Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chairs for the Library

One is incredibly too big, but so comfy. The other is small and Robyn found it for $50--we couldn't pass it up. Now we just have to find another that matches it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rivers continued

He did finally get on that plane. And he did finally see the massive expanses and great depths of the Amazon.

He stepped into the water; it was warm against his skin. He relaxed and then it happened. A school of piranhas swam by. They circled back as he eased out further into the warm waters. He sank deep, letting the water wash over his head; he wanted to know if he could touch the bottom. Sink sink sink. Then the fish flowed around him, ignoring him, almost as if they didn't believe their good luck. But not all the fish were tricked by such good fortune.

The last fish opened its mouth and bit at his calf. He felt a small sting. Then the other fish received the firsts silent message--sent through thousands of blood cells: nourishment was here. The blood of our blood. The life of our life. The love of our love. And there in the dark green waters of the Amazon he was consumed.

After the fish had picked his bones clean and moved onto smaller meals, the unrelenting flow of the river caught hold of his bones and washed them out toward the ocean. They mixed with the silt, passed alligators, fresh water dolphins, and children wise enough to stay clear of schools of piranhas. They were swept off the continent and into the ocean, spewed from the mouth of the land. There in the ocean he was swallowed by a giant whale, mouth opened wide, eating blindly. The whale closed its eyes and sank to the ocean floor where it slept. And slept. And slept.

Many years later it awoke, hungry for air. It rushed to the surface. A spout of water shot from its back, reaching for the moon and stars. And out came the bones. When they hit ground he was back, back on the quiet shores of the Mississippi. There he rested until the river overcame its banks.

Then They were together again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Failed Letter

I sent a letter to the SF Chronical in hopes of being published but the attempt failed (my poor ego). Anyway, here it is, a bit late, but no less relevant at this point as the Church now confronts the pain it helped cause.

I'm a Mormon and I'm voting No on Proposition 8. If you too are Mormon then you're probably scratching your head in disbelief; if you've been watching in horror as the money flows into the Yes on Prop 8 funds you're probably also equally confused. How can it be, a Mormon openly voting "No" on this, the most important proposition of our time?

There is a small band of us here in San Francisco, we walk in two worlds, one that assumes too much about our beliefs and hearts because of the church we belong to and another that isn't quite sure what to do with us because of our liberal politics and because we openly chose not to follow Prophetic wisdom. Outside the Church our friends (and sometimes families) wonder why we stay in a Church that causes so much internal conflict. And in the walls of our church buildings people worry about our testimonies and commitment to the Church and the Gospel. I doubt I, or anyone, can explain the dynamic in anything less than a full memoir. This won't end up as a perfectly wrapped bundle; it's messy and real, like your own life, only the details differ.

One of the Articles of Faith (a list of thirteen statements that briefly summarize the Mormon religion for those unfamiliar with it) says: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." I belong to a Church whose home state was once barred admission into the Union until it dropped its own marriage practices that fell outside the norms of modern society. One might think we would sympathize with the Gay and Lesbian community better than most other churches, but here we are leading the charge against them. This contradiction causes me to look at the current situation and think that perhaps the leaders of the Church are wrong on this issue because it goes against so many of the principles I've been taught by the Church itself. But at the same time other church members look at this exception and think it must be really important for the Church to come out and take a stand that isn't completely consistent with its own teachings.

My intent, my desire, is to plead with both sides. My church is one that believes that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor, and that also believes you are in the service of God when you are in the service of your fellow man. Regardless of your political bent there is much to be admired about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is a near constant flow of charity from the Church to those suffering throughout the world. The Church is full of people with big hearts and good intentions, and although they might be your enemy today you have many causes in common with them and overall they are a valuable asset to America and the World.

And to my church: What we ponder this voting period is whether or not to extend the rights of the majority to a minority. The Constitution was built with the intent (one of its many intents) to protect the rights of the minority, and on every occasion in our past when we have extended such rights--the right for women to vote, the abolition of slavery, the right for interracial couples to marry, the right of people of all color to vote--we have never regretted such an extension. I pray we will all consider this move with the utmost seriousness, with as much care and concern as we would employ when considering these other past accomplishments of this great nation. I ask that you pray, fast, and seek the Spirit before placing your vote on this issue. I've pondered this issue for the past four or five years, I will continue to ponder it, but as of now I'm not ready to throw a blanket of oppression over the sweet bell of liberty.

The choice to be in both these worlds is not easy, another assumption made by both sides. From those not affiliated with the Church we hear it is easier to stay in the church you were raised in than to leave it. And from the our fellow Mormons we hear that it is easy to side with society and modern progression. It's not easy—it's a tight rope, with dueling desires that are very hard to balance. So when you meet a Mormon on the street don't judge them too fast, they just might be your ally in this cause.

Monday, November 3, 2008

On the Wise and the Beautiful

Yesterday I beheld something truly amazing. (But honestly I'm sure the amazement mostly reflects my biases more than anything.) Yesterday Robyn bore her testimony at church. She cried a little, which usually gets me rolling my eyes at the speaker (because crying doesn't imply truth). But when she cried I cried, and there was truth. The truth is and was that she is greatly pained by her church and the actions it has taken over the last several years and especially in the last three or four months as it pushes to pass Proposition 8. At the same time she loves her church, which is precisely why it hurts so terribly much.

The amount of courage and passion (and sadness) it took to get up and stand before her peers--her peers that by all appearances hold little to no sympathy for her position, her peers who have marching orders from no less than a prophet of God--to say that she is in pain but that she also loves her church is probably more than I could have ever mustered. I spend a lot of time expressing my struggles in the written word which lends itself to a certain amount of cowardice, but this thing she did was bold and without guile. I'm lucky to know, much less be married to, such a girl. The church is lucky to have her as a member. Robyn Kessler, I solute and love you for all that you are: your struggles, your love, your passion, your kindness, your heart, your sympathy, your selflessness. I have no doubt that God will fling the windows of heaven open on that great and sad day when you return to him. My pride overfloweth. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

No On Prop 8

I tend not to get too political here but there is a very important vote coming up that effects many of my friends, extended family and coworkers. I urge anyone reading this to Vote No on Prop 8.

As most of you know I'm Mormon and that the way I'm voting runs directly counter to the efforts and suggestions of the Church. It puts me in a weird/uncomfortable position but one well worth being in, in my opinion.

Outside of theology the Church is using legal fear to convince people to get involved. They want you to worry that you'll lose your ability to practice your religious as you like, specifically Churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples and Church adoption agencies will be forced let same-sex couples to adopt. There are others (6 in total). I'm posting here the professional legal opinion of an active member of the LDS Church. This article explains why all of the church's legal fears are either unfounded, false or misleading. Please take the time to read it and consider it when placing your vote, a vote that will go down in history no doubt.

The Article.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sigur Ros - As Life Should Be

At 5:00PM Friday night I thought to myself, "I really don't want to get on the train to ride an hour to get crammed into a car with five other people so that we can sit in Friday night rush hour traffic crossing the bay bridge in order to sit in an outdoor amphitheater and get rained on while still fighting off the tail end of a cold."

With that thought in mind I packed a bag full of warm clothes and headed off on my journey. My train trip was cut a little short as Robyn was able to pick me up at an earlier stop. I added the ponchos she had purchased to my bag of warmth and became aware that Robyn wasn't in the best of moods, having had a hard day at work. We arrived at the Santos' home and all piled into their car.

The interesting thing about me and Berkeley is I don't really know anything about it outside of the campus and maybe two or three blocks on each side of campus. And although I'd lived there for two years I'd never actually been to the Greek Theater. I don't think I even realized it was an outdoor theater when I heard its name previously. I always imagined it as a stuffy indoor place where you feel crowded and watched Opera and Symphonies. It's nothing like that (although I'm sure it is a lovely place to watch those two things). The stage looks very, well Greek and the amphitheater is outdoors with evenly spaced rows of concrete to sit on.

