Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beautifully Imperfect

The Eulogy I wrote for my father's funeral.  We laid him to rest yesterday afternoon.  Things will never be the same.

     Only once in my life have I struggled to write something.  I had chosen to major in literature, abandoning the business path my father had hoped I would take once I had gotten trying to be a musician out of my system, and now that I had reached senior status I had to write a long, academic paper on a major author in order to graduate.  I chose William Faulkner.  I had chosen as the focus of my work, an examination of the father and son relationships in several of Faulkner's works:  Absalom! Absalom!, The Sound and The Fury, Flags In The Dust, and a few of his short stories.  From the middle of my last term on, day and night I read and re-read passages, scribbled notes, and wrote long, rambling, mostly incoherent thoughts about how the patriarch of each of Faulkner's grand, old, fading families seemed to achieve folk hero status, casting such a giant shadow over the sons left behind at his death, that the successful way forward for them was terribly obscured.  But I couldn't pull it all together.  Three nights out from the deadline, I called home at two in the morning and my Dad answered.  Even then he was a night owl.  I told him my predicament, and that I thought I might be going a little crazy, that I didn't think I could forge my thoughts into a worthy paper.  And then he said something I have never forgotten:  “It's always difficult to understand how it is between fathers and sons.  It's even harder when you didn't really have a father.”  There was a long pause and then he said:  “Here's your mother.”

  My father's father passed away when he was six.  Dad grew up incredibly poor, with three older brothers and one younger, all of whom had to get good at fending for themselves.  When I think about the stories Dad used to tell us of their poverty, it is as if he was telling us stories of an alternate universe, because my siblings and I wanted for nothing.  Dad came here with a little cash, a VW beetle, a semester of school at Beckley College paid for, and the promise of a stipend from his oldest brother, Billy.  From there, he became the definition of self-made.

  This Yankee from Connecticut met a girl working the ticket booth at the Beckley Theater and wooed and won her.  He found a mentor in Dr. John Daniel, who gave him a shot managing a bar I am sure many of you will remember well, The Rathskellar, where he had the dual role of bartender and bouncer, and claimed always to be slightly deaf in his right ear, the one that faced the stage where the bands played as he worked the register.  After getting his degree, when he probably could have taken his bride and headed elsewhere, he sank roots in Beckley, and found a calling in sales.  All of you here knew him.  He could sell anything to anyone, not because he was the best at product knowledge, which he was.  Not because he studied sales rigorously and knew many techniques, which he did.  And not because he was so charismatic and good-looking, which he was.  He just did not hear anyone say “no,” and he kept talking until you said “yes.”  And with the money he made from running a successful industrial battery distributorship, he followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a landlord.  He built or renovated at least one building per year from 1982 on, and this is how he became the patriarch and folk hero of the family we are today.

  But my mother Cynthia's husband, and our father, my siblings George, Bonnie, and Missy...our father wasn't just about business.  I think while he was alive, we tended to think that.  But in these terrible days since our terrible time in Cleveland, I have come to realize that he didn't just cast a giant shadow because of his business successes, but because he led a big, interesting life.  He was always wanting to go somewhere, and do something.  Even when his health was failing him these last couple of years, he wanted to go to ball games, to movies, to a new restaurant.  He wanted to take a trip to Chicago for his anniversary, read that new book on leadership, get back down to Sand Key and walk on the beach, get off oxygen and go back to Europe. In fact, he had started saving quarters in a big Coke bottle bank in the hopes of taking Mom back to Ireland on a trip totally funded by coinage.   He called it his “Keep The Change” campaign.

