LostInTheDetails

Apocalyptic-map
I read a couple of newspapers almost every day. I also peruse several curated sites where I trust the editors to choose something other than fake news. My friends and colleagues send me links, which I often follow, gathering ever more detailed information, much of which seems to clog my intake pipe. I try to swallow my share of the incoming, but too-often choke on the quantity if not the quality of it. I'm too-easily overwhelmed.

I try to float above my life, looking down appreciatively if not always skeptically on the proceedings. I can get lost in the details, neglecting to peer through the screaming headlines to recognize even the more universal patterns floating within. And there seem to be universal patterns in there whenever I take the mindful time to observe. Slip over here for more ...

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State: Fair-PartTwo

PalaceOfAg
Leaving the 4-H building, The Muse and I saunter down the promenade, further into the fair. Except for the costumes people wear, which tend toward the ridiculous, we could be a Gilded Age couple in morning coat and pinafore, strolling any public thoroughfare. Where else do people walk like that, except at the fair? I’m in hiking boots and jeans, layered tee and long sleeves on top. The Muse sports a demure dark blue shell and sandals. We both wear hats against the sun. I spot one man wearing bright orange pumpkin-print pajama bottoms, and many wearing those goofy oversized to-the-knee basketball shorts. Most carry no protection against the fierce sun.
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State: Fair

Poopcake
No better place to check the state of any state than by visiting the State Fair. Late now in this Trump summer, The Muse and I promise each other to get up and out early on the Sunday before Labor Day, drive the hundred and something miles down the bleakest corridor in the region, and visit. In 1869, somebody mustered a horse show in Pueblo, even then, far from the center of anything. The precedent stuck, though up-state legislators grumble each year, jealous of this one remaining annual economic boost reserved for a city otherwise left behind. Slip over here for more ...
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OverThinking

sriracha
I wonder if I over-think as much as I think I do. It's true, I do often think my way through an anticipated action two, three, four, often even many more times before I take action, and even then, I might opt to take no action at all (yet). I consider my scrutiny prudent, though obviously not everyone would agree. How many thought experiments must a standard ketchup bottle survive before it's simply set aside as too complicated to open yet?

I seem to have been born to run on intuition, yet blunt my native sort of 20/20 vision with dump truck loads of conflating cognition. Slip over here for more ...

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SacredSelf-Helplessness

sacredcow
"To idealize is also a form of suffering." Julian Hubbard

I spent in the Library of Congress some of my happiest hours in Washington DC, reading hundred year old religious tracts. I’d kind of backed into the literature by studying the Industrial Revolution, which led me into the fascinating world of efficiency. A hundred years ago, the Western World turned efficiency crazy, the literature resembling nothing so much as fervent evangelical pamphlets. What began as a set of engineering principles quite quickly consumed nearly every aspect of American life. It exported into Germany where it spread like dandelions, even eventually infecting the newly-hatching Soviet state, where it emerged as absurdly-detailed and ludicrously-premised Five Year Plans, which brought industrial and agricultural inefficiencies that quite nearly destroyed that fledgling economy.

The insistence that the highest, even the best purpose of every profession involves instructing others in the proper application of the religion of austerity remains a burgeoning industry even today.
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SecondOrderChangeDay

MyShadow
Welcome to the biggest change day of the year. Throughout the year, advisors and commentators endlessly prattle about the need for change, mostly for naught. On this day, though, everything seems different without anything really changing. Over night, a whole new year began. The old fled off the bus and we can now never go back there again. Feels like a brand new, fresh and clean start.

Today delineates the point where all the previous prattle manifests into a real difference, or so it so convincingly seems. But what’s really changed? Like the day before, we woke up in a different part of the universe than where we went to sleep, but unlike yesterday morning, this morning dawned on a Brand New Year! This distinction between last year and this year stems from an agreement, a conviction, a belief, rather than a physical difference, and that phenomenon alone renders this day worthy of great celebration.

Usually, when I encounter a difficulty, Slip over here for more ...

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Requiem

requiem
On the occasion of my dear friend Jamie’s death:

I last spoke with Jamie nine days before he left us. In that typical rambling conversation, I confessed that I had grown weary anticipating his departure, and had simply stopped doing it. “There will be ample time,” I respectfully explained, “to grieve after you’ve gone. I’d rather celebrate your presence while you’re here.”

“I wish you would,” he replied. “I’m tied of anticipating it myself.”

There! That got said.

Now I find myself challenged to recognize that he’s gone. I’d long wondered what I would do with my morning missives once this correspondent’s receiver disappeared. Would I continue to find good reason to crawl out of bed and take to the keyboard, and what of the result? Whom would I write for? Would these become mourning missives instead?

I could see the question going either way. I might continue to celebrate life or resent death, but I doubted I could stop writing. The habit seems in me by now. My self esteem depends upon pushing or nudging or carving something out of myself every morning; more necessary than breakfast, far more essential than sleeping in. I would continue the siphon I’d started so long before, such a very short time before.
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Unbelievable

unbelievable
So very much of what I experience registers as unbelievable, and this poses a special difficulty for me. Most every object I interact with, everything I see, demands a faith-based acceptance because I simply do not understand it. Each seems too complicated, too subtle, or simply too unlikely to exist, yet there it is. I cannot comprehend how it came into being, even why it survived, so it fully qualifies as unbelievable. Unbelievable without a baseline of faith. Yet as unlikely as it clearly seems, it is, indeed, standing there in front of me.

I do not just speak of the things commonly classified as unbelievable, all the Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon technology, for these represent only the extreme edge of unbelievability. I speak to even the everyday commonplace, the routine incomprehensibles like water or beer. The bush I sit beside. The composite camp chair supporting me this very moment insists upon more belief from me than the old God of Moses routinely demanded.

I might be speaking to my own, deep and abiding cluelessness. Being pretty much uneducated, I have no grounding in the science of anything, but even science seems little more than a series of explanatory stories which utterly fail to adequately explain. Unlocking the human genome might enable much progress without ever elevating the elements analyzed into anything more than the metaphors they started out being. Science might represent no more than the systematic sharing of metaphors, the doxology of which leaves the fundamental mystery intact.
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EasyBaking

easybake
I realized yesterday afternoon that even this sorry Deluxe Executive Home kitchen, with its forty watt Easybake® oven, could feel like home to me. I caught myself slipping into that state of mind where I find almost no separation between imagining and doing, perhaps the best possible manifestation of the elusive flow.

Around eleven, I realized that my old and dear friend Dan would arrive in a few hours. The Muse had supposed we would just eat out, and I’d presumed something similar until I flashed on the fact that Dan’s overnight on his way to Albuquerque would be my first opportunity to make a guest supper since before we left Takoma Park, nearly two and a half months ago. How could I pass up this opportunity?

I thought perhaps short ribs, slow roasted with veg, and a passel of those ping pong ball-sized golden beets.
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Today

pointyend
Today’s the day, the pointy end of time. I’ve kinda been avoiding it. Way back when yesterday was today, I felt the clear distance between then and now, but now that today’s arrived, I feel only immediacy. Now really is now.

It’s not like I haven’t been living in increasing anticipation of today, but I feel like a virgin in a biker bar here. I’ve heard an awful lot about today, I’ve even written some more or less authoritative pieces on the subject, but never experienced a minute of it until I woke up just now. Deflection doesn’t seem to work here because there will be no tomorrow for resolution. It’s now or never. (I wonder if today will be one of those days where only hackneyed metaphors work.)
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Disappearing

menial
My invisibility astounds me. This lovely big old house contained me well. Sure, it quite easily and naturally kept the inside in, but it also served as a sort of fortress to keep the outside out. Now even that defensive barrier’s crumbling. The outside first started seeping in. Now it swamps the place.I wade through narrow aisles between impossible stacks of boxes. How could these few shelves and cabinets contain all of that? I declared my desk a safe zone. Nobody touch nothing on my desk. It’s now piled high with untouchables, but not for very much longer. Today, the possessions I retain control over will shrink to fill the usual suitcase and computer bag, and a box or two of otherwise unmovables, as if packed for a week’s trip rather than an indefinite journey.

The packers delight in their work as only menial laborers can. The more cerebral and physical professionals seem to lose a dimension or two when they engage. The menial laborer, the clever ones, find extra parts of themselves there. These four absolutely delightful women, two moms and their daughters, took off their shoes and got down to work. Yes, they prefer to work barefoot. Unashamedly. They engage in endless chiding, genuine laughter infuses their effort with warm meaning. While The Muse and I tried, and even took pride in how well we’d prepared for their arrival, their job entails little more than ordering our disorder, which seems to be the primary element common to all menial labor.
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Greasy

renderedfat
Around the middle of the week following creation, day ten or eleven, God created grease. He was by then bored with the whole idea of creating anything even remotely resembling his image, having already finished a freak book full of variations on that theme, so he went all radical on himself and produced something volatile and certain to goad even the pious into taking his name in vain.

Great big gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts resulted. Schmaltz traces its heritage to that latter day variation, too. So does my kitchen. So does yours. Imagine a substance that repels water, the freaking liquid of life. Oh, it also attracts lint and odd bits of cat fur, and dirt, and the odd bug carcass. Clearly, grease ain’t looking for an invite to my table, or should not be. He doesn’t need to beg or plead for an invitation, though, because I voluntarily escort him into my kitchen, shake him up a martini, then let him have his way with me.
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TheDyingMan

ALS1-300x263
Last summer, my dear friend Jamie learned that he was dying. That previously unexplained weakness in his arm, the doctor explained, seemed to be caused by ALS. While there’s no definitive test for ALS, he’d backed into the diagnosis by a scrupulous process of elimination. (Scrupulous process of crap, I mentally reacted to this news.) Having investigated every other alternative, the conclusion was clear. Jamie was dying. Not today, not tomorrow, but sooner, not later.

The philosophers insist that birth is the primary cause of death among all living beings Slip over here for more ...

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PureSchmaltz-ALS-Bucket-Challenge

bucket
I've been receiving ALS Challenges for the last couple of days, and I've been considering how to respond. I thought about filling a bucket with ice water then pouring it over my head while making a video of the experience, but The Muse is out of town this week and the cats, though talented, refuse to apply their skills to videography. If an ice bucket empties on my head and there's no video recording of it, could it have really happened?

I take a cold shower every day, more than one daily in the steamy summertime. I've long done this even in winter to remind me that this life isn't just comprised of warmth, but shocking experiences, too. They help keep me awake. Cold showers seem so same-old, same-old to me, and represent no real challenge. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.21-Seamless

hillofbeans
I’ve hung enough wallpaper to understand that seamlessness qualifies as no more than a relative term, one of many haranguing me these days. Each declares itself by what it is not, dogs whose sole distinguishing characteristic seems to be the absence of barking. Be wary of the dog that never barks, as if you’d ever know it was there.

With wallpaper, seamlessness means one cannot easily discern where the seam might be, but it’s an optical illusion; one built upon both clever design and skillful application. Look closer, though, and you won’t miss them, for they are there. Slip over here for more ...