We arrived in Berkeley and parked at the Church Institute building. We wrote a note assuring whomever read it that this car indeed belong to Mormons, placed it in the window and walked the few blocks to the theater. We walked past Soda Hall, the CS Building where I spent many sleepless nights, which brought a sweet sense of nostalgia but also the up hill walking while sick quickly brought on a headache. But at least the night air was perfect, there was no breeze and I was able to walk around in a t-shirt without feeling uncomfortable.

Our friend's Brigham and Dan had arrived earlier and saved us some pretty great seats at the bottom of the theater seats which were probably about fifty to a hundred yards back from the stage (the space between us and the stage was all flat and standing room only). The theater seats were great, because unless a giant sat in front of you everyone had a great view of the stage, but at the same time they were incredibly hard.

So there I was, and all I could think was, "this better be good."

Friends, I've been thinking about how to describe this. I'm not sure I can do it justice. Given the hard seats and my headache and the dull annoyance of being sick this still managed to be in my top three concerts. And I wonder had I not been sick would it have been worse or better? I can't say for sure.

There is little doubt about the beauty of their music, which comes off equally well live as it does recorded but in this setting its as if mother nature had come along to the show with us, not to watch but to be a part of it. Like they had orchestrated their set with her.

As they opened up a very light rain, almost more like a mist, washed down upon us. It was as if God wanted to reassure you that he was there but without being to forceful about it. A light touch on the arm, "worry not." The giant trees behind the stage --outside the theater--seemed to sway with the music and even the silent flashing lights of distant airplanes were perfectly in place with the music. Robyn put her hand on my shoulder, warm against the night air, and there was never a more perfect time for that, this is what hands and shoulders were made for. I could see God crafting Adam's body, lovingly creating his shoulder, then stopping and thinking, "Yes, Eve's hand will go here."

I could perhaps ramble on and on about every song they did but I'll spare you, reader, and only dwell on a couple. However the thing about Sigur Ros is I don't know the name of a single one of their songs, the names are all gibberish to me, and I'm no good at describing music so you'll have no clue for the most part what song I'm talking about. But it doesn't really matter, listen to them and you'll know what I mean.

Throughout their set they had a gray or white background draped across the back of the stage. During one particular song they had the gray out and upon it two spot lights played. But they weren't perfectly geometrically shaped lights. They were slightly bean shaped, with fuzzy edges and their shapes changed a little. They maybe even looked a little bit like one cell organisms. They mostly stuck together. In fact at times they would become a single light and the smaller one would slowly try to break away from the larger one, but as it broke away it would get sucked back in or it would become even smaller and almost appear to jump back into the bigger one. It was like a cell trying to split in two, a thing that is one trying to become two, but not wanting to change, to lose that oneness. It was a constant struggle throughout the song: one then two then one then two then one then two then one. And in the end, when the song really picks up steam, they both disappear and from the top of the stage they release thousands of small pieces of reflective material (maybe even bubbles) and turn the strobe lights on. It was as if the two had exploded. Now they were thousands of small brilliant points of light, they'd changed, I don't know for the better or for the worse, but they were no longer two flat lights, they were three-dimensional and everywhere and on everyone.

And speaking of everyone. If you stopped watching the show for a while and looked around at people, wow. The smiles, the happiness, this IS life as it should be.

The rain never actually picked up any steam so it was a dry warm night when they closed their set. But as you know, no set is complete without an encore. And this would prove to be most true tonight. They came back and played the song I've linked in this video:

While their performance wasn't exactly the same it's fairly similar with the lights really going crazy when the music crescendos. But just before that the wind picked up a little, all the confetti they'd dropped from a couple previous songs started to form into small little confetti dust devils. The smell in the air changed and as the music picked up speed and power, rain started to fall, first lightly, then with force and the crowd grew excited and thrilled and it was hard to tell if they were cheering for the band or the rain. And instead of pulling out those ponchos we'd bought earlier, Robyn and I sat there letting it fall on us, she turned her face to the sky and smiled. And it in a word was Perfect.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I've picked up a couple items that are both practical and useful for an overall library effect. We have three sets of bookends, a reading lamp and a throw blanket, that will eventually end up on the new chair I bought (not pictured because 8-12 week delivery time).

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I have placed books onto my bookshelves! Now, however, as you can see I have way too many shelves for the amount of books I have. I use to think I had a fair number of books but now I see I clearly need more. So when Christmas and birthdays (my birthday or yours) come around, feel free to get me books. :) I wish I could take one picture that sort of gave a feel for the whole room but it's just too small. Perhaps I'll have to break out Robyn's fancy photo equipment (wide-angle lens) and see what I can do. It's sort of anti-climatic, but behold! My sparsely populated book shelves:

I have more books but they're like text books and travel books. Maybe the travel books will find their way down there but I want it to feel like a library, not a school so the text books will probably have to stay away for all time an eternity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ZOMG!?!?! Library Progress

Eh, it's been forever, but I think deep down I knew that I'd actually hate hanging shelves, and I was right. Today I spent waaaaaay to much time putting up eight out of the sixteen proposed shelves. The big problem was that the floating shelves just wouldn't sit flush against the wall. Some angle bracket type thingies were employed and everything went fairly smoothly from there, except straight lines and measurements aren't my strong suit, you'd think a Berkeley degree would at least set you up with the ability to hang a couple shelves (clearly not true). Anyway, I like what I'm seeing:

As you can see, the books hide the brackets so it still looks like floating shelves when everything is in place.

Monday, August 18, 2008

People I Don't REALLY Know

One thing I can say about her is she loves being a parent, a mom. Her two little girls are not ill-behaved, and they're both happy kids clearly pleased with their parents. My favorite thing to watch is when one or both of the girls get a little wild. You can see their mother's face apologetically cringe as she looks around, but the shame and guilt are fake. She puts on a show of being disappointed merely because that's how the world thinks a parent should feel when a kid is running up and down the aisles at church. But she loves to watch them be kids, her eyes sparkle with joy as she watches them "miss behave." However she is saying sorry to the rest of us, sorry that she unapologetically loves her children just as they are.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Library Part III

Nate came by yesterday afternoon and helped me put the first layer of gray paint on. Check it out:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shelton, WA

Here is a place I barely survived. I'm sure that in reality it's a fine little city, full of happy and content people living their lives. In fact It was probably mostly timing that made me hate it so much; it had the misfortune of being my home directly after leaving Indianapolis, a place I truly loathed leaving.

I won't dwell too much on poor me and how hard that move was, but instead I want to talk about someone who briefly entered and left my life there in Shelton. I only mention the hardness here because I think this person had a similar experience, although the details were probably different.

Thomas had the ill-begotten luck of making friend with someone who had no intention of making any friends during their brief stay in his town. In fact one day in class a girl started talking to me and noted how unfriendly I was, to which I replied, "well I won't be here very long so what's the point of making friends?"

And yet Thomas and I managed to bond, mostly over black pants, long hair, rolling dice (to play D&D, not craps) and not quite fitting in (maybe because of those three previous things listed). Strangely, I can't even tell you how I met him, or where. I don't recall having any classes with him, I don't think he lived within walking distance of my house, he just sort of appeared one day--like a real life wizard straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons book. I remember staying the night at his house a couple times, I remember going to the fair with him and his family, I may have even flirted with his younger sister. But I can't remember meeting him or ever saying goodbye to him. Like another wizard I up a disappeared one day.

A conversation that never happened:

Thomas: "Want to come over and play some Mortal Kombat?"
Shawn: "Nah, hey, look, I'm moving." Kicks rock.
Thomas: "Really? That's a bummer." Cries, but only on the inside, where you can't see it so it's easy to convince yourself it doesn't hurt.
Shawn: "Actually I hate this place, I can't wait to leave."
Thomas: "It was good knowing you anyway."
Shawn: "Yeah, sorry you have to stay, and sorry I have to go."
Thomas: "It's cool, I'm use to it." Kicks same rock.