     The very fact of his dynamic nature prevented us from thinking that anything could ever take him away from us.  Despite the fact that we had seen his brothers Billy, Teddy, and Vasil pass away, we always thought there was still plenty of time.  Death had come for Dad several times and he had waved it away.  He staved it off with a kidney transplant he received from my mother in 2002.  In 2005 and 2008 he had illnesses that nearly killed him, but emerged from both with renewed vigor.  And because we believed so firmly in his strength, I don't think we saw clearly how he was struggling the last three months.  But as I went through so much video of him coming up with the remembrance you will see in a moment, I can't believe I missed it.  I don't think I will ever forgive myself for not taking the time to be more in the moment with him.  I should have tried to see him every day, to hug him, to thank him, and to tell him that I loved and respected him.

  For most of my life, I focused on my father's imperfections.  Our relationship was always complex, but when I think about it now, I see that he was beautifully imperfect.  He became a great father when he had never had one to show him the way.  He became a great businessman all on his own.  He created a family where there had been none, and with steadfast determination and force of will, kept it together all the years of his life.  Now he is gone, and it is as if the sun has set, and the blanket of stars in the night twinkle with a multitude of memories...

  ...of cheek-to-cheek, and playing one song, over and over again on a four-hour trip, of Consort hairspray, of boxes of fudge-cicles (which he called fudgicles), of shades of beige, and that leather jacket he wore in the 70s, of La-z-boy recliners, and old-man-full-of-sleep naps anytime, anywhere, of the longest phone messages known to man, of tucked-in rugby shirts, of “gimme a swig,” “don't hide it, divide it,” of “pal-ing around,” of chewing the entire pack of gum at once, of steamed clams and exactly one Bud Light, of “Matt, we've got no work, get out in the field,” of “what we have here is failure to communicate” and “I got vision and the rest of the world is wearing bi-focals,” of “I believe in America” and of “Man, that guy can do a meringue, whoa!,” of The Drifters Golden Hits, and Respighi's The Pines of Rome, of two-inch thick T-bones drenched in onion salt, lemon pepper, and worcestershire cooking on a grill, of wiffle ball and frisbee, of “tell him, hon,” of beach trips, of checking the buildings after a beach trip, of “how much did that cost me?,” and “who stole my 25-pound dumbbells?” and “is that my shirt?,” of that college ring with the purple stone with which he used to drum along to songs on the steering wheel of that cream colored Cadillac, of blood pressure cuffs and oxygen sensors, of Flannel robes, of “I am your Creator!,” of his adopted African children, of that yellow windbreaker he wore when walking the half-mile block ten times a night, of matchbox football tournaments, and games of chess with touch-move rules, of Mountaineer games (in the seats in time to see the band), of the Stone Crab Inn, of Mickey Mantle's 1956, of the Tampa Bay Rays, of multiple streams of income, of cherry wainscoting, of late-night email-length texts, of "I love you, Rock," of Neville Street projects, and of “Have A Great Day.”

     I never finished that paper on Faulkner.  But I know a lot more about fathers and sons now, because I had Dad to show me the way.  The sun will rise tomorrow, but my siblings and I won't be found in the long shadow that Dan Bickey casts.  We will be looking toward a far horizon, as we stand on the shoulders of a Giant.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

First, and Belated, #Row80 Check-In

I don't think that I could have gotten off to a worse start with this.  Monday I went to the file cabinet in my office where just about everything I have ever written is stored, and there, in the folder for "You Are Here" were several pages of notes, a folder of pictures meant for inspiration, and a map that marks the trail of the story (it begins at a beach, and ends at a mountain lake).  But none of the 20 pages or so I remember completing before cooling on the project were anywhere to be found.  I spent the next two days sifting through all manner of stuff, finding in the process quite a few little pieces I barely remember writing,  Still, none of the old words.  Then I dug out the old laptop that I used to write those pages.  There it was, a Movie Magic Screenwriter file....but when I clicked on the file, the program asked for its start up disc.  That disc is long gone.  When I tried to register the software via Internet, a pop-up box told me I had used all three of my licenses and would have to remove the program from one of the those computers.  All those computers are long gone.  Now I remember why I quit using Movie Magic Screenwriter.

So it looks as though I am starting from scratch.

