1.26.2023 – sugar cinnamon

sugar cinnamon
cayenne red pepper
on toast
mistake this morning

According to quoteinvestigator.com, The 1662 edition of “The history of the worthies of England” by Thomas Fuller attributed King James as saying, “he was a very valiant man, who first adventured on eating of Oysters; most probably meer hunger put men first on that tryal.”

I had something new for breakfast today.

Not oysters.

And not by choice.

My coffee and two as in two slices of toast was new by mistake.

And when I say mistake, I truly mean mis take as I mis took the wrong spice from the kitchen cupboard to spinkle on my toast.

I know what you are saying.

And if you aren’t saying it, you are thinking it.

Didn’t I notice the color?

Didn’t I notice the smell?

CAN’T YOU READ for cry’n out loud?

All good questions and all suppose a level of awareness in the morning that I rarely achieve nowadays until about noon or later.

I think I was a very valiant man if maybe not the first to try cayenne red pepper on toast.

I may not be the last.

But it was the only time for me.

At least, so I hope.

11.22.2022 – I was downwind from

I was downwind from
camp and the odor of their
soup drifted to me

Adapted from the passage written by John Steinbeck in his, 1962 book, Travels with Charley where Mr. Steinbeck writes:

Fortunately the tents and trucks and two trailers were settled on the edge of a clear and lovely lake.

I parked Rocinante about ninety-five yards away but also on the lake’s edge.

Then I put on coffee to boil and brought out my garbage-bucket laundry, which had been jouncing for two days, and rinsed the detergent out at the edge of the lake.

Attitudes toward strangers crop up mysteriously.

I was downwind from the camp and the odor of their soup drifted to me.

Those people might have been murderers, sadists, brutes, ugly apish subhumans for all I knew, but I found myself thinking. “What charming people, what flair, how beautiful they are.

How I wish I knew them.”

And all based on the delicious smell of soup.

Maybe it’s the thought of the smells of Thanksgiving that brought this passage to mind.

In a recent New York Times Opinion Piece (Nov. 20, 2022), Pamala Paul asked, Is There a Problem With Thanksgiving? and answered her question with:

We could start with the base-level perennials — the godawful travel, the risk to one’s diet, the cousin who is loudly certain that someone has slipped gluten into the gluten-free stuffing.

There’s typically a grievance against the potatoes: the format, mashed or casserole, whether or not to marshmallow, why is there never enough.

Someone has canceled at the last minute; someone nobody invited shows up anyway.

At least one child refuses to sit at the kiddie table, the teenagers refuse to put their phones down at whichever table, an uncle insists on watching the football game at the table.

The table itself looks nothing like tables on Instagram.

Notice she doesn’t touch on the smell.

Think of all the issues named by Ms. Paul.

Then think of all the delicious smells of Thanksgiving.

Don’t you think about anyone connected with those smells that charming people, what flair, how beautiful they are?

And all based on the delicious smells.

11.12.2022 – boy howdy! he could

boy howdy! he could
put a puck in the ocean
from Battery Park

In 1977, David Wallechinsk published a book titled The Book of Lists

The book (according to Wikipedia) contained hundreds of lists (many accompanied by textual explanations) on unusual or obscure topics, for example:

  • Famous people who died during sexual intercourse
  • The world’s greatest libel suits
  • People suspected of being Jack the Ripper
  • Worst places to hitchhike
  • Dr. Demento’s 10 Worst Song Titles of All Time
  • Breeds of dogs which bite people the most, and the least

The book was a hit and like most hits, spawned several shelves full of clones/

The one on my mind this morning was titled, The book of sports lists by a Phil Pepe and Zander Hollander.

On page 214, under John Halligan’s 10 Greatest Hockey Flakes was entry number 5 that stated: Fern Gauthier — They said he couldn’t put the puck in the ocean and, from New York’s Battery Park, he proved them right. His first shot hit a parking sign.

Don’t ask me why but this factoid was on my mind when I woke up this morning.

I always liked the poetry of this short statement.

It was magical.

But was it true.

I realized that with all the money and effort spent on constructing the Information Super Highway I had the resources available to check on the story.

So I did.

Sorry to report that while the event of Mr. Gauthier TRYING to put a puck in the ocean from Battery Park did, in 1947, take place, Mr. Gauthier DID NOT hit a no parking sign on his first try.

