Friday, May 31, 2013

Things to do when you can't sleep

I wake up.  It's still dark out.  I can't go back to sleep so I go downstairs.  The clock in the kitchen says 3:30.  I think, "Oh crap."  Then I do the only reasonable thing to do when you wake up at 3:30 am and can't go back to sleep.  I make  coffee and drink a cup out on the front screen porch.  I light up a dirty rotten cigarette and curse myself for being a slave to nicotine.  I ask the saints to help me kick the habit and see the light.  It's nice and cool on the porch, a relief from the heat of yesterday. The fish tank is gurgling.  Two quail in a cage on the floor are making a racket.  Other than that, not much is happening.

I go back upstairs to my bed, thinking maybe I can go back to sleep and have a nice dream.  I toss and turn.  Sleep doesn't come.  Dawn is breaking.  I decide to try and mediate;  get up on my knees and elbows with my head cradled in my hands.  I breathe rhythmically, focusing my eyes on the pattern of my bed sheet.  I start to feel pretty good, relaxed, in the zone.  I notice when I'm really in the zone, the pattern on the sheet gets larger; when I slip out of the zone, it gets smaller.  I marvel at this phenonenon for a while and experiment with it; shifting my focus, making the pattern increase and decrease, advance and retreat.  I think, "The mind and the eyes really do work together like a camera."    I ponder this for a while.

I decide it would be a good idea to get my camera and see if I can duplicate what my mind and my eyes were doing with the sheet pattern.  It occurs to me that taking pictures of my bed sheet is a little crazy, but I don't care and do it anyway.  My bedroom window looks so lovely at this time of the morning.  I take a few pictures of it too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Women are Angels. And when someone breaks our wings, we simply continue to fly...

Isabelle Smith Maxwell


February 28, 1915 - December 26, 1967 


Isabelle was laid to rest at Gettysburg National Cemetery
the day after Christmas in 1967..

Free Enterprise

Dana, Dina and Donna

Free Enterprise

Dante Schwartz was the son of Gertrude and Morris Schwartz, and the brother of Dana, Dina and Donna, the tap-dancing triplets who almost made it to the second round of the grand championship dance competition of  the Tappity-Tap-Tap Fest.  Had it not been for Dina acquiring a wicked case of poison sumac located mainly between her toes and erupting full-blown on the very eve of the competition’s second phase, the Schwartz girls might well have won hands down and gone on to the third round, which in all likelihood they would have won too, by a landslide, and from there God only knows how much fame and fortune would have come their way. 
And then there was Ronald and Donald, born ten months apart, who had their own unique talents.  Ronald was a courier for a numbers operation, and Donald trained the scruffiest of dogs to do the most amazing tricks.  Ronald’s lucrative affiliation with the underworld went unrecognized of course, due to the illegal nature of his occupation.  He passed himself off as a super-duper paperboy and recipient of very big tips.  That’s how he explained his bulging wallet to Morris and Gertrude.  Donald’s talent was channeled into a covert operation as well, and although his “business” was by no means illegal, it certainly would have been forbidden by Morris and Gertrude, they would have been totally aghast if they had any clue what was going on.  

Donald and his Dogs

It was Dante who tagged Donald “Dog Boy” and it was Dante who drummed up all the business for Dog Boy’s once-a-month Really Big Show where the doggies did their stuff, come rain or shine, in the back yard of the Schwartz family’s red brick row-home, or in the event of bad weather, in their basement rec room.  These Really Big Shows  went on when Morris and Gertrude took off once a month for Allentown to spend the day with Morris’ aunt and Gertrude’s mother who were next-door neighbors.  If they had known, all hell would have broke loose because both of them hated dogs to such a degree that at least once a week dinner conversation between the two of them centered on, was indeed consumed by, just how much they hated god damned dogs and why. 
Dante (actually James Dean)

During these conversations the Schwartz children giggled and kicked one another under the table.  Sometimes they would even initiate or instigate a dog conversation between their parents.  Leaning back in their chairs, teetering on the two back legs,  with their mouths full of mashed potatoes, they listened on the verge of hysteria as Morris and Gertrude railed on and on against the entire dog population, and they tried hard not to gag or spew out their potatoes in a fit of uncontrollable  laughter.  Many times the potatoes flew and many times one of the Schwartz kids had to be slapped hard on the back to prevent choking.  It was all the more wonderful and hilarious when a Really Big Show was scheduled for the very next day.

