Like Burning Tears

“And now, my poor old woman, why are you crying so bitterly? It is autumn. The leaves are falling from the trees like burning tears- the wind howls. Why must you mimic them?”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

Fall Colors
University of Texas at Dallas
Richardson, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Oblique Strategy: Revaluation (a warm feeling)

The trees along my drive to work have exploded into flame.
Their conflagration tinted according to their species from a sodium flame yellow, through orange, on to a deep blazing crimson.
Except for the cemetery, monocultured with live oaks, all their usual dark spinach.

I knew someone once, a long, long time ago. She said she liked the fall better than the spring. She liked the sense of foreboding, the knowledge that a cold storm was coming – the excitement of onrushing doom.

It took me decades to understand what she was talking about and how important it was.

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The Gold of Her Laughter

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Oblique Strategy: Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list

I saw this woman standing in a studio in an art gallery. She was so stunning that it made me ache. When I ran into her again outside, I had to grab a couple photographs.

A-Hole in One

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”
― Winston S. Churchill

Oblique Strategy: Always give yourself credit for having more than personality

On our bicycle tour of The Cedars Open Studios we stopped at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, The MAC. The gallery is undergoing extensive construction after its move from McKinney Avenue to The Cedars. But outside, there was a very interesting, fun, and cool installation, an interactive performance – A-Hole in One. The artist, Angel Cabrales, had set up a number of large carpeted outlines of various strategic countries across a vacant lot. The participant/observer would then take a wooden sculpture of a gun, equipped with a battery powered fan, and shoot golf balls out at the targets/countries.

From the artist:

A-Hole in One examines current political events and perceived societal norms through a consumable and familiar format: golf.

In a time when executive decisions regarding the fate of global politics appear to be determined on the golf course, Cabrales invites the viewer to hold this very power in their own hands. The MAC’s outdoor space will be staged as Cabrales’ ‘global’ golfing green, complete with golf greens and golf holes, where viewers can ‘play a round’ and inform the world of important decisions by way of random tweets. Golf equipment is provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their mobile phones and download the Twitter app.

A-Hole in One, The MAC

A-Hole in One, The MAC, if you look closely, you can see the blue golf ball travelling dowrange

A-Hole in One, The MAC

Sunday Snippet – from “Toesucking in Albania”

“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

St. Vincent’s, New Orleans

Oblique Strategy: You can only make one dot at a time

Snippet from a novel I’ve worked on off and on – originally from Nanowrimo
Working title – Toe Sucking in Albania


Sanibar crawled up over the ridge, watching the handheld tracker that indicated the position of Boromech’s flyer. He had placed a remote bug on the machine a week before and now it was time to see it pay off.

He knew that Boromech and Wenwiki had landed somewhere not too far over the edge and he would be able to see them once he cleared the crest. He folded his flyer and wedged it behind a rock and pulled out the powerful pair of stabilized digital tele-binoculars that he had ordered from offworld.

Down on his belly, Sanibar wiggled across the scree and cleared the ridge between two rust-red ragged boulders. The rock was warm from the bright sun; Sanibar wiped the sweat from his eyes and looked down into the valley past the ridge. His eyes were shocked with the bright green he spotted there, and it took a minute to recognize the valley as Area 51B25, a spot he himself had discovered and explored a year earlier.

This part of the planet, surrounding the dessicated edge of the drying salty inland sea, was, for the most part, lifeless and barren. Only small pockets, like Area 51B25, were able to support verdant vibrant life. The last sliver of an ancient dying glacier nestled up between the high peaks to the south, sent a constant dribble of meltwater down into the valley where it pooled into a turquoise lake, protected by the rugged ridges on either side. The lake slowly leaked water into the shattered rock valley where the roots of the strange alien forest drank it up. This little isolated pocket of forest was an orphaned echo of the vast jungles that were killed off along the toxic edge of the wasteland they created with the mining.

Sanibar had found this verdant valley during his initial survey of the sector. Between the steep and rugged ridges on either side and the high peaks to the south, it was hidden and would never be spotted by anyone not going right down into the gorge itself. He recorded it on the official maps, then made sure it had been buried deep in the central reports and he never told anyone about it. He knew the Rest and Recreation Corps would go nuts about it. They would build a rec facility on the shore of the little lake, blast trails through the woods, and put up some cabins in the most beautiful spots. They would give out weekend passes to people that had put in the most overtime, shipped the most product, or, more likely, kissed the most asses. Sanibar didn’t want this – he wanted to keep the hidden little green valley to himself.