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SpiceOfLife1.20-Bi-Bye

bi-coastal
Because our relocation to the East Coast was kinda forced, we never divorced the left coast when we moved back here. That change left ragged liaments from our former rooting which encouraged us to feel exiled for the longest time. We decided last New Years, by fiat, to declare the exile over, but the connections remain. My excursion back into that space only re-encouraged those connections.

One should never revisit the scene of any crime or blessed event, lest the witnesses implicate you. They were there. Though you might strenuously deny your presence, they’ll have you out, and your credibility should plummet. But I didn’t deny my presence, I more than implicated myself. I explicated myself, kimono wagging in even that slight breeze. I’m exposed as a principle. I have no credible defense Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.19-Purposed

porpose
I’ve long contended that the best stuff begins under false pretenses, but I’m only beginning to appreciate how close this is to a universal law. I might restate it as ‘all pretenses prove false,’ though that statement feels altogether too radical. It’s probably true, though.

Many have written, some even eloquently, about the importance of purpose. I saw a report on a recent study which suggested that people with clear purposes might live longer than those without them. And I’ve fussed plenty in my life, trying to identify The Purpose behind whatever I was intending to pursue. Of course, even in those rare instances where I could distill my aspiration into a single motivating meme, I’d stumble across better or multiple better along the way. Crossing the finish line, I would find that I’d satisfied a purpose I could not possibly have seen or appreciated before departing. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.18-Word-ing

wordle
I take in most of my information through my ears. My eyes routinely lie to me and The Muse insists I’ve never been very well connected to my rumored sense of touch. I can tell when supper’s done cooking by the smell, but I live most of my life in dialogue; most often with myself. I can be found with my headset plugged in, listening to some podcast, where I cannot hear you calling my name. In short, I’m verbal and unsurprisingly auditory.

The past month, most of my dialogues have been with myself, a delightful companion. I’ve forgotten to plug in while weeding, for instance, and found the company so delightful within my portable echo chamber, that I’ve been playing my own soundtracks and following my own, personal inquiries. I become a machine then, able to work through otherwise long hours, finishing refreshed and surprised at the aches I find lingering. My step son can’t quite comprehend how I manage to complete so much, but my secret might lie in the fact that I’m not really working when working, but chatting with myself. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.17-Paint

covertheearth
About 90% of painting requires no paint. Preparation so dominates every job that the act of painting nearly qualifies as a vacation from the real work. In the paint store, 90% of the shelf space does not display paint, but preparation supplies. On the job, the paint cans idle while the would-be painter scrapes, sands, washes, caulks, and putties the surface in question. Calling such work painting seems equivalent to calling writing punctuating.

This is honorable work, one that discloses quite a lot about the one engaging in it. The finished product might well out-live the creator; each brush stroke potential legacy. The next one in line will know almost everything worth knowing about the previous painter of this particular surface; their patience or lack thereof, their taste, their values, their skill. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.16-SpareChange

sparechange
Twenty five days into this adventure and I’m almost smothering on change. Sure, I’m still reveling in the familiar differences of my oldest digs, and I’ve been digging in the most familiar dirt, but the sideshows seem to threaten to overwhelm center stage. Look, it was straightforward. I’d watch The Grand Other, maybe putter around in the yard a bit, but The Other claims some mornings, “I don’t want to be babysat!”

”Okay,” I respond, “then we’ll grandpa sit today. You watch me.” And she does. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.15-UnSettled

unsettled
I realized yesterday afternoon that I’d been here for two and a half weeks. I have a terribly long list of undone objectives, and I’ve been bustin’ my freaking hump every day. The gentility we found here before was supported by more grunt work that anyone should ever mention. Tough to reclaim that in a few days, even if those days happen to be the longest of the year.

The connections between the individual tasks take the largest toll. Wait times—for promised estimates, application forms, through the untenable hottest hours of the day—extend even the smallest tasks into tomorrow or next week. My body stiffens and aches, discouraging me from extended repeat performances, especially after a particularly productive yesterday. I see progress without feeling it. My ideals shift around tenacious realities. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.14-Learning

learning
I despise learning. It disrupts my internal model of how this curious universe works, threatening me and my identity. It feels more like dying than living, more like influenza than like nurture. I don’t mind acquiring information, but reconfiguring that aging mental model hurts.

The Grand Other learns quite a bit every day. I understand why, by the end of the day, her mood devolves to cranky. Much of what she’s learning, she’s learning from teachers who seem unaware that they are teaching her anything. She a mynah bird and a skilled impressionist, mirroring almost everything she experiences. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.13-Progress

progress
Progress might be the persistent illusion that something’s getting done when we’re merely rearranging deck chairs. I don’t say this to denigrate any of the fine deck chair rearrangers in any crew, for they often perform masterfully. Their’s is a performance, sometimes tremendously satisfying for both themselves and their audience(s), but it will not last. It will not settle anything. Nothing will be finished; nothing done.

I believe a balance persists through each iteration of any activity, all the elements interconnected. I can shove and dig, wash and paint, curse and praise without changing this balance, for the balance persists in spite of what I might do with the intention changing anything. I can even stand back at any convenient punctuation point and note how far I’ve come without ever knowing how far I still have to go. The effort might seem over, but it is more likely infinite; endless. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.11-Hurt

wince
Lewis and Clark and their entourage walked barefoot across a significant part of what is now Montana. Oh, there were small cacti underfoot, too. I never expect hurt to play much of a role in my adventures, but he always seems to find some way to insinuate himself in there. Drag a load of prunings to the pile and some muscle pulls funny. A hand unaccustomed to pulling that hand plow across rocky soil swells and aches the next morning. Halfway through the adventure, gravity starts pulling harder and the internal metronome assumes a slower cadence. Frantic fractures into slower motion and the goal seems to shrink further into the future than it stood before the adventure began.

I woke hurting this morning. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.10-Truth

swear
For a four year old, truth seems a fungible commodity. She can and does generate more than her fair allotment of crocodile tears, but remorse seems to live only almost as long as the typical anemic fruit fly. She personifies expediency, equally savoring ill-gotten and properly-earned gains. She plays her grandparents as if the price tags still hung limply from our straw hats. She plays pretty much everyone, for the universe does in fact circle around her.

Pure ego must need such innocence to thrive. I lost that innocence long ago, trading up or down, depending upon your perspective, for more of the other stuff. My shriveled sense of self benefits from these immersions in a four year old’s centrism, though I’m apparently unable to replicate it for myself. I remain the boss, however, in matters involving permissions, even though I know full well she’s often misrepresenting her needs. She’s teaching me to say “No!” more emphatically, but also more lovingly. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.8-Aging

aging
Aging seems to occur in insignificant increments. For most of most of our lives, we experience life as a relative timelessness with no more than brief glimpses of change. We ride a slow-motion train, destination well-known if largely unacknowledged, arrival indeterminate. I seem about as old as I ever was, though not quite as young as I used to be.

My mom was in the hospital again this week, admitted for observation after a bout of unresponsiveness. Her Parkinson’s might have spitballed her. The doctors couldn’t say anything but that she seemed not nearly ill enough to admit as if her condition were treatable, and well enough to release her back to her assisted living apartment where her needs overwhelm the staff. The doctor advised that we should expect to see a fairly rapid cascading of ill effects, each of which have more or less haunted her all her adult life, but now seem to be conspiring together against her survival. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.7-Compost

composter
I built the composter first thing, before we’d moved all the way into that HUGE house. After years living in a tiny apartment with nothing more than a few containers for a garden, I was ready to become a real gardener again, and gardening demands tilth, well-rotted organic material, and that means composter.

I used plans from James Underwood Crockett’s Victory Garden book, what he called his Cadillac Composter. Three spaces of about a cubic yard each. The left-most for fresh material, the middle for half-done, and the right for the finished stuff; a simple, heavy wooden frame encased in chicken wire and landscaping cloth with boards stacked in milled grooves along the front. I bought a box of composting worms and started collecting every bit of organic waste I could get my mits on, but not grass clippings. Those sour the mix and are better left on the lawn, anyway. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.6-TheWorld

TheWorld
I hear trouble’s boiling over again in the Middle East. Somebody said Boehner’s still mumbling, explaining as malfeasance unintended consequences. Near as I can tell, the volume and velocity of rhetoric remains unchanged, except for the unmissed absence of one usually attentive observer. I scan the headlines of this small city’s daily, my Washington Post subscription suspended for the duration of this adventure, but no news seems terribly new.

The World has shrunken to about the size of a familiar backyard, Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.5-HeadWork

infrequentbus
I swear I could spend most of my days roaming around in my head. Well, I do spend many of my days there. In the East, especially in the sweltering summertime, head space seems far preferable to anyplace outside. There, the sun rises and sets like a wet blanket, varying only by the smallest degree between morning, noon, and twilight. That sun slinks through his days, and I seem to slink right along with him.

Here, I set the alarm for four am, as if anticipating some grand performance. I sit on my brother’s patio, scanning the brightening eastern horizon with a child’s enthusiasm, and the sunrise performs entrancing magic tricks. Of course my brain’s clicking away all the while, but engaging with that world rather than disengaged with it. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.4-History

wagonwheel
History used to live in books, large tomes featuring sepia photos of people wearing suits while farming. Now, it follows me around like the neighbor’s cat, a quiet, constant presence. I’ve spent so much of my life in this town, like a wheel spinning in place, that I find ruts most everywhere I look. I’ve dug this dirt before, and I recognize then remember the small idiosyncrasies each plot carries and every plant exhibits. I’ve resolved most of these difficulties before. They’re back again in slightly different guise.

I took my sweet time the first time through, thinking I was changing for the ages, but age seems determined to convince me that nothing I do will preserver beyond a season or two. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.3-Secret

secret
There’s a secret in this house. Though nobody’s even whispering it, everyone feels its presence. Deep, dark, dreaded, endlessly fretted over, nobody goes unconscious around it. It hurts to hold it, even more to keep from mentioning it. Visitors can’t quite understand.

I make up stories explaining why this might be. They range from generous to scathing; each fiction. I wonder if the shame I sense might be fictional, too.

Might not a fictional joy elbow her way into this tragedy? She would be no more real than the unmentionable. She might even maintain anonymity by being unspeakable herself, but leave a palpable enlivening behind her. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.2-Weeding

Dandilions
I remember a pristine garden, edges sharp, beds clearly purposed, shrubbery freshly shaped. I recall the textures leftover after sweating out a particularly recalcitrant stump, the scrubbed-clean scent of the dirt I purposefully disturbed, improved, then raked smooth. My arm still holds a small sore spot from carrying tub-loads of castoff out to the refuse pile, as if I’d never quite recover from that transformation. As if that work would be permanent. As if I’d accomplished something.

