Be Wishful What You Care For

I bought what I believed to be a brownie. Biting into it, I found that it was an oversized piece of chocolate fudge. Now I am torn. Am I disappointed for not getting what I expected or am I pleased because, ooh, fudge!


Pagan Xmas - Repost

She asked it with a snide tone, an accusatory tone. It wasn't a polite question. It wasn't some feel good, love the season, tinsel, candy cane, bows on baby's brows, family dinner and wassail kind of question. It was a sharp tongued, you're not Christian, what do you know, how dare you cross my path whilst shopping, heathens ruin Jesus' America, thank you for corrupting our second-most-holiest of days, kind of question. Like I said, with a snide tone.

No, I'm not Christian, but Christmas is, nonetheless, a holy day.

Christmas, to me, has nothing to do with miracle births, overbooked inns or trekking wise men. It's not about shopping, eating, giving or receiving. Sure, these things happen but they're not what it's about. It's not about snowmen. It's not about company parties. It's not about knicknacks on trees or mistletoe. It's not about any of those things but still, the day is holy, holy indeed.

Why? Why is Christmas holy to a Pagan like me? Because Christmas isn't just Christmas. Christmas is simply the modern, Christian, western dominated incarnation of a global phenomenon. Whether the customs are the same, whether the theological justification is the same, whether the cultural significance is the same, or not, this event is recognized by virtually all people on Earth. The solstice, the apex of the planet's orbit, the shortest day of the year, is observed, in one form or another by all peoples.

To Pagans like me Yule is a literal holiday; we celebrate the end of the sun's waning and the brightening of the new year. In much of the Muslim middle feast the day of Shabe Yaldā is celebrated with feasting and family. In China, Tāngyuán dumplings are shared to symbolize family unity during the festival of Dōngzhì. Jews, of course, have Hanukkah commemorating the miraculous dedication of the Second Temple. Though, in the Talmudic tradition, the the solstice day is properly called Teḳufat Ṭebet, commemorating the day when Judge Jephtha of Gilead sacrificed his daughter to the tetragrammaton god. And, to the followers of the Nazarene, it is the day that the King of Kings was humbly born. Two billion people, a third the world's population call this day Christmas but the other four billion still have names for this day, or a day shortly adjacent. This holiday may be one of the only cultural universals, one of the only things that everyone, everywhere can understand and agree upon.

That's what Christmas it to me. It's the one day when everyone is of the same mind. It's an annual reminder that, despite the strife and pain in the world, beneath the tragedy of the human-invented condition, beyond the distrust and the misdeeds each group of people seem so intent on heaping upon all others, there will always be some stripe of similarity. For all of our hard work dwelling on colors, nationalities, ethnicities and, yes, faiths, this day has significance to all people, regardless. If that does not spark reverence, awe; if that does not lead one to say, "today is holy," then I don't know what will.

Christmas is the single best reminder that we are all so much more alike than we will ever be different. That's Christmas to me.

Brightest blessings.
Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.


Fuck Me, There's No Room At The Inn

It has been mentioned to me, in some less than polite tones, that I've not been posting for much of this year. I've been directing most of my creative energies towards a novel, the first draft of which is nearly done. Also, I bled out much of my life essence working on a multi-city, period piece, sports movie and it took me some time to recover from the psychic beating.

That said, here is a childhood memory germane to the impending holiday.

My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, had always taken great care and pride in decorating the house and in making her favorite holiday a major occasion for all concerned. This included both a bevy of presents that defied all concepts of humility and a decoration regime that stretched to all corners of the house. Upon moving to Georgia in my eleventh year, my mother followed her own mother's example and set herself to a month of Yuletide hall-decking.

Sometime in the third week of decorating, with the holiday itself only a week or so off, Mum unpacked the nativity scene that normally adorned our living-room end table to discover that the hideous three inch plastic doll representing the baby Jesus had gotten lost in our cross-country move some ten months before. This was of no great significance; the doll, purloined from my aunt's childhood toybox, had no emotional or religious attachment. However, the loss of our family's stand-in for the newborn King of Kings did mean that I would be sent to the store with a mind to putting the Christ back in Christmas.

