Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A story

A woman was taking a much-needed vacation to Florida, after enduring the break-up of her marriage, the loss of her job – since her ex had been a friend of the boss – and a number of other miseries.

Strolling alone on the beach one morning, barefoot in the sand, comforting herself with a Capri Menthol and contemplations of better days, she spied a brass lamp ahead of her, half buried above the surf line.

Not being a woman who passed up opportunity, she scooped it up and gave it a rub. A rather odd-looking genie appeared. He appeared forlorn rather than feisty. Much like herself.

“This is a non-smoking beach,” the genie said, jerking his purplish thumb towards the woman’s cigarette.

“Your lamp might make a nice ashtray,” she warned, not in the mood to take guff from another man, especially a purple one.

He thrust his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Okay, okay, keep the smoke. But I can’t wish away the fine if the warden catches you.”

“Warden?” she snickered. “You are one confused little genie. Wardens hunt for poachers, not smokers.”

The genie threw up his hands again. “So sue me. I’m a foreigner.”

“Ah, you don’t look as foreign as some of the university freaks I’ve seen around here,” the woman said, taking another drag of her Capri.

“I will take that as a compliment,” said the genie.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” said the woman.

“Look, I ain’t no ordinary genie,” the apparition said.

“Is there such a thing?” the woman asked, exhaling a stream of smoke purposefully at him.

The genie coughed and said:“Yes, there is. Most of us grant three wishes. You know the drill.”

“You can give the coughing routine a rest,” she said, “since you are made of smoke anyway. You men are all alike. Playing your head games.”

“I could say something about you dames, too,” the genie grumbled.

“’Dames’ hasn’t been in the lingo since the ‘40s, genie,” the woman said. “Who taught you English, Al Capone? Just run the wishes routine and get lost. I’m in no mood for men right now, of any kind.”

“Sheesh, what ingratitude,” the genie said. “Like I tried to tell you, I ain’t no ordinary genie.”

“Ain’t isn’t proper English,” said the woman. “So what makes you special, Archie Bunker Genie Boy?”

“I don’t grant wishes, I grant curses,” the spirit said. “Just one, please.”
The woman sighed and sat down upon the sand. “Figures. Men and curses, a natural pair.”

“You don’t get it, lady. I grant you a curse on someone else, anyone. The ether of the universe has sensed the injustice that you have suffered and wishes to balance the cosmic scales.

“You may wish upon your enemy death, poverty or a debilitating disease. You may curse him to be the victim of identity theft. Or to hear Muzak constantly in his head. Or to have chronically irritated bowels, incurable flatulence, bad breath, insomnia or a lazy eye. Or to be impotent, unemployable, itchy, annoying to all who meet him. I assume, since I have been sent here, that you DO have an enemy.”

The woman took a long, thoughtful drag on her cigarette, staring off into the distance across the waves.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, finally.

“Well, what shall it be then?” he asked. “I could give him horrendous heartburn. I could make a harpy fall in love with him and drag him through hell. The real one. Not the metaphor.”

“Care for a drag?” said the woman, extending her cigarette.

“Don’t tell no one,” said the genie, gingerly taking the Capri from the woman. “But thanks.”

He blew a perfect ring that danced away over the ocean and wiggled itself into the shape of a fish, ducking down into the waves and disappearing.

“Nice trick,” he said to himself, since the woman said nothing.

The woman sighed deeply.

“For my enemy, a man who once claimed to love me but broke all his vows, I wish …” she said.

The genie rubbed his purple hands together.

“… I wish him no evil but one,” she said. “I wish for him to have a conscience.”


Intelligence beneath your feet

How do you define intelligence?

Is it the ability to make tools? To reason out the solution to a problem?

I have been alerted today to the publication of a fascinating book, which almost sounds Star Trek-y in its depiction of the vast and mysterious intelligence living beneath our feet: fungi.

Fungi can colonize bare rock or thrive in a rich forest, or even the walls of your home. A fungal organism can live for thousands of years, be the size of a pinpoint or cover entire acres. They create partnerships with plants and even with viruses, and according to this author, they can possess a sentient awareness of their environment.

The linked article below certainly will get you to rethink these mysterious, ancient and essential "beings" -- neither plant nor animal.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday morning

I am in my favorite place, one of them at least.

I am sitting in my little wooden chair, at my study room desk, looking out over the freshly mowed lawn into the woods beyond. The dandelions are daunted for a day and I can pretend that I have a real lawn, not a tapestry of weeds.

The apple trees have leafed out but a few clumps of white blossoms linger like leftover snow. The smooth bark of the big beech in the corner is now veiled behind the season's new growth.

Some bird is perched in the fig tree. A wasp is giving himself a concussion against the window pane. No sign of the resident chipmunk or ravenous, garden-ravaging rabbit yet today.

I almost wish I wasn't committed to go to church this morning but I owe a debt to the sacred.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Chocolate Fruit

In the tropical parts of the world, the local folk enjoy a fruit called Black Sapote or the Chocolate Fruit.