Instead he probably went to school, looked around for me the first couple of days and assumed I was sick. Then a week went by and nothing. Called my disconnected phone number. Nothing. Vanished like a ninja. Shit, I thought we were friends. I hate this place too.

Maybe I was nothing more than a blip on his radar. Maybe he forgot as quickly as I did. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Either way, sorry about that Thomas.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Library Part II

This morning was spectacular. What does that have to do with the library project? I love it. Normally I'm pretty adverse to manual labor (hi, I'm a computer scientist) but rearranging the garage to make room for some of Robyn's stuff she isn't using, and moving said stuff into the garage, and spackling, and sanding the walls, and even doing the dishes as a "get this out of the way so I can get back to the library" was all quite enjoyable. Although some parts were naturally more enjoyable than others.

I had a little transcendent moment listening to My Morning Jacket and running my hands across the wall feeling for little bumps that I could sand away. I think for a second or two I saw the hand of God, Heaven touched Earth. It was a good way to skip church.

This is no criticism of Robyn, but more of a Shawn characteristic: I feel like most projects that require any amount of effort are usually things that Robyn is more excited about or initiated. This isn't a criticism because I just don't get excited about a lot of things, it has nothing to do with Robyn always insisting we do what she wants to do (because she doesn't). But this project is different. It's mine, I want it, I need it almost. So I've been incredibly happy this morning staring at white walls and feeling their textures under my hands, wiping dusted hands on my jeans, bumping my knee on the coffee-table and fighting with my power drill whose batteries are quickly fading.

As for progress, I've removed all of pictures that were on the wall, I've removed the door, I've spackled all of the holes and done a great amount of sanding. There are a couple holes that were quite large and so they're on their second coating of spackle and will need to be sanded when they dry. The bookshelves have arrived; they're a little redder than I had expected. Paint has been purchased. With Nate's help I narrowed the wall color down to about four options and once the shelves arrived the options were more like three (because of how red they were) and so yesterday Robyn and I went to the paint store and picked out a nice gray color for the walls (I know gray sounds crazy, but I think, and hope, it shall work) and the "base-boards" (which aren't base-boards at all) shall be a brownish-red that should match the shelves reasonably well. While at the paint store we also picked up some wood stain for the coffee-table that will hopefully end up matching the shelves as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I finished this book. It was really good.

My reading as of late has been pretty slow, I was maybe fitting in one or two books a month. So the fact that I finished this one in a week is a good sign of its quality (IMO). The language was very simple but he dealt with a lot of big ideas and struggles and the plot moved along nicely (I've never been so drawn into a game of squash).

But what I really want to talk about isn't his writing or the story at all. Instead I want to talk about this sensation I get when reading about the events surrounding nine-eleven and the Iraq war that followed. For some reason I'm adverse, or hesitant to read novels based around these events or the politics of these events. I'm not sure why exactly but it sort of feels like I'm being told, "this is how you should feel about nine-eleven." Or maybe it's all too fresh, it hasn't sat in our collective consciousnesses long enough for anything worth while and good to be written about the events. Which is really just perhaps an indication that I haven't fully digested the events and so there is some internal unspoken assumption that no one else could have made sense of it already either. Maybe a bit of "if I haven't figured it out then surely you haven't either." I don't feel this way about other major events in history (WWI, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor) but that might be because I wasn't around then, so the events don't feel personal, they weren't mine. I wonder if other people feel this way about nine-eleven and if prior generations still feel this way about other historical events.

A New Project

Rarely do I get excited about decorating/designing parts of the house. Normally I go along with whatever Robyn wants to do (which luckily turns out great because she has good vision). But the other day she sent me a link from the Ready Made website (I don't have the link anymore sorry) of an outdoor library. It was more of a "look how great this would be some day" sort of thing. But then I started thinking, "hey, we've got room in the garage for a library!" But that's kind of ghetto and that's when I came up with a brilliant plan (yes, brilliant). On multiple occasions people have asked what we're going to do with Robyn's studio space in the house now that she's moved into a real studio. Some have suggested a weight room or a tool/work room. But clearly library is the correct answer. Oh man, so excited.

I'll be documenting the process here. So for starters here's what the room looks like now, with a few random pieces of furniture from Robyn's stuff and a lot of photo junk hanging around doing nothing.

The space isn't huge but then I don't have a huge quantity of books so it should due. It's 10 feet by 11 feet. First thing that shall be done is the door will be taken off. Then all of the photography stuff will be removed. Holes in the walls (from nails and screws) will be patched up and then the walls and ceiling will be painted a light redish/brown. The base of the wall (you can see in picture one how the base of the wall comes out about a foot) will be painted a darker brown/red to match the shelves that will be installed. Then we shall install two rows of shelves (starting near the ceiling) that are similar to the ones in the first image. The fourth wall will have a couple of pictures and an actual short, wide book-case along it. We'll keep the coffee-table in the position it is in picture one but stain it a darker color to more closely match the paint and shelves. Then a chair will be placed on either side and another more comfortable chair will be placed next to the book-case. I'm thinking I'll put my chess board from Turkey on the coffee-table for permanent display and use as well. If we run out of book space we'll add another row of shelves on the three walls. There will probably be a standing lamp in one of the corners as well. Then we'll remove the spot lights from the ceiling and replace them with a single softer light. At that point books will be moved in and old bookshelves placed in the garage (or gotten rid of, or whatever). Oh yeah, we'll also put a darker rug down to hide most of the light carpet that is there now. I don't have the energy to recarpet and don't want to spend too much on the project. The shelves for the walls have been purchased and maybe sometime this weekend we can pick out some paint (if the shelves arrive by then).

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I was deeply moved by this passage from Saturday by Ian McEwan. The protaginist, Henry, is recalling what his mother was like before her mind slipped away.

She was a woman who gave her life to housework, to the kind of daily routines of polishing, dusting, vacuuming and tidying that were once common, and these days are only undertaken by patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Every day, while Henry was at school, she spring-cleaned her house. She drew her deepest satisfactions from a tray of well-roasted beef, the sheen on a nest of tables, a pile of ironed candy -striped sheets folded in smooth slabs, a larder of neat provisions; or from one more knitted matinee jacket for one more baby in the remoter reaches of the family. The invisible sides, the obverse, the underneath and the insides of everything were clean. The oven and its racks were scrubbed after every use. Order and cleanliness were the outward expression of an unspoken ideal of love. A book he was reading would be back on the hallway shelf upstairs as soon as he put it aside. The morning paper could be in the dustbin by lunchtime. The empty milk bottles she put out for collection were as clean as her cutlery. To every item its drawer or shelf or hook, including her various aprons, and her yellow rubber gloves held by a clothes peg, hanging near the egg-shaped egg-timer.

Surely it was because of her that Henry feels at home in an operating theatre. She too would have liked the waxed black floor, the instruments of surgical steel arrayed in parallel rows on a sterile tray, and the scrub room with its devotional routines--she would have admired the niceties, the clean headwear, the short fingernails. He should have had her in while she was still capable. It never crossed his mind. It never occurred to him that his work, his fifteen years' training, had anything to do with what she did.

