Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kimono Dragons

It is twenty three degrees outside and I've locked myself in my room with a cup of coffee. The window is all fogged but I can see the sun clearly through the trails the water droplets leave as they run down the window pane.

I'm teaching this new speaking course on Saturdays which I find ironic being that speaking classes were my greatest fear in school. I'm actually designing the course. This is exciting because it allows me to use my creativity while also building my resume. Bad news is, no weekend for me. I'm working six days a week. I feel that my boss is taking advantage of me--paying me the same as last term except giving me so much extra work. I've talked to some Koreans about this and they have told me that it is the Korean work ethic. That one does what the boss says for the greater good of the company. Who has the greatest good in mind? The boss. The Koreans work like maniacs, on average working about 60 hours a week. Forty hours a week is considered part time.

And forget about sick days. I have never been sick as often as I have here. This is my fourth cold in four months except this week I've had a terrible flu. I told my head instructor that I was feeling sick and that my voice was pretty much gone and asked if there was anyway I could get someone to cover my classes. He said he'd see what he could do. Two minutes later my boss is in the room asking me if I had been out drinking the night before! NO! He gave me some Aspirin and told me to go get 'em.

Even the kids come to school sick. That is why I am sick. The other day the students were coughing and hacking not even covering their mouths. I was at the front of the room looking like death, squeaking in a hoarse voice. Time seemed to stop and I was looking around as if in a dream... Swimming all around me are countless germs in the shape of Kimono Dragons. They are Virus's that have been mutating and adapting for millions of years, attacking the bodies of Orientals, shaping their thoughts, philosophies, changing their history--and then--me, a foreigner with a very different history. A body built to resist the chicken noodle soup cold not the spicy beef variety. I realize this epic biological drama is happening all around me and I'm losing. My body demands that my mind fight back. "Class," I said, "please cover your mouths. Understand that each time you cough your germs are going up my nose into my lungs, into my blood and making me sick. Please, you're making Teacher sick. Cover your mouths!!!"

I've always wanted to be the kind of person that could be nearly dead from illness and people wouldn't even know because I'm so strong. But I've never really been like that. When I get sick people know and it becomes a topic of conversation. What is really frightening is broadcasting my sickness for sympathy on a blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dixie Cups & Paper Plates

It is the end of class, our last day of the semester. As soon as the bell rings the students run out the door dragging their backpacks behind them. They yell, "bye teacher," mouths still full of the pizza I'd bought them to celebrate their last day of fall semester.

Three of the brightest students hang around a bit--pack up their books slowly. "Teacher, I love you." one of the girls says. "Yours-a is-a the best-a class-a I've-a ever had-a in-a my entire life-a. I'm going-a to miss-a you!" They leave with waves, "We love you Teacher."

I'm left in the room, picking up dixie cups and paper plates.

I'm exactly where I should be.

I'm smiling.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Captin, My Captin

Have you ever lived a life time in a nights slumber? Have you ever felt like a refugee when waking, like a displaced citizen of a kingdom that only exists in dreams? Have you ever mourned a lover who never was? Have you ever teared up while watching Star Trek?


The Claw

After work we get some people together and head out to find something to eat. We end up eating at our favorite chicken joint where they cook a stew in a pot on our table. The beer and the Soju flow like milk and honey.

We're cheerful after dinner, after the drinks. Phil tells me that there is a lot of money to be had here if we don't waste it on frivolous stuff like beer and women. I would never buy a woman. I'll leave a wealthy man.

After dinner we head out onto the street. We're Foreigners in ties, blond haired giants. A man passes us carrying a passed out hooker on his back, maybe to a subterranean neon lit cave. We start the walk home, our shiny shoes clicking on pavement, splashing in the puddles. On every corner there are claw machines. I've seen them back home at bowling alleys and carnivals, places where people in greasy amusement craved frenzies hang out. My neighborhood, the red light district, Janghanpyeung, is like the inside of a bowling alley. A very gigantic, sprawling bowling alley.

We see a machine and head there for entertainment. We put in our spare change in turns. Ion wins a lighter. How exciting. We head to the corner liquor store to exchange our bills for coins. We feed the claws on every corner. Each machine holds a prize that will improve our life: a pistol shaped lighter, a golden mermaid with butane filled breasts. I fantasize about lighting cigarettes for hookers out doors in beer gardens. The waitress would bring us squid and kimchi.

More coins. Bigger bills. A few cheap trinkets keep us hooked. Soon we've created a game. Competition. A hunt. Who will bring home the most prizes? And our journey begins through alley ways behind brothels, past chicken restaurants, the hof that serves pork spin soup. Our wallets get a bit lighter after each intersection. I've turned my pockets inside out leaving trails of lint like Hansel and Gretel. I'm on a pathway away from rationality.

Phil remembers, he'd seen some men stocking a claw machine a few blocks away just this evening. There was a Nintendo DS in that machine, designer watches, pots of gold, the fountain of youth. We're buzzed now. It's agreed we've got to make it to the fabled claw. Past trolls, witches, and prostitutes we'll travel. We're crossing an intersection our stroll has turned to a brisk power walk. I've lost my umbrella maybe at one of the countless claws machines somewhere behind us in the night.

"Phil remember what we were talking about at dinner. Remember what you told me. He smiles. "Yeah, don't spend money on stupid shit. Here we are doing stupid shit."

We make it to THE machine. Sure enough there is the Nintendo DS. Underneath is a torch lighter. A violin lighter. A pair of work out gloves. A friggin power drill! We each have a go. Three bucks down. Another round. I finally win. It is a drink coaster with a disco light that twirls inside. A martini would become a beacon of cool atop that coaster and already I'm imagining having a party. I'll need olives.
Maybe decorations--possibly party hats. A punch bowl for sure.

Phil goes next. He wins the work out gloves. He has no need for them. Never dreamed of needing such a thing but he swears he's going to take up boxing, no, taekwando.

Ion's excited. This legendary machine pays out but he is out of money. He needs to break a ten. Lynn gives him the look. She reminds him of his promise that he had made to her, his wife, when we weren't listening, that his next turn was it. He says, you only live once. This is Korea. She's pissed. I can tell.

He wanders off to the dark bar next door.

I want to win that violin lighter. I used to play the violin. I need that violin lighter. But all I have is a ten. 60 turns for 10 bucks. It is tempting. Lynn says I'm crazy. Gives me a look. I admit I feel shame. "Phil I'm putting in 10. Pay me back 5 tomorrow. 30 turns each, Okay?"

Yep.

The claw carries the violin to the lip of the tray, to the edge of our happiness. Each time it falls short. Each time we try again. The turn counter is counting down from 60 to 45 to 30. The sense of urgency is higher each time. The chemicals flooding our system are more dangerous than any bottle of soju or whore. Phil's turns count from 30 to 12, from 9 to 4, 3, 2, 1. Oh! Oh! Yes, Yes, YES...aww. We let out sighs--our anticipation replaced by guilt. The shame. I can feel Lynn's look.

Where's Ion?

Moments later here comes Ion with two plastic sacks. "Hope you guys are hungry," he says. "What's in the bag Ion?" from Lynn. She's had enough of all this. Ion has a sheepish grin on his face. Embarrassed but sober. We look in the bags. Two huge bags of soup. Soup!

He had gone inside the bar to get change for a ten. Without Korean he had resorted to making clawing gestures with his hand to communicate his need for change for the machine. The woman had motioned for him to wait and given him some free coffee to wait as she went in the back to fetch what he assumed would be a bag of coins. She came back with two bags of soup.

What a wholesome turn of events.

Claw Machines, hookers--the hunt...maybe it's frivolous. Maybe not. They make for good stories on winter days in kitchens, with friends sitting around bowls of hot steamy soup.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Redemption

We were done with chess. I won, barely. The room was filled with happy people, drinking, lounging, eating, some even settling into their beds laid out on the wooden floor. Charles and I went to the front door and put on our shoes and stepped out on the porch for a cigarette. We were up near the Northern border outside a beach town for our company weekend retreat. It had rained all day. The wooden deck was covered in beads of water. We lit our smokes and exhaled. We stood in silence for a minute. I was listening to the wind through the trees, breathing in the clean air, face red with drink. The Crickets chirped. I can't remember ever being as content.

"mmm, You like, ah...wait, wait," He took his cellphone out of his pocket and with one hand typed a Korean word into his English dictionary. I watched the screen in anticipation. The word popped up. Romantic. "Ah romance," I said. Yes very much. He was smiling. He told me he likes to be romantic with his girlfriend, how he can't wait to marry her. "Where is your girlfriend? Why is she not here?" I asked. "No come. Work." "Ahh." "I come, I drive in car four hours to see you, and Bryan and Ben. You good friends. Your mind, my mind, same." I smiled, same minds. "Thanks Charles. I'm glad you came."

