28 October 2008

Ogre


I wake in the night my eyes open wide, yelling echoes, to end, into my room. Mary . . . Mary, . . Oh Mary, each inevitable insistent pressing in . . . Where are ya Mary! The scary merry taunts through ducts, a vapor seeping it’s sounds… slithering… snaking… throughing… silent.
Mary . . . Mary. . . Oh Mary!
I want ogre’s voice out.
Mary’s sound’s, ringing’s alive. Ogre’s alive. He’s comin’ in.
Terror grips and panic coils
tight I clutch my totem club... under pillow.
Possum up relax eyelids down door open switch on I see
bright light from the dark above… watching… through my eyelids masking.
He’s in the doorway, watching… crossing… slithering silently slowly snaking throughing over me watching... shadow dims my red.
An icy wind gusts through open window billows out drapes and pulls fall back thunk on wall
mouthy liquor smell for an instant’s gone, now back
watching over me.

Mary… is in the closet.

27 October 2008

Reform, Refine, ectetera, redux . . .

I claim a part of me that thinks what I wrote earlier is hooey.  It's a con.  The notion that reformation, enlightenment, and refinement, especially for boys, can improve us is,  well . . . it's a cultural con.  I believe it's the centerpiece of a marketing effort by great-thinker  type schools shilling features and benefits to a culturally ascendant nouveaux riche.  It's a product.  I should know because I'm a product of it.  Here is an article by Lee Siegel "Unsafe at Any Read," that humorously reflects a facet of my thinking: www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/books/review/Siegel-t.html?scp=3&sq=Lee%20Siegel&st=cse.  Gee, I wish I could write like that.

Just what "it" am I speaking of?  Besides just what does "improve us" mean anyway.  Who is the "them" saying that "us".  And who is the "us" in contrast to the "them".  And just what is that content that is going to transform into an "improving"?  I believe that culture is shifting so substantially that there is no agreement on what "it" is.  When I was a child, in the context of my birth family and the culture they grew out of and I was reared into, then, yes, consensus had been achieved and goals were set and decisive action were taken by my parents.  But somewhere along the way all those assumptions changed.

The other day I read a synopsis of an article entitled We Send Too Many Students to College by Marty Nemko.  Mr. Nemko is a career counselor.  Here's the link to the entire article on Mr. Nemko's website:
http://www.martynemko.com/articles/we-send-too-many-students-college_id1543.  Here is the line in the synopsis that jumped out at me. "When high school students show no aptitude for or interest in academics, their parents do them no favors by insisting on college."  Culturally ascendant nouveaux riche parents take heed.

I had the aptitude but I did not have the interest.  And I now know what I had an interest in was culturally and socially unpalatable to my parents, who were footing the bill, and what I had been reared into in my birth family.  I ran into a lot of resistance.  Of  course this was obvious to no one but me.  And if we had sought an observer, say a career counsellor like Mr. Nemko, what would have been quite clear to him and his experience from counselling might well have not been clear to any in my birth family.  Nor would it have been clear to me.  And if it had been clear I would not have know what steps to take to implement the insight.  This does not change or negate the insight.  It just reflects seeing through a glass darkly.

And therein lies our cultural and educational dilemma as a people.  

Pimiento . . . that's pronounced ~ pih-MYEHN-toh

I went to the local grocery, Food City, to buy pimientos. I got there, searched, and searched some more. I walked the store. I could not see them, find them, nothing, nada, zip. Well I figure I'm gettin' older, I don't see as well as I used to, maybe I overlooked 'em. They do come in small jars. Whatever, I'm responsible, my screw-up. I look for a grocer, nay, I say clerk, or customer service representative, to ask. Surely, I reason, Food City staff will know.

Excuse me, do you have pimientos?, I ask a young female staffer. What?
Pimientos?, I say again. What?
Pimientos. I didn't give the phoenetic pronunciation.
I can't understand you. Ah.
Oh, oh, . . that's fine, ok, I'll ask someone else.
She rushs off through a back-of-the-house open door between milk and cheese. There was a whiff of urgency from her. I think she wanted some relief.

So I look and walk around searching for pimientos. I look near the pickles and pepperincini again. I look in the international section again. I look. I walk. I seek. I hope I'll find. Maybe near the olives, that's the ticket. Ah there's another customer service representative who stands out.

