Thursday, April 25, 2013


Am I out of my groove because my inner ear is infected, or is my inner ear infected because I am out of my groove?  Either way, this record has been skipping in all the wrong spots. 

Time to make it right.  I got the antibiotics, but the rest of the prescription reads something like:

  • Acquire perfect summer theme song
  • Swim against the current
  • Consult the Angry Monk
  • 2 tblsp Turpentine
  • 1 bushel of barbed wire
  • 100 miles per week
I now welcome any and all non-binding, should-free advice from you- my crowd-sourced board of directors.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding Charlie

Charlie the black Labrador disappeared in the storm on Sunday, a pouring down of buckets and crashing thunder that laid most of us down flat with the weight of the  falling pressure.
It has been a run of the putrid touch lately, when my every effort to get it right turns up shit. It is a syndrome exacerbated by effort, churning more and more best intentions into disappointments, let-downs and failure.  

"My aged black lab escaped my yard Sunday during the storms. He is black, about 100 pounds, and he has a difficult time getting around, so I'm not sure how he got further than the drive, but he is missing.  If anyone has seen him, please let me know.  He answers to Charlie, though usually only if he thinks food is involved."

I read that message at my desk and thought about old Charlie.  Was he off on a rounder? Scarfing cat food off or porches and licking wrappers behind Vertigo burgers? Had someone taken him in, unable to find his people? Was Charlie alive?  

I thought about that dog all day as I willed myself to not leave the building, my job, and my financial security behind.  Such a feat of strength by the hunger artist that goes unnoticed by his distracted audience. I exited the building to no applause, although I took my bow.  

The social network was alight with erroneous sightings of Charlie, and one concrete piece of information, however ominous-
"There is a black lab laying in the water in the Greenway by optimist park if anyone is missing a black lab it is alive but seems disoriented."
 I called Charlie's people, and she said that she had been up and down the greenway twice and saw nothing.  I felt the draw, the inexorable draw of adventure, redemption, yet another go at getting it right. I wanted to find Charlie, and I felt that I knew where he was.  Down into the greenway we went- my wife, my neighbor JJ, and our two intrepid search dogs, Summer Chanel (pictured) and Max the Australian Shepherd.  Find Charlie! we beseeched them and they did nothing of the sort.  
The greenway is a lowland drainage, which in lesser neighborhoods would be separated from the community by a chainlink fence and no trespassing signs, but in idyllic Indianhead Acres, it hosts wild foxes, a beaver, a walking path and even in early spring, every mosquito on earth.  
Our crew trundled down the long stairway into the covered, close air of the swamp.  I hung back, allowing myself to wander off the path and into the knee-deep marshy thicket.  I could see the basketball court, the nearby road, and hear the kids playing in the playground just a hundred yards away, but this was a wild place and I walked it the way a wild place must be walked.  I walked cautiously along a muddy rivulet invisible from the main path, obscured by thickets of grass. 
A black lab laying in the water, a black lab laying in the water, a black lab laying in the water, I whispered to myself as I walked and then I stopped-frozen with excitement, relief, and fear for the possible outcome.  There, neck-deep in the mud, were the sad and frightened eyes of a dog, alive.  I cried out something, and as I splashed towards him Melissa appeared above on the bank, her hand outstretched with a packet of food.  Charlie licked an inquiring tongue out to taste the food and then hungrily lapped it up from his prone position.  I called the owner and she was there, she could see us down below and she hurried down into the mud with me, a strong woman with white hair in a long braid and worry all over her face.  I reached into the water and felt all over Charlie, probing for injuries or signs of trauma.  He seemed unhurt, just exhausted.  
A gentleman with a long white beard and a rugged bearing, Charlie's other human companion, went back up the trail to find a tarp to help us move him, and Charlie made a move to follow. He was a willing old dog, but he just wasn't able. His tired old hips would not hold him upright as he repeated his effort to get unstuck from this place.  That was it for me.  I knew how Charlie felt, stuck and tired, staring hope in the eyes yet unable to get there.  "Charlie, it is time to go buddy.  We are getting out of here." 
I knelt down in that  muddy water, my knees pressing into the walls of this rutted stream and I scooped my arms around this 13 year-old dog, 90 lbs made heavier by muck and mud, and I lifted him up, cradled in my shaking arms and laid him on the grassy bank above us.  His owner and I worked ourselves out of the crick and Charlie stood wobbly and tried to head up the trail, unable to hold himself upright for long.  I thought once of my back, then put that thought aside and thought, I will carry this dog out of here or stay here with him forever.  Up he came, and he felt so good against my chest, this thing that I had gotten right.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On the River

My sweetheart wasn't gone 30 minutes before I found myself parked next to a dumpster eating a burrito in the van.  Three days of living alone was more than enough for the kitchen to become the garage again, with bikes stacked against the refrigerator and greasy rags  in the sink. It is hard to resist that late afternoon ennui that leads to drinking beer in your underwear on the back porch while plotting against that beast of an orange cat that haunts your own cat's dreams.  Where does that orange cat hide out?  I want to hit him where he lives when he least expects it, a barrage of green kumquats raining down on his tattered head.  He is as big as a five gallon bucket.