So I schlepped the mile and a half to the neighborhood Wal-Mart and had a go at the toy section, but nothing appropriate or within my five dollar allotment made itself apparent. Undaunted, I tried the rear corner of the store that housed the bulk fabric and sewing notions, products I don't believe big-box stores even carry these days.

While perusing this least-accessed portion of the store, poking around among the thimbles, seam rippers and bolts of felt, I was approached by a man that might have been Garth Brooks' stunt double. He was perhaps thirty-five, two heads taller than I, sporting a cowboy hat, a loudly striped shirt and a belt buckle the size of a turkey platter.

Unprompted, he informs me, using oddly flowery language that, were I to place a live chicken on my manhood and then decapitate it, the bird's death spasms cause a mind-blowing sensation that cannot be equaled by any other act of carnal deviance. And, he begins this bit of instruction with the heavily accented statement, "I got somethin' that's better than sheep."

He then smiled at me and asked what I was doing in the farthest and least traveled corner of the store.

"I'm looking for Jesus." I said nonchalantly.

"Oh," he replied as he turned and walked straight away.

There was a point to this story, but I've forgotten it. I told you I was worn out. Merry Fucking Xmas.


Noisy Red Whiteness

I would love you with
The constance of the night sky,
With the even hand
Of always rising and eternal setting stars.
But that would be too easy,
And easy, I'm not allowed.

So, I love you like the even,
The unerring, the constant hum
Of the power box outside
My bedroom window.

It's less schmaltzy-fairytale-boddice-ripping-bad-promise romantic,
It's true.
But no less true.

Like that hum,
Love invades my thoughts, distracts my contemplations, interrupts my sleep and wrecks my solumnest moments.

But, it's always there,  not demanding of me, not imposing on me but reminding me of things that I'd forgotten I'd forgotten.

You should, take the time to listen.


What is it Good for (hoo) Absolutely Nothing (say it again, now)

An old friend of mine, we'll call him "Suit Guy" because he wore a suit all the time and that's what pretty much everyone called him, had some very strong feelings about daylight savings' time. "Antiquated," he would say, "A productivity scam from a bygone era," and "Simply an excuse for greater government interference in our lives," and "A bane to IT professionals everywhere." His reasons for chagrining DST and the associated biannual transition were so myriad and so profound that I was forced to wonder about the specifics of his childhood.

While I admired his enthusiasm, I really couldn't give a shit about his cause. He had some strong arguments and he might have eventually brought me around if he'd been a bit more even handed. After the third or fourth time he launched into his anti-DST tirade in any given week, I'd refuse to spend time with him for at least a handful of days, so put off I was by his agitation over something I considered to be at the heavy end of trivial and I was hardly the only one who felt this way.

At work today, my boss complimented me (if you can call it that) on rarely putting up a fight

I said, "I'll tighten up the formatting on this, shrink the type so that it can fit on one page."

"The UPM likes the type and the font," she replied.

"Okay, however they want it."

She thought it very zen that I never push back on these kinds of things, that, even when it means more work for me, I never make a row over the little annoyances, at the sniping on formatting, at the vagaries of scheduling and rescheduling, at the the constantly omitted add-ons, at the mercurial habits of the Above-the-Line types.

Why would I, though?

I don't slide past these minor frustrations because I'm particularly zen but rather because I think the formatting of the daily prep schedule memo isn't something worth making a fuss over. There are a number of things that I think are very much worth making a fuss over, we just haven't gotten to those things yet.

"When something worth getting worked up over comes around, I'll pick that battle at that time." I told her. "Making a stink over things that are of no real consequence only makes it harder for me to win a real fight later."

This was a lesson that I had inadvertently learned from Suit Guy. His singular* conviction over something so inconsequential to everyone else ensured that he would lose almost any other argument. He had spent all his rhetorical capital and had so inured those around him to his ire that nothing else from him had any gravitas.*

Put another way, save your ammo and don't sweat the small stuff as long as the checks clear.

