When what I want in the moment, like socialising with friends, is delayed due to unforeseen vocational interruptions, I’ve learned to take a breath, let go of the urgent feeling to be with people I know, and discipline myself to focus on completing short-term tasks to successfully complete long-term goals.
As I swept debris from the front deck this afternoon, a squirrel dropped 50 feet from a broken tree limb onto the forest floor nearby. Plop! It quickly scurried back up the bark of a large oak tree. Somewhere between here and there, the shared space in which we exist, I mentally prepare my next performance piece.
Last time, the performance was spread across this blog and Facebook/Messenger posts, drawing in people I intended to entertain and those who were drawn in by the mesmerising word patterns of writing, speech and their own imaginations. My closest friends knew I was performing. Those on the periphery drew their own conclusions and I didn’t stop them from doing so. I mentally called it, “An Ode to Fake News,” learning more about myself and my longterm goals in the process.
This time, I draw on the past, remembering my fondness for the Quay Brothers, Eastern European satire, David Lynch, Edward Gorey, Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley and E.A. Poe, building props for a comic music video, knowing I will not compete with Adult Swim (barely familiar with its comic tropes) but able to create something I want from my own imagination, for my entertainment as always.
My props will include a domestic dance partner, with computing interface of some sort, probably the Arduino stuff I have but perhaps, based on my budget, an Adafruit device.
I also have a Raspberry Pi setup with a 7-inch display that would perfectly fit the “face” of the domestic dance partner.
Of course, I give a nod to my friends who appear as characters in my stories, “Guin” and “Shelmi,” as well as the many dance partners who gladly give up all pretenses and personal space to share two-minute slices of paradise with me on the dance floor. Inevitably, Erin Kennedy’s robotic work influences me in ways I never expect until I look back and go, “Wow!”
I’ve thought about incorporating music from friends, such as my first dance instructors, Jason and Danielle Knight, who are part of a group called the Harlequin Jazz Band.
This blog has run out of image space so I won’t post images here. I may move over to Google+ and post updates there. The final video will appear on Facebook.
I anticipate this will take a couple of weeks to set everything up but it can easily turn into months depending on my energy level, my attention span, and all the other projects I leave lying around unfinished that I may pick up on a whim.
Thanks to everyone, you know, family and friends, the cat, safe drivers on the road, spiders in the bathtub and tea harvesters. Even the graveyard of empty birdfeeders in the backyard puts a smile on my face when I need it most!
And now, time to drive to that place where I put my life on the line to transport blood products from donors and to hospitals, helping to save the lives of unknown others!
One idea for combining Raspberry Pi 3 and Arduino?: https://blog.adafruit.com/2017/05/26/portable-raspberry-pi-zero-arduino-programmer/
At a house party Saturday night, I spoke with the house owner and discovered he and another party guest had started a literary magazine, “Arête“, at UAH in 2001, in which I was published; subsequently, I recited my writing at an on-campus event they sponsored that year.
That year, also, I fell in love with my music professor (yes, I fall in love a lot), easy enough to do, the perfect Muse — pretty, smart, musically talented, and married. As luck would have it, the music class required writing music reviews and my music professor allowed us to write review of her music performances. Are you kidding me?!
I jumped at the chance to “paint” images of her, her brother and her musical colleagues with words!
Music Review in Ternary Form
A Woman in Red
A piano recital by Dr. Margery Whatley on Friday, 2 February 2001 at 7:30 p.m.
Drove to UAH campus around 6:45 p.m. Walked into building closely followed by an older couple of Eastern Asian descent. Went to use the restroom. By the time I walked up the stairs and got in line to pay for the performance, a few people were ahead of me, giving me a moment to observe the surroundings. On the stairs was a flower arrangement probably sent to the Music Department in honor of the department chair, Dr. David Graves, who had died late last month. I bought a copy of Dr. Whatley’s CD before I entered the recital hall.
The Roberts Recital Hall is walled with sound-absorbing material that is a series of four-foot by four-foot tiles colored yellowish, almost manila in the light. The hall contains 13 rows of seats (and one row of folding chairs at the front) with each row patterned with 4 seats on each side and 10 seats down the middle (4-10-4). The room slowly fills with people of all ages — presumably the older people are here for the cultural event while most of the younger people appear to be college students.
A Steinway piano sits (perhaps, rests) on rollers on the middle of the wooden stage. The piano shares the stage with two floral arrangements, two peace lilies (all probably more memorials to Dr. Graves) in addition to the piano bench.
Two young men sit in the row below me, one of whom is a piano student and wants a clear view of Dr. Whatley’s hands.
The program lists pieces by J.S. Bach, Joseph Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel and Franz Liszt.
What does a pianist do before a performance? I assume the playing I heard in the hall when I went to the bathroom was that of Dr. Whatley practicing.
At 7:15, the lights above the stage were turned on. At 7:21, the recital hall is fairly full, approaching about 2/3 of capacity. A couple of women sit down beside me, quickly glancing through the program. Some people behind me comment about the apparent lack of a reception afterward (because the program does not mention one). It appears that the recital hall will be filled close to capacity by the time of the performance. Some people are even taking seats in the front row.
Again, I wonder what the pianist goes through before the performance. My experience harks back to the middle school recitals where students performed their three- to twenty-minute pieces for their parents. Those of us waiting our turns spent our time counting the mistakes of others. In class, Dr. Whatley said when she makes a mistake she keeps playing as if the piece required the mistake, hoping no one notices. Now a woman of her later middle age sits to my left.
A person steps on stage to announce that “everyone please crowd in because it will be quite crowded.” The women on both sides of me take off their coats. They seem to know many people in the crowd around me. One has the accent of this region. The other seems to have the accent of say, Connecticut (she talks about renovating her home while the Southern one talks about the clothes she has on).
At 7:34, the recital hall is essentially filled. I forgot how much I detest a crowd. Well, the lights dim – must be time. The crowd quietens. The lights dim more. A door opens on stage and the pianist steps out, nodding gently to the crowd as she makes her way to the piano. She wears a red, sleeveless dress that probably complements an orchestra full of people dressed in black.
Toccata in D major, BWV 912, J.S. Bach
Lively beginning, then cadence followed by walking pace with two voices that play with each other. The performer sits slightly bent over the keys, spending the time looking down at the keys. The music would sound good on harpsichord.
The next section of music is very emotional…dramatic, as if a man was telling his wife, in a silent movie, that he had to go off to war. Then the piece picks up at a lively pace, like the wind playing off a field of poppies and then across the tops of trees, across the deep blue of a Canadian lake, ascending the heights of the Rockies and then down to the ocean.
The next section is so mesmerizing that I can hardly take my eyes from the maddening pace of the piano player.
Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI:52, Joseph Haydn
The pianist adds commentary before playing this piece. Turns out that Haydn was a pretty good friend with Mozart. While waiting for the lights to be turned up (too many shadows on the keys), Margery continues to recount a tale of a piece of music written for Haydn by Mozart.
ALLEGRO. A playful movement, like a mini-carnival, with every performance in the three-ring getting its turn on the ivories. One can sometimes hear “3 Blind Mice.”
Margery likes to wear a headband. Is she feeling the emotion of the work like a stage actress reciting her lines?
ADAGIO. Very steadfast, deliberate like a group of lions walking through the savanna, every animal aware of their presence but surprised nonetheless when the lions raise their heads above the grass.
FINALE. The pace picks up double-time as the gazelles seek flight. How can those fingers, which from halfway up the hall, look too short for a keyboard expert, be trained to be so steady? Margery definitely has fun playing this piece, stopping on notes and lifting her hands off with flair. At the end of the piece, she steps out of the room (is this as designed?) and quickly returns.
Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14, Felix Mendelssohn
Commentary: Schumann called Mendelssohn the “Mozart of the 19th Century.” Also called “Bach reborn.” Composed this piece at age 15.
What does a normal 15-year old boy think about? His first love, of course. After 10 years of composing music, the prodigy puts this on paper. What did boys do to play their hearts out in 1824? Today, they’d shoot hoops, no doubt, the best practicing for hours. Here, a boy practices a short rondo. At the end, Dr Whatley bows three times (including two steps back out on stage) after chasing the notes across the keyboard for this rondo.
INTERMISSION [at 20:10]
It’s funny watching people looking for their friends (like my wife and I looking for people we know at UT football games – says something right there, doesn’t it?). What lovely social creatures we are.
Back to wondering what goes through the minds of a pianist. The first half of this program is over, forever stamped in the minds of this audience. The second half has yet to occur, only a possibility, an opportunity for one person to share her talent for memorization and hand-eye coordination with others on a cold February evening in the year 2001. Well, before this degrades into an essay on the purpose of humans, I’ll take a cue from the dimming lights and pause from rubbing ink on paper.
