Tuesday, October 21, 2008

muck in the stud

on a cold afternoon somewhere in your youth
seated on the couch with miles in between
she's lifeless as the bare trees outside
having cried the salt out of her tears

she's wearing the sweater you gave her
in a baffling manner of statement
the aroma of her house always seemed foreign
yet that never stopped you from charging in

if you love me this, if you love me that
why can't she just be happy?
finally she breathes out a sigh and turns away
and it gets just a tad chillier in here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Competition II

"I've watched the kids over the years," then, a pause.

My turn to take a deep breath, seemingly sympathetic.

"Actually...hmm, it's their families I usually notice," as her eyebrows bounce in a sort of revelation. Her lips purse. "You know, a horse doesn't care about the same things people do."

"I think I see where you're going," as I nod and take another hit of ever-more-tepid hydration.

"Yeah, it's as though there's something these kids, well, at least some of them, won't get otherwise. I hate to sound overly class-conscious but...I don't know, you can just tell, I can feel it in my belly I guess."

I sigh.


After a moment I jump back in, "I hope you don't mind," helplessly fumbling for the predicate.

Her smile patiently beckons.

"I know the last thing you want is praise...still, I can't help but admire that," all the while feeling my own smile transcend gravity, let alone any hope of restraint.

She looks away for a second and returns with, "Thanks." Gently squeezing my arm she adds, "I had better see how they're doing."

"Good luck. And, thank you, " which earns me one last smile, lingering just a bit as she went. I'll admit it was pretty easy to get caught up in those in those well-worn jeans after she looked away. After recovering a bit, I check her progress from a safer distance and nearly make out a song in those meandering, carefree, almost prancing steps as they navigate the uneven terrain.

Before long I dump the rest of the water and mosey on up to the office in case anything needs attention, such as leftovers from lunch or some potable coffee. While standing around with the owners I learn that this meet was one of the best ever attended at the farm. That's something you like to hear, you know, publicity never hurts.

As we're cleaning up and tearing down I see she's absorbed herself with the riders, and I mean completely absorbed. Not that I would expect glances or even a vibe, but I can't remember seeing someone so clearly, well, in their element, just listening and hugging and congratulating, even as most, representing those with special ribbons and without, are on their way.

Without a doubt the remainder of that evening fulfilled what the beginning had promised, still picture-perfect. Funny, I didn't even listen to music or a game on the drive home. Then, all I could do was sit on the porch, with a mug of broth, and help the neighbors' old beagle watch headlights go by.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Some hymns are just made to end with a drawn out root chord, and the last one we played together begged me to regress through the F major on my bass. Easy enough even for my relative lack of experience at the time, requiring only 3 strings and 3 fingers to bring it on home.

She had joined our worship group a year prior after her first year of grad studies and was now saying goodbye to pursue what lies ahead. She didn't settle at our church immediately upon coming to town, just got acquainted, and some of us feared some of the older ones may have scared her off by urging her to play piano for us. But in the springtime she came around regularly and became one of the College/Career staples as we were labeled.

Thinking back I can't decide whether her determination outweighed my possible mixed signals, or whether her signals themselves were even mixed. Before she joined us I would email her, never knowing fully why, just to say hi. After a while I even came up with a playful pet name. She seemed to enjoy the emails and we got along well; it just felt good to make a new friend with things in common.

But after a while...hmm...and, I don't fault her for confusion, it's just the way it is sometimes. A mutual friend told me she denied any interest beyond purely social, but then, why did things at times seem awkward when I would simply be polite? Why the insistent tone asking for someone to rub my shoulders or sit by me...and, why did she ask to meet my parents that time? And I realize she has an older brother, so how does that fit into the mix...is this just fraternal? Heh, am I actually off the hook here?

Later that day there was a potluck for various reasons, partly to give her a proper sendoff She gave a surprisingly clever and witty speech, then again, not a phenomenal fact given her parents are public figures. As she got ready to leave we kinda side-hugged and she tearfully whispered, to the effect that, it's hard to leave, as I would discover for myself in a few years when stepping out.