"You want to walk?" So we walked down the dirt road that winds through small rice fields and eventually climbs over a little hill covered in pines and slopes down into the Pacific. "You know what is awesome Charles, that I can come from over the sea and meet people like you, people with like minds. We don't even speak the same language but we communicate through games like chess or through music." I drew the word communicate with my fingers on the air. "I'm glad you made it tonight." "Ah, mmm hmm," he said.

"You have tattoos?" He asked.

"No tattoos. You?" He told me he had one on his back. It meant something, peace I think he said. "Are you going to get more tattoos?"

"Yes. I want more."

"What is it about tattoos that you like? mmm, Why do you like tattoos?"

Ah, he said. "I don't like my life. Tattoos, mmm like, mmm, ah..." he was frustrated. "You don't like your life?" I asked slowly, perplexed.

His brow creased at the center and he looked up and searched right and left in his brain for the right word. "I get tattoos, because I don't like my life. I get tattoos for..." and he brought out his cellphone again and typed out a word. The light on the phone monitor was bright in the country night. There was a word on the screen that made my stomach twist and my eyes nearly fill with water. Redemption. "Ahh, redemption," I whispered.

"You know word?"

"Yes. I know that word."

You get tattooed for redemption. I understand. Yes, I understand."

I patted him on the shoulder, and smiled. Come on, let's get back to the house."

Charles, my new friend and I walked back to the house, like minds, like hearts.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Harder Than It Looks

One of the words on the children's vocabulary list was chemical. Chemical--n. a substance. "Who can give me an example of a chemical?" I asked them. Blank stares. “Okay how to illustrate this one,“ I thought, like I do so often these days when explaining something that to a native English speaker is second nature.

I went to the white board with three different colored pens in hand. I began by drawing a simplified periodic table, filling in the first box with an H for Hydrogen and the second with an He for Helium and so fourth, after each box looking back at the kids to see if I was enlightening them. Blank stares.

Do you know what the periodic table is? No? It's a chart listing elements from the lightest to the heaviest. "Has anyone heard of the hydrogen atom?" No, no one had heard of Hydrogen. One boy in the back asked, "Teacher, what is atom?" Oh gosh, "An atom is the smallest bit of matter. Here, let me draw it for you. I turned back to the board and drew a circle inside a circle with rings around it. Turned again. Nothing. I put an "e-" on one of the rings to illustrate the concept of an electron shell. Each time I turned I saw the same horrific glossy eyed stare coming from my students which compelled me to draw anther interesting chemistry model.

After about five minutes of this madness I became aware of my surroundings, that but for the squeaking of my furiously moving pens there was dead silence. I told myself, "Stop, your being paid to teach ENGLISH. It is okay if they don't know chemistry yet, they just hit puberty.” I looked at the board and for a moment was terrified. It could have been taken from the wall and hung in a museum of modern art. I abandoned my effort and repeated to the students again, "a chemical is a substance. Everything we can see and touch, everything in the universe is made out of chemicals. I left it at that and moved on. They half smiled.

After class a Korean staff member came up to me and said one of the students had complained that my vocabulary was too high. I had to laugh. If the staff member had seen what I’d done to the white board, I probably would have been fired.

@#$! it.

Like Roger Clemens, I am back from retirement. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Keeping an Inn On Ramandu

While drinking Cass beer on couches at a bar that looked like the Cantina from Star Wars, my new friends and I discussed the internet. If not for the internet we would not be here in Seoul. It's true. The world is very small.

As soon as I got the internet hooked up recently I visited Micheal's site, Yummy Brain Gravy, and was very surprised to find that he had retired his blog. He said that he felt trapped there. It is strange to think about a code trapping you, or choking your creativity. Just exactly how does an immaterial object obstruct you? I'm not sure but I feel as Micheal does.

I love Adventscribing. It is nostalgic--it is where I grew up. I can remember walking the streets of Bellingham thinking about literature and politics. I wanted to change the world and make it a romantic place where my ideals would grow like a vegtable garden. I would sit down at my computer and my hands would move like a blur. The words would just come out. It hasn't been like that here for many months. I'll type and then delete half the line and then type some more and delete. It is slow going. I've always thought of this blog as a story. I've shared with you pieces of me that when put together add up to something. I'm not sure what. The themes in my life now are very different than they were when I started this blog. Maybe I'm not as confused as I used to be. But I want to get my fingers moving again, and so I'll say good-bye, maybe not forever, but until I find exactly how these two chapters in my life relate to each other. Until we meet again, good-bye.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Seoul

Hey,

I made it. I am in the Orient. These people are going to be our overlords. Get ready. Let me tell you about my trip so far. So much has happened in the last three days, I feel my ninja skills going up:)

I got on my first plane. Andy said that I would love it. I hated it. Going to jail for 24 hours would be far easier than being confined on that plane for eleven. I watched Mr. Bean episodes on the TV in the seat. I did have this tripidelic experience over southern South Korea though as we descended out of the clouds and did a bank. I looked out my window for the first time since Seattle and saw out my window something glorious that I didn't understand at all. Streaks of gold whimsically dancing beyond the wing. My mind just did not understand what it was seeing and I could feel the struggle in my brain to comprehend. UFO's? Angels? Then it clicked. I realized I was seeing cities dotted through out the country and that the gold was sunlight reflecting off all those windows thousands of feet below. It is funny what the mind can dream up when it doesn't understand something.

I was so happy to get off of that plane that I didn't even mind dealing with immigration and customs. I talked to a few American's at the airport, one of them a military guy who started talking about strategic missions up north and deployment and everything. I think he thought I was a soldier because of my new short haircut. So I jumped through all the hoops then it’s just me, by myself, in Korea. I stepped out of the airport in to Incheon and was struck immediately by the humidity. It is like a bath-house here. I started sweating immediately. I lit up a cigarette. Every male here is a damn chain smoker in public. This college girl comes up to me as I'm smoking and shows me photos cut into heart shapes of her and her friends holding hands in a circle. She spoke terrible English. Everyone here so far speaks terrible English. She told me that her English name was Victoria. She talked about the unification of all religions for world peace. She made me smile and I thanked her for welcoming to her country with words of hope.

From the airport I caught a bus to Seoul which is about a one hour drive or 30 miles. Incheon and Seoul kind of form this one huge megatropolis as Seoul has about 11 million people and Incheon has about 6 million. To put that in perspective, Washington only has 5 million. So take everyone from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and squish them between Seattle and Tacoma and you have something resembling here. I have to tell you though that on the bus I was looking out the window and the sun was setting, the sky was orange and some of the city lights were beginning to burn. Between Incheon and Seoul looks a lot like Everett or Tacoma. There are pockets of skyscrapers. I thought for a moment to myself, "Is this it? Is this all you could muster, Sauraman?" But the skyscrapers began to multiply and the space between them grew smaller. My God! Okay, you know how when you drive through Seattle, downtown only takes about five minutes to pass by? Well imagine driving from Marysville to Seattle with nothing but downtown Seattle’s to pass by. The East is going to take over the world. So at this point I'm blown away. Other thoughts and observations were happening at this point but this is a letter not a novel. I get to the bus terminal. Am too stupid to figure out how to use the pay phone and a nice person let me use her personal cell phone. I got a cab to my hotel and checked in. When I opened my door I was happily surprised. A nice little pad. Went downstairs for some fresh air. Met a fellow English teacher, Jordan, fresh off the boat who was from Seattle himself and so we started talking and soon enough the conversation turned to Bellingham and the Horseshoe. Apparently he's been there a lot. What are the chances? First person I meet? I was exhausted but we went out for a drink. The streets were filled with people and neon signs everywhere. It smells like fish and spice here.

I walked a lot yesterday and sweat my ass off but am starting to see how my environment connects and God willing will be able to navigate my way to my first day of work tomorrow.

Today I was up before dawn. I called up Jordan and we went across the street to this massive mall which is under the world trade center. We went into this little restaurant with two middle age women running shop. The place was no bigger than maybe my living room and kitchen at home. The woman asks us what we want. We are dumb though, don't have a clue what she is saying. We smile and point. I point to the cheapest thing on the menu, 5000 wan or roughly 5 dollars. Jordan didn't order anything. About ten minutes later the woman brings out a tray with about five plates on it. Then she comes back with three more plates and two bowls, one of soup and one full of eggs cooked in a way I have never seen. Ten plates! for five dollars!!! I made Jordan help me out and we both left full with food still left on the plate.

One thing Koreans are not is hungry. One thing they are is damn fine dressers. I was on the subway today and the most powerful smell attacking my sense was that of makeup. Women here take care of themselves. Very stylish and the men look like mafia dons. I am probably the most scrubby person in the country.

