Is It Really All Random? Headline Animator


I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Road Trip!

Just back from a road trip. Round trip Las Vegas, two consecutive days. Drove nine hours. Napped a deuce on arrival. Slammed a little food. Heard music at a club. Slept. Out by 6AM. Drove home. Done. Butt sprung.

Perfect. Locked in car with Sweetie. Sometimes iPod whole way. (Mine. His has too much Tom Petty. And other things.) Not this time though. Sat pretty quiet we two. Traded news. Watched clouds passin' overhead. Listened to road noise. Touched. Smiled. Loved bein' together where no one could find us 'less we say.

Growin’ up, road trips undesirable. Pontiac coupe. Three kids crowded in back. Ducked, contorted, wedged, then slid behind front. Two smoking parents. Windows up. Air conditioner on recirc. Noise from back seat greeted with admonition, “Sit on your hands,” till my father remembered to un-command it. First hands hurt, then burned, then numb. 

Eyes never numbed. Windows never opened. Woulda messed up hair if you’re old enough to know 1960s hair. Mom had one of those little hair-sprayed helmets.

Nope. Didn’t like road trips. Even though Burma Shave billboards were kinda cool.

Sometime in adulthood, found out they were fun. Maybe taking son to Disneyland. “I spy with my little eye…” Making words from license plates. Singing. Hearing son listen to Fisher-Price tape-recorder telling super-hero stories. Beep. Turn the page.

Later Bestie and I took a job with little firm in Carpinteria, Ca. Near Santa Barbara. Lived in Bay Area. Four-ish hour drive to company meetings. Every 8 weeks. Drove together. Chattered whole way. Same stops to pee. Same stops to eat. Off load. On load. For a few years. Same. Always same. 

No money then. Her husband an ex. Mine dead. Important things to do with our money. For instance, raise kids. Decided who drove based on who most needed the .33/mile per diem. Tidy little sum. Ate Burger King value meals. Neither liked ‘em. But couldn’t resist $1.99. Ate what we needed. Tossed the rest. I had Diet Coke. She an iced tea girl. With lemon. If we could save enough, by the end, there’d be a slice of coconut cream pie at Clementine’s on the way outta town.

We thought the pie was the treat then found out it was bein’ together. Hard to say when those trips went from hardship to prize. Two of us clucking. Entire future a maybe. Wide open in front of us. The road, too.

Too poor for cell phones. No ringin’. No interrupting our dreamin’. Best a cappella “Moondance” you ever heard. Later, we had money. Still drove together. Still stayed at cheapo Best Western. Ditched BK Value Meals. Kept all our memories. Kept all our dreams.

Much later, road trip for all time. Ten days. San Francisco to Washington, D.C. And back. Sweetie and me. Son wanted a little table I had, and his golf clubs. No problem. We’ll drive ‘em. Three and half days goin’. Furniture crammed in back seat. Golf clubs in trunk. Ice chest filled with salsa. Apparently no salsa in D.C., so said college boy. Stayed three days. Stopped in Cincinnati, Thanksgiving with friends, on homeward trail. Snow just behind us; nothin' caught our tail. 

Jerky. Raspberry vines. Sunflower seeds. CDs. Lotsa snoozin'. Livin' the life, even had cell phones. Off. Just enough oxygen for two. Sweetie and me. One of those dreams, from times back with Bestie, come true.

Have to wonder. What decidin' was done in childhood. When I was voiceless in the army.  And now, missing something terrific. Joy invisible hiding in what used to be. Wonder. How many kinds of road trips there are in life?

Now. Lookin' for excuses for road trips. Special shine in the eye. Little twitch. Right before someone hollers, “Road trip!” 

Road trips even have a theme song, did ya know? I didn't always. 

Baby you can drive my car…beep beep um beep beep, yeah.

Road Trip: Still Life

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thinkin' Even God Has His Days

Been thinkin’. I know. Scary. It gets pretty random. Not like Charlie Sheen or anything. I don’t claim to have tiger blood. Never thought for a moment I’m a rock star from Mars.

Thinkin' about good things and not so good things. Stuff I like a lot. Stuff that dudn't make any sense at all. Deciding what's worth what.