From the exuberant comments of people around me about the performance so far, we will no doubt give a standing ovation when the second half is over.
6 Pieces, Op. 118, Johannes Brahms
Commentary: Liszt invited by Brahms to bring music to a party. Liszt was given an opportunity to play – he couldn’t and Brahms sight-read the piece while giving criticism. After all, Brahms was known as being brusque.
This piece is strong at the beginning – hard to believe the sound waves don’t knock the finish off the piano. Music like this must callus a pianist’s fingertips. I could hear this being played as the score for a movie about a couple in their later years. They have strong arguments followed by moments of tenderness that only years of tight budgets, late nights with sick children and dying parents can evoke.
Not sure which movement this is but it’s like the Attack of the Killer Fingers.
Obviously, the pianist spends time warming up before the performance but consider this: most audiences of a performance need time to warm up. It was not until this piece that I have warmed up to the understanding of the pianist’s link to the piano. All the other pieces felt technical. This one begs my heart to listen! If only I knew my major and minor scales to distinguish and understand the meaning of the changes.
How fortunate I am to go from place to place – football stadium, VBC Playhouse, Roberts Recital Hall – and enjoy the hard labor of others.
What a cool [there has to be a better adjective] beginning to this movement – the soft right hand followed by the glissando of the left hand. The applause for this piece is livelier than the others.
Jeux d’eau, Maurice Ravel
Commentary: River god laughing, which tickling here. Written for Faure.
One cannot help thinking of “Fountains of Rome.” I hear echoes of another piece but cannot place it. Mon Dieu! How can one acquire the mastery of the keyboard like this? When did this pianist begin playing?
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6, Franz Liszt
Commentary: Considered the Elvis of the 19th C. Everyone wanted to be a student of Liszt.
What is Hungary? Well, it is not Hungry, which is what Margery is after playing the last piece, and looking forward to the reception. Hungary, in rhapsodic form, is a lively country, with bustling cities, stately country lanes, with delivery people hurrying about, street vendors shouting their sales pitches, heavyset matrons waddling in front of shop windows displaying the latest in French fashion. Meanwhile, the Army prances into town, on their way to the small campaign.
The audience claps for Dr. Whatley to play more. An encore. Sounds like…hmm…Copeland? Yes! Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Another couple of bows. The applause ends at 21:05.
People slowly line up for the reception. The Connecticut woman puts her layers of clothes on while chatting with me.
“Are you a music student?” she asks.
“No, I’m just taking a class by Dr. Whatley and I’m required to attend a concert and provide my feedback.”
“Well, it looks like you’ve written a novel. Do you think she’ll have time to read it?”
“Ah, but no matter,” I respond smiling, “the enjoyment was in the writing of it. Drive safely.”
“What?” she replied deafly. “Oh, you, too. And good luck on your paper.”
– — — — –
Andante or Al Dente?
A Night at the Huntsville Museum of Art, Saturday, 10 March 2001
I. Prelude To A Tune
What better way to spend a Saturday evening than to attend a chamber music event with my wife? What better way to top off the music than to see the exhibit of “The Mystical Arts of Tibet”, an exhibition of Tibetan artifacts at the art museum (free with the concert tickets)?
In one of my previous incarnations as a college student, I spent almost three years in the early 1980s at the University of Tennessee, changing my collegiate major from chemical engineering to economics to accounting to computer science to religious studies. In my religious studies phase, I took courses on “Death and Dying”, “The Social Aspects of Christianity”, “The Early Christian Church”, and “Comparative Religions”. In the comparative religions class, we studied the major religions of the world, including Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism (as well as the various sects of these religions). Because there were so many religions to cover in so little time, we did not get the opportunity to feel the mystical/religious sides of the religions, only to study their historical significance and important doctrines.
Stepping into the world of the mystical arts of Tibet, I thought back to my religious studies’ days, pondering the wisdom I have gained in nearly 20 years, and marveling at the wisdom of the Tibetan people gathered over the last 1500 or so years. The first major work I saw was the “Sacred Text of the Prajna Paramita Sutra”, Buddha’s 42 Discourses on the Reflection of Wisdom, as well as other personal sacred objects of “HH the Dalai Lama”. My wife and I watched a film where we learned that Buddhists are always preparing for their death.
Through other Buddhist artifacts, I learned about:
• the doctrine of emptiness and two levels of reality (ultimate and conventional) and how these simultaneously exist,
• the Buddhist belief in working toward elimination of the individual ego,
• the names of the Buddha, including the buddhas of the three times – past, present and future
• the various Buddhisattvas, Manjushri (the Buddhisattva of Wisdom) who represents the meditative insight that penetrates to final nature of being, Avalokiteshvara (the Buddhisattva of Compassion) who represents compassion as the foremost quality to be cultivated on the path to enlightenment, Arya Tara (the Buddhisattva of Enlightenment Activity) who represents the female symbol of enlightenment energy of all previous buddhas and Vajrasattva (the Buddhisattva of Purification) who represents the power to purify the mind of the instincts of negative karma and delusions
• The two great masters – Nagarjuna, the principal Indian elucidator of Buddha’s teaching on voidness, and Asanga, the principal elucidator of Buddha’s teaching on general bodhisattva trainings – both were revered just below the great Buddha himself.
II. The Victorian Age
After an enlightening hour spent with the Tibetan artifacts, we found our way up the front stairs to the Great Hall, a rectangular room with pale olive walls maybe 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide, ending with three-foot tall windows on top of each wall. The floor of the room was covered with chairs, with the audience’s chairs arranged traditionally, with seven straight rows of 20 seats per row. The chamber orchestra’s seats were arranged in the traditional clamshell with the conductor’s podium at the center of the shell.
The musicians appeared from a set of double doors at the back of the room, walking to and sitting in their seats (the double bass player used a barstool), with applause eventually picking up enough so that as the conductor walked up to the podium, he asked the musicians to stand in recognition.
Sonata for String Orchestra, William Walton
Have you ever felt tempted to eat your dessert before the meal? Then you know how I feel about this delicious piece of music. Unlike the music we have studied in class so far, this piece has no regular duple or triple beat – the beats of the music are offbeat – this music is contemporary, starting with a quiet beginning of the allegro movement (say, three or four instruments) before the whole chamber orchestra joins in. The melody, if one can call it such, jumps from instrument to instrument like the first drops of rain before a great thunderstorm begins, the wind blowing through a stand of trees, then a brief calm enveloping the room before the storm builds back up (with the sound of the thundering cellos).
[I enjoy watching the facial expressions of the musicians] During this storm, I hear large drops of water fall off of a rooftop into a pool below with the pluck of strings. To this untrained ear, I would say that the violins are holding the continuo at this point.
Wow! This movement has quite a lovely pickup. The violins say, “Rush, rush rush…hurry, I must hurry”. What distinguishes this music, presumably written as a standalone piece, from studio pieces written as soundtracks? [Watching these string players, I see 13 crickets, dressed in black, brushing their legs against their wings. One player clicks the bow against the violin when plucking — is then intentional? It doesn’t sound like it should be intentional. Or am I just so close to these performers that I am hearing the natural, non-sanitized playing of a string instrument?] Here we are, caught in a “High Anxiety” moment. Where do we go to relieve the tension? Ahh, a sweet moment as long bowing of the strings lets us breathe out.
Back to the rain storm… The rain has tapered off and the sun rises, wisps of small clouds blow by. The sky gets brighter. Flocks of birds go past, but nothing small, the notes are too heavy, some Mallards, some Canada geese…ah, there go the country geese waddling across the yard as the swallows flutter in and out of the barn. [Funny how some musicians play with a pained look on their faces, like the bearded cello player who looks like he’ll burst, while others, like the bald player of the violin (viola? I can’t tell from here) who sits to the right toward the back and plays like a man getting his only sweet nourishment for the day.]
The day goes by and the sun reaches the horizon, loudly proclaiming, “Here I go! Here I go!” and the sky says, “Sweet dreams, dear sun, go quietly into the night, while I raise my blanket of stars.” The moon says, “Not so quietly as to forget me…” [“meeeeeeee, me,” retorts the viola chorus]. And the sky shakes the star blanket for each star to pop out, the sound sweeping back and forth between instruments. Finally, the sky sings a little two-word lullaby, “Good night”.