But this world tends towards weeds, which means my work here must always be at least partly composed of cleaning up and clearing out. Planting ain’t the least of it and harvesting hardly a blip on a lifetime’s radar; passing fancy. Prepping and schlepping account for much more than 90% of owning anything. Little sitting back to rest on laurels when that laurel bush really needs pruning. It will always need pruning. Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.1-Marbles

Demosthenes
The Muse asked me to ask whoever was sitting in the seat next to me if they would be interested in moving ten rows closer to the front of the plane so she could sit next to me. I think the wiry guy wearing the camo ball cap in that seat opined as how he figured he was just fine where he was. I flashed The Muse the no deal sign and settled in. “I gawt m’ shit up there dow’ here already.”

I never did learn this guy’s name. Never thought to ask. I secretly labeled him Demosthenes because he spoke as if he had a mouth full of marbles. Sounded like Amarillo, Texas to me, though he claimed to live in Arkansas; well, Ar-Can-sawr. I later learned that his father hailed from West Texas. My ear’s getting better Slip over here for more ...

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SpliceOfLife1.0-Departure

splice1
The Muse and I declared our exile ended last New Years. After five years’ separation from where our hearts once thrived, we tumbled into a love-the-one-you’re-with acknowledgement that permanent separation might not quite work as a lifestyle. Whatever the shortcomings, subtle and obvious, of living on the edge of Washington, DC, however unlike the ‘real’ Washington, we’d be better off just splicing in here.

I suppose some people might find the opportunity to be born in the right place and the right time and never have to migrate from there, but I suspect their number continually shrinks. Most, it seems, come from somewhere else, and whether that place was heaven or hell, the gradient between then and now requires some splicing together. The exile perspective presumes no splicing, though I’m uncertain if unspliced could ever be real. Slip over here for more ...

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HardWeek

hardweek
About half of all divorced people suffer from borderline personality disorder. These are not the same people diagnosed with it, but those who live downwind from it, for their lives become chaotic and unpredictable. Those who actually have this disorder seem to be riding in the front car of the most extreme roller coaster imaginable. They like it.

This idea probably steps over that dreaded line, well into severely bad taste territory, but I’ve had a hard week. Sardonic humor helps. Sometimes. Slip over here for more ...

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AttentionSpanner

spanner
I anticipated that after forty-some years of uninterrupted twice-daily meditation, I might have the focusing prowess of a yogi. No dice. I’m as easily distracted as I ever was, though I might, perhaps, have improved my ability to jump back into the stream I seem so easily ejected out of. I sometimes engage in ways that evaporate time when I’m engrossed in constructing a poem or an enticing piece of prose. Sometimes just picking up the old guitar transports me.

I seem easily distracted. This declaration weighs in at the rough equivalent of ‘I seem remarkably human,’ and serves as no real distinction at all. The advertisers understand and exploit this universal human trait. The supermarket surrounds me with so much visual stimulus that I lose all awareness of what I take in. My brain devolving into a mush of subliminally suggested memes, I try hard to shop on the periphery, lest the deep, dark corridors between completely subsume by intentions and free will. Slip over here for more ...

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SocialFracking

frackingzone
I’ve taken to calling those flow-interrupting comments that bomb out a conversation thread SocialFracking. There’s both good and bad SocialFrack. The good might turn a terrible tank before it crushes the shared garage. The bad kind feels like losing your mantra; you might not notice instantly, but when you do notice, you’ll have to start all over again.

I unfriend chronic SocialFrackers (colloquially referred to as simply “frackers”) because they distract me from the business at hand. They engage like under-recognized precocious children; smart-mouthed, dumb-assed, understandably unappreciated. They seem to wear their grudge on their shoulder, proudly, as if a spangly epallette. They suck all the civility out of discourse. My life’s way too short to let them hang around for long. Slip over here for more ...

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Writing

quill
I usually introduce myself as a writer, not because I make a living writing, but because I spend most of my time either writing or thinking about writing. It might be my obsession. It kind of sucks as obsessions go, though it’s gratefully not illegal yet.

Writing doesn’t pay much of anything, and it’s tedious, lonely work. There is a trade aspect to it, but that seems convoluted enough to prevent most people from entering it. Some writers have agents who take care of the business end of the business. I have an editor or two who welcome anything I submit. Slip over here for more ...

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Scale

scale1
She was rapt all through his description of his work. Then she asked the poison question. “Does it scale? If you can do this with an organization of a hundred, how would you do it in one with thirty thousand?”

He spent the next two days working out how that might happen, or, more properly, utterly failing to work out how that might happen. Finally, in some frustration, he figured out something. The answer, the definitive answer to her question just had to be no. He answered her question, so why did he feel as though he’d failed? Slip over here for more ...

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TheLastStorm

laststorm
Most observers figure this will be the last storm of the season. Well, the last big storm, but nobody really knows. Arctic air still roams freely south of the Mason-Dixon Line and tropical moisture hasn’t had its hall pass revoked yet. Get those two delinquents together and it’s anybody’s guess.

The Last Storm brings a touch of nostalgia with it. I’m always on alert when the Weather Service issues a Storm Watch. I become, well, watchful, I guess, anticipating the morning’s shoveling duties, making sure the long underwear’s laid out, double checking the old boots and the supply of ice melt. I triple check the larder lest I find myself without milk, beer, or fresh salad greens, the three primary food groups of this transition season. Slip over here for more ...

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Sprung

sprung1
Winter hasn’t quite let go yet. Last year, it never really came. This year, it’s the house guest that can’t take a hint. A week ago, the back door was blocked by ice and snow. Today, the yard’s covered in crocus. Monday will be yet another snow day here.

I was worried that the capricious weather might freeze out the earliest flowers, but they seemed to have thermostats telling them to close up tight, and I can see no damage as they open up wide again. They were extra eager to bloom this March. The moment that last deep snowfall melted off, up they came and more than welcome they were, too. Slip over here for more ...

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Be-Longing

be-longing
I felt the hollowness when they asked what skills I might bring to the collaboration. Skills, I thought? I’m supposed to have skills? I checked my pockets, but my hand came back out holding only a few coins; small change. “I have quite a bit of experience,” I explained, “but none of it seems to have resulted in anything I’d really consider to be skills.” I felt thirteen again.

I might be a member of that group with a perpetual member numbering one, but changing every day. I learned that I was supposed to be something when I grew up, but I’ve either never grown up or failed to become in spite of considerable personal and professional growth. The evolution seems incomplete. Slip over here for more ...

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Difference

difference
The possibility of disappointment, even failure, increases whenever I pursue impossibles. I shouldn’t have to remind myself to check for impossibility before starting a project, but I seem to almost always forget. I might be so blinded by the glimmer streaming off my bright, shiny objective that I flat-out forget to confirm the likelihood that there might possibly be a there over there where I swear I’m going. When there’s no there there, I’m not really gonna get anywhere, no matter how caring my intentions.

One of the great pitfalls involves the whole-hearted pursuit of change. This often occurs in groups, when someone whips folks into enough of a frenzy that they temporarily lose their minds, convinced that they might reasonably, for instance, change their culture. Whatever the anticipated need or the imagined benefits derived from this kind of effort, success seems slim, though this one might (I said might) be destined to become the precedent-setting first instance of successful culture changing registered in history so-far; but probably not. Slip over here for more ...

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Bluster

snakeoil1
The boundary between fact and fantasy only seems wider than it used to be. Commerce has long been exempted from any legal obligation to tell the truth about anything; us emptors have always been well-advised to caveat plenty, because the promotional material probably promises much more than the product could possibly deliver. They play liar’s poker, and each of us gets to sit in the rube’s chair at the table.

This is nothing personal. Bluster quite naturally expands over time. Stretching any truth encourages its ever greater elasticity. Advertisements intend to persuade, not inform, though much promotional material appears informational. If it was paid for by someone expecting to recoup their outlay, I should expect that it might well say anything to separate me from my money. Slip over here for more ...

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Optim-eyes

fairytales
“We are poisoned by our fairy tales.”
Don Henley
The End Of The Innocence


I listen to the language around me. I listen deeply. I hear insistent preference for The Fairy Tale Form, a descriptive style that might well acknowledge difficulties but also demand resolution, too, almost as if living happily ever after must be the primary purpose of any stumble. We intend this, I suppose, to encourage us. We don’t so much see as optim-eyes, subtly projecting hopes over the top of our fears. This passes as the primary coping strategy of the modern age. Slip over here for more ...

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HellPing

hellping
I remember when the road to Hell was barely a rough track, primarily paved with the odd good intention. Today, thanks to social media, the road’s more like an eight lane beltway, endlessly circling a burgeoning metropolis. You see, social media has given good intentions unprecedented reach. What was once no more than an occasional wink and nudge has become a continuous, unblinking stare and a disturbingly hard shove. The infrequent, useful ping has become an unrelenting HellPing, good advice morphed into a nasty vice, with advertisements attached. Slip over here for more ...
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NoComment

nocomment
My daily newspaper The Washington Post, like every newspaper with an online presence, offers the opportunity for every reader to comment on every published article. Facebook, Twitter, /*you_name_it*/ also offer comment spaces. My friend Mark holds the opinion that the comments often say a lot more than the article they comment upon. Me? I can barely bare to read them.

They seem to offer the same sort of experience as one finds observing the typical autopsy, what might have once been human, laid bare and violated. No, my nose isn’t disjointed because somebody’s comment peed on my birthday cake. Yes, my sense of propriety feels offended. Slip over here for more ...

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TheAmericanDiaspora

diaspora
My family, probably like your family, has been leaving for nearly five hundred years. We speak vaguely about our origins, never fully appreciating the filters our genome has passed through, as if we were somehow still mostly German or Scotch/Irish; Catholic, Fundamental Protestant, or Jew. We are now made more of the stuff we’ve passed through than we are of where we came from. We’re only passing through here. It doesn’t quite feel like home should.

Most raised in rural America moved far away from their roots, not fully appreciating, until the holidays come around, their sacrifice when pursuing opportunity and survival. Then, vestigial familiarities haunt us. Slip over here for more ...

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Seven Star Three Carrot Two

maths
Seven star three carrot two
probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to you,
just a senseless series of numbers which
amount to some mathematical some’ bitch.
If I told you this means sixty three,
you’d be tempted to think the less of me.

‘Cause you don’t represent yourself
by distilling essences of anything else.
You never were a mere sum of your parts,
always unimpressed with so-called smarts.
You’re one of them insolent throw-back Joes
who value ‘done’ over what anyone knows.
Slip over here for more ...

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The Explorer's Dilemma

livingston
No explorer enters wilderness expecting to find adoring throngs there. More likely, he’ll find nobody home, or find people for whom his wilderness seems like home, but nobody to appreciate his intrepid excursion. Returning to what passes for civilization, he might well find nobody who appreciates his discoveries, either, since only he and his small company have seen what they found there. Most can’t help but misunderstand his stories since they have no basis upon which to properly interpret them. Such seems the explorer’s life.

Such seems The Explorer’s Dilemma. Slip over here for more ...

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Fix-ating

cresentwrench
A certain fixation seems one of the inescapable collateral effects of a problem orientation. I’m easily seduced into trying to fix if I see every complaint as a problem. This preference easily degrades into a form of addiction, where I seek out problem situations so I can show off by big, shiny wrench.