Puttering. Puttering is good. Playing on the computer, lying in bed this morning with a cuppa Joe. Sweetie brought me a jelly donut. Wow. Super good start to a day. Instant Messenger. Boy’s in Chicago workin’ all day and all night. All of sudden, pops in with ‘how’s your morning?’ Like passin’ each other in a hallway while miles apart. Love it.

Lookin’ out the window. Ladies walkin’. Water bottles and dogs on leashes. Chattering away. Big smiles. Very good.

Kitty running in the grass. Chasing blowing leaf. Yes.

Sleepin’ in worn out pair of Sweetie’s jersey boxers. Hangin down, elastic shot, gotta hike ‘em up so nothing shows; huge, red, Enjoy Coke t-shirt on top. Cozy, yeah. Bright pink toenail polish. All ready for a sunny day and sandals. Perfect.

All that, never even left my bed. It’s 9AM. Holy smokes. Good, good day.

Didn’t even tell you Sweetie’s downstairs finishing the taxes. Know why he’s so anxious to get ‘em done? Well—money comin’ back. A-ha! Ching-ching. Airplane ticket to France all paid for and I didn’t even know it. He’s happy ‘bout the money. Happy to get rid o’ me in fall. Win-win.

On list of what I like, Giants won last night. Playin’ a little torture ball. Of course. What else? If you know the tune, you can sing along now, …talkin’ Gi-ants. Talkin’ Giants by the Bay. Actually, talkin’ magic. Magic by the Bay. Better than good.

Some of this good stuff I give God credit for. Gravity defying daffodils. And George Clooney. God had an outstanding day when he designed George. Maybe close to perfect.

Started thinkin’ about the perfect waste of a day. I have a fairly big brain. Could do worthwhile things. You know, better world and all that. But, even God takes time off.

You don’t believe me? Well, where the heck is he? Wars, and earthquakes, tsunamis and crap. He musta left the building unattended, that’s all I can say. And he didn’t name a replacement while out on vacay. Nobody throwin’ in the bullpen. I like Brian Wilson but he ain’t God, and that beard? You know God dudn’t want anything to do with that.

Not to mention, I have evidence God has bad days. Wanna see it?

He made white camellias. Beautiful flowers, right? Yeah, sure. Bloom in winter, in climate 9W (which is gardening heaven, by the way); flowers turn brown and fall off if they get rained on. Now you tell me, when the heck did it not rain in winter in 9W? Design failure. That goes for white wisteria, too. God had a two-fer that day. Two design failures.

And what about rabbits, and cats, and animals that clean themselves by licking? They get hairballs. Throw up and get intestinal obstructions. Rabbits die. Now, we know there are plenty of rabbits, but God’s not gettin’ off that easy. Design failure.

Artichokes—on the edge. Tasty, oh, yeah. But an entire pile of debris left behind to get to the little heart. When people do that to get shark fins or elephant tusks we call it inhumane, torture, waste. Hold us to a higher standard than God? Hmmm. No. Artichoke is a design failure. We’ll end up doing some kinda bio-engineering then folks will start picketing about radioactive food and all that tomfoolery. God should get marked down twice for that shit.

I’m pretty sure we have a couple of countries that might be considered complete design failures. He’s just too proud to admit it. And I get flipped off for accidentally cutting someone off on the freeway? Sheesh.

I figure if God can take days off, without arranging a replacement, and screw up whole countries, it’s not so bad if I waste time. I’m creating a day to love that any self-respecting do-gooder would hate. One for bad weather. One for good.

Good weather. Easy. Leave attractive boxer shorts on (with requisite Coke t-shirt) move from bed to deck. B.B. King and Eric Clapton come with. Plus book and cat. Sweetie if he wants (after he finds the money). Wait for respectable hour. Make lemon drop. Done. That’s the day. Don’t stop till it’s too cool to stay out there. BBQ anything for dinner. Set it on fire, it’ll be good. It’s not a waste. It’s Godly.

