Where were you?

I remember exactly where I was when it happened: On a rocking chair trying to get an obstinate six-month old to go to sleep. The television was on but I wasn’t really watching the football game. That is, until Howard Cosell stopped his play-by-play to make an announcement he felt couldn’t wait. John Lennon was dead.

The baby sensed my shock and settled down. I put him in his crib.  Then I went into the next room, turned off the light, crawled into bed, and covered my head with  blankets. I stayed that way until noon of the following day. Only the week before I’d heard Lennon on the radio, returning from a five year hiatus from the lusting, grasping hands of adoring fans.  He needed to get off the carousel, as he said, and learn to bake bread.

Although there are many great songs on his last album, Starting Over, I wish he’d become a baker instead.  Many of you were probably in diapers (or perhaps not even a twinkle in your father’s eyes) and have no memories whatsoever of those dark days that followed his death but for me, it was the end of a dream.

#ThursdayDoors: PostSecrets

Technically this is not a door; it’s a bridge in the Navy Pier area of Washington DC. 

The shipyards are now dormant and the area is being “gentrified” which means impossibly hip restaurants and bars now line an area formerly full of sailors. The view is amazing.

Although I have no idea what we’re looking at.  I wasn’t the driver, but it was definitely off the beaten track..

The above building, on the other hand, is right in the middle of the action. It’s the National Postal Museum. The museum is worth visiting even if you don’t give a damn about postage stamps.  The building itself is a treasure with marble columns and gorgeous woodwork, vintage mail trucks and postal boxes and many interactive exhibits.  One of my favorite exhibits was PostSecrets, which is described as “an ongoing community mail art project” where people send in anonymous, homemade postcards containing their deepest, darkest secrets.

Most of the postcards are humorous but some are so worrisome that the founder of the project has regular meetings with a suicide prevention organization.

Unfortunately this museum doesn’t get the foot traffic they deserve.  Did I mention that the entrance is free, and that it’s right across from Union Station?  So, no excuses. If you’re ever in downtown DC with a few hours to kill check it out and maybe even confess your deep, dark secrets anonymously via a post card.

Check out other doors perhaps some hiding deep dark secrets at Norm Frampton’s place.  

Merry Maple Leaves

Here we go again. The Christmas fandango; a month of planning for the perfect holiday fully aware that swimming the English Channel in a hailstorm would be an easier miracle to pull off.  So it’s no wonder that a certain grimness hangs overhead this time of year for everyone but the very young, and every tragedy seems so much worse.

This year’s tragedy was the slaughter of the Sufis. I’ve known Sufis. They’re  peaceful. They follow the teachings of all the prophets. They don’t proselytize.

But it’s the holidays and so we light the cinnamon candle and make Christmas lists.  Should we send cards this year or should we go paperless like our eco-friendly friends and send mass Happy Holidays emails?  No that’s too impersonal. Sorry trees.

Whenever I feel grim about the mouth I take a page from Moby Dick and embark on a voyage.

I generally don’t need to go far, just round the block and over the hill and back to the colors in my own backyard.

How do you handle holiday blues?  Or maybe you don’t get them.

Hell is a Children’s Ward

This post is for all the Make-a-Wish kids I worked with who still haunt me:


Their sedan was on a narrow causeway just beyond the Ghost Fleet when the already dented delivery truck a couple of cars ahead spun around and hit the guardrail with such force that its rear axle flew off with the tail shaft still connected.  Together they twirled high into the air, spinning wildly out of control until returning to the ground and bouncing between the hapless cars. Sara watched from the backseat keenly aware that if it hit the windshield, the consequences would be gruesome.  There was no time to duck behind the seat or to say silent goodbyes to her children.

The axle and tail shaft cartwheeled in front of them and then the shaft plunged into a patch of soft asphalt like an arrow shot into the mud, causing the axle to detach, catapult over the guardrail, and roll down the hill toward the bay.  Sparks flew as the truck skidded on bare metal to a smoldering ruin, leaving deep ruts in the road. Miraculously the driver of the truck was not hurt nor were any other vehicles damaged.

They drove the final twelve miles to the army base in silence.

“I want a party – a HUGE party,”the girl began. “In a grand ballroom with at least two hundred people.  And I want Madonna to be there and Boy George.  Oh, that would be so cool.  And of course, kids from school,” she stopped to catch her breath, “and they’d come to the party in limos.  Or maybe helicopters.” She wore a purple terrycloth bathrobe and her hair was brown and stringy. 

Get the dead boy out of your mind, Sara ordered and force a loving look upon your face.

He looked about ten years, the dead boy did, and lay flat on his back just down the hall from the girl’s hospital room. The door to his room had been left wide open.

“Oh my God,” she’d said to the driver pointing to the body.  The man took one look and yelled angrily down to the nurses.  “Hey! Get down here.”

“How did you know he was dead?” the first nurse to arrive on scene asked. 

“I was an Army medic.  Hell, this hospital is still a shit hole.”  His wife, the other Make-a-Wish volunteer, hushed him.    

“You’ve been here before?”  Sara asked.

“Nam,” he replied.  “There was a tunnel running from the airstrip to the morgue so that no one on base got a good look at the steady parade of corpses.  It’s bad for morale, you know,” he said as through it was a very dark joke, “It’s probably still there.”

“I’m amazed you wanted to come back here.”

“I had to keep my sweetie safe.  Don’t like her to drive at night.”

The man and wife were now interviewing the foster parents in another room while she transcribed the girl’s wish.  There would be purple balloons and flowers and even purple gummy bears.  And a band of course, maybe Boy George or Madonna would sing.  “Do you think that’s too much to ask?”

