Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Morning.  I am sitting in my front doorway with Peabody, hugging his small furry body tight to my face.  I can hear a chainsaw in the distance, a small dog is barking, cars hum down the neighborhood’s streets, people talk to each other.  I can’t make out exactly what they say.  I have had so many moments like this it seems like when I look back over my life, I have always been alone.

In my mind, in an instant, I am sitting just near the fence line on my parents’ property, I can hear the wind, the cars on the highway.  The ground, hard yet slippery, with loose topsoil underneath me.  I can feel the tension of waiting for my mother to call.  I can feel the precariousness of having no solid rights to support me.

Then I am at UC Davis, sitting outside Sproul Hall, the cement hard and cold beneath me.  Bicycles tick tick ticking by me, the hum of fans nearby, the murmuring of students talking.  I take a sip from a small carton of chocolate milk, wonder why it tastes so different from chocolate milk you mix yourself.  I am eating lunch outside my next class, which is still 40 minutes away.

Next I am sitting on the floor near the bathroom at the hospital.  I am so tired the air feels thick like maple syrup around me.  My palms, braced against the carpeted floor, are damp with sweat.  The back of my head, my shoulder blades and my butt cheeks brace against the wall.  When I blink, my eyelids choose to stay shut longer than normal 50 percent of the time.  A nurse passes me, taking a second to enquire if I am all right before she moves on.  I answer yes, but in reality, I feel as if I am caught in the travel portion of a very long vacation at which I never arrive.  One floor above me, my father, who has recently had a stroke and who I have come to visit, sleeps.

Snap, I am in my living room, Daryl is half a world away, taking a plate full of food to his daughter while I sit and wait.  Skype makes the computer speakers whirl like something with a cyclical motion has been set off speed.  Impact seems imminently ahead.

Waiting.  My life is composed of waiting, moments waiting, hours waiting.  

As If Underwater No 3

Is there a dog out there?
Even as my father asks the question and I answer, "Archie, you mean is Archie out there?"
I wonder.  Does the world exist for him as bursts of time and as each moment breaks to his surface, is he a stranded time traveler left to assess his territory?   If we stopped coming by, a few caregivers from now, would he no longer have a dog because he no longer remembered to let him back in at night?  Could the dog wander away due to neglect and loneliness and my father would cease to remember his existence?
Or is it simply he has momentarily forgotten Archie's name and is trying to verify his dog's location?  
Moments later he asks if I will let the dog out.  When I rise to my feet, he turns and tells Archie, "There she'll let you out.". Is it my imagination or is his tone not like that which you use with a dog, but more like speaking to another human?  I flash on a month or two earlier when Archie was drinking the pond water and my dad yelled "Hey you!  Stop that!"
It creates the illusion that we foisted a dog upon my father.  Of course, that's because I know.  His dog, my dad's true dog, was Mike, who had been dead less than a year when my mother pushed my father into buying Archie.  Her intentions were good.  Retired, not getting younger and getting set in his ways, if they waited too long, my father would never have a dog again.  Did my mother foresee a time when she would be gone and his only solace would be his dog?  If so, she got it wrong by one dog.  Archie was a dog, but Mike was my father's soulmate.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


My grandmother used to tell me she dreamt in technicolor like she had a super power. 

I didn’t have the heart to tell her we all did.  

I’ve always wondered why she thought it was a special ability.   

Was it the number of black and white movies or television she watched?  

Maybe sometimes she dreamt in black and white . . .

Now that would be unique.  

The things I wrote to you and about you

Aren't mine anymore

They relocated to a neighborhood

Where all the things we wish were true
Walk the streets with all the things we're glad are not


thoughts you can't quite remember, stuck
almost on the tip of your tongue

In an instant

I realized life is just one long moment.  

A long, run on sentence that only has punctuation at the end, yet makes perfect grammatical sense.  

I realized that in whatever the algebraic formula would be, we are x, always the same.  Always us.  Sitting on a tangent of y.  Which somehow always looks like it is a path, but is really just one point.  Like that vanishing point in a photograph or drawing.  

That is ridiculous obvious bull shit, except that it is everything.  

I am the same me who sat just as I sit in my bedroom, staring blankly at the calendar still set to Enero when we are now in Martes.  At 5 I stared at something else.  Maybe it was a teddy bear who had a bit of fur stuck together or missing.  Maybe it was a space in the grout on the bathtub where mold was just starting to step in.  Whatever it was, then, just like now.  Caught in a moment.  Caught in my thoughts which for that brief instant are actually no thoughts.  Except for that awareness in that instant of the fact that I was caught, staring at the tiniest of details with me.