In fact, with fellow Detroit Red Wings’ Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Marty Pavelich along as witnesses and with Lew Walter, the reporter for the Detroit Times who had written that Fern couldn’t shoot the puck into the ocean even if he was standing at the water’s edge, Fern set out to show what he could do.

In defense of Mr. Walter, he claimed he was repeating what he heard Gauthier’s team mates say.

In New York for a game with the Rangers, they all went down to Battery Park where one version was that Gauthier fanned on his first two tries and here’s how:

1. On the initial shot, a passing seagull — thinking it was a gift biscuit — nabbed the puck in thin air and the rubber never hit the water.

2. On the follow-up drive, the puck eluded the ocean because it landed on a passing barge.

3. Fern shoots! (splash) he scores!!

Another version and probably the true one is that Gauthier put puck after puck into the water.

Mr. Walter would write, Fern proved not only that he could put the puck in the ocean.

So it did happen but Fern DID NOT hit a No Parking Sign,

Fern proved he COULD put a puck in the ocean from Battery Park.

10.21.2022 – standing here tonight

standing here tonight
I’m afraid that I don’t hear
a thing just silence

Readers of this blog, bless their hearts, will be familiar with the fact that throughout my day I listen to an online radio station from London, ClassicFM.

There was a time when American college radio stations fulfilled the role of sources of classical music on American airwaves but then somewhere in the 1990’s (why does that seem so long ago) someone made the decision that college radio stations should move in the direction of AM talk radio.

So I discovered ClassicFM.

There are many things on the plus side to listening to a radio station for London, not the least of which is that those folks are 5 hours ahead of us (or 4 depending on whether or not we are saving daylight).

I like to say that this 5 hours difference gives me confidence to go on, as somewhere in this world someone has already made it through the next 5 hours.

Of late I keep thinking about how they, the Brits, are ahead of us.

Are just 5 hours ahead of us.

The point being, what happens there, is on its way here.

For me, I have to say, that the Brits Prime Minister lasted but 45 days on the job, is a bit chilling.

The Brit Conservative Party was started in 1834 and their latest leader lasted less than 2 months.

Avoiding comment on the reasons and everything but the fact that the leader lasted less than 2 months, it got me to thinking.

It got me to thinking dark thoughts.

Understand this moment by itself would have been grim but lets just look at the headlines.

This country is facing one of its most divisive elections since the Civil War when half the then country said SEE YOU LATER. (Then Abraham Lincoln said, NO SO FAST)

What might have been a border war in the long history of this sad world is threatening to expand its borders in ways too unimaginable to not be imagined.

The ability to house the citizens of this country is disappearing in the rush to build vacation homes for some of the citizens.

The ability to feed, clothe, employ and educate the citizens of this country is drying up as the Government of this country shows, less and less, the desire to feed, clothe, employ and educate the citizens of this country.

Mother Nature, after centuries of neglect, looks to be warming up to show everyone that, boy howdy, payback’s a bitch.

It all got me to thinking of a movie.

A movie called Margin Call.

A movie about how in 2009, the bill came due.

Almost by accident, one of the minor characters in the movie runs some simulations and learns, to his dismay, that if current trends continue to decline, the company he works for will be worthless in about 2 months.

This feller alerts his boss, who tell his boss, who tells his boss, who calls the big guy at the top.

The big guy shows up and the feller who discovered it all explains his fears of continued decline in the market, that the music of making money is slowing.

The big guy looks at the assembly of bosses and under bosses and looks out the window and delivers this short hamletonian soliloquy.

Do you care to know why I’m in this chair with you all?
I mean, why I earn the big bucks?
I’m here for one reason and one reason alone.
I’m here to guess what the music might do a week, a month, a year from now.
That’s it.
Nothing more.
And standing here tonight,
I’m afraid that I don’t hear a thing.
Just silence.

I feel like I am looking at the top of a snow mountain peak and I can see that an avalanche of snow and ice and rocks has started away up at the top and it is only a matter of time before it all comes down on me here in the valley.

The thing about avalanches, once they start …

I think of this movie.

I think of this country.

And I think of Verses in the Bible.

I think of Psalm 137 verse 1.

I think that By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

And standing here tonight, I’m afraid that I don’t hear a thing.

Just silence.

10.19.2022 – change minds – delicate

change minds – delicate
work- dutch people don’t like to
be told what to do

Fascinating read in the article by Raymond Zhong in the New York Times (10 10 2022), They’re ‘World Champions’ of Banishing Water. Now, the Dutch Need to Keep It.