Bad weather. Easy. Leave attractive boxer shorts on (with requisite Coke t-shirt). Stay in bed. Channel surf. Between TLC and E! television find something. Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Hoarding, Buried Alive. What Not to Wear. Say Yes to the Dress. Design failures of their own sort (along with bad weather). Therefore, they’re perfect. Pillage fridge at intervals. Done with or without the lemon drop. Really, I think it’s a Diet Coke day. Order pizza to be delivered. Any kind, it’ll be good. It’s not a waste. It’s Godly.

Gotta wonder what God loves. What he does on a bad weather day. What kinda pizza he orders. Pepperoni? He doesn’t strike me as a vegetarian. Wonder what he’s doin’ on vacation, and why he’s been gone so long. Wonder if he drinks after noon or waits till 5PM. I mean for him, really, it’s 5PM if he says so, right?

Think he’s in a lab somewhere, workin’ on a fix for the failures? The hairballs and the camellias. Hmmm. Wonder. Is he tryin’ to get a message to Brian Wilson to shave his damn beard? I’m not gonna feel bad. I, can waste time. Even God has his days.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Foam Upon the Shore

Perhaps souls speak to each other first. Then the bodies find out. And brain and voice follow with words. 

Maybe it’s timing. Maybe it’s random. Or, I have one of those faces.

Went to see my dad this morning, early. Requested by his doctor to explain different things to him. I speak Dad’s language. Can quell the dark imaginings.

While driving to the nursing facility, someone from there called me. Maybe ten calls in last half day. Needed me to sign more papers. When I arrived the paper array was presented.

On Dad’s behalf I was insulted. He’s not incompetent. Give him a say. I breathed deeply, tried to collect my thoughts. I was pissed. Tired.

Still thinking as two nurses blathered. Still trying to breathe. Finally, I spoke. “I have Power of Attorney in case it’s needed. Please don’t bypass him. He’s competent.” I said other things about batching communication. Did pretty well. Didn’t take anyone’s head off. No EMT required. Authorities. Or straitjacket.

And then as I was about to go into his room one nurse departed. One nurse lingered. The quiet one. Indian. Muted, restrained, dignified manner. Reminds me of Ruby, my son’s friend. Beautiful, expressive dark eyes. Surveying. Searching. Speaks with those eyes but I don’t know what they say.

She asked if my dad had ever been treated at the university. I answered that his tumor was diagnosed there, treatment plan recommended but then he was transferred to our community hospital.

“Oh. My daughter is treated at the university. She is ten. She has a brain tumor. She was diagnosed when she was two. It's a miracle. But I am so scared every day.”

Pinpoint perfect English that Indians are taught in school. Precise diction. Her culture doesn’t share easily. Tend to the quiet. Women speak little. And if, to their own only. She told a stranger. She told me.

I listened. She didn’t cry though I thought she might. Tears edged toward the rim, then she reeled them back. Regained her calm. She spoke of treatment. And sorrow. And fear. And sadness that her daughter knows more about her illness and her medications than anything else.

And I knew something important was happening but not exactly what it was. I knew to relinquish control. Let the moment go where it wanted. Without my interference.

The sea rises. Waves crest and recede in their own time. 

“There is nothing to do but go forward,” she said.

I thought of driving in a storm. When the rain is fierce and one can see only a few feet at a time. There is no looking down the road. Foot by foot into the uncertainty.

Yes, she said, that is what it’s like. “I do not look down the road.

“When the Happy Birthday commercial is on television, I cry. I cry with happiness for birthdays I have had with her that I thought I would not. I cry for birthdays I will not have with her. I understand what that commercial means.”

I have a friend who cries with the cherry blossoms lifted on the breeze. Because they are beautiful and she is there to see them. For one more spring. And her husband who loved them, too, is not.

Hearts also lifted on the breeze. But sometimes razed by recollection.

I could not say anything to ease her pain. But I was off the hook. For she knew so better than I.  

The moment went silent. 

“I know if someone offers a wound like this, it’s a privilege. A gift. I don’t know what I did to earn it. But thank you.” 

In the middle of a hallway, where carts and people passed. We two only.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you.”

A soul made visible. Bathed in daylight. Rather than burrowed in busyness.

And the wave rolls back out to sea. Leaving its foam upon the shore.