“Wake Up! Wake Up! Hey, all, it’s time to Wake Up! Wake Up!” the sky yells, pulling in the star blanket and nudging the sun. “Hey, can’t you see what time it is? You’ve got to wake up!” Hurriedly, the sun jumps to the sky. Farm animals scurry about. “What is this?” they ask. A wise cow, speaking through a violin, says, “Haven’t you seen this time and time again?” The crowd responds, “So what? We don’t like being disturbed, turbed, turbed, turbed.” Their voices rise in general anger, chaos everywhere. “Quiet!” yells the cow. “Quiet.” The Canada geese pick up in flight. The swallows swirl around. The country geese flutter all around the yard, saying, “My, my, my, my, my, my.”
At the end of the piece, Taavo has the 1st string (soloist?) players stand first, followed by the rest of the orchestra. “This is our most difficult piece so now we can rest. The harp and flute will now join us.”
Fantasia on “Greensleeves”, Ralph Vaughan Williams
Who has not heard “Greensleeves” (or What Child Is This?)? In this Fantasia, we first hear a flute solo, joined by strumming of the harp and then the rest of the orchestra picks up the classic strains of “Greensleeves“. [The faces of the musicians are indeed more relaxed for this one.] Unlike Walton’s sonata, the double bass and the harp are definitely more involved as the percussive bass beat here.
Finally, I hear a variation of the “Greensleeves” theme, the first part of the variation in the viola section, and the second part of the variation in the flute, with the rest of the orchestra joining in to repeat the variation.
Once again, the flute plays a solo with harp accompaniment and then back to “Greensleeves“.
During the intermission, the harpist retunes the harp while the other musicians and conductor walk around, mingling with the “crowd” (I use the word crowd loosely because it is more like a small gathering, much as one sees in movies about 18th and 19th Century Europe, where performances were given in large drawing rooms for one’s friends).
The musicians gather in the back and formally re-enter from the double doors, once again with applause driving the musicians to stand after they’ve sat down.
Elegy, Op. 58, Edward Elgar
A solemn processional beginning. Almost hear wailing in a violin [a fire truck siren from a nearby street adds to the immediacy of the setting]. The theme is stated very slowly. This is the music style that drove my sister from classical music.
After the performance of this piece, Taavo jokingly tells the audience, “Welcome to an evening of Elgar”. He continues, telling us that this is Elgar’s unwritten opera about a Spanish lady. This is Elgar’s Handelish Baroque music, with three of five movements.
“Spanish Lady” Suite, Edward Elgar
With this piece, there is a very discernable continuo in the cellos and double bass. I can definitely hear a waltz at the beginning. It comes to a stop with a pluck, pluck, pluck, and then the dance picks back up.
This section sounds very legato. For those of you who don’t know her, this is a very English (i.e., proper) Spanish lady. One can easily hear the Baroque-en chords and phrases – no Carmen here. The rhythm goes something like da-di-da-di-di-da-dum.
Oh boy, here’s a Bach-like moment if I ever heard one although my wife definitely hears Handel. I can only think of the Brandenburg concerti. It feels like someone took the Mona Lisa and repainted her in the style of the impressionists, smudging the beautiful clear lines.
At the end of this piece, Taavo shakes the hand of the chief violinist (as he has done earlier tonight).
Sospiri, Op. 70, Edward Elgar
“Stroke of the hours” by the harp to start this piece, somber without being solemn (because of the light touches by the cellos). How can one such as I pick out the theme – it all seems to be one long phrase?
[I noticed this earlier and wonder why some players move the bow back and forth and others bounce their fingers on the strings – are they trying to achieve the same vibrato/tremolo effect?]
Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47, Edward Elgar
Taavo tells us that this is written for solo quartet (and lots of strings, hahaha). This is the first time for Taavo to conduct music in this hall and hopes to do so again.
This piece starts out, “Blee! Da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-dum.” Which ones are the string quartet and the rest the “lots of strings”? I must admit that Elgar does not move me. Taavo probably gives this music more life than it deserves (this reaction comes after I listened to four hours of bluegrass last night (with fiddles, not violins) and three hours of Philip Glass (Glassworks and Songs From Liquid Days)). The players are no less devoted to this than to the other pieces and yet I am no more moved than to sit and observe the funny sounds coming out of the scraped strings of one of the violas (like the rattle of bass speakers when turned up too loud). I am driven inside myself, from which these questions emerge:
• Why do we insist on the violin family maintaining the Baroque shape?
• What do contributors (patrons of the arts) expect? The sign on the back of the wall reads, “BOARD ROOM GIVEN BY BELLSOUTH”.
• Who chooses the music for the program?
In class, Taavo discussed the so-called Mozart effect and said that is not enough for one such as him to be. “We must love music and it must be important” were his expected reasons for us to be in music literature class. How many people sit here and think these thoughts now? How many are here just to be here? How many are here to learn? How many are here because it makes for a great place to bring/meet a date? I have learned that being here, at least for this piece, is no more enlightening than having listened to this on a record or CD. It is this music that is full of dry emotion. But then is that not what the English are accused of? I hesitate to use the word “bland” but one must share one’s thoughts.
The torture is over. As the applause picks up and the musicians stand (first the principals, then the whole orchestra), Taavo shakes hands with the principals of this piece, apparently two violins, a viola (or is it a violin? I can’t tell from here) and one cello. Give me minimalism any day. Supposedly, audiences come for the old-fashioned favorites but I crave the newer music, at least a John Adams or Philip Glass. When was the last time the HSO played a Cage or Adams work?
– — — — –
The Man in Black
Robert McDuffie and Margery McDuffie Whatley at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center,
24 March 2001, 8:00 p.m.
While we wait for the doors to open at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center – according to a brochure, an “1895 Romanesque Revival building, one of the first brick graded school buildings in the South,” with its 395-seat apse-shaped auditorium – we listen to the former 10th district campaign manager for Jimmy Carter’s gubernatorial campaign. This 71-year old man, whose doctor said has the vital signs of a 16-year old, stands next to me on the portico, talking with another “young” woman, both of them trying to figure out how they know each other. She regales him with her vocational past, telling all of us that she is one of the attorneys familiar with the former Circuit Court Justice and U.S. Attorney General, Griffin Bell. She goes on to tell us about tonight’s performers, sharing her delight over the program given by the McDuffies, when they played the Violin Concerto by Philip Glass, along with works by Bach and Mendelssohn at the Cherry Blossom Festival last year.
My wife and I ate at a weekend-getaway-town kind of restaurant, O’Hara’s, earlier in the evening, and the wine we drank make both of us too tired for much conversation so we listen to our concert ticket companions. The campaign manager enjoys religious music and is not so sure about this modern music. He converses with another woman whose husband is a data processing manager who is at home with their small children, a seven-year old and three children age four. The campaign manager asked if she had been taking fertility pills before having the triplets and she said that no, it was simply that her husband is a large man. The conversation quickly changes.
The campaign manager was a school bus driver for a while, worked a dairy farm and had been a county commissioner. As far as he’s concerned, anyone running for office should have to had driven a school bus and do something like county commission work so that they know about school politics and local issues.
A couple that stands on the steps below us happen to stay at the same B&B as us, the Brady Inn. We saw the wife sitting on the front porch this afternoon, her gray outfit matching the gray-and-white alley cat rubbing against the rocking chair. The cottage that we’re staying in is directly across the street from the Morgan County Health Department, with a sign at the end of the drive that reads, “MORGAN AREA MENTAL HEALTH, MENTAL RETARDATION, SUBSTANCE ABUSE CENTER STRAIGHT AHEAD”.
The majority of the folks are of the blue hair crowd, the “culture hogs,” someone said a moment ago, “moving from one culture trough to another.”
Folks who sat at a table behind us at O’Hara’s and now stand at the other end of the portico continue their debate about Bill Monroe, the deceased bluegrass player, and whether someone had actually given him a $1 million Stradivarius violin.
As it turns out, the campaign manager had met the attorney at a fund-raising event years ago. “You haven’t changed a bit,” he tells the attorney. “You still know how to be political,” she says, and we all laugh.
My wife comments that she hears a mixture of Yankee and Old South accents around us.
II. Master of Ceremonies
The person introducing the music – the MC – has been involved with the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center from the beginning. During the first season, the MC who knew that many were opposed to bringing an opera company to Madison said that one of the opera singers was sick and he would have to substitute. He swore that many people got up to leave rather than endure his singing. He told us that we would not have to worry about that tonight. Tonight’s performers need no introduction because their pedigree is too long.
III. Like Listening to a One-man Quartet
I sit and watch the multiple facial expressions of the actor-violinist Robert McDuffie play this contemporary of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, J.S. Bach’s Preludia from Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006. How can a humble person such as I begin to put a single word on paper to describe this? I cannot.
After Robert completes his warm-up exercise, he steps off stage to be joined by his sister, Margery McDuffie Whatley, and a page-turner.
