“Don’t play the saxophone, let the saxophone play you.”
― Charlie Parker, Parker, Charlie E-Flat Alto Saxaphone
“My kids are starting to notice I’m a little different from the other dads. “Why don’t you have a straight job like everyone else?” they asked me the other day.
I told them this story:
In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, “Look at me…I’m tall, and I’m straight, and I’m handsome. Look at you…you’re all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you.” And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, “Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.” So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.”
― Tom Waits
Nowadays we are constantly confronted by a screen demanding our attention; whether this is our computers, phone, television sets or a film, street ads or an ecosystem of ads, becoming distracted is easier than ever before, and the attention required to solve a problem or to find innovative solutions is a rare and fleeting moment.
However, this might be precisely because we are used to feeling guilty for not being more creative, or because we do not pay more attention: according to large body of research, creativity is more closely connected to daydreaming and dispersion than with the intellectual effort of paying attention.
In the cult film, The Holy Mountain, filmmaker, poet, and magician, Alejandro Jodorowsky said: “the Tarot will teach you how to create a soul.” Did all of us not come into the world with a soul, our own, ready-made? But to ask about the nature of the soul in these abstract terms is a theological and speculative problem and one toward which little progress can be made. But to ask any individual and earthly soul is to open a door onto a passage along which the Tarot will help one to move.
The Tarot is an ancient game of cards, most likely created, anonymously, during the 14th century. Jodorowsky doesn’t hesitate to call it “an encyclopedia of symbols.” But during the 20th century, the use of Tarot became popular thanks to the printing of massive editions of the Tarot of Marseilles or the Raider-Waite deck. These cards don’t have fixed meanings, but are related and visually associated with one another based on the lives and experiences of both the seeker and the reader (i.e.; the person doing the reading).
It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.
In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value). Other more abstract types include victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.
The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and thereafter declines in importance. It may reappear at the climax of the story but sometimes is actually forgotten by the end of the story.
The use of a MacGuffin as a plot device predates the name “MacGuffin”. The Holy Grail of Arthurian Legend has been cited as an example of an early MacGuffin, as a desired object that serves to advance the plot. In the 1929 detective novel The Maltese Falcon, a small statuette provides both the book’s eponymous title and its motive for intrigue.
The name “MacGuffin” was originally coined by the English screenwriter Angus MacPhail, although it was popularised by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s, but the concept pre-dates the term. The World War I–era actress Pearl White used weenie to identify whatever object (a roll of film, a rare coin, expensive diamonds, etc.) impelled the heroes, and often the villains as well, to pursue each other through the convoluted plots of The Perils of Pauline and the other silent film serials in which she starred.
Almond-milk drinkers, for years, have exhibited a special sort of self-righteousness, based equally, I think, on the impressive nutritional profile of their chosen nut and the hardship they endure to consume it. (It is thin, weak, balky in a foamer—this from personal experience.) Soy milk, the most fiercely partisan might have argued, was for people who enjoyed having their endocrine systems disrupted, or who worked for Monsanto, while cow milk was for gluttonous torturers. Coconut, hazelnut, cashew, hemp milks: distant sirens, usually encountered in punitively expensive hand-pressed blends at places that consider macchiatos tacky and instead offer cortados and Gibraltars. Even as the big companies got involved and managed to make almond milk creamy, thick, and voluminous, the movement kept its puritanical edge.
Doug Denton runs Homeward Bound, Inc. — a non-profit agency that helps people overcome addiction. He said most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and that giving them money is likely just enabling their addictions. “Just assume you’re buying drugs for them,” Denton said. He says in many cases there are people controlling the corners, adding, “The organizers of these rings are supplying the drugs and alcohol and reaping the profits.”
These are the rules.
I didn’t make them up. These are inalienable truths, a part of the divine spectrum of unquestionable constants that hold our universe together.
There might be those who feel deeply offended by some of the wisdom contained herein but I must insist that it is firmly in your interest to understand that the rules are quite infallible and with the greatest of respect, if you take issue with this doctrine, you are very probably a massive douchebag and it is thus all the more important that you adhere to these rules lest you reveal yourself as such.
Now read and obey.
When I first moved to Dallas, 36 or so years ago, I lived in the venerable (and still there) Turtle Dove Apartments, off lower Greenville Avenue, behind the Granada Theater.
One of the things I liked to do was to walk up to Greenville and Mockingbird and then down a few blocks to a crackerjack used book store, Half-Price Books. I have a bad book addiction and the maze-like selection of rooms chock-full of tomes of all types was an irresistible draw.
Is there anything more evocative than the paper-and-mold smell of a used book store?
Over the decades I moved and so did the store. It kept outgrowing its present digs and, like a gigantic paper hermit crab, shed its shell and found larger quarters. It moved north to Northwest Highway, settling in to an old Captain’s Cargo store – leaving it with two incongruous sailing vessel type stairways (that location is torn down and an REI landed on the spot).
My addiction was as strong as ever and one day I went to the place only to find giant “Closed” signs plastered all over. Sadly, I turned to my car only to spot giant streamers and “Half-Price Books New Location” signs across the street in a giant new building.
It’s the biggest used book store I’ve ever seen, in an open-plan of comfortable rows rather than the usual maze-like configuration. I’ve been to this big main store hundreds of times over the years, though I’m slowing down now as I try to get my inner hoarder under control and deal with the realization I have more books than I can read in the rest of my life.
Meanwhile, in another story, in 2012 Candy and I stumbled across a group of singers, a jam, at the Bar Belmont in West Dallas. I became their fan.
Over the years, Charli’s Jam has been forced to move around too. As their fan, I followed to various bars and other spots – and enjoyed most every place.
And now, they have settled in to the Big Main Half-Price. The same bookstore I’ve been hanging out in all these years. They perform on Sundays at three PM – I stopped by for a listen and to check out the new digs.
Other than the unavailability of alcohol… it seems like a sweet spot.
“So I went ahead and made me a guitar. I got me a cigar box, I cut me a round hole in the middle of it, take me a little piece of plank, nailed it onto that cigar box, and I got me some screen wire and I made me a bridge back there and raised it up high enough that it would sound inside that little box, and got me a tune out of it. I kept my tune and I played from then on.”
― Lightnin’ Hopkins
“After supper was over and the toasts had been drunk, the boy Pablo was called in to play for the company while the gentlemen smoked. . . there was softness and languor in the wire strings–but there was also a kind of madness; the recklessness, the call of wild countries which all these men had felt or followed in one way or another. Through clouds of cigar smoke, the scout and the soldiers, the Mexican rancheros and the priests, sat silently watching the bent head and crouching shoulders of the banjo player, and his seesawing yellow hand, which sometimes lost all form and became a mere whirl of matter in motion, like a patch of sand-storm.”
― Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
“Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Photo taken turning the weekly Courthouse Pickers – bluegrass jam session every Saturday at the county courthouse, Denton, Texas