* He he was also an Esperanto enthusiast. He vocally advocated the adoption of that synthetic language as a global frankish tongue. Why peddling this fundamentally good, albeit impractical, idea took a back seat to spitting venom over DST has never been clear to me.


Falling on my Head Like a New Emotion

Los Angeles is calling. It has been for a long time, maybe half my adult life. At times, a myriad of seductive purposes have kept me here: comfort, familiarity, finance, love. I've known better the whole time but I stayed for so many reasons that don't bear parsing, if only to spare my ego. The lamentations of friends, the admonition of confidants, the necessity of my profession's glass ceiling push me moreso westward each day.

One thing I'll miss, though, miss so, so much, when that fast approaching day comes, the rain. Right now, here in Atlanta, it's pissing down, a torrent of Biblical reckoning. The sky is open, the heavens are flashing, the tears of the assembled gods spill hostilely the brows of those brave enough to traverse.

I love it. I love it, need it, so much. I walk in the rain, always heedless, fearless, unbothered for the protection offered by the brim of my hat; I always have. All my best memories are of the rain: my childhood in perpetually precipitating England, the night of my first standing ovation, that great birthday rafting trip with the river so swollen, the first time I realized I was in love.

When you do the math, Atlanta rains one day for five. Los Angeles, for all its other glories, personal, professional and psychological, rains less than one day in twenty.

What am I to do? Killyin, First & Above, Collegecrush, Nolan-of-Arty-Hands, anyone else with an opinion, what am I to do?

I do so hear love and lust and purpose in the thunder. How do I do without?


The Words of the Prophets are Written...

There's a picture hanging screw in the wall of my bathroom.

I cannot, for the life, remember what used to hang there. I don't know how long it's been empty. I have a vague recollection that something used to go there but I don't remember if it was art of some kind or a functional item. I don't remember which roommate put it there or when it was taken away. I certainly don't remember if I liked it or used it.

I've been in this apartment for eight years; it's the most familiar of spaces to me so there's no surprise that some of the details go unnoticed. Habituation is a real thing. Our brains just stop paying attention to the things that we see most often. This is not a small oversight, though.

How much of my surroundings am I habitually ignoring? What else is falling beneath my notice? Is it only the familiar things, the close things that bear no thought, or am I missing something bigger? Is this the result of being here for this long? Is it that I need a change or has something more profound happened?

Most bothersome.


Don't Save Me 'Cause I Gotta Save Myself

Like I've written once or twice before, the freelance nature of my profession leads me to work in fits and starts, twelve and thirteen hours a day for months at a time, followed by weeks of unemployment while I seek out the next project. Typically, I welcome this. It's a vacation of sorts that lets me reset my psychological and spiritual mechanisms, unburdened by the stress and shimmy of a buzzing production office.

Unfortunately, the winter doldrums of film and television production often leave me unengaged for longer than I'd like and this is not at all good for me.

When I don't work for an extended period, I float. I loose my center. I become despondent. With little to fill my days but television, blogging, the occasional household chore and extremely long walks, I find myself keeping much too much of my own company. I go into and stay too deep into my own head. I worry. I obsess. I ponder my own mortality. I freak out about my negative income stream. I mull and muse on all the roads not taken. My fickle fears, my silent inadequacies and my petty jealousies make meals my excess attention. I start to really dislike myself.

This last bout of idleness has been both uncharacteristically long and particularly difficult, full of unwelcome surprises, hostile uncertainties and aimless obligations. Plans went astray. Friends turned away. I felt that I couldn't please anyone who mattered and I didn't understand what I'd done to earn the Gods' ire.

I was hired onto a new project this week. They haven't guaranteed me a slot for the run-of-show, just for the next two weeks but it doesn't matter. The gloves are back on and the challenge is afoot. I'm back where I belong, doing what I'm meant to do and all of the minutiae that is best unconsidered can be left thus.

