May 14, 2018 § Leave a comment
I am an active volcano
Beneath my mantle is magma fommented
Sulphur roils into toxic venting clouds
Seams tear through my crust, opening
Furious pools of boiling crimson, spitting
White, scaly ash in the air, landing
All over everything like oily snow
Capricious Pele is offered sacrificial ointments, salves and creams
Pacified, the inflamed goddess sleeps
Dormant for days, erupting again with no warning
And yet I am not Paradise rising
A gift to Heaven from the Sea
Covered in flowers, fruit, and trees
October 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
I have nothing against the duck
They are very well and good
The emerald sheen on the mallard head
In the flesh or a decoy of wood
Yet sometimes they hint of discarded old shoes
On the banks filthy and wet
Then in glides the swan and all that is foul
We are obliged to forget
July 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
If you are familiar with your Old English then you must know that the word “Stampcrab” refers to a person who is heavy-footed, clumsy and ungraceful.
Although I am slight of build, in days of yore I could have been known as Stampcrab Truelove especially by anyone living in the chambers below me or by the fair maiden accepting my invitation to dance the gigue.
My stampcrabbiness has landed me into more trouble recently in the form of a broken toe. Before the age of modern medicine this type of injury might have proven fatal but in 21st century it just serves as a painful reminder of my oafishness with every step.
There’s nothing wrong with my hands, thankfully, so I scratched out a little verse under the influence of Percocet while icing my poor little piggy.
Penance of Stampcrab
Every footfall, an electric prod of human frailty
Each limp betrays weakness to predators
Each and every slogging step sends a contrite apology
Ahead of me, people wait impatiently
Behind me, the swift curse at my heels, exasperated
The price of a clumsy gait through life
June 29, 2017 § Leave a comment
Thistle the Hampshire sheep was enjoying her ten minute break between performances of the dog show. She played sheep number 3 in the five sheep flock that was herded and separated by two champion border collies to the thrill and delight of tourists brought to the farm by the bus load.
She looked across the rolling green of the Irish countryside, past the quaintness of Glenbeigh village and out to the furious blue of the Atlantic. Her tiny sheep brain dreamed of her retirement and the sweet grass of Great Blasket Island where she would live out her final years. Little did Thistle know, after the spring shearing she would be sold for mutton chops.
March 28, 2017 § Leave a comment
Let me first apologize to anyone who was sent to this page as a result of an internet search for “losing belly fat”. Please feel free to keep reading but I feel it is fair to warn you that not one iota of scientific research went into writing this article.
The average 40-something male will probably attest to experiencing some increase in abdominal girth since their leaner 20s. This is due in large part to the sedentary lifestyle of middle age and some of the comfortable excesses it provides, we deserve you might say.
It is, however, also a natural part of the aging process caused to some degree by a decrease in testosterone production. (For the aforementioned seeking a flat stomach, perform another search for “Abs Over 40” and read, or be bombarded by, their sales pitch.)
Tragically, the natural course of things is in no way hindered by our passion and weakness for the greatest drink ever created: BEER.
The fact that BEER is loaded with calories is not news but it might be news to discover, despite what you’ve witnessed in bars during football season, that the consumption of BEER lowers testosterone levels. Worse, it stimulates estrogen production; men don’t necessarily turn into their dads.
This triumvirate of extra calories, lower testosterone and increased male estrogen creates the perfect conditions for growing a prize winning Beer Gut in your odious fat garden, proving once again that reap what we sow.
Many work very hard to counteract their love for BEER with diet and exercise. Others let nature take its visceral course. Whatever path you choose take heart in this Classic Country song Beer Gut while imbibing your favorite flavor.
March 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
I have spent longer periods of time getting from point A to point B but the longest single flight was a trip from Newark to Tokyo. I was sure, given the duration, that I would be able to grab a little shut eye if not from fatigue at least pure boredom but I was awake the entire passage.
I studied my conversational Japanese and wrote this song. Rather than using my typical means of production, I arranged and recorded it with a free version of Ableton Lite software. It was a challenge to fit everything into the limit of 8-tracks and, frankly, learning Japanese was more intuitive but the software helped me achieve an ethereal sound that works for the theme of the tune.
Download it and play it in your future travels. Yes, (ha, ha) it could indeed help you fall asleep. Send me a postcard.
February 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
The dream faded. My eyes opened on the green, segmented digits of my alarm clock. Abraham had been correct, I was indeed the chosen one, as evidenced by the envelope beside the clock. Unfortunately, if the hour on display was correct, the chosen one had very little left of the day to deliver it.