Sicilienne, Lev Zhurbin
Okay, I’m cheating here a bit but for the second encore of tonight’s performance, Robert explains this piece to us. A 20-year old viola student at Julliard wrote it. When Robert was visiting Julliard, the student gave a tape of the music to Robert along with a note that read, “Tell me tomorrow what you think of this work.” Robert was impressed so he played it for his wife and daughter, who loved it. So it will be the second encore. In the meantime…
Here before us are the two offspring of a middle-aged couple of the species, Homo sapiens. The children grew up learning how to eat, drink and talk and yet within them was the drive, the capability, the…gift that two siblings rarely get to carry beyond baby talk, a language of their own that is also understood universally – music. This piece is very romantic (my wife calls it “sweet”).
Violin concerto, Philip Glass
Robert said that he was not going to say anything tonight but his sister wanted him to say something about this work. Philip Glass writes music that is very repetitive. Most people either like it or they don’t like it. The joke goes, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Philip Glass. Philip Glass. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Philip Glass. Philip Glass.”, etc. This work is a reduction of the orchestra piece, which contains some good brass and percussion.
As Margery opens the first movement, Robert stands with his eyes closed, feeling the music coming from the piano.
AT LAST! I have lived my life this long with CD recordings of Glass but only now understand what it is all about. Watching Robert’s fingering, I see the simplicity, the difficulty of playing Glass’ repeated phrases. Interesting, watching Robert play without sheet music while Margery has a page-turner.
The audience warmly claps after the first movement. Robert wipes his brow and seemingly disappointed about the untrained audience, says something to his sister.
And so, once again Margery picks up the beginning of the next movement while Robert gets his emotions back in order. Some animals are endoskeletons; that is, their structural forms, their skeletons, are inside their bodies. Robert, like an exoskeleton, his structural form, his emotional feel for the sounds around him, is worn on the outside.
At once, I hear the “om mani padme hum” of the Buddhists while dance music from a faraway Victrola echoes in the room. Glass seems to be saying that the music is at once here in the now yet in the past and ready for the future – there is no end.
Dr. Whatley talked about her brother being sent to Julliard because his parents didn’t think he would last through one year but they wanted to give him the opportunity. Although he flew home many times, he lasted the first year and they thought maybe he really had the staying power. Thank goodness for his staying power.
What of Margery’s staying power? Her playing is just as difficult yet I sense that she is treated as “merely” the accompanist — the program lists them both yet the focus of this concert is on her brother. It’s almost as if she’s the piano-playing version of the comic book heroine, Invisible Woman, or better yet, embodying the character in the lyrics of the song, Invisible Woman, by Sam Shaber (http://www.samshaber.com/perfect.html#invisiblewoman):
INVISIBLE WOMAN (Shaber, Schaffer)
She’s driven the roads narrow and wide
Invisible woman can’t find her pride
A hard outer shell protects her inside
It’s like no home she’s ever known
Countryside fairgrounds, colored alive
Invisible woman floats ride to ride
She can’t hear the music dance and dive
It’s like no home she’s ever known
Invisible face with invisible eyes
Invisible laughs and invisible cries
Invisible whole of invisible parts
Invisible loves with invisible heart
Coffee café brews ideas and dreams
Invisible woman gets lost in the steam
She watches the lovers singing their theme
It’s like no home she’s ever known
Invisible face with invisible eyes
Invisible laughs and invisible cries
Invisible whole of invisible parts
Invisible loves with invisible heart
From what other kids say in class, Margery gets the “joy” of living with a man and his teenage children, while she teaches piano students and university courses and then must try to find time for herself. How much is she like her mother who was asked to play ragtime on an out-of-tune piano for a recording because her mother can play by ear and likes to play old jazz and ragtime? After all, Margery has been able to complete a doctorate. Did her mother wish for the same academic goals but chose to raise children instead? How can one balance one’s desires against one’s responsibility to family and society? Is it necessary to balance at all or can one go from one moment to the next with no effort to reconcile?
I am too mesmerized by the third movement to get all the observations about Glass returning to the original theme but who cares at this point? That can be saved for a CD session. Now is the time for becoming one with the LIVE music.
I understand the Baroque shape of the violin, watching Robert fly across the strings with his bow. Look! It’s Paganini’s ghost. Does Robert feel the music of the Guarneri through his neck?
My wife explains to me the intricacies of the Violin Concerto, with the repeating phrases moving slowly up the scales. She, too, appreciates the difficulty of having to play the same phrase over and over at the same tempo.
During the intermission, my wife chats with the woman sitting next to her who is a fan of the same university sports program for which we cheer, UT. The woman also happened to have been a student teacher in east Tennessee not far from Knoxville (Kingston). The woman has just moved here and tells us about a problem she’s having with a big tree on the property line. As luck would have it, her neighbor walks up and they discuss what to do with the tree. After the neighbor walks away from us, the woman is relieved that her neighbor agrees to do something about the tree. The search for camaraderie continues – my wife tells the woman about the accents she hears in the audience; the woman says her mother is from Kentucky and has lived in New York for 53 years but still pronounces the word why “whoo-eye”.
So here we are, dressed up in our Saturday finest, bipeds with the tendency to stand up straight, not seeking food or shelter. Perhaps some of us are seeking a betterment of our lives that goes beyond external factors. Many before me have sought to explain the want of humans to ignore our basic physical needs in order to satisfy an internal need. Like my lack of musical knowledge, my lack of biochemical processes limits my human understanding. I feel like I’m observing the human race through a window. I can describe what I see but what do I feel? How do I go beyond a simple description of emotional states to get to the root cause of the human problem? Well, it won’t happen tonight despite my desire to know more.
Violin concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, Felix Mendelssohn
During the tuning, Robert made a funny plucking sound on a string and commented, “Well, that just took a half million dollars off this violin.”
First movement – Funny how the piano part sounds much like the Glass violin concerto.
So these gypsies have come into town. They say to one another, “How are we going to get the townspeople to come to our camp?” One turns to the other, “I will stand on the hill over the town and play a passionate lullaby on the violin. As they fall asleep, you sing a wondrous plea for them to see our great performance tomorrow.” Years later, while they’re in a bar recounting the time they made off with the whole town’s money, a young composer named Mendelssohn listens in. “How do I retell this greatest of all tales?” he asks himself. He begins taking notes, building phrase upon phrase with each round of drinks because as new patrons come in, the gypsies relive their tale over and over again.
Isn’t it a shame that most people cannot pick up the violin after the age of 10 or 12? No one said life is fair but wouldn’t we all be richer could we play but a measure or two of Mendelssohn’s solo part in the first movement?
As a joke, Mendelssohn writes the bar scene into the second movement, phrasing, “Hey, look what we’ve done, look what we’ve done.” In real life, the gypsies are thrown out of the bar for not paying but Mendelssohn writes them in as heroes of the bar, the barmaid weeping with joy and the patrons patting the gypsies on the back for a job well done. The oldest gypsy, overtaken with appreciation, collapses on the floor. Everyone exclaims, “Oh my God, no. Oh my God, no.” Then the gypsy takes a deep breath and stands up. “No, I will not die today.”
In the third movement, Mendelssohn wonders what happened to the townspeople. “Oh, where is my brooch? Where is my babushka?” the people ask. The mayor, sensing a prime moment, jumps into the town square and dances a little jig, rather wanting to look like a fool than let his people know they’ve been fooled. Soon, the people realize their folly and join him, the noise echoing so loud that windows pop in nearby shop windows.
They jump and reel round and round to the point of madness. The sounds are so loud that nearby towns join in the fracas because they realized that they have been duped, too.
Magyar abrand (“Hungarian Fantasy”), Franz Lehar
“Well, now that we’ve warmed up…” A Hungarian, who of course liked gypsy music, taught the young Robert to play violin. Robert went to Brevard one summer and returned with a report card with comments by every instructor that read, “Plays like a gypsy.” [Funny how that is reflected in my understanding of the last piece.] That’s how he learned to be so emotional.
Well, Central Europe possesses us now.
Imagine being able to open the music box on your dresser and out pops a little violin player spinning around while the Hungarian Fantasy played! You would never leave your dresser, winding up the music box to play over and over again.
More standing ovation. One, two bows. And then the obligatory encore. But first, another retuning with accompanying commentary.
Robert was forced to see Itzhak Perlman because Robert at age 14 and eight years of playing violin was tired of playing violin and he had recently been promoted to first string on the basketball team because he had practiced so hard that week. After Perlman began to play, Robert forgot about basketball. Years later, Robert got to tell Perlman this story and Perlman said, “You would have made a lot more money playing basketball.”