Donald had a very strict conscience and he protested strongly when Dante first put forth the idea of the Really Big Shows..  It was bad enough that he was secretly training a bunch of mangy strays in the back yard, and bad enough that he was pilfering treats from the kitchen cupboard in order to entice his dogs into ever more superb performances, but to hold shows for the public   every time his parents went to Allentown, and God forbid, to hold them in the basement if it rained, that seemed criminal.  But Dante had great powers of persuasion, was gifted with words, and with very little effort once he got rolling, was able to convince Donald that he and his amazing dogs deserved public recognition.

“After all,” said Dante, “how could it be called wrong if in the long run it was beneficial to the canine community at large.  Justice.  Retribution.  Reward.  That’s what Donald’s  doggies needed.  A chance to rise above their mangy station.  An opportunity to excel in the lime light.  Some decent treats from the big barrel in the pet store instead of stale saltines from the kitchen cupboard.  Rhinestone studded collars.  Neat little wool jackets for the winter time.  Flea and tick powder.  Worm pills.  Maybe even inoculations someday.  Who knows where it could lead.  How far it could go.  David Letterman, Barnum & Baily, Moscow.”

Gertrude, Dante and Morris.  Gertrude and Morris feeling confident that Dante, being the most responsible of all their children, will hold the fort until they return from Allentown.

Donald was sold.  What was a minor deception compared to a major altruistic goal.  Two days later, ten minutes after Morris’ big black Buick pulled out of the driveway headed for Allentown in a driving rain storm, the Schwartz’s basement rec room was full of barking dogs and hyperactive children.  Ronald was the doorman and bouncer.  He collected admission, a dollar a head, and threatened to break the knees of anyone who tried to sneak in or was caught messing around with Gertrude’s nick-knacks which were displayed on shelves all over the basement.  Gertrude was heavily into ceramics. 
Dante was the Master of Ceremonies who, after a twenty minute monologue, most of which was political and only vaguely humorous to a few intellectual types who happened to be present and could understand what the hell he was talking about, introduced the opening act: “Dana, Dina & Donna, The Three D’s; Delightful, Dynamic, and Determined to dance, dance, dance their way into your heart.  Give them a big hand folks.”  Anyone caught booing the sisters  was smacked in the head by Ronald.  It was an awful long dance, and even though the girls were truly talented, they didn’t have what it took to grab this particular audience. Ron ald was growing tired of smacking kids in the head, so he motioned for Dante to cut the music which Dante was about to do anyway, and which he did abruptly right before the Three D’s were about to go into their final grand finale.  There had been a few teasers previously, followed by many disappointed audience members voicing their exasperation quite audibly, saying things like “Oh no, not more,” and, “Just when you think it’s over!” 

Dana was so humiliated by the general lack of appreciation and the unconscionable behavior of Dante and Ronald that she threatened to blow the whistle and tell Morris and Gertrude exactly what was going on when they were not around.  Dante responded to her threat by telling the audience that Dana wore falsies and threatened in turn to tell Morris and Gertrude about her secret infatuation with a member of a motorcycle gang.  That shut her trap  quickly.  She and the other two D’s  stomped up the cellar steps in their tap shoes, shouting the vilest of profanities down at their brothers and the rest of the low life losers in the audience.  If they hadn’t needed money for cigarettes, Dina and Donna would never have popped that pop corn and gone back downstairs to peddle it for twenty five cents a bag.  But as Dina put it, “Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”  Donna was in full agreement with Dina, and followed at her heels with a gallon of cool aide in each hand saying, “I hear ya, baby, I hear ya.”  Dana, mortified by what Dante had revealed to the audience, refused to help her sisters with  the refreshments, threw a stack of paper cups down the basement stairs and shouted, “Yous are all a bunch of assholes!”

The show went on to be a success, with encore after encore provided by Donald and his Dogs, until, alas, they ran out of time and had to forcefully usher out the audience in order to, as Dante put it, “spit-shine” the basement before Morris and Gertrude got home.  Dante swept, Donald mopped, and Ronald ran around with a can of Lysol, spraying away the tell-tale odor of dog, which was easier to get rid of than the dogs themselves, who hung around until the very last minute, and who then, upon seeing the big, black Buick pull up and one of Gertrude’s’ black stockinged legs get out, took off at high speed like a single entity, except for one malnourished pup who lagged and moseyed, lagged and moseyed, looking back over his rump, earnestly hoping for one last treat from Dog Boy.

Morris and Gertrude went to bed early that night without the least suspicion that anything out of the ordinary had gone on while they were away.  As they snored away in their king sized bed under the purple sateen comforter that Gertrude had ordered through Spiegal catalog, the kids held a business meeting around the dining room table.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways of improving the show and increasing profit.  The thirty seven dollars they had made that day, after being split three ways, was chicken shit.  The triplets were dissatisfied with the meager ten bucks they had made by selling refreshments as well.  And, they also believed that they deserved some kind of gratuity for that opening number they did from Oklahoma.  Everyone agreed that raising admission would not be feasible.  It was hard enough trying to get a single buck out of some of those kids.  Two shows instead of one, however, might be the answer. 