We went on the Subway today must have been an hour to the other side of town to this park called Seoul Forest. I wanted to lay in a park and see trees. It wasn't much of a forest I have to say. Looks like an ecological restoration over a couple city blocks. the trees were only about ten years old but I imagine in another fifty it will be quite a forest. A supplier of shade even. The last two days have really been fun and I have only met one guy. I imagine tomorrow will be better as I meet my peers at work.

I was told that a lot of people here speak English. I haven't found that to be true at all. But I will have to keep and my ears open and definatly take this opportunity to learn their language. It is difficult to not be able to use words as enamored with them as I am. People here seem to be really nice. I can't explain it. It isn't a different planet. There is still earth and sky. Just a lot to get used to and I am excited about that.

Thanks for reading. This is as close to conversation as I've gotten outside of my new buddy in the last three days. Peace, my friend. Write me back let me know how your doing.

With Love,
Matt

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ramandu's Workshop

Ann Spam has my mind reeling with her inventions. Right now I am in the process of burning all my music on to my hard drive and as I listen to each of of Cd's, some of which I haven't listened to in years, I'm whisked back to meaningful points in my life. It is fun to think about the sound track of my life.

I've come up with my own invention involving music and life. Here is how it works. Sophisticated sensors monitor the rhythms of your body. These could be as simple as small sensors sewn into your clothing or perhaps even ingested. The data, your heart rate, body temperature, bowel movements etc, will be converted into music. You can listen to the music on your i-pod in real time. This is actually more profound than it sounds. Say you are feeling sentimental, your body will create very sentimental music as the sensors pick up the swelling of your heart. As you listen to the sentimental music you will become more sentimental which will produce even more sentimental music, in turn making you more and more sentimental until perhaps your so sentimental you melt. Maybe your feeling more enthusiastic than all that. The percussion music of your beating heart will cause your heart to beat faster and faster, the music increasing into a crescendo of pure excitement. This invention is comparable to the Wright brothers air plane except instead of taking man off the ground it rockets man into the extreme realms of emotion.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Good-bye

Today was my last day at work. For the last year I've been a Grounds Maintenance worker. In a month I will be a foreigner and a teacher. Until then I am just a bum, but a reflective bum trying to soak up as much of my beloved shire as I can.

I have gained a deep respect for the working man. My dad is a working man. My grandfathers and their fathers were working men. There is something satisfying about going to work everyday and working hard with your hands. If there are jobs in Heaven, I hope to be a gardener. My boss, a squat tough east coaster extended his hand to me this afternoon and wished me well. He appreciated my work and I know that he is a bit sorry to see me leave. You don't know these guys I worked with, they are just normal guys, but I tell you, they come to work every single day, rain or shine. They visit the chiropractors more than some and they smoke cigarettes and talk shit but I've never met such honorable men. And if an employer asks about my experience as a maintenance man, I will say this to him, "Working as a ground maintenance man was not glamorous. I didn't learn any new software. It barely paid the bills, but it did toughen me up. It was a struggle against nature. It was very quite but the trees spoke and the flowers asked for water. And the men I worked with were good hard working men. It taught me more about myself than four years of college."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Computer

The computer has arguably had the largest impact on human society. In the vast stretches of time that man has roamed and settled the corners of the earth, computers are comparably a new tool, but one that has, unlike any other, drastically aided in the increase of knowledge, communication, and innovation. It shapes nearly all aspects of modern human culture. It’s full impact is yet to be seen but for better or worse, the rapid increase in computer technology that we are seeing in our day is changing the very way in which we as people see ourselves and our place in the universe.

For thousands, if not millions of years, man followed the migrating beasts of the plains as hunters and gatherers. Around ten thousand years ago some of the people stopped following the beasts and did something that man had not done before. Settle. They planted fields of grain, domesticated the wild beasts, they built cities with stone walls. Hunters became farmers and soldiers and merchants. Governments formed to manage the trade of the grain. Life went on like this for nearly ten thousand years and knowledge increased slowly, rising and falling like an incoming tide.

About five hundred years ago something changed--man invented a process of enquiry that became known as the scientific method. With this new approach to the natural world, man’s knowledge increased greatly and produced greater and more powerful tools. Then, just over seventy one years ago, a very sophisticated mass of vacuum tubes became known as the computer, a tool used for calculating. Aided by the computer, man’s knowledge is now exponentially increasing, accelerating faster than it ever has before. Where it took man one hundred thousand years to learn to farm and ten thousand years to become industrious, it has taken but fifty years for him to become a space faring race.

Computers now sit on nearly one billion desk tops around the world. Paired with telecommunications, the computer and the world wide web, allow people from all walks of life to share themselves in community and network in ways that promote connectivity and creativity which in turn spurs innovation. The computer redefines space and time, making the world smaller and move faster. There are some that speculate that computers will themselves become human, that artificial intelligence will emerge, perhaps not a tool but a companion.

It is fascinating to think about where the computer revolution will lead man in the end. Perhaps the world will move to fast for his liking or he may adapt and become something else all together. Man is organic, imperfect--beautifully small in comparison with the cosmos. Man is by nature a poet. As computer technology continues to advance, man will probe deeper into the subatomic world, to the outer limits of space and beyond. The hugeness of our universe, almost impossibly large to comprehend might be made just small enough for a person to put on his desktop next to a vase of flowers and picture of his family.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mr. Antolini

I've been reading my favorite books again lately. The books are the same, but each time I go to them I am different. I finished one of my favorite books tonight, The Catcher in the Rye. I've read it several times but I was always Holden Caufield. Reading it this time I found that I was able to relate to Holden but for the first time understood Mr. Antolini.

Like Holden, I can see the people running through the rye towards the cliffs all around me. I can relate to him in that. The world is full of phonies. But I never realized the beauty in Holden or that spark in him until now. For all his criticisms, he's just another kid playing near the cliffs. I understand why Mr. Antolini strokes his hair and watches over him as he sleeps. Mr. Antolini is a catcher in the rye!

When Holden is nearly at rock bottom in the living room with Mr. Antolini, smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails in the dark, Mr. Antolini says something very profound--something that speaks to me. He quotes William Stekel: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."

That is encouraging. Perhaps the cause can be won in the end with a good attitude, a firm handshake, a hug, getting up everyday and working with a smile, picking up those that stumble.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Leather

My shoelace broke today at work. At lunch I stop at a corner market to buy a new pair. I ask the clerk if she sells shoe laces and she says yeah and directs me down isle three. There they are, and to my surprise there are a variety of styles to choose from. There's a pair of laces for $2.19. Just what I need, but next to them is a pair of hardy leather laces oozing with ruggedness. They're tagged at $4.49. More than double the price. I had the adequate laces in one hand and the manly laces in the other. I pay double for the lumberjack laces as a treat to myself.

I get out to the truck and my partner sees the laces and comments on how hardcore they are. You bet they are. I even say the word extravagant out loud to describe them. I'm really excited, no kidding. I've got one boot tied up real snug and I feel as if I could hike Mt. Rainier--or, get in a knife fight in loose gravel. Beaming, that's what I am. The laces in the other boot aren't broken but I take out my clippers and cut 'em off anyway. I don't even bother untying them. They're weak, old. I start threading the second boot up with the leather straps and my partners watching me, grazing on his sandwich and cheese crackers. I get the lace through the second eye and give a firm tug. The strap, the leather man-lace rips! "You've got to be kidding me!" I scream. My partner laughs at me. He's crying with laughter. I'm crushed. $4.49. Down the toilet.

I head back into the market still with only one boot laced up.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Two Well Mannered Anarchist

I'm sitting on the front porch browning in the brilliance of the sun. Two young men walk by. Scrunny but cheerful chaps they are. One is wearing a brimmed hat pushed back high on his forehead and in his hands holds a silver trumpet. The other wears thick glasses and carries a great tattered flag over his shoulders. It is a red rectangle above a black rectangle and the two colors are held together with a strip of elctric tape. They stop at the end of the walk way in front of the porch, eyeing Beth's boots that she had put out on the curb.

"Are these free for the taking?" the trumpeter asks?

"They are," I say.

He's happy for the gift and with boots in hand, continues down the street.

"Hey," I call, "What does your flag mean?"

They look back smiling. "Anarchy", they say and turn back away.

I chuckle to myself. Anarchist politely asking if they can hall away a free pair of old boots. They aren't very good anarchist.

Hope and joy in unexpected places


I know quoting texts can be dull but there is much here that I want to share:

"When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?"

"Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!" said Gandolf.

Then Aragorn turned, and there was a stony slope behind him running down from the skirts of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling tree no more than three foot high. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.

