Joi Tim Kathy Karen Dan Billy Joe
It was a delightful summer's day, nearly 30 years ago. Everyone there was having a relaxed and mellow good time. There was no need to impress anyone, no hustles or scams going on, everyone just living in the moment. Sometimes I think that in a way, that may be the highest state of human consciousness.
We were together again today. We were saying our goodbyes to you Billy, but you know that this party will never really come to an end.
Ya done good Bill. Ya done good.
The rain is crushing the ground.
The rain was crushing the ground today. Like it wanted to tear the concrete apart. I love the way the lamplights were playing in the parking lot, the way the puddles kept rippling and flowing, the cars kept circling, the roof leaking.
I sit and watch the homeless couple eating dinner, radio propped up between them on the table, playing a garbled tune I cannot identify. The ground in front of them fills with plastic wrappers. This couple has been here for as long as I've worked in this place.
They sleep behind the parking lot.
The owners of this space let them.
They've been together a long time I think.
The concrete of the parking lot is so black and wet, it reminds me of the ocean when I went there one night and watched the boats move in the empty expanse of inky blue, their bobbing lanterns the only things visible, looking like they were held up by invisible hangers.
Like perhaps there's a ceiling we can't see.
A ceiling full of hanging chains for us to hang lights and ourselves from.
I talked to my friend today. On my way to work, in the rain. And the pounding of the wipers and the huge splattered drops couldn't drown out the sound of him. I can't think of a way to make his life beautiful again. And it hurt to care about someone who has almost given up. When I'm all the way out here, and I can't do anything, say anything, fix anything. All I have to offer is a phone and a ear.
The sky is awfully black for 7:25 PM. Car lights and streetlights and people. Tail-lights burning a glowing red. People ducking in and out of the rain, hiding their heads and trying not to fall down. Don't we all fall now and then?
The night is just too lovely in its shadows and heat. And our hands are too entwined to worry about things anymore.
The raindrops are falling from the electrical light. It's amusing and dangerous, all at once. But really I'm just sitting here, watching the rain.
As it crushes the ground.
And erases the footprints from before.
Used With Permission
Extreme Kitchen- Baking: In The Dark!
For today's culinary lesson, let's kick it up several notches, shall we? A good cook's kitchen should be laid out in such a manner that the chef could perform in the dark, so: light's out! We'll make pastries tonight, perhaps the hardest of all baking, but with a little care and planning, and the Professor's careful tutelage, everything should work out fine. First, arrange all your ingredients and implements in a logical order.
Next, using a very sharp knife, cut up all the fruit. Use band-aids or a napkin to stop any bleeding. (Hint: you can make an effective tourniquet with a dishtowel and two long wooden spoons.) Add dry ingredients together in mixer, don't worry about the beaters, they'll usually come to a stop before severing any fingers.
Now, assemble pastries and put into the preheated oven. Use Aloe Vera for any minor burns. Use 911 for anything bigger. Check the oven occasionally for scorching; when ready to remove they should be lightly browned.
Finally, remove pastries and arrange in an artistic manner. Yours should look something like this:
Yum! That's all for today's show, be sure to tune in next week, when we'll fillet fish, butcher a hog, and and carve pumpkins: In The Dark!
Walking After Midnight 2
A street lamp is generally not thought of as the most the most flattering illumination. Still, it has its own charm, especially if high enough to evenly light the scene. Nornabúðin, the witch shop in Reykjavík, is transformed from somber to sinister with the change from day to night. But the rest of the street had changed as well- the pebble-dash stucco becomes a theatrical scrim, the brick-paved sidewalks suggest the scales of dragons, the doorway becomes the entrance to Hades.
Or not. Just another commercial/apartment building, the lives of its occupants, for good or ill, go on regardless, this night is the same as all nights. The day will come again, and the mood will change once more. Eva, the resident witch, will rise and practice her subtle craft, and the world will continue turning.
"...and the American Civil War has never ended...at least in the south, anyways."
"It really didn't, they just stopped fighting when they were tired of killing, as is the case with most wars, I suppose."
