Sunday, December 19, 2010

three dragons

Many years ago a person emerged from the autumn fog with some long leashes and said look over there, and when I looked over there I felt the leashes slip into my hand, then there I stood with three dragons. I had no clue what their names were.

But over time it's become clear that the first is Ambition. He wants it all, from being a 007 coder to bringing down the house with a 12-bar blues solo, and everything in between. Basically a would-be badass at whatever looks cool.

And then there's the one I call Aphrodite, except, well, she's not what you might expect. You know that girl from school who trips over her own toes and just can't catch a break? Yeah.
After a while the "blond moments" were obviously calculated for effect but she's starting to take hints. I think.

Finally we have Allure. Al's...something else, totally unaware of what the ladies want, especially when he's got a shot. Seriously. Once you've seen an awkward teenage dragon you've seen it all.

Now, put all that together for a traipse through the park. Can't remember the last time they were all on the same page, you know, off in every direction, stopping on a whim, no stone unturned. Not sure if my insurance covers scorching but so far we've been lucky.

Still, though they wear me out and try my the end of the day they're simply irresistible. Not everyone agrees, of course, some look down their nose, because, dragons should be stuffed into a cage and not roam around causing problems, messing up the landscape and disrupting people's lives with their youthful ardor.

That bothered me at first, till one day I was shoveling some dragon doo and it flew into a disapproving eye. Then, the strangest thing happened.

I smiled.


beauty protects the skin
skin protects the woman
there's just no place

Friday, November 19, 2010

bird legs

as for the girl
the boys talk to
but rarely
the one who
comes to mind
at odd moments
and somehow makes
you feel
they say she has
bird legs
kinda stringy
not much
to grab onto
one evening
you both walk out
to the parking
as she plays
with her
keys those eyes
make the sales pitch
the smile
seals the deal
and despite the
bird legs
her leather sleeves
crackle around you
she says i'm
a compulsive liar
you say i don't
believe you
raucous blazing futility
behind a pillar
about your waist
bird legs
what they came for
and as you
drive home
you can't decide
whether you lost
or she won
but either way
she is the
you'll never call
who walks away
bird legs

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Revolution Day

All the pundits will suddenly be correct
You don't know how long we've waited for this
The suits and the hippies finally agree
Belly buttons and aholes everyone's got one
Pot gut accountants been tellin us for years
Who are we to disagree
Schoolyard bullies got their own undies up their crack

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Being good evangelicals, we swarm to the fairgrounds that May evening, to hear Leighton Ford, in-law and close associate to Billy Graham, as he strives to redeem the word "crusade" for both infidel and faithful alike.

The youth from my church waste no time, finding solitude for its own sake, along a paved trail to a bridge at the foot of the woods. Immediately a lit cigarette and maybe a beer materialize and make their rounds as the only bona-fide couple in the group studies French.

As I stand there agaze at the surreality before me, having been heretofore excluded from such extracurriculars, she reluctantly takes a hit of the coffin nail. Later on she tells me she wasn't sure why she did, "I used to smoke but I quit," just as she'd always revealed herself to me.

So I seek refuge, not really finding it in the grandstand, next to two chicks I know by name, as usual, engulfed with inane chatter about boys and boys. And so goes the entire service, even as I see one of the party crowd mope to the makeshift altar, and the razor-sharp chill in the air keeps on cutting. It's as if everyone there knows somebody else yet I evidently don't even know myself.

Afterward, in the twilight she has a choice. Being the alpha for once, at the ripe age of thirteen, I extend my mom's offer to take her home. Somehow I just know, then she hesitantly shuns the others and comes with me as several pairs of eyes hurl their daggers. We meet her dad at the agreed place and I hug her goodbye, but not before she tells me she's kind of glad she didn't go off into the night doing God knows what.

And so the lines were drawn. Some of them blew me off for weeks to come, but she rode a horse to my house and I escorted her back on my bike one summer's day, and so it was, till just over a year later. We got the call as I lie on the couch after school, ironically, having just seen her there not two hours earlier. At least she lived through my birthday as I felt sicker and sicker, until the next day, then she was gone.

(for a friend I'll always miss)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

our year

Mostly children in January and quasi-adults by December. One time this kid actually asked me why I cut in the lunch line, because I'm a senior, all I had to say. Despite asserting my maturity I manage to land a paper wad into the same girl's lap, twice, from across Mr. Runneal's study hall.

You only need to know three words to get by around here: Attitude, attitude, and attitude. Of course the trick is knowing which one of those to use in a given moment.

The Berlin Wall had fallen on our watch and suddenly we have Russian hair band called Gorky Park in league with the regulars. One day a freshman gal comes up to me to bum change for a snack and belts out BAAANNNG BANNNNG.