In that moment.

I’m always alone.  My perpetual state.  In my head.  In my skin.  

If it is true that we are each a bag of molecules without the bag.  
When you and I rub ourselves together chasing those good feelings.  Chasing that cum.  
Perhaps a molecule of you could get mixed in with a bunch of me.

In that way, I could keep you.  Take you inside.  

Integrate you 

so that part of what I really love about you 

could be part of what I love 

About me. 

You know them

demanding attention

look at me look at me look at me 

I will not be ignored

the cries of those who do not reflect

but only absorb




you know them, they’ve sucked your breath from your mouth while the world burned around you, they push you down like you’re their handrail

brace me
support me
help me 

and you try

you are the very best handrail money can buy
stainless steel
rigid with purpose and intention


All is rhythm
And reflection

Get it wrong

The next layer fails to happen

A Rube Goldberg experiment

Left on auto play

The larger universe
Encapsulating our universe

A dead and deserted world
Of automatons
Loss ball bearings
Bump into
Our intentions

Nothing personal

Sometimes life flows 
So perfectly
It is as if you have
God's hand up your ass


At our best it is us 
who powers the universe
pistons pump 
drive the little ball bearing 
to the next domino drop


why things never happen
when put into place

things must fall

an airborne moment of trust
the second between 
the known 
and the known


not forced 
or begged
not fought for 
or won

nothing that can be taken from us 
by anyone 

honestly . . .

does the last domino to fall

question the hand that started the motion?
or does it simply skid and slide as momentum carries it

across the table

You should have heard him just now ....

My father, 

Saying, “I opened a savings account?” 

In absolute disgust 


Christmas.  Driving home from my father’s, after an awkward day where he pretends to be himself, but isn’t quite, I spot a flock of starlings twisting over the vineyards just out of Calistoga.  It is a miracle I have wanted to witness since the moment I was aware such a thing was possible.  Starlings fly in a mass of swirling, morphing shapes, more like a smoke cloud than a congregation of creatures.  We pull over, I get out of the car and I experience at least five minutes of exquisite sound and beauty that is almost indescribable.  I thought I touched the record sensor squarely and soundly enough to start the iPad recording, but I find out, as I notice the starlings beginning to drift further and further from me, I didn’t.  Instead I record the moments in between the moments I actually wanted and record several yards of asphalt road instead.  The day has been awkward and sad, a chick flick’s movie of the week rather than the delightful children’s story that would be the ideal.  The starlings have been the only moment full of surprise and joy.  

A gift forever locked in my head, not on digital or analog medium. 

When he had tried to brush her aside ....

She clung to him like that bit of snot 
you sometimes catch on your hand 
when you touch the end of your nose.

It usually manages to stay there 
until you brush it against 
some other surface.  

Today I watched "Marty" with Ernest Borgnine

Marty's aunt in the movie is 56 years old and she acts as if her life is over.
The whole movie makes me just stare 
So innocent, yet so cruel.

As a kid …  I developed a crush on Marty …
Not a romantic crush, I just liked to watch his movies.  He made me happy   
He looked a bit like my dad, except he was softer and warmer, smiled and laughed a lot more.  

I don't think I almost ever saw my dad laugh where I wasn't the butt of the joke.

Sometimes I think I miss Ernest Borgnine more.

It feels stupid to admit I can miss people I've never met.

In a way …  it is like every human being is their own little radio signal .  .. that can be appreciated and enjoyed ….  and it is sad when ones I found rich with wonderful aspects … suddenly go off the air .  .  never to delight with their special taste again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

As If Underwater No 1

There are human experiences that can't be written.  You are sitting next to a huge koi pond with a fountain.  That noise, not quite "babbling," not rain, what do you call it?  Is there a word?  Could it ever really capture all of the nuances of the actual experience?

Every time I try to write about my father, I return to that koi pond, that fountain, that noise.  I know that I am close to something important.  I know I have something to say.  I just don't know what it is yet.

So I sit by the koi pond.  I'm in a pink, stained and faded deck chair on the left.  My dad's on the right, sitting in blue.  

"What happened here?"  He says, brushing his hand against my chin.

Normally, even if I don't betray it outwardly, I shrink away from my father's touch.  It is not a question of abuse, but more the near constant bullying of the largest kid in the room.  Always the largest kid in the room.   But, in this instance, his touch signals something else.  It is the first time he has noticed something about me that didn't directly relate to him in weeks, if not significantly longer.  

