Thursday, December 3, 2015

la joie de la maladie

With a change of diet - both physical and mental - I have been fortunate in my health in the last year. Working at a grocery store kept my muscles toned and my sleep sound. Five weeks ago I took a position at a large financial institution as an administrative assistant, work I am more than capable of doing and for twice the pay as before. Good for my family, good for me. Unfortunately, my new environment, cubed and closer quarters, allows for easy transfer of sneezes and the germs they transport. I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me sneezing and hacking the other day, and earlier this week I woke to find myself among the living dead.

I spent Tuesday resting and went back to work yesterday. However, this morning I woke to find my illness had boomeranged on me. I slept until noon, dreams of choking on bile and of losing a great competition, push ups or some such, against a muscle-bound Viking. I fought the decision as the crowd of dirty, toothless locals jeered and cheered. I woke trying to make my case against the tide. 

The truth is I both love and hate being sick. The hating is easy, especially if you've read Kafka. The sinking feeling in your stomach as you bow out of the day's race, worthlessness on you like a wolf, while wife and child trudge on. I have learned to allow the guilt to wash over me, cleansing me of ego, the enthusiasm of self that we are told is healthy, stripping me down to something to mull over with a whole day of resting that lies ahead. 

But I also love being sick. I love the way sickness forces us to slow the body and the mind, Soma and Myalo. These two athletes inside us, each in love with itself, constantly attempting to best the other and prove superior worth, find the world slowing its pace as it rushes past. Legs abdicate their mission, momentum in increasing mutiny. Shame before helplessness. The two slow to a stop, and they find themselves helpless together and so sit and take up rock-scissors-paper, maybe Go Fish. You feel knocked out of orbit, and with this new position comes a new perspective. You leave the stage and sit in the audience. For me, I begin to see how silly the play itself is, how unimaginatively repetitive the scenes are. I look around expecting to see geniuses around me, Seers, prophets, or soothsayers. Instead, I find only real things. Empty rooms full of angles and lines I can contemplate at length. I cock my head and enjoy new slants. Walk from room to room in perfect silence and stillness. Be your own ghost haunting your home after everything is gone. Recognize you as one of your own memories. For me it is therapeutic, for others I could imagine depressing. And with nothing to distract you, soon you begin to hear all the clatter from within, a din of voices both known and foreign, proclamations of your success, accusations of your failure. Entering the bathroom, the light hits the supporting beam and casts a Caligari darkness across the floor. Amidst the humming of the refrigerator in the other room, it is beautiful and ominous. I think of things that always wait. Stairs in the night. I think of our shadows, the ones inside ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness, and how they seem to have more patience than anything we create. I walk forward toward it. In half umbra I am out of space and time, offline in a way that says I was once an unsettled monk, an aesthetic ascetic, possibly the ruler of the universe (I remember being brought to tears when I first read of him, a brother, a mirror, an ideal), a Nowhere Man in the hills of someone's book or head never to be approached nor understood, his job being only to be. And with that so am I, resigned to run the moral calculations that support a smiling life. Between the sink and the toilet, I allow myself, some strange subroutine of happiness.

Monday, August 31, 2015


I feel as though I am cruising at 35,000 feet. After returning from Tennessee to visit my family, there is always the radical shift from liquid to solid mass, from slow, languid molecular gamboling to tight-ass and relentless fast pace. I was able to let my mind loosen and relax down there, and I felt it begin to tighten again as we crunched down the sad driveway toward the main road back to MN. Things are fast again and busy. My mind flits and flutters with the million things I can and should (not) do. Too many choices. The feeling of too many things that need something from me. It is almost maddening to me sometimes. On the farm, there is sitting, thinking, working, television, and eating - a monastic cycle of passing time. Add in reading and writing, and you are stenciling heaven. Here there is the reality of speed.

I need to find and retain the balance and peace on the farm here, in the roil and choke of urban life.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

with love and squalor

Dear Bro,

Working at a grocery store is strange. After years of prospect research, writing and submitting grants, one finds himself sweeping floors again, shelving cans of soup with a smile. And one day you're at the register dragging a bag of potato chips over the scanner then another, and another, another. You look up to see the woman standing there staring right at you. She is frozen, and now so are you. Her face is asking you something, but you are an idiot. Sure, you can ask, but your years of respectable work in the nonprofit environment won't help.

"I just found out my son was killed in Afghanistan."

Two Fujis @ .39
One box Chocolate chip granola bars @ $2.39

You should break character. You really should. Now. The world simply stops, and it is just you, a stranger, and a reality that has ceased to be.

"I'm...sorry. I don't....I..."