The fruit flesh is "rich, dark brown colored and custard like ... with a sweet, nut-like mild flavor... when the pulp is blended with milk or ice cream, it tastes like mild chocolate ..."

I want me some sapote!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cranial Pilot

All that we experience, all that we do, depends wholly upon a blind, deaf, mute glob of cells lodged between our ears.

I am fascinated by that marvel of nature, the brain.

Every murder and every war, every kiss and every cuddle, had its origin up there. We have our cranial pilot to thank for every book ever written, every building ever built, every fire lit and every song sung.

Despite its bony helmet,the brain is terribly vulnerable. Any number of chemicals, from caffeine to nitrous oxide, to a slew of natural hormones, can knock it around like a wimp on a football field. We still don't know why some brains go haywire and drive their associated bodies to do horrible things -- and how much of an effect that pyschological trauma, such as a childhood $exual assault, can have on how the brain will behave later in life.

My own brain has a minor peculiarity, a sort of logjam for which I have no explanation. I will be faced with some complex project, unable to wrap my thoughts around it, daunted by the conundrum, sometimes for days -- and then all of a sudden, the logjam breaks, the answer flows free and all I can do is wonder what took so long and why I couldn't figure it out before.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keys to Success

As I chewed through three years worth of newsclips, columns and Internet printouts this week, I came across two columns that I had saved. Both were written by men with much experience in working with children.

The first, by David Brooks with the New York Times, can be found at http://select.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/opinion/07brooks.html?_r=1 .

The second, by Leonard Pitts with the Miami Herald, can be found here:

Each writer discussed a certain, critical skill that every child must possess if he or She is to grow up to be a successful, happy member of society. One is the ability to delay gratification. The other is the ability to focus, to keep "one's eye on the prize."

Perhaps they are more or less the same thing.

Both columns discussed how children who were not taught or did not develop these skills, had a much higher rate of later failure in life, including incarceration.

Something to think about. Parenting is more than providing food, clothing and shelter.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Until about a week ago, I personally knew only one person who was an adopted child -- grown now into a sweet, affectionate wonderful Lady -- and none who had gone through foster care.

Then someone special whom I know, in the funeral for his Mother last week, revealed the poignant, heart-wrenching details of his early childhood. It was a complete surprise to me. For a reason he did not disclose, he was in foster care for a time, able to see his Mother only every few weeks, and he cried on the porch of his foster home every time that She left, wanting nothing more than to see Her again, praying with all his little heart that each car that passed was Her returning.

This someone special has now grown into a sweet, affectionate man, with a good marriage, highly respected in the community.

Now, just moments ago, I have learned that another person I know was also adopted. She, too, is a fine, fine Lady.

So what is my point? Maybe it is just that if you happen to be an adopted child or in foster care and reading this blog, you should never forget that you are just as wonderful and special a human being as any other. You can achieve your dreams and change the world -- google Dave Thomas for one well-known example. Just because you come from a background in which there was pain and loss, doesn't mean you can't achieve stability in your own future, in the relationships that you will build.

I certainly do not think less of any of the people whom I have mentioned above, now that I know their backgrounds. If anything, I love them all more for who they are in spite of the pain that they have endured.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ice Cream Man

My Beloved heard the tinkle of the ice cream truck yesterday and had a sudden craving.

Because I do not say no to my Sweetie, I grabbed some change and hiked through the copious dandelion fuzz of my yard to the edge of the street where the truck was idling. Through the haze of its exhaust fumes, I made my request, feeling very silly and trying to make grown-up small talk to cover my embarrassment.

I scored a second hubby-point for picking precisely the flavor of Italian Ice that She wanted, blue raspberry/cotton candy as opposed to mango/pina colada.

When I stepped back inside, gratefully, away from the unseen but surely mocking eyes of neighbors, Sweetie had another idea:

"Maybe you and I should look into buying an ice cream truck. We could make some money that way."

Afternoons of exhaust fumes, annoying music and grubby kids with grubby coins shoving each other in line? I didn't say no. I said we could research it. Maybe She will forget.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New member of the garden family

From a vendor at the Farmer's Market in Williamsburg last week, I bought a fine-smelling pot of Winter Savory, a perennial herb that is new to my ken.

Yes, I am a guy. Yes, I also love herbs. Have since I was a teenager. I firmly reject the notion, revived on certain commercials recently, that "men don't bake," or involve themselves in other, similar activities.

I bristle anytime I hear the old, sad, tired myth that "Women don't" this or "Women can't" that. A Woman can hang sheetrock, fix a car, drive a truck, hit a fastball or pursue a career in science, as well as any man.

And I also get quite annoyed when told that men can't do this or that either, without compromising their manliness. In my opinion, a man can bake chocolate chip cookies, enjoy fine fashion or shopping, style hair for a living and any of the many other things supposedly the provenance of Women, and still be very much a man.

