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