After plotting for a month, he finally managed to get Wenwiki to go there with him. He had everything planned to the smallest detail – he had hauled in some stolen furniture, making a nice table and a couple comfortable chairs – up on a flat, rocky spot with a drop-dead beautiful view. He had paid the cook off to make a special meal for two, complete with rare off-world ingredients smuggled in on a mail run from home. Sanibar lied to Wenwiki and said he had prepared the picnic feast himself. He was even able to procure a bottle of fine old vintage – something unheard of on a remote mining base.

When he asked Wenwiki to go on a picnic with him and she committed to an afternoon three days away, she seemed honestly and truly excited. The three days of waiting were both hellish and heavenly for Sanibar. Both enervated with fear and ecstatic with anticipation, time clicked by in endless slow slivers. Finally the chosen appointment day and hour creeped up.

His extensive, expensive, and exhausting preparations complete, Sanibar flew his cleaned and polished flyer, complete with sidecar over to Wenwiki’s quarters and rang and rang. She wasn’t there. A neighbor cracked her door and said she had seen Wenwiki down at the cleaning station, doing her weekly laundry. His heart sinking, Sanibar flew over to the station and there she was. Wenwiki had forgotten. Sanibar was reduced to pleading, and after finishing a load of clothing, Wenwiki finally agreed to go with him after all.

But the day was ruined. Wenwiki seemed distant, her mind elsewhere. Sanibar’s careful preparations were for nothing. She picked at her food, refused the vintage, and simply nodded when Sanibar pointed out the rare beauty of the spot. Though the forecast had been for perfect weather, a small rogue storm tumbled down the steep slopes of the high peaks and dumped a sudden, cold, sodden shower onto the picnic. They abandoned the outing after only a short stint and Wenwiki was adamant about finishing her laundry when they returned and insisted on finishing it alone.

Sanibar was devastated. Back in his quarters he was racked with compulsive sobs of disappointment. He hurled the vintage against the bathroom sink and cut his feet on the shattered shards of the bottle. A long, sleepless night, and the next day Wenwiki was at breakfast laughing and acting as if nothing had happened. Now, thinking back about it, Sanibar realized that was the first morning he had seen Wenwiki sitting in the cafeteria with Boromech.

And now she had brought Boromech to his personal spot. A cold, bitter, sharp lump began crawling up from his gut as he wiggled his way into a hidden spot along the ridge crest and feeling sharp shards of rock digging into his propped elbows brought his digital binoculars up to his eyes and started to scan.

There they were. Boromech’s flyer landed and the two of them standing in each other’s arms along the light rippled shore. They were both barefoot, their four black work boots leaning against the flyer. Sanibar couldn’t see any supplies except for a large padded packing blanket spread out between the flyer and the lake and what looked like a small pile of soft folded towels. After a few minutes Wenwiki pushed Boromech away they began laughing about something. Sanibar wished he had put a sound transmitter on the tracking bug he had concealed in the flyer… but he gritted his teeth… thinking they were laughing at him.

The Fence

One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
—Joseph Stalin

Oblique Strategy: The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

I started my first “blog” (this was before anyone had thought of the name blog – we called them “online journals”) In 1996 or so. Mine was called “The Daily Epiphany.” As far as I can tell mine was the 13th online journal/blog on the internet. I wrote in it every day for more than ten years.

Tonight I was looking through my files, doing some organizing, and found an entry I had typed while driving back to Dallas from my uncle’s funeral in Kansas. It was almost exactly 20 years ago- November 30, 1997 – four years before 9/11, when our reaction to such things changed, when it became commonplace.

The entry was called “The Fence.” I printed it out and entered it into a writing contest once- It won a prize – ten dollars cash, sealed in a little envelope.

A cold, leaden day. That midwestern wet cold, a little above freezing; with wind that cuts. The sky had no blue, no indication of where the sun actually was. Only ripples, waves of lighter and darker gray.

Interstate 35, between Wichita and Dallas is mostly a straight shot. There is only one jump to the left, and a step to the right, in Oklahoma City. You have to get on I40 going west for an instant and then exit to the left, picking up southward again. Sixteen years ago, when I first moved from Hutchinson to Texas, this little jog shook me up. I hadn’t really been driving very long and had no experience with big city expressway killer traffic. The thought of quickly merging across three busy lanes to an exit filled me with dread and stress.

I was such a geek.

Now, of course, after all these years bumping and grinding through Dallas highways and byways this is second nature. I can merge and exit without a thought. Confidence, aggression, and peripheral vision.

But this time I didn’t exit. I wanted to take a break from the drive, go see something; so I continued West on I40, right into the heart of downtown Oklahoma City.