--Tolkien, Return of the King

Friday, June 01, 2007

Free Market

eHarmony is being sued for not offering their services to the gay community. This is like someone suing McDonald's for not serving pizza. If a business does not serve your needs then go somewhere that does or start your own business to rival the competition. Come on. This is just common sense people!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Thousand Words

I invite you over, pour you a drink in a smallish crystal glass with clinking ice cubes, tell you to relax and from out of the back room I come with my slide projector and screen. You roll your eyes and throw back your drink. A little bit of bourbon dribbles off your lip and on to your white shirt. Your in for a long night. Enjoy!

Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters brooding over our fair city


The Bridge


Innocents!


Frodo-Son


The wonder years.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Subterrianian Death Chamber/Space Interogation Room

If you're like me, you're heart beats just a bit faster each time you open a door. There is always that thrilling chance that on the other side you'll find another world. I've visited such places before, if only in dreams. This evening I opened my microwave and to my astonishment, found myself in a strange and unfamiliar world. It wasn't the golden wheat fields I long for but one can hardly be picky when magic manifests itself behind doors. The history of violence in that brutal den is terrifying. I stood dumb struck, frozen burritos in hand, between two worlds.



Here, flip it upside down and you see what I'm talking about.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Frank Brikowski

There is this hermit woman that lives across the street who in our rowdier days would would scream at us to keep the noise down. She lives in a house made out of siding that looks like fake brick. We started calling her the Fake Brick House Lady. That eventually evolved in to Frank Brikowski. Frank for short. We were at the Co-Op the other day and ran into someone from a different circle that mentioned Frank Brikowski. I wonder how far this has spread:)

The Return of The King

Today was an absolutley wonderful day. My parents came up this morning to go to church with me. I am a major Lord of the Rings nerd right now as I'm reading it again (this is one tradition I started five years ago and want to continue through out my life and pass on to my children: to read The Lord of the Rings every spring). So I was reading them one of my favorite passages when my neigbors came down and saved my parents from my ramblings and whisked us off to church. The first thing I saw when we got into the church was that some in the congragation were waving flags with orange and red and yellow tongues and the choir was singing a Jewish song and there were bongos! It is Pentacost! To see the banners waving and people singing like that just filled me to the brim with overflowing joy! I have been walking on clouds all day. I can't wait for the Return of the King! The flags, the confettii, the laughter and the song. After the service, when we all spilled out onto the stone steps outside, underneath the stain glass, I longed for a trumpet in my hands to blow a mighty note!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cinco de Mayo en Bellingham, WA, USA

I'm sitting on the porch watching the youth of America stumble down the street shouting profanities. The people on the porch are probably the only sober people within a four block radius. I'm struck by the horror of it, how maybe I'm stuck in one of the modern zombie flicks like 28 Weeks Later. Where are the flags that were waving, the horns that were blowing? Where are the men of renown? The women of honor? Where are the humble, the chaste, the wise?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

In the Garden

I've noticed something peculiar about people. They seem to always be incomplete presently, but participating in a program towards completelness. This makes my heart ache. I wish we were all fully realized beings.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Essence

It is getting late but I wanted to jot some things down before turning out the light. I've been thinking about truth and magic in story. I was talking with my brother and made a few discoveries that I can't wait to explore more when I have more time. See, that story I sketched out the other day about Hawaii and the color of my face, I've learned something important about it. My first reaction to the woman's question about the redness of my skin was defensive: she was pointing out an imperfection. But that's just silly. Here is what I think was really going on, the old woman at that breakfast cafe with her over ripe husband and ancient mother, sat in a heavy silence on a bright Sunday morning. Perhaps she sat there and watched me, a young man, talking passionately with my brother, slurping cup after cup of coffee--maybe she saw youth or charisma. Maybe it brought back memories, fantasies. Maybe she saw my red face and smile and thought of somewhere tropical where the sun always shines. And so when she asked me, where I'd been to get such a tan, maybe she wanted a story of adventures at the equator--snorkeling, pirates, coconut bombs, grass skirts. Maybe my answer, though a lie, was exactly what she needed. I'd like to think that I gave her a dream of sand and sun and she went home to cook a spicy dish for her aged husband.

And that is what writing is about. Gifts of visions--this is the essence of fiction. I'm more of a liar than a writer but it is awesome when truth presents itself so clearly.

Monday, April 30, 2007

I've Never Been To Hawaii

I got up from the breakfast table at the cafe and started to make my way to the door when a woman in a window booth caught my attention. She was staring at me with what looked like questioning eyes. "Hello." I said, and waited for her question, searching my memory to a clue as to who this woman was. She was a big woman, a stranger, and she began to speak, slowly..."where have you been?" I looked blankly at her. "Your face, it is so red. Where have you been to get that sunburn?"

I've heard this question many times in my life. I am red. I have sensative skin. What can I say?

"Hawaii."

"Oh fun. How neat, Hawaii."

"It was absolutely beautiful there, mam. If you get a chance you should visit. Enjoy the rest of your breakfast now."

I say to my brother when we get outside, as he is looking at me with a smile, "It's just easier that way."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dating Game

I recently re-entered the dating scene. It is a loathsome place to be. I want a cabin with a fire place and two cushioned arm chairs side by side. The smell of must mixed with tea and honey--boots caked with mud by the door--by oversized parkas hung on the coat rack. Dating strangers is rather, like being in a factory from the 19th century and the workers have a look of desperation in their eyes.

I don't want to date. I just want to be human and meet other humans. Real humans. Not ones with shinny pointy shoes and earings to bring out the color in their eyes.

I've exited the dating scene. It was a loathsome place to be. I'm on a star ship with my cat and I'm hurtling through the cosmos with a crew of dwarves who shovel coal into the hyper drive while singing old mining songs. I'm a house plant physician who wears a stethoscope and a beeper. I give lolipops to saplings when they've been brave. I am a walker who has journeyed to the edge of the world and tossed pennies into the abyss for luck. I tend bar at a club shaped like a raindrop off a parkway made of cobblestone. It is a watering hole for telepaths. The jazz band is made up of one guy who wears a thin black-waxed mustache. He sits at a round table against a curved red wall and folds paper into nouns.

Caution, Work Crew up Ahead

Driving the work truck down a country road with ditches on both sides and beyond, fields of tall green grass, wet with the mists of spring, I'm deep in conversation with my partner, Yonk. I tell him about a movie I rented the night before called "The Holiday". "Maybe you've seen it. It's a chick flick," I tell him. "One of those emotional porno movies that women watch with their girlfriends while passing a quart of chunky monkey ice cream. It wasn't the feminine flavor of the film that struck me, that is why I rented it. I want to study romance stories. What stuck out," I say while gesturing with my hands--the truck swerving over the divider line--"is how the movie writers created characters that were movie writers. Hollywood is stuck in Hollywood. I mean there were palm trees and beautiful people and lavish mansions and Mexican house keepers, and..."

Yonk removes the lid from his thermos and takes a sip of steaming gas station coffee. "Authors don't speak for us," I say. "They write stories about powerful attorneys in powerful suits who manipulate the world from their offices atop skyscrapers and the young idealistic intern, a lone wolf, who fights back with guns and cell phones. Or, there is the story of the poor, the impoverished victims of society who overcome their troubled past, their sexual abuse, drug abuse, gambling addictions. But who is writing our story?" Another gas station is coming up on the right, a breakfast stop for construction workers. Everything they sell there is fried, sugary, or caffeinated. We pull in to use the bathroom before getting to the work site. Inside, I break down and buy a coffee and maple bar.

I turn on the windshield wipers after starting the truck. I move my lunchbox and thermos making room for my breakfast. Yonk caved in too. He bought a sausage muffin with cheese. I pull out onto the highway behind a port-a-potty truck. "So? Who is writing our story? What is our story? What does it look like?"

He thinks about it for a minute, a long minute, breathing out of his mouth, steam coming out it as he chews on his fried sausage sandwich. Finally, "We're in a comedy," he says. I laugh. "Really," he says. "Remember that movie with Emilio Estevez and that other dude? They are garbage men and they get into all these comical situations. That's us."

"Your right! Our lives our comical."

"Yeah they are. I don't mind being in a comedy. It's better than a drama."

We're still driving, only slower now because we've come to a work zone and a flagger is standing in the road holding a sign that reads, SLOW. She's smoking a cigarette. We sit silently--the truck wipers squeaking a bit as they rub abrasively against the thin mist. I break the silence, "Yeah man, but I mean our lives are more meaningful than that, right?"