So this here man will find a good, sunny place for this new herb, and snip off a little tonight to put into the ham and butterbean soup that I am making for dinner. And I will cuddle with my Beloved as the darkness falls and enjoy Her delightful company whilst all the belching boneheads of the world who base their manliness on old stereotypes can continue to sit alone in their drab apartments gnawing on t.v. dinners.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A fresh start

How invigorating, how therapeutic, these last five days have been!

I feel as if I have re-awakened to a fresh start on my life.

My Beloved and I have spent some much-needed time together. Together we visited a place sacred to our faith and I feel energized, too, in spirit.

I cleared three years of newsclippings clutter from my study room, along with a great amount of dust.

Life is not easy but life is good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


What does anger feel like?

The burning desire to seize the offending moron by the throat and squeeze until he blubbers and cries for mercy or his neck breaks, whichever comes first.

What does being a grown-up mean?
Stuffing that anger inside of you, seething like a plugged volcano until you can find an appropriate, non-living punching bag and beat the %$$* out of it.

I am feeling very angry right now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

State quarters redux

Like a whole lot of other Americans,and maybe the occasional international numismatist, I faithfully collected all 50 of the so-called state quarters that have come out over the last decade or so.

Then I learned that our Mint has decided to continue the program for another year, honoring the various territories of the U.S.

Now this: Impressed with success, the Mint is going to start it all over again, this time with each quarter to honor some significant natural landmark in the respective state. Maybe they'll get done with that and honor specific celebrities and then local inventions and then who knows what? The old eagle might never land on the backside of the coin again.

Meanwhile, though only numismatist nerds know about it, the Mint is also chugging out dollar coins with the images of our presidents, one by one, and in addition, another series of dollar coins with a changing panorama of Native American motifs.

And of course, this year we honor the late Pres. Lincoln's 200th birthday, with a series of scenes on the penny.

Must be bewildering for anyone not native-born, trying to keep up with the appearance of American coinage.

I am all for variety on coinage and I recognize that American coins have been quite boring for most of our lifetimes.

But is this overkill? And do we risk turning our coinage into the grown-up equivalent of baseball or Pokemon cards, mere tokens without the dignity that a nation's coinage should possess?

Heft an old Eisenhower dollar sometime. Now that is a coin!

I'd like to see them put gold and silver back into the alloy. Make our coins be intrisically worth something again, not mere shiny disks of tin and zinc dependent for their worth upon an ever more shaky national economy.

A lot of people may be filling up pickle jars with these fancy new designs. It's fine for fun but as an economic investment, don't believe the hype.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Across the wet wastes,
steaming in the hot morning sun,
God moves.

Something stirs,
ripple laps the lip of mud
wind walks on water.

Across the soft, moist deltas,
beyond the narrow line of willows,
and the flat, brown plains

a green garden rises
thick with trees
tangled in vines
hazy in the heat

Voice murmurs song of creation
Voice of authority.
mayim, shamayim, behemoth
let it be.

Man stands
Man, pitiful thing
Naked in the sun
Naked in the wind.

His eyes see
“Flesh of my flesh.”
Yet more.

“Bone of my bone.”
“My help meet.”
Ends the Creation Song
With Her.

Thought for the Day

A responsible person does not take on more than She or he can handle.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I will not buy cypress mulch

The tragic genius of man is that if he works at it hard enough, he can find a way to exploit just about anything.

How about an ugly, inedible sea mollusc? Well, turns out the cuttlefish makes a great toy for caged birds. A root that forks like the legs of a man? Medically useless, but try telling that to superstitious people who pay dearly for ginseng. Horseshoe crabs? Scientists drain their blood for research.

Somebody recently discovered that the great sentinels of our southern swamps, cypress trees, make a long-lasting, pest-resistant garden mulch. And the saws are now cutting them, fast and furious, to sprinkle upon the suburbs of America.

That is a sad and sorry fate for such a special tree, arborial neighbor to the 'gator and cottonmouth, the eagle and the muskrat.

I will not buy cypress mulch. I will not be as those who tore down the buildings of Rome for cobblestones and doorstops. I will not spread the shattered shavings of this wild wonder upon my petunias.


I don't hate this guy. I wish I WAS this guy.

In a certain year of the 20th century,the same year, two babies were born. One was me, an obscure guy who barely makes the mortgage payment. The other was this guy:

"At the age of 14, EDGE's president and CEO, Jeff Thompson, began EDGE Tech Corp with $2,500 he had saved from a newspaper route in Ada, Okla. With a fascination for the technology market, he began buying and selling computer parts in the Dallas Morning News. Today, EDGE is one of the largest and most respected companies in its industry."

"EDGE Tech Corp, an ISO 9001:2000-certified company founded in 1986, is a leading supplier of computer memory upgrades, portable computing products, storage devices, and other experience-enhancing technology solutions."

In 1986, I was dreaming of only one thing, Girls, and the only technology in my field of interest was a portable radio that I got for Christmas.

I feel SOOHH pathetic!