Sara shook her head, no. The nurse trying to insert a tube into the girl’s already bruised and frighteningly thin arm, glanced at Sara with wet eyes.  Many of the “kids” she interviewed looked so healthy that it was hard to believe the doctor’s reports but this girl could have been mistaken for a victim of the Holocaust.

It’s so much easier to interview children under five, Sara thought.  They have no idea what they’ll be missing in life. Dying was the same as going to Disneyland.  Maybe better as they’d get to see Grandma or sit on Jesus’ lap.  No more needles, medicine that made them puke all night long or worse.  No more barbaric excavations into the marrows of their bones that had to be done without anesthesia. 

But the teens and the pre-teens want it all. They are vampires, voracious for life, wanting to suck as much nectar as they can before giving way. They go down fighting. Interviewing them, she felt her energy sucked into a useless, self-absorbed past.

After she finished interviewing the girl, and the man and his wife finished completing the legal paperwork with the foster parents and the doctors, they drove back to the Bay Area across the causeway where they’d almost died and past the rusty ships of war whose drunken ghosts saluted them with their middle fingers.  They all knew the girl would have her party in the hospital ward.  There would be purple balloons and gummy bears.  The Foundation might convince a local celebrity to drive out to the base.   And she would say “so what” because, in the end, that’s what we all say.

Last but maybe least, Sara’s transcription of the grandest party ever planned would be filed in a cabinet somewhere in the Foundation’s basement. Or maybe tossed or shredded or burned.

#ThursdayDoors: Mystery Room

I was surprised to find these doors and the room they lead to in an art museum. 

Probably because the original purpose of this room is not equated with art, unless it’s the art of the deal.  If you have good vision you can probably read the writing over the door. If not, here’s another shot, this time from inside the room. 

Pretty fancy room, hey? Below is another picture which definitely gives away the room’s historic importance.In the 1970s the original Chicago Stock Exchange was in a building built in the 1890s and it was falling apart. However, due to the efforts of preservationists in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago the actual room where stock transactions took place was rebuilt in a new wing of the museum. Today, instead of being a place where fortunes are made and lost, this room serves as an event center.  Here’s is the story of how the room was reconstructed, if you’re interested.

Around the corner from the event center is a one story stained glass window installation by Marc Chagall. Check out other doors at Norm’s place and Happy Thursday!

One Foot in Hell; the Other in Heaven

For the last couple of months it has been my honor to help Duke Miller, whose work I love, publish his book. Living and Dying with Dogs went out of print a bit over a year ago. Now comes Living and Dying with Dogs: Turbo Edition. The new book contains extensive rewrites and the inclusion of Handbook for the Hopeless, a bizarre novella cum employment guide for emergency refugee relief workers. How to describe the Handbook?  More on that later.  Despite the title, this 2nd Edition is not about creating a doggie hospice program. It’s about the people who rush into war zones hoping to bring help to victims of genocides, famines, and epidemics and how the emergency aid process alters everyone’s perception of what we quaintly call reality. It’s about what happens to people forced to check their morals at the door in order to do what needs to be done. Do the ends justify the means? Duke explores this heuristic notion where the sick and dying lie. In that sense, this book asks the old questions, but provides new answers. He writes about things we don’t want to think about, like how the best of us can falter or how our furry friends occasionally eat the hands that have fed them.   If this book was an endless slog over mountains of corpses, I’d probably only recommend it for those considering a career in relief work. But it’s not. There’s dark humor here, poetry as well.  Take the beautiful Hollywood agent who the protagonist admits he should have never slept with. She urges him to write more conventional stories that people can understand, like For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Stuff she can easily sell to the movie industry. He dreads her visits but WTF, she knows people. Maybe he’d better sleep with her again. But no…ghosts surround him and the lost appear before his eyes: the invisible ones he’s loved and mourned. A trip home makes him feel like an alien.  Old friends are left behind.  Disease rots his body and always there is the dark alley or endless hallway populated by drug addicts.  However, sometimes “life floods the parched regions” of his heart in unexpected places, like leper colonies, whore houses, and the wounds of a dying child.

Which brings us to Handbook for the Hopeless  in which an online suicide haunts a man tasked with writing a “how to get a job in a war zone” manual by his well-meaning publisher. But every time he attempts to tell it straight, another ghost enters his mind and down he falls into the waiting arms of one humorously dark character after the other.   We were aided in our publishing endeavor by John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal of Long Island whose logo is above. You can read more about Duke Miller here and here and at TinhatsBlog. The artwork for both the cover and the logo were provided by Duke’s wife, Teresa Miller.

The paperback (365 pages)  is currently for sale on Amazon at $12. Or you can download the eBook for $2.99.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and now I’m off to snap pictures of doors!

 

Draggin Ass? Dragon Mood?

Love this gal’s honesty!

joeyfullystated

I don’t know why we call it draggin ass. Maybe those guys with the droopy pants are draggin ass, but my ass is relentlessly buoyant. My tummy, after three abdominal surgeries in four years, has long been an entity unto itself, but even still, it leads with aplomb.

My mood, now that’s another matter.
I’m about ready for a nap.
I have slept every night, all week. All week with the sleeping at night. Last night, I dozed off on The Mister and he woke me up because I snored at him. Good for me. I love to snore my face. And to beat him to it. I hope I become a louder, more obnoxious snorer as I age. I hope I fall into my pillow and snore within minutes. Imagine us harmonizing — me, a wee hedge trimmer, him, a bigass chainsaw.

We all have relationship goals, amirite?

26-53917-relationship-goals-when-im-old

I see…

View original post 398 more words