Up-Out

up&out
"tomorrow will deliver a fresh faced opening in the turmoil"

I have no more than an hour each day I can call my own. Though I might spend most of every day alone, save for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's ever watchful eye, only that brief time really feels as though it completely belongs to me. Just after sunrise, I'm the only one moving. The yappy neighbor dogs still snooze. Even the freeway across the gulch fairly whispers at that hour. The Times hasn't yet arrived. The Muse wraps herself in emphatic covers, sucking every second out of her last hour of sleep. I've been up puttering for over an hour by then and feeling restless.

I step outside to immerse myself in the moist, cool stillness. Even in the middle of a heatwave, that early morning hour caresses. I'm up and just have to get out.

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Entrope

entrope
"I could swear that an early summer morning is more eternal and more designed than a statistically accidental convergence …"

Things fall apart. More than ninety percent of stuff purchased today will be discarded as garbage within a month. Everything displayed within the BIG box store has the same destination. Energy, while conserved, is also more or less continuously disbursed into higher forms of entropy: heat, wind, tidal motion, photosynthesis; each further disbursing energy until indistinguishable, unmeasurable. We retain memories of lower forms of entropy and hardly sense the higher forms. What's here today continues its inexorable run, each tree temporarily suspended between seedling and dust. Nothing ever stays the same.

We speak of change as though it were the exception rather than the continuous norm.

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TheThirdPerson

eyeinthesky
" … you might as just well be mumbling."

Me, myself, and I never considered becoming a trio, for we are one and the same perspective using three different names. I can describe you, from my perspective, and you, me, from yours, each fulfilling the role of second person, like a back-up. Me and my shadow have always been two distinct entities, speaking not as one but as opposites. While me, myself, and I speak from personal experience, like me and you do, explicitly owning the perspective we share, my shadow, whom I refer to as TheThirdPerson, exclusively speaks as though he were not there. Instead of proclaiming that he saw something, he hints that something was seen, leaving nothing more than an innuendo of ownership behind. Product descriptions and scholarly papers read as though nobody wrote them, an anonymous voice mouthing hollowed-out phrases.

Such writing works far more effectively than knock-out pills.

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CluelessCookery

questionmarkpan
" … by the last guest's departure, I will have somehow managed to have done it again."

The night before, sleep won't come. My mind had become a nattering checklist ticking off items while I tossed and turned. The Muse had invited twenty or thirty, more or less, over for a supper the following evening and I, as usual, assumed my proper role as cook. The "Pork Shoulder Butt Roast" had been soaking in its sou vide bath for a day and a half, to be finished off over a slow, smoky hickory fire the following day. Two chickens were marinating in lemon/herb d'provence goop. A whole steelhead fillet waited attention in the cold corner of the fridge. Two dozen San Marzano tomatoes and a couple of Vidalia sweets were queued up, destined for salsa. A hearty half dozen different beers hovered in the garage, awaiting ice. I would be prepping all the following day.

I think it axiomatic that all great work emerges from some annoying disadvantage, sleep deprivation most common and cluelessness not unknown. No well-rested adventurer ever achieved anything, only the stupidly yawning, painfully limping, and disturbingly impaired even need apply.

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Besting

blessed1
"I could have had plenty good enough, but dug in my danged heels insisting upon The Best instead."

Nothing better encourages the human comedy than the concept of best. Whenever it enters a conversation, meaning flees to be replaced by abstraction. Ask someone to recommend The Best place for dinner and they might provide an opinion. Take that advice and you'll learn to question their perspective in the future. Many companies self-proclaim themselves to be The Best. Some rating agency, that is, a company in the business of absolutely discerning The Best, will publish their annual top ten best places to work list. If you'd ever worked inside any of those places, you'd deeply question the findings. Our search for best might be inbred, instinctive, but innate capacity does little to inoculate against the resulting obvious cluelessness.

Best exists as a comparator, not an absolute designation.

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Rumors

saltspiral
"Maybe I could blame the sugar high."

Before any truth becomes substantiated, it seems to exist in tentative suspension, a rumor-like state awaiting validation. Most of us don't hardly wait. Screw the grain of salt, we're wide open and suggestible. We believe what attracts our ear and reject what repels it. The freshest news seems to ache for echoing. By the time it's become fully validated, it's already anchoring the fifteenth page of the Times. The cover screams for attention. We rarely see the back pages where the details emerge.

It seems that those most up on the breaking news exude a particularly clever kind of cluelessness.