Nor did it occur to her. He barely knew it at the time, but he grew up thinking her intelligence was limited. He used to think she was without curiosity. But that wasn't right. She liked a good exploratory heart-to-heart with her neighbours. The eight-year-old Henry liked to flop on the floor behind the furniture and listen in . Illness and operations were important subjects, especially those associated with childbirth. That was when he first heard the phrase "under the knife" as well as "under the doctor." "What the doctor said" was a powerful invocation. This eavesdropping may have set Henry on his career. Then there were running accounts of infidelities, or rumours of them, and ungrateful children, and the unreasonableness of the old, and what someone's parent left in a will, and how a certain nice girl couldn't find a decent husband. Good people had to be sifted from the bad, and it wasn't always easy to tell at first which was which. Indifferently, illness struck the good as well as the bad. Later, when he made his dutiful attempts on Daisy's (his daughter's) undergraduate course in the nineteenth-century novel, he recognized all his mother's themes. There was nothing small-minded about her interests. Jane Austen and George Eliot shared them too. Lilian Perowne (his mother) wasn't stupid or trivial, her life wasn't unfortunate, and he had no business as a young man being condescending towards her. But it's too late for apologies now. Unlike Daisy's novels, moments of precise reckoning are rare in real life; questions of misinterpretation are not often resolved. Nor do they remain pressingly unresolved. They simply fade. People don't remember clearly, or they die, or the questions die and new ones take their places.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Ten miles north of the Mexican border there's a town where you can sit on your back porch and watch the clouds quickly move across the sky. You can hear the thunder in the distance and see the occasional lightening bolt streak across the sky. Then the wind picks up, blows across your sun-baked skin, and soon you'll experience one of the greatest smells on earth: fresh rain on the dessert ground. It's a full sensory experience, both powerful and profound, and it's made even better by experiencing it all while sitting next to your brother.

In fact, they were the most beautiful.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tender is the Night (Part II)

This novel was... sad. I mentioned else where, to one of my most loyal readers (haha, that's funny, to me, and that reader--to the rest of you I apologize), I said, "this might be the first novel that has left me feeling depressed." But I insist that's not a bad thing, it's better than the novel that leaves you feeling nothing, empty.

I've been moved many ways by books: happy, inspired, disturbed, understood, on and on, but this is a first as far as I can recall.

In order to depress the book had to come down from great heights. Let me give you a tour from the top of the world:

The voice fell low, sank into her breast and stretched the tight bodice over her heart as she came up close. He felt the young lips, her body sighing in relief against the arm growing stronger to hold her. There were now no more plans than if Dick had arbitrarily made some indissoluble mixture, with atoms joined and inseparable; you could throw it all out but never again could they fit back into atomic scale. As he held her and tasted her, and as she curved in further and further toward him, with her own lips, new to herself, drowned and engulfed in love, yet solaced and triumphant, he was thankful to have an existence at all, if only as a reflection in her wet eyes.

Else where, equally as high.

Despite the overhanging mountains Switzerland was far away, Nicole was far away. Walking in the garden later when it was quite dark he thought about her with detachment, loving her for her best self. He remembered once when the grass was damp and she came to him on hurried feet, her thin slippers drenched with dew. She stood upon his shoes nestling close and held up her face, showing it as a book open at a page.

"Think how you love me," she whispered. "I don't ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there'll always be the person I am to-night."

Then you glance further down.

The truth was that for some months he had been going through that partitioning of the things of youth wherein it is decided whether or not to die for what one no longer believes. In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger's pantry across the upshine of a street-lamp, he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.

Bottom of the ocean. Shortly after Nicole decides to leave with the new man she loves, no longer loving Dick.

So it happened--and with a minimum of drama; Nicole felt outguessed, realizing that from the episode of the camphor-rub, Dick had anticipated everything. But also she felt happy and excited, and the odd little wish that she could tell Deck all about it faded quickly. But her eyes followed his figure until it became a dot and mingled with the other dots in the summer crowd.

And then, after so much love, feeling, life the last chapter crushes you. Because it all passes by, out of view. And we're left with nothing but a spot on a map, where we can point our fingers. Here.

Nicole kept in touch with Dick after her new marriage; there were letters on business matters, and about the children. When she said, as she often did, "I loved Dick and I'll never forget him," Tommy answered, "Of course not--why should you?"


[After a while] he didn't ask for the children to be sent to America and didn't answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practicing in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with some one to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes Section and considered a pleasant place. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant's in Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tender is the Night, Book I

I just finished book one and for some reason I hadn't realized that Nicole, Dick's wife, was going to be the crazy woman in the story. I had read the introduction that was pretty lengthy and spoke of a doctor taking care of his mentally ill wife, but as I read the novel I assumed Rosemary was falling into mental illness and that her and Dick would end up together. Rosemary hints at having developing issues, she begins taking pills that are never fully described and she says she's going crazy falling in love with Dick, she starts to have sleeping problems, and seems so young and not ready for the affair her and Dick are headed for. Meanwhile, Nicole is portrayed as a Greek Goddess, perfect in every way, certainly nothing could be wrong with her. This put me at ease with their inevitable split, she would survive and move on, and maybe move upward.

Fitzgerald weaves the story in such a manner that even though there are children involved you don't worry about them any more than you worry about who will get the cars or the furniture. But then, there on the last page of book one you finally see Nicole breaking, you finally see the Nicole Dick tries to hide from the world (for her benefit more than his I suspect) and you realize.... Well I don't know what YOU realize. But I was sunk. But at the same time I started to love the story. I saw the complexities of Dick's position, which is silly because even without mental illness complexities were there. I wanted Rosemary gone. I wanted Nicole happy. I wanted Dick to take a second look and to get back to the path he was on before Rosemary entered their lives. And yet, I worry that none of the three will ever be happy while Nicole slips further and further away. My heart aches for them.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indianapolis, IN

Music for our journey.

Prior to Indiana my memories are stored as a series of distinct still pictures: me holding my bleeding head after playfully rolling down a hill and then dizzily walking into the corner of a building, me sitting under a bridge over a small stream eating MREs and burning the little plastic ties used to keep newspapers bundled together, a moment at Chucky Cheese, a pine tree, a nail threw the bottom of my brother's foot, songs I invented for my mother, lyrics I no longer remember.

The plane from Germany touched down somewhere in Texas. It’s like the Texas summer heat switched on the video cameras, life was in motion. One event lead to the next, one action caused another. Soon morality would make sense and soon people would be understood, loved, and missed.

Hot, humid summers and fireflies were the canvas of my childhood. And while I was a child both before arriving and after leaving Indiana, I can safely say these were my formative years (5th through the beginning of the 9th grade). Many memorable events happened in this setting. But of great interest to me, right now, are the few that caused me sadness or self disappointment. These are the first memories I have of the kind, and perhaps, these feelings are what caused my life to transition from still life to full motion.

Having spent the previous three years in Germany and only being ten or eleven years old, the United States felt a little like a foreign country. My style was off (not for the last time) and I was out of touch with popular culture. I remember sitting in the hotel we were staying at while we were looking for a house to live in, I was sitting there watching MTV for the first time. I was blown away, music videos, what a concept. I was amazed and excited and I immediately fell in love with Def Leopard and ripped up jeans. In that little moment I could feel life was on the brink of change.

I’m not sure I can say these words about anyone else I’ve ever known. I HATED Adam Boak, hated. I can’t remember all of the things he did to me. My first memory of him was when I walked into the bathroom at school, with my long (awesome) hair, and all the boys looked up at me and Adam said, “What are YOU doing in here?” Never having had a real conversation with Adam I assume he meant, "You look like a girl, get out of here?" And so that’s what I did, and I went out of my way to never go to the restroom during class breaks but to always ask to go in the middle of class when no one else would be in there.

I’m not sure if Adam ever caused me physical harm. None the less I remember him as a monster. He had big hairy arms, arms big enough to break every bone in my body if they so desired. He was a boy in a man’s body, a boy with a bad attitude.

