Monday, March 31, 2014

Absinthism is Back

Since I first heard about absinthe, I was curious to try it.  Why were so many influential people, like Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde, so fond of it?  Why were so many other people afraid of it?

This mild curiosity was only increased by the classy image it portrayed, and the ritual that went along with preparing it.  The color, texture, taste, and aroma are all transformed by the process.  You can imagine why a culture built up around it.  The fact that it's a lost culture makes it interesting.  Then I found out that one of its defining flavors is anise, and it was all over.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dad & Me ...whimsy

Our next writing assignment was to describe how we remind ourselves of the parent of our gender. This is my attempt to describe my reminding me of dad.

The older I get
the better-looking
my dad was ...
… becuz
his hair and hair style
grace my head.

at morning
his bushy eyebrows
the reflected image of my face


at night
he leaps into the mirror on the landing beaming his semi-snarky smile
with a side dish of sparkling, squinting eyes.

and becuz
when I'm in a good mood
his approving face
smiles at me from every mirror I pass.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Have a Gameboy?

Soon after smart phones came out, I found out they can emulate an NES.  I thought that was pretty neat.  I grew up on the NES, and I'm glad that those games are still relevant to the next generation.

This week I found out that smart phones, including the one I already have, are fast enough to emulate all kinds of systems.  My Galaxy Note II makes a great DS.  I've enjoyed reconnecting with the games I once loved, and the one's that I missed out on.  I tried a Pokemon game for the first time.  It's not for me, but it was fun to try.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Our writing assignment for this week was to write about, preferably in poetic form, someone significant to us who has died or otherwise left our lives. The writing of my classmates once again impressed me. 

I share my effort.


“ … Mom wouldn’t let you tell me she was dying?”

There, the question was asked; it came pretty easy.

Your eyes, Dad, filled with tears, “I don’t know; Ken or I should have …

I let you off the hook then. Too early; too easily; perhaps too habitually. Always the way.

There was one other question,
 “Why didn’t you tell me anyway?”
but it remained both unasked and unanswered.

For eight years, I didn’t ask you again. And then, without warning, you moved – from 350 miles away to 1050 miles away. And got sick. And died. And took my answers to the nether world.

Had you lived, we’d have remained separate as ever, I imagine.

In the nine years you’ve been gone, I wonder if I should have asked you one more time; maybe you’d have actually answered.

I know not; I wonder still.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Saint Patrick's Day Wings and Brew

Happy Saint Patrick's Day everyone.  Along with working a bunch of overtime, I was able to attend the "Wings and Brew" event hosted at Treasure Island Casino in MN this weekend.  This is an all-you-can-eat beer and wings tasting event.

This seems like a very appropriate event for Saint Patrick's Day weekend, but unfortunately for me I'm not a beer lover.  I'm not even a beer liker.  I did sample a few beers, because I like to expand my pallet.  The only thing they had to my liking was a hard cider, and I already knew I like hard cider.  They did have many beers available, and for the most part, the lines were small.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, to Sing ( reprise/revised/improved )

Our writing instructor gave us homework to write a piece about getting into an unfamiliar situation. A time ago, I had posted a story about my adventure(s) learning to sing. "Oh, to Sing," which described a situation that qualified as "unfamiliar." I revamped the post, brought it to class and present it herewith:

Oh, to Sing

"Ooooohhhhohhhoh … “ I struggle to maintain the pitch; I fail.
choir members are observing; there is muted laughter; I take this as ridicule.

“I think you should take voice lessons from me,” Jerry, my church’s liturgy director, said.

With that, a dream and a nightmare intersect …

I had never learned to sing but loved to do it. I particularly like doing it in Church; my wife did not enjoy hearing it.

We’d talk;
"No, I don’t know how I sound;
Yes, I realize I’m singing loudly;
No, I don’t know I’m off pitch;
Yes, I would guess I’m off pitch;
No, I don’t know what to do about being off;
Yes, I can read music" ( e-g-b-d-f for the lines and f-a-c-e for the spaces for cryin’ out loud! )
"No, I don’t know how to make my voice the same pitch as the middle line of the staff;"
( And, holy crap, yes, I know the middle line of the staff is B!! )

Sounding awful was not easy to admit; I thought voice lessons the solution. The hurdles were numerous, onerous.

I guessed lessons not cheap and we didn’t have much discretionary money. I used that to cover the real reason for hesitation: fear of failure. Admitting to a shortfall of cash was easier than admitting this!

After a meeting he and I were part of, I had the impromptu audition.
“I think you should take voice lessons from me.” Did I fail or pass the audition?