"Well Lincoln ended slavery, at least the institution of it."
"Although mention Lincoln to an American Indian, and the connotations become quite different."
"The hangings in 1862 are well-known by every Minnesota Indian, Lincoln, to his credit, did spare most of the "enemy combatants"; that was small solace to the 38 who died, after a sham trial, in the largest mass execution in American history."
"But it did end the Indian wars, at least in Minnesota."
"That war has never really ended either..."
Almost Forgotten Conversation
I don't remember how it started, we were suddenly talking, walking, just loitering around Dinkytown. I was on my final go-round as a student at the University of Minnesota, I'd been there off and on from three years, and was losing sense, not gaining it. She, I suspected from our conversation, was on the same track to nowhere. She had been to a rock festival that I had been to the summer before, she described being hassled by the bikers there, she may have spared me all the details. We seemed to hit it off, with a lot in common to talk about. After about an hour of this, I really had to go to work. I didn't ask her for her number. I was (am) kind of slow about using telecommunications to my advantage, I figured that we'd meet again somehow. Of course we didn't.
Walking After Midnight
The cloak of the night sky contrasted with the hard light from the street lamps seems to abstract reality; the rest of the town is dark, save for the sprinkling of street lamps at a distance. Two friends exchange their goodbyes, there is no need to hurry. Down the street the stranger with his antique camera records the scene, and that moment, or a least a shadow of it, is preserved. On some other night, someone else will walk down that street, someone who had seen the photograph previously but forgotten it. The sense of deja vu will be palpable, but it is only a trick of memory, and signifies nothing.
The two-step guide...
... to putting spice back in your marriage.
Step one: Have an affair.
Step two: Your partner finds out.
So, I never said it was a nice spice.
Also, I was suddenly struck by a thought this morning: There is only one night, and there is only one day.
No matter how many years separate you and your past, when night falls tonight, it is the same night that fell when you were born.
I believe we call this... continuity.
Used With Permission
"...I only loved her shadow and cared nothing for her reality." -Leonard Woolf
no strings attached
it's yours, take it from me
I stand here and gaze in wonder
just good thoughts headed your way
nothing to it, no salesman will call
I'm feeling those vibrations
and the whole world resonates
just in time
1146 North Fifth Street
After a protracted adolescence, it was time to move out. A neighborhood friend stopped in one day and said, "Why don't you look in the want ads?" There, in the houses for rent unfurnished, was an ad that read: 2 bedroom house, $80 a month + utilities. Not very much money for a place, even in 1971.
It was not much of a house either, as it was situated only a few blocks away from a sleazy strip of run-down bars. A few more blocks away was the street where several businesses had been burned down in the riot after Dr. Martin Luther King was shot. Still, it was something. Tiny rooms, in an odd concrete structure, but a place of our own. That house, and eventually the one next door (pictured above), and then three more on the next block, would become a de facto center for various cultural activities: a dozen or more musicians, a writer, a potter, a weaver and other artists would all emerge- living, loving, starting up families. It couldn't last forever- twenty years later it would all be torn down by the city for some ill-defined project.
No one who ever lived there would want to return to that existence, yet it is hard to imagine a more vital time, a Bloomsbury in Minneapolis, a Café Society without the café. There are zoning laws against this kind of thing now.
"I know you..."
The speaker was an elderly man who was with two middle-aged adults, presumably relatives. The man was addressing my elderly father as I was escorting him from the parking lot into a restaurant somewhere in southern Minnesota. The other man's companions looked startled. My father, as was his fashion, immediately began the "routine"- "who are you, where are you from, did you ever know so-and-so?" Much to everyone's surprise, the man did grow up in my father's hometown (several hundred miles away) and after a few more questions on both sides it was ascertained that the man had gone to school with my father's brother, and my father had known other of the man's relations, back in the thirties.