His unfair stature gave him the privilege of being King of the bus. I don’t know if this is a decade thing or a regional thing but in Indianapolis in the early 90s you could know a kid’s social status merely by noting how close he or she sat to the bus driver. Those closest were the lowest and those furthest away—lording over the rest of the bus from their thrones at the rear—were highest. So from day one he owned the bus, it was his, and I was merely a visitor whose presence was put up with but not welcome. I wished that I could invent a teleporter that would send me directly to school so I’d never have to set foot on his bus again. Such an invention never came about so I watched Adam, bedecked in a crown of jewels and a cruel scepter, move directly to the back of the bus when we entered the seventh grade and there he stayed while I made a doubled-edged journey over the next three years from the very front to just two rows from his seat at the very back. This journey wasn’t so much a sign of my growing popularity but was part of the natural progression of going through the grades and reaching a peak during your 9th grade year—Adam was a rarity starting at the back.

As I slowly grew in social stature and position I also slowly grew closer to Adam’s dreaded position at the back of the bus. I voluntarily inched closer and closer to the horned beast and his flame-tongued imps. When I peaked at the third seat from the back I was truly poised at hell’s gates. Had I been a more clever child I might have scratched a note into the seat: All hope abandon ye who enter here.

The day Adam decided to sit directly behind me, instead of two seats back, I knew I was in for it. The extra seat between us was usually my buffer zone, my demilitarized zone, I wasn’t close enough to touch and if I stayed quiet enough he probably wouldn’t notice me at all. But that day he flew into the no fly zone. Who knows what I was doing, maybe praying for a quick and safe ride home, or maybe pretending to be fine with Adam so close to me. But at some point I smelt something awful, the awful smell of hair burning, my hair burning, set on fire by Adam. It wasn’t any thing major, just some singed hairs from his lighter. He laughed and pushed my shoulder. I said nothing. I did nothing. It was a thing that happened in a life that happens. And I still struggle to form a positive feeling or thought toward Adam. I was thankful (so, so thankful) the day he was expelled for selling drugs at school. I was thankful for his loss of educational opportunities, I’m still thankful for it. I don’t know what this says about me, nothing good I’m sure.

But I wasn’t the lowest on the totem pole. I may have been small, and had girly long hair and listened to the wrong music, but at least I wasn’t over-weight. The life of an over-weight child must be incredibly hard, because they don’t only have to put up with the Adam Boaks of the world but also those who finally get to sit near him on the bus. There is no pride in this story; I don’t know when I’ve been a worse human being than in this story. But unlike the previous story I do have regrets and sadness about my actions.

Much like Adam probably doesn’t remember my name I don’t know the name of the kid in this story anymore either. Maybe it was Chris, I don’t know, but I’ll call him Chris here. Chris was fat, he wore glasses, he seemed nerdy but he struggled in school, looking back at him he didn’t have much going for him. I hope he turned out well. I didn’t interact much with him but at one point, soon after buying my first pair of awesome Nikes (a whole other story and social dynamic I wonder about) I started hanging out with kids higher up the social ladder. And with this move upward came the responsibility of messing with Chris at least once. So during social studies I sat behind Chris and me and the kid next to me thought it would be funny to tie his shoe to his chair. So we did so, very sneakily. I don’t remember how we managed to do it without him or the teacher noticing but we were, unfortunately, successful. When the bell rang and everyone got up to leave Chris knocked his chair over and drug it half a foot before he really realized what was going on. There was a lot of laughing and I felt so proud, I’d arrived.

Childhood is hard. Kids are mean, even kids who are normally nice. I wish I hadn’t done that to Chris. I wish Adam hadn’t done those things to me. But perhaps I’m a better person because of all these things. I can only hope the same is true of Adam and Chris.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxes are done!

And I'm about to be $3000 richer.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I don't normally do poetry, but for the longest time I've had a desire to read Paradise Lost. So that's what I'm doing, and in the spirit of poetry I shall be reading it out loud to myself. This is only some what uncomfortable for me, but it seems like the right thing to do.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Farewell to a Farewell to Arms

That title is deep.

I enjoyed the book, of course I did. But at the end I felt a way I've never felt before about a book. I'll let Alex from Everything is Illuminated explain it. He is referring to a fictionalized biography Jonathan is writing about his grandfather.

I could hate you! Why will you not permit your grandfather to be in love with the Gypsy girl, and show her his love? Who is ordering you to write in such a manner? We have such chances to do good, and yet again and again you insist on evil. I would not read this most contemporary division to Little Igor, because I did not appraise it worthy of his ears No, this division I presented to Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, who acted faithfully with it.

I must make a simple question, which is what is wrong with you? If your grandfather loves the Gypsy girl, and I am certain that he does, why does he not leave with her? She could make him so happy. And yet he declines happiness. This is not reasonable, Jonathan, and it is not good. If I were the writer, I would have Safran show his love to the Gypsy girl, and take her to Greenwich Shtetl in New York City. Or I would have Safran kill himself, which is the only other truthful thing to perform, although then you would not be born, which would signify that this story could not be written.

Although the circumstances at the end of Farewell are different and my feelings aren't as fierce as Alex's I did definitely feel like, "why couldn't they just be happy?"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Memories are Pictures

Some Music:

Some Words (by Earnest Hemingway):
Lying on the floor of the flat-car with guns beside me under the canvas I was wet, cold and very hungry. Finally I rolled over and lay flat on my stomach with my head on my arms. My knee was stiff, but it had been very satisfactory. [Doctor] Valentini had done a fine job. I had done half the retreat on foot and swum part of the Tagliamento with his knee. It was his knee all right. The other knee was mine. Doctors did things to you and then it was not your body any more. The head was mine, and inside of the belly. It was very hungry in there. I could feel it turn over on itself. The head was mine, but not to use, not think with, only to remember and not too much.

I could remember Cathrine but I knew I would get crazy if I thought about her when I was not sure yet I would see her, so I would not think about her, only about her a little, only about her with the car going slowly and clickingly, and some light through the canvas and my lying with Cathrine on the floor of the car. Hard as the floor of the car to lie not thinking only feeling, having been away too long, the clothes wet and the floor moving only a little each time and lonesome inside and alone with wet clothing and hard floor for a wife.

You did not love the floor of a flat-car nor guns with canvas jackets and the smell of vaselined metal or a canvas that rain leaked through, although it is very fine under a canvas and pleasant with guns; but you loved some one else whom now you knew was not even to be pretended there; you seeing now very clearly and coldly--not so coldly as clearly and emptily. You saw emptily, lying on your stomach, having been present when one army moved back and another moved forward.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Completely Unrelated

Not sure why but I have an urge to post about this song. It feels out of place here, if there is a theme to the music I've posted (which I don't know that there is) I find it hard to imagine that any Neil Diamond song would fit into it.

The song entered my consciousness sometime in college. I'm sure prior to that I'd heard it and it would sound familiar on the radio, but it wasn't until I fell in love with Natalie Portman and Beautiful Girls (the movie, not beautiful girls in general, not that I have anything against beautiful girls). As a twenty year-old there was a little shame in falling in love with the twelve year old that Natalie portrays in the movie, but watch it and you won't think I'm a creepy-dude-who-stalks-young-girls-half-his-age (hopefully, and if you do it's probably because their's something wrong with you and not me).

It's interesting that she has nothing to do with this particular scene in th movie. Maybe my smitten love for her stuck to everything in the movie like syrup. Maybe not though. The basic premise of the movie is a guy comes home for the winter and hooks up with all of his old high school friends. They're just a bunch of regular silly guys, none of them doing anything spectacular with their lives and he's the only one who has left the town they all grew up in. The scene involves all the guys hanging out in a bar and they request that the main character play a song on the piano (he plays the piano in bars in NYC for a living). This is the song he chooses, and this is where Neil Diamond enters my life. The main character starts the song, begins singing and the other guys slowly gather round, sucked in by something. Then it hits the "hands, touching hands" part and they all sing at the top of their lungs (none of them any good at it, but it doesn't really matter). And I thought, "now that's something worth something."