As far as goals go, well, I didn't hit any of them.  No half-hour sessions per day.  No 3 mile walks.  And no board games with the kids.  Now, in my defense, I will say that family schedules and family time spent watching both the Rays and the Pirates disappoint us did have something to do with my poor performance.

I hope to have a better report at the next check-in.

Monday, October 7, 2013

#ROW80 Goals Post

I have been wanting, desperately, to reawaken certain parts of myself, mostly to see if they are still there.  I had thought of dedicating that effort to nanowrimo, but after a little internet surfing, I came upon aroundofwords, which suits me better, I believe.

So, beginning today, I will return to an unfinished project, a film script begun and then abandoned in 2008 entitled "You Are Here."  It has rattled around in my head for all this time.  I know something is there that I would like to make.  My goal is to finish a draft by the #ROW80deadline of December 26th, and, more specifically, as Kait Nolan suggests in her great blog post on sustainable change, my measurable goal will be writing a half hour a day alone and unplugged, generating at least 500 words in each session.  Other goals include walking at least three miles a day, playing a board game with my children at least once a week, and completing the editing of two small video projects that have been on the back burner for far too long.

Here's Luck, and Action.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Please Stop With "The Bible Tells Me So"

I have several friends and acquaintances who are flipping out about gay marriage...yet again.  I usually avoid talking about these kinds of things in public forums, but this is really not an issue that anyone in an organized faith should care about.  It in no way affects how you live your life.  It only affects those who are having their rights as humans restricted because of the way they live their lives.

Please stop with all the clamoring that marriage is "this or that" because the Bible says it is so.  I took comparative religion in college, my friends, and the Bible is not a document of monolithic authority.  It says many things that stand in direct conflict with each other, and bans, a lot of things, not the least of which is murder, but St. Augustine cleared the way (theologically-speaking) for sanctioned murder by a government long ago.

From a paper I wrote for that very comparative religion class, here is a short list of things banned by the Bible:

Ham/Pork (Leviticus 11:7-8)
Tattoos, but especially tatts of those that are dead (Levitcus 19:28)
Psychic Readings (Leviticus 19:31)
Gossiping (Leviticus 19:16)
Women who help their husbands in a fight - the punishment? The woman shall have her hand cut off (Deut. 25:11-12),
Children cursing their parents - punishment? Death. (Exodus 21:17)
Divorce (Mark 10:8-9)
Getting remarried after a divorce (Mark 10:11-12)
Women SPEAKING in church (1 Corinithians 14:34-35)
Eating Shrimp or Lobster (Leviticus 11:10)
Losing Virginity before marriage - punishment? Death by stoning by the men of the village (Deut. 22:20-21)
Wearing clothes made of two interwoven materials (Leviticus 19:19)
Allowing those without tesitcles or a whole penis to enter a church (seriously, I am not making this up: Deut. 23:1)
Wearing gold or braiding hair (1 Timothy 2:9)
and lastly, working on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15)....

Whew...a bird's eye view of this short list reveals that a lot of the craziness in the Bible emanates from Leviticus, which doesn't just appear in Christianity but is also a part of the Torah, and a cornerstone of Jewish law.  Incidentally, it is Leviticus that labels homosexuality an abomination, but I don't think you can hold to that belief as a Christian if you also eat pigs, have tatts, gossip, eat shrimp, or wear polyester.  And further, it is generally accepted in Christianity that the New Covenant supersedes the Law of Moses, which is as it should be, because Christ was a pacifist, a protector of the outcast.  All of you who would limit the rights of others based on their lifestyle choices should remember that Christ himself in all likelihood would not have done that.  Know how I know?  When Christ was asked by the Pharisees which was the most important commandment (Matthew 22:36) he responded: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  (Matthew 22:37-40).  Notice there are no "Thou Shalt Nots" there...and one of the many ways in which I interpret Love is Justice For All.   So, unless you are willing to accept a world in which you don't have the right to love and marry whomever you choose, you should accept the fact that others, who live and do things differently than you, do have the same rights you do.