I am rather proud of my wrench. And I’m encouraged by my many successes employing it. If I am not always the master of every difficulty, I am always the master of my toolbox.

I suppose enlightenment begins sometime after I realize that no wrench in my expansive toolbox fits the nut I’m convinced needs tightening, or when I begrudgingly accept that no nut exists for my wrenching to secure. Sure, I’ll try the vice grips and even that antique Model T spanner I found at a barn sale, but they won’t work, either. In frustration, then, wisdom might prevail. Slip over here for more ...

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No Problem

problemsolving
I’m declaring my last month sensitivity to ‘leaversmith,’ aka leadership, officially over. I doubt that I’ll ever again be able to swallow the term leadership again without chewing and finding some surprising resistance there. My learning high-centers on the emerging conviction that I just gotta inject my own situational meaning into every invocation of that notorious ‘L’ word, otherwise, it’s clearly meaningless. Over the past month, I’ve encountered hundreds of instances of ‘leadership,’ each one cloaked in a fuzzy reassurance, and meaningless without my more-or-less mindful intervention.

Friends have published books over the last month featuring the ‘L’ word in the title, but most offered helpful follow-up advice in their subtitles. Read carefully! I’m learning to slow down and chew before I swallow, even when—especially when—that meaning was supposed to be pre-conscious. Slip over here for more ...

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False Identity

sheepinwolf
Business school bestowed an extra, unstated diploma upon me. Sure, I received the faux sheepskin one, properly bound in a green leather case, with a more powerful, insidious, tacit one invisibly attached.

After those full-immersion years of case studies, conferences, and cow-towing, I fancied myself some kind of leader. Other than getting myself chosen as the chapter head of a small student organization, I’d had little practical experience, and certainly no large-scale strategic involvement in anything. But I carried that attitude, that confident mindset that, given half a chance, my presence would improve any organization.

My first wife would ask what had happened to me, and I would respond absolutely baffled by her question. I felt on top of an expanding world, powerful in ways I had never before imagined. Sure, I worked long uncompensated hours as a management trainee, but I was working with the big dogs, ... digging, it would turn out, really big holes. Slip over here for more ...

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Lost In Translating

LostInTranslation
I might be a master at simultaneously translating. You might be every bit as masterful, too. Meaning-making and sense-making seem to demand no less from each of us. A difficulty emerges, though, because I’m rarely very aware of the substitutions I’m so seamlessly making. I don’t suffer from this perfectly human form of mindlessness, and even when I find myself suffering, I almost never understand that I’m the source. I could, in a more perfect world, always choose to translate in ways that would delight me, but I don’t often even catch myself translating.

So, my month-long challenge to catch myself translating whenever I encounter the ‘L’ word, what I’ve quite deliberately chosen to translate into ‘leaversmith,’ has rendered me a tiny bit more mindful. Of course, my newly-hatched mindfulness feels slightly crazy, like a more deliberate form of mindlessness, but I could claim the same effect from any habit-breaking practice. Slip over here for more ...

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Greatness

greatness
The headline insisted that we’d lost a great leader, though the story beneath the fold reported bi-polar opinions of her greatness. This story got me thinking about the great leaders I’ve known. What made them so great?

Here, I feel obliged to start listing attributes: behaviors, habits, and actions intended to describe their greatness. Maybe I could throw in a model that cleverly summarizes the universal attributes of greatness, leader-wise. I could even subscribe to one or another theory of greatness and pontificate. My bookshelves groan under the weight of competing theories of greatness. Slip over here for more ...

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Disappointment

disappointment
The very mention of leadership induces deep feelings of disappointment in me. It seems to dredge up failings rather than successes; ones I’ve witnessed as well as all the other’s I created all by myself, Lucy-holding-the-football scenarios I already know will turn out poorly. Mount the stage, fall on my face.

Some of the leadership gurus explain that continuous improvement looks exactly like this, serial faceplants, slightly different every time. Maybe the same tune, but with key changes in between. Whatever, leadership slips beyond risky into certainty. Set ‘em up. knock ‘em down.

This sounds pessimistic, I know. Slip over here for more ...

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The Leaversmith Challenge

leaversmith
I purposefully waited until after April Fool’s Day to propose this challenge because I wanted to make sure it was not mistaken for some kind of prank. Some will believe I should have waited much longer while others might wish I’d released this sooner. Like with all true challenges, there couldn’t have been and never will be a perfect time to initiate this one.

No day passes without me receiving at least one exhortation to become a more effective, purposeful, confident, likable, service-oriented, or successful leader. My Twitter feed overfloweth with ‘em. Facebook apparently thrives by frequently faceplanting into ‘em. And I know I really should want to achieve all of those, if only I knew what any of them meant. Slip over here for more ...

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Gun Owner Control

gun
I’m in no danger of becoming an expert on guns. I just don’t care about them very much. They seem expensive, dangerous, and essentially useless for anything I might do. I do have one, though, inherited. An heirloom, kept secure and inaccessible, wrapped in swaddling cloth, with no ammunition in the house.

I don’t like ‘em. I figure if Matt Dillon insisted that anyone entering Dodge check his gun at the city limits, I’m with him. I don’t mind people owning them, just that some of the owners insist upon shooting them in public. Slip over here for more ...

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My Muse

muse
I excuse my muse her trespasses,
I forgive my muse her airs;
she’s simply pursuing her purpose,
pulling my head out of there.

How my head ended up inserted
down where the sun never shines
won’t help resolve the dilemma
every great writer must find.

When picking up a pen leaves me stupid,
or setting fingers to keys strikes me dumb,
I’m thankful my muse doesn’t need an excuse
to disabuse what could never become.

She’s gentle as a ton on a toenail,
thoughtful as pie in the sky,
she opens up space by gettin’ in my face,
My response, universally tongue-tied. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-71: Homefull

melted rims
A short time after a wildfire burned his home, a man explained that several of his fellow fire victims were suing their insurance companies. He’d volunteered to participate in a citizen’s watchdog group to oversee the claims processing, and had found no evidence that anyone had much of a case against their insurers. “The problem,” he concluded, “is that the dissatisfied seemed to believe they’d purchased home insurance, when they’d actually insured their houses. There’s no such thing as home insurance.” Slip over here for more ...
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Homeless 0-72: Hard Reset

hardreset
The landlord agreed in an email this morning to extend our tenancy to mid-November. This offer transforms zero minus twenty seven days into zero minus seventy two. Still no word on the possible next home, but our transition promises to be less complicated than it might have been. Still, Amy’s ordered packing boxes and I suspect I’ll wear a fresh trail between here and the storage place over the coming few weeks.

I’ve read enough detective novels to appreciate a plot twist. I might see one coming and still feel whip-lashed by the experience. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-28: Caretaking

caretaking
I asked the property manager to tell me the story of the brick colonial he was showing. “Don’t know a thing about it,” he replied. “I just open doors and turn on the lights.” His cold approach seemed to have seeped into the brick, leaving a clammy stickiness in the place. Some rentals come as anonymous as a no-tell motel room, a cynical financial transaction. Hard to imagine these places ever becoming home-making material.

Others come resplendent with history, so bright and present I wonder if there’ll be room enough for me to make any new history there. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-29: Paperwork

paperwork
Say what you will about the greatest works of man, not one history ever mentioned the paperwork involved. Leonardo’s great struggle requisitioning the marble for his David sculpture or Columbus’ great inventory innovations, history doesn’t care. Though history, I suspect, was always written on the back of paperwork, and not the other way around.

As the search narrows, paper appears: applications, tenancy forms, hazardous building materials warnings, credit checks, recommendation letters. Most of this blessedly occurs electronically now, but the crinkle and clutter persists. So much to specify, so very little to actually state. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-30: Third Thoughts

sleepless
Sleepless nights have never been strangers in my bedroom. I was every bit as sleepless as a child as I’ve proven to be as an adult. I often wake at two or three, then lay there staring at the inside of my eyelids, channeling some idea or feeling; rarely fretting. Sleep never refreshes me the way these long, isolated, early morning reveries seem to.

These days fill up with notions, first thoughts. These usually swarm around me, most prominently when I’m taking my quick, cold morning shower. Many of these turn into some piece of writing, a poem or short piece like this one. They simply appear, a few of them catch, carrying some clever twist or pleasing sound. Later, I’ll add an extra room, perhaps landscape their exterior a bit, and call them done, but I rarely second-guess those first thoughts. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-31: Thunk!

thunk
Few sounds come close to resonating the way the good, solid Thunk! of hitting a bull’s eye does. For some, this sound means that they’re skilled. For the rest of us, merely lucky. Might not matter which, the satisfaction’s the same.

Any search means you don’t know yet, until, suddenly, you do. Or you finally think you do. Then every complication shrinks, barricades evaporate, and self esteem, whether fairly earned or not, soars. Inside the bull’s eye, feeling clever becomes the same as actually being clever.

We might have hit the lotto yesterday. In the grand game of chance, sometimes I find myself holding the right number in the right place at the right time. I can, as a result, recommend no strategy beyond sychronicity, which can’t be rigged, outsmarted, or cleverly planned for. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-32: Creaking Floorboards

creakingfloorboards
The landlord was late. I knocked on the door and waited in that self-conscious way I have, feeling like I was trespassing. I might have the wrong address, it’s happened before. I double, then triple check, then mosey around back for a look-see. Plastic-wrapped couch. Cracked concrete parking pad. Low cyclone fence, painted black.

A car came zooming down the alley then, and the landlord emerged, apologizing, reaching to shake my hand. The actual walk through didn’t take more than five minutes. Moving detritus everywhere. A kitchen crudely made-over, designed to look great in a photograph, laid out like a galley, a frozen encumbrance to navigation in practice. What might have once been a dining room transformed into a nook. What must have once been a living room, cut up into a way too small dining room and an equally too small living room.

A twisting stairway, two turns bottom to top, every stair screaming with every footfall. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-33: Face to Face

face2face
Prospective landlords were out of town, so we drove by a couple of places and stopped in on a housewarming convened by one of Amy’s co-workers. I’d met this co-worker last week in Colorado, and we’d had a vigorous chat about her new neighborhood. Or ‘hood, as she referred to it. Her and her husband have just bought a place in Brookland, a neighborhood between our current Takoma Park and Downtown; closer in.

We’d looked at a place just around the corner from their new place when we were first searching for a home here three and a half years ago. That place had been decked out as college quarters, with huge rooms connected by remarkably narrow passages. Its most prominent feature, a spiral staircase to the second floor. The place also had a third floor, so moving anything larger than a toaster would require removing windows and winching, like they do in Amsterdam.

No, thanks. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-34: Roam, Roam On The Range

buffalo
We are roaming now. Having rejected several possibilities, we’re feeling increasingly untethered. The landlord’s dropping by with a realtor Tuesday morning to come up with a price for this place. Our realtor friend provided a cocktail napkin estimate, something greater than my lifetime earnings so far, and any possibility that we might buy this place and avoid the unrooting evaporated. The latest postings’ landlords all seem to be out of town, so we’re hanging with thirty four days until launch date.