It wasn’t easy to get up and running, sick as I was. A few days prior an annoying tickle in the back of my throat went afoul before slithering down my windpipe to make trouble in my chest. In no time my lungs were producing a thick, yellow phlegm with the fetid taste of disease.
Nurse Girlfriend ordered a long soak in a tub filled with scalding water and eucalyptus scented bath salts. Instead, I poured myself three fingers of Lansdowne Rye. Liquor soothed a prickly itch that triggered violent coughing episodes and, unlike conventional medication, this remedy took immediate effect. My head had no sooner nested in the cool dimple of my pillow than I found myself dreaming of poor Abraham Lemon falling from his ladder, paint bucket and all. I stood over his prone body on the craquelure of Hartley’s & Grill parking lot. The agony, which glazed his normally piercing turquoise eyes, caused him to whimper when he spoke, “Wake up you idiot, you are the chosen one.”
A day after Abraham Lemon’s accident a get well card was passed between the trembling hands of Hartley’s regulars. Once the card had collected the requisite amount of signatures and best wishes it was passed to me for delivery to Darden University Hospital.
Outside Abraham’s room a powerful looking custodian was swabbing the floor. He paused to plunge his mop into a bucket of steaming water that wafted disinfectant. The piercing bouquet was just the irritant needed to induce an episode disturbing enough to bring a nurse out from hiding. L.N. White insisted I wear a surgical mask and so I entered Lemon’s room looking as if I was a member of the staff.
The bed closest to the window in room 3015 cradled the long, lean frame of Lemon, A. He looked to be as peacefully sedated as I had expected, however, I didn’t fully appreciate to what degree until he started talking. Over a period of time Lemon’s drunken patois had become intelligible to my ears but this was something new.
“I thought you said we’d have not to operate, doctor,” mumbled Abraham’s strungout voice box.
The plastic tubes of his IV rattled when he lifted a weak arm either to emphasize his objection or to protect himself from the scalpel.
“Abraham, it’s me. I ain’t the doctor.” I could feel the mask scratching my lips as I spoke.
To someone imbibing top shelf pharmaceuticals my mask proved an effective disguise. His drowsy eyelids were barely ajar and he regarded me through thin slits. I made another attempt at explaining who I was and why I was there without exposing him to my germs.
“Do you remember being on the ladder at Hartley’s?”
His pallid tinge brightened a bit with recognition.
“Hartley. Yeah, I know her. Hey, you know what? I work at a place called Hartley’s Bar & Grill. I cook…sometimes.”
“Sure, Abraham, I know, man. But they don’t call it that anymore. Remember? That is what caused the accident.”
His mouth stretched into a faint smile or a perhaps a scowl of pain. It was impossible to know for sure. I continued.
“They passed that law. The one that outlawed the word BAR in the name of any business that served alcohol.
I felt that Abraham was slowly regaining the use of his memory when a nurse, different than L.N. White, appeared from nowhere on a pair of silent white sneakers to take his pulse and check the flow of whatever cocktail he was being served. She gave me a perfunctory smile and disappeared carrying with her whatever sensibilities Lemon was beginning to reclaim.
“Anyway, Abraham,” I held up the envelope, “Hartley and them got you this card. Everybody signed it.”
“Hartley. You two getting by okay. How’s the kids?”
It was unnecessary to explain to him that neither Hartley nor children were involved in my life. I didn’t even respond. Abraham was in deep hibernation.
I placed his get well card on the rolling table beside a cup with a goose-neck straw and tray of untouched food and left 3015 for home.
Lemon’s near catatonic state and one more croupy spasm before leaving Darden’s parking lot had me contemplating my own course of medication. The two options I considered were cough syrup and such, available at Lipton’s Pharmacy, or a whiskey, available at Hartley’s. Both had their arguments.
The day was nearly done and lights were sparking into action everywhere against the encroaching night: street lights, headlights, house lights, store lights. People moving in windows looked like people on a television set.
The fat, red letters on Lipton’s sign were aglow, all but the P in pharmacy. They radiated into the darkness that the family owned apothecary was still proudly serving the community after sundown.
I slowed but did not stop.