It’s not much different than downtown Wichita, or Tulsa, or any of the middle-big midwestern cities. A new baseball stadium is going up, new glass office buildings, some older brick hotels. It was Sunday, there was almost no traffic. As a matter of fact, there was some sort of BMX racing going on at the Convention Center. I saw more kids on bikes, jumping curbs, hot-dogging up and down stairs, than cars on the streets.

I didn’t know exactly how to get there, only that I was going between fourth and fifth streets, but it didn’t take long to find my way. I parked next to an older, large dark tan brick building. A typical neo-something older public place. It wasn’t until I got out onto the sidewalk I noticed that the glass had been broken out in all its windows. I knew it had been blown out.

I really didn’t know what to expect; didn’t even know why I had driven there. It has been over two years and I wasn’t even sure what had been done to the site recently. I only wanted to stop and rest for a minute, visit a piece of history, maybe try and fix the actual place that it happened in my mind.

The Murrah building itself is, of course, long gone. The planned memorial hasn’t been started yet. All that’s left is a rectangular grassy field, the lawn was yellow for the winter, that smooth professionally planted turf, put in to cover things up. To the south are some concrete remains of the foundation and parking garage. The entire city block is encircled with a high chain link fence.

And it was that fence that really packed the emotional wallop. You can watch the news stories, read the survivor’s accounts, but it doesn’t seem possible. That something so horrible could occur, not by accident, but on purpose, in the forgotten center of the country, is beyond belief. But walk up to that fence, and it’s all too real.

The worst is the toys. Hundreds of toys stuck into or tied to the bare wire. Teddy bears, stuffed animals, balls, birthday presents for children that will never grow up. A baby’s pacifier.

“Look, Mom! another Beanie Baby!” exclaimed a small girl, poking at a little toy dog on the fence with delight, too young to understand.

Other things too. Poems, letters, pictures, most laminated in plastic. One unprotected sign had run in the rain. The only legible part was the word “crying” in big, thick, colored letters. It too was fading, running, dripping down the ragged poster board. Someone had made little red felt Christmas stockings, each one with a jolly cloth Santa face. I didn’t count them, but I’m sure there were 168.

Many people seemed to go there without plans and put up what they had on hand. There were a lot of keychains. Hundreds of little crosses made of sticks.

There were quite a few people, but thankfully nobody selling anything. Many were obviously tourists, some taking pictures. Many appeared to be locals, though; alone, slowly, solemnly working their way around the fence, reading the notes, looking at the wreaths and the pictures. I wondered how many of these people had lost husbands, wives, children, friends in the blast; how many had actually been there , wondering why it hadn’t taken them; how often they went down there on cold, windy winter days to walk that stretch of chainlink.

The day was dark, but I was glad that I was wearing my sunglasses, I didn’t really want to show my eyes.

I drove on, and stopped for lunch at a Wendy’s south of town. I don’t eat fast food hamburgers any more, but I remembered being there seven years earlier with Candy and Nicholas, when he was an infant. I remember holding him, spooning a little Frosty into his mouth.

I sat at a table typing on the laptop for a bit. A crowd of kids, a ball team or bible class, boiled around me. They all had little plastic toys from their Happy Meals or whatever. They were all laughing, showing each other what they had, seeing who had the coolest toy. They were loud and a bit wild, bumping into me as I typed, but for some reason, I didn’t mind.

All Day Holiday

All day holiday
All day holiday
Home is so far away
“Where should I land?” My hollow voice is carried away on the wind
—-Shugo Tokumaru – Parachute (English Lyrics)

Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Discard an axiom

Our two sons drove back to Dallas, from New Orleans and Houston, for Thanksgiving. They always try to come back to run in the Turkey Trot eight-mile race on Thanksgiving morning. We used to always go down there with them, but now I sleep in and they drive themselves.

Turkey Trot 2011

Turkey Trot 2012

Turkey Trot 2013

Lee and some friends had tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys get the crap beat out of them at the death star – so he was gone most of the afternoon.

I ate too much and did, well pretty much nothing. I did get a little bike ride around the hood on the folder as the sun set and that was surprisingly enjoyable. There were a lot of people out and about.

Holidays are odd – they feel like wasted time, but they string together in your memory. At first you think they are the same, but there are changes.

From my old journal “The Daily Epiphany” – Thursday, November 25, 1999 Thanksgiving – The kids were what? seven and eight.

The feeling of satiety, almost inseparable from large possessions, is a surer cause of misery than ungratified desires.
—-Benjamin Disraeli

We have a family tradition of going camping over Thanksgiving. It’s usually the most pleasant time of year here in Texas, cool nights, warm days. Sometimes we get caught in rain but most years are clear and crispy. A four day trip to a nearby State Park, maybe Fairfield or Bob Sandlin. Red fall trees, inky sparkling night sky, the smell of wood smoke, brown curious deer paying a shy visit, bold nighttime raccoons looking for handouts. Out of the rat race, out of the stuffy too much food too much television couch potato place.
This year we couldn’t do it though. Candy Mom’s illness, soccer games, my work, all conspired to keep us in town; no matter how much we needed to get away, get out of the city.