"Bug bite," I say and proceed to show and document every bug bite and it's corresponding mark all over my body.  

For more than a year, my dad's consciousness or level of awareness has faded in and out like a target blown by some unknown wind.   Words have shifted in usage as if concrete meanings have yet to be assigned.  Sine-aid, an over the counter sinus medication, has become the "go to" pinch hitter when no other word volunteers.  It doesn't seem to matter much.  I've never claimed to understand my father.  In many ways, it is as he has been shouting "Sine-aid" for years.

I know that for my father, family always comes first.  

"Friends will come and go, but your family is forever."

Back in the days when they still had me snowed by the "if you lie, we will always find out the truth in the long run" this seemed like an unfair curse. I envisioned lifetimes spent with these people.  You couldn't suicide from something like that.  I'd look at other families and long to move in with them, if only in the afterlife.

Now, my actual family diminished to just the two of us, only child to only child,  it promises a certain freedom I've never had before.  The chance to build a family rather than ....  What?  Be enslaved by one?  Trapped by one?  Saddled?  Locked in a hopeless struggle of co-dependence with one?


At least finally now, rather than my being the stupid one in the conversation, rather than my being the cause of all of the problems he is suffering, he has seen me.  In a moment of isolated clear vision, he has seen me.  

Nagging voices tell me to speak of the stroke.  

"You're being unfair to your listener.  When are you going to tell them about his stroke?"

My father had a stroke, at this point a little more than a year ago.   It is the reason for his mixed words.  It is the reason I have been activated, like a sleeper cell, to handle his affairs.  

I dare to hope I am more than a suicide bomber.  I dare to hope for a life after my life's mission has been accomplished.

For now, I sit next to a 9 foot kidney shaped koi pond where I once taught myself to dive and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings at my parents' house as if for the first time.  The light winking at me through oak and pine and fir is golden and beautiful.  That sound without a name caresses my hearing.  My bug bite recitation finished, I smile and my father smiles back.  It is only a moment.  A moment made even briefer by contrast, but it is no wonder I sense there is something to say, that I have witnessed something important.

"made of a unique self healing composite material"

I should want you

To heal, smooth

Like a reusable self-healing cutting board


I want to leave a mark

When I smell your laundry detergent

Or taste your favorite beer

I think of parallel universes

The Night Bus

Harry Potter has just boarded The Night Bus.

My father alerts, "What is this?"

"Harry Potter"

"It is not."

"Yeah, it is."

"I don't consider this Harry Potter."

Bread Crumbs

It’s one of those days where pithy people would say, “Why, you’d complain if I hung you with a new rope.”

I’d smile politely and you’d be satisfied.  If you were the sort who would see past the slightly sick look on my face.

On the tiny television screens behind me someone’s vacation trip to Venice is burning to    DVD.  One DVD.  The trip of a lifetime condensed down to less than two hours.

That’s my day job.  Your memories.  I salvage them and transfer them from videotape to DVD.  Sometimes I’m too late.  The crumbs you carefully prepared from yesterday’s bread have been eaten.  Or blown away.  Your dog or rats broke into the box in your garage or you didn’t realize the attic got that hot.

My mother used to be one of them.  The ones who shrank from the camera and tried to hide.  Oddly she was also a big believer in photos as memories too.  Our family ended up with boxes and boxes of photos with things written on the back like “Me 1959.”


Some bread crumbs are made of stronger stuff than other ones.

I’ve never been sure on the subject of memories.   I once transferred someone’s final answering machine message to CD and made ten extra copies.  She hadn’t known what was coming.  It wasn’t as if she said, “I’m never coming home, but remember I love you.”

Ten copies.

It haunted me for more than a week, the thought of her kids ten years from now, listening to that message.

Over and over and over.

Them trying to make sense of that small snippet of their missing mother’s life xacto knifed out of what would have been just another ordinary day had she not died.  A 27 second bread crumb chosen and mass duplicated to help guide lost children to a place they’ve never been to before, a home where mother was waiting.

I can’t remember what she said.  It seems like I should remember what she said.  Something about running late, I think.

In the back of my mind, my mother stands, warm in 8mm colors, in a doughboy pool, a large beach ball, quartered in different splashes of color, blocks her face.  A much tinier version of me, who doesn’t “get it,” circles her and circles her, trying to see what there is to see behind the beach ball.