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SecurelyClueless

securityline
"I live close to home …"

I cope with living in the Greater Denver/Front Range region by mentally cordoning off parts of it. Early on, as we explored the area, I silently swore to myself that I would thereafter make it my business to ensure that I would never return to this or that neighborhood or town. I could not have explained exactly why some places failed to pass muster, and I'm uncertain if I even now could explain my exclusion process, but I've come to realize that I'd roughly marked off what I would think of as "my" territory. I would never have to learn about or overly concern myself with any of the area outside of my selected territory, for I would maintain it as more than simply unfamiliar, but unknowable. I would remain clueless about them.

Most of the Denver Metro area now lies within my temporal no-man's land.

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TooClued

rtoo-many-clues_shop_preview
"I generally find that I can well afford to continue with my cluelessness …"

I sometimes use the term Clueless to mean the opposite of its denotive meaning. I can certainly seem clueless because of an obvious lack of clues, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by a rather un-obvious abundance of them, especially subtle ones. In retrospect, by gazing into my rearview mirror (the one where things sure do appear to be a whole lot closer than they are), I finally register what seems like should have been obvious before, when I wandered as if clueless when merely unable to see forest for the proliferation of trees. I believe that clueless only rarely means an absolute absence of clues, but rather a curious inability to winnow them down into any immediately useful form. I focus upon foreground when the real story's unfolding in background or I'm simply not paying close enough attention, or even too close of attention.

When I observe another wallowing in obvious cluelessness, I often wonder how it could be that they cannot see all the feedback trying to inform them. The inability seems willful.

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SelfDeception

Fields
"I've been deceiving myself through the worst of it
just hoping to make the best of this someday …"

I will excuse you if you mistakenly conclude that I know what I'm doing here. I have been what I consider fairly diligent in my pursuit of the various masteries of life, but I know without even delving very deeply down that I've yet to realize my aspirations. Decades ago, I quite deliberately chose to just get on with my life rather than wait around for any mastery to appear. I was aching to get moving and not so much impatient, for I'd idled a considerable time, but disgusted with inaction. This decision brought with it the apparent necessity of deceiving myself, for my sense of being an imposter could otherwise overwhelm me. I proceeded as if I were capable when I knew with certainty that I wasn't, not yet.

I still don't know how else one might pursue mastery without beginning that pursuit long before having achieved what one pursues.

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UnintendedConsequences

"I firmly believe that there's always a pony in there somewhere,
no matter how much horse shit fills the stall."

Because I inhabit a tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe with only my sense-making apparatus with which to comprehend, I don't always understand what's going on around me. Or maybe I should say that I too often believe that I understand when I could not possibly understand. My dilemma doesn't make me in any way special, for it seems that each of us inhabits the same (or very similar) tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe and we each possess roughly similar sense-making capabilities, so we're all pretty much in the same boat. Sure, we each consider someone a whole lot stupider than us and also a few we consider much smarter, but our senses seem puny when compared with the surrounding universe. Our shared inheritance might be best characterized as Cluelessness. For all we know, all we couldn't possibly know looms far larger around us. Always.

I can't quite bring myself to characterize our native Cluelessness as in any way a problem. It's just the way it is, and it brings with it certain advantages as well as disadvantages.

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Destructions

structions
"So it goes."

My friend Wayner calls them "destructions." Those step-by-step illustrations printed on the back of the box, that box you inadvertently pulverized when opening, before you realized there were destructions printed on the back. He calls them "destructions" because he insists that even if you hadn't pulverized the box when opening it, the illustration on the back probably wouldn't have helped you assemble the fine product within. The destructions almost always appear to have been produced by someone for whom your native language isn't native. Also by someone other than anyone who might have actually assembled the fine product inside. They hire copywriters, out-sourcing this sort of work. It's cheaper that way.

I almost always end up assembling the fine product exactly one more time than I disassemble it.

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Trolls

tomten
"Those who seem to have no interest in hearing generously, probably forfeit their right to speak."

The Muse can tell you that I rarely read the reactions to my postings on our neighborhood listserv. Something about the context seems to encourage people to drop their pants and lead with their least attractive profile when responding. Many tend toward a scolding stance. Some delve into the demeaning. Of course I feel goaded and sorely tempted to respond, if only to set the record straight. I'm learning that it's probably not my responsibility to set straight any record deliberately twisted through less than generous interpretation. Sure it feels as though I've just been ripped a new one and of course I really want to defend my integrity, but jumping into the pig wallow, even if explicitly invited, won't improve any argument, though the pigs seem certain to enjoy the spectacle of any high-minded anyone self-debasing themselves into to the troll's native environment. The Muse reads them. I don't usually.