"Well, I'll put it this way, there isn't much for drama. If a Hollywood producer bought our story he'd have to spice it up quite a bit. There'd have to be a love interest first of all. Probably one of the chicks at our work site. A really cute girl in need of a make over. She'd probably have an abusive boy friend and a drug addiction. The greedy governor would condemn her building to put in a race track and her boyfriend would be selling drugs to the Gov's daughter, maybe even boinking her. We'd come on the scene in our landscaping truck most likely packin' heat, maybe a rocket launcher mixed in with the rakes and shovels. There'd be a lot of explosions and one of us would rescue the girl and the other would choke the Governor out and put the fear of God into him with our hedge trimmer. Something like that. This job just isn't exciting enough, man."

"Your probably right. None the less, we have a story without the guns. I wake up everyday to the sound of my alarm clock. It rips me out of dreams. It's friggin' traumatic, man. I pull on my trousers, brush my teeth, and come here to work. This is noble. It might be invisible, but it's noble, right? I mean this is epic. We are the working poor. We are America. We have a story!"

He laughs. We pull into the job site. We inspect it out loud: the grass has grown quite tall in a week. The side walk edges are furry, the Fontainea hedges need to be trimmed. "Alarm clocks don't sell movies," he says. "We tell stories about men in castles and princesses that need saving. We're living out a comedy, man."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Religious Experience

Seeing a large gathering of people in town square, I changed my direction, to curious to pass them by. I walked down the stairs of the amphitheater, past children coloring with crayons, pictures of the sun and the moon, of forests filled with birds. They looked content if not a little bored. In front of me, at the bottom of the bleachers under a pavilion erected on the theater stage, a man spoke into a microphone. I spied a seat at the foot of a comfortable boulder and leaned my back into it. I tripped on the people around me. They were organic people. No hairspray, make up, deodorant...no style of any sort. They looked like bark and they sat solemnly listening to the speaker talk about alternative fuels and energy efficient light bulbs. They seemed very familiar with the message, and as I listened, I didn't find it to be news to me either but they waved their flags and proclaimed their "hallelujahs" just the same. Their flags were blue with a circle in the middle. The circle was a picture of the earth. The man on stage told them what they had to do: buy local, buy organic, buy green energy, buy buy buy...

When the man was done speaking he exited the stage and a band came up and played a song with banjos and eight stringed guitars. The song, they said was written by a street person in Seattle, a prophet, I gathered. "When the sun comes out, it comes out for everyone. When the rain starts to fall, it falls on everyone." The audience was encouraged to participate and they did, some sang, some clapped, some looked skyward.

I got up to walk around. I passed signs that proclaimed things about war and oil, about carbon emissions and global warming. I looked for the signs that said, the end is near, but I didn't find one. College kids passed out literature concerning politics and the environment. They wore bandannas and hemp necklaces but no shoes. The uniform of sorts for a young devout mission ministry.

I know what this is, I thought. This is church. And it was. They all seemed caught up in the excitement of it all, but all a little desperate too...working, working, working to usher in the Kingdom.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Contentedness in Story

I've mentioned an idea here once before that I'd like to revisit and it involves story and contentedness and beauty. How does one write beauty? The struggles in life are the building blocks of narrative; rising conflict resolved in the end. Conflict is present in all good stories. I've been many characters here at Adventscribing, Ramandu, Black robe, the male house keeper, a dragon slayer, all pieces of me, projections of strength in difficult times. But who am I in pleasant times, in quite times? When I surrender and let God fight my battles? I am a whistler, a child of God, at peace.

Reading a bit from the Hobbit, I discovered that Tolkien touched on this idea as well. The dwarves and Mr. Bilbo set out for the treasure under the mountain and are confronted at once with difficulties, first losing a pony and the food he carried then when captured by the trolls, are nearly eaten for dinner. After all these adventures they finally make it to Rivendale where they eat, sing, and rest--simple pleasures. A span of weeks lodged in the elven city is captured in one paragraph. No struggle, no conflict, but merriment and peace--one paragraph. And the story would end there at happily ever after if it weren't for the long perilous road ahead of them.

I wonder, those people that tell their long stories of adventure, are they're hearts filled with conflict? Are they restless? I've spent nearly four years writing as Ramandu, sword fighting the beasts of youth: college, minimum wage, failed loves, challenging ideas. And I've finally come to the end of this road, to a place like Rivendale except real, full of peace and joy. I wish you were here with me. And while here I have nothing to write because I've been called to rest, for now at least. And so I fill up my pipe, pack a lunch, and meander up the hill where I lay in the grass and puff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Honesty

There was this dog I admired today at the park. I don't know much about dog breeds but he was a short bronze colored brute with a very thick neck. He had a build that would lend well to guarding a scrap yard. He was wearing a leash and connected to that was his owner, a bipedal. Near the shore many people were gathered, smiling and nodding at each other while their dogs sniffed each others back ends. As the big muscular dog, I'll call him Brutus, spied the action down by the water he could barely contain himself. His tail started wagging like a maniac and he was choking himself as he tried to pull away from his master and go play with his kin. This big mean lookin dog was just a softy.

It got me thinking about humans. I think about this quite a bit, I'll admit, about what kind of pets humans would make to aliens that might take over the planet. Humans rarely let others see the kind of excitement that Brutus showed and when one does (get overly excited) they are considered weird or eccentric. I guess I admire that kind of naked lovingness that dogs have. Most of them aren't trying to be cool, or seem more intelligent or interesting then they really are. They sniff a butt and that is conversation enough. Then they are great friends. Humans are so intelligent that they are foolish, I think. I would be embarrassed of my species if we were domesticated by aliens and when taken to the park on leashes, refused to have any fun choosing instead to show off or exclude some because they weren't the right color or sort. What kind of pets would we be if when we showed up at the park, instead of playing with our fellow man for the delight of our alien masters, we just sat in a glum circle asking each other about our days at work?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring

I'm outside before bed. It's late and I can't sleep. I'm wearing my pajamas with the banana peel print and a t-shirt. The breeze is warm and for the first time in a long time I don't feel cold.

I look up at the sky, the white clouds are moving slowly against the black of space. The stars appear then disappear, reappear. There are frogs out tonight. What a miricle: my ears! I notice also I'm under the flowering plum tree he's pink and sweet, exploding with life. It's late. Where is all this color coming from? It's spring, it finally came and I smile in this realization. The stars, the clouds, the plum blossoms. It is too much. I want to share it with someone. I'm alone under the sky and want to share this moment.

Maybe I'll stand here forever--my joints getting stiff and creaky and my skin rough like bark. My arms will rise to the heavens and my arm hair, all ready standing up, will grow and stretch and burst at the end in flowers.

The clouds speed up, the stars streak across the sky. The sun rises and falls, the moon chases...waxing, waning. Seasons of earth...Seasons of the sun. All creation alive, pulsating, praising God. I'm lost in sky. I'm not alone.

What is it to be born again, you've asked? Look, look, it is all around you! In the trees and the moon. Spring is here at last!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cyberdelic

How did he arrive at this point in life. The dark circles under his eyes were visual symbols for the depravity in his heart, the dull black poison of addiction. He sat in the corner arm chair, the stubble on his cheeks growing ever so slowly. He'd been sitting there for weeks. "Pass it here, man. Come on bro, I need a hit. Duuude."

His buddy, no buddy at all, giggled sickly and sunk into the greasy couch. "The walls are moving, man. They're moving." The buddy passed his laptop to the whiskered guy in the corner chair.

He stared at the computer screen inhaling the light deep into his eyes. "Woah man,the walls are moving."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

My Cup Runith Over

It was sixty five degrees as I walked through the city at night. Pausing at the water falls, I leaned against the rails and watched the moon shadows dance against the cement overpass. Oh, to fall in love with the Creator of the universe on a warm spring night! Yesterday was a gift to us that have endured a perpetual winter sog. (10 points for the creation of a new word!)

On a different subject, I look at my education mostly as an opportunity for personal growth, an experience I am blessed to have had. But it is also an investment. And just as stocks can fluctuate based on consumer reports and media attention, let me say that my stock just went way up! For those employers out there that may be reading this, hire me; it will soon be trendy to have English majors discussing theory and criticism around the office water cooler.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perception

Went out to a buffet restaurant for dinner tonight with a friend. We have known each other for ten years this month so it was kind of like an anniversary celebration. He and I met at a buffet. We were sixteen year old bus boys. Now we meet up at a buffet every couple weeks. We eat three plates of food starting with salad and going on to meat, potatoes, shrimp and finally, icecream. After the eating we walk out to the parking lot holding our guts and breathing strenously through our mouths, and after chit-chating by our cars, say good bye. We speed away.

Those coming of age years were spent inside a buffet restaurant! We were socialized in a glutton hut--grew up there. Went on dates with coffee server girls who wore pleated lap aprons and floral print skirts. Collected paychecks and then blew them on car wax and fast food. Were promoted from bus boys to dishwashers, cooks to managers.