Here endeth the rant....unfriend me if you need to.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Three Big Thoughts

"Between names and reality there lies an abyss."  -- Octavio Paz

"Nothing, which makes possible the presence of everything." -- Emily Dickinson

" a vast, mysterious, perhaps even meaningless universe, you keep yourself together by ritual.  If solitude is the final reality, then all we have to make it bearable, are these half-magical routines."  -- Charles Simic

2012 Christmas Card Collage

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three Poems For My Beloved


You make the surprise of surroundings
tame, ordered, a subdued god resting
in the sheets between us,
his blessing like the gush of a river
only we can hear.
Your full breaths
drawn and blown, and now, both of us,
silent as twilight, the water flat and calm.

Your long, white arms form
two spans spread across an emptiness,
your hands holding the back of my head,
I look to the wreckage of your dress
collapsed on the floor, the vessel
that only minutes before held your form.

Even spent, you tempt me like a boat
on which we will take a cruise,
drink a bottle of wine, and eat.

When can I go aboard again?
When, again, may I eat?*


Green eyes. Red hair.

Long thin leaves rose from the water,
bent to the wind.*
You and I in the same boat,
floating in the summer of our beginnings.

The sun shone down as we drank the beer.
We rested under the canopy til past noon,
broke the flat water with our bodies,
felt the seaweed hidden beneath the surface.
When the night came, I looked into flames,
I felt the tide of your pulse,
I saw the future.

Green eyes.  Red hair.


Aging,  but still taking an occasional note,
the body of years getting fat and slack,
the days churning like water through
the turbine of a dam.
This life continues within the walls of our home,
smoke rolling up the chimney,
baskets of  wine corks filling up as games come and go,
another horse race to be run,
and more games ahead,
letters arriving, bills being mailed.
With vodka and olive juice, whiskey, wine,
I understand how comprehensible the magic becomes,
how tuned to each other,
how the story rolls in a wave at a time,
and keeps rolling in
as our children hug us, and love us,
and begin to glimpse the half-fulfillment of words,
the importance of presence.
And the days, the days undertow away,
pulling our youth, and theirs, from us.
Lucky we are that love depends on habit
quite as much as the wild way of passion.
Gently does it, as the rain water in time
wears through the hardest stone,*
and the river it makes leads to a sea.

*these poems contain lines from other texts that kick-started their creation

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Cinema of All Art, All The Time

A while back I purchased Rick Schmidt's book Extreme DV at Used Car Prices.  I am intrigued by his aesethetic, which promotes a style of filmmaking that does not involve a script.  This is counter-intuitve to me, and yet, alluring.  Each of Schmidt's films have been completed in 10 days by a collaborative group that brainstorms for three hours before finding a seed of story and then spends the next five days growing it to its conclusion.  Then they spend the last five days editing the film.  In each case, no more than five hours of footage is shot for a 75-minute movie, which isn't much of a ratio.  I don't know how good any of these films are, as they have screened in only a few festivals, and are not distributed anywhere.  I am going to purchase a couple of them to see what kind of film results from Schmidt's method of creation, because the idea of taking off on the road for a couple of weeks with a camera, a sound recordist, and two actors seems really tempting to me.

Sprinkled throughout the text of ExtremeDV are excerpts from Ray Carney's "The Path of the Artist."  Carney teaches film at Boston University, and it would be an understatement to say that he despises the Hollywood production model.  For example, Carney writes: "To build your film around your main character's decisions and choices, plans and goals (as virtually every Hollywood movie does), is to skim the surface of life.  Go deeper.  To watch a Hollywood movie is to see ourselves as seen by ourselves--in other words, blinded in layer after layer of self-delusion.  Real art is about seeing ourselves as others see us, leaving our own views behind to explore different ways of thinking and feeling." 