I did not stop at Hartley’s either. The bar’s placard that swung by the roadside was glowing brightly. I could almost make out the strokes that Abraham’s brush had left in the white paint he had applied over the now illegal word. At least he’d finished the job, I thought, before the ladder, unstable on the clear glaze of ice, had slid from beneath him. In Abraham’s honor, Pete, the weeknight bartender, had placed on special a shooter he called Lemon Drops until Hartley put an end to what she considered insensitive.
At home Chef Girlfriend was stirring a pot of chicken soup she had promised her ailing honey.
“Where have you been, hon?” Chef Girlfriend left the bubbling cauldron and began chopping herbs.
“Hospital,” I wheezed, “had to deliver that card to Lemon.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Why didn’t you just give it to me. I work there, remember.”
I hadn’t thought of that until that exact moment and said as much.
“You’re going to catch pneumonia if you’re not careful. Speaking of which,” she pointed with the tip of the knife to a bag on the table, “I stopped at Lipton’s and picked you up some goodies.”
I was glad I did not make the stop and asked if she had noticed the sign with the missing P.
“Lipton’s Harmacy? Yea, there’s some irony for you. “I almost didn’t want to go in.” She gave me a big smile, “Funny, right?”
“It’s funny alright. There are a lot of funny signs out there now.”
She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
That a law intended to defend the public, or at least the public’s perpetually vulnerable morality, had sent a man to a hospital bed was not the type of cosmic paradox I felt worthy of acknowledging.
“Oh, nothing. What time’s dinner, babe?”
March 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
A while back I started working freelance so that I might untangle myself from the corporate day-to-day. It wasn’t the life I expected. In fact, not much changed except that I lost my insurance and other benefits associated with full-timers.
I wrote this story during my last gig.
It takes place in the distant future but, as you well read, nothing much has changed.
Manhattan was beset by a cold and gray afternoon. Clouds drifted by the streaked windows of the 45th floor like lost spirits. Weighted down with despair, they slowly fell to earth where they mingled with the fog that haunted the wet sidewalks. Red brake lights retreating north, amber headlamps advancing south reflected their colors off the slick and glistening pavement. The Hudson was a lifeless slab, a vanity mirror for the leaden sky to gaze at its somber face. On the other side New Jersey was all but forgotten behind a drab stage curtain lifted just enough to view a sliver of the complex urban set constructed behind.
In the corner of my eye Lawson grew larger, his hazy shape forming into solid contours as he scurried to my desk. Harried as usual, be shook a piece of paper like Chamberlain just off the plane from Munich. Lawson was beleaguered and gaunt and I wondered if the same cancer that ate Neville’s bowels bad begun feasting on Lawson’s. The paper was not for me, thankfully, but he held it within close range of my ear so that I might experience its abrasive noise as it crinkled in his nervous clutch.
I had grown accustomed to Lawson’s blustery ovations to otherwise trivial matters. Had anyone else approached my desk in such a wide-eyed state I would have been dreading a pronouncement of consequence, knowing what pronouncements of consequence usually held.
“God awful weather, eh?”
I nodded, “Terrible.”
“It’s a beautiful day at my desk. Let me see.” He dragged a rake of five boney fingers through a head of ashen hair, an action that produced a squall of dandruff that dusted the top of my desk. “My Eco is set on A, no C19: San Francisco harbor, sunny, no fog.”
“Mine was the dreary East when I came in this morning. I can’t change it.” I feigned a long sigh in order to blow away the debris from Lawson’s scalp.
“Call our systems support outlet.”
The scene outside was the perfect pairing for my mood, or maybe it had created my mood. At any rate, there was no strong urge to make adjustments. I yawned, deeply.
Lawson hushed the agitated paper by laying it out before me. What was once a crisp, white sheet was now a corrugated mess. He attempted to smooth out some of the wrinkles that his worry had rendered. His crooked index extended, he delivered a quick succession of taps to the bold print that read: Notice of Compliance Failure. It was a pronouncement of consequence after all but one that concerned Lawson and Lawson alone.
His face was a mask of dire predicament. “Apparently I have scored too low on my last CSE. Do you know what that means?”
“You didn’t study.”
A flash of consternation crumbled into the exasperated look of an earnest man suffering the fool. “You know you can’t study.”
“So, you’ll take it again.”
“Three chances then you’re out. Gone. Transfer or contingent leave. I have two left.” Staring blankly across the expanse of office floor 45, “I don’t even know where I would go.”
And with that he was gone, stumbling absently back to his view of San Francisco to fret over the soiled notice he had left behind.