And I wonder how I would perceive life if I were socialized somewhere else, like the Gap or a malt shop--where there weren't four hundred pound guest reeking of sweat and farts demanding more roast beef.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What MTV could be

Where I'd like to go for vacation

The Sun

Boulavard Park at sunset. Dark purple clouds. The Sun, blinding, falling, obliterating the west. And people. People are watching the sun. A girl sits Indian style on a park bench smoking a cigarette, watching the sun. Couples leisurely stroll, arm and arm down the board walk, squinting watching the the sun. An old man with fishing lures glued to his hat, a photographer, a gang of teenage fashion bugs, all, watching the sun. I, bundled up in my pea coat, smoke coming from my fingers, am enthralled by the sun.

An older gentleman, walking past me, stops, looks at me, gestures at the sun, "There is hope after all, the sun is shinning." He's smiling

I'm walking back to my car and pass a young girl with curly hair. She is in her car. I notice her eyes: blue, translucent, deep, teary, her pupils black specks. Sun light is filling her eyes and spilling down her cheeks.

Eyes. Eyes and the sun, at the park.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

My brother is the best guy I know. I sure do love him.

He's a nice guy, an innocent guy. Treats women like gold and so far they've stomped on him. He's kind of seeing this girl lately. I ask him what he's doing for Valentines day. He looks at me blankly. "Dude you better do something!" I say. "I'm telling you as your older brother, make a card, something." He agrees.

An hour later he comes out of his room with this card he's been making, a painting of a woman on the ground with a chest full of arrows, bloodied, and cupid flitting in the air with an empty quiver. It is precious. A thing of genius. Should be hung in the Guggenheim. And I know right then, he's going to get his heart trampled again.

"No, no, this won't do. You need flowers. You need canned mushrooms and a hallmark card with a 19th century love poem printed in an exaggerated feminine flowing script font. You have to take her in your arms and pretend that your an old time movie star. Give her all those fantasies she was raised on as a girl. Be an asshole, be an intellectual assf@#*, but don't be nice, don't be innocent! Get a cheap hotel room and bring a video camera. That is what women want."

He looks worried. "But Jaleena is a nice girl."

"Well now there is a question for philosophical inquiry," I say. "How can you be certain of anything? Everyone projects niceness at first but underneath, aren't we all seething pools of lusts, desires, and lies?" I smile, "Don't listen to your bro, I'm just kidding around. Just be honest."

I love my bro. He is a nice guy. He is going to get destroyed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hag Betty at the Video Store

I am at the video store, strolling the aisle, already with two videos in my hand. There is this shrill valley girl voice booming from the middle of the store. I move in that direction to investigate. A girl about twenty, wearing make up, a college logo hoodie, and tight stylish jeans is scolding her boyfriend. "What would make you think that, Jimmy? Why would you say that. Why would he wear a black trench coat? Do you know?"

Jimmy looked dumb founded, pawing at the girl with pleading eyes.

"You don't know, do you. That was so offensive. Your so judgemental. Oh my God, a black trench coat. Your so judgemental!"

With calculation, she walked off. He followed her, grasping at her hands.

I'm looking at Jimmy, sending him psychic vibes, "get out Jimmy. For the love of God, get out while you can.

Drifting Away on Chuckanut Drive at Sun Set


I finished a great book a couple of days ago called A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genious. It was kind of a sad book about a self absorbed kid coming of age. The major theme was death. I just loved the pace of the book though.

So today I went to Barnes and Noble to find a new book. I went to the fiction section hopeing to find an exciting novel by someone young that would have the same pace and edge that AHBWSG had but with a bit more cheer.

I realize that I'd have to read every book in the book store and probably all the ones that don't even make it to the book store for what I am about to say to be true. But I haven't and I'm gonna speculate anyway. See, it seems to me that most of the literature and art that makes it to market these days all have similar themes, mostly of death and sex and race and, well, overcoming adversity through diverstity.

I took a senior writing seminar in college. The theme was "death and sex". That is what we spent nine weeks writing about and discussing. Death and sex.

What about life and love?

Long internal story short, I went to the fantasy section and found a couple good books about faerie land.

So I am driving home up Chuckanut drive and the sun is out and I am digging everything about the landscape and the light and Drift Away by Dobie Gray comes on the radio. This is what I'm talking about Dobie! I roll down the window and sing as loud as I can, drumming the steering wheel. Keep your self conscious modern art which highlights what is wrong with the world instead of what is right. Give me some of that old time rock and roll...speak to my soul!

Drift Away
DOBIE GRAY

Day after day I'm more confused
So I look for the light in the pouring rain
You know that's a game that I hate to lose
I'm feelin' the strain, ain't it a shame

Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away

Beginning to think that I'm wastin' time
I don't understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind
I'm countin' on you to carry me through

And when my mind is free
You know a melody can move me
And when I'm feelin' blue
The guitar's comin' through to soothe me
Thanks for the joy that you've given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
Rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You help me along makin' me strong

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The People on the Porch

I get out of the car with a bag of McDonald's in my hand. I see people on the porch. They look dim, almost green under the porch lamp. I clutch my bag of McDondald's with a clear resolve, to get inside, to devour my tasteless, oh so greasy quarter pounders. This is my secret, my guilty little secret. Junk food. And I know, I just know that they will say something negative about McDonald's, about multi-national corporations, my support of western capitalism. Greed, they'll say. Death and greed...and deforestation. I just want to eat, no inhale, my junk food in peace. This is my reward. I deserve this. I work.

I get up on the porch. They start singing happy birthday. I grin bashfully. Aw, thanks, I say. I say hello and thanks. They smile, give me a gift even--a book about Narnia.

"What's that in your hand?" Here it comes, yep, I knew it. "Is that McDonald's?"

"Yes. Yes, it is."

"You want to see your next birthday?"

"..."

"You won't if you keep eating that stuff!" After watching Super Size Me, they are convinced that french fries can't be digested, that they just sit there in your bowls leaking saturated fat directly into the blood stream.

"You son of a beep," I say, beeping out the bitch part, laughing, "you have to have a cause, don't you."

I make my way into the lobby, to my front door. Freedom. I hear thier voices receding, talking about, sure enough, the rain forests.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Generation Y

We're all of us sitting in the hot tub, skin wrinkled, pruned. Conversation hasn't stopped for three hours which amazes me, how being submerged in hot water together can inspire this much talking in people who talk to each other everyday. Are we saying anything new? A new girl shows up, a friend of a friend, wearing a cast on her right arm from her fingers to her shoulder. She gets in, hanging her arm over the edge.

Beth, having had a bit to much wine, says something that scares me if only because I have thought it before, that our house, is like a sitcom and we are the main characters. We laugh. A familiar group laugh. A laugh track.

This is the last season. We are all moving away next year. The show isn't exciting anymore. We've tackled all the cliche struggles of youth. The drugs, the breakups, the political activism, demonstrating in the streets, discovering our sexuality. We are getting to old. The ratings are down. I imagine getting the script for the series finale. The apartment will be empty. No furniture. White patches on the walls where the pictures used to be. And at the very end, I'll be the last one out, I'll pause before hitting the light switch. I'll turn around, look at the emptiness. It will be real serious. No laugh track. No music. And then I'll turn back around and step through the door, locking it behind me.

I look up, through the steam at the new girl. Why is she new? She's just a person. But maybe she's like the ensigns on Star Trek, who die at the end on the away mission to the planet. I've met countless characters like her over the years but they don't last long. Whether a minor character down at the Reagal Beagle (from Three's company) or a love interest that lasts two seasons, they've all been written off the show. Just us main characters left. In a hot tub. Job promotions, marriages, inheritance money, sick uncles, just waiting to call us away, out that door, our series canceled.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Improvisation

The old men at work call me The Writer. They call my partner Improve because he is a improve actor on the weekends. The temp, who proudly refers to himself as The Reverend, they call Meatloaf.

Building ideas with other people in conversation is what I crave. When they say yes, and in addition..., instead of, yeah, yep, uh huh.

I haven't fully gotten over eating frozen Lasagna for Christmas dinner. A man on the radio last night added something substantial to my sullen feeling. He said that intention has a physical impact on food. That every culture, religious or secular, has a ritual, they bless their meal, say a prayer, give a toast. Mom's chicken soup heals the heart unlike a can of Campbell’s soup. It's true. There is much joy at a potluck but a lot less at the China Buffet.

My friend yesterday, greeted me on the porch after work. Have a beer, some pizza. I told her about the soup thing and she said, yes and in addition have you read Like Water for Chocolate? I have. Remember in that book, the main character is in love with the man who is to marry her sister, and she has to bake the wedding cake and she cries the whole time and her tears mix with the batter? When the cake is served at the reception it brings violent sadness upon the whole party.

Yes! Thank you.