Or: "Real art is not about yanking the viewer around, playing with expectations, showing how ingenious you are, but reverentailly exploring something you don't understand.  It's the product of humility, not cockiness.  Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential and the complete work of the Coen Brothers are to filmmaking what the Harlem Globetrotters are to basketball.  If we had as hign an opinion of film as we do of sports, we wouldn't sit still for them."

Or: "We're only so used to this kind of film because most Hollywood directors are closer to being buisnessmen than artists.  Schindler's List has more in common with Donald Trump's Art of the Deal than with Martin Buber's I and Thou.  A producer's cinema reflects a producer's values.  We need an artists' cinema that reflects an artist's vaules.  Look at General della Rovere, To Sleep with Anger, or Wanda to see the alternative--the kind of film that hustlers like Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, and Spike Lee could never imagine making.  The only reality that matters in Roberto Rossellini's, Charles Burnett's, and Barbara Loden's work is spiritual."

Carney is nothing if not bombastic, to the point of souding like a zealot, even, but I find some of his aphoristic thoughts refreshing.  It is jarring to hear a critic refer to Spielberg or Tarantino as "hustlers," isn't it?  He strikes me as an all-or-nothing type, all steak or all cake.  Where I am comfortable with a world where a film can be art, just as a film can intend nothing more than the amusement of the viewer, he clearly is not.  Carney writes that the "only reason these problem-solving, goal-driven, jigsaw-puzzle pictures are so popular is because they are so infantile.  It takes no knowledge of life, no sensitivity to emotions to understand them." 

He makes an argument that "people outside the movies don't have purposes and goals," that "we almost never know what we are doing or where we are going from one moment to the next" and encourages artists to "make a film that shows how irrelevant our plans are, how they are a way of avoiding living."  This is probably where I fall off his bus, because I believe people have always looked to the structure of storytelling to find meaning in their lives.  We tell ourselves stories where characters matter, and make choices, and wind-up fulfilled because that so frequently is not the reality of most lives.  Is that willful acceptance of delusion?  Perhaps, but who needs a cinema that would stand mostly to reinforce the fact that we are deluded, that we are mostly unimportant, that we will die without ever coming near self-actualization?  Below is a list of films mentioned postively by Carney in the essay that is hyperthreaded above. 

  • General della Rovere - Roberto Rossellini
  • To Sleep With Anger - Charles Burnett
  • Wanda - Barbara Loden
  • Tokyo Story - Yasujiro Ozu
  • Day of Wrath - Carl Dreyer
  • My Brilliant Career - Gillian Armstrong
  • Stalker - Andrei Tarkovsky
  • A Woman Under The Influence - John Cassavetes
  • The Sacrifice - Andrei Tarkovsky
  • The Scenic Route - Mark Rappaport
  • Love Streams - John Cassavetes
  • A Little Stiff - Caveh Zahedi
  • Gertrude - Carl Dreyer
  • Faces - John Cassavetes
  • The Wife - Tom Noonan
  • Grand Illusion - Jean Renoir
  • Breaking The Waves - Lars von Trier
  • The Celebration - Thomas Vinterberg
  • Stranger Than Paradise - Jim Jarmusch
  • It's A Wonderful Life - Frank Capra
  • Bleak Moments - Mike Leigh
  • Abigail's Party - Mike Leigh
  • Nuts In May - Mike Leigh
  • Home Sweet Home - Mike Leigh
  • Safe - Todd Haynes
  • Trash - Paul Morrissey
  • Sense of History - Mike Leigh
  • Killer of Sheep - Charles Burnett
  • Morgan's Cake - Rick Schmidt
  • Gummo - Harmony Korine
  • Jeanne Dielman - Chantal Akerman
  • Taste of Cherry - Abbas Kiarostami
  • Umberto D - Vittorio de Sica
  • The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice - Yasujiro Ozu
  • The Bicycle Thief - Vittorio de Sica
  • The Rules of the Game - Jean Renoir
  • Meantime - Mike Leigh
  • The Trial of Joan of Arc - Robert Bresson
I would venture a guess that the above list would make a good syllabus for an interesting film class, especially when the author of the essay from which that list was derived had the guts to write this: "Aristotle was wrong.  The greatest art denies us the comfort of catharsis.  Give your viewers an experience that doesn't allow them to recline into the easychair of an emotional release or clarification.  Deny them easy answers.  Force them to work out the ending themsleves.  Force them to decide who was right and who was wrong--why tell them?  Or give them an ending where the bad character triumphs and the good one fails."