In the courtyard we'd bum around on the grass and I half-listened to dudes brag about what they do with their girlfriends and contemplate give or receive if ever faced with a prison situation.

We were doing graphics on those shoe box Macs in computer science class and someone is told to erase a cat's tail because it appears too phallic.

As we descend stairs to the gym for commencement someone points out how this is the last time we'll all be in the same place at once. As I say goodbyes afterward I can't help notice all the hair pins on the floor, amazed at how many it takes to attach a girl to a mortarboard.

When the events that summer took a turn no that one could have imagined, people I talk to never cease to remind me how numb-brained stories always fill in the void before the truth is revealed.

I say some things I should have kept to myself but usually pass up a chance to say something I should have. Didn't take the independent living class but could tell the discussions are priceless.

You are your car. You are your GPA. You are your personal and team stats. You are what you create. You are the college you start in the fall. You are your charm. You are your group of friends. You are your reputation. You are your look. You are your image. You are your future.

Every time I see MTV it's that chick singing about her succotash wish.

Bush Sr. builds a shield on foreign sands, and inevitably someone tells me I hear they're gonna start draftin'. That same evening, as I cross a snow-dusted parking lot from Taco Bell back to the store where I work, I could swear for a brief second I was riding on the back of some transport truck in full fatigues. Some of us were already on their way.

While chasing a deal on car wax I come across one of our gals and was surprised at how much she told me in maybe fifteen minutes, and how much she reminded me of my girlfriend from another school. Funny how we're all made of the same ingredients yet each with a unique recipe. Really should have gotten her phone number.

When it comes down to it, you are your heart.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Duke Fabulous Reporting

WELL this is certainly one for all the ages and a few in between. It was last Saturday or maybe one a them other days, and I found myself ex-akkitakillay where I was, in a rental boat on the edge of the lake with not much more than a net an' a bucket. Lately my fryin' pan got to hankerin' real bad for some frog legs an' so there's only one thing left to-do. I say. So here I am a tryin' my best to troll along tha shore line and catch a few so long as they don't hop quicker than a body can swing a net. Well at first the pickin's are right slim but finally there's this great big daddy rascal facin' tha other way, and just as I'm right on 'im there's a knock-knock on the side of the boat. Now, seems to me a feller might expect a knock-knock at a door ever' here an' again but when he's crouched precarious on a craft it can bear, as we say, un-expected results. This bein' the case, imagine my very own surprise to see that bullfrog hop right along cassidy and all the while beneath the Duke's very own shadow. Right after the big splash is when I hears a giggly kind a laughter back tha other way. So I clears off my peepers best I can to find THE orneriest grin behind a snorkel mask that might - an' jest might - have had somethin' to do with my personal state of hydration. So as we make our ways back to the dock 'bout half an hour later ol' Harley who runs the bait shop just stares and shakes his head. As we get out he starts in, dad-GUMMIT Duke! How many a them there frogs you have to kiss 'fore one of 'em turns into a prin-cess? Well by then I pretty much had ta answer tha man so I let a wink and say, I say why, jest the one with the prettiest legs can'cha tell? Anyway hear what the Duke says. Them ol' English yarn-spinners were sure onto somethin' when it comes to a lady and a lake. Duke out.

(with hopes that a certain frog-catchin' uncle a mine gets back out there real, real soon...)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Someone joked the other day about me winning the lottery, which I don't play, but all said, it would amount to a decent motor home and an mp3 player stuffed with every Springsteen track they have. Sooner or later I'll show up in your town to empty the sewage tank and see if you wanna come along for a ways, fare is one six-pack unless you pass a visual inspection. Not only do we get to see and smell the country but throw in a few state fairs and even a ball game in every park in America, and just to one-up the players I'll visit some kids in the hospital, just imagine the looks on their faces as they think, "who the hell are you?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

it's like

Sitting on the hood of your car with a girl from years ago, except this is here and now, in the twilight there's not another soul around, and she can't seem to get enough of you, she asks should we and because you don't know what to say you start telling a story.

She patiently listens and falls asleep, in your arms you feel her breathing to a chorus of bugs, until you find yourself gently nibbling her cheek.

A bright flash of a smile turns into sighs, she runs her hands through your hair and it gets more the more, until, your thoughts take you to the late innings of a ball game.

This joint is packed tight, a grand canyon of souls, most but not all in the home team colors. Season tickets have paid off in the form of primo seats for division playoffs.

The second game could tie the series and couldn't be more heated, back and forth all night, and for just this fleeting moment all thirty odd thousand minds strike a chord, pining for extra innings, because, this is the here and now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

before a fall

At the request of the deskside support team I take the helm of a remote session. They had been trying for a while to untangle a strange issue that keeps someone's email client from opening, and I happened to be the only one on the project with experience and even certification in the platform. Having administered and deployed it for two solid years I inadvertently became a top gun, and every so often come moments where saving the day is a snap of the fingers.