I get a little chill whenever I hear it now. But here's the thing, and why I'm talking about it now, until last night I'd never heard this song played at a wedding. For those that don't know my wife is a wedding photographer and I usually assist her at weddings so I have a fairly large sample size (compared to your average person). Last night the DJ played it and the dance floor came alive with dancing and singing. Even the bar tenders, who hadn't done anything besides sluggishly pour drinks all night long, started getting into it (singing and shaking their hips). I've decided it's a phenomenal wedding song. If you're not married yet play this song at your wedding, especially if I'm going to be there.

Poor Behavior

What a naughty blog this has been: quiet, sitting in the corner. I'll have to reprimand it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

End of an Era

So I'm thirty.

Now enough about that.

If you read my old blog you know about my stint/dream of being a race car driver. At 3:35am, March 5th 2008 the last remnant of that dream was laid to rest. Moments before that exact time a man some ten blocks away from my house was attempting to steal a car. His efforts were thwarted but he wasn't done causing damage for the night. He jumped in his car (not really his car, the vehicle he was driving was also stole, and ironically a little black Civic CRX). He proceeded to drive down Moraga toward the ocean at speeds well beyond reasonable for our neighborhood. When he reached 46th ave (my street) he ran his stop sign and was hit by a car traveling along 46th ave (given the time of day and the tendencies of 46th ave drivers, this car was probably moving rather quickly as well). Our car thief spun out of control.

Even earlier than night I was out playing basketball. I was playing in Pacifica so I had to drive there. Robyn was working late since I wasn't going to be home anyway. I managed to get home before her (around 10pm) and the street was full of cars and for some strange reason I decided to let Robyn have the drive-way. So I parked my little black Honda CRX on the corner of 46th and Moraga, a place I've never parked the car before, usually it's in the drive way, in the garage or directly in front of the house. Robyn came home and parked our "real" car, our car we drive all the time and owe money on safely in the drive way.

Like I was saying, the car thief, he spun out of control. The first car he hit was my little identical black CRX. He smashed into the front drivers side tire breaking it off from the axle, breaking the drivers side window and part of the front window, removed the side mirror and crushed the door. From there he spun some more and managed to hit three other cars. My car will no longer start and even if it did it wouldn't move anyway. The thief then exited his stolen vehicle and disappeared into the night. C'est la vie.

At three thirty in the morning Robyn and I both sat up in bed. She said, "what was that?" I said, "it sounded like a car accident." Given the arrangement of stop signs in our neighborhood we knew it would only be a matter of time before a major accident happened at the corner of 46th and Moraga, we usually hear people honking at that intersection or the squealing of tires and breaks daily. So when we went to the front window both of our eyes went directly to that corner and saw nothing. However, parked in front of our house was a car, with one headlight out. Two men were standing outside talking on their cellphones looking back at that same corner. Another man came out of a house and asked if they were alright. They said they were cool. We assumed they were calling the police, but were still confused by what had happened. For the amount of noise we heard there was surprising little damage or activity in the surrounding houses or street. It was almost as if nothing had happened. To fully understand you must realize that the four other damaged cars, including mine, are around the corner from our house so we couldn't see what had happened over there.

One of the men out front of our house walked away from the car and never came back, the other got back in the car and sped off.

For reasons I can't really explain we decided to go back to bed. There we laid asking each other, "what just happened?" It was impossible to go back to sleep. And it would have been a waste of time anyway because around 4:30am the SF PD arrived at our door and wanted to know if I lived there and if I owned a black CRX. I knew as soon as I heard the knock on the door my car had been damaged. Luckily mine was the only one of the cars that took enough damage that it won't start or move anymore. The other cars were definitely hurt but they at least still worked. Also, fortunately, no one was hurt.

Later that morning I called my insurance company, took some pictures of the damage, called a junk yard and scheduled a tow truck to come take the car away (they're giving me $150).

To add insult to injury the car is still parked out side and will probably be ticketed in the next hour for being in a street sweeping spot and last night someone got into the car and took everything of any value out of it (an amp and speakers).

Although I'm not overly broken up about losing the car the incident put me in a weird mood. I was on edge all day and I finally figured out what it was that was bothering me. For lack of better words I felt, "at risk." That at any second something random could happen to hurt me or the ones I love. I was also sensitive to noises yesterday as well. I started assigning importance to every sound I heard. The sharp S's and T's of the woman sitting next to me that I could hear over my headphones. Every honking horn, squeaking breaks, slamming doors was a sign of trouble. The way the man walking toward us let his feet drag across the pavement. The homeless people talking to themselves seemed more threatening than usual.

Today I feel better. I guess it's good to be thirty.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

So Far...

I haven't made it very far into A Farewell to Arms yet, but this set of sentences struck me:

I sat now in the chair and an orderly of some sort looked at me disapprovingly from behind a desk while I looked at the marble floor, pillars with the marble busts, and the frescoes on the wall and waited for Miss Barkley. The frescoes were not bad. Any frescoes were good when they started to peel and flake off.

When I first read it I thought it was clever and true: no matter how bland a fresco is, to the untrained eye they all look good once they get old enough. The cracks and peeling make them legitimate. Then I remembered that one of the things Hemingway is known for is his use of subtext, so I thought about what he might be saying a little more. Maybe we can take frescoes and replace it with lives. All life seems interesting when we get to see the peeling and flaking. And given we're looking at a flashing love in the middle of a war we'll probably see a lot of interesting situations where people start to show their cracks. And, maybe more importantly, we've all got our peeling paint, so if you look close enough you'll see all of us are "not bad."

Just some thoughts. Carry on.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Febs. Bookshelf

This month I managed to read four books (and start a fifth). I was probably averaging a book a month the previous few months so this is quite an accomplishment (for me).

Here's a recap:
The month started with The Great Gatsby. I talked about that already, so nothing further to report here.

Then I moved on to The Orc King: Transitions, Book I . Jason gave it to me for Christmas. It's sort of a tradition we have, buying each other Dungeons and Dragons books for Christmas. It was better than the previous three D&D books I read by the same author, so I was quite pleased.

After that I begrudgingly pickup the book my online book club was reading. Given I had just read a D&D book it might be hard to believe I'm somewhat of a book snob but I am (a little). The book club voted on reading The Road. I had to read it because I skipped the previous months (The Kite Runner). And I did read and it went fast. But so did the Orc King, so I don't know that a fast read means anything besides I don't have to do too much thinking while I read it. My biggest complaint was his use of incomplete sentence, it drove me a little batty. I was forced to read paragraphs over once I hit an incomplete sentence so I could figure out exactly what he was trying to say. But overall it was good, I enjoyed it. There I said it.

This week I finished Old School. The first half of the book was pretty good. After recently reading Portrait of the Artist I was sort of feeling jealous of boys who went to fancy prep schools and this story added to the feeling. The feeling never really went away but once Ayn Rand shows up in the story it feels a lot less like a novel and more like an essay on particular authors' styles and overall themes. This became bothersome until I stopped reading it as a novel and read it as an essay. It made for a decent essay. :)

Now I'm starting A Farewell to Arms. I'm excited for this book, but nervous too. I read For Whom the Bell Tolls last year and it became one of my all time favorites. What if A Farewell to Arms can't stand up to it? What if Ol' Papa let's me down? What if? What if?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For My Friends Who Find Themselves Up Late Every Night

From Mr. E. Hemingway.

It was late and every one had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.

"Last Week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.


"He was in despair."

"What about?"


"How do you know it was nothing?"

"He has plenty of money."

They sat together at a table that was close against the wall near the door of the cafe and looked at the terrace where the tables were all empty except where the old man sat in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind. A girl and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.

"The guard will pick him up," one waiter said.

"What does it matter if he gets what he's after?"

"He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago."

The old man sitting in the shadow rapped on his saucer with his glass. The younger waiter went over to him.

"What do you want?"

The old man looked at him. "Another brandy," he said.