Yesterday, we drove our rented rig North into Pennsylvania to buy our canning tomatoes. There and back, we passed through a few dozen alternate universes. Shady suburban subdivisions. Rolling Maryland horse farms. Ancient, stone-foundation barns. Small towns. Small cities. Sprawl. Backroads. Freeways. Feeling homeless all the way there and back again, mentally trying on each changing venue, not knowing where we might belong. Roaming. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-35: Loose Beginnings

looseends
I might be over it, though I know I’m not. Leaving leaves loose ends. Beginnings seem equally ragged.

I read a lot of novels, most of which feature tidy endings, resolving all mysteries. There, now I know that it WAS the freaking butler all along. The story might be a roller coaster ride, but with a clean finish. Real life feels messier. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-36: Possibilities

netofpossibilities
Woke up this morning smack dab in the middle of a brand new net of possibilities. Sure, I inhabited one yesterday, too, and also the day before that, but those seemed less populated than the one I woke into this morning.

I could stride through life if only I could sense such a rich network of possibilities every morning. My myopia might be my own worst enemy, because there’s no practical reason that I shouldn’t and couldn’t continuously renew my sense of possibility, except that I seem to have unlearned how to do it. Perhaps I outgrew this once familiar sense. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-37: Cat's Feet

catsfeet
I’m proud to say that I’m a cat person. Amy, too.

We live in dog town, USA.

We watch as neighbors’ dogs drag their owners around regardless of the weather, pooping in appreciation, I guess, and indifferently leaving the mess for their owners to snag.

Dogs grow up to be eternal adolescents after an overlong babyhood. By which I mean they never seem to really grow up.

Also, chuck your typical dog. Will it land on its feet? It’s as likely to land on its head!

Being cat people, we seem to land on our feet. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-38: Prospecting

prospector
At a picnic last night, a friend demonstrated how to pan for gold. He explained how to quickly determine likely spots, sieve and winnow, and, finally, how to pan. This is one meticulous process, apt to bore anyone to death before paying off. The flecks produced in a day might sell for to a thousand bucks, but you’ll earn every penny the tedious way.

I’m impressed by the difference between the myth of prospecting and the actual practice of it. The myth insists that dedication produces results. The actual practice requires more brains than brawn. Learning how to quickly determine likely spots is worth immeasurable effort; an ounce of technique seems worth more than a pound of gold.

These same principles might hold true for any sort of prospecting. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-39: Homesteading

cavepainting
I’m supposing our search for new digs qualifies as a kind of homesteading. The wilderness we’re crossing might be more in our heads than beneath our boots, but we’re still wandering through unknown territory, imagining a home somewhere out there.

I wonder how my ancestors reacted when after months of the most tedious traveling, they stood on the Western edge of the Blue Mountains to survey the Columbia River snaking even further Westward through bare scablands, with snow-capped peaks standing between them and the fabled Willamette Valley, the so-called Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-40: The You'll

kokopelli
I feel the tension, the opposing forces. One standing to preserve the status quo and the other pushing to undermine it.

I know too well my tacit, standing-order, status-quo-preserving force. It’s passive and surprisingly aggressive, an immovable boulder straddling the middle of the road. The pushy force seems small but wily; Kokopelli—part fertility, part trickster. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-41: Sweet Breezes

Fall
I have no idea where I’ll be forty one days from now. I suppose it’s past time that I really should be lighting my hair on fire and running in manic circles. I’m reconnecting instead.

I have no freaking clue how I became so fortunate to be exactly where I am today. Sweet summer breezes envelope my present, soften my past, and ennoble my immediate future. It’s my birthday and I’m in no hurry to achieve any future or abandon any past. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-42: Home of Cards

houseofcards
I met Amy almost fifteen years ago in the breakfast room of The Nordic Inn, where we are staying this weekend, here in Mt Crested Butte, Colorado. She was building a house of cards.

Her team was chasing the clock to complete an eight foot tall house of cards. She, the shortest team member, was balancing on a chair, placing cards on the teetering top of the structure, when another of her team members asked me, one of the workshop facilitators, if he could borrow my measuring stick to determine how close they were to finished.

That’s when her team discovered that they were trying to build an eight foot tall house of cards in a room with a seven foot ten inch high ceiling.

How did they respond? Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-43: Booster Shot

boostershot
Suspending the search for a new home to work out of town for a week seemed like a really bad idea, finding a new home-wise, especially since the deadline clock wouldn’t be stopped for the time out. This morning, ensconced in a robber baron’s hotel in the high Rockies, the bad idea seems as if it couldn’t have been more prescient. We needed a break from our 24/7 frantic focus on finding. Filling the divot can wait.

I feel my energy cohering here and I haven’t dipped a toe into the World-famous mineral springs. The sweet mid-seventies breezes fresh from my childhood seem to be reviving my immune system as if I’d gotten a booster shot for optimism. The dry air evaporates way-too-long-believed-in impossibilities. My perspective’s widening now that I’m out of those endlessly narrow, hazy hills in the East. I’ve never worn cowboy boots, but I’m for sure a Westerner, and even a temporary transplant here energizes me—tree-mendously. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-44: Home Away From Home

annealedsteel
I might feel most at home when I’m away from home, getting by with my small cache of carefully-selected possessions, making do without my library, kitchen, and comfortable routine. I could be more present when I’m gone than I ever can be when I’m home.

I find more comfort knowing that my stuff is there than I feel when I’m sitting in the middle of it. I can only wear one pair of shoes, read one book, sit in one chair at any one time. My other shoes, books, and chairs become tacit possessions then, and I their absentee owner. Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless 0-45: The Nose

I flashed back on a familiar feeling as I buckled myself into the flight to Colorado yesterday morning. I’ve traveled in my life. I know how to be away from home. I pride myself on my adaptability. I can find decent bread, drinkable decaf, and a respectable supper within an hour of landing anywhere. You see, I have The Nose. Slip over here for more ...
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Homeless 0-46: Identity Functioning

deadhead
I’m almost certain I understand what’s happening. Lost home equals lost identity. Just who am I now? And who the heck will I end up being on the other side?

It’s an identity crisis. A crisis because loss of identity shakes foundations, bringing all those comfortably dozing conundrums screaming to the surface. It’s a loss of identity because we humans are deeply influenced by the context within which we live; lose the context and self seems to slip away.

This process might be healthy, like pruning a bloomed-out rose bush. For a while, the bush doesn’t look nearly as rosy. But the trim encourages new growth, producing more blooms Slip over here for more ...

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Homeless-0-47: Shock and Aaaah

forrent
We became homeless a month ago, when the landlords called from The Hague to say that they were selling the house. Reluctantly. We, in turn, reluctantly accepted the news. We were in shock, I’m surprised we could even muster a decent reluctance. But we did.

The law says that after five years renting out what was once a primary residence, the status of a property shifts from owner-occupied to commercial holding, and valued at the current fair market price for capital gains taxes. Some government employees stationed overseas get a pass. Our landlords don’t, because they’re ex-pats for a private company.

Unfortunate. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Thirty -Connected

hopscotch
We’d been living in this small town surrounded by the megalopolis for three years when the disappearing car forced us onto the sidewalks. This first felt like an imposition, as if we’d lost something important, but we’re adapting. I hadn’t suspected how disconnecting that car had become. I could disappear into it and reappear somewhere else, do my business there, then disappear into it again. Now, we have to walk a block or two before disappearing into any vehicle, and we often just choose to walk all the way rather than use any available worm hole. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless -Day Twenty Nine -Patience

meltingclock
The myth of modern times insists that we’re all rushed. We have no time. We’re in a hurry to get there, anxious to leave, and pushy returning. We’re constantly behind schedule, running late; always, always, always running.

Because this feels like a competition, we speed compulsively as if we’ll lose something if we don’t. We’re so focused upon the future we zoom right past the present, showing up late for our own funerals.

Subtract one car from this calculus and a startlingly different world emerges. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Twenty Eight -Mastery

axlegrease
I can always tell when I’m in the presence of a master because he only requires three tries to put something together right the first time. Then, he’ll find some invisible fault and propose an improvement that will force him to have to put it back together three more times. Then he’ll find a perfection I can’t even sense, but do appreciate.

The necessity of seeking help from masters probably qualifies as the very greatest benefit of my mechanical klutziness. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Twenty Seven -Fishin' See?

fishingexp
I’m sure the notice on the bike shop’s website said they’d be open on Wednesday. I remembered the owner explaining to another customer last time I was there that he was heading out to one of the canal trails for a few days. Somehow, I’d imprinted that he’d be open after ten on Wednesday, so I grabbed the bike wheel and brake hub parts and started hiking.

I passed right by the bike shop just around the corner because they specialize in futuristic electric bikes. They’d seen my antique before and given the kind of advice that convinced me that they didn’t have a clue about mid-century classic wheels. They’d had their chance, so I kept walking until I came to the classic bike shop and found the sign saying they’d be open again on Thursday. Dang!

I try to be careful now, but I seem to be programmed to be car-full, instead. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Twenty Six -Gridlock

gridlock
Traffic was terrible this morning. I know this not from personal experience, but from the frequent updates on WAMU. Traffic conditions get reported every twenty minutes starting at five AM, not ending until ten unless traffic’s particularly bad, in which case these reports might continue all day. Afternoon commute reporting starts at four and extends until eight, depending.

I swear they could (and might) just re-run a tape of yesterday’s traffic, and the reporting would be mostly correct. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Twenty Five -Side Effects

Bikeparts
I’ve gotten better at taking apart mechanical things. Partly because Amy bought me some wrenches I thought at the time were completely unnecessary because I already owned a needle-nosed vice grip, a crescent wrench, and both a phillips and a flathead screw driver. I appreciate now that some mechanicals disassemble better when using specialized tools, though I’ll never understand torque wrenches.

My new bearings arrived, brand new fifty year-old parts. Now comes the greater challenge: reassembly. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless -Day Twenty Four -Judgement Day

beachedwhale
Half a block from our temporary home, after a long afternoon searching for a replacement place, a car blocked the street. I pulled our rental car to the curb, explaining to Amy that I’d go see what I might do to help. I’m nobody’s mechanic, but I could hear the knocking arrhythmia and see dismayed looks of the Sunday-suited people inside.

The driver spoke a broken, mumbling dialect I could barely understand. I think he was trying to get the engine to settle down before he tried to move the vehicle, but it was coughing and bucking. When he engaged the transmission, the engine died. After motioning another car around this beached whale, I suggested that he should coast the car to the curb because it didn’t seem like it was going to be going anywhere. It was busted. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Twenty Three -Skidoo

skidoo
Inner-city car rental agencies are the opposite of their airport counterparts. The Grand Poobah status every frequent flier carries holds no sway here. Everyone must stand in the same long line while form after form gets painstakingly filled out, printed, reviewed, fixed, re-reviewed, then signed; but only after a guided tour around the car twice to note any dents, wrinkles, or scratches. And even then, I had to remind the agent that she might want to leave the keys with us instead of carrying them back inside the clip joint. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless- Day Twenty Two -Sweat Equity

shadyside
The air conditioning system in Amy’s retired car had gone funky. Only so much musty moisture can pump through any system before it becomes rank itself, pushing out stinky arid air. I kept it turned on the highest setting from April to October anyway, because I was born without the gene that counteracts humidity’s most humbling influence. Amy can walk to the Metro without sweating through her socks. I cannot.