As we go I try to explain things for the benefit of the techs hovering around so they can hopefully have an advantage the next time this happens. Just as I finish up the mods and open the email database I stand up and turn around even before it opens, hearing cheers and accolades from those still looking at the screen as the elusive result unfolds before their very eyes.

And so I'm smiling and slapping high fives all the way as I smack broadside into the door post.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

later that summer

We got a call during the week from the folks a few doors down, retired couple making the sojourn to Florida. Of course we'd love to help load the truck this Saturday and can you bring a side dish for the luncheon? Well, we've already got potato salad coming but how about baked beans? That's wonderful, thanks so much, see you at 8:30.

Dad and I arrive a tad early, he in his work clothes and I in Nike shorts, tank top and my brother's old ball cap. Just as we greet ol' Bud his wife comes out jabbering with a certain young lady with whom I haven't spoken in over a week. I had tried calling a few times since we went out but she never seems to be able to talk long if at all, which just seems odd because up until now our conversations had always come easily enough.

Pretty soon the group rounds out and we start with the bigger furniture as the hens finish boxing up some odds and ends. In and out of the house, on and off the truck all morning we work and joke and laugh and rib each other but she still won't hardly look at me, and if I do get an accidental glance she tries her best to play it off, sometimes well enough to fool me.

Before long we have the big stuff all in place and their son's family are coming over later to help wrap things up so let's eat, everyone to the back porch before the flies carry it off.

Call it fate but there's an empty seat next to her at one of the tables and I figure why not. I plant myself there and hardly find it surprising how she throws herself headlong into a conversation with the ladies and I may as well not even exist. So I enjoy my meal in solitude, being careful to conceal my smile with a hot dog or plastic cup as needed.

When I'm done I arise to throw out my plate. keeping the cup, and then check out the back yard, only to return in a few minutes to see her heading into the house.

Without missing a beat I proceed into the garage, then the kitchen and she stands facing the other way, the wall phone's receiver to her ear. I take a sip of my pop.

After a few seconds she says, "Hi, it's me...yeah we're all done and I've had lunch, so I'll be home after a bit...okay, I will...okay, bye."

She hangs up, leaving her hand on the receiver. I take another sip and move closer. I place my hand on her shoulder. She remains still. I step to within inches, and she doesn't move a muscle. I reach up and brush her hair back past her ear, and she turns slightly as if to conceal a clandestine grin. I lean in and lick the right side of her face, from chin to temple in a single stroke, and then, I walk home.

After showering and resting off the move I end up at a trailer park down the road, where there always seems to be something going on involving slingshots and other crude munitions. I get back a bit after eleven, grab a handful of Chex Mix to graze on as my parents doze in their recliners, then start watching an SNL rerun in my room. Halfway through the guest monologue there's a knock at the window, so I peek behind the curtain and there she is.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

up the river

A small swarm of state cruisers wails past just as we get our bikes onto the highway, spreading a wake of pebbles and dust around our tires, and just as quickly they fade into the horizon. Whatever is going on is way up past the bridge, it would seem.

Just over a mile later we make our way to that spot where the guard rail sprouts from the ground, as if it has roots, and marks a flat clearing where anglers and whoever else can head along the south shore.

For whatever reason we find this overcast morning rife with excitement and what better place to start than the riverbank, since it's probably too early for weirdos to be roaming around yet, not that we've ever seen one. We coast off the road a little ways and come to a stop facing the steep bank with about 40 yards of thick brush to water's edge. A group of us sometimes go hunting down there in winter when the growth is dead, but after a rainy spring it's a world of its own that doesn't welcome our kind.

And that's when it appeared. From beneath the bridge some type of craft emerges, at first maybe a bass boat, but no, it's a wooden raft and with someone on it, or maybe a mannequin. I turn to Jake and quip about there being a float parade here in the middle of nowhere.

As more of the barge comes into view there are several men, all wearing suits and lying in and about a white four-door Continental. Not sure what to think of this until I note the flat tires and blown-out windshield, and then the bullet wounds magically appear, as if someone had switched on a black light in some macabre special effects show.

By now I am unable to look away. It's somehow zooming towards me, forming a full-body death grip and filling my veins with the icy murk of the currents below. Finally I turn to Jake, finding him pale and still as a limestone monument straddling his bike seat.

"Hey -"

He doesn't move. I lean to take a swat and barely get the sleeve of his faded gray t-shirt, having to catch myself from falling over in the process. This brings him out of the spell a bit and he shifts his lifeless gaze down into the foreboding vastness of vegetation.

"Let's go."

Jake draws a deep breath and starts maneuvering his bike toward the road. I hold off at first to make sure he's able to keep it together, and then, I follow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the earth is my body

We stand in this sepia landscape, my older sister and I, next to a runoff ditch near our house, except, here we live in a farm house, and where the neighbors' should be.