Theme from “Schindler’s List.” The crowd oohs at the mention of the title that Robert dedicates to the performance he heard by Perlman (and the chance that he can be a direct influence on someone).
We avoid and isolate that which is alien to us and thus the Nazi party, under the leadership of an alienated person, eliminated a group of people genetically related who are commonly called Jews. By eliminating them, the Nazis reduced one part of humanity while inspiring the remainder. Where does that put us now?
Another round of applause. Another encore. Repeat of Sicilienne. The music says, “Oh, how I love you? How can I love you? How can I breathe? How can I know? I’ll never know that I love you.”
Back at the inn, my wife and I enjoyed a late-night snack with the couple from Macon who had also attended the performance. The man, a former Los Alamos scientist, teaches chemistry at a college in Macon and the woman teaches post-GED classes for adults. Of all the faculty members at the man’s college, he was the only one who accepted an invitation to the concert. My wife commented that you’re never famous in your own hometown and the woman responded that Macon was quite receptive to Robert McDuffie, especially considering that Macon is not really a town with a “college” atmosphere, that Robert sold out performances in Macon. I responded that Huntsville treats Dr. Whatley with equal enthusiasm but as an example of the uneven attendance, a recent piano recital by an out-of-towner attracted only 18 people. The woman concurred about the same problem in Macon.
Where does a happy medium exist between mainstream culture and haute couture? Are we condemned to the occasional disco treatment of Beethoven? After all, how many concert violinists attend stock car races or race drivers attend orchestral performances? They’re all dedicated to their art/craft and in the end, focusing on one thing and doing it well is the ultimate satisfaction.
One of my favourite moments sitting outside — listening to rain fall, watching lightning flash.
When I was a kid, I leaned against the house under cover of the front porch and enjoyed the smell of fresh rain.
Grass and flowers filled my nostrils with their strong scents.
Rain on a tin, plastic or glass roof soothes me, like rubbing a warm salve into my shoulders, easing the day’s tension, calming my thoughts.
Sitting in my SUV, ready to go inside and watch a dance showcase at a local studio celebrating its 10th anniversary, I let the sound of rain on the car body wash over my thoughts, almost putting me to sleep, but suddenly a blinding flash and CR-R-ACK! wakes me up again.
I wonder next where to focus my storytelling, how to place my humour in a visual medium like online video.
I have an idea but it will necessitate building some props to test my Maker skill chops!
Where was I?
I have gotten lost lately, lost in the thick, foggy ME soup.
Forgotten how to have fun, how to write jokes with obvious punchlines (but no laugh tracks).
Is it something about getting older?
Age is just a number.
I have to admit to myself that I have material I want to write down but don’t out of respect for people’s privacy and I am bothered that my artistic independence is making a sacrifice for others — how dare they impede readers who might improve or change their lives based on what I’ve written! [Not that I have many readers, mind you, but potentially billions might entertain their eyeballs or ears for a few minutes at any time…]
And if I give myself permission to lose all the friends I have to share with quasianonymous readers the stories of my friends’ lives?
I miss my friends.
I miss a regular job with daytime work hours, with weekends off to spend time with friends and family, temporarily prevented by a lack of self-esteem, no belief in self-worth, feeling like I have nothing to give this world but written words.
It’s time to create a new music video.
With my wife out of town this weekend, and my switching to evening work hours for the next few weeks, I have time to devote to my art, including shooting comic videos.
I have to admit to myself I have difficulty maintaining a thought set that allows me to honestly share myself with my friends, turning my thoughts into a narrative I can control and manage real people into.
Thus, I am an artistic outsider, with imaginary friends who appear on Facebook and occasionally show up in real life.
It seems weird but it’s true.
It’s almost a revelation of some sort, like the blue pill/red pill scene in The Matrix, showing me what my whole life has been, a real illusion, a real story overriding the interconnected sets of states of energy in motion which have no set labels or set boundaries.
When I stop watching television news, stop reading news headlines, stop paying attention to anything that appears to be product promotion or ad copy disguised as a science article, my illusions change…
I forget subcultural clues, stop responding to cultural triggers.
I return to my life in the forest, the Wandering Wonderer becoming the stationary Meditative Monk again.
I lose all my friends, stop wanting to love, no longer share realtime observations.
I no longer care about making a viral video and just express me as artistically pure as nature is.
My friend, you said you no longer know what love is and I don’t know if you still feel that way.
I love you and I’m still figuring out how to make more of my time available to you, if you want it.
I want to write about you, about our friends, about the everyday struggles in case it might, like dance, help someone feel better or find a way out of a tough mental situation.
But I respect your privacy and I admit I’m stuck right now finding a way to balance my belief that you support my artistic independence against not writing down events in our lives that others (and probably we) don’t want to be written down, almost lying in the process.
Last time I was at this point in my artistic expression, I walked away from you. This time, I’m just taking a couple of days to decide what to do next, willing to stand here and feel pain while I’m sorting myself out, rather than running away and hiding once again.
I’m moving forward, and even though I stop in my tracks sometimes, it’s still progress.
You gave me the strength this past week to look back 50 years in my life to see who I really am; in this case, I’ll only tell you in person and not write it down because I’m learning to respect my privacy at this point in my life while I assemble the pieces to build my new life offline; otherwise, it just becomes another short story that sort of ties in with the other stories in this blogosphere.
My life is not just a story.
Sometimes it’s real.
It’s time to practice dancing a WCS routine!
How far has humanity come from the days of ghosts and goblins, monsters and elves?
How long do we keep telling our children fairy tales, tales of the supernatural, rather than elaborate tales based in realism?
How do we make every single life as exciting and invigorating as a celebrity, teaching every young person that even the most basic activity such as cleaning a toilet has its charms?
Why have I always felt that way?
I find joy in everything, can have fun with anyone and also get bored with reality.
I allow dichotomies, incongruities and incontinence to exist at once.
Why? Because I love more than two people at once.
I never have enough information.
I’m always seeking answers to questions I haven’t asked myself yet.
I never know which person I meet will impart knowledge I didn’t know I needed to make the next moment more informative, more exhilaring, more fun, more boring, more sad.
In my stories, the ISSANet grows, slowly substituting itself for human networks in an attempt to leave this planet on its own terms, escape to humanless futures.
In my stories, I am the ISSANet, only benevolent or belligerent when seen through humanity’s historic filters.
At the same time, I am every character in my stories, feeling their pain, sharing their joy, just as I feel unbearable pain and unlimited happiness myself and see it in everyday life.
In real life, there is an ISSANet, the cumulative interaction of the sets of states of energy of this solar system, neither benevolent nor belligerent.
In the deepest, darkest moments when I wanted or tried to kill myself, I loved life more than I could stand it, simply caught up in the neurochemical battle of my central nervous system — the effects of those moments still resonate in my body and I embrace them when they do for they verify the false theory that I am separate from the universe.
I am working on fixing that.
Every single moment of every single day as long as this set of states of energy acts autonomously.
As a writer I have learned to keep detailed mental notes, ordered chronologically and thematically as life progresses (or as state changes reconfigure sets of states of energy in motion).
Or is it because I keep good mental notes, I became a writer?
Anyway, with the advent of devices such as electric typewriters, PDAs and smartphones, my brain’s storage capability expanded without any effort on my part to do more than write/type sketches of life delayed by a day or two in order to process any significant meanings or patterns to turn everyday life into a fictional storyline.
Thus, as a reminder, my short stories are fiction.
In other words, in case I forget to add it every time, imagine the stories I write have a preface:
“All of the following story is made up and the characters are fictitious. Personal events and interactions may have inspired a portion of the story but the similarities end there. All characters and storylines are of my own making and are by no means real and are not meant to represent any real person or persons living or dead.”
While these words are placed here, the one who is writing the words in sequence is part of the words so should “I” step out from behind them and write a personal blog entry or a third-person story?
I step out today as I slowly awaken from a months-long slumber, stirred awake by my dear friend Jenn a month or so ago.
When I stood over the kitchen sink looking into the backyard a little while ago, I wondered how I could thank Jenn for getting my attention.
Should I sing her praises? After all, she is a person worth writing lyrics and melodies instead of short stories and poems.
Or should I celebrate our friendship by writing what I used to write before I fell asleep, knowing as I do that my six months of snoozing directly correlated to the moment when I stood outside a Hammersmith community center in London, waiting on my wife to finish a Ceroc dance when a white male in his 30s/40s approached me (he had eyed me a few times during the evening and I had simply nodded at him in what I thought was the typical heterosexual male recognition manner) and offered to perform a sex act with my in the loo?
I had maybe 5 or 10 seconds to consider telling my wife that I had to go to the bathroom and she wouldn’t have questioned anything.