A very dear friend, who's wisdom I trust, worries that I define myself too much by my work, that I'm too bound up in something that should be extrinsic to my sense of self. She fears that my dedication to, my obsession with my work is like an untreated disease or an addiction that will ultimately bring me low. She is probably right but, for as much weight as I give her consideration, I don't know if she understands the alternative.

I've heard that retirement is a killer, that people live longer if they have a reason to get up in the morning, if they have a job to do. I can see now how true that is in me. I'm glad to be back where I belong.

Picture's Up.


Let There Always Be Never Ending Light

He was subtle,

Subtle like a piano from the sky.
Subtle like an extinction impact.
Subtle like a vodka bottle to the face.
Subtle like a young Macaulay Culkin on speed.
Subtle like the 1812 fanfare.
Subtle like a Whitesnake concert.
Subtle like a mushroom cloud.
Subtle like two terrorists brawling in the street.

"You know that thing we do?"
"Where we entertain no one but ourselves?"
"Yeah, I think we're doing it right now."

Two years to the day.


Show and Tell - Until You Go to Hell

Some years ago, I worked the door at a punk rock club. Eighties night was full off college douchebags. Ska night always brought a fight between Nazi skinheads and sharp skins. Boston night always had guys in newsies' caps throwing elbows at kids in Jameson shirts.

As a security guy, Goth/Industrial night was always the best. That group, of which I considered myself a member at the time, doesn't start fights. I got to spend most of those evenings chatting with the promoters and the entertainers, secure in the knowledge that I was going to break no teeth and send no one to jail that night.

Sadly, attendance at G/I night had been flagging and the head promoter was looking for a gimmick, something akin to jacket night at Turner Field or ladies' night at any shitty sports bar. But, something that would appeal to kids that luxuriated in tight vinyl and preferred their techno with a particular accent.

This is when I hearkened on "Give a Pint : Get a Pint" night, a goth-themed blood drive. Anyone who donated blood that evening would get in for free and would get a ticket for a free drink that could be redeemed on a later date.

The promoted dubbed me a genius.

Though, as he explained to me the following week, the Red Cross wouldn't sign off on the idea. Then again, can we really trust the Red Cross's judgment? These are people who won't take my blood because they're afraid that I have Mad Cow Disease.

So much for genius.


A Trail of Blood to Find Your Way Back Home

Some days I think that I live a more interesting life than I should really want.

I've survived two car accidents, a skydiving accident and a bike accident that nearly cost me my leg. I've fallen off a third story roof onto concrete and landed unharmed. I've been hit by a car. I've been questioned by the FBI twice. I've been cliff diving. My house once caught fire. I've been jumped on the street by a quartet of crack heads. I've had a gun pulled on me. And, I've come through all of it with only a couple of scars and more than a few stories to tell.

As of this week, I can add "attacked by a pit bull" to the list.

The dog slipped its master's grasp at the park and took to gnawing on my forearm. She set on me from behind. I didn't even see her coming. If I did something to set her off, I have no idea what it was. Her owner snapped at her and she released. He swore up and down that she's never done anything like that before.

Just to disclaim, I'm perfectly fine. I had the bite cleaned and dressed, and it's healing nicely. I don't hold any animosity towards the dog or the owner.

Just, seriously, how the fuck does this kind of thing keep happening to me?


And Some Days...

...you find yourself in a familiar place but surrounded by portraits of chickens. You're not sure whether today is the first day of the rest of your life or the last day of the start of it. The clouds hang low just to remind you that it's still winter. Somehow, you've been talked into reading a book about all the ways that you don't measure up. You need new boots and you can't help but wonder how long the dog bite is going to take to heal.

Happy Friday.


Debt to Karma - Party for a Living

My current writing project is taking up so much of my life that I feel I've married it.

Government Whip Cracked Across Your Back

While environmental standards, labor fairness requirements and financial regulations have an economic impact, most such arguments against them are pretty slipshod.

Every regulation, ever deregulation, every bit of zoning, every piece of public construction, every road built, every education initiative, every state acquisition, every public referendum, every federal program, has some sort of economic ramification. For that matter, basically everything of any consequence has an economic ramification. That doesn't mean that we scuttle good works for fear of the disapproval of dead presidents.