We all went into the restaurant, and as we waited for a table, one of the man's children mentioned that the man had a fairly advanced case of Alzhiemer's disease; he remembered little or nothing of his recent history. But he did know a face from the past, and he was grateful for the connection. My father (who is now deceased) would get a little confused about recent events in his later years, but never lost the memories of his past either. Perhaps the moral of this story is to live your youth to its fullest, so that its memories will be a comfort to you in your old age, however I doubt that there are many children who can grasp the concept.
beat that thing
lay down the groove with a lot of space
now a quick roll to add tension
it's your thing, do what you wanna do
sonny bono said the beat goes on
count ossie will live forever in the island beat
your jungle syncopation has done this nation wrong!
heartbeat, its a lovebeat
and the primal...
its all in the beat...
Arguing With Self: Work
It just doesn't seem worth it, sometimes. Why don't I just find a cushy job and coast until retirement?
Like the job you had for the city? Where your brain was rotting nearly as fast as your bigoted co-workers (all of whom are now dead, BTW)?
There's just an awful lot to do, it's like a plate spinning act, running back and forth, keeping just enough ahead to avoid everything crashing...
That's not what you were saying last summer, when it was slow...
I'm just thinking in the long-term... I mean I like working, this job is ok, but...
...but not as thrilling as running a live mix every night? Those days are long gone, you must admit that it drove you to the brink of despair...
Of course, that was a love-hate thing- Loved it when it was good, despised it when it went bad. That murder didn't help any.
In the words of the song: "It's a mean old world". Count your blessings, be thankful that you're able-bodied and intelligent enough to handle what you are doing; people appreciate it...
Yeah, after 35 years I can feel as if I've had enough, but I'm not ready to give it up yet...
Now you're starting to sound like me...
I am you, silly!
Right... Sometimes I forget who has the upper hand...
It really never gets any easier, does it?
It's been worse...
So every break of dawn is like this.
i've cut out my heart with life's dull edge
and set it out on a shelf.
it's nice to look back at sometimes.
it's nice to have it close.
in case I need it again.
they'll think it's just another of my trophies.
it'll be our little secret.
Used With Permission
Hayride With A Nice Girl
Somehow I found myself on a hayride. At the tender age of seventeen, my opportunities for "good, clean fun" had been somewhat limited. I could blame it on my Lutheran upbringing, I suppose, but that hadn't prevented me from having "bad, dirty fun." This was to be different. A nice girl (weren't they all nice?) had somehow invited me to a hayride; I think it my have been her mother's doing- the girl had barely spoken to me before- perhaps her parents had known mine from PTA. What was different about this date was that I knew that she was on the pill- still a bit shocking for a high school student in 1967. We had been on the school newspaper staff which held regular classroom hours. The teacher usually left, so the students just goofed around a lot. Kenny, the zen joker, thought it would be amusing to pretend that the nice girl's purse was a bomb, and that he was a demolitions expert, employed to defuse it. He had taken a eyelash curler from the top of the purse and was using it to carefully remove the rest of its contents, one piece at a time. When he got near the bottom he pulled out a card of birth-control pills. The nice girl was embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as Kenny.
So when I found myself sitting next to her curvy girlishness on a hay wagon one cold November evening, my mind and heart were racing. The tables had been turned on me- I was the pursued, and she was the more experienced (or so I thought).
Evidently my animal magnetism was lacking (to say nothing of my social skills) and the date fizzled out into nothing. Soon after that incident I managed to get kicked off the newspaper staff (due to my underground newspaper) and we never spoke again.
But she was a very nice girl.
Batty The Spy
Just down the street from the apartment I had during my stay in Reykjavík is the Russian Embassy. Being the running-dog lackey of Yankee imperialists that I am, it was my duty to conduct a clandestine surveillance of activity therein. Here is my report:
The facility appears to be a bee-hive of activity. A mysterious pipe extends from the attic, emitting an irregular "brap-brap-brap" disturbing the peace on Garðastræti. A diesel-powered document shredder? Or a cold-war confession-extractor? There were men on the sidewalk throughout the day, once a van pulled up and a swarthy "agent" unloaded black-market items: Cigarettes, beer and packages that could contain secrets, or chocolates, or nylons, perhaps? The yard adjacent to the Embassy was filled with steel I-beams, one day I saw babushka-wearing matrons priming these girders. Another afternoon I saw a man carry some white, square cardboard containers out the rear entrance- microfilm , perhaps? (or maybe just pizza boxes- he placed them in the trash bin...)