But the ditch is dry and I am finding out that it can talk to us. They explain it to me as if queuing a sound bite, then a deep resounding voice has its moment, "the earth is my body."

I wander around in the wispy grass, noting weeds and withered cattails that line the eroded creek bend, and a small bare tree protruding near the bank, just a stick really, "that's his pee-pee," my sister tells me.

Then I turn and hurry toward the house as it all fades to the tune of a buzzing alarm clock.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

that odd-numbered year

The economy is down, unemployment is up here in "free" half of the planet but it keeps on spinnin' just the same. For me it's not so much the threat of the bomb, it's more that the Iron Curtain is so opaque. I choose not to watch The Day After but hear about it at school.

One time I waited while my mom got groceries, lying down in the back seat of our '71 Monte Carlo. Two dudes I didn't know, with partially grown-out Mohawks, knock on the window above my head and ask if I have any matches. Seems I should take that as some kind of compliment.

Hanging out with a buddy I learn that 50's sounding song from the radio is actually a new group called the Stray Cats. Back then we'd sit in church with felt-tip pens and insert guns and grenades into the cartoon hands of unsuspecting Bible characters.

My sister is expecting again, and so we become blessed with one of my favorite brunettes ever.

Sooner or later we end up at a discount store called Rink's. Even though I had shied away from popular music when I had a near-nervous breakdown and accepted Christ last year, I find myself taking a look through the records and tapes. The Police, Journey, and Styx are all on an end cap with their slick cover art and strange symbols. The Styx release has a robot face and even says it contains backward messages, maybe even the kind that make you worship the devil, and so the End Times will probably happen before the next Olympics.

In my last year as a student in Vacation Bible School there were five of us in the "sixth grade" class, which we would start officially next fall. Two girls and three boys, the latter of which went to my school, one of them living next to my sister's family. Sad to realize at a young age how fast friends are rarely the best kind.

The summer is filled with uber-hot days that encourage me to stay inside, usually the house and sometimes Radio Shack. When I start back to school we change for gym and I can't believe how everyone else is tan around their shorts. By then all the girls are in heat over Michael Jackson, and one of the dudes cracks me up every day retelling the comedy routines he hears on cable channels.

Every night at the supper table there's a waxed paper half gallon of Clyde Evans store-brand milk with the owner's name on it. My friend's mom works in one of his delis. There is a S-A-V-E in EVANS.

Here lately the other kids seem to spend a lot of time standing around talking, and whenever I walk by it seems that's all there is to it, just talking. We used to just go with the flow and play stupid games all the time.

To escape the heat we head north to camp on the shore of Lake Huron, and Ontario's quasi-puritanical charm was the perfect oasis. There's a picture somewhere of me dragging my dad's pocket comb across the sand, as if I were a "beach comber." Get it? Anyway there are also shots of storm clouds I tried to capture in black and white film back then, because storms brought refuge from the sun, but it all taught me there are some things you just have to experience.

My childhood friend and girl next door is turning into a young woman and that's just insane, even though she still has me over to play Atari. Both her parents work and so some days she comes over after school to push my buttons. One time her dad butchered their chickens in the back yard. All said, my first real taste of dark humor.

Where's the Beef?

Mom has choir practice before the Sunday evening praise service, so Dad and I get milk shakes unless we pick up a lady and her toddler son, and either of those is kinda fun. With the shakes it's a hard choice between mocha and mint chocolate chip. We always drive the pickup, the same one used to haul firewood that he cuts around the area, sometimes with my older brother. It's like pulling teeth to get me to help out with that kind of thing. The buzzing saw gets old really quick, plus it's either too hot or cold and I end up waiting it out the cab.

Another one of the neighborhood girls just drives me insane. Period. There's a bug-zapper on her back porch that we can see and hear through the thick brush in their yard.

During one weekend in the spring, we hear some really loud rock music coming from two houses away. I ride my dad's bike to the neighbors' and peek around their bushes, when all of a sudden two high-school dudes come running out. One of them comes straight for me and the other gets in a car. I'd never worked the pedals so hard and finally make it to our garage. Dad goes out front as we watch the dude stroll past the house, staring as we stare back, and get picked up by his brother. That was the end of the loud music.

Jimmy Swaggart preaches his ass off every Sunday morning in our living room as we eat pancakes in the kitchen. Seems I could always hear the same nasal voice during the sinner's prayer at the end. There's a new name written down in glory!

It's mid-summer when mom finds it necessary to visit my sister's house while they all have a stomach bug and then brings it home for the weekend.

I'm usually scouring flea markets and garage sales for deals on seasoned electronics or cameras. One time I scored an old bag-type hair dryer, minus the bag, just because it produced hot air. Sometimes when the family came over for a holiday meal I would set up a card table in the living room to show some of them off, or else, just set up a tape recorder and narrate things.