We have legislated whole industries out of existence and given birth to multi-billion dollar businesses with the stroke of a legislative pen. While the interest rate questions, the credit rating questions, the job questions need to be asked, they need to play second fiddle to what is morally right.

Put another way, public health policies that extend lives aren't putting an unfair burden on undertakers.


Throw Off Our Contentment

What is forgiveness?

I don't mean that nebulous, Xian, let's-feel-good, idea about some greater relief from original sin or somesuch, what hogwash. No, I mean the real forgiveness of the immediate moment, the surrender of all the bad things, the forgiveness between people and between peoples.

If I forgive you, does that mean that I don't feel bad anymore, or does it mean that I don't feel that you should feel bad anymore. Is that an appeasement of your conscience or of mine?

If you move somewhere far off and you forgive me for some long-branded ill, but we never see one another, never speak, does it matter that I've been forgiven, that I don't know?

Is it forgiveness if we agree to disagree or simply decide not to fight over this again? Are we mutually forgiven if neither of us say we're sorry? Is there forgiveness or merely willful ignorance in "Can we just go to bed?" in "It was a long time ago," or in "Our government, in recognition of armistice"?

Can you forgive something that you had forgotten or be forgiven for something you've yet to do? Is forgiveness distinct from absolution; should the offender be obligated to ask for it or can it be given unbidden? Can you decline to be forgiven or is it received simply by the act of giving? If you repeat the mistake, is that forgiveness then void and, if so, was it really forgiveness in the first place? Are we ever obligated to forgive a transgression or transgressor even if we know we don't want to?

Do the rules of forgiveness scale? Can the pardon between individuals become the lenity of clans or the deliverance of nation states? Or, like economics and morality, do the rules of the one fail to fractal into the rules of the many of many?

Does it matter what we've done or should we all be worthy of forgiveness? Is it something we have to earn or does working for amends only cheapen the emotional act? Is it just getting over or is it moving on?

Does any of it matter?

Do you forgive me? Would you, if I asked?


And Some Days...

You find yourself up before dawn, watching joggers on the slick streets, dodging headlights in the mist. January is teasing you with its impression of April while you try to ignore the loudmouth by the coffee shop door. Your shoulders won't unclench; your lips won't moisten and all you really want to do is run, run, run, to the far side of the city and back. You muse on Stephen J. Gould because Punctuated Equilibrium seems an apt metaphor. You've so much time and so little to do but you know you've got some really big decisions ahead, maybe even today.

Just another Thursday, really.


Eat Someone, Blow Something Up or Throw Penguins Through the Air

I want to write something funny today but it's not happening.

I can't ever seem to be funny on cue. I mean, I can be if I'm regurgitating something I came up with in the past. I do that all the time, probably too often as I'm well known for repeating myself in conversation. Friends complain but I choose to think of it as rehearsal for the time that I'm required to defuse a delicate diplomatic situation between hostile nuclear powers with perfectly elocuted tales of self-deprecation.* But, novel and humorous I just can't do in the moment.

A friend of mine is a writer on a well-received television sitcom. She spends her entire work day being funny for pay and I can't even begin to imagine how she does it. Sure, she must have her better and worse days but her entire career is incumbent on her being at least a little bit funny every single day and she excels at it. I'm just plain jealous.

I have another friend who performs with an improv comedy troupe. I've never actually been to see her perform. I was planning on it once but then I realized that she was never going to sleep with me so why was I going to pay twenty-five bucks? Ignorant of her actual abilities, I'm going to assume that she's spectacularly talented, in part because I refuse to presume that any of my friends aren't spectacularly talented and in part because there's the slimmest possibility that she might read this and I want her to reconsider that "not sleeping with Tom" position that she's been holding to.