The busses are walk-in refrigerators, the Metro trains, moving coolers. The streets swarm here in the dog days with people chasing their own tails, trying to generate their own breezes. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Twenty One -Chessmate

chesspiece
Driving seems checker-like; carlessness, more chess-like.

Cars can go straight to anywhere, mostly via arterials. Busses and trains have fixed but circuitous routines. Bikers and walkers skirt the edges of bus and car territory. Getting from here to there by car entails little strategy, just take the shortest, straight-line route. The same trip by bus requires some serious plotting and planning. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Twenty -Cardigan Desire

cardigan
Whoever dies with the most toys, misses the point.

I figure that if I set my mind to it, I could do without most of my stuff. I suppose that I could go bookless or meatless or guitarless, perhaps even heartless for a while. Affluence stunts the imagination. Ready access to great variety sates nothing but want, and unsatisfied want might be the one necessary element for living a complete life. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Nineteen -Waning Invisibility

invisible
It sounds silly, I suppose, but Washington DC turns out to be the loneliest place I’ve ever lived. I have spent weeks without running into anyone I know, my most significant social interactions being with grocery clerks and librarians; and those, just small talk. It’s a problem of scale, I think, too many people chasing way too many choices to ever coalesce a center of anything. Everyone zooming around in closed up cars, air conditioners roaring, or walking with their heads plugged into their iPod, iPhone, or Android alternate universes. Distracted drivers, distracted riders, and distracted walkers living deliberately invisible lives. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless- Day Eighteen - Crank Length

cranklength
The problem, I find, with riding Amy’s “girl’s” bike has nothing to do with crossing some culturally-induced gender line. Her bike’s just uncomfortable to ride, even though it has more gears than I can practicably find. It feels somehow built wrong.

I adjusted the seat to compensate for my longer legs, making sure to find that sweet spot between over and under extension; and I think I found that spot. Still, when I started pedaling, something felt wrong. The circumference of the pedal circle seemed too short, restricted. I’d ridden bikes like this before and found them dispensing charlie horse cramps, achy knees, and sore hip joints. The only solution I’ve ever found to this difficulty has been to not ride those bikes. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Seventeen -Good Neighbor

beerfairy
We’d put five miles on our shoes by noon, looking at one rental and failing to find a second. Once home, Amy found the second place’s address: up an impossibly long hill. Yesterday, as I was trudging up the twenty eight percent grade on our street, our neighbor stuck his head out and gave me a round of applause because he’s a smart-ass. “Keep up the good work, David!” he cheered.

”Hey,” he continued, “if you need a lift anywhere for a beer run or to look at a place, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m just hanging around here.” Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Sixteen -Father of Convention

girlsbike
I’m supposing it started as most modern beliefs do, as a marketing ploy; some way to differentiate for profit. Before, there were bikes. After, “boy’s” bikes and “girl’s” bikes; not “men’s” and “woman’s,” but always “boy’s” and “girl’s”. The difference being that while one has to hike a leg to mount a boy’s bike, a skirt-wearing girl can just step through with dignity intact, as if zooming around on a bike while wearing a full skirt qualified as dignified.

For most men of my age, though, this marketing ploy stuck. I’d no more ride a “girl’s” bike than wear her skirt, and this little stigma strikes me as simply silly. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Fifteen -Troll Shoulders

balls
Stopped in the bike shop today, committed to finally resolving that squealing coaster brake. I believed that I would need a cone wrench, a thin little baby most bike break hubs require for disassembly. The owner admired my antique then checked his master manual, because there are several different sizes of cone wrenches. He flipped the machine upside down and loosened the back wheel before concluding that my bike didn’t require any special wrenches. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless- Day Fourteen -Alley Cat

alleycat
The realtor had generated three possibilities in our search for a place to move, so I mapped ‘em and hopped on the bike before the predicted swelter settled in. The first place overlooked a drug store parking lot. The second, a semidetached row house in name only, was actually the middle of three undetachable brick units. The third was a tad remote, but beautiful, and someone snatched it up before we could schedule a walk-through.

Between the first and second place, though, I discovered a neighborhood with alleys. I felt transported back to my childhood, when I mostly travelled by alleyway. The town I grew up in featured extensive networks of secret passages and little-known shortcuts, and I knew every danged one of ‘em. It was as if the thoughtful city planners had created a shadow street grid, perfect for a ten year old’s needs. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Thirteen -Musings Mysterious

inconvenience
Modernity’s mysterious to me.

I’ve owned four cars. I’d hoped each would be my last. I drove ‘em until they were essentially undrive-able, abandoning them only after they’d abandoned me. I replaced each reluctantly, not wholly convinced that I really needed to replace any of them. I have experienced carless times before.

I have the same relationship with cars that I have with power tools. I’ve never really felt competent to operate either. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Twelve -Dweeb On Wheels

havelock
My bike is properly geared for downhill coasting, though the brakes squeal near the bottom of the steepest grades. That one gear gives me some uphill work. I walk it up any grade greater than gentle. No, I don’t wear a helmet, though I know I should. I don’t have one to wear.

When we decided to go carless, Amy asked if I needed a new bike as we waited at the bike shop while her twelve speed got a check-up. I admit that I was attracted to a fine, new ten speed, and almost saw myself sinuous and slick, a ‘real’ urban biker, but I demurred. “Nope,” I replied, “the one I’ve got seems to be working fine.” Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Eleven -The Missing Tooth

missing tooth
For the first week or so after going carless, the ghost of the red Honda seemed to haunt the driveway. Looking out my office window, I’d catch just a fleeting glimpse of it, projected, I suppose, by my steam-powered perceiving facility; as if it had just then gone and I was seeing its last few lingering molecules hanging in the humid air.

Now, the haunt seems over. It’s been about a week since I caught myself thinking that I’d just hop in the car. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Ten -Lost and Found

lostandfound
I suspect that we’re rediscovering long-acknowledged principles by going carless. Whether these are classified as understandings fundamental to psychology, sociology, anthropology, chemistry, physics, or library science doesn’t matter to me. Whereever fundamental knowledge resides, it seems fundamentally useless until I personally experience it.

Carless turns out to be one of those something’s missing dilemmas. In this class of conundrum, the important lessons emerge. I couldn’t usefully learn this stuff without personally experiencing it. This ain’t a thought experiment, but an existential one. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Nine -Zip 'e De Do Car

zipcar
’Your first Ziptrip is kinda like a first date. You're excited. You're nervous. You hope your breath smells okay. Of course, there's always that getting-to-know-you period. To keep the awkwardness to a minimum, follow the Ziptips down below.’

So begins the confirmation ZipCar sent when I reserved my first one. No, the experience wasn’t even a little bit like a first date. Neither nervous nor particularly excited, I learned that I should have reserved a car more than an hour in advance, though the technology certainly enables me to reserve a car almost the moment I need one. Almost, because there’s always the possibility that there are no cars available at that precise moment, which is what I found. I imagined that I’d just saunter over to the neighborhood lot and hop into a zippy car. Instead, I fast walked four blocks to hop a Saturday bus which dropped me nearish to an alternate Zipcar lot, where I secured my wheels Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Eight -Not Hovering

milkcow
The evening routine’s shifted. Instead of hovering, waiting for Amy to announce her departure from work and her follow-up call to report that she’s made it to the Metro stop-before-ours so I can hop in the car and collect her, I open the front door so she can let herself in. She still calls to say she’s on her way and sometimes calls to chat on her walk/bus ride from the station, but I’m not hovering. I’m prepping supper instead. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless- Day Seven -Good For

anticar
Back on carless day three, the landlords called to tell us that they’ve decided to sell the house we’re living in. We gotta be out of here by October 1. Where will we relocate? No idea.

I’m adopting the strategy I employed when we found this place. A car’s no advantage when scoping out neighborhoods. I need to walk around to see what a neighborhood’s like; driving-by can’t tell me nearly as much as can the people I meet on the street. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless- Day Six -Wits End

half-wit
I didn’t need public transport today. I could have ginned up some excuse for an excursion just to ‘get out,’ but the weather was blistering, and by afternoon, strong thunderstorms took over. I was satisfied sitting at home.

I might not have chosen this satisfaction had the old car been handy. I wouldn’t have complained about a fresh loaf of bread. I might have ‘needed’ something from the hardware store. But the slight inconvenience of needing to plan the outing was plenty enough barrier to prevent me from such distractions. I chose to face my own demons in the relative discomfort of my keyboard, instead. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless-Day Five -OutSmart

sidesmarter
Smart phones make public transportation useable. Busses are useless unless riders can figure out where to catch ‘em, when they’ll arrive, where they’re going, and how much they’ll cost. They also must be convenient, which means frequent and reliable; they gotta show up on time. Tremendous local knowledge used to be required to even think about bussing. Now, I dig deep in my pocket, pull out my iPhone, and open GoogleMaps, which can tell me where I am, note where I’m going, and derive alternate routes: car, bus/train, bike, hoof. Slip over here for more ...
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Carless-Day Four -Fare Trade

faretrade
The cab arrived ten minutes early, then idled at the curb while Amy—always running a smidge late—finished packing her briefcase.

“Can you run up to my office and find a writing tablet for me?” she asked, winding a computer cable.

“Where are they hidden?”

“Just under the printer.”

I slipped upstairs, found one, then hopped back down to hand it to her.

“Thanks.”

I’m very sensitive to time when leaving on a trip. Amy’s event horizon works differently. She’s ready when she’s ready. This morning she would leave about five minutes before she’d ordered the taxi to arrive; unusual punctuality, probably a fluke. I schlepped her bag down the front walk, handing it to the cabbie. Amy and I smooched and hugged, then she disappeared into the cab and the cab evaporated into the hazy morning. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless-Day Three -Shifting Gears

derailleur
Shifting Gears

We rode bikes instead of hoofing it to the farmers’ market yesterday morning. I asked and Amy said she was game, so I pulled out from the back corner of the garage her 1976 Schwinn Varsity twelve speed, pumped up the tires, and brushed away the accumulated cobwebs and cat fur.

Amy doesn’t ride her bike much. And, as we started out, she struggled to shift gears. My bike has only one gear, so I was a half block ahead of her before I noticed she was fretting. She closed the gap, though, and we continued up through the complicated intersection, where she pulled off onto the sidewalk, clearly frustrated. Gears still not meshing properly. She gamely remounted and we coasted into downtown, to the small bike shop there. Slip over here for more ...