The sub heading is ‘As climate change dries out Europe, the Netherlands, a country long shaped by its overabundance of water, is suddenly confronting drought.’

According the article, and who am I to question the NYTs, “The Netherlands’ success at getting rid of excess water helped it become an agricultural powerhouse — the world’s No. 2 exporter of farm products after the United States. This year, though, drought and energy concerns caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine have prompted anguished debate about whether it is sustainable for the Netherlands to produce so many of its famous tulips, plus so much cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables.”

Growing up with a Dutch Heritage in West Michigan, I could verify several things in the article.

The story of the Netherlands’ centuries of struggle against water is written all over its boggy, low-lying landscape. Windmills pumped water out of sodden farmland and canals whisked it away. Dikes stopped more from flooding in.

Boy Howdy!

Working in all that boggy land, why do think we wore those wooden shoes!

Mr. Zhong interviewed a Dutch Farmer names Peter van Dijk, who grew, what else. blueberries!

Mr. Zhong also interviewed Gertjan Zwolsman, a policy adviser and researcher at Dunea, a drinking-water company who, in a comment about the bog land now garden spot of Europe as saying, “There is nothing natural about the Netherlands.”

Lastly, Mr. Zhong quotes Mr. van Dijk again, saying “Changing farmers’ minds can be delicate work, “Dutch people don’t like to be told what to do.”

NO KDDING!

10.5.2022 – heartsick with horror

heartsick with horror
to endure infinite
misunderstanding

Adapted from the short passage in the book, Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1929) that reads:

Lying darkly in his crib, washed, powdered, and fed, he thought quietly of many things before he dropped off to sleep – the interminable sleep that obliterated time for him, and that gave him a sense of having missed forever a day of sparkling life. At these moments, he was heartsick with weary horror as he thought of the discomfort, weakness, dumbness, the infinite misunderstanding he would have to endure before he gained even physical freedom.

Heartsick with weary horror.

Discomfort.

Weakness.

Dumbness.

The infinite misunderstanding.

From the pen of Mr. Wolfe (and the editing of Maxwell Perkins), these are the musings of an infant child in a crib.

An infant with all of life to look forward, or at least, look ahead, to an entire life filed with discomfort, weakness, AND dumbness.

The infinite misunderstanding that would have to be endured.

Only to get worse with time.

Only to get worse with age.

As Big Bill put it:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools. the way to dusty death. (Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5)

Still can hear the line from the book, “Shoeless Joe” that says: “I wish I had your passion … However misdirected it may be, it is still a passion. If I had my life to live over again, I’d take more chances. I’d want more passion in my life. Less fear and more passion, more risk. Even if you fail, you’ve still taken a risk.

But more drawn to the line from the movie, Field of Dreams that states: “The man’s done enough. Leave him alone.

3.30.2022 – just ‘not right’ you know?

just ‘not right’ you know?
touch of the flu, a slight sprain
a tad overwhelmed

I am not sure how bad a ‘touch’ of the flu is.

I am not sure how bad a ‘slight sprain’ is.

How much overwhelmed is a ‘tad overwhelmed’?

You got the flu or you don’t.

It’s sprained or it’s not.

If things get worse, are you more overwhelmed?

Then just ‘not right’ does seem to work.

It is not right.

It is not what I would choose.

Is it not all the way to being wrong, well, gee whiz.

Then I think of this line from Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor.

When I was a boy, if I came around looking glum and mopey, [my mom would say], “What’s the matter? Did the dog pee on your cinnamon toast?” and the thought of our old black mutt raising his hind leg in the pas de dog and peeing on toast made me giggle.

Well it might be just ‘not right’ but no dog climbed up on the table and peed on my toast.

And the picture does make you laugh.

And I don’t feel so fluish.

My ankle doesn’t hurt.

And I seem to hold off the incoming tide for a bit.

And I’ll go make some toast.

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a family of 11 kids, we all had our days and we all had our favorite things to do.

My little brother Pete loved to have toast for a snack, morning, noon and night.

We could be watching TV and Pete was gone soon to return with a plate of two pieces of cinnamon toast.

It could be late at night.

Middle of the afternoon.

For some reason it was those moments when our family would return from being somewhere, anyway, the store, a family party, church or anything where we were all gone and we would pile out of the car in fall into the house and Pete would make a beeline for the bread box and the toaster that stick in my mind.

We all knew about his habit.

And we all knew when he made toast.

