Happy Saint Pat’s Day

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The landscaper hails from Guatemala. His small family business is composed of himself and his nephew. I feel uncomfortably tall around them but both are strong as mules. They brought a mountain of black mulch and fresh grass cut into neat rectangles like industrial carpet that can be easily replaced when someone spills their coffee in the office. In the spots where they patched the lawn the new turf sparkles like emeralds against a yard, sallow from winter. It is Saint Patrick’s Day and only fitting that the morning be filled with the business of greenery. The landscaper is a tee-teetotaler, though. After a hot day of extracting a stump of a long dead cypress like a stubborn, rotten molar clinging to its dead roots as if it wished to leave behind only a legacy of discomfort and exasperation, I asked him if he would go home and enjoy an ice cold beer. His family life was too demanding to succumb to the comfort of the bottle. At least that is what I gathered from his broken English. Not much of the Irish blood that boils in my veins made it to the jungles of Central America. Plenty flooded into New York, though. Amateur Day is what I called it. An excuse in March to get tanked and make an ass yourself as if anyone needs an excuse to drink and search for a moment of joy during a bleak month in a filthy Northeast metropolis. It is ironic Saint Patrick was credited for expanding literacy when observing throngs of revelers in the street, falling down, fighting, vomiting, getting stuck in a revolving door. It is not ironic that as a boy the would be patron was sold into slavery when one considers how many Irish are chattel to demon rum. A coffle stumbles from bar to bar chanting a phrase that announces to fellow countryman they are from Sligo. I know little of Guatemala or what part the landscaper comes from. I suspect they have their own share of drunken revelers. He and his nephew loaded their tools into the trailer. A silver braid of municipal water from the spigot on the side of my house washed the earth from their sturdy hands. They were still wet when he and I shook to seal the deal the way men do, his grip surprisingly gentle for hands accustomed to hard labor. My grip might be considered substantial for a man who types on a keyboard all day. It is likely attributed to my Irish heritage and years of clinging to the bottle for help in clinging to this life, sometimes just out of spite. As they drive off I think how lucky they are to not need a drink at the end of a grueling day. I should be so lucky, after all, I am of Irish stock. And like any good Irishman, I will toast their health and have a drink for them and anyone else who cannot. 

Normal Business Hours


During normal business hours my time is not my own, I am not at liberty to dwell on personaDuring normal business hours my time is not my own, I am not at liberty to dwell on personal matters.l matters. My daily tasks occupy all my time during normal business hours and I leave details of my life hanging on a hook by the door with my hat and coat and umbrella if the forecast calls for rain and the morning commute is gray and the train is filled with damp passengers contemplating the idiomatic pieces of their existence before arriving at office doors where they, too, will surrender those parts of themselves in order to focus on matters at hand during normal business hours. Coats will hang, glistening with pearls of fine mist or dripping into puddles on the floor.

I might wonder if it is raining back home on the farm where the cows stand, steaming in the barn as they wait for the cribs to be filled with a breakfast of hay carefully stored during the hot days of July. This is during normal business hours, yet I see my calloused hands lifting the bales into the rack before cutting the rough twine, allowing the tightly packed dried grass to explode in a cloud reeking of mildew and summer sun. A sun that shines two seasons away on beach sand the same shade as the stalks of hay that long bovine tongues pull into the gnashing mill of grinding molars. I pause to lean, during normal business hours, in the doorway of the barn, gazing at the leaden sky, listening to the far away roar of surf and smell brine in the moist air and taste the mild saltiness on the tip of a bottle of beer that is so cold and refreshing after a swim in the ocean and riding a breaker back to shore like a slick sea lion to bask in the sun, you silly, fat, lazy thing.

The photo of you on my desk is the only indulgence from nostalgia’s cabinet I allow myself during normal business hours. You smiling in front of Doge’s Palace after wandering, lost but unconcerned with finding our way through the dark twisted maze of Venice in search of wine and cicchetti. Most tourists leave the city after dark for cheap hotels on the mainland or cruise ships bobbing in the lagoon and you have the quiet, sinking streets all to yourself if you don’t mind the ghosts that glide like fog across wet stones. A melody I cannot place floats from a window, coalescing with the dulcet melody of the On Hold Ensemble as I wait for the call to be connected during normal business hours. What would ersatz background distractions sound like today had Bartok stopped writing for string ensembles and concentrated on Tin Pan Alley palaver during normal business hours? As complex as multiple, compound time signatures can be, music is confined to the restraints of time itself and must pass just as normal business hours must conclude eventually freeing me to dwell on personal matters once again.