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Carless-Day One -Taking Credit

onecarless
We’ve declared ourselves carless for the next few weeks. Why? Not our sincere dedication to the environment, though I probably shouldn’t have admitted that. Sure, we might avoid spewing a few pounds of carbon into the environment, but that alone wouldn’t have chased us out of the vehicle. We’re interested in saving the planet, but we’re no less stuck in this car culture than everyone else.

The *real* reason has more to do with financial than environmental security. Slip over here for more ...

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New Shoes


showboxshoes
New shoes,
fresh out of the box today,
they’ll smell like something I’m proud to say
belongs to me, for a few days, anyway.


My old shoes
fit like they were a part of me.
Though they couldn’t hold the shine I’d used to see;
I could not believe when they’d started to leak.

So I bought new shoes,
Though the old style’s discontinued now,
I found something close to my familiar style,
I’m not yet sure these’ll really work in the long run, still,
Time’ll tell.

It’s a new year,
foisted from some midnight haze;
they tell me it’s the end of the good old days,
I knew so well. I say, “Oh Hell, I know this well.”

It’s like new shoes.
An alien presence for a time,
but soon even these will loose their shine
and that curious smell, and I will come to know them as well
as my old ones.




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Training Wheels

trainingwheels
Learning Balancing

Learning to ride a bicycle might be the perfect training for life. It teaches the same lesson we each encounter when learning to walk, but were too small to retain. Both teach the clear distinction between balance and balancing, which might be trying to impart some acknowledgement of the much more significant difference between being and becoming.

We ask our children just what we were asked as children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Well-intended but none-the-less insidious, our question begs an unfortunate response. They’ll have to choose. They’ll aspire, then, to a notional state their earliest life lesson might have clearly demonstrated couldn’t exist.

At sixty, I’ve almost discarded the notion that I might be something when I finally grow up. I’m still wondering when my growing might slow enough that I might reasonably declare myself grown. But then I consider what might follow this curious achievement. Slip over here for more ...

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Synchronicity- The Movie Made Just For Me

clackboard
I know when I’m in my groove because everything I encounter seems perfectly placed, as ready-to-hand, as ready-to-mind; as if in a movie produced expressly for me.

This seems enough of a not-everyday experience that I feel especially blessed whenever I encounter it. I’m reasonably certain that I cannot, by mere volition or will, force it to occur. Perhaps I’m subtly letting go whenever this movie-like magic appears, unconsciously stepping aside from standing in my own path. How could I know?

I do know that a certain openness seems to surround me these days, as if my molecules had elbow room; space for the unexpected to nudge into play. I’m getting better at going with these surprising flows, acknowledging their presence, accepting their utility, and leveraging their possibilities. Slip over here for more ...

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Gravity and Levity

gravityandlevity
Peter Pan might have been the most honest of my childhood archetypes. He endlessly proclaimed that he’d never grow up, insisting that he’d always be a boy. The rest of us have had to pretend that we would, could, and eventually did grow up, though our claims sometimes seem doubtful.

I questioned that my grandfather, who I remember as a grizzled coot with nicotine-stained fingertips and emphysema-thickened chuckle, ever was a boy, though he had a mile-wide mischievous streak and an unrelenting glint in his eye. His sixth grade school photo shows a barefoot Tom Sawyer look-alike, and I’m certain that he never fully out-grew those patched overalls and that soup bowl haircut. Slip over here for more ...

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Ganging Agley

mouse
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Life seems curiously analogous to a thirteen year old, fully capable of intruding upon her self; setting off on one certain trajectory only to ricochet onto another, then another, then yet another. I don’t know who proposed that plans should ‘turn out,’ but their’s was one short-sighted, perhaps naive idea. Though most otherwise sentient adults insist that success involves manifesting aspirations into actualities, this occurs so rarely that lady luck gives better odds. Might as well ‘invest’ in the lottery. Slip over here for more ...

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Her Why-ness

why?
Wh-once there whas a whoman
who tried to understand
Every mysterious wonderment
which fell into her hand.
She started with the obvious,
wondering who? and where?,
then annoyed both friends and family
with her insistent whats? and whens?
Even mere acquaintances wondered where her questions would end.

But this whoman didn’t stop her questshe continued to carry on—
flinging about her question marks until most of her friends were gone.
And still she posed her questions, inquisitive through and through,
until she bumped into the questions nobody ever gets through.
Not even kings and princesses have ever gained much ground
following the promising breadcrumb trail our curious whoman found. Slip over here for more ...

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Leaning Into It

Anticipatory Living

leaninginto
No, I do not jog. I didn’t encourage my kids to join youth soccer, Pop Warner football, or the YMCA. They do not jog, either.

I remember debating with myself: to jog or not to jog. I’d had a roommate who jogged. He’d also played Pop Warner and high school football and even won a football scholarship, but blew out his knee, so he became a journalism major—covering sports. I tagged along with him once while he followed the UW golf team around a course. Aside from the mushrooms I found along the way, it was a most remarkably boring afternoon for me, though my roommate seemed endlessly interested in whatever might happen next.

It seemed that he was mostly living in the future, finding his energy in looking ahead. He seemed to do this when jogging, too.

My final answer to the Deal Or No Deal jogging question: No Deal! It was just too mind-numbingly boring. I took up stationary bike riding, which would have been equally mind-numbing had it not been for the book stand over the handlebars. I could read, which I never find boring, while engaging in unavoidably boring repetitive motion.

I called my bike-riding ‘leaning into it,’ because that was the sensation I felt when poised on that machine. I was certainly not making forward progress, but I was definitely leaning into it. I found the exercise refreshing and the leaning into it strangely rewarding. I began to understand why people jog. It’s an extreme leaning into it; they are chasing their future.

Slip over here for more ...
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Voice

voice1Remember the first time you heard your recorded voice played back to you? I’ll never forget when I first heard mine. I’d always been a little more than a bit of a ham, mugging for some invisible microphone. Thinking in my mind’s ear that I must sound pretty gol-derned clever. That first playback in a fourth grade music class took my breath away, and not in any good way.

My played-back voice sounded nothing like the beautifully-modulated murmur I’d imagined. I sounded like Jerry Lewis imitating Donald Duck.

Slip over here for more ...
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On The Lam

In honor of my thirtieth Superbowl Sunday out looking for newborn lambs, I arrived back home with this latest addition to Dadbo’s Top Fifty Terrible Traveling Tunes. We saw no sheep. And no lambs. The snow was still deep enough to high-center a newborn. So we basked in the sunshine, zooming along back country roads running wet with the fast melting winter and glinting with the undeniable promise of Spring. OnTheLamLamb.jpb
On The Lam
Just about done
with this bleating winter sun.
I’ve wearied waiting for her engraved invitation to leave.
Barn-bound till today, I’m out here to see some green
peeking through the snowpack back at me.

I’m bound
to butt my head until it’s found,
The stinging Springtime snow has no idea
what she’s found herself up against this time.
I figure if she won’t cede my feed,
I’ll just up and take what I know is mine!

On The Lam,
Forgettin’ my high-handed fantasies!
I won’t ever understand,
So I’ll just accept what grace I already have at hand.
Without any firm permission,
I’m committing to the life of co-mmission!
Tell the sheepdogs I’m off in some new direction,
I’m On The Lam.

And it’s already begun,
Her Icy fingers lose their hold,
Though the bleary old status quo told me otherwise.
Me, I’m believing my own two eyes!
I’m reneging on the compromise that held me here;
Now, I get to be my own surprise!
I’m On The Lam!

On The Lam,
Forgettin’ my high-handed fantasies!
I won’t ever understand,
So I’ll just accept what grace I already have at hand.
Without any firm permission,
I’m committing to the life of co-mmission!
I’m gamboling off in some new direction,
I’m On The Lam.

02/06/2011- Lamb Lookin’ Sunday


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Telephoney-Part Two

How e're it was he got his trunk entangled in the telephunk

Now we have cell phone stores. They combine the worst of Radio Shack with the very worst of automobile dealerships to produce perhaps the bleakest shopping experience anyone's ever devised. Shopping for a new kidney couldn't help but seem refreshing in comparison.

The modern cell phone 'provider' offers 'plans' comprised of various combinations of damned whatever you do choices, and an array of actual telephones which, by the way, sometimes even involve telephony, though they much more prominently feature MP3 player, camera, GPS, and web-accessing technologies. Even the lowliest offerings tout ring tones more than usability, and the highest-end feature a dizzying library of 'apps,' which seem to be little more than opportunities to turn the ...ahem... telephone into a terribly expensive video game unit. "Hello? I'd like to place a telephone call." Fergetaboutit! Slip over here for more ...

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Telephoney-Part One

The wife's after me to get a new phone. My reticence has nothing to do with loving my current phone, but more to do with my history with Telephoney. Or maybe that's Telephoney's history with me.

My current phone is a bit more than two years old, a pocketknife-sized Samsung Jazz, so old now that Google can't find any evidence that it ever existed. Just as well. If I was Samsung, I'd deny any association to the damned thing, too.

I acquired it at the same time Amy got her first Blackberry, which is a machine so damned complicated that I still can't pick up an incoming call on it for her. She swims the breadth of the web on the little thing. For me, it has all the technological sophistication of an under-sized paperweight with a particularly crude and unusable user interface. Great for some but they forgot to provide access for the rest of us. Slip over here for more ...

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Windsock Nation

It started with the budding Harris Organization incorrectly predicting that Thomas Dewey would beat Harry Truman in the 1948 Presidential Election. Lord knows where it will end. Americans love pollsters. It’s unthinkable to imagine a representative who does not query the community to determine what s/he should do. We’ve become a windsock nation. Slip over here for more ...

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The Tickle Point (continued)

This insight returned yesterday, when I attended a meeting with a bunch of Russell Ackoff Systems Thinking people. Since Systems Thinking has never hit the mainstream... most organizations still cling to reductionist dominion tactics when trying to resolve difficulties (or, as they say, 'solve problems'), ...the Systems Thinkers feel marginalized. Rather like feathers.

This was a meeting of the club of people who never join clubs, so many felt isolated, misunderstood, out of community. Slip over here for more ...

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Statesmanship

Here's the transcript of a floor speech given by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), introducing the reconciliation process to the US Senate. It is a remarkable example of statesmanship. Didn't seem to make the news...

From Page S1844/45: The Congressional Record 3/23/2010

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, let me first of all thank my great friend from Montana, Senator Baucus. We arrived in the Congress of the United States together on the same day, back about 35 years ago. We have been friends for 35 years. We arrived in the Senate at different times. He got here a little before me. We have been in this institution for 30 years. I cannot describe in the limited time I have what a difference he has made--the fact we are here debating, finally, the last piece of this legislative effort to give the Americans what they have sought for more than a century, and that is the basic right to health care.

   I always found it somewhat ironic in a way that we in this country provide for those accused of criminal offenses the right to a lawyer, the right to an attorney. I believe in that. I think it is correct. But isn't it somewhat ironic that the same country that would provide you with a right to a lawyer if you are charged with a criminal defense cannot provide you with a doctor if your child is sick? There is something fundamentally wrong with that, in my view. Slip over here for more ...