Hey bud. Do you carry pimientos?
What? Uh oh.
Pimientos. Yeah, they,re red, in a small round jar, the lid's yellow. I stop.
Once I repeat the word pimiento, it's kinda tricky to say, I see he's processing, visualizing, "Where've I seen that?", or thinking, "What did he say?". He's young. He's long of arm and leg, unkept black hair over forehead and ears, dressed in black jeans and tee and shoes, distinguished as a Food City droogie by the red apron draping about his torso's ncek with an insouciance only a maturing teen boy displays. I watch. I wait. He continues his work.
Dairy . . . in the cheese section.

OK, progress. We have target and location; but in the dairy section, hmmmm, with the cheese, as I walk to the opposite ends and sides of the store. Maybe they're fresh pimientos, have to be kept cold. What do I know. I go. I look. I got bupkus now. I just want pimientos so Angela can put 'em in her corn salad.

There's a lot of domestic cheeses. There's pimiento cheese in quarter pound tubs.
Folks like pimiento cheese.
No pimientos though.

I can't make this stuff up.

22 October 2008

Reform, Refine, Enlighten, Educate

That string of words from the previous post, well, I can't really believe I wrote it.  Oh well there it is. I believe it . . . but I do not particularly care for the way I sound in saying it. 

I don't have a grasp on how I might speak of the value of an education. We, as a nation of people, do not yet know how to have a common conversation on the value of an education.  We are in a transition about what constitutes education.  Ooook.  Even here I assume that what constitutes education is reformation, refinement, and enlightenment.  I do assume it.  And it is what my parents aspired to though this is another conversation.  But the words are on the fringe of a common conversation.

Yes we speak of political reformation all the time.  But please, pray tell, when do we speak of reformation, refinement, and enlightenment about the education one receives in the public education system. They are very old-fashioned words.
(We certainly do not speak of it about boys yet arguably boys need it most. The k-12 education of boys is failing at every social and economic strata. Girls and boys are different. What works for girls does not work for boys. We shunt boys into athletics and into the worst kind of social and cultural stereotypes.)

If one were to openly speak of reformation, refinement, and enlightenment as a cultural value students would look at their teachers as if they were from another planet.  Not that children and teenagers don't do that anyway. And many parents might look at their teachers in the same manner, or even worse, openly attack teachers.  Ooook.

Instead K-12 administrators and many parents discuss whether teachers successfully educate their students at all. Performance bonuses are all the rage; just look at experiments in Washington DC.  Teachers are vital yes but so are ideas and principles.

21 October 2008

Reading Newspaper

In my birth family, especially in my mother's birth family, reading the newspaper was traditional. The two papers of choice were the Hartford Courant and the New York Times. It was an activity so woven into the fabric of my mother's family farm-culture life, almost ritualistic, that I can't recall a time when newspaper reading wasn't done in my birth family.

In the Civil War letters of my maternal great grandfather Henry Elliot Savage, of Berlin, CT., who volunteered for and served in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment, he often pleads for newspapers to be sent him. We know he read one newspaper called the Emancipator. He journeyed to Washington DC in August 1863, marched to and survived Antietam, then Fredricksburg, then down to coastal North Carolina, where he was captured and moved to Andersonville Prison in south Georgia. There his letters and newspaper requests end.

In my birth family my parents reading the Sunday New York Times and sipping whiskey-sours is central in my memory to their day of rest. My father was more a charismatic teller of tales and not so much a newspaper reader. He loved to hear himself talk. In his final years he taught me to seek out, read, and digest The Wall Street Journal. It was a gift of love and utility he gave me near the end of his days.

My mother was a diarist and reader. It was she who read newspaper. In her later years she was a secretary in the business office for the weaver's magazine Shuttle Spindle, and Dyepot. She was a superior editor. I am certain she assisted in the magazine's layout. Old newspapers collected in her home. One of my tasks to settle the 93 years of her affairs was to close her subscription to the Hartford Courant.

My sister is a talker but she's also written scholarly papers on poster-art and, of all things, clay pots fashioned in Mata Ortiz, Mexico. She imports the clay pots driving from San Diego and to Mata Ortiz.