One night, as I headed down the hill into the center of town, one of the basement windows (visible in the photo above) was open, and I could hear voices in animated conversation; through the semi-sheer draperies I could see that a dinner party was taking place, with wine, beer and what smelled like delicious food. When I returned, several hours later, the lights had been dimmed and a stereo played emotional Russian music, there may have been dancing...
As was my case, the Embassy staff were also strangers in this strange land, although they probably had fewer options than I did- most Icelanders speak excellent English, I imagine that not so many speak fluent Russian. Coming from one of the poorer countries in the world to one of the most expensive, I'm sure the people who lived there didn't have much in expendable income, a night on the town here is an expensive proposition by any standard. An Embassy and its grounds are considered native soil for its occupants; in it they did have their Russian food and drink, and their Russian music; they were making their few thousand square meters a home away from home.
...confuse the state of being in love with being lonely, and think they are the former when in fact they are the latter; in love with everyone and no one, just because they are without a man. A girl without a man does not know where she is placed. A man comes up to her one night as she stands preoccupied outside a house, and before you know it she goes home with him, where he confides to her everything: nothing. Was that love? No, she had only thrust a gag into the gaping jaws of a ravenous beast which was threatening to tear her apart, a dummy into the mouth of a thirsty unweaned infant: herself. The man was no more than an implement; and if that was wrong, then life itself was indeed the poet-singer's awfullest crime.
The Atom Station, 1948
Endless Summer - Summer's End
Wheresoever I goeth, summer follows, or so it seems. Today it was in the mid 70's, I mowed the lawn for the last time- with the bagger on the mower to collect the chopped leaves for mulch. My latent agrarian instincts emerged and the final harvest has been completed- I'm done with gardening for the year. After I put the mower away and was admiring my vacuumed estate, the wind picked up, the temps started to drop, as well as more leaves from the neighbor's trees. Those leaves will have to wait until April, leaf mold be dammed. Now where did I store the snow shovels?
ELECTION '06 ANALYSIS
THIS JUST IN: Greetings from the Flippist Election Coverage Headquarters. The polls are closed, the results are coming in, for further in-depth reportage we send you over to experienced election analyst Lab Munkay #9 for her inspired take on ELECTION '06...
...well said, Ms. Munkay! We now return you to your regular surfing...
...today I absolutely hate you...
is like letting someone
Used with Permission
Finally, An Explanation
A late afternoon nap somehow stretched into early evening. The chosen couch was next to an unshaded window. Awakening, the full moon shone through the glass, onto the drowsy professor. "I've become a lunatic" exclaimed the stricken man to his significant other, who just shrugged as if to say, "Tell me something I don't know already."
At least there is a reason for it now.
One thousand meters, that is. I recently realized that I had spent eight days In Iceland within a thousand meter radius of my apartment. A very small world, to say the least. Waking to the sound of the Cathedral's bell, going out at night to the venues of the Airwaves festival, shopping, and even swimming at the outdoor pool, all within 1000 meters. While shopping, I had picked up some books at Máls og Menningar, mostly Halldór Laxness titles which were not distributed in the USA. When I returned home I started reading The Fish Can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll) and on the first page I found a small map:
This map was of nearly the exact same area that I had inhabited during my stay. The story concerned itself with young Álfgrímur, an orphan, and his coming of age living on the small farm "Brekkukot" some time around the start of the 20th century. This book is a work of fiction, of course, but the locale of the story's action could not have been any closer to my own explorations if I had mapped it myself. After the Airwaves festival was over, I had spent a few more days in town, much of that time photographing various neighborhoods (within 1000 meters of my apartment, naturally.) One night I shot this view of the old graveyard on Suðurgta (South Street on the map):
According to the book's map, the hut Hringjaraby (where a crucial scene took place), would have been right at the center of my picture.