No matter. He saw my eyes widen and I heard and felt my stomach tighten and churn.

His, “Think about it; give me a call,” gave me time, but did not set me at ease. My knees became rubbery, my stomach hot as acid, my breathing as though a python gripped my chest; but I knew I’d take the lessons.

I had nightmares … a piano; Jerry at the keys; me on the other side; nothing else; big room; “Sing,” he’d demand.

Sometimes nothing, not even off-key. At others, the mournful bellow of a beached whale. Always, Jerry’s face taunted me. So strong was my fear.

As I knew I would, I eventually called: “OK, next Tuesday, 4:00, I will ask the receptionist for you.”

Walking up the sidewalk to the Church offices, I imagined the entire neighborhood looking, “Someone is coming for singing lessons!” I didn’t wonder how they knew.

I noticed that Rita, when ringing Jerry, “Walter’s here to see you,” failed to completely suppress a snarky grin. Or was that my imagination?

My nightmare was spot on; Jerry, me, piano, big room. Only I wasn’t tied down; Jerry neither taunted nor demanded. His face was kindly, suggesting my tone should go up or down to match the piano’s.

He didn’t like using the f- word ( flat! ). “It is so imprecise.” He used it anyway. “Yeah, that was … flat.” He’d stand at the keys when I needed to raise the pitch a little. He’d say, “Raise your eyebrow,” when I didn’t seem able to raise the pitch. “Raise two eyebrows,” when I raised my pitch but not quite enough. “Stand on your tip toes,” as I continued to struggle.

All this silliness kept me loose; the lessons highlighted my week; the work began to pay off.

It’s funny … very small successes seem very large in a brand-new endeavor. And they came. Matching a pitch; knowing whether I am low or high; knowing how to correct. Tracking changing pitches as Jerry went up and down the keys, sometimes covering more than an octave.  Even … yes … learning to correctly sing a song.
I sing more quietly in church now; more mindful, more respectful and Ellie doesn’t slide away as she used to.

I got feedback at the class ( nice story/great dialogue/good emotion/etc ); I am going to make it even better and post it again. Hope to hear from you about one of the versions.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Beneath the Tarnish

This is a short and true story.  It's unfinished.

"$188," the man in the expensive suit told us after conferring with his jeweler.
"Thanks, we'll have to think about it," I replied instinctively.
"We're not even in the same ballpark," my aunt stated more bluntly.
My aunt is honest to a fault, when there is nothing at stake.  It was true that we couldn't consider paying $188 dollars to repair the $25 dollar silver ring that had sat broken, bent, and slightly tarnished in my mother's jewelry box since I was young.  Now it sits broken, bent, and very tarnished in a small envelope as we move on.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Two Poetic Versions / Same Incident

I am torn between two versions of a poem that describe the same experience. I ask for your comments. Both versions bear the same title. 

Does your Left Brain know what Your Right Brain is Doing?

I saw the item in an email,
"spend time with poems"
The entire idea was seductive,
but I resisted:
Too soon, not ready.
I registered.

Upon arriving I experienced
Among other things
Being a gender minority of One.
A Lone.

I met this challenge with
my best testosterone based humorous mojo
which both shamed me and made me proud.

That out of the way, however,
The super majority was, well, super:
It erupted in raucous,
and quite possibly salacious,
and then

It accepted me and all of us
went about our business ...
Learning about and experiencing
Poetry and each other.

It was in an email,
"spend time with poems"
“I write poetry!”
Resistance and excuses:
“Too soon, not ready.”

“I’m a gender minority of One.

Response: Testosterone based humorous mojo.
Shaming me and making me proud.

The supermajority
Erupted in raucous,
perhaps salacious,
laughter; and then …

Acceptance, our business.
Learning, experiencing.
Poetry, one another.

I am eager to hear from you. Please.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Continued Misadventures

Last night I went to move the car I've been trying to trade in... and it didn't start.

Okay.  Fine.  Let's get a jump,  and drive it three blocks to the place that wants to give me $350 for parts.  Now you may not know this,  but the designers of the oldsmobile cutlass supreme thought it would be a good idea to put the battery under the windshield washer fluid.  Well I couldn't get it jumped.  The possibility of getting a friend to pull it didn't pan out either.

This morning I was able to arrange to sell it as a junker for $250, which will almost cover the cost of the two tickets for expired tabs I've gotten since this whole adventure started.

When I'm done, I walk out the door feeling surprisingly good.  The situation sucks, but it's finally over.  As I pass in car that will be leaving my life tomorrow morning I notice one more ticket.  Something tells me in adventure is not yet over.