We all knew because Pete never ever, so far as I know and I will have to check with his kids, learned how to operate a toaster.

Or, Pete like burned toast.

For him, the smell of burning toast was the signal the toast was done.

I don’t know what you remember about your home as a kid but in the days before people started burning popcorn in a microwave, there was few household smells worse than burning toast.

I came to hate and still hate that smell.

I would see Pete get up with the ‘I need toast’ look in his eye and start feeling just ‘not right’ right then.

It made me sick though I am not sure if it was the smell or worrying that I would have to smell it the rest of the night.

And then Pete would get up and burn some more toast.

He would come back to the TV room with his plate of charcoal and I would ask him, why, why do have to burn it.

I think I even offered to make toast for him.

I can smell it to this day.

The next time I am feeling just ‘not right’ you know? A touch of the flu, a slight sprain or a tad overwhelmed, I am going to think of a dog coming in a peeing on Pete’s toast.

Not sure what good it will do but I bet it will sure make me feel better.

3.12.2022 – incongruous range

incongruous range
of turmoil and misery
and stupidity

These last weeks have made it difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

I watch TV and its about the war we can’t do much about.

I pick up one book and suddenly I am back in the refugee crisis caused by the Spanish Civil War.

I pick up another device and without any indication of where I was going, I find myself in Carville, Mississippi and learning about a US minimum security prison that shares housing with the national leprosarium because all persons diagnosed with leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in the U.S. were required, by law, to be quarantined and treated there.

While at the same time, my job is to sell sunshine and beaches online.

Going mad, using both definitions of the word at the same time.

You bet it has been difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

Good gracious, but what is wrong with me today?

What worked for me in the past was to get back to the roots of all this and focus on word usage in my reading.

I came across this line from the book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton,

I have been avoiding this book because no matter how I try I cannot get into Proust.

The legendary Civil War writer Shelby Foote loved Proust and claimed to read the complete In Search of Lost Time (all 9 or is it 10 or more volumes) at least 10 times.

But I cannot get it going so I did not want to know how Proust could Change my life.

Anyway I was paging thought the it and there was this:

However brilliant, however wise the work, it seems that the lives of artists can be relied upon to exhibit an extraordinary, incongruous range of turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Now on usage, it is a wonder.

Not just turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Not turmoil, misery, and stupidity that works together and builds on itself.

But incongruous turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Incompatible turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Turmoil that rejects the misery and the stupidity.

Misery that cannot relate to the stupidity and the turmoil.

Stupidity that cannot understand the turmoil or the misery.

All adding to one vile brew in my brain.

And not just incongruity in my turmoil, misery, and stupidity but extraordinary incongruity in my turmoil, misery and stupidty.

In the words of Charlie Brown, THAT’S IT!.

1.26.2022 – I think … I am … does

I think … I am … does
not preclude us from morning
prayer of thank you

Last night was Robert Burns Night.

According to Wikipedia, Burn’s Night is when Scots eat a Burn’s Night Supper or the traditional meal of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).

Never had haggis.

Maybe never will.

Does anyone know if sheeps stomach tastes like bacon?

Haggis is just one of those things I doubt I will ever grasp.

I think the secret of eating haggis must lie in the what renowned Chef Paul Bocuse said in an interview you can watch on YouTube.

Chef Paul was asked when being a chef was the most fun.

“1946, 1947,” Chef Paul said, “People ate anything!”

The post World War 2 era in France and the over all lack of food and those French cooking dishes that were created helped me understand much about French post-war cooking.

That, I think, the amount of available food in Scotland, might explain Haggis.

As they used to say about Chicago, Hog Butcher for the World, “We use everything but the squeal.”

I, as I said, cannot grasp haggis and I also, truth be told, cannot grasp the poetry of Robert Burns.

Alistair Cooke, in his book/show, America, when writing about the word skills of Abraham Lincoln said, “We know that he steeped himself in the subtleties of Shakespeare, the cadences of the Bible, and the hard humanity of Robert Burns.”

Because of this line in the show which I watched when I was 12, I felt I needed to steep myself in the hard humanity of Robert Burns.

I just can’t get there.

Not sure why.

Wikipedia states, “Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.

One of his poems starts out:

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I don’t see the roots of the Gettysburg Address here.

I remember reading about William Shirer (CBS Radio Commentator and author of “Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich“) that he could never, ever understand the attraction of James Joyce until he was at a bookshop in Dublin and happened to catch a reading of James Joyce BY James Joyce.