"You'll be drunk," the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went away.

"He'll stay all night," he said to his colleague. "I'm sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o'clock. He should have killed himself last week."

The waiter took the brandy bottle and another saucer from the counter inside the cafe and marched out to the old man's table. He put down the saucer and poured the glass full of brandy.

"You should have killed yourself last week," he said to the deaf man. The old an motioned with his finger. "A little more," he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile. "Thank you," the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

"he's drunk now," he said.

"He's drunk every night."

"What did h want to kill himself for?"

"How should I know."

"How did he do it?"

"H hung himself with a rope."

"Who cut him down?"

"His niece."

"Why did they do it?"

"Fear for his soul."

"How much money has he got?"

"He's got plenty."

"He must be eighty years old."

"Anyway I should say he was eighty."

"I wish he would go home. I never get to bed before three o'clock. What kind of hour is that to go to bed?"

"He stays up because he likes it."

"He's lonely. I'm not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me."

"he had a wife once too."

"A wife would be no good to him now."

"You can't tell. He might be better with a wife."

"His niece looks after him. You said she cut him down."

"I know."

"I wouldn't want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing."

"Not always. This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling Even now, drunk. Look at him."

"I don't want to look at him. I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who must work."

The old man looked from his glass across the square, then over at the waiters.

"Another brandy," he said, point to his glass. The waiter who was in a hurry came over.

"Finished," he said, speaking with the omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. "No more tonight. Close now."

"Another," said the old man.

"No. Finished." The waiter wiped the edge of the table with a towel and shook his head.

The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip.

The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.

"Why didn't you let him stay and drink?" the unhurried waiter asked. They were putting up the shutters. "It was not half -past two."

"I want to go home to bed."

"What is an hour?"

"More to me than to him."

"An hour is the same."

"You talk like an old man yourself. He can buy a bottle and drink at home."

"It's not the same."

"No, it is not," agreed the waiter with a wife. He did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry.

"And you? You have no fear of going home before your usual hour?"

"Are you trying to insult me?"

"No, hombre, only to make a joke."

"No," the waiter who was in a hurry said, rising from pulling down the metal shutters. "I have confidence. I am all confidence."

"You have youth, confidence, and a job," the older waiter said. "You have everything."

"And what do you lack?"

"Everything but work."

"You have everything I have."

"No. I have never had confidence and I am not young."

"Come on. Stop talking nonsense and lock up."

"I am of those who like to stay late at the cafe," the older waiter said. "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."

"I want to go home and into bed."

"We are of two different kinds," the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. "It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe."

"Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long."

"You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves."

"Good night," said the younger waiter.

"Good night," the other said. Turning of the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of course but is is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be they name they kingdom nada they will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.

"What's yours?" asked the barman.


"Otro loco mas," said the barman and turned away.

"A little cup," said the waiter.

The barman poured it for him.

"The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished," the waiter said.

The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation.

"You want another copita?" the barman asked.

"No, thank you," said the waiter and went out. He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slow Going

I signed up for a writing class. I've done once before and it kept me writing more frequently--I'm hoping for a repeat (even if I don't learn a thing).

And another thing, if you haven't seen a shooting star recently maybe you spend too much time looking down, or indoors (as in my case).

One last thing, it's taken five or six months but I've finally--thank you God--reached a point where I'm reading as much as I did when I had a long commute. It was so hard to get into the habit of reading at home. I feel accomplished now. That is all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Delayed Valentine

I was driving through the City with my mom, aunt and Robyn following behind me (sometimes two cars are necessary). While I was driving NPR was playing a repeat of This American Life from Valentines. It's about love, not the lightening strike type of love, but love that has last a long time, long after lightening has struck. I didn't hear the whole thing but I did catch Richard Bausch reading his own short story. It was good. You can find the whole episode here:
349: Valentine's Day 2008
The short story starts around 8:30.

Monday, February 18, 2008

That Night

He laid on his back the remainder of the day with his hands in the grass, rows of soft blades peeking between his fingers. Here I will lay until she returns.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. He counted in his head. Repeat. He watched the sun creep across the river. He watched the occasional boat slide silently by. He let the flies land on his arms. Ants crawled through his hair. Sweat slid down his temples. A rock settled into his back, just behind his heart. The sun set. His body ached; he did not move the rock.

The summer night wasn't too cold. He didn't begin to shiver until he saw the reflection of the moon in the water. Above him bats and moths flew through the air, he could see their abrupt dance as they passed in front of the moon. Sometimes two would collide, without a noise, and only one would fly away.

A moth landed on his shoulder. There it sat for an hour, maybe more. He had counted to ten 400 times before the moth spoke.

What are you doing here?

Admiring the river.

It is a nice river. It'll be here tomorrow.

How do you know?

I've been flying over it for millions of years.

And it will be here another million years?

It'll be here long after you're dead.

He sat silent for a minute.

But maybe not?

Anything is possible. I'm only a moth.

The moth spoke again.

There are many rivers.

But look,
he pointed across the water, this one is so wide you can't see the other side.

It is dark.

Even in the day light.

I wouldn't know. Have you seen the other side?




So you don't know much about it.

The boy sat up to peer across the water. The moth flapped its wings a few times, barely taking to the air, and then settled back down on his shoulder.

Have you heard of the Nile? It feeds millions of people.

It is very far away.

Have you heard of the Amazon? It's so long it would take me a year to fly its length.

But is it as beautiful as the Mississippi?

It has its own beauty.

Yet here you are, flying.

It is the way of things. I must go.

The moth flew off. He watched it disappear into the night. He moved a hand through the compressed grass where he had been laying all day and found the rock. He stood, moving the rock between his fingers.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten
. He threw the rock at a soft angle and listened to it skip across the water before it sunk to the sightless bottom.

Later that year he boarded a plane to Brazil--he had to see the Amazon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day

That's all.

Also I added links to the rest of my family off to the right. Now it feels a little more like home around here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Next Morning

He paused at his front door. The air was humid, the katydids were already awake, singing their song. He stepped off the porch and walked through the morning sun back to the river.

There he sat the rest of the day awaiting her return.

She never came.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


We ran so fast the soles of our shoes flew apart, one small little piece at a time. Before our eyes and hearts we saw stars and planets and diamonds and doves and sunlight and dolphins and fireworks and mermaids and snowflakes and acres of peach trees and bolts of lightening and mountain-tops and we heard waves crashing, kids laughing, dogs barking, life moving--it sounds like this ffffffffft, can you hear it?--and then it all fell down around us. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. "What happened?" "What happened," they screamed (with tears in their eyes).

He smiled. "Do you believe everything they told you, all the stories?"

She smiled too, "Yes, even the bad ones."

Our eyes still hurt from looking at the lightening and stars.

We sat on the east bank of the Mississippi. The sun lazily crept behind the tree tops. Its light filtered through the leaves and branches, barely touching her face, as if hesitating, worried it might not be worthy. What remained, the light that didn't stick to her skin, I herded in to small pools with my eyelashes. If I squinted just right the rest of the world turned into star-bursts, with her in the middle.

"You stare a lot; didn't your mama teach you any manners?"


With her in the middle... The Mississippi was grand. The sun was radiant. The wind was perfect.

Our shoes were useless after running so far so fast. "Let's swim." (It doesn't matter who suggested it, but it was her.)

She dove into the water and it parted as for a queen. This is her river; it had meandered through North America for millennia waiting for this moment, for her to jump into it, to wrap its cool waters around her shoulders, to wet her hair and create swirling currents and eddies around her body. It could dry up now, having fulfilled its purpose.

I would never be able to match her graceful entrance into the water. I climbed a tree and jumped off of it like a fool; it was better this way, better than trying to mimic her beauty, or trying to claim the river as my own.

A flock of sparrows flew over head as she swam close. Finally. She placed her lips to his and she knew she'd found love. Finally.