It was Ronald who suggested that the first show be a kiddie show for ages six through twelve, and the second show be geared toward a more mature audience of thirteen and up.  Dante reluctantly agreed, after much pressure from his siblings, to eliminate his monologue and use his talent instead for Public Relations and Advertising.  It would be his job to psyche up the neighborhood kids well in advance of the next show by spreading the word through discriminatively and strategically placed flyers and posters.  In fact, he would start selling tickets the very next day, better to get that money off those little suckers right away before they had a chance to blow it on something else.  Ronald agreed to distribute the flyers along with his newspapers, and to reach the older kids, he would go the route of the grapevine, dropping the word in pool halls, pizza parlors and hoagie shops.

The triplets would still be in charge of refreshments, and whatever they made they, of course, could keep for themselves.  They would not be needed as an opening act for the kiddie show; in the interest of time it would be best to get the little ones in an out as quickly as possible.  They could, though, if they so chose, open for the second show, but with no percentage of the door.  This meant that they would have to rely on gratuities alone if they expected to be compensated for their time and energy, and yes, of course, for their remarkable talent, first and foremost.  It was vigorously recommended by the brothers that they work on a more sophisticated routine, drop the Carrousel crap, and loose the goofy polka dot costumes.  The triplets, more than a little indignant, didn’t make any promises, but agreed to take the advice of their brothers into consideration.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Portrait of Lil - Oh My Soul

My eldest daughter painted this portrait of my grandmother, Lillian.  She used a black and white photograph as a reference and she jazzed Gramma up a bit.  I love the pink frames, red lipstick and auburn hair.  My grandmother was Southern Baptist and very conservative, but I think she would approve of this portrait and enjoy the escape into a world of brilliant color.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Serenade in Five Movements or The Privatization of Purgatory

 Sergey Tyukanov 
Russian artist Sergey Tyukanov works in many mediums creating both large and small-scaled, highly-detailed pieces, bringing back a familiar Western Medieval style of art with contemporary themes and subject matter.  Tyukanov currently resides in both Kaliningrad, Russia and Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Serenade de Schubert

Serenade in Five Movements or The Privatization of Purgatory

It’s all a load of crap and you know it. 
Get off your high horse and don’t take
any wooden nickels from the chicken man. 
I made the mistake of doing that once
and ever lived it down. 
The problem started with
those yellow shoelaces,
but I guess you know that.
Still, I should have known better. 
I was warned. 
It’s interesting to wake up and find
the third floor of your house missing. 
I tried to explain this to my doctor once. 
He told me to eat more oat bran. 
I don’t like my neurosis
being shoved under the rug. 
I keep tripping on it. 
You can laugh all you want. 
It won’t change a thing. 
They still pick up the trash
every Tuesday.  It’s amusing.
 Carlos visited yesterday
Brought me some bananas.
I will put some on my oat bran
 and think about Dr. Cyborg.
everything will fall together and
I will get back to work on my
volcanic cranium simulator. 
The paper is going well. 
Just a few minor details to reconfigure. 
Do you remember the time we crashed
the party at the Teetzleburgers? 
Ronnie shoved gherkins into his pockets
and you played the piano with you nose. 
What was it? 
Schubert’s Serenede?

“Softly my songs implore
you through the night;
down into the quiet grove,
beloved, come to me!”

I wish I had more time to explore all of this 
but Nostradamus is calling via that tingly
thing I invented when I was three years old
and you know what that means. 
Dinner tonight or is it tomorrow night?
I will have to tingle him back to make sure. 
He may be out on his snow mobile
just another  of his many toys
purchased at my expense
with brain droppings he scooped
up when I wasn’t looking. 
If only he wasn’t so negative
we might could probably would
make a go of it.  It has nothing to do
with incest but try telling that to
the naysayers down at the coffee station. 
They’re so hung up on taboos.
They see them everywhere then
hunker down and develop code words
which they finagle into Christmas cards.
Like we’re not supposed to know
those messages the elves
leave on the kitchen table
are more than butter wrappers. 
I don’t trust anyone who says
“Use these to grease you cake pans.”
Nope, I’m not falling for it. 
That’s just the way I am. 
I’ll call Nostradamus later.
After my pedicure. 
Petrified in Pink or Furious in Fuschia? 
Decisions, decisions.

“Slender treetops rustle, murmur
in the moons radiance;
dont fear the hidden listeners’
malice, my dearest.”