Oh well, nothing to do but plod on, resist the torporous daze and go for a ride.  With a rookie.  And crush him. Some things never fail to cheer me up.

My honey cruises through Dothan, her faithful dog presses her face to the stout 70 mph wind, while the rookie and I cool off at the local rope swing, a couple of old guys trying not to break an ankle.
An adolescent gator watches like a wallflower from 50 feet away, which seems like plenty of space when you are in the air, but a bit too close once you hit the water.


Thursday, April 04, 2013


More than once in my life I have said to myself, "That's it.  It is time to get serious about writing.'  I have canceled the cable, bought ink for the printer, and planted a bottle of scotch at 2' O'clock at my writing station.  Passport, Glenfiddich, Lagavulin,Laphroaig, Oban, Macallan, Highland Park, Dalwhinnie, and the ubiquitous Johnny Walker in all hues.

I have tried cigarettes as a writing aid also, and more important than the tobacco, is the right ashtray, it's proximity to a window, and the correct relative humidity to allow the smoke to wander slowly across the room lit in just the right fashion by the setting evening sun.

I have trusted a quilted flannel shirt from Wal-mart to be my muse, a broken alarm clock given to me by a friend-- set to the exact time of our parting for separate paths, a most profound and priceless gift.  Tuques, toboggans, stump socks, and watch caps have covered my balding to balded head as I courted inspiration at IBM Selectrics, Apple IIC's and E's, Brothers word processors lugged from month-to-month apartments in cities and towns, from mom's house to dad's.

I have scribbled on yellow legal pads and in so many incomplete journals I know that a 5x7 leather-bound is more of a non-fiction thing and a black 81/2 x 11 sketchbook is for poetry.  I have a wooden trunk from Haiti, intricately carved and deep enough for a body, full of incomplete stories and trying too hard.

I have at times plagiarized the voices of Henry Miller, Harry Crews, Stetson Kennedy, Tom Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Roald Dahl, Toni Morrison, and every other author I have read and admired.  Each of those words arrived on the page DOA,  flat cold things.

What I have learned from all of this is nothing.  Every trick and and totem is pointless.  The only thing I know is that it's like Robert Zimmerman said, all you need are three words and the truth.

I don't know.
I am afraid.
I could not.
I will try.
I was there.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

El Merengue

At the risk of sounding overly noble-- sometimes I want to see my friends succeed so badly I can barely stand it, and when they do, it makes me hoarse with pride.  At the root, it is self-serving because by my logic if my friends are interesting and successful people, then perhaps I can feel the same about myself?

A sweat-polished Fender bass, near to a thousand gigs behind it- 995 of those gigs in the hands of his octagenarian father,  my friend pulls the beat from it while my own father sits in on guitar, the congalero is in a trance, he is also amigo to me, not this master musician.  A couple gets up to dance, they are amazing- no. They are incredible- as in it all seems staged and unreal.  The small, packed room cheers them and they move roller coaster hips in Converse All-Stars and high heels.  We are the hippest collection of gringos to ever watch them dance and we can't stand it, we all want more, and the band won't let them quit.   I see them talk with their eyes.  He says, "Tienes mas?"  She purses her lips, "Por favor chico, siempre!"  Finally the keyboard signals the break and the band, the dancers, and us, the audience, take a deep breath, a swig of wine, to see us through to the end.  This room has never seen this moment, and this moment is already gone, and the next one is passing. My hands sting from clapping and I want to carry all of them; band, father, friends, audience around the room on a chair and celebrate them, but instead I just smile, and clap and dance in my own chair.

Last night I thought of that evening as I rode a murderous lap around the trail, no joy in my heart, no sap in my legs, just knives and brass knuckles in my determined heart. I ran over a snake while racing the clock, which I believe must be a high sin.  I think it was not the killer, but the benign Lampropeltis elapsoides, the Scarlet King Snake, and he deserved better.

Let us rush in this life, but be in no hurry.