I may have the reverse affect here as whenever I try to read Robert Burns, I imagine the Michael Palin/Monty Python sketch of a scots poet send up of Burns and it is all over for me and Mr. Burns.

But listening to London Radio, I am made aware of Burn’s Night.

Which brings to mind the famous Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit
.

Which, in english, says:

Some have meat but cannot eat,
some have none that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thanked.

And the last line, And sae the Lord be thankit, got me to thinking about giving thanks.

And thinking about giving thanks got me to thinking about this clip from the movie, St. Vincent.

Cannot watch this clip or even think of this clip, that I do not feel better.

I like the IT Crowd.

I like Moone Boy.

Chris O’Dowd, in this 90 second moment, does his best work from the movie St. Vincent.

The way he rolls with the classroom and maintains control reminds me so much of the way so many of my teachers rolled with me in class and still kept control.

I take my hat off to them and thank God for their presence in my life at that time.

God, Thank You.

For those teachers.

And for so much more.

Neither here nor there, but Katherine Parkinson’s (IT Crowd) jaw dropping performance in the movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made my jaw drop.

Yes I know, O’Dowd is Irish.

1.21.2022 – paradoxically

paradoxically
succeeded in curtailing
concern for others

Adapted from the book, “The pleasures and sorrows of work” by Alain de Botton, (Random House – 2009) and the passage:

In New York Movie (1939), an usherette stands by the stairwell of an ornate pre-war theatre. Whereas the audience is sunk in semidarkness, she is bathed in a rich pool of yellow light. As often in Hopper’s work, her expression suggests that her thoughts have carried her elsewhere. She is beautiful and young, with carefully curled blond hair, and there are a touching fragility and an anxiety about her which elicit both care and desire. Despite her lowly job, she is the painting’s guardian of integrity and intelligence, the Cinderella of the cinema. Hopper seems to be delivering a subtle commentary on, and indictment of, the medium itself, implying that a technological invention associated with communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others. The painting’s power hangs on the juxtaposition of two ideas: first, that the woman is more interesting than the film, and second, that she is being ignored because of the film. In their haste to take their seats, the members of the audience have omitted to notice that they have in their midst a heroine more sympathetic and compelling than any character Hollywood could offer up. It is left to the painter, working in a quieter, more observant idiom, to rescue what the film has encouraged its viewers not to see.

And the painting, New York Movie by Ed Hopper.

Reading the history of the painting on Wikipedia I was struck by three things.

One was the note that “Hopper was fascinated by film, and it is said that, when experiencing creative block, he would stay at the theater all day.

So much community has been lost due to covid and high on that list is the movie theater experience of the big room and the screen, alone in the darkness, surrounded by many.

Though much of this was already lost due to the person next to you or behind you who could not handle the idea that any message they might receive required an immediate response and of course their phone would not be turned off.

Another was the note that fans of the painting and Mr. Hopper have long tried to identify the movie in the painting.

On the one hand easily this is just oh-come-on and just-enjoy-the-painting.

But on the other, for example, when I read an obscure novel and come across an address that lodges in my brain so that years, decades later, reading another novel and this author, for no reason at all that anyone might think, uses that same address and I suspect some form of ‘homage‘ yet one that I may among the few people that get it, I feel I am sitting at a table with both authors.

Picturing yourself at a table with Compton Mackenzie and Jim Harrison is a pleasant picture.

It is a silent picture because if ever I found myself at that table, I am sure that about all the conversation I could come up with would be, “Yes it is warm for this time of year.”

The last thing, I as I read the discussion, was that I noticed that what Mr. de Botton wrote about the painting, that “communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others” that shows up in the painting, shows up in the discussion as well.

There was one comment though.

Others claim that New York Movie and other paintings of city life are Hopper’s ode to the warmth and endurance of the human spirit in the midst of the dehumanizing existence that is mass living.

Somehow these two statements come can come together as:

While communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others, the warmth and endurance of the human spirit in the midst of the dehumanizing existence endures.

I like that.

Almost like being at the table with Alain de Botton and Ed Hopper.

And me talking about the cold rain outside my window.

PS – According to Wikipedia, “Josephine Hopper (Mrs. Ed Hopper) wrote in her notes on New York Movie that the image represents fragments of snow-covered mountains.” Which makes me think that the movie must be Lost Horizons which came out in 1937/.