five classic Led Zeppelin and the Who tunes and select shuffle. Then pay homage to inspired M.R. covers by Katie Melua, the Honey Trees, Elton John, and the Birds & the Bees.

Such a late afternoon soundtrack would lead to Mancini mayhem of the Mid-Century ilk.

Holly would’ve loved it. With Cat soundly lap napping.

(Image: “Curved Light of the Night” by Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, 1932.)

Dawn’s Last Light

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Long ago and once in Greensboro, I had a friend who had been trying desperately to quit smoking cigarettes. Dawn had tried everything! She tried yoga, hypnosis, various medications, and “low involvement” support groups.

What she wasn’t able to do, and this had always been her downfall, was muster even an iota of willpower or determination.

And then one evening, after a rather robust and fulfilling carnal romp with her husband, she lit a mighty Salem. She puffed away in a rather seductive manner as befitting the mood, focusing on lip expressions and smoke formations. Although neither I nor my spirit was present, Dawn confessed all of the sordid and smoky details to me the following day!

What she didn’t notice was that a cinder had strayed, landed on her sheet, and sparked a small fire. Before Dawn was aware of this errant ignition, the smolder had penetrated the sheet, the mattress cover, and finally the mattress itself.

Unfortunately, Miss Dawn and her dutiful hubby slept on a waterbed.

The burn ate through the synthetic casing just enough to weaken its fiber and, naturally, force a leak. A mighty geyser sprung forth … at that very moment. Dawn, in her rather dim yet charming manner, was rather relieved that the water extinguished any potential of further fire.

Of course, that was until she realized that the ashes had probably washed into the hallway. The weight of two bodies was further forcing water out with such pressure that, within moments, almost half of the mattress’ filler had been “evacuated”. Dawn and her husband were on a king-sized island … about twenty feet from dry land and the comforts of Summerfield.

That, my friends, was the day that Dawn knew she finally had to kick the nasty habit and quit smoking once and for all. She “didn’t make no never mind” that she hadn’t yet determined the mystique of Eve cigarettes. Perhaps Emily Latella was correct and they did have tiny little breasts just below the filter.

Let us not forget: Dawn’s sense of reason was not necessarily well-developed. After much forethought, she devised what seemed like the ideal solution … for her. She would simply smoke a joint whenever she craved a cigarette.

Of course, she wouldn’t sublimate ALL of her nicotine urges in this manner, just the excruciating ones that made her restless and perhaps a little bitchy.

Within a few days, she was smoking nine or ten such hand-rolled delights a day, including one in the morning as she enjoyed coffee and Jane Pauley’s banter. And yet another on the way to work, I am certain!

No one was actually the wiser, except for a few confidants who were privy to her new regimen. Dawn, remember, was already a kooky, rather pixilated woman with a very slow, very Southern drawl. What did change were some of her habits:

She once took rubber bands to her pant cuffs and made harem pants. Sadly, she wore these to her office and was thus admonished.

She lost her car in a shopping center parking lot, took a cab home, and ultimately infuriated her husband. Again, she was thus admonished.

And she started going to lunch at 9:30 each day. She likewise was taking her afternoon break by noon. She not only had gained fifteen pounds within a month, but she had created an endless cycle in which afternoons at work were simply Hell. And it was those times at which she really craved a cigarette.

Poor Dawn! Within a few months, she realized the full folly of her strategy to quit smoking. She resumed that awful habit, normal lunch hours, and her previous lifestyle. She was quickly smoking over a pack a day again, having the last one right before going to sleep at night.

But when Dawn and her husband turned off the lights, they would cuddle in their new sleigh bed. Dawn found it finely fitted with a more traditional mattress system, a Serta pillow-top!

Dawn confided in me once that they actually slept more soundly, but that their carnal romps were much less robust than those atop the waterbed.

But she never feared such a flooding again!

And yes, Dawn did finally quit smoking … about a year later when she found that she was pregnant. She never again resumed the habit, at least according to local gossip and reports of the local fire volunteers. That child is now in graduate school. And dear Dawn is president of a thriving software company.

She is also now fully aware that rubberbands are not appropriate accessories, and that harem pants are best worn behind closed and well-secured doors.

(Image: “Santa Maria” by Ray Caesar, 2007.)

We Never Really Know the Same Motherly Spirit

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Only a few minutes remain in this Mothers’ Day. Sunday night at Marklewood will then be steered via automatic pilot for “wee hour” television viewing. “Eastenders” on PBS is usually the one casualty and therefore saved for later in the week.

True, it’s a mindless soap that fell into excruciatingly repetitive story lines long before ABC’s Susan Lucci was halfway through her string of Daytime Emmy nods.

Back on track: There have been only a handful of mothers whose life, love, and profound nurturing I celebrate: my grandmothers, Dorothy and Paula, my mother Margaret, and my sister Paula. My grandmothers, however, weren’t necessarily of the equal opportunity variety.

The older Paula doted on my father, denying any real acknowledgment of my sister’s and my accomplishments. Dorothy, on the other hand, treated me as if I were the only male in her family, which was essentially true.

Conversely, she viewed my sister as too much of a rebel and was mortified that my sister converted. I never saw my grandmother go to church nor heard her even utter the name of one. She did remain well-versed in the traditions of parental martyrs.

Dorothy encouraged me to follow my instincts and heart. She consistently nagged my mother and my sister, often in a hateful, “Queen Bee-esque” manner. Yet, she allowed me the privilege of manhood or, for that matter, adulthood.

My sister Paula, whom I still call Polly, broke traditions from both family sides. She raised her three daughters with little help, unyielding in her sacrifice or devotion. She was perhaps the only supermom I ever knew.

But Mothers’ Day belongs to Margaret. Her graveside memorial was held on Mothers’ Day 1991. And to me, she was always perfect: kind, attentive, encouraging, and proud of her children. She’d celebrate the day with a couple of Manhattans. I’m certain that Angels are permitted to drink alcohol, though probably not a whiskey cocktail.

Alas! The “Eastenders” theme is queuing and Peggy is back with her misguided maternal small-mindedness. She was the blonde who romped with Benny Hill and then eased into small screen bitchiness. Nonetheless, Henry has wished her a Happy Mothers’ Day. If he so much as hears that voice, he is quick to jump onto the bed and actually watch the program (or at least go through the motions!)

That puss is such a devoted fan.

(Image: “Mothers” by Seymour Chwaste, Pushpin Graphics #64, 1976.)