As it turns out she got a job offer in my home town and asked me for the lowdown. It wasn't long before we time out, as I have come to call it, and she meets someone, and it wasn't long before emails faded into the sunset as she was becoming more and more convinced that she had found her long-sought prince. Far as I know, she really, really did.

Back in the heyday of that worship team, I had related to someone how she and I would sometimes stay after practice to go through random hymns. And yes, I got the expected comment, sounds like you two make beautiful music together.

Oh how hope rings eternal in the heart of hearts....

But the thing is, God knows, that remark insinuated things that I only entertain in dreams or near-sleep moments when my more visceral ambitions are offstage. Think about it, how the heck can I remember arpeggiating a stupid F chord, note for note, on that platform over 6 years later?

I've observed a variety of personalities over the years, both public and private, to this conclusion...seems we all pursue a legacy, a type of fulfillment by which we spend and accomplish our life toward a purpose, be it clear in one's mind or otherwise. For many it's to live on through direct heirs and for others it's, well, not so much that. A poem is never finished, only abandoned, they say, and a work of art to some is a living being that may even transcend the life span of the artist.

And, how our hopes play out, even as we realize least.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

plastic train

So I had it all worked out. The future was this shinesunny day and there I was waving from my locomotive with ken-doll hair and Osmond smile and the pinstripe shirt and the hat an engineer wears.

Trains were obviously a big deal back in the kindergarten years, those brief fleeting moments before reality has a chance to encroach on the sheer delight of innocence. Never mind the fact that locos had been out of production for over 20 years by then - they had been made in my hometown I might add - and understandably yeilded to deisel fuel and other technologies. Still, every time I wore my little fake pinstripe shirt t-shirt you know that someone said I'd grow up to be a train engineer and so naturally I would drive a huge coal steamer. Heh, come to think of it, maybe just like the one on commemorative display at our favorite local park.

And you gotta understand this kid's imagination. It's like one of those rainbows if you've ever seen, I did one time, so thick and so real you'd swear you could drive half a mile to the base and climb right up it. Once I was convinced there was a safe in our crawl space and even talked some other dudes into going with me to find out it was a cinder block. They were good sports.

By now it should be no surprise that visions of my future self were mannequin like. Last summer I recalled one while hanging out with the girl who lived next door back in the day, as we sat with my folks talking about old times. All along, I'm thinking back to when we were about six and I pictured we'd get married and sit around reminiscing with enormous plastic heads. Uhh, I never told her that so, our secret? Keww.

Well you'd think after a while a body would tend to outgrow the tendencies to idealize the future. And for a while you don't really consider it, it's all just some funny memories.

Then I totally did it again. In my freakin' 30s even, near the age when someone can be elected to the highest levels of civil authority. Sure, I knew I was taking steps in faith and it's brought me to the right place...but it took a while to come to terms with the fact that I'd really bit in hard to the dream, at least in terms of sweat and devotion, and it was this huge thing I had to wrestle with, all the logic, contingencies, which voices and opportunites were authentic then wups there's a rabbit trail...

I guess along the track perfectionism dind't just get the best of me, it's a bum rascal, changing engines from coal-fired to electric and turning up where I'd least expect it. There was this corporate edict issued to STOP BEING PERFECTIONIST and that in itself is, well, perfectionism. Witness?

The saying goes that "experience is the best teacher" and I can't be reminded of that enough - except maybe that, the next level would be to let it teach me during instead of just, well, after.