My brother was a highly trained newsman. He began his career as a stringer for The New Haven Register in Guilford, CT.  He graduated Columbia Journalism School. He served a 7-year apprenticeship at The New York Daily News. He went forth to become a national and international public relations executive for Mobil Oil Corporation ending his career there as the Mobil go-to guy in Indonesia. He was a man from whom words poured forth, spoken or written, into any medium he could use. He needed pen and paper, (later typewriter, keyboard, mouse, CRT, later creating an ahead of its time on-line on-demand publishing house Ravensyard Publishing, Ltd.) and his words and voice as much as any of us needs air to breath and live.

As a youth in school I won prize for words I wrote, but turned to photography, on old-school medium now, yet still a medium for all successful stories.  Now we call them "images".

In my fantasy I sit in a european city in a cafe on a buoyant sunny spring or fall day, sipping coffee eating pastry and reading cover to cover the International Herald Tribune. I enjoy, take pleasure in, reading the newspaper. To me it's time spent that informs, refines, enlightens, and educates. (Oh God, I sound like a geezer.) I'm not lonely in reading and seeing the journalism and photographs in the newspaper. I'm talking old-school printed ink on paper I hold, and I sit, stand, walk, do the subway-fold if necessary, turn page by page and read. It's not a searched information source at a click-on site on a liquid crystal display screen. The newspaper is not a site. The newspaper is my companion. It's my window into about and for an unseen and unknown world.

To the old question of "Is there an unseen world?" There's no question. One only has to sit, hold, read, and turn the page of a newspaper, any one will do, to read, see, and learn from it.

But uh oh . . . is what I'm saying more about medium or about the style of the medium.  One might just as well spend time being informed, refined, enlightened, and educated on-line at a site as with print on paper.  More on this later.

20 October 2008

Pimientos, Chorizo, and Wine

I got started thinking about pimientos when my friend Liz reminded me they were nothing more than ripened green peppers turning red. Well pimiento is nothing more than the Spanish word for pepper but in English it has come to mean red peppers that are prepared by cooking, skinning, and seeding. Well here is a recipe for making your own pimientos.

Just place the red peppers in a roasting pan and
  • bake @ 375 degree F
  • for 35 minutes,
  • turning occasionally
  • then, peel off the skin
  • remove the seeds.
It seems deceptively simple but I have done it. The result is yummy.

And if you prepare a pound of iron-skillet-fried chorizo, until lightly browned, remove, deglaze the pan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of dry red wine, then add 2, 3, 4, whatever, garlic cloves, and some fresh chopped parsley, and 2 medium sized pimientos, then combine all in a foil pack with a large air pocket above, tightly closed, then placed in a baking dish, into a heated 350 degree F oven, left for 35 minutes, well, the result is really a doubling to an unpretentious pleasurable feast. Add a little more red wine . . . some music . . . well, sounds like good time to me.

19 October 2008

Monte Walsh


Some weeks ago I caught up with 1970 western Monte Walsh.  It's the tale of aging cowboys Monte Walsh and Chet Rollins, and their women, facing their fading culture and the rising future culture not theirs.  The story plays out in western of good guys who do honest work, their gals, and the bad guys who impede them in their efforts to adjust.  Lee Marvin and Jack Palance play Monte and Chet, and Jeanne (my heart goes . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . Moreau plays Monte's saloon hall gal.  These are good people.

Marvin and Palance play against their types with both displaying interior lives of emotional flexibility, range, and depth.  Playing against their types is a reason I like this western.  I can understand why both male actors might have enjoyed playing these roles. Marvin was 5 years beyond his Academy Award winning role of Kid Shaleen in Cat Ballou.  Marvin and Palance were in an era of transition in their careers, cultural mores and attitudes were shifting, and maybe both felt unsure how to respond and how to extend their careers. These roles in Monte Walsh mirror a late 19th century cultural shift and challenge.  In so acting Marvin and Palance act out and work out how Monte and Chet chose to live into the story in their time.  Both, all the good characters really, do this humanely, humorously, honestly, and without and self-conscious irony.   Not many on screen men today would display such interior elasticity; witness the advertisements for the contemporary Appaloosa, I have not actually seen the film though I would like too, with Ed Harris and Vigo Mortenson.  Anyway Monte Walsh is a nice movie and worth a Netflix rental.