Point being, I don't know how she does it, either. And, she does it in real time with people watching. I can't summon the will or the talent to earn a chuckle on a given day of the week and both of these friends can do it at will! Where do I get this talent? Is there a pill I can take? An injection to the buttock, perhaps, the kind that my family physician was so enamored of? A class that I can pay for, not attend and still tell people I took? An inspirational video? An ordeal that I can endure, not a terribly hard one, mind you, not firewalking or that thing where you hang from a meat hook, but one of those mushroom-induced vision quests or a killer game of Scrabble? A mind meld, maybe?

Are there other things that people can do on command that I can't? Maybe I should learn these things as well. Perhaps, in those times that I am speaking to myself inside my head, if I tack the word "now" onto all of my thoughts. "Be funny, now!" "Have a great idea, now!" "Fall in love, now!" "Pee, now!"

I just don't have it. I haven't had a legitimately funny thought in weeks and I don't think there's anything that will bring one to me. You could beat me over the head with a rubber chicken, force feed me whoopee cushions, stomp on me with clown shoes and force me to crawl naked over contaminated shards of irony, and I still couldn't get a laugh. Such is my week.

So, a priest, a rabbi, a lawyer, a homeless guy, the devil, Hitler, a horse, six ducks, a midget tambourine player, Grover Cleveland, the Swedish bikini team, Steve Jobs and Dale Earnheart walk into a bar....

*I don't actually have any tales of self-deprecation. I'm an egomaniac; it's just not how I roll.**

** Remind me never to say "it's just how I roll" ever again. I sound ridiculous.


Got Cakes on the Griddle

I'm up early, much earlier than usual.

Since getting off my last gig, my sleep cycle has yet to settle and I find myself sleeping to an embarrassingly late hour. I miss much of the day. I'm half-afraid to make daytime appointments. I've tried setting alarms and concocting elaborate schemes to get myself out of bed* sometime before mid-afternoon but to no avail.

Taking inspiration from Buckminster Fuller, I'm trying to reset to the diurnal habits by pushing my sleep deeper into the day with each passing cycle, hoping to stop when I come full circle to daytime dwelling.

As a result, I am wide awake, practically in the middle of my day at the sixth ante meridiem hour on a Monday. I'm waiting at the door of the coffee shop, staring at a still-black sky, watching as the cars along Highland Avenue slowly accumulate towards morning rush hour.

Here's the vendor filling the newspaper dispensers with today's issue. Here's the Sysco truck making its delivery of perishables. Here's a shivering bicyclist in a business suit, barely paying attention to the road. Here's a woman trying to sugar her coffee at the traffic light. Here's jogger after jogger after jogger, all just starting a day that's already ten hours old for me.

I've never been an early riser but often days I wish that I were. I very much like seeing the day break. I like witnessing those early hours, not fuzzy, with mist behind my pupils, aching for fresh coffee, as is the case when I'm made to wake myself. No, I like seeing the day start as one wide awake, seeing people rise, observing as darkened windows light up, beholding the growing dawn and the emerging day. I like pondering what all these people have ahead, all the things that might be afoot today: the deals struck, the lives saved, the loves lost, the discoveries made, the pains forgotten and all the things said.

Like the song says, "Watching the world wake up from history."

It's only in these rare, off-circadian moments that I get to witness this, though. I've always been the owl rather than the rooster. I've watched the streets empty and the last light switched off a hundred times for every occasion that I witnessed what I'm witnessing this morning. I wish I was built to do it more. I do so very much like waking the world.

So, with a gentle shake and a sweetened whisper, "Hey, wake up. You've got a big day ahead."

*As my roomate's girlfriend recently pointed out with some distress, I don't actually have a bed. Explaining the specifics of my sleeping arrangements are beyond the scope of this post.


A Poster Girl with no Poster

Sequestered in an indie coffee house on a rainy Thursday afternoon, avoiding leaving to keep out of the drizzle, I find myself staring at a wall full of posters. From floor to twelve-foot ceiling, some forty feet from the front door to the edge of the bar, posters, two or three hundred of them, advertising concerts, awareness campaigns, poetry readings, avant-garde theatre and forthcoming 'zines. There's probably a lot going on here that I would like to see.

There's just one problem; I don't know what I'm looking at. While any individual poster is fine, taken as a group, they each lose their center and disappear in a glacier of similarity. There's next to nothing that makes any of these one-sheets stand out.