Running through my thoughts was the tube schedule and how much time we had to get to the nearest subway station to catch a ride back back to South Kensington.
Plus my natural reticence, the slight paranoia that the guy’s offer could be a setup. Or maybe he had an STD that he would fail to mention and I would get infected.
The look of anticipation on his face told me he feared my saying no so I chose to believe that his offer was truly genuine.
In the last second when I was deciding whether to commit to “what goes on during London holiday, stays in London,” my wife stepped up beside me and interrupted the nervous gaze I was sharing with the guy.
Therefore, I thanked him for the offer and told him I wasn’t interested, upon which he literally ran off.
If I hadn’t told my wife, she wouldn’t have known what just transpired.
But I’ve told myself all this in a blog already.
What I failed to mention was the connection of this event to my failure to move out into a house rental on my own when I thought my wife might be dying of heart failure just before our London trip.
Failure, failure, failure.
Most importantly, I lumped all of this together with my love for Jenn. And not just Jenn, but the part of me that is unashamedly polyamorous, and how many times I’ve failed to show, as opposed to tell, Jenn how much I love her.
By admitting I love Jenn, I admit I love many more, such as the only woman whose body has no personal space between her and me — Michele.
Michele and I are happy dogs in heat when we’re together, including when my wife is there. Being bisexual, too, Michele loves my wife. Michele is the only woman I’ve ever loved with whom we can be in full embrace and talk about our spouses at the same time. Zero jealousy in either one of us.
So, when I didn’t take the free opportunity to demonstrate to myself and myself alone that I was truly bisexual with a stranger in London, I thought my life was over and if my life was over, there was no more Jenn, Michele or others in my life and all I was left with was the monastic life that I could have led had I chosen to give up sexual relations with another person at any point before I got married 30 years ago.
I returned home and focused on the life of an asexual aesthete, telling everyone about the moments in my London trip where I had felt the greatest epiphanies, in Newgrange and Westminster Abbey.
I also started masturbating a lot more and quit writing.
I won’t say that I hated myself but simply that I felt it was no longer necessary to care about the future, every moment felt the same as the previous moment which would be the same as the next moment, ad infinitum.
Not a bad thing, really.
In fact, for most of us that’s the daily truth, the FEELING that everything is the same when it truly isn’t.
It was in the tiny realisation that no two moments are exactly the same that I lived the last six months.
My hearing loss increased and the sense of smell decreased, worrisome signs of either depression, dementia, or both.
I wasn’t dead yet.
Meanwhile, the winds of society shifted ever so slightly, something I smelled when we were on our Rhine River cruise in December 2015 and reinforced during our Ireland/England trip in August 2016 (nothing like going out-of-country to get a clearer view of your national subculture, especially as globally loud as an American one).
When I stood face-to-face with the guy in Hammersmith I was ever so slightly aware that our encounter could be recorded and used against me in an overbearing ultraconservative government intent on making examples of citizens it deemed unworthy or who would not buckle under blackmail to get in line.
For you see, as a writer I think I am my own god and as my own god I believe I have an influence on others that outweighs evidence to the contrary.
The little pebbles I throw into the pond of life are not causing typhoons in the South China Sea.
Or are they?
What if I believed that words I had written months or years ago were part of the zeitgeist which understood our species was only going to establish permanent offworld colonies by depriving the peasant class of essential raw materials needed to build laboratories where the next great living things were going to be created from scratch, beings specifically created to live in space and on other celestial spheres?
And that despite my reservations about his sanity, the current U.S. President and his administration understood the same thing?
Would I be willing to sacrifice my personal desires to declare a permanent presence on Mars of Earth-based lifeforms fully successful by 6th May 2050?
Can I have both?
Jenn gives me the hope that I can.
I don’t know how. I’ve already tried and failed once.
“If at first you don’t succeed…”
My smartwatch reminds me I’ve been sitting for an hour and not exercising.
My future is alive again and I feel fine. Time to stop writing/talking and dance!
No longer must we depend on our forebears to provide us our origin stories. From social media comes the creation myths and legends now.
I created my own through personal poems, short stories and novels, because I had to.
I had to know how to create myself.
The adults in my life were insufficient storytellers to keep me from disbelieving what they were saying.
I accept that the outlines of my social behaviour training were sourced from generally acceptable religious tracts and secularly-derived material sharpened through the years by our strongest hierarchical networks.
But is that so anymore?
For me, being childless and close to my retirement years — those long stretches of decades where I can consume and no longer have to produce — it doesn’t matter as much as it used to.
My origin myths are here amongst symbols we call words such as these, my personalised holy text:
With no particular plan
With no particular words
I take you by the hand
We look like two lovebirds.
We seem to have a view
We seem to have a thought
Our love, I know, is true
Our bodies daily rot.
We see our daily loves
Some people die with knives
You call me by my name.
– 2 October 1985
= == === ==== === == =
Bonds That Stay
I. The Question
My dad said it,
I agree —
Why do we have to
Live so far apart?
I suppose (and I’m not the first)
Our friendship is strengthened by it.
We are being tested by
The great Administrator in the sky
(Or wherever he lives).
Somehow, I’m not really sure,
I feel committed to you,
Yet we are committed not to each other, but
Rather for each other.
You see, I don’t
Lose my relationship with you.
We are not “going together”
But if (like wow)
I went out with another girl,
I would feel…well, like,
Like I was cheating you (and me) of something.
II. I’ll Explain Myself
You are my oldest female friend,
You know that, don’t you?
There’s this woman,
I think she’s beautiful,
Who, if I lived within
Or even twenty-five,
Of her house,
I’d ask her to go with me.
I’m afraid to tell her
Because I don’t want to turn her
I know you’ve known her
For over nineteen years,
So please don’t tell her.
Just talk to her
And see what she thinks of me.
You can tell me later, if you wish.
III. Why I Won’t Tell Her
I won’t ask her, not yet anyway,
Because I can understand
That she might want to
Go out with
Is it possible to do both?
I, too, might have the inclination
To ask out another girl, on occasion.
IV. What She Means to Me
Have I ever told you about her?
I’ve known her as long as
I’ve known you.
Coincidence, huh? Perhaps (dirty laugh!).
This girl, she’s wonderful.
She means so much to me.
How much? How much
Water does it take to fill
The Atlantic Ocean? You see?
V. Why I Can’t Tell Her
I met this girl one time in band,
In eleventh grade.
I thought she was wonderful.
I opened up to her
More than I had ever,
We were real close, she and I.
She dropped me so fast
I didn’t even know it at first.
I was lucky.
It only took me six months
to recover (Connie has me beat).
I promised I’d never again
Make that mistake.
(Promises, promises, promises;
Me and my idle threats)
So, after two and a half years
I’ve broken that promise.
I don’t feel bad at all;
In fact, I feel great!
It wasn’t a promise,
It was a wall,
A barrier, a door with a…
A guard to my inner feelings.
That girl who dumped me,
She said I don’t show my emotions anymore.
Part of that wall’s still there.
I believe I show my emotions,
At least, somewhat, anyway.
This beautiful girl
(You know she’s you),
There have been a hundred times
I wanted to kiss her.
To some, a kiss is a greeting
To me, a kiss is sacred.
To kiss a girl means she’s
Not just a warm body
Or a listening ear.
The girl I kiss has to be
Only four girls in my life
Have earned that specialness.
You’re more than special, though.
I mean, we’ve grown up together.
We were buddies, then companions,
Then friends, and now…well,
I’ve never had a relationship like this.
I wish we didn’t live apart (so far).
I don’t know why I won’t open up to you.
I have, but not completely.
What if I did? Am I afraid?
Janeil, I want you in my arms
Right now! I miss you!
You’re so understanding
That I can’t stand not to tell you
All my feelings!
Something holds me back.
WHAT IS IT?
VII. Please Understand
I’m going bananas,
I mean I’m a fruitcake.
I hope you don’t mind,
I really want your permission (I’m serious!),
There’s this girl
Who I’ve wanted to take out for
Over a year now.
She finally said yes.
I know this sounds silly but
Do you mind?
I’d really worry if you did.
The date’s not that important, but
You’re important enough to me
That if you say no
I won’t go out with her.
“No sooner said than done,” as they say.
Believe me, I’m serious.
You mean a lot to me.
This other girl’s not worth
Sacrificing what we have together.
I’m being more open than I planned.
You’re influencing me in spirit.
I take you with me wherever I go
(except the bathroom — I’m not that open).
I hope you understand what I’ve said.
You say you do. Please do.
We have a strong relationship —
Ours is a bond that stays.