My next door neighbor sent a text message regretting the latest savaging of which I'd been blissfully unaware. I appreciated him with a grateful reply. A few more personal messages arrived, each appreciative and generous.

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PeakingParanoia

peekingparanoia
"I'm wary, on the look-out, peeking over one shoulder every step of every way."

I have heard about an alien concept I'll call ConfidentStrides. This term describes a totally mythical state where a person moves forward without hesitation, said to accompany personal conviction. The literature speaks of revelatory insights inducing such a sense of certainty that ConfidentStrides result. The hero or heroine marches into their future, utterly transformed, unstoppable. I refer to this state as alien and mythical because, while I've heard that such a state exists, I've never personally experienced it. Further, recognizing that I have not yet experienced it has sometimes encouraged me not to act, to sit tacitly by rather than to move forward and engage. I've yet to achieve anything by means of ConfidentStrides, which is not to say that I've never accomplished anything. I'm apparently more of a PeakingParanoia sort of person, I guess.

When challenged to do some right thing, I notice my paranoia peaking. I would, in that moment, much prefer to take a break, take a nap, perhaps cower beneath my bed.

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Distressed

upside-down-flag2
"We cannot possess what we cannot share."

I humbly post this brief explanation. You might have noticed that I've hung an American flag upside down from my deck. No, I didn't accidentally string it backwards. This was a willing, willful act, one intended to express the extreme distress my house, my home, and my country currently experience. When I read in the paper that border agents play a cruel bait and switch with the children of those seeking asylum in my country by explaining that they're just taking the child for a bath, only later taunting the helpless parent by saying that they might never see their child again. This report distresses me.

Illegally crossing the border for the purposes of seeking asylum never was a felony. It would until recently garner an infraction about as damning as a speeding ticket, a misdemeanor easily dispatched with a couple of hundred dollars, a few days in jail, and/or a ride back from whence you came.

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DiningDown

Mead-St-Station-1000x500
" …home food seems better suited to our temperaments."

The place looked okay when I spotted it from across the street. Early Friday evening, seventy eight sweet degrees, and The Muse and I are out to do something with the tail end of our week. She suggested Highlands, a neighborhood of over-priced crumbling shotgun houses with a definite yuppie vibe: dog spas, yoga studios, cafes with sidewalk seating. I agreed. We found a place to park just a block down from the main commercial strip and strolled up to see what had changed since last time. We'd both sworn to not choose that pseudo Italian place we'd visited a few times, each dinner intended to convince us not to come back. Denver doesn't seem like much of a restaurant town, so choices limit our choices.

Not that we know the place. We're true exurbans now. We complain about the lack of urban services in our exurban neighborhood, but we seem as lost as if we were from rural Kansas whenever we near the South Platte, the seasonal stream separating Downtown (both upper and lower, LoDo) from its residential counterweight to the West.

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Lottery

lottery2
"We're lucky and cursed not by the lottery gods, but by ourselves."

I don't play the state lottery, mostly because I don't know how to play it. When I stop into our local inconvenience store, I usually find somebody buying a ticket, often several. I don't know what they do with them or how winners get selected. I do know that the odds of winning seem infinitesimal, and that I'm too embarrassed to ask how one 'plays' the game. I figure that if I was meant to know how to do that, I would have already learned how. I figure that I automatically win another sort of lottery by not knowing how to play the lottery, my lottery prevents me from ever losing a dime playing that other lottery. My ignorance serves as an insurance policy against the almost certain prospect of losing whatever I spend playing that other lottery.

I suppose that I play in many different lotteries. So far, I'm winning the health lottery, though I expect to eventually lose it. That's the thing about lotteries, play one long enough and you're guaranteed to lose.

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Relevance

relevance
"I gain fresh appreciation that anything perceived to be beyond this moment
might be aching after irrelevance."

Aging might be a process by which we learn how to cope with encroaching irrelevance. What I twenty years ago thought might liberate some oppressed class, helped only a few find their innate freedom, and even then, I quake at the thought of ascribing anything I did to their discoveries. I at most served as a medium for any message I believed I carried, my audacity perhaps communicating most clearly whatever I was trying to say. I would stand up and speak. I often felt eloquent then, sometimes insightful. Those insights seem irrelevant now. Civilization seems to progress by going backwards to relearn what prior scholars and philosophers firmly believed they'd cleanly resolved. Fresh generations enter skeptical of their elders, and honor most of them by assuming they were at least misguided, but probably wrong.