They are all one of three sizes. They utilize equivalent color schemes. Excepting the band names, all of the lettering is in the same family of fonts. A third are in black and white and all of these involve photographs and copious text, almost to the point that they might have been made with the same illustrator template. Those that are in color all invoke one of a handful or retro aesthetics, mostly from the fifties and sixties. Two are obvious homages to iconic album covers of the seventies.

Moreover, I can't tell the band posters from the film screening posters from the public awareness posters. Though, this might be the result of naming conventions. "Rabies Awareness Month" and "Campaign Against Addiction" might be bands or poetry slams and there's really no way for me to know unless I go to the event.

Only three of them stand out. One is for a film and its poster, glossy and edgeless while all the others are matte and bordered, was clearly produced by a commercial advertising agency.* One, black and white, the original clearly done by hand with pencil and ink, is a compelling piece of art, viscerally difficult to look at such is the agony that it implies. But, the font is too small and I can't tell what it's advertising without walking over and looming over the old guy with the iPad. Finally, the one that is original, legible and independently produced, the drummer for that band lives across the hall from me. I was going to that show anyway.

This is not a complaint, not expressly. A lot of this work, viewed on it's own, is probably pretty good. The composition is solid, the images balanced, the focal points deliberate. Someone with real training in graphic design could parse this more completely than I, but the point is that these posters were clearly not thrown together by an amateur. They just blur to indifferentiation when I look at them at once. They line up, edge to edge and seam to seam like some giant Rorschach test photo mosaic from which I cannot extrapolate an image.

Is there some sort of aesthetic, some agreed-upon set of conventions that governs these texts? Is there a right and a wrong way to synthesize these banners of which I am ignorant? Are they all so similar because, as students who work in the same discipline are apt to do, the illustrators and designers all approach this work from the same angle? Or, are the artists who produce these placards all caught in the doldrums of inspiration. Are there really no new ideas left?

Like my old boss would say, "Who knows? Who cares? Just show me something good."

*As I have been writing this, that film poster has been replaced by someone advertising a poetry reading and this new poster might be the worst one up there.


The Sincerest Form of Flattery.

Someone told me that the Pet Shop Boys version of Brenda Lee's* "You Are Always on my Mind" was, and I'm quoting, "a sonic abortion, a crime against music that should never have been committed." I felt similar things about Madonna's version of "American Pie," and a number of other cover tunes. Plenty of really erudite people said such things about The Wind Done Gone."

This is fundamentally bad thinking.

No matter your opinion of a given artist or their medium, nothing should be off limits. Artistically, everything should be permitted. This is not to comment on the ultimate quality of the work; some of these remakes are just plain shitty, but that doesn't mean that there isn't value in creating them. To make such evaluations is tantamount to believing in objective taste, which is pretty foolish when you think about it.

What's interesting to me is that these feelings appear oddly specific to music and movies. When someone makes a parody of the Mona Lisa or re-interprets Shakespeare, we don't get all wibbly about it, but every cover of a song more than fifteen years old meets nothing but derision from critics. Why is "Stairway to Heaven" untouchable but we can rework Romeo & Juliet with impunity?

Nothing is sacred in this regard and we need to get over it.

*The version that you know is probably Elvis Presley's from 1972 or Willie Nelson's from 1982.


Promises, of What I Seemed to Be

And now I'm back here. Just a fortnight away and the place seems so very different with its towering treeline, that close horizon, with its narrow streets, fecund scent and its deep-south attempt at winter chill.

I didn't miss it. Certainly, I was ready to come home for fear of all the things that I had left unattended, of all the obligations that I still kept to. But I didn't pine for it. There was no place within me left empty for the lack of it.

I am certain that I will return there, to that faceless place, not to stay, I shouldn't think, but because it is now so simply convenient and so barely familiar and because there are so many new obligations on the far side of the continent.