*polypropylene shrug*

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

nuclear winter

hello again



over just as it starts

strolling through the department store


not exactly glamorous

but times like this we are


they keep the thing hidden somewhere beyond the night

pictures can't do it justice

we look

we smile

we grab

we laugh

we bite

we plunder

the very stench of death kills a little bit with each toke

perhaps unconsciously

and when the bomb hits close enough you'll totally soil yourself

hell of a price to pay for sex education

we came in here for a bathroom mat

for her new apartment and end up roaming all around

funny how we can make a day of this

all the while she silently wants to move in with me

sometimes what occurs in your undergarments

can seem pretty irrelevant

make that



alone at night you push back the thoughts

for years even

then one day you give in to it


you're already screwed


devil's in the details





just like they say

all dust and wind

plenty of charcoal

but don't touch it

if you can still smell anything at all

you'll give your arms not to

just try to imagine going anywhere near the store now


they talk about how a dirty bomb hath no fanfare

but the fallout creeps up on ya like the shits

same difference

steadily succumbing with each panged and acrid breath

at least radiation sickness has a tangible cause

every ache and twinge in your corpse

formerly taken for granted

suddenly humanity's most dread disease

your sole destiny

till the next thought comes along

should you ever again see her face

it will be through your heat-warped lens

oh and did you catch the scar on her forehead?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

wow and flutter

oxidized polymer ribbon betwixt 2 spools and I had dozens of them before my first real job

my allowance, with rare exception, sooner or later lent itself to a small, thin acrylic box containing sound

once I picked up sticks an entire afternoon to procure a Journey release that really wasn't

we made dubbing into an art form in and of itself, spending hours nailing down an all-time Philosophy of Setting The Level

they fit perfectly in a denim jacket's inner pocket for swapping at school, where the right connections make great collections

my brother gave me my first *real* tape, a cloudy-cased Memorex C-90 with
Frontiers and Eliminator back to back from LPs, two albums that need no introduction for 80s rockers

you never forget the aroma of a freshly unwrapped Maxell...

UR series are only decent the first time, and then the more overdubs they get that much muddier, but that's OK for radio stuff since it doesn't count anyway

XLs smell like chrome, and I bought a box of these in 8th grade, eventually having to splice a break in one of them

once you can afford an MX you'll immediately note they are physically heavier from the pure metal film and professional-grade components

a buddy of mine could faithfully reproduce the KISS logo on the label for you with an ordinary ball-point pen

the quality of store-bought tapes depended on the label

some dubs had a way of transcending the original

sometime in 1985 and probably starting with Motley Crue, the Warner Bros labels issued the clear cases and housings that had yet another distinctive smell to offer, like some sweet scented candle you'd find at Spencer's Gifts in the mall

I was a would-be go-to repair guy for cartridges after I'd collected some spare parts in a little box and fixed a couple for my mom I believe

low-peak was safe, and high-peak would distort, so we finally settled on the importance of letting the peaks barely kiss +6dB

once in another town I found a strange brand that had a clear case and little metal reels inside, not bad

discovering the tiny azimuth screw in our tape decks was our Tree of Knowledge, because once you got the best highs there was no settling for muddiness

midway thru my freshman year was when Atlantic and Atco's spine labels went from periwinkle to red

people talking about a party brag about what tapes they're gonna bring, hopefully something cool and hopefully not too. well, different

don't buy TDK, just, don't, even their t-shirts are all nylon

chewed tape can heal over time, but a squeal will only get worse, so dub it and pitch it while the clock still ticks

some dudes would steal them from discount stores or brag that they had, leaving one to wonder which made for a more complete idiot

always, always borrow the original if you can since other people's dubbing jobs are a federal disaster

in the car you had to adjust the deck's azimuth to work with those from your dubber deck, then use a paper shim if it was off

Memorex are typically fluttery but have been known to surprise on occasion

raked leaves for like 3 weeks that one fall and made enough to get a Sanyo knockoff walkman and also an LP, which, yeah, was on tape 40 minutes after I got it home

one dude told me his rap stuff sounded good enough on TDK so there ya go

anything on Capitol or the associated EMI family had a special Dolby noise at the beginning and end that we called a "dweedle"

expensive head cleaner tapes eventually gave way to isopropyl and Q-tips from the bathroom, but keep the ol' demag handy

dang, even my girlfriend picked up on how much difference that shim made in the car's deck

not sure when Fuji came on the scene with those reverse-feed thin cases that made me wanna feed every case that way, but their hi-bias series were sure worth it

once I dreamt there was a player mechanism - mainly visualizing the head and capstan and roller - built in to the chrome plate that surrounds the drain lever in our bathtub, complete with a wall-mounted speaker beneath the shower head and yes it rocked