Yet we, as a society, persist in sharing our insights, of audaciously standing up even when we should know that we'll later be found misguided, rightly or wrongly, it will not matter.

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TMI

flickr-amattox_mattox-neurons-20141223
"Maybe one or two of those delights might stick to you in turn."

Writers feed the monster, though we are no less susceptible to it than the least of our readers. Though not all readers consider themselves to be writers, all writers are also readers, taking in many multiples of what they ever produce. Any writer's output seems paltry when compared with the fire hose volume continually spewed in their direction. No self-respecting writer could ever let all that goody gush by without trying to take a few swallows. For a writer, the antidote for Too Much Information seems to be creating Even More Information, but, you know, a somewhat better class of it.

We serve foie gras by the spare ounce because a ton of it too closely resembles what the sous chef calls it: goose shit. Served sparingly, it's transcendently wonderful stuff. In excess, it turns to crap.

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SwingArm

swingarm
"I washed my hands with Lava® soap after I finished the job, just like a real handyman would."

My readers know me to be nobody's handyman. Sure, I sometimes dress the part, hoping that my threadbare work clothes might somehow set a context within which I might manage to select the proper screwdriver for once, but handiwork requires some content behind the context. I'm learning, but I seem to have started way behind on the grand learning curve of handyman life, so I doubt that I'll ever catch up. My workbench tends toward cluttered. The sloping garage floor leaves me struggling to prevent my handyman chair from rolling down and into my work table. I seem to be at least one tool short of completing any project, almost invariably finishing by ineptly applying some lame hack. Usually.

The Muse's swing-arm floor lamp went bzzzzzt a few weeks ago. I'm no electrician, but even I could tell that the light bulb socket looked kind of fried. I wasn't that surprised.

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Dirt

dirt
"Dirt lies in that thin layer between bedrock and sky where, on my knees, all things seem possible."

I figure anything really worth doing deserves my attentive procrastination. I'd dedicated nearly two full weeks to circling this effort, maybe closing in on starting, maybe deferring imagined agony. I kneel before the space as if performing some ritual, and perhaps I am performing a ritual, one I've repeated many times before, each instance different enough to carry great uncertainty. The sod needs removing. I don't know for sure what lies beneath it, though I imagine bedrock. Once I scratch this surface, I've committed myself to follow through whatever I might uncover there.

I fill a five gallon paint bucket with rocks for every yard I cultivate. The dirt itself seems fine, surprisingly so, featuring earthworms and decent soil. I'm surprised, maybe delighted. My muscles remember the routine.

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CleanSweep

sweep
"We can breathe again. Not necessarily breathe any more easily, but breathe."

I've never thought of myself as a slob. Few of us believe that we're the mess makers we turn out to be for everyone else. I maintain my tidinesses quite compulsively, if quietly. My "orderly" piles of books ready to my hand. My shoes lined up just so serve me just as I intended. The Muse maintains her order, too, mysterious (to me) central organizing principles and all. Tidy for me might well constitute a mess for anyone else. I stumble over The Muse's carefully placed shoes, too. The tangles between us remain largely inadvertent, preconscious resonance of a sense of order we each absorbed long before we suspected we were absorbing anything.

Cleaning, too, echoes traditions probably predating great grand parents. The Muse's sensitivity to dust and my tenacious inability to see dust might have each originated in some pioneer days survival strategy.

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ConverSayShuns

cat-and-mouse
"Rose probably knows more about me
than any other living being
and she still consents to sit on my lap
for almost ten minutes at a time …"

I most days spend more time talking to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat than to any other living being, other than myself. Many have written on the so-called art of human-to-human conversation, but I've found little advice on chatting with my most common companions. I've never really subscribed to the notion that one should converse in strategic ways, preparing as if for a debate competition and progressing as if engaged in chess. I'm more of the dialogue sort, engaging more to see what might emerge than to demonstrate how clever or well-prepared I could be. To my mind, no one ever wins a conversation, so I never worry about whether I've succeeded in scoring my points. I believe that real conversation has no point, so I might usefully engage with Rose The Skittish or even with myself without feeling as if I'm necessarily lonely or degrading my sociability by doing so.

"Hey, Weasel Head," I often begin when conversing with Rose, for she seems to undoubtedly embody the moniker. She sort of barks in response.

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Noteworthy

Coors2
"Feels like home to me."