What is this, this dwindling sense of place and this lingering sense of departure from I-know-not-where? Have I been too long here? Am I searching for searching's sake? Am I just tired of the weather but afraid of somewhere that has none? Have I habituated to my expectations of my home, of my friends, of my work in the Phoenix city? Have those closest to me been right all along that I was never really meant to stay? Why, then does no other destination seem all that appealing in itself; this new one feels appropriate only out of happenstance.

Time will tell.


And Then She'll Ask Me...

I love you when your makeup is messed up.

I love you when your clothes are dirty.

I love you when you skipped your shower and when your hair is greasy and your socks don't match.

I love you whether your jacket goes with your scarf or whether you wear your specs or your contacts.

I love you when your breath is bad, your eyelids droopy and when you've buttoned your blouse askew.

I love you just the same in sandals, in flats and in your best come-fuck-me boots.

I love you when you smell good and when you reek to high heaven.

I love you utterly and completely at every moment, unmitigated, unattenuated, undiminished by the vagaries of fashion, by the caprice of clashing colors or by the juxtaposition of spring and autumn makeup lines.

I know that this isn't what you're asking, that you're not inviting a missive on the nature of our infatuation; you just want to know if you look presentable. You want to know that the time and attention you've put into yourself are noticed and valued, and they are. But, I need you to know that any love I have of your outfit is trivial in comparison for the love I have for your soul.

My darling, you look wonderful tonight.


Gold Dust Dreamers Never Warn You

When I was very small, I traded my time between three places, three parts of the world, each obvious and distinct in memory.

I went to kindergarten in suburban Milwaukee, with its mild summers, deep winters, with its wineblood leaved maples, its hard cement roads, its dapple light woods, its glacier moraine hills and its limestone enriched drinking water.

I spent summers with my grandparents in Florida, with its constant warmth, its high cresting sun, its flood plain flatness, its shoe seeping sandiness, its tropical rot flavored air and its constant warnings about gators and storms.

My earliest formative years, I spent in western England, with its hedge lined paths, its rolling mynds and towering marylins, its scent of dampness, its constantly shifting clouds, its fried food and its distinct accent.

I've spent these past few weeks on the opposite end of the continent, somewhere I've scarcely been before. And, like when I was a child, I can sense the differences here, the textures, the scents, the colors, the gait, the flow of the air, the angle of the sun and the modes of speech. I am distinctly aware that I am not at home.

But, I'm not quite sure where I am, either. This is not to say that I couldn't find this city on a map or that I couldn't give you directions. It's that this place seems indistinct, cobbled together from the effluvium of other places. It's that these textures, these scents and the angle of the sun tell me much more about where I am not than they tell about me where I am. This place has no sense of itself, no set of attributes that cry out "I am here, in this place and in no other!" I could be anywhere. I could be nowhere at all, really.

Is this a product of this place in particular? Is it that this city, in its sprawling, sundrenched, seaside-ness just doesn't have an essence of its own? Is it that the English-speaking world has become less variegated, that franchise eateries and ambient media have robbed regions of their distinctiveness? Or, is it me? Has my own experience with the world inured me to the subtleties of place? Am I immune to geography? Am I jaded about the experience of travel? Am I just not paying attention?

I fly home tomorrow. Likely, almost certainly, I will be back here, sooner than later. I've had quite the good time, even if I didn't quite know where was. Even if I don't quite know where I'm going.


By Hook or Crook

Why do so many people continue to believe in the myth of meritocracy?

It's not even one of those good heuristics. I understand why people believe in laissez-faire economic theory, even if it's demonstrably false. I get why people get so pernsnickity about their brand of computer, coffee shop or sports team, no matter how foolish I happen to think these things happen to be. I comprehend most of the common wisdom that so often wins out over considered and evidenced positions; it's just easier.

But, you get what you deserve; cream rises to the top; reap what you sew, what obvious bullshit.

These people have never had a boss that was less competent than they were? These people have never known someone who, by virtue of happenstance, got more than they deserved? These people have never been passed over in an opportunity for someone less deserving? Not one time have these people looked at someone with more money or more prestige and said, "lucky bastard"?

I mean, really?