For some inexplicable reason my brother and I are very poor. I made a meat loaf the other night, when the poverty situation called for creativity not utter starvation. I found a bag of freezer-burned hamburger patties in the freezer and a bottle of ketchup in the fridge. I microwaved the patties to thaw them out and kneaded the whole lump in an attempt to create ground beef. It didn't work like I dreamed but I baked it non the less, with ketchup on top. How would that meal effect a wedding party?

I reminisced with my brother the other night, "A year ago I was living the fat life of a college student. Long walks on the beach in the middle of the day, my only job writing fanciful stories to share with my classmates, a beautiful girlfriend, financial aide!." He said, "Yeah, yep, dude, I have been poor and single for four years! Curse this city!" We laughed...actually...we were eating that meatloaf.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Like Sand Through the Hour Glass...






Soul, Man


Most of the time I feel that language is a feeble way of expressing anything meaningful. To fully express one moment of feeling I would have to write a volume of poetry bound in a book to heavy to lift, construct a strand of DNA as wide as the galaxy and as complex as a rainforest and all the creatures there in. Or perhaps it is best to maximize the economy of language. Efficiency. Concision. Minimalism. A haiku that encapsulates the universe.

E=MC2

Today at work, my workmates and I were subjected to this thing that I can't begin to explain. It seemed wrong on so many levels. It would be better to just leave it alone, print out a resume on thick pulpy paper filled with catch phrases like "team builder", strut down to Seattle wearing kakis from Banana Republic, hand the resume to a cute receptionist behind a large glass desk, smile big--get a new job. Play softball on the weekends with my professional co-workers. But I can't leave it alone. It can't be written about or run away from, only widdled at from the edges with a pen.

A position for "Project Manager" came up in the agency I work for. Today, like I began to say, my workmates and I attended a company wide new age interview. Six applicants sat before our entire company at the front of a conference room we reserved at the public library. These six people nervously and almost with shame told of their heroic pasts and brilliant accomplishments. Self shaped commodities, they packaged themselves for our consumption. There was even a banquet table offering little palm size chicken salad sandwiches and platters of soft chewy cookies. There's nothing wrong with free food and I am not even going to say this subversive job interviewing technique was wrong but it defiantly lacked harmony--soul.

When I got back to the shop at the end of the day my coworkers, all good working men in their mid fifties, had a good deal to say about the whole episode. Most of it involved laughter and pity for the poor saps paraded in front of us as we ate our sandwiches, like popcorn at the cinema.

I'm trying to figure out a proper analogy for the forces I see at work here. It might be something like this. My job has a function. Everyone else's job in my company has a function. We all satisfy a need in the agency. We are support beams in a structure. The agency is the structure. Other agencies might be shaped like a symphony hall or a palace or even the Jimmy Hendrix Museum but ours, as far as I can tell, like most government agencies, is bloated and boring. A box structure made out of aluminum siding. But this new age interview was an attempt to cover up the aluminum siding with a facade. A Lattice covered with climbing flowering vines. The disharmony I felt in the room was that shadowy creature of superficiality, the world of appearance, of catch phrases.Like I said, I can only widdle away from the edges.

Driving home from work, passing by the harbor, the paper mill and the refineries, past all those tin warehouses, I felt like I was moving through a Pink Floyd album cover. Wish you Were Here. Animals. I was driving through Detroit in the 70's. The sun was setting creating blue shadows next to orange patches of light. I felt a hope swell in my heart under my dirty work clothes and stocking cap as this song played on the radio: “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together try to love one another right now.”

I pulled off the road, got out of the car with my camera and pointed it towards harmony.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mistaken Identity

"I'm terribly sorry, Miss," he said, "I've mistaken you for someone else."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Porchin'

I go out onto the porch for a smoke before bed. I'm wearing my pajama bottoms and a pea coat. It is cold and foggy out--silent. Across the street on the adjacent porch a kid with dreadlocks is talking on the phone. I listen to his conversation though I'm pretending not to. He is almost gleeful, talking about nostalgia and hope. His tone is somewhere between a laugh and a song. He is talking about love and peace. I smile, not pretending not to listen anymore. He mentions the fog to the person in the phone. My smile widens. It's a nice night out. I am gonna go to bed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Coming Back to Life

What a beautiful morning! Thought I'd share some pictures I took of the fog over Lake Whatcom and this David Gilmore song.





Where were you when I was burned and broken
While the days slipped by from my window watching
Where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless
Because the things you say and the things you do surround me
While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Lost in thought and lost in time
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life

I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the waiting had begun
And headed straight . . . into the shining sun

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dr. Matt

There is this term I have heard thrown around: serial monogamy. I guess the term applies to all those people getting in short long-term relationships, playing like a postmodern blend of Ward and June Cleaver and Dillon and Brenda from 90210, and then breaking it off when the real work of a relationship begins, moving on to the next partner and the next and the next. This goes on and on perhaps ending happily when one finally grows up, or, like all those grey bearded men you see walking their dogs down by the docks by themselves, in failure.

I can't tell you how many of the people I know will introduce their new boyfriend or girlfriend to me at a pub table and then moments later make these "cute" little jokes about their sex life. "But wait a minute, weren't you just with ______?" And so no one ever gets attached, no one ever really commits or works or plans, it is just this free flowing "post-modern" nightmare.

A guy I work with, a self proclaimed pagan high priest--a very cool guy--told me that he wants his women to be with other men, to experience and draw energy from others because then he gets to experience in a way, all this love and energy from all of her partners. Ah, no thank you. It is one thing to say something profound like that but completely different when implemented in the real world. See I think people are leaving bits of themselves scattered all over the place until gradually they thin out into shadow. I'm aching to live in a more traditional time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Six

This just in, six from Battlestar Galactica is in this month's playboy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Flattened Pennies



There has been some contention about these tracks, about where exactly they lead. I have walked them a good length. There were a number of human and natural dramas to be seen. A family of nudist picnicking. Hobos cooking dinners in tins over a fire. Seagulls cracking shells on the steel.

But the really interesting section of track is where it meets the edge of the world and curls out, into the heavens. You know you're approaching the end of the line when the rose colored fog carrying a smell of lavender and sea salt rolls in off the ocean. The tracks wind into a wood with moss for carpet, vacuumed twice a day by Sonia, a glowing Mexican housekeeper. There are bearded fairies there who roll the rails out like bread and get off work at dinner time. I've seen them walking home, covered in dough, eastward into the foothills, each one carrying a flower home to his wife. Squirrels carry umbrellas through the paths in the branches hanging over the tracks. They love to talk about the weather but not the actual weather, that moving living art piece in the sky that pervades our every experience, but the weather reports. And then there are the Mermaids who giggle, flopping away from the tracks, back to the water to watch and wait for the trains to come and flatten their pennies.

Blossoming

There is so much on my heart, I feel that years and years of heartache and joy can flow out of me, bleed out uncontrollably until I am left dry and cold. But part of me dares not go there, chooses instead to smile, to not take things so seriously; there is a sense of humor built into the cosmos.

I went to church this morning, something I have not done in a very long time. I went to church by myself this morning, something I have never done. I hit the snooze button on my alarm for an hour and almost talked myself into not going at all. "Just get up and get a shower to start," I told myself. And so I got out of the shower and almost put on my robe. "Get dressed, and see what happens from there." And so I was dressed and the next step was getting in my car. I almost convinced myself to just take a Sunday morning drive. "Just drive in the direction of church, you don't have to get out of the car." And so I found myself circling the church--a beard half grown on my face, circles under my eyes, smoking cigarettes. I saw people filtering into the church, all very wholesome looking, families with great cheerful smiles greeting the ushers on the front steps. And so I drove around the block some more, feeling almost to defiled to enter the house of the Lord. But I just had to commune with God, had to be with others communing with God. And I forced myself to park and then to walk to the front door, and then finally to sit down. Here I am. I don't know why I am here but here I am.

This woman spoke during the service, said 2006 had been a nightmare, that she had been reading from the book of Job but had recently started reading from the Song of Songs. She read chapter 2 verse 10:

10 My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.

11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me."


Oh man, I have to say, I almost cried. That Jesus would think of me as his darling, that he wants me to come with him, ragged and bearded as I am...!

And then last night I read this man, Ravi Zacharias who I wanted to share with you. He can say more eloquently than I, the hope I have for the world. He also wrote this great essay about the dying art of thinking.

The season of singing has come! Everyday truly is an adventure, even if it means just taking one step at a time, out of bed to who knows where. Peace.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Photoscribing



Here are some pictures of my day. It started out early, at sunrise, with a cup of hot coffee.



I then made a twenty egg omlette and traded eggs for bacon with the neighbors upstairs. We basked in the sun and ate a huge breakfast. This is my kitchen after cooking. What a mess!