"Can you help me with this?" she interrupts, extending a shaking hand to give me a credit card. The world is offline, and transactions like this are grayed out. I helped. I rang up her meaningless basket of food, bagged them, and gave her a receipt. Going through the motions. That's what we both needed. I played along.

"I send you peace." as all I could muster before she pushed her goods out the door and disappeared into the left side of the storefront window. As she did, a song played in my head, but I couldn't have told you the name.

When I turned back to my register, there was already another customer waiting, hands on hips, ready to get on with her day. I held back the thing pumping in my throat and behind my eyes, but the seconds don't stop ticking. Through a watery gaze, I knew all I could do was play along.

"Paper or plastic for you today, ma'am?"

Days later I heard this and realized it was the song I couldn't place. Enclosed is the CD. I hope you like it.

I send you peace, too.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Followers and Numbers

Hello, all. I don't usually, but today I looked at the stats for this blog. I was surprised to see that there had been, by 4:37 p.m. CST, 137 views. I had no idea that many people were looking.

I'd love to hear from you, one of my few followers. Let me know how you found this erratic blog, and what you like to see.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Aging brings with it a very specific madness, or maybe the whole of it, and it has to be marshaled, submitted to, or killed by hand.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


One of my favorite places in the world. A no man's land between dimensions. The homeless bump against aging money waiting for the play to start. Still dirty and undecided. Just enough of the unhinged to remind me of where I came from. Shouts from cars. Music blaring from god knows where. Moon shouts from around the tables. Feral sounds that make sense to the bottom body only, leaving the rest of find another way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Drinking...Epiphany 204

"And, indeed, I believe many folks drink not out of sadness, nor in celebration. And people think they get it - step away from it all, look at it like a timeline, the whole of your life like a parade, the end of the film, 8 1/2. 


I believe many drink to transport themselves right to the end. At that last station, looking back on it in proper perspective, with the beginning nothing more than a pinprick and the end huge and capable of finishing it, should they wish to to stop right then and there."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ah Dreams

Oh, hi. I'm just roasting coffee this morning, listening to electronic ambient music. Yes, again. I'm also remembering my dream from last night. Huh? Well, it involved me as a wealthy businessman who is contracting with an elderly Japanese couple to make exquisite pieces of pottery. I'm making all kinds of money off of them, while exhibiting what I believe to be genuine kindness. At some point of the story (It was very much a full-length feature film) they tell me the story of a very special piece of pottery that can be thrown. It is made rarely and shared even more so. It is a piece that is made to hold dreams, plans, and hopes. I remember likening it to the gift of a Montblanc fountain pen, but more spiritual (some say one should never purchase a Montblanc for him/herself but it should be given/received out of admiration or as a reward). The story they tell doesn't sound like much to me, and life goes on as usual. Later on, something poignant happens to me, and I am stopped in my tracks. Everything I know is destroyed, and I am laid bare before myself and before the world. I return to the couple, who now have much more money than I do. I ask them to create that special piece on commission, now fully understanding its importance and meaning. Reluctantly, they create it, and it is sublime. The piece is presented to me with full pomp and circumstance. I take what money I have left and pay them for the immaculate vessel. Holding it in my hands for a full 10 seconds to admire it, I then hand it back to them. "This is for you. Thank you." is all I say before turning to leave. It is at this point that I awoke, breathlessly sobbing.

All morning, I have been trying to recall what event caused me to change.

Some dream music for your own confusing slumber.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Other Coat

Out. Flick. Slit. Back.

Once in a while, that is to say, over the course of years, you find yourself, the other part. But long before you find it, you will be it. You will have been it for a while. I wish I could say it was imperceptible, but it isn't. You noticed it, but, like the guy on the corner with the cardboard sign, you told yourself you didn't noticed, and kept driving. Something clicked like bone against bone. Maybe you winced. Maybe you said it was something else.

Out. Flick. Slit. Back.

You are comfortable in your clothes. I mean, you were. You remember when you were. They hung like your chosen thoughts and opinions, and they depicted what you were. And it all fit in the scheme of things, your life, your friends and aspirations.
Then, like a knife from the dark, things change. Pretend it isn't happening. Just a side road. Just a detour on the way to the dream. Side tracked economy. What you laughed you would never do. But life laughs and sometimes not with you.

Out. Flick. Slit. Back.

It's up to you now, and there is no Deus and no ex Machina. There is just you, on your knees before the bottom line, taking stock of where you were, where you want to be, and the time between that takes its sweet, bloody time without you. But when you move forward, this time, it will be all you, the strength in your legs propelling you. And when you are where you want to be, you will have no one to blame but yourself. So grab your coat, the other one. Get to work on the present. Sneak peeks, when no one is looking, at the future.