Up here on the third floor the wind howls. 
Everyone I talk to says ignore it. 
Sometimes that’s hard to do. 
Just because something is missing
doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 
That’s the first principle of
my Hi Ho Silver theory.
Go ahead.  Laugh. 
But don’t come running to me
when it hits you in the ass. 
Of course if you want to you can,
and please bring some of those
wonderful little exploding cigars. 
The one’s you turned me onto in Mississippi.
Ah, I remember, not always fondly
(except for those times
when I forget the details and
only have to deal with the gist
which never eludes me) 
the air was so sweet after the rain
and that hat you swiped from the judge
while he was screaming in pain from
a self inflicted though unintended
blow from his own gavel,
well that just speaks volumes. 
Oh, yeah.  And, coincidentally,
have you heard the news that
our favorite tropical island has been
invaded by the ghost of Annie Oakley? 
I know it’s hard to believe,
and even harder to accept,
but sharpshooters happen
and one must be vigilant and
prepared to dodge bullets
even in Paradise. 
Cough, expletive, cough. 

“Do you hear the nightingales singing?
Ah, they appeal to you,
with their sweet plaintive tones
they’re pleading for me.”

I purchased a new cerebellum. 
Couldn’t resist when I saw they were
having a buy one get one free sale. 
I know, I know. 
But the price was right and I’m
thinking about giving the other one to Nancy. 
Do you remember Nancy? 
That woman who lives on
a houseboat down at the marina? 
Well, I’m thinking,
maybe a new cerebellum will turn her around. 
She’s a fortune teller but doesn’t have a clue. 
The CIA infiltrated her crystal ball. 
She thinks she’s living the good life on the Ganges. 
The whites of her eyes have turned yellow. 
She’s got an evil rash that defies treatment. 
It’s not a pretty sight.
Last time I saw her she was
shacked up with a military man. 
Jumping when he said jump
and hitting the floor much too often. 
Yeah, she’s got great upper body strength
but what good is that when you’re tied
to the pier selling bait and tackle.
There’s no fish in that river. 
She ought to know that. 
A new cerebellum might cure all her ills. 
Of course, I’ll have to
disguise it as something else. 
Haven’t figured out how to do that yet. 
She’s crazy but she’s not stupid. 
Note to self:
‘contact the support team at Biotech Inc.’

“They understand the hearts yearning,
they know the pain of love,
touch with their silvery tones
every feeling heart.”

Okay, back to Junior Jackson. 
He’s in purgatory. 
No date set for release. 
Junior says it’s not such a bad place. 
A hell of a lot better than limbo. 
Hold on a minute. 
Someone just threw a rock through my window.
Hmmmm.  There’s a note attached. 
Hmmmm.  It’s a ransom note:
‘If you want to get Junior
Jackson out of purgatory
say two million our fathers
followed by
one million hail marys
followed by
five hundred thousand glory bes.’
Signed – SayPay,
a division of Whackanut. 
Hmmmm.  Well,
Junior’s a cool guy and all,
but that’s an awful high price. 
Not that I’d mind paying it you see,
but with the recidivism rate
being what it is, Junior would only
be out for a week or two and then,
his ass would be back there again. 
And not only that, I have certain principles
I must adhere to, like
never encourage, enable or contribute
to the privatization of purgatory.
And besides,
Junior’s doing okay,
getting three meals a day,
listening to good music,
sleeping on the grass under a nice tree,
writing his memoirs. 

Let them move you too,
my darling, listen to me!
Trembling, I await you!
Come, dearest, enrapture me

by Leo 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Flower of Lucca

Saint Gemma Galgani

Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, Central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain near the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca.  Among other reasons, it is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.  Lucca

Saint Gemma is patroness of students, pharmacists, tuberculosis patients, love, hope, spinal injury.  Her attributes are: Passionist robe, flowers (lilies and roses), guardian angel, stigmata, heavenward gaze.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our Beloved

Of Death

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its rest­
less tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.

from: The Prophet Kahill Gibran

Sunday, May 19, 2013

David and Goliath as a Metaphor For Healing

David with the Head of Goliath
Giovanni Lanfranco, c. 1615

Since August, I've been afflicted with a strange malady.  I've decided just today that "Malady" is the best, if not perfect, word to convey the condition my condition's been in, give or take a few periods of relief or remission which only serves to make the next bout more grievous.  Miriam Webster defines malady as an abnormal state that disrupts a plant's or animal's normal bodily functioning.  The dictionary also uses words like disorder, disease, sickness, complaint, illness and a few more. 