A helicopter buzzed through the gloom, northbound, following the tail lights on the north side highway, over the toy boat ferries, to destinations unknown even to the coded functions in the Eco’s elaborate guts. I chose C19 on the keypad: stormy New York persisted.
I had been determined to allow myself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity all morning but my own glum mood had been spoiled by its confederation with Lawson’s residue of disconsolation. My suffering had become a crashing bore. I was eager for brighter surroundings. In seconds I was speaking to someone who introduced himself as Kelvin, J.
“Thank you for contacting your systems support outlet. May I have your user ID and security code, please?”
Credentials provided and problem described, Kelvin began his diagnosis.
“Okay. Looks like I see you in New York, stormy. And you’ve tried steps 2 through 7 in your Eco’s operation manual?”
Confessing I had not, I was led through a series of procedures designed to eliminate the probable cause of malfunction. He typed as he spoke and the plastic clatter of keystrokes punctuated his instructions. Click, clack, click, clack. A sudden flash of white was promising but otherwise, no improvement.
“Well, I can go ahead and change your Eco from here but I will have to dispatch a member of the ground unit to switch out your hardware. It might take a day or two; we are kind of backed up. What would you like on your Eco? Something nicer, I’m guessing. How about tropical?”
As pleasant sounding as it was, Kelvin’s suggestion seemed far too wet at this point. The desert I thought and requested.
“Uh…okay.” There was an extensive list from which to choose and each included such parameters as, season, time of day or evening. “Mojave, Gobi, Painted, Sahara?”
I requested Death Valley, my saturnine disposition not fully lifted. My choice included several specific points within its enormity. Having never been, I picked the alluringly named Artist’s Palette. My first glimpse of the desert’s majesty lasted only seconds. The tender petals of an indigo bush trembled in the breeze and vanished into crackling static. Then there was nothing but space: empty, void, nada, zilch – zero.
Kelvin J. was silent. Had it not been for the moist ebb and flow of his breathing I would have thought he’d joined New York and the desert in oblivion.
“Nothing, huh? That’s weird. Well, a functioning Eco is important so I will escalate this issue to, Tier 2. Meanwhile, I’ll go ahead and expedite your hardware exchange.”
Tier 2: I imagined the system support team arranged on a ridiculous étagère. A ticket was issued, a random alphanumeric sequence that signified nothing to anything but the matrices of system support where endless troubles and resolutions were chronicled – short tales of woe and happily ever-afters. Call completed.
With no Eco I had the unique opportunity to use the gigantic window for its original purpose. I stood looking out our vast universe. Overhead, Earth was a point of light in the endless black. Below, Mars, a pocked bloodstone marbled with veins of rich crimson and pale yellow wrapped in a lambent, copper haze.
A full year, Earth not Martian, had elapsed since I began my contract with the interplanetary corporation Galaxy Sunn. This period of time was nine months longer than the agreement stated when it was signed – by me, one year ago. A series of work extensions and certain difficulties posed by a distance of 43 million miles had kept me long past my release date. And, while my compensation had accumulated nicely, further interest in the position had not; I was more than ready to sever the relationship.
However, a voluntary resignation would place the burden of paying for my own accommodations while waiting on the next available transport, also out-of pocket, back to big, blue Mother. ”Next available” could mean days, weeks or months while my debt to G.S. Inc. for room and board accrued. A normal contract termination was more agreeable since the corporation picked up the tab but this formal release had not been issued and, as the extensions piled up, I feared it never would. Certain parallels could be drawn between my situation and those of the penal colony occupants digging in the rusty Martian soil.
I carved a question mark in the rime of frost my weary sigh – not feigned – left on the glass. Had there been some guidance for resolving my dilemma, it was not in the heavens. Nor were the familiar vistas and skylines of earth available for contemplation with Eco defunct. Instead, inspiration came from the crumpled receipt of Lawson’s failure.
The Core Stress Evaluation was one of many periodic tests The Inc. maintained as a bulwark against liability. Low scores were an early indicator of a decline in skill sets that could potentially place revenue, property and lives in jeopardy. Whatever threat Lawson posed to any of this capital was ponderous. He was, nonetheless, now referred to in certain database circles as Lawson, the risk. My colleague was determined to improve his standings in this clique; I was determined to do irreparable damage.
Unfortunately, my contractor status made me exempt from such things as the CSE. And so, compiling a list of alternative methods that could achieve a blemish substantial enough to warrant a discharge without ruining future prospects elsewhere or becoming entangled in legal troubles consumed my free time. Blank was how my list remained over the next few days. Lawson, in contrast, had achieved strike 2. Effortless.