One Saturday I had to be at the church while Mom was doing something, and the junior pastor gives me some "youth character building" books to read. One of them featured a drawing to illustrate that adults also "throw up when they are sick." To this day I'm not at complete peace with that moment.

At the mall you could go preppy or valley girl. Ewww my gawwwwwd, like, totalayyy.

About a month into the school year we spend half a week at a nearby YMCA camp doing all kinds of camp stuff. It's amazing how delightfully scary your peers can be in moments when there's little sense of adult supervision, fervent chants and wild-eyed speculation of pantyraids and orgies, only to have our counselor show up and make us pretend to sleep. My sister's neighbor boy was in my group and "found" that my camera had been messed with. But at one point someone wants to see how many of us can stand on an old tree stump and so a quiet blue-eyed girl I hardly knew gets an arm around me. I don't think I bathed the whole time.

As the Dukes of Hazzard loses steam the A-Team becomes the coolest TV show ever. Magnum PI was still for a more mature palate. Blue Thunder is fun, I don't care what they say.

Yet another girl next door teased me for the way I tried to deploy an experimental FM antenna. As I struggle to explain it and she'd keep asking "so that's why you were throwing a board onto your roof?"

At one point I start running speaker wires through the crawl space to set up a house-wide radio station serving the "Living Room, Family Room and Greater Garage Area" with the help of an old rack-mount PA amp someone gave me. I type up a charter of sorts for operating "The Speaker" on an on old Remington portable I drug home from Goodwill and co-sign it with my dad. It doesn't take long to figure out what volume levels will draw fire.

During some kind of meal event in the fellowship hall a bunch of us are sitting on stacked tables by the wall. One of the new dudes cuts a squawker and gets red in the face laughing as we scatter.

Just after Christmas I develop a taste for country music, years before people my age were flocking to Garth Brooks but not before Able Archer raises a few eyebrows behind the Iron Curtain.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


having finally
a cordial invitation
i'm green as grass
even though
i've been


quite a while
from the looks of things
my own likeness
tastefully framed
on the scarred walls
then scattered about
and magazines
with familiar words
i must have uttered


in a burst
just shy of tearful
i shove them away
this simply
cannot be
hard to describe
how it feels


i am just
what i am


i turn my gaze
to the big bay window
such a perfect summer day
fluffy cotton floats in the blue
meeting lush verdant foliage
many creatures abound
in air and on land
great and small
two by two
too much
to take in



i notice
a closet door
cracked, it beckons
crammed with boxes
of childhood drawings
mommy, daddy and kids
with the dog and a cat
one might think
all was well

i know better


i hear music
from another room
songs from the radio
to the moment

but how

can it be
that the moment
had a finite beginning
never seems
to end


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

one foot out


down a hill

biting and licking

as two pups

just fed

so it seems

only yesterday

they wake you up

emotions pull

right arm

toward the left

mind pulls the other

far to the right

a heart

in torsion

faced with lies

but not from lips

we convince ourselves

out of sheer pure



same old

song and dance

inside quiet moments

truth screams but silently

she needs more of him

yet he longs for



Saturday, May 22, 2010

lie with me

lie with me
and listen to some jazz
it's on the radio i love the sound
on a saturday night how we work so hard
can we do it all by doing everything?
lie with me
so i don't lie alone
saturday night seems right for the sound
we can leave the light on you can read if you want
if you still can't relax
maybe i'll rub your feet a while
just lie with me and listen to some jazz
even days like this when we need to make something
why this crazy life running around?
lets make some time
that's why they play jazz
on a saturday night

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


We were strolling along a sunny yet secluded trail with white-petaled blooms and her brother when a sliver from a twig made its way into her foot. She's a bit freaked as I try to fish it out.

We're both in high school, at least she would be soon, as far as I knew anyway. She's kinda tan and really shy and stacked like a cinderblock bunker.

No wonder she's freaked, I should be. Maybe I am. We've been going out for just over a month and we're on our way to where her dad lives.

Although I'd never admit it, our phone conversations are just starting to take on a Muzak quality. She writes me letters that I keep in a 12-inch cake tin.

The splinter is in with a toenail and I'm not even used to the way she smells yet, but her lip gloss tastes like wild cherries.

Her parents split last year and I hear it was pretty nasty, leaving her mom with seven boys and one helluva daughter.

That first night we'd stood in the church parking lot with her AquaNet bangs and the denim jacket she wears with everything. She playfully bites my tongue when we kiss.

I grew up in the township and this is my first city girl since I was four. Damn those brown eyes.

She gets an Anthrax poster for her room because I have one, but she generally goes for a pinup of Kip Winger with some kind of bulge.