A very small world, indeed.
More on Halldor Laxness at Laxness in Translation
Saturday Morning Coming Down
Saturday, sometime in the twenty-first century...
And it's another week-end carved up by having to work on Saturday, the traditional "sabbath".
And I'm not complaining, after nearly a year of short hours, it's ok to make a little money.
And Saturday usually is a bit slower paced,
And I'll have a chance to whittle down some of the work that has piled up.
And favorite customers often come in for a chat.
And usually, (but not always) the bosses aren't around.
And, I can't help but feel that the progress of humanity has gone backwards a bit-
And everybody's working all the time.
And this rush of work will abate by Christmas,
And then I'll have a whole winter's worth of weekends off.
And working with one of your most favorite people in the whole world today doesn't hurt either...
"Good morning, welcome to Iceland..."
Those crisply enunciated words greeted me as I answered the phone in a sleepy daze.
What place is this? What is this instrument that is in my hand which I picked up by some reflex action? There is someone talking to me? Such a professional voice- is it a recording? My jet-lagged mind was trying to get into gear, to make some sense of it all...
-"Kristín?" Good guess.
-"Yes, Would you like to get together sometime for coffee? I've got the car..."
-"Oh Yes! Any time, I'm free all day." ...I'm naked, both figuratively and literally...
-"Do you know the bookstore on Laugavegi, Máls og Menningar?"
-"Yes, the one with two floors, I know where it is." Thank goodness, someplace I've actually been.
-"There's a coffee shop on the second floor, met me there at ten o'clock, then?"
-"Yes, I'll be there." Now I am really awake.
-"Be seeing you."
-"Yes, good-bye..." Ten o'clock! It was already 9:20, I had better get myself together!
At the designated time, I was standing on the sidewalk of Laugavegur, idly studying the Icelandic novels on the remainder table in front of M&M books. I had met another blogger in person before, and now, as then, I found myself with that odd feeling, a mixture of high anticipation with just a touch of dread. The voice which I had heard on the phone reappeared, this time embodied in a woman of indefinite age, naturally attractive without make-up, and dressed in casual clothes. My fears evaporated. We went up to the coffee shop, she was having breakfast (Café Au Lait with some pastries) while my stomach, thinking it still 5 a.m., allowed me but a cup of coffee.
There are people whom I find hard to talk to. There are others that I warm up to slowly. And then there are those where the conversation doesn't really start, it just resumes as if you had only stepped out of the room for a minute. When it happens with a person that you've just met, it can be a most enjoyable feeling; it isn't a giddy rush, but it's rather a sense that the world is a good place, that people are good, that our lives can overlap, if only for an hour or two, with conversation and coffee. One problem of meeting a blogger that you've followed for several years is that you know him or her in a very curious way- through their own self-expression and whatever mental image of them you may have constructed for yourself. The rest of the picture- their speech, their manner and body language, is all new. In her case it all came together quite nicely, whereas I may have presented a more subdued persona than is usually exhibited here; I was not Professor Batty, I was only me.
After a couple of hours it was time for her to go, she had an appointment. We walked to her car, through the streets of her childhood, and as we walked she told stories about the houses there, and how she would like to move back into this neighborhood once again, into a "proper house for a family". Days later, as I wandered among these houses they now did not seem quite as foreign- not after hearing about them from someone who fondly called this place home. It was truly a fine welcome to Iceland.
error... lack of memory
too much, much too much
day after day cramming my head full
new sights, sounds, faces
memory will be restored
and then i will start again
much too much...
take it easy
Long walks on the concrete paths.
It will be okay.
Tell me it's madness, I barely know you...
When I look at it, it's been less than a week and I don't even know your last name.
We all barely know each other, but we cross the same pavement. I speak, you speak, and our stories echo each other's.
Less than a week, I must remind myself.
And I can't believe I've lasted so long.
Used with permission