Set against the colossal blackness of space his lanky frame seemed to deteriorate before my eyes as he stood in front of my Eco-less window. Gustav Holst: his Planets, Neptune the Mystic, the final movement and its choir dissolving into the realm of the inaudible, this was Lawson’s own voice – fading into nothing.
Wringing hands: “I don’t understand. I’ve never had problems with CSE. I can’t go back to blue Mother. What would I do?” He paced.” How do you stand it without an Eco? Without day and night I wouldn’t ever stop working. It would drive me insane.”
“I opened a ticket.”
“Ticket, ha! Tier 1 or Tier 2? Oh, it makes no difference. Those guys are kids, I have shoes older than most of them. They don’t know how to do anything. I’d go down to support in person and ask for a Team Lead.”
There were no Team Leads on duty when I arrived at my support system outlet on level 22-F. Kelvin J. was not there either. Lawson had been accurate about this department’s youthful composition; the support representative who assisted me could have easily been younger than Lawson’s footwear antiquities. She introduced herself as Hope, no last initial.
Click, clack, click, clack.
She entered the ticket number I’d produced into her computer console. Blank. “That’s weird.” Head scratched, she retyped the entry, this time slower, careful, deliberate. Blank, still. A third try returned the same.
Eupeptic and eager, “Well, I’ll just enter a new ticket and expedite it for you.” Personal details taken, she asked me to describe my technical issue.
I felt the words Eco and Broken and Hardware taking shape behind my teeth as Hope’s fingers drummed lightly on the keys waiting for instructions.
“CSE. I haven’t received my notice for the CSE. I think I might be past due.”
Her petite nose almost touched the display and its glow highlighted her features with a bluish tint as she scrolled through the list repeating the letters CSE aloud as if to conjure it up.
Cheerfully, “Here it is: Core Stress Evaluation.” She sounded out the syllables in a measured tone so there’d be no confusion.
She leaned back in her chair out of the monitor’s corona. Her expression had changed from winsome to worry. The timbre of her voice darkened, “But this says you’re exempt.”
I mirrored her concern and added disbelief. Barefaced, “But I took it six months ago, as instructed.” I conflated my lie with a poignant recollection of how the same thing had happened before and what a time I’d endured.
Reassured and generously pitiable she began typing. It was good to see her chipper nature return.
”Well, there were some updates to certain divisions recently. That could have affected your account. I’ll just change your status then and add your CSE.”
In moments I was the recipient of a new alphanumeric code and Hope’s promise that I would see a notice from Galaxy Sunn compliance to complete my CSE within two business days.
The gravity generators could have crashed for all I knew as I practically floated back to my desk to wait like a school boy on Christmas Eve. Soon I could begin failing three times, all the way back to blue Mother.
What came in two business days was indeed a notice from the compliance office of Galaxy Sunn Inc. I was congratulated and thanked, personally and profusely, by my Team Lead and his Team Lead on behalf of the Interplanet Security and Intelligence Division. Through my efforts, a gaping hole, in an ominous sounding bit of gadgetry that I never knew existed, had been discovered and patched against possible catastrophic breach. My contributions and value to The Inc. were such that my contract was extended for six months, Martian not Earth.
My Eco was restored shortly after my pronouncement of consequence and upgraded to boot. Poor Lawson, strike 3 and his desk was clean before the sun set on the San Francisco harbor. We shook hands for the last time at my desk that overlooked the Hudson and New Jersey. Manhattan was beset by a cold and gray afternoon.
February 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
Sorry this card is late. It has been so cold here that on Friday afternoon Time itself froze, solid. When we finally got the old girl defrosted it was already Tuesday, you’re birthday, and this card was still not posted.
The circumstance was as surreal as the times that winter forced us on our backs to worm beneath the old house where copper pipes ran like bluish patina blood vessels in the frigid narrows of the crawl space.
A ceiling of raw oak floorboards
A floor of bare earth
Stalagmites of rat dung rising
Rusted nail stalactites looming
We pushed our bodies through the depths like some yet undiscovered subterranean species, vulnerable at all times to attack by wild creatures nesting in dark recesses.
With the warm air from the lungs of hair dryers connected to long umbilical cords of electricity we thawed the crystals of ice that clogged the water lines and emerged stiff and cold from the underworld with just enough time to eat breakfast before the school bus arrived.
Many happy returns