At one point during the "surgery" she gets antsy and I playfully smack her on the leg and she playfully makes a big deal about it.

One time we stood on her front porch during the rain and burned cheap incense sticks from some store at the mall.

Her dad was staying in a trailer with her uncle, and come to think of it, she smells somewhere between musk and a basement.

Usually I see her where she babysits, and this fact delays the blow of my parents learning about her home life, where there are always flies in the kitchen and a loaf of bread with the bag left open.

Then again, maybe there was more to that slap on the leg. I just wanted her to calm down, but it could be the discomfort from the tiny fragment is really not as big a deal as she's making it.

Another time we walked by a house that had burned down in her neighborhood. I took home a pair sunglasses from among the rubble, they were way too big for my face and I just threw them in a drawer. Whenever I opened it I got hit with that aroma you can never forget, smoke from materials never intended for combustion, someone's life changed in minutes.

When I meet her father he seems entirely out of phase from how she'd described him. I still have the cake tin.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bobby's House

Coolest thing, you can get out-of-town radio stations through cable, like 105 WTUE that's usually blocked out by elevator crap unless you drive a ways south of here. Sometimes day-oh is cool to crank up during a party, gets the girls shakin' anyway. WDAO. The Soul of Dayton.

I always watch the evening news for some reason, and when I'm here I can at least catch Frank Reynolds on ABC.

So I'm once again hagnin' out with Belinda. Bell from Hell, she pretends to not like being called that. She's babysitting her cousin, uncle Bobby's infant daughter, although, I have no clue why his wife's redheaded sister Paula can't watch the baby since she practically lives here.

Bell gets bored with the news so we switch to MTV. Not sure what will ever please the girl, she gets agitated when they show Donnie Iris because he found a stone fox blond to be Leah. Evidently every Caucasian female within visual range is the enemy of her soul, and she sighs when Paula bends over near the TV to put something away, as if those pale legs and bony butt cheeks are much distraction.

Feeling around under the velvety sofa cushions yields some lint, 19 cents, a Bic lighter, and a slap from Bell who's obviously not interested in discussing it, let alone what's in my pocket.

The other day I scored a tape dub of a new group called Def Leppard. Still can't believe the first song is really about that.

Bobby's wife came home drunk one night and gave Bell a watch, only to turn around and accuse her of stealing it. Whatever the case we made an adventure out of driving by in my parents' car and tossing it into their yard, careful to remove any fingerprints, as if that mattered.

Bell is this pouty dark-featured mix of Native, Italian, and toilet cleaner. Somehow that all adds up to a bubble you never can pop, at least while remaining somewhat a gentleman. She won't let me thumb through Bobby's record stash while anyone else is here but it's probably all country shit peppered with Eagles and Steely Dan. Her dad had almost methodically cheated on her mom, Bobby's little sister, sometimes right in their home, not that her mom is any angel.

I'd been in kindergarten with Paula. She always seemed to be hiding something behind her freckles. She had some dude over here one night and he tried to give Belinda some of his milkshake while she was half asleep.

My cousin tells me they have over-the-air subscriber TV down in Cinci, they give you a descrambler box and show movies and sports, sometimes concerts, even dirty movies if you pay extra. Sometimes my folks and I go down that way for baseball games. Not sure if I'd ever want TV bad enough to pay for it.

People tell me I'm missing a lot of fun by kissing Bell's behind. Even her own mother.

I think I should get a dirt bike. Actually I'd feel more at home on a scooter but those seem kinda nerdy.

Five bucks says there's a recent Doobie Brothers LP somewhere in the house, and probably some stuff I don't wanna know about.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

also ran

nomatter what it's still an honor to be esteemed as worthy to be among the few to get past the first cut to share laughs and times to at least give her right of refusal even though you don't make the last cut for whatever reason how much richer is life for the experience because basking in her radiance for even just a while makes it ok to not concede defeat yet celebrate the journey

Friday, March 26, 2010

first nite

Andy didn't even look around or give a cue, just sucked in a big breath across the mike then let it rip -


Thankfully Jake was able to whip out the first chord, but my bass wasn't even turned up and I had to maneuver around the bottom to manage a crude fade-in. Way to keep us awake, dude.

It was obvious we hadn't done a lot of sound checking, and the whole idea was just to get our feet wet tonight - hell, we're not even getting paid - but I'd hate to catch a whiff of how this sounds in the crowd. All I can hear is the massive rented Ampeg behind me and hopefully Donnie can keep us going on the skins. We had to set up around the piano and the old Hammond that doesn't even work, and they weren't able to take the pool table out of here so it's just pushed to the wall. For some reason I'm surprised there's not an old cigar store Indian standing next to me.

I feel Don's kick and crack, and hear lots of brass over my rumbling BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM, but not much else.