The symptoms of this weird disorder consist mainly of pain that travels and shows up out of nowhere in various parts of my body.  I call it "the traveling pain" and liken it to the spin of the wheel of fortune; "round and round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows."  My chief complaint is muscle pain, severe enough to limit my mobility.  I've been to the Emergency Department twice,  consulted with my doctor, had various lab tests, X-rays and CT scans - and still no diagnosis.  While I thank my lucky stars that no morbid pathology was discovered, I would like to know what's going on with my body and why.  Fatigue is also a part of this mystery, and the onset of a bout brings depression, fear and anxiety.  It makes me a pain in the neck to live with - do I have to say "no pun intended" ?  I suppose I should, but would like to add, puns and slips are great diagnostic tools.  

Okay, now that I've gotten all of that out of the way, (not all of it, that would take pages), let me explain this blog post.  At first, I meant only to post my poem "Goliath" which I wrote many years ago, and a famous painting to go along with it.  When I first wrote the poem, or better said, when Goliath first wrote itself, I had no real or conscious idea what it meant.  Now I do, or think I do.  The meaning came to me when I began googling (thank you Google) in search of images of David and Goliath.  Those images led me to 1st Samuel, chapter 17 and an essay by Jesus Vega called "The Way of the Sling".  Both of these writings enlightened me, illuminated me, not only about the meaning of my poem, but also about the nature and origin of my malady (Goliath) and the best way for me (David) to conquer it.    Metaphor is also a wonderful diagnostic tool and also sheds light on a cure. 

I think I've said enough.  I have only one important thing to add.  Grief can be overwhelming, present itself as being bigger than life and insurmountable.   Grief, if repressed and not dealt with, can lead to despair.  According to Keirkegaard, despair is the sickness unto death.  Tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of the death of my grandson.  He was taken from us suddenly at the age of 21 in an horrific car accident.  My grief is compounded by the added pain of having to see his mother, my daughter, suffering and trying to cope daily with her own overwhelming grief.  Now I understand why, without warning, after a 3 month remission of my symptoms, they suddenly re-appeared a few days ago when I was happily shopping for Lilies of the Valley.  The body senses these kinds of things, has it's own intuitive cosmic clock and calendar.   Grief and despair is my Goliath, and by God, it is my aim to sling that ugly giant a shot in the head, metaphysically speaking, that will put him out of business for good. 

 Excerpt from 1st Samuel 17 KJV Read the entire 17th chapter here
 48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.
David Victorious Over Goliath
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

In embryonic half-clad sorrow
the Philistine unknowingly
projects his sad inheritance
over great and glossy apparatus
His shadow lies
Accordingly he penetrates
His purpose moves and then it fails
I feel him feeling nothing
Include this incipient
beater of drums
Pardon my pagan for showing
It isn’t easy ecstasy
that propels the climate
of my imagination
into a no-man’s land
of motor oil and misinterpretation
I beg and borrow
a cyborg here and there
under the thunder brush
It doesn’t matter
there’s always the incinerator
a madman to lead the way
I hook it and crook it
wear it around my neck
Eat it
Beat it
It doesn’t matter
when your head is in the giant’s lap
and your mouth is broken

by Leo

The shot I will hurl from my sling, personally monogrammed.
Excerpts from The Way of the Sling by Jesus Vega

The things that influence us are usually very simple, but they reach inside of us with greater impact. I believe that the Biblical story of David and Goliath, transmitted like an archetypal message, has pierced us and has become a way of feeling. David, a shepherd boy touched by divine grace, defeats the gigantic and frightful Goliath with his slinging ability. David’s humility, fortified by the security inspired by his religious spirit, wins over the pride of the giant. What boy [or girl] will not feel touched in the most intimate way by this story? Perhaps we all have a forgotten slinger boy[girl] inside.

What is the mechanism for using a sling accurately? The answer was given to me as a child, hidden in the story of David. The mechanism of precision in the sling is in the interior of the slinger. It was within David, and his religious inspiration. These "religious" feelings, or perhaps mystical, like the one of perfection, veneration, or delivery to a historical destiny, mobilize a series of internal resources that extend our natural capabilities. These are interior to the slinger, who is equipped with that wonderful capacity of precision, which escapes to his conscience. This capacity is too subtle and quick to be controlled. It is only necessary to know how to communicate with it. That communion between the man’s conscience and the magical background of his unconscious provides a joyful and enriching experience: knowing that we have something extraordinarily perfect and intense inside all of us.

This it is the way of the sling, the one of communication and harmony with our unconscious. It is a longer way, but their profits are very worthwhile; more intense, but less tired; more difficult, but simpler. And mainly, it is a rewarding, joyful and magical way.

The Way of the Sling-