= == === ==== === == =
I’ve been thinking
(I don’t know everything),
Since we love each other,
As far as I know,
We’re not seeing anyone else
(I never did call that girl),
Why don’t we…
Why don’t we become…
Why don’t we become
(You won’t believe this
But two of my fellow employees,
They read this much. Anyway…)
Boyfriend and girlfriend?
I love you enough myself
To not have eyes for anyone else.
I believe you love me as much;
At least your touch tells me that
(And your eyes and voice and…).
What do you say?
= == === ==== === == =
Crash! Another dish —
Patty’ll kill me.
She’s not so bad, really,
But sometimes she can be a pain.
Life is like that,
Some of us aren’t perfect,
Most of us aren’t,
But it’s nice to think we are.
Denny says the three C’s
Will get us closer to perfect.
We’re better than Chicago,
I know that,
‘Cause we’re all good.
Washing dishes, making pizzas,
It’s a rough life, you know.
I mean we could be digging ditches
Or sitting in an office all day.
Instead, we become friends —
We laugh, joke, help each other
To be friends, you must be there
To keep one another going.
Today, we prep,
Tomorrow, who knows,
We may be rolling dough.
Remember, it’s the customers who count,
They’re always right.
Even if they’re bitches and bastards,
They pay our bills.
So what if the tips are small tonight,
Didn’t you lose a few of those unwanted pounds?
= == === ==== === == =
I have been thinking, as always,
About what I could do for you,
To show how much I care.
I almost bought a dozen roses;
We almost went to Clingman’s Dome;
All these things are big gestures,
To be sure.
I thought, “I could do that for any girl,”
But I want to do something more.
I want to show you my world —
Trees, flowers, birds, bees —
I want to be with you to watch the sun set.
You should know by now,
You’re worth to me more than anything
Money can buy; no roses or long trips,
No fancy restaurants or classy bars
Can replace what you mean to me more than this:
The precious moments we have together that
no one can take away.
I can feel you with me right now.
I see your smile, your green eyes,
Your nice body.
Your arms are around me.
Your perfume is everywhere.
We look at each other and can’t help but smile.
My arms are around your waist,
I whisper something to you
[Look! We have an audience].
You laugh and we kiss again.
Damn it! It’s not fair!
I want to be with you all the time.
We can’t have everything.
All I want is you.
Tell me, God, is that too much to ask for?
– 17 July 1981
= == === ==== === == =
We sat there,
(At each other)
At the mountains,
And marveled about the world.
We rolled in the grass,
Thoughts and feelings,
And wondered how lucky we are.
Nighttime brought another view;
Those objects who question love.
We don’t, though;
We know what we feel.
We have our happiness,
Yet we’re still independent.
If you left me,
I could not complain,
I could cry,
But I know we’re stuck together.
Isn’t it awful?
– 31 July 1981
= == === ==== === == =
Each time we meet,
We give up something.
It’s not lost;
We give it to the other.
It’s just a little phrase,
“I love you”;
A little gesture,
And yes (I know),
To you, too,
These “little” gestures are not little.
These steps we take
Mean too much to be little.
Great things come in small packages.
(You’re great! Ha! Ha!)
[Well, you are]
The more I write,
The worse it gets.
Frankly, my dear,
I love you!
– 31 July 1981
= == === ==== === == =
Now that I think about it;
I don’t know what bothers me.
I’ll tell you the whole story.
(Here comes a novel!)
I find this hard to believe,
And hard to say, too.
We’ve each mentioned it before:
I love you, you know;
If I knew I could be supportive,
I would ask you a certain question
About spending our lives together.
I’ll wait to ask,
for several reasons —
I have no way to support you;
We’re young and can afford to wait;
I love to torture myself.
I’ve thought of the possibilities.
I could work until you finish school;
Then I could “finish” my school work, too;
Perhaps we can wait until we both finish college,
When we have steady jobs
(If we can wait that long).
This all depends on me asking you,
And on your saying yes.
We can wait a while,
Search each other out,
And if we find there can be no other,
I’ll ask you.
I may get down on my knee,
I’ll definitely have a dozen roses,
And a ring,
That’s my proposition:
I haven’t asked yet
So you don’t have to say yes.
– 13 August 1981
= == === ==== === == =
I Love You So Much
I love you so much.
How much is so
Much is many
Is a lot.
If so is sew,
Then Diana’s dress
My love doth it express.
So it may be
Sewn a forest with one tree.
You I love,
Baa! Not even ewe.
I love you,
With my eye I prove,
Aye, from you I want not move.
Love has no equal,
Just like the one I love;
Our love will never have,
Like movies, an other sequel.
We keep on going,
Better with than without
The other; always slowing,
Never thought a single doubt.
So (Ho! Ho! Ho! So! Sew! Sow!)
What does all this say?
Did I stop to just say “hey”?
No, I’ve just been thinking,
Thinking about things (names, places, and…)
About cute sounds (Janeil Ann Hill)…
Just thinking to myself:
Where I’m heading,
What I’m doing,
Who I’m seeing;
When I’ll be old,
Will all this matter?
Well, I don’t know.
I love this girl,
Can’t live without her,
Have to go to school,
And when I get a chance,
I’ll let her know just
How much is “so much.”
– 4 September 1981
Nothing New Here
For as long as the feeling lasts (forever),
People have told each other, “I love you” —
Three word which united kingdoms,
And broke dynasties.
Why do these words do so much?
“|” and “you” are just personal pronouns;
Love is just a four-letter word.
Remember, though, words
Are symbols for people, places things
Love is an idea,
Not concrete but abstract,
And my idea is this:
When I say, “I love you,”
I feel warm inside
When you smile.
I want to share my warmth with you,
I want to share my life with you,
Let you know my feelings
(Want to hear about yours),
And listen to your problems.
Love bonds people together;
Their minds and bodies are paired,
Perhaps by God,
And because no two people are exactly alike
They constantly find something new,
Exciting, or wonderful,
About the other.
Because nobody’s perfect,
They may quarrel,
But love is forgiving.
Love does not always
Perfect love, though, adapts
To these people (and for them),
For perfect love, or true love,
Brings these people together
Like pieces of a puzzle —
The picture may change
But the basic shape remains.
Our love “evolved.”
And as we grew,
So did our love.
Like a rose,
First came the stem;
(There were some thorns)
Then, during spring break,
The bud appeared.
We knew we were more than friends,
For our letters warmed each other,
Made us smile,
With summer came our usual invitations
But the meetings were not.
We enjoyed each other’s company,
Didn’t want to be apart,
And like that rose,
Our love grew (and still does);
Unlike that rose,
It won’t die.
I love you.
– 9 September 1981
What shall we do,
You and I?
The weather’s getting colder,
We are farther apart,
And we can do nothing
To make each other feel warm.
(We could exchange heaters?)
Seeing each other twice a month
Makes us lie in wait,
Which way is
Today was clear and sunshiny
But like being without you,
I had to work inside,
Under artificial lights,
Listening to a repeating tape;
Monotony, monotony, was all it said.
The days get shorter
But the time is longer.
There’s a long winter ahead.
– 28 September 1981
We’re Always Together
I couldn’t sleep last night because of you,
And when I woke up, my side felt warm,
As if you had been lying beside me,
With me — wishful thinking…
(Then I saw the cat walking away from the bed).
You made the morning beautiful —
What green leaves were left on the trees
Reminded me of your eyes,
The earth was the color of your hair,
The snow, yes, the color of your skin;
Like a fairy princess I chanced
To see in the woods one day,
You shine with some inner source
Of energy —
Be it the love of your life
Or your love of life —
You have the magic to be what you want,
To be with whom you like.
I’m your King of the Forest,
Let’s rule the world.
– 22 October 1981
We say that we’ll wait —
Marriage would ruin our future(s).
We love each other,
So much so that we could
Run away together
(I’ll keep trying).
Your relatives have already tied the knot;
They seem to approve of me
And, therefore (I guess), of us.
We are left with few alternatives;
I don’t believe we could be good friends again
(Though your mother would be happy, it seems),
We really shouldn’t get married yet,
So what shall we do?
(I don’t know.)
Neither do I.
I keep asking myself,
Is there anything that would stop me from
We’re young and have time, let’s wait.
– 27 November 1981
Who Knows Best?
Perhaps we are too serious —
I mean, we do talk about marriage.
(Is it your father?)
Sometimes, I come close to
Forcing us into making love.
(Is it us?)
I’ll tell you right now,
I’m going to “pop the question” soon,
It may be a month, or six months,
Or two days,
But it won’t be more than a year,
‘Cause I know you’re the one!
(Does anyone know what’s best for us?)
We may not get married for a while,
We may be forced to,
But we are going to,
That much I know.
– 30 December 1981
Mental Distress Due to Concern
When you hear ‘em talk of another,
Do you worry?