What a river. We renamed the river Love. We planted our flag in it. Claimed it as our own (but really I knew, in my heart, it was only hers). And I made a speech, floating on my back: Here Love will always flow. Here Beauty will always grow. Here God will always know. She spat a fountain of water on my belly and said, "Amen."

And then she swam back to the shore, put her wet feet into her broken shoes and ran away from the river. I never saw her again, except in dreams and songs and novels.

Monday, February 11, 2008

And It Will End

The story will be wrapped up in here somewhere.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Story, Maybe

It might start something like this:

I've always been extraordinary at remembering dates. You probably don’t believe me. Go ahead, ask me about an important date. Day my parents were married? October 25th, 1912. Day I lost my first tooth? January 2nd, 1919. Day I graduated high school? June 20th, 1933. Day I lost my virginity? June 21st 1933. Don’t be such a prude—I’m the old woman, not you. I’m going to convince you. Day my first grand-daughter was born? March 7th 1956, 2:31AM. This will do it. What day did our neighbor’s house catch fire and burn to the ground? September 15th, 1942. So many memories lost in that fire, so many memories.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Super Tuesday

My brother's going back to Iraq.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I don't have a single bit of creative energy in me. It's gone missing the last couple weeks.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Filling Holes and Gaps

I'm reading the Great Gatsby now--for the first time--because no one made me read it in high school. Twenty or so pages into it and it's much better than I expected it to be.
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Break

Scheduled Outage From Blogger.com.

Take your break and listen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Everything Explained

For some reason I've received a number of visitors to my blog looking for the meaning of this song. Being a gracious host I will now explain it. This is what the song means, the Gospel of Trapeze Artistry according to Shawn.

First, let's talk about Trapeze Swingers. This is a dangerous job; it's not suited for everyone; if everyone gave it a try we'd have many more dead and injured people on our hands. Second, this song isn't a story so much as a mood. You can traverse it from point A to point B without reaching the destination. Thirdly, it's a song about Trapeze Swingers, not clowns or bankers. There's a place for clowns and bankers in life, but that place is NOT high above a crowd with no nets to catch them when they fall. Remember that.

Please, remember meHappily
From the get go we're told something has ended. We'll be reminded frequently. The story teller's real desire is to be remembered in some positive manner.

By the rosebush laughingWith bruises on my chinThe time whenWe counted every black car passingYour house beneath the hillAnd up untilSomeone caught us in the kitchenWith maps, a mountain range,A piggy bankA vision too removed to mention
Here's some examples of the good times, one can be happy for these can't they? The speaker seems to think so. The second half is the more interesting part. To the casual observer (one who catches them in the kitchen) it's all vague, like a map, mountain rangers, a piggy bank and visions that the observer couldn't understand even if they could see more than the maps and piggy banks.

Please, remember me
Don't forget.

I heard from someone you're still pretty
Ouch, but he probably knew that already. More to the point, it's been long enough since they've seen each other that their physical appearances could have changed.

And then
They went on to say
That the pearly gates
Had some eloquent graffiti
Like 'We'll meet again'
And 'Fuck the man'

And 'Tell my mother not to worry'

This bit is harder to decode. I'm not sure the person actually said these things. Here's my suspicion, they said, "she's still pretty," and then the poor fellow is lost in his own thoughts. And these are the words he heard. We'll Meet Again. A Trapeze Swinger finds it hard to give up the heights. Fuck the man. And all the things he says are impossible. Tell my mother not not to worry. Even in your lowest of times you can't help but worry about mom.

And angels with their gray

Were always done in such a hurry

I'm not sure what the importance of the color gray is here, but I can imagine that if you get to touch an angel, that moment of contact will always feel way too short.

Please, remember me
At Halloween

There's really no better time of year.

Making fools of all the neighbors
Our faces painted white

See they're still having some good times. They can still make each other laugh. But the problem is, as we'll see later, they've given up their Trapeze Swinger outfits and are running around dressed as clowns, or ghosts of their former selves.

By midnight
We'd forgotten one another

And when the morning came

I was ashamed

And here it is, the beginning of the end.

Only now it seems so silly
Hindsight is 20/20: of course he shouldn't have forgotten her at halloween.

That season left the world
And then returned

And now you're lit up by the city

Things change and remain the same, but mostly they changed. Even so, it's true, she's still beautiful.

Please, remember me

He wasn't perfect. Let's not make that mistake.

Disclaimer (I know, a little late): Now that I'm sitting here trying to figure out what's exactly meant I can understand why people searched the Internet to figure it out. I don't feel comfortable with the next couple parts but it's the best I could do. We'll see if I was really up to the challenge.

In the window of the tallest tower call
Then pass us by

But much too high

To see the empty road at happy hour

Leave and resonate

Just like the gates

Around the holy kingdom

With words like 'Lost and Found' and 'Don't Look Down'

And 'Someone Save Temptation'

Sometimes there are problems with too much height. You get way up there and you can't see things you use to be able to see, some of the missing things are simple, like happy hour, others are complex, like the gates that guard the holy kingdom. Then you realize you're not actually that high, but you would have known that long ago if you hadn't put so much stock in the words you found "up" there: "Lost and Found" and "Don't Look Down."

Please, remember me
As in the dream
This comes off as desperation. Just remember the good parts, not all the time, but every once in awhile.

We had as rug-burned babies
Among the fallen trees

And fast asleep

Aside the lions and the ladies

That called you what you like

And even might

Give a gift for your behavior

A fleeting chance to see

A trapeze

Swing as high as any savior

Here he tries to convince her that it was really worth it. It was worth flying. And in a perfect dreamy world perhaps they could have lived aside the lions and the ladies and the heights would have been a savior. But it's a dream, he's already admitted that, and she won't be taken in by it

Please, remember me
My misery

This is different. What does he want? Pity? It's tainting the goodness of all his other memories. Maybe this is where desperation leads. His thinking of the impossible good leads him to misery. Maybe.

And how it lost me all I wanted
It seems to be something else. Had he been happier back then, not because of her, but life, then perhaps things would have been different. Perhaps his misery and sadness drove her away? This is speculation as it does not sound like a trapeze swinger.

Those dogs that love the rain
And chasing trains

The colored birds above there running

In circles round the well

It's hard to make heads or tails of this since the previous line left me scratching my head. These are dangerous activities, much like trapeze swinging. Perhaps there is a certain sadness to the danger a trapeze swinger requires?

And where it spells
On the wall behind St. Peter's
So bright with cinder gray
And spray paint
'Who the hell can see forever?'
And no matter what it is, how good it could have been, or how bad it could have been, or how good it is, or how bad it is, it's still a gamble. We're all trapeze swingers to some small degree, because the answer to the question is "No one."

Please, remember me
He Knows he's been asking too much. Remembering isn't always a walk in the park.

In the car behind the carnival
My hand between your knees
You turn from me
And said 'The trapeze act was wonderful
But never meant to last'
The clown that passed
Saw me just come up with anger
When it filled with circus dogs
The parking lot
Had an element of danger
Here we are, back in real life. The end of it. The final act. He offers her a physical--if not loving at this point--touch, and she can't bare to look at him. All she knows is the the heights were wonderful, but they weren't meant to last. And all of the sudden they were both alone and vulnerable to the world, so much so that the parking lot filled with clowns and ordinary people feels dangerous--no high-wires required.

Please, remember me
Seriously, he's done trying. Things are what they are.

And all my uphill clawing
My dear
He did try pretty hard, but the hill was too steep, or his claws weren't strong enough or sharp enough.

But if i make
The pearly gates

Do my best to make a drawing

Of God and Lucifer

A boy and girl

An angel kissin on a sinner

A monkey and a man

A marching band

All around the frightened trapeze swingers

I don't know what this means. I'll leave it to my readers to tell me what it means. Please leave a comment.