The town smells of roasted barley malt this morning. Home to Coors brewery for nearly a century and a half, Golden, CO often carries the signature aroma of brewing, proudly off-gassed directly into the neighborhood. Tourists travel from all over to visit the plant, a dystopian hulk of glowering towers and steaming chimneys straddling Clear Creek and stretching downstream for miles of barren warehouses and railroad-sided grain silos. I've never taken the tour myself, having a local address and all. I frequent the less known but perhaps more noteworthy Second Largest Brewery in Golden, housed in a neighborhood alley pole building and ancient milk house behind a small brick Victorian home just three blocks off the main drag. There, they pass pints and pitchers through a window in the milk house and patrons imbibe in a year-around, dog-friendly open air beer garden while seated at communal picnic tables. I'm likely to meet somebody I never met before while drinking there. The beer's also clearly distinguishable from Clear Creek's water, too, unlike the stuff Coors produces.

I'm not very attracted to the biggest and self-proclaimed best of anything, but much more to the second best, or third, or fourth, or even lower on the pecking order. The best seems a notorious self-designation, unseemly in its self regard.

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Grumbling

thunder
"Around four this afternoon, the sky should commence to grumbling again."

The summer-ish sky starts darkening by four. I notice one towering thunderhead already east of me, moving like a single advance galleon leading a following armada. Then I notice a much larger fleet wallowing in to the north. Once I slip down into the valley, I see a dark smoke-screen smear obscuring the western horizon. More sails appear. It might already be raining up at the house. The Muse dawdles leaving the lab again. My mind generates alternative scenarios for skirting mindless freeway traffic, which instantly turns stupid with the arrival of any rain. The invaders depend upon our over-confidence and I refuse to fall prey and so I freely catastrophize while waiting on The Muse.

We make home before the storm makes landfall, though distant rumbling comes from the west, up and over the mountain separating us from the true west.

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Audience

Photos_space_high_res_file_5
"If I am powerful, I am powerful not because stars speak to me,
but because I emphatically speak to stars."

Eventually, someone will ask the question wondering after your audience. Who do you think can hear you from where you stand? Whom do you intend to hear you? To whom do you imagine yourself speaking when you open your big yap? These are terrific questions and not simply because they border on the fundamentally unanswerable, the only questions really worthy of human consideration. For me, I never find a snappy answer to any of them, perhaps because of a little understood yet fundamental law of human communication. The most powerful messages come from those one never suspects capable of delivering powerful messages. We could call this The Bushwhack Principle. We easily filter out familiar sources, somehow second-guessing what they're gonna say and hearing what we anticipated rather than what was passed. How insightful could those messages likely be?

The Earth sits, from our perspective, in the middle of an apparently infinite number of light points surrounding us. Some rather close by, but most, millions of miles away. Let's say that those stars and pulsars and such represent our audience.

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TheGreatAmericanSongbook

TheGAP
"That's where our innate greatness always resided."

When my contemporaries were busy imprinting on GlamRock and headbanger Southern blues, I was distracted listening to old Frank Sinatra tapes, imprinting on the music made for a generation or two before mine; The Great American Songbook. I studied the life of Jimmy Van Heusen, the songwriter that The Chairman of the Board wanted to be when he grew up, memorized Johnny Mercer lyrics, collected Cole Porter records, and pined after the long lost nineteen thirties, a time a couple of decades before I was even born. I instantly recognize Dinah Washington's voice, pitch perfect and reputed to never, ever having required more than a single take to make a perfect rendition. I listen to Hot Jazz Saturday Night on Washington DC's venerable public radio station WAMU almost every Saturday evening and tune in to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey's Radio Deluxe every week.

When some popular recording artist of the seventies, eighties, nineties and so on passes on, I invariably never heard a thing they recorded.

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Gardening

handplow
"I refuse to leave remaining roots to serve as witnesses to any inept beheading of weed tops."

I consider myself a student of gardening. Not a grad student, either. I'm still struggling to learn my way around soil, water, plants, and light. True, I have recovered several gardens in my time, each different, results personally paved with many, many grievous errors along the way. My greatest influence might have been an early and repeated exposure to The Victory Garden, a PBS series filmed on a former heavily compacted clay parking lot turned into an immaculate acre of garden, complete with greenhouse and a host with seventy years of experience. It all looked so easy and fulfilling, with no episodes focusing upon endless weeding and broken turning forks. Heck, that garden hardly attracted any weeds at all.

I never tried to transform a heavily compacted clay parking lot into an immaculate acre, but I have amended soil with peat, perlite, sweat, and love.

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