I still don't know if an anti-Aristotelian cinema is one I would want to watch with any regularity, but perhaps I shall come away from this watching the films on this list with a changed perspective.  Perhaps...perhaps.

Two Bucks Each

What is great, and simultaneously somehow a little bit sad, about our culture.
Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tree, Winter's Night

Its trunk cuts a shape
from the night, while its branches
blur in the moonlight.
The world illustrates it all.
Right wing: stolid.  Left: striving.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baseball Slo-Mo Promos

Last summer, I made a few scoreboard promotionals for the West Virginia Miners, a local baseball team playing in the Prospect League.  I thought I might post a few of them for the heck of it.  I call these one-shots, because they are just that:  a single-shot of an action in super slow-motion.  I especially like the second and third ones...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


There was coffee, scrambled eggs and dry toast
in the morning.  Then a shower, fresh clothes
and the tying of shoes. Kisses for the wife
and children and then the drive to the office,
delayed by a highway wreck.  Fire engines.
Two ambulances.  A minivan crumpled
in the median.  Stopped at a gas station
for another cup and the lovely young woman
working the counter wore a name tag that
read: "Hope."  Our eyes met as she handed
me change and the moment drew out.
Above, the fluorescent lights hummed.
I tilted my head and noticed her pale skin,
her brown hair, her colorless eyes.
I waited for her valediction to fill the
uncomfortable space.  I was ready to hear
her say: "Have A Nice Day."
She appeared ashen.  She said: "Farewell."
Meetings at ten, at two, at 4:30.
Calls all day.  We got several orders.
The problem with that one disgruntled
customer was resolved.  The heating
and air units were repaired.  Then the
drive home.  No sign of a wreck at all.
The next day I read of two fatalities,
an inmate released minutes before
from the regional jail, and his mother.
Whiskey at six that night.  Dinner
with the family gathered around.  Homework.
Baths. Storytime. Night-night.
The wife and I watched a cliffhanger.

Years from now, as I wait, maybe alone,
for the ride to hospice,
the weight of that day,
and all the ones so like it,
reduced to the feather of "farewell."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sam Phillips Will Knock Your Socks Off

My wife bought me a subscription to a year of Sam's music at her site, but I haven't been able to log in yet.  So, I haven't heard any of that new stuff.  But Sam is one of those artists that occasionally gets into my consciousness and I find myself listening to her obsessively.  A high-school friend, my best friend at the time, gave me a cassette of her for a birthday.  He was the son of a pastor, and at that time Sam was a Christian artist going by the name of Leslie Phillips.  That cassette was the album "The Turning," and it also introduced me to the production work of T-Bone Burnett.  T-Bone and Sam spent quite a while married, but divorced a few years back, and her songwriting seems to have gone next-level, if that was even possible.

Anyway, I had never thought to do it, but I searched Sam on YouTube, and there was a treasure trove of stuff.  Watch this.  These four songs are found on Sam's last record label release, "Don't Do Anything."

I adore this woman's work.

Meet Scott Simons

I spent some time late last night with some good friends, who showed me some videos by a musical friend of theirs.  His name is Scott Simons.  He is a native of West Virginia, and his talent does us proud.