See that’s the problem with those bread crumbs, you may wish you had whole wheat or rye bread, but no amount of paint or grooming will add nutritious goodness to white bread.  My mother, hiding behind her beach ball, is a memory.  It is one repeated over and over as she hides behind her hand, a rock, or other people in countless other videos and photos.

Little bits of mold cling to your bread crumbs, changing their flavor and taste.  That mold is a scientific principle called “The Observer Effect,” where simply watching a process in action changes both the action and the outcome.  The minute dad gets out the camera and calls for everyone to say “cheese,” the moment he admired and wanted to capture has already exited the room.

I have a picture of my mother from the night I graduated high school.  No one would hand her a beach ball.  Her face, lit by the harsh camera flash outside on a dark night, is blindingly white.  Her eyes are wild with fear.  I have never been one to hide from a camera.  I stubbornly set my jaw and face the lens, but even without a beach ball, perhaps especially without one, I see my mother’s face look back at me from the glassy print.

If I handed you the photo, said this is me when I was younger, you’d be satisfied.   If you were the sort who would see past the slightly sick look on my face.

In Pursuit of Eckhart Tolle

Today, undo
and redo cornered me
stole my words not money

Leaving me
A Roy Lichtenstein panel
With an empty thought bubble

As If Underwater No. 2

I sit in my parents’ living room.  It’s hot and it’s stuffy.  Anyone else in the room is asleep.  My only company left is “Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles,” a version I first saw, with my father in this same room, just two weeks ago.   When it started playing, just after I showed up at the house, I told my father, “Oh look.  We saw this movie a week or two ago.”  For anybody else, it would have been a subtle hint.  For my father, it was a bone of contention, an argument.  
“No we didn’t.”  
“Sure we did.  Remember?  See look at that guy, remember him?”  
“No.  Who is he?” 
“Well I don’t remember the actor’s name.  But look at him, doesn’t he look familiar?”  
My father turns from looking at me to looking at the television set, already drifting to a negative head shake before he even completes the turn.  
“I remember.” I say.  “Richard E. Grant!  If I’m right, the opening credits will list Richard E. Grant.”  
We stare at the television.  The opening credits begin, peppered liberally with scenes of a murder and the body being found.  Finally, right at the end, the words “and Richard E. Grant” scroll down the screen.
“See?”  I say, turning to look at my father.  
“See what?”
My mother once told me that when her parents died, she felt like she was doing something wrong simply by staying alive.  Or that’s how I interpreted what she said.  What she actually said was that, when her parents died, she felt as if she had stayed in a place, like a room or at a party, after her parents had vocally disapproved of it and left.  I suppose if I had been in an argumentative mood, I could have challenged her.  After all her father died more than 25 years earlier than her mother.  Get your story straight.  They died so far apart, you couldn’t really have been worried about “both” of their approvals.  So who was it?
An excellent argument in debate class, but hardly the answer to give when your mother is confessing something so deeply twisted, it can only be a measurement of how much therapy you may stand to need to pay for in the future.  
No matter, whichever parent, she must be in his/her good graces again.  After her death but before his stroke, my father wore his loss and how much he missed her like a deodorant or a cologne.  It clung to him.  He was never without it.  Now she never comes up.  
Well once.  When I asked him why he watches so much television.  He gave me a look as if I had asked the dumbest question imaginable.  
“Because I can watch whatever I want now.”  
The woman he used to tell me was the love of his life reduced to the woman who hogged the remote.   
On the television screen, Dr. Watson accompanies Lord Baskerville to his family estate.  I look longingly at the remote sitting on the coffee table in front of my sleeping father.  I can’t bring myself to change the channel.  For one thing, I know that the minute I rise from my chair, the sleeping spell that has taken the room will be broken.  For another, I know I am here to visit my father, not watch television.  Somehow, sitting watching something he chose, even if he is sleeping through it, fills that criteria.  Changing the channel to something I might like to see, does not.   
The thermostat, apparently unaware the room is already hot, triggers the heater and as it comes on, my eyes snap open.  I haven’t even been aware they were shut.  I lean forward, my elbows to my knees and focus on the television in an attempt to stay awake.  
After awhile, my father rouses.  
“You know?” He says, catching my attention.  “I think I’ve seen this before.”
I turn and stare at the screen as if all of the possible responses I might give were written there.  
“You know?”  I say, turning back to face him.  “Me too.”

Star Struck

Each and every time
No longer functioning
At a fundamental level

My head full of cotton
My skin goose pimpled
My ears couldn't hear

So full was every breath
With astonishment