It doesn't help that Jake's old deuce combo is seriously underpowered and I have to keep watching his hands, but still, the crowd seems to be getting into it. Andy has a way with things up front and he's probably our best hope at the moment. I suppose if I'm the perfectionist in the mix then we need some charm and abandon to balance it out. It was his idea to mix in some party stuff and I had to agree, but I still can't wait to dig in to the rest of the set. Man, if we could only bring that B3 to life I'm sure it would share some timeless wisdom on the classics we do later on.

So we reach the big finish, everyone balls to the wall, and Andy's soulful wail to bring 'er home, then through my ringing ears I could make out the small crowd sounding fairly worked up already. As he starts in with the opening spiel I was hoping he'd ask how we sound but it would seem he's got his groove on already, the train has left, no sleep till Albuquerque.

"Is it gettin hot in here already? Ohh yea-yahh, babies we are burnin UP! Time to call tha FI-YAH HOWSE!"

Sure wish we could have put some reverb on him at least, kind of a sharp slap when he projects.

But at least it's comforting to really feel the riff take shape over there when Jake starts churning it out. He's really coming along even after just two or three years, kind of a natural.

For better or worse we do a few more rockers as people loosen up, and to my amazement, Andy turns around and says "alright boys and girls, we gonna take tee-yun to give y'all time to pre-PARE yourselves forrrr...what comes next, so play nice out there!" and then tries to put the mike on a stand as it threatens to feed back.

Everyone grabs their ears as they watch his attempts to shield the mike, with varied results, then I realize I'm closest to the cord and run to unplug it while trying to keep my instrument from banging into stuff. What no one bothered to tell me is that my right hoof is wrapped in a cable.

Somehow I am able to stagger the other leg gradually and come down into some kind of lunge, but not without manhandling the strings before I'd had a chance to turn down the pot. Since I was still in front of my amp, the ensuing thunder quickly goes epic, a giant saw ripping through my body as I fumble for the plugs. I reach them after a month and three days.

As I ooze onto the floor with the bass on my chest I faintly hear fits of laughter. My head feels like a throbbing potato baked in a reactor meltdown. I'm pretty sure the buzzing in my teeth is actually to the point of emanating its own sound.

Pretty soon Andy comes into my field of view, hovering above rubbing his ears, nothing but grin in between 'em.

Someone in the seats yells "PLAY SOMETHING BY SPINAL TAP," stoking the crowd's laughter.

Andy glances out there and then back to me. "I think we're a hit, boss," he gloats with batting eyebrows.

With my left hand still grasping the neck of my bass, I close my eyes and slowly lift the middle finger.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

sometime that summer

my first driver's license is just starting to get some rub wear in the laminate, and after a torrid heat spell, the rains return life to the cradle garden with some irresistible evenings along for the ride

i call her up on a whim and she answers, just gonna read tonite, well, unless...

next thing i know i'm picking her up in my parents' 1984 ltd wagon, a verifiable tail magnet

i had nearly asked her to walk over, since we live close but for some reason that didn't seem right

after i manage to choose the most awkward spot in the middle of the driveway her mom appears out of thin air, like a NEEEN-ja, grinning ear to ear, camera in hand

wispy clouds line the horizon like molten silver and the breeze caresses with a mother's touch, it blows her reddish-brown hair around as she emerges from the front door, she looks away when i first glance at her, denim skirt, button-up top and arms crossed as if shivering, then the smile lights up her face when our eyes meet again

we get to the corner stop sign before either one of us realizes we hadn't really decided where to go

i have ten bucks in my pocket thanks to dad, but it's too nice out for the mall and neither one of us are hungry yet, then a poignant HONK from behind makes me jump a foot

half a mile later she's still laughing when we finally decide just to hang out at the elementary school playground, where there was not another soul around save passing cars, not that i would notice them

first we did the teeter totter as she rides side-saddle, out of time and place, here at the school during summer break, and she had gone to a different grade school to boot

then as we sat there on the swings just looking around my mind's eye somehow shifted to a wide angle, better bookmark this page where two kids, good friends, are finally granted a measure of freedom, and so, what would we do with it?

as she turns my way mid-sentence i notice her smile as her eyes dance around, green as the summer grass, the same ones that once struck dark fear in my bones as she stood at my back door with the neighbor girl, and we just stay that way for a moment, as i wonder whether it's ok to keep staring and not sure if i can stop

then a cloud crosses the sun and it suddenly seems late, we each look around, seconds pass, my tummy growls

i ask if she wants to grab something to eat and that smile encores, brighter than ever, reaching the silver clouds for all i know

thankfully mickey dees was still open by the time we found our way there, we joked

as i drift to sleep that night i realize that i hadn't played the car's radio all evening

it's funny how some things don't have to be grand to be perfect, and how the best relationships aren't defined just by moments