Magnetism And You


How many MRIs do you need in order to develop a magnetic personality? The procedure is expensive so hopefully not too many if that is your plan. In his Dynamic Tension course, Charles Atlas instructs that proper posture is the first step in achieving a magnetic personality. He also suggested adopting an attitude of Hopefulness. His training is far more affordable than the resonance tube but there are no guarantees in life.

All of us contain a certain amount of hard wiring that we cannot change when we roll off the assembly line into our beautiful existence. If you don’t naturally attract a crowd, consider how lucky you are to even be part of a crowd. The odds of you being born a human are effectively zero if you can do the math and if you can do the math consider how fortunate you are to have a brain capable of performing such intense calculations. People born with big personalities tend to cruise through life always getting what they want but someone has to manage their money.

Among the many people lucky enough to be alive, I have met a few with not much personality but they did not seem to notice or be bothered in the least nor was it obvious they suffered any ill effects from being dull. People with no distractions get things accomplished and nothing is more distracting than other people hanging around waiting to see what you are going to do next. Stop trying to convince others that you are special, remember the odds of being born human are practically null. Now go and get something accomplished. People with magnetic personalities are depending on you.

Winter Musical

I dreamed of steel toes and heels on quick feet
          effortless steps tapping across silver salts

When I woke, sleet was dancing on the sill 
         to music only February hears

I resisted the certainty of rising from warm layers 
          and choreographed joy frozen in gelatin frames

To witness Winter’s stoic silversmith 
          plate the day in frigid resplendence

And fistfuls of rock salt to melt his work 
          like images fading from a dream of old movies

Copper Trains

Far away in the small hours a locomotive bellows a warning to make way for its ponderous mass, dragging a long, iron chain of tank and boxcars behind, resigned to its somber duty like a woman hauling water from the creek to the cabin where washing waits in a filthy heap for soap and brush. Miles ahead in the light of day, boys lay a dozen or so pennies on the rails, bright copper spots on the burnished bars of parallel steel. I searched among the cinders between the ties after the red caboose trundled by, the brakeman saying hello and goodbye with a single wave from his copula and found the coin, still warm from its transfiguration, thin and smooth as a lithograph plate ready to be etched with the news of the world or a memorable print of a desert still life littered with a cactus, creosote bush and a steer skull bleached to ivory by the sun and sold in a roadside gift shop where years after the Norfolk and Western line obliterated Lincoln's profile, I slide a quarter into a slot and crank the handle to flatten a penny and emboss it with the words Death Valley.

I’m Taking Next Summer Off

My Jim Anchower Impression

“Hola Amigos, I know it has been a long time since I rapped at ya.” This is how columnist Jim Anchower began each article for The Onion – America’s Finest News Source. This was back in the days when the venerable periodical was worth reading, or perhaps I’m just nostalgic for the old days when satire was still possible, a time when a reader could differentiate between real life and stories too ridiculous to not be a joke. 

Anchower’s articles chronicled his life as a total, hapless loser with absolutely no irony and few, if any, moments of self-reflection that might turn his life around. Anchower is retired but bad luck is still around and sometimes, for no fault of your own, you can experience a string of it that would rival Unlucky Jim.

So, amigos, let me rap to ya about why I haven’t posted for a while. It has been a bad summer. I had a vacation that got canceled due to a natural disaster, my father passed away, I contracted the latest variant of covid and was out of commission for a few weeks. I got the ax from my only remaining music gig (for reasons listed above, no less). And I had a procedure to fix my eye left damaged by radiation from my skin cancer party of 2020. For about three weeks I have been trying not to stumble into walls and work with one peeper sewn up.

Of course, none of these events were my fault and, unlike Anchower who made bad decisions, my moments of self-reflection were many. I realized after all of this that it doesn’t take very much to make things fall apart even when we think we have it all together. 

Here is a little verse that Jim Anchower wouldn’t care for because it doesn’t rhyme like the lyrics to an REO Speedwagon song.

Smooth and polished as glass
      Clear, flawless
           A pleasure to hold
To fill and lift up with rousing plaudits

One day you flowed over
       And slipped from my fingers
            The hard world caught and shattered you
Into sharp, untouchable pieces

Also-ran Reckless

Most wade in, ankle deep and no further. 
         I went crashing 
              Past those who ventured up to their knees, freestyle
On gall’s impulsive course
        Far beyond the drowners, I gave out and rolled

On my back like a slick otter about to crack a mollusk
I searched the sky for a lodestar. 

I did not recognize heaven. All the jewels were falling
       One after the other
            Bright, final moments.

Cold and shriveled, I slithered to bitter ground 
Capitulant among prudent ankles.