Here is the omlette cooking in the frying pan. I have this habbit of cooking enough food for an army. I guess that is because one of my favorite things to do is share meals with other people.



I then went for a walk up Sehome hill. It was such a beautiful, quite day. A much needed break from the rain. I read from Psalms at the top of the hill. This picture here is of a cross roads. It made me think of Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings.
After all of that walking I cleaned up that messy kitchen and had more coffee on the porch. I went for a walk this evening and watched the sun set at the park. All in all a great sunshining day.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Running

I'm running through the jungle, my long beard unfurling behind me. I'm red and naked and I am running. In the jungle. A tribe of natives dance around a fire and burn incense. They have painted naked bodies covered in ash. I pass them at a tremendous speed. Also, there are bongo drums there. There are bongo drums in my head. Throbbing. I am running through the jungle, not away from something but towards something. A great big hippy love revolution--minus the hippies. Freedom. Paradise restored. I am running to the garden of Eden. My heart throbs. Everything throbs. Hey--ha. Hey-ha. Drums. Smoke. Light up ahead. Hey--ha. I am running through a jungle red and naked towards something big.

"Oh man. What happened to my music (Shpongle)? Battery dead?" I look at my iPod. "Yep batteries dead." I slow down my pace.

I am jogging on a treadmill. My whiskers itch. I'm in sweatpants at the YMCA, jogging, like a hamster in his wheel. In a cage. A group of people resolute on losing weight for the new year are walking like hamsters all around me. I hear a dull hum of machinery in motion. I look out the window in front of me and see the evening commute four stories below. I'm jogging on a conveyer belt and my iPod is out of juice.

"F#@! the music." I push the up arrow on the treadmill and build speed. 7 point eight. Point nine. Eight point one. Two. Three. I am running. I am running towards something big. Eight point four. Point five. I am running through a jungle. There are bongos. I am running through a jungle and there is a light up ahead. Hey--ha! Towards something big.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Aqua

After months, or maybe it's been years now, of floating through the cold depths of interstellar space alone, Dobbs has by some inexplicable miracle been drawn, that is how it feels to him, to this planet. For some time he had heard the faint song of a siren beckoning to him, to his ship, haunting the silence of his cabin. The voice, at first thought only imagined, had become more and more distinct until it was quite unmistakable that it was actually real, emanating from a tiny speck gradually growing to an all encompassing force beneath his ship. Gravity, to feel it again...he could understand how man had once deified the natural forces.

And if I were to paint a picture of Dobbs and his encounter with the siren I'd compose it so that a weary man stands in the foreground, cold--half mad. His right hand rests on a console made of silver steel, and buttons, like the tips of crayons, blink--talking to a man distracted. With his left hand Dobbs is pushing the frozen metal door outward to the world beyond. And what lays out there, painted in sharp contrast to the cool blues, grays and shadows in the foreground, is a field of green, red, and yellow brush strokes sighing in the breeze. A wooded meadow. In summer. With sky. And grass. And smells that bring tears to the eyes I'd paint for Dobbs. And in the white speckled glen, a woman dancing in slow motion in an airy white dress beckons the vagrant Dobbs. Come.

Inspiration and community

Some one just made my night and I feel so good right now. My audience has dwendle here on blogger and I hope to remedy that by posting more. It is my new goal to post at least one meaningful thing a day. I have many new goals of late. But over on blog ladder there is a real sense of community as we read and write and share our thoughts. Well I posted the White Fields post from yesterday over on blog ladder and got this wonderfully unexpected reply from my blogging friend, Grego. He played along with me perfectly. He writes:

But as he falls far behind the chariot, his breath becomes more labored as it frosts from the frigid cold. He is pumping his arms and legs harder and harder, but the snow relentlessly deepens and slows him down, pulls him down. As his face sinks into the rising snow, the light begins. Slowly, in the far corner of his eye, the pinpoint of light expands and he is riveted by the sight. Is this what heaven is? Then, the smell approaches; the wonderful smell of the scent that reminds him of pleasures past, the hint of a smile forms on his blue lips, his chattering teeth begin to slow as his smiling face begins to glow. This must be heaven! The cold recedes as warmth suffuses his body, the snow turns into brilliant crystals of light until his senses are filled with the moment. He suddenly realizes that she is there! She is next to him now, holding him in a tight embrace. The candle she lit in the dark room shines brightly upon them.

She is his heaven!


and I respond:

Yes! bnonman, that is beautiful! and I'm smiling ear to ear because of your wonderful words. thank you so very much for that!

and he says:

Couldn't have done it without your great starting point - you inspired me and gave me the story, the mind picture, the images I needed. I have never before written anything even approaching that type of prose.

How great to inspire! and what a fun game! Thanks Grego.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

White Fields

He’s startled from sleep. The sound of galloping horses recede away from him and when he looks to the sound he sees a fading after image of red and shadow, a dark rider upon a chariot retreating over white fields. He rolls over to see his beloved sleeping heavily. He tries to stir her but she will not wake. A spell has been put on her. He is quite calm. As calm as the falling snow which is falling all around them, on her hair, in the bed, on his eye lashes. The air is quiet, muffled. The snow falls faster and more furiously, piling deeper, muting the landscape around him, covering his beloved under a great chill blanket. He must hurry. He must follow the chariot and rider-- defeat the shadow before all is white and cold.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Great Message

Went to church this morning and just got blessed. The pastor read from the fourth chapter of Philippians. This passage particularly seemed pertinate to my life right now.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spring

I love you. And I too look forward to spring.

Thank you for not smoking

I was sitting outside in the plaza having a cup of coffee and cigarette. All the tables and chairs around me were empty. It was snowing and a few people carrying shopping bags walked quickly towards tbe mall door, to the heat. So I was alone in the open air enjoying a guilty pleasure, watching the people walk by. Two security guards approached me cautiously, as if I were a criminal.

"Sir," the short one said, "your gonna have to put that cigarette out or go smoke it out in the parking lot."

I raised the cigarette to my mouth and inhaled deeply, my face I can only imagine was cast in shadow and glowed for a moment in the red light of my glowing tobbacco cherry. I looked up into the eyes of the mall security officers and exhaled a cloud of warm smoke. At that moment, a pack of ninjas decended on ropes, from the rafters of the open air canopy, each one into an empty chair. They all pulled from thier belts cigarettes and lit them with matches.

The security officers made a move for the tazer on thier belts but stopped short when the leader of then ninjas spoke up.

"Sir," he said. "You treat this man as if he were a criminal or the scum of the earth for enjoying a cigarette out of doors. Perhaps you believe he is unhealthy, which he is, but so are the people on the other side of this door who are wolfing down big macs and cinnabons. Perhaps you think this man is polluting the environment with his smoke, which he is. But so are the factories who produce the useless trinkets and sweat shop sneakers that are sold at your fine establishment. Perhaps you think that by smoking he is supporting the evil tobacco corporations who are bent on killing people for profit, and he is but are not also all those that mindlessly shop also supporting a system of greed and waste. You sir are a hypocrite. Leave now or die."

Needless to say they left. And the ninjas and I laughed and then began playing cards. Girls came by and said hello and pawed at me.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

River

My brother showed me his work site out in the woods. He works for the Washington Conservation Corp. They plant trees and clean up streams and fields. At this particular site, his crew is working with environmental engineers, constructing natural habitat for salmon, using earth and living things as building materials. What I think particularly interesting is how they use steel cables to secure logs at certain points along the stream to create log jams. These natural log jams then become cozy little pools for salmon to play in.

And I think about my own thinking. I have a terrible habit of thinking too much. My thoughts are like a raging river, often rushing off--strait to the ocean. And the ocean is so big. I get lost. I need log jams. I need calm pools to paddle around in. I try to make sense out of where I’ve been--where I’m going and inevitably end up in places too deep. Why do relationships fail? Why is there pain in the world? So off I swim. I swim and swim and pretty soon I’m swimming out loud in the kitchen to my brother about Costco Lasagna, big box stores, modern art, and finally and always God.

Tim-ber! A tree falls into my river. A living memory. Of her hands in soapy water. She’s standing over the sink doing dishes. Her skin is freckled. I want to live--to grok that place where her freckles disappear under the straps of that white tank top. And I’m sitting there, behind her, on a stool and I’m watching her hands. Her red freckled hands meander in and out of the hot sudsy water. Not saying much of anything. So relaxed. Steam condensing on the chapel windows above the sink. The little bubbles on her hands, popping into tiny rainbows. A fizzing sound. A swishing sound. It’s the most erotic thing I’ve ever seen. So simple. So innocent. So right. Contained. Lovely. Homey.

And I paddle. I want to paddle in that pool of memory for ages. But the foam comes in with the current and pulls me out down stream to places too big for this fish.