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Oh how she can't wait to get home and let him roam around in his ball. It lets him explore while keeping him from getting into trouble and making messes, and if he wanders too far she can rescue him easily enough. Then it's time to put him back in his cage where every need is provided. She faithfully changes the footing every week so it doesn't get stinky. There's a running wheel for exercise, plenty of water in the bottle, and not to mention those yummy green pellets. He's so cute when he eats those, the way his little hands hold it as he chews and those tiny brown eyes blinking. She can't imagine a thought in his pretty little head.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I stroll in late and survey the room. Over by the wall stands a young woman who wants to be seen not wanting to talk to anyone. Hovering about the cheese poofs are three jovial gents in dockers and oxfords, clearly with nothing more to learn about the world than what they can teach it. Catching a familiar eye here and there makes the exchange of nods easy enough, but a presence is about, foreboding and pungent, like egg salad flatulence in the shower or that unsettling vibe from a dysfunctional couple who have yet to acknowledge it. As I reach for a beverage she slithers into view. Grand but not tall, adorned in a midnight blue sari she wastes no time, we guard the refreshments as her eyes dance to a choreographed monologue, already a victim of her own hypnotic prowess. At any moment I expect her to place a wheat thin on her shoulder to get things started. She's the kind who removes your guitar strings as you sleep, leaving her phone number as collateral. It is enough to make you say piss it all and join a monastery.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

cardboard, tape and great moments in aviation

Back when I was five or so I wanted an airplane. Not a toy *airplane*. One of those two-tone Cessna or Piper single props at the county airport would do just fine, like I'd see when Dad and I would sit in the parking lot and watch flight lessons. Whenever the inspiration would hit, there I was finding materials and bugging everyone to help me nail boards together or whatever. Why would we need a long cord to power an old washing machine motor? We can just put one of those outlet box thingys from the wall in there and...

Anyway, at some point we came across this short, thick cardboard tube from a roll of whatever, but to my mind's eye, the propeller shaft. Next thing I know I've got boxes in the front room taped together to form the, um, "fuselage," side flaps for wings, rear flap for a tail. I must have been persuasive because Mom used a *lot* of masking tape trying to flange it to the side of the box. A nearby Naugahyde hassock becomes landing gear
. As soon as it was all, um, "together" there was no stopping. I was gonna fly an AIRPLANE right there in the front room, dang it all.

So there she was. Up off the floor about to my waist, a staggering sixteen inches, and it would almost stand on its own when I let go. Mom's skepticism is but background noise as I climb in, just a tad shaky, one leg in, now the other...


About 23 years later, and interestingly, ten years *ago*...well, evidently some lessons bear repeating and on a grand scale. When you're little and messing around with household materials in the front room, the real danger is trivial even when your dreams collapse to the sound of ripping tape. Different story when you've barnstormed your way into the almighty American Dream only to find a grizzly nightmare. In it, you're hopes are empty, relationships trite, appetite is DOA, paranoia coats the tongue...but if you pay attention, you catch on to what's been available all along while you were chasing wind.

Some bumper sticker has it right. We plan, God laughs. But the joke is never on us unless we take ourselves too seriously.

Monday, January 11, 2010

halves and have nots

Another family arrives at the burger joint in a bullet-shaped sedan, then we all show up in the cab of a pickup, and our respective churches have different names on them. Ours is downtown although most of us live more comfortably than people in the surrounding homes. Earlier, on the way in, my dad makes fun of a long-haired man walking along the street.

Some of the kids at church are from the surrounding neighborhoods and they don't mind that they don't look like "us" or act like "us" most of the time. Usually these are the ones I'd rather be around, unless they're just plain annoying, but they aren't there as often as us "regulars."

Sometimes we have church at night. In the cold months the downtown streets are only to be seen in passing, the domain of the unknown and unsaved. People walking after dark around are up to no good and we lock our doors and look where we're going and everything will be fine once we're home watching TV.

Jobs are scarce. Some kids at school have parents laid off from factories. At the mall there are "minorities" standing around talking all weekend. Pastor asks people to "dig deep" before calling the ushers.

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the folks who come in for "help" are naturally self-confident or just used to asking. You only see them that one time.

Reagan is the only one who can "fix" all this. He usually wears a suit.

We have Sunday School parties, well attended by a lot of us "pre-teens." Not sure if it's the leadership, or the mix of kids, or both, but I find these things fun for once. One of the "neighborhood" dudes asks me about my old electric razor collection and he becomes cool, just never sticks around long enough.

At one point this loud mouth who lives "comfortably" starts in with racial slurs with one of the "neighborhood" girls and she doesn't stand for it. She and her friend, one of the few girls I thought was cute back then, didn't stick around long enough, and I am getting tired of typing that.

Some of "our" moms and dads split up before we finished high school. I never got to find that out about most of the "neighborhood" kids.