We went to Candy’s sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I had an odd hankering for Chinese take-out, eating out of white foam containers, but the traditional turkey ‘n fixins’ was pretty good. Despite my forewarnings to myself I ate too much, and sank into that holiday hyperglycemic funk.

Nick and Lee played a tough, energetic two-kid soccer game out in the small back yard. The dead and desiccated landscape plants, dormant for the winter, brown, cracked and shattered as the ball whizzed back and forth, showering up a small cloud of bits of leaf and stem.

Poor Lee wore himself out, though. He curled up on the couch, blanket in hand, fingers in mouth, and looked awful while everybody else chowed down. Instead of the traditional watching of the Cowboy game I drove Lee home. We stopped for gas and I promised he could pick whatever he wanted out of the station’s cold-drink case. The poor woman working the counter on the holiday beamed at the cute little pouting kid rummaging around. He, not surprisingly, picked out a half-gallon of chocolate milk, the artificially thickened rich brown sugar stuff that kids love. I thought he’d pick a small bottle but the half gallon was only a dime more, so I guess Lee knows best.

At home he sucked down most of the carton and that revived him some, enough that he was up to playing some video games. Lee didn’t want to be alone, though, so I went back to his room with him. I climbed the steel ladder and curled up in the top bunk, it’s about a foot shorter than I am. I spent the bulk of the day there, fading in and out, dreaming strange and terrifying dreams while Lee sat below guiding Banjo Kazooie through his fantasy world.

…..

The Ornament of a House

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oblique Strategy: Listen to the quiet voice

For over a decade we did nothing to our house – no improvements, no work. With two boys and their friends at home or at school and spending summers at home – there was no use. Everything was going to be destroyed, no matter how hard we tried. Our house became frighteningly outdated and worn out.

Now that both sons are more-or-less gone, we have slowly tried to fix, repair, and update our house. We have no excess money, little time, and less energy, but we do what we can.

Our master bath was outmoded, dysfunctional, and bilious. I decided that was one room that I could update on my own (more or less). I started over the last holiday break, thinking I had time off work. But I caught a nasty flu that took a long time to get over, and that set me behind. It took a terrible amount of time to finish – an embarrassing amount of time.

The counter with two embedded (seashell shaped) sinks was especially awful. It was a huge hunk of some sort of cultured stone – yellow with dark streaks and bits of shiny gold flakes embedded in it. I suppose this was in style at one time, but I am not aware of any time that it could have been. It was incredibly heavy – it took four of my son’s largest friends to haul it out.

Everyone says that the only thing to use is marble, but the counter was ninety inches long – a hunk of marble that size would cost six thousand dollars. So I decided to go with tile, always an economical choice, and with a pair of vessel sinks. We were happy with how all that turned out. We struggled with colors, trying some various schemes out and painting over them. We ended up with grays and whites – not a lot of interest. We thought we could add color with accessories.

I had the idea of printing out some of the photographs I have taken and hanging them on the walls. So I started looking through my catalog. Even though I am trying to put more live subjects into my shots, I didn’t want any people in the photos. Nobody wants anybody watching them from the walls of their bathroom.

After some thought, I remembered a series of photographs I took at sunset at the Galatyn Park Fountain here in Richardson. They were abstract and somewhat colorful and the water theme seemed to fit with a bathroom. I decided on two larger photos, 16 x 20 and one smaller one, 8 x 10.

The two larger:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Walking on Water

Fountain at Galatyn Park, Richardson, Texas


From A Drop

And the smaller:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Something I’d Never Tasted Before

I sent the files off to Posterjack for the printing, and was very happy with their work. Then I bought poster clip glass from Michaels – a lot cheaper than matting and framing, and fine for the bathroom.

While I was waiting in line at the checkout at Michaels I noticed along with some folks behind me that they had a book on display – on that rack full of impulse purchases for the people in line. It was “Fun With Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks & Activities .” That is an actual book. A book of things that you could do with a fidget spinner…. other than spin it. We couldn’t imagine what could be in the book. Maybe I should have bought it.

I have to do a little more work trimming and fitting the posters (they are not exactly 16 x 20), but overall, I’m happy on how it all came out.

It’s only a bathroom, and it’s our bathroom, but there is a bit of a tiny thrill to see my photographs printed out large and mounted on the wall.

The smaller photo on the wall at the end of the sinks.

The two larger posters on the large blank wall facing the sinks.