He has taken to picking random Facebook friends each week and writing a song about them, which he then posts under the heading: "Wednesday Wallbomb."  They not only amuse, but reveal Simons' great talent for pop-music craft. And the videos themselves are fun since they are shot, it seems, from a computer webcam, with occasional background surprises.

Watch them here.  So far, there are five of them.  All of them are worth watching, but my personal favorite has to be Wallbomb #3, Christie Valo.  The second I heard him sing: "she's feeling like crap..." and then drop that melodic "whoa-oh,"  I became a fan.  #5, Brittney Kinsey, is also hilarious.  I've been chuckling at "Boom...uh-huh, uh-huh...we just bombed your wall"  all day today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Today I Enter The Third Stage

"A man's life is divided into four different times.  Until you're twenty, you grow up and choose a life.  From twenty to forty you lay the groundwork.  From forty to sixty you make the money.  After sixty you get to screw it up however you like."  -- Moe Brillstein, father of manager and producer Bernie Brillstein.

I read this quote as I stood in the book aisle of a Dollar Tree.  It was taken from Bernie Brillstein's 1999 memoir: "Where Did I Go Right?"  Bernie died in August of 2008, and, cruel fate, his book's shelf life has passed, too.  We labor, and our days seem quick and numberless.  They are not.

I bought the book -- a dollar well-spent.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thanks Be To God

This afternoon, I took my wife to Colonial Downs for the Colonial Turf Cup and the three races that preceded it. I told her as we were leaving, moderate winners, that I had hoped God would send me a sign this day in the form of a life-changing score, and we had played accordingly.

Later, we took the family out for dinner. As we walked back home, my eldest son darted across a street to the door of my parents' condo, where we are staying. A few seconds later, my younger son followed his brother just as a car turned into the road. My younger son, whom I have dreamed terribly three times of losing in just this way, was nearly hit. My wife and I screamed at him as it happened, and he and his brother burst into tears on the curbside, safe but adrenaline-aware of the near-catastrophe that would have irrevocably changed everything. 

Message received, Lord. Zero distortion. Sorry for asking for something meaningless.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'd Like To Produce and Direct Hamlet...

...the way Kenneth Branagh did, but without the histrionics of his soliloquy in the snow before the intermission, and perhaps with a parallel narrative, one in which Hamlet is 16 years old, and one in which he is 30.  Problem is, that might figure to be in the 8-hour epic range.  Still, it would be damn interesting.

I think John Gardner was right...Hamlet was meant as a novel.  It works in your mind just as well as it does on a stage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Small-Town Carnival

I move through the crowd
of drug-skinny parents.  Some smoke,
while others take pictures
of the little ones they may one day
resent, revile or reject.
The little ones,
they whirl around and around,
and smile and laugh, oblivious to
the grease-smeared hydraulic jack
that powers the sparkling cars
over the track and the skinny carny
man at the controls, as he smokes
a fat, green cigar.

The world makes me sad.


The double-yellow
line snakes its way through mountain
country.  Driver, keep right.

Monday, June 7, 2010


ESPN compiled a list of quotes from the late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who died at 99 over the weekend.

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
"Never mistake activity for achievement."
"Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."
"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
"Be prepared and be honest."
"Be quick, but don't hurry."
"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."
"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."
"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."
"Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character."
"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."
"I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent."
"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."
"It isn't what you do, but how you do it."
"Ability is a poor man's wealth."
"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."
"Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights."
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."
"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."
"The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."
"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
"Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."

Don't you feel wiser having read those?  I italicized my favorites.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


She is a modern dancer.  She is a wit.  She loves baseball and horse racing.  She keeps score.  She does the math.  She hates dust.  She cuts the grass.  She was really good at making babies.  She is photogenic.  She is crazysexycool.  And she deserves a valentine everyday.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

And The Greatest Performance Ever By A Horse Goes To....