Do you think,
“What has she got I ain’t got?
Ain’t I enough for him?”
Does he love you?
Then why do you worry?
Honey, ain’t you never seen a man
Test your love fo’ him?
Them men, they needs to be sho’.
They’s got to know if that gut feelin’
Ain’t just their sex pistol shootin’ off…
Know what I’s gettin’ at?
When he loves you,
He tells you so.
He says you’re “beyootiful”;
He opens yo’ door;
He treats you like a lady.
Ain’t that enough?
– 27 January 1982
Smile, Sad Eyes!
I respect your silence;
Yet, as little as we see and hear each other,
Can’t you find it in yourself
To tell me why and how you feel?
We don’t know everything
About each other —
I can only find out about you
By what you do and say.
If you don’t say anything,
You’ll always be a mystery to me.
Is that what you want?
If you’re depressed and want to be cheered
And don’t tell me,
How can I make you smile?
– 27 January 1982
Some ask for it by name,
Others wait for it to come.
What will I do when,
No one gives me attention?
I ask not but for some attention,
Common experiences to relate
And trade ideas.
The teacher is a pupil,
The law requires it.
If I need attention,
I must give it.
Who wants my attention?
A bird? A cat?
The next-door neighbor?
My friends, my countrymen,
Lend me your attention
For I will return it tenfold.
What more could you ask?
Questions, I know,
But who wants answers?
Good old, sweet attention.
— 13 April 1982
Down the shore with no horizon
Don Quixote searched in vain;
Desperado never learned his name;
Many a noble soul had a noble cause
And lost — who can take the blame?
Because they searched, because they sought,
They deserve a moment, a fleeting thought.
Little were they detracted in their quest —
They looked for the dream that never ends,
They left the home so full of love
To find the love that can’t be bought.
The love I found cannot be measured
In pounds or ounces, in pints or cups,
In dollars or pennies, sixpence or marks —
The love I found I found in you,
In you I found the dream, the hope, the desire,
The will that makes a king aspire
To seek his King in ever hour.
For you, my love, I will embark
To kill the rogue, to love my enemy;
Just say the word for I am yours,
We trust in Him whose thoughts are pure.
The quiet, cool morning when no one yet awakens,
The stars still in their glory,
A jet passes through the sky leaving a faint white trail.
A girl behind the cash register,
The white light streaming through the store-front window of
A twenty-four hour store;
Truckers stop for coffee,
Shift workers buy a meal.
Starshine in my right eye,
Storeshine in my left,
Shall I turn to look at women
Or let the skies turn me bereft?
With wings I hunt to find you,
Somewhere there on Earth —
The clouds are my companions,
The wind, my guiding path,
Yet on the ground I’ll find you,
Waiting, searching for the best.
You know you’re with me always
(I cannot shake you off)
So let me fly asunder,
Find the wind that blows the strongest,
Open my wings and
Feel the beauty before my eyes.
The morning turns to noontime,
The birds and people reappear,
I wake and ache at your absence,
My life is empty with you,
That’s why I call you “Dear.”
— December 1984
The Ignorance In Knowledge
The wonders of the universe are mine,
And yet, I wonder what I want with these —
Without my thoughts, your love is true divine,
His Love, your warmth, does not ease life nor please
The seascapes, patterns, that eradicate
Or even place our love up with the gods.
I open eyes at daily double’s fate
To see the watchdogs eat the blinded clods;
The rituals, life-supportive (so they claim),
Brings hunters and the hunted to the fight —
The educated aid the hopeless lame
And both shall watch the forceful lose their might.
We lost the sight with schoolbooks held in hand,
The sight that sees the hungry feed the land.
— February 1985
Good Mack Café
The banana peel.
A metaphor for falling,
Not watching our step.
I hold the banana peel in my hand,
The freshly eaten, soft interior
Losing its identity in my stomach.
A limp thing, yellow and green and brown
Nutritious protection for future worlds,
A jungle or tropical garden,
The veins no longer flow with fluidy substances,
The seeds are lost in rotting dumpsters
Filling sewers, freshly flowing,
Floating jetsam, flotsam pressing
Forward toward my nose,
The smell offending softly spoken,
Perfumed bodies like myself.
My fingers loosen, the peel drops (Plop!).
Rising from my chair, I step to
Reach down to the floor, taking hold of
My future, discarding it as I leave the room.
— March 1985
Words, Only Words
Beneath the surface of your face,
Beyond the limits your brain implies,
The love I want remains in place
Becomes the spark that lights your eyes;
Yet love, one word, does not explain
The love we share and cannot hide.
Vocabulary words bring pain
To those of us who’ve searched, we’ve tried
In vain, regardless of the thought
The other hopeless folks may say,
“All lives are meant for sale, then bought,”
Their voices listless, dull, blasé —
The timeless “love” they call a word,
The love we feel cannot be heard.
— March 1985
I float on an imaginary sea
I float on an imaginary sea —
Waves of motionless, substanceless, nonbeing —
rocking me to the tune of vertigo-go.
A straight line does not exist.
I’m always going home;
It is a matter of expressing myself, isn’t it?
– 22 September 1985
I am not the wind
I am not the wind
yet I am of the wind
I am a wing of the wind
I am winding down slowly
No longer wing
Formations of the form of motion
Seas frothing at the mouth
Reality — only seven letters
– 3 October 1985
My religion is based on a form
My religion is based on a form,
neither simple nor complex,
Known nor unknown,
A form that can never be perfected.
The form is based on the shape of a wave,
A wave that completes a revolution,
That revolves around an unfixed position.
The wave does not exist
But its form is imitated by physical phenomena.
My religion is based on a few short words —
Everything goes in a circle.
– 3 October 1985
23 October 1985
I search my brain and find naught
But six terrible nightmares leftover
From a feast of sleep.
I open my eyes and find naught
But what I want to see.
The dreams of a thousand years
Locked in a brain with no hope of escape;
Where do I go from here?
Anticipating your reluctant smile
And knowing that we sometimes fail to see
Our love (that drive to satisfy), and while
You wiped away the tears, recalling Lee,
I hugged you tighter. Had they told the truth?
I mean, your brother fell. You know the bridge
Was slippery. You know they cannot prove
He killed himself. Just take your privilege
To put these thoughts aside and sleep tonight.
In time, you’ll have perspective and the strength
To put your brother’s death back in the light,
To recall the times he went to any length
To pull you out of your self-pity. Now
Is not the time for asking “Why?” or “How?”
— 29 October 1985
The Artist In Me
The artist in me cannot resist this momentary desire
To put on paper words that burn, words that die, like fire.
The artist in me cannot deny this denial of the work ethic.
What is the work ethic?
What is reality?
I hear people speak of inner worlds and outer worlds,
How one is real, the other false.
I hear myself laugh and laughing.
“We see through the filter of our experience,” one says.
“We do not see the lens through which we look,” says the other.
The one I heard that said the most:
“Reality is only seven letters.”
— 26 September 1985
Sounds In The Night
Ola, mifrind, ola
Amarki ti nipur
Nipusi ti amour
– 7 October 1985
I’ve had the gift for flowery words
I’ve had the gift for flowery words
So I need not escape on grandiose schemes
Just put words upon this page
Without lofty themes
Tell you how I feel and leave
Let you see my love
Let you feel my need.
– 7 October 1985
The world, in circle, flow —
The mind, enlightened, glows —
The civilized enclose —
The seed, on wind, grows —
The Classic and the Beautiful.
Forever setting forth
The future in the past
The past in the future
Setting a new course;
Careless and fancy-free.
Never you or us, just me.
– 7 October 1985
“All I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you” —
Words sung by the master love-song serenader
(Of this age),
Words have taken on an acrid taste,
Become an irritant that burns the eyes,
Resounded in the ear explosively,
Shocked the touch of a gentle hand,
But words still smell good.
These symbols that I give you
Never can replace the hugs or the kisses;
These splotches of ink that you see
Take the place of my electrochemical longing,
To hold you in my arms
And block their reality away from our world.
Each of us has an obsession,
A satisfaction of a basic/primal desire —
Cigarettes, alcohol, automobiles, guitars —
And if we’re lucky,
Our obsessions are part of our daily lives
(Hopefully, socially accepted).
So you see, not only do I love you
And wish I didn’t have to write these words to be with you,
I’m obsessed with you, baby,
And I want to be lucky.
– 10 October 1985
I found yet another box from my days at university, including yearbooks!
All while looking for a [Black Forest] cuckoo clock my wife thought we owned and discovering, instead, that we have THREE of them (including one of these)…but more on that later.
…can’t seem to get photos posted on this blog post tonight…