So why do I care?  Well besides getting to recommend grown-up entertainment, with a humane story line,  I identify with Monte.  To mix in a '60's metaphor I feel like Bob Dylan's voice singin' in It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, "the carpet too, is moving under you." Oh the sense of uncertainty and change.  I too am in transition in my era and in my career.  I too am part of a fading cultural era. I too am part of a dawning cultural era.  This new time is one in which we are all in the midst of, but it is one in which both of my grown children already take for granted are shaping and creating. I'm playing catch up. 

So I pray I may do it humanely, honestly, and humorously, just as Monte did in his mid-career reflection to me from 1970.

18 October 2008

Servant of Christ


A group of Stephen Ministers gathered. To settle ourselves we prayed,
Almighty God, grant that those who worship you this day may present themselves to you as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to you. By the power of your Holy Spirit make us strong to fulfill our ministry this day. In the name of Christ.
We read Psalm 71 and 2 Corinthians 11:7 - 12:10. And then a reading from "The Spiritual Life" by Evelyn Underhill. She writes,
Our spiritual life is his affair; because, whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by his steady attraction, and our humble and self-forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at his pace and in his way, to the place where he wants us to be; not the place we fancied for ourselves.

Well at the time I just heard lots of words. I just wasn't hearing content jump out at me and grab my focus. And we went on with our meeting and departed. Later on, in the night, or maybe in the morning, when I awoke I seemed to realize what I had heard. What I was hearing was that God is a stronghold in the face of resistance or a strength in the face of obstacles.

In Psalm 71 what I heard is how the speaker feels beset upon by those around him, besieged, and that God is his source of strength, a comfort, and his companion, and thus, take heart do not feel alone.

In Paul's letter speaking to the Christians at Corinth, he is telling how he has been beset upon, and endured, and persevered, in the face of so much. Really, Paul's litany of what he's endured, when you read it aloud, seems to go on and on. I imagine the reality of his experience would've felt comfortless and unendurable. Yet, he says, with God's help, he has persevered and endured to continue to witness to the church. So, this common thread of perseverance, in the face of daunting obstacles, is what I heard.

But I did not tie them into Underhill's reading. I do it here. The place we fancy for ourselves is often times not the place God leads us to . . . if we're going to live a spiritual life, if we're going to be ambassadors, and if we're going to be servants.

If we'd live the spiritual life we'd drawn into the servant life.

15 October 2008

Green Peppers to Come

I went to the Farmers Market last Saturday week and I bought some homegrown green peppers. I thought they were beautiful, really just ugly, misshaped, and contorted in a manner one would just never see, one would just not be presented with, in the superchain market. And they are so tasty, full of a flavor, one would not taste from a superchain pepper.

Well, alas, I couldn't eat some of them, they turned soft as their color turned from the dark green to a red. Well what would I do with them? I didn't want to throw 'em out. So I went out in my weed bed cleared a small plot and composted the peppers into the freshly turned weeded soil. Here's hoping next spring I'll have green peppers next to my tomatoes next to my basil.

14 October 2008

Lumbar

I’ve been in pain for 12 days; gut wrenching, motion freezing, mind-boggling pain. It's ebbed and flowed off me and over me.
While moving some furniture from the upstairs to the downstairs I managed to twist and extend so I strained muscle in my lumbar region. It was as a charge of paralyzing electricity focused and spreading in my lumbar muscles. The result was the mere eke-ability to move at all. I was stranded mid-stairs. I sunk to sit and the voltage throbbed up; overwhelming motion-freezing pain. I was frozen, crying out. Alone, somehow I moved to bed only to recall I had to get up to ice my spasmodic muscles. 
I've been to two physicians, doing what physicians do, diagnosing and prescribing. The specialist prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, motrix. I'm skeptical. He said, “Call me if you have diarrhea.” Oh. Last I took a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, naproxen, my stomach was on fire. And, I might as well’ve ingested fast-set concrete. Was naproxen old-school? I'm skeptical, unconvinced about motrix’s insinuated features and benefits.
Anyway, I am moving again. I’ve not exercised in a long time. I used to exercise all the time. I think my body is giving me a signal: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion”. I'm going to move.