1973 was a good year, if only for two wife was born and Secretariat won the Triple Crown in crushing fashion. This is a spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, flat-out amazing performance. I have watched the replay many times, and I have to say my favorite part is when Chick Anderson exclaims at the 1:39 mark of the video: "Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a TREMENDOUS MACHINE!" If you have never seen it, get ready to witness greatness. If you have seen it, prepare to witness greatness, again. Secretariat is the only horse I think, ever, to run each successive fraction faster than its predecessor, and at a mile-and-a-half! Final time 2:24. A record that still stands and probably always will. Beyer once took a guess at what Big Red's speed figure would have been that day...139. I want to see this kind of greatness once in my life.  (If the above image is cropped, right-click and select "Show All."  If that doesn't work, right-click and select "Watch on You Tube.")

I Am Always Ripping Off Buffy Holt's Blog

Buffy Holt is one of my favorite bloggers, although I can't ever seem to merit any comment from her.  But then, that all fits in with the name of my blog. Howls.  Hurricane.  There is so much out there, it is hard to be heard.  It is also a theme in my life...people with whom I want to be friends seldom seem to find me as intriguing as I find them.  (David Riker...I sure wish we had stayed in touch!) 

I found her blog when I googled the words "writing exercise" and was led her way.  I came to find out that she went to high school with the sister of a dear friend, even though oceans divide Buffy from her holler hometown.  Talk about a small world.  But I know some people see me, and I think everyone ought to see this merger of Opry country and Roots revival. Thanks, Buffy. You continue to rock.  Watch this.  And then, because that song got me thinking about other songs, watch this.

A lot of you wouldn't think it, but Dolly Parton can rip your heart out.  That video proves she is a singer, but also, one helluva an actress.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The New Republican Logo

From Rodeo Clown To Martin Luther King By August 28th....

Click on the title of this post to link to a page that has an 8-minute video segment from the Colbert Report. I don't regularly watch that show...but while channel-surfing the other night I came across it. This segment is pretty much the last thing that needs to be said about the "Pillsbury Dough Pundit," Glenn's hilarious, and I had no idea just how crazy Beck is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

History Repeats

"Between 1850 and 1900, the population swelled; the cities grew enormously; the Far West was settled; the country became a major industrial power; there was a revolution in transportation and communication; overseas expansion began. The march of technology and science made life easier; at the same time, the social order became more complex, and the growing pains of modernity became more evident. New social cleavages developed. The North-South cleavage was bandaged over in the 1860's and 1870's. Whites took power again, and suppressed African Americans with a vengeance. When the blood of the Civil War dried, the Gilded Age began. This was the factory age, the age of money, the age of the robber barons, of capital and labor at war. And the frontier died. The pioneer, the frontier individualist, had been the American culture hero, free, self-reliant, unencumbered by the weakness and vices of city life. The frontier had been a symbol of an open society; opportunity was as unlimited as the sky. In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner wrote his famous essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History."  He argued for the powerful influence of the frontier on American character and institutions; but as he wrote the essay, Turner announced that the frontier was no more -- the frontier was dead.

"What really passed was not the frontier, but the idea of the frontier. This inner sense, the perception of change, was perhaps one of the most important influences in American law in the late nineteenth century. Between 1776 and the Civil War, dominant public opinion believed in exuberant, never-ending growth, believed that resources were virtually unlimited, that there would be room and wealth for all. The theme of American law before 1850, in Willard Hurst's famous phrase, was the release of energy. The ethos was: Develop the land; grow rich; a rising tide raises all boats. By 1900, if one can speak about so slippery a thing as dominant public opinion, that opinion saw a narrowing sky, a dead frontier, life as a struggle for position, competition as a zero-sum game, the economy as a pie to be divided, not a ladder stretching out beyond the horizon. By 1900 the theme was: Hold the line."

-- from Lawrence Friedman's fascinating book " A History of American Law"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Something I Will Never Know

A lithe young woman
pressing her red lips to mine
as I ponder the 
continuance of O.D. green,
and jungle death days away.