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Eat To Excess

I believe that I should eat to excess only whatever’s in season. When I’m in the Walla Walla Valley in asparagus season, I eat a lot of asparagus. Why not? It’s cheap in season: sixty cents a pound if I drive the short distance to the grower’s place. He’ll stuff an extra pound or so into the bag for good measure, and it was cut just that morning. And there are few foods more satisfying than fresh asparagus.

I do not can asparagus. Or freeze it for later. After its short season leaves, I’m on to whatever’s in season next. This practice ensures variety, which I agree is the essential spice of the good life. Though I admit, by the end of any season, I’m fairly sick of whatever was in season. Until next year. Slip over here for more ...

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Barely Legal Seafood

Lemon Butter Sauce is a euphemism for lousy quality in the industrial food service industry, and if you hanker to meet industrial food service with all of its euphemisms, you could not do better than to plan a visit to Legal Seafood. The name hints at the niche: that space just south of indictable but north of convictable. It's legal, but barely. Full disclosure, probably to be mandated by some future judicial ruling, will doubtless require a slight name change to Barely Legal Seafood.

I ordered the Woodfired Seafood Combo, breaking a personal rule to avoid ordering anything advertised as a combo, but it was late and it seemed the simplest alternative. The wedge salad was fine. Slip over here for more ...

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A Cook's Book

 The Larder

I am not a chef. I am a cook. And a pot wizard. And a cheap-assed shopper. 

I do not wear a toque. I only occasionally wear an apron. My knives need sharpening. They were not imported from Germany. 

My cookware does not match. I have way more Corningware than I will ever use, purchased for next to nothing at an old family friend’s estate sale. It holds more meaning than utility.

My favorite cast iron fry pan has a crack in the bottom of it, but I cannot bear to replace it. I found it in the oven of the old gas cookstove in that crummy apartment I moved into when my first wife and I separated. It, however, holds more utility than meaning, though it holds a lot of meaning, too.

I am a picky eater. Slip over here for more ...

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Integration: Symmetry

"It would be hardly too much to say that modern science began when people became accustomed to the idea of changes changing, e.g. to the idea of acceleration as opposed to simple motion." Arthur N. Prior

Changing the whole idea of change has occurred a few times in the history of science. Transcendent moments where some quiet, previously undiscovered truth emerged from an unlikely place. Those who were trudging the straight and narrow were surprised, often angry. Several of these game-changing insights were not accepted or even recognized until their discoverer was long gone. Slip over here for more ...

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Integration: The Essential Milling Around Period


Where does integration start? This is a mostly meaningless question, but rather than simply walk away from it, I'll expound a tiny bit. Integration isn't a step-wise, serial process. I know, I know, step-wise seriality has become the popular method for describing everything, and while I could slip into that worn groove, I'll choose not to. If only because that groove misrepresents integration. It just ain't like that.

I believe that we miss many opportunities to integrate because we don't see them. Primed for one or another 'first step,' when we don't see that step appearing, we get discouraged, even to the point of convincing ourselves that integration is obviously not possible here, at this time, with THEM! So I'll explicitly dismiss the serial, step-wise recipe for integration in favor of a less misrepresenting form. Slip over here for more ...

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Disintegration

My world crumbled in upon me yesterday. No great tragedy, just one of the commonplace pedestrian catastrophes. I'd constructed the scenario for my immediate future, then found myself unable to manifest my aspiration. I'd written down the wrong address, arrived at the proper time, but found nobody there. Nobody I knew anywhere. I sat in my disappointment for a while before I decided to sit with it. Then, nearly in tears, I shuffled off to a second-best alternative, chewing on myself most of the way. Once there, I was delighted to find a wish I'd forgotten I'd made coming true before my eyes. This, alone, was not nearly enough to dispel my funk. It stretched into the evening and left me restless in bed. Only in my dreams did any sense of integration return. This morning, I feel whole again.

Disintegration is the father of integration, as well as its first born child. Slip over here for more ...

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Integration

Today's word is Integration. Today, being 10/19/2009, seems perfect for integrating. In 10/19, there are two ones, perfect for combining with the single nine to create by simple addition and combination, 2009. Well, that's my explanation.

The first principle of integration seems to be that the story I create to explain the integration might not make sense to anyone but me. You just had to be there at the 'point of integration' for the story to provide full impact, to experience that ah-ha instant. I got to experience it first hand. My story is inevitably used goods. What's well integrated for me might not seem very well combined to you. Slip over here for more ...

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Defining Failure

My Defining Informing Failure

I entered the seventh grade a successful student. In grade school, I had lived among the top tier of students, participating in an array of extracurricular activities. I played a decent (though never distinguished) second chair clarinet, squaredanced, Cub Scouted, and ran my own paper route. I’d written and produced a play in my fifth grade class for scholastic achievers, and even conquered the dreaded long division. I left grade school college bound. By the end of my first term in junior high school, I was certain that college would be beyond my reach.

What happened? Slip over here for more ...

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DC United

Let's say we have two communities, one who firmly believes that differences of opinion can only be resolved one of two ways: beat the crap out of the opposing view and walk away the 'winner,' or (if really necessary, dragging both feet and whining) by compromising, defined as giving up something I really, really want and forcing you to sacrifice something you really really want, then agreeing that this is the very best either of us can do. That's one side, call it DC, for Dominion or Compromise. Slip over here for more ...
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Grandma Unplugged

The single most generous act my father ever committed was when he decided, after carefully weighing the options, to not artificially extend his life. He reasoned that, should the chemo or the radiation work, it would also make him sick, and render him incapable of actually living. Life without living didn't attract him, so he chose hospice and fate and, ultimately, a life he could stand proud of until he, inevitably, died.

Most of medicare funding is spent 'plugging in grandma,' when grandma ain't going anywhere. While I can appreciate the pain and the trauma associated with unplugging her, I'm baffled at the mindset that decided to plug her in ... in the first place.

Our time here is short, and not improved by artificial extension. If life is sacred, so, then, should be death. The secular death caused by the eventual collapse of artificially-prolonged life is crueler. It does not lesson the grief, and poisons the memory.

Don't debate about unplugging grandma, consider not plugging her in ... in the first place.

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Writing Songs

Which comes first, the inexperienced always ask,
The words or the music, melody or message?
And I always feel dismayed by their innocence,
embarrassed that I cannot coherently reply.
For neither come first, and neither come last
and how either come into being,
nothing but a persistent mystery, even to me. Slip over here for more ...
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Rationing Health Care

I've been hearing a lot of debate about the necessity of rationing health care, as if there were not enough of it to go around. Conservatives use this argument to encourage the status quo. Liberals use the same term to encourage change. If we accept that there's not enough to go around, rationing seems, well, only rational.

My complaint centers around the irrational way we presently choose the haves and the have-nots.

What would rationally-derived health care rationing look like? Here are some ideas. Slip over here for more ...

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Who Is Your Daddy?

Father.

Father is the painting of a blue house green. Father lives on the other side of the sky. Father is a cloudy day with sun. Father is an email, a phone call. Father is paperwork and publishers. Father is books and drives in the country. Father is fireplaces and snow. Father is the ocean I swim in. Father is a cascades volcano, a skyscraper. Father is large and powerful. Father is a bold line across a blank page. Father is a bowl of pasta, an arugula salad, a Christmas goose. Father is a day in June. A long day, where the sun shines almost till midnight.

Love,

Heidi

©2009 by Heidi Astrid Schmaltz, all rights reserved

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Taking Stock

We made an unusually rich haul at the Clarendon Farmer's Market this morning. Probably the last of the season's asparagus. Two quarts of the most delightful strawberries, and a pint of the first blueberries. A bag of beets, tops on. Another bag of yellow baby patty-pan squash. Garlic scapes (at last)! More of that perfect Greek yogurt, rich and sour, perfect for strawberry-dipping. One enormous fresh mozzarella ball. A bunch of fresh, yellow-stalked chard. Four perfect little purple eggplants for grilling. Some brown free-range eggs. A fresh sprig of Italian parsley.

Perfect until it came time to store our wonderful finds. This little apartment doesn't have a root cellar or an auxiliary beer fridge in the garage, not even a garage. It was time to clean out the also-rans. Time to make stock. Slip over here for more ...

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The Dead Fish

"King Charles II once invited members of the Royal Society to explain to him why a dead fish weighs more than the same fish alive; a number of subtle explanations were offered him." excerpted from After Virtue-a study in moral theory by Alasdair MacIntyre

Can you explain the scientific reason why?

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Sweet Dreams

The deck looks less lush without the resident spider plant I delivered to Amy's office on Friday. Rose noticed, and lay forlornly near where the spider has sat. The cats are not yet resigned to apartment living. They still shake their little fists at whatever gods got them here, and seem to remember lounging in the shadows beneath endless expanses of plant shadow and yard. Rose munches on the cat grass occasionally, and spends every night when it's not thunder-storming holding watch on the beige artificial carpeting on the balcony. Outside, sniffing the breeze, neither purring nor sleeping. Watching. Listening. Perhaps seething.

Crash is mostly sociable. He seems pleased whenever either one of us returns, but also crying plaintively as if mourning. I've taken to offering a few kitty treats when I return, which, I know!, encourages infantile behavior. I scratch heads and switch out their water bowl for some cold water from the filter pitcher from the fridge. I don't expect them to drink the musty tap water here either.

Slip over here for more ...

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Maps

We all understand that no map is the territory it portrays. Whatever the chosen projection, glaring differences remain between what can be drawn and what's being represented. Prague famously proclaims that there are no accurate maps of the place, and that getting lost is the only way to learn how to navigate the city. Their map explicitly misleads. Not to be perverse, but to help map readers better cope with the inevitable.

If only every map-maker was this thoughtful. It seems to me that every map suffers from the same shortcoming as Prague's. Whether it's a hastily-drawn scribble intended to guide someone to the neighborhood deli or some laminated intended-to-be permanent portrait of a city's streets, it's wrong, and wrong in some indefinable but none-the-less situationally significant aspect. The value of each incorrect projection ultimately depends upon the perspective of the user, not the accuracy of the map.

And there's no better perspective for any map user than the one reminding themselves that the guide they are following is wrong in some indefinable way. This to avoid over-dependence and to help each remain open to accepting the unavoidable misunderstandings encountered when following any map. Slip over here for more ...

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Chops

In the Jazz world, the term chops refers to skill in execution. This, distinct from talent, dedication, knowledge, or experience. Each performance challenges even the most experienced performers to once again show their chops.

And we know when it's present and when it isn't.

This has nothing much to do with following the score and everything to do with satisfying, even exceeding the audience's highest expectations. This is not schlock improv, nor is it simply showing off. It's more like really showing up. Slip over here for more ...

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Paper, Scissors, Stone

From this morning's Writer's Almanac comes a remarkable poem. I've excerpted a couple of verses below, and left a link to the whole show, which features Garrison reading the entire poem, below that. We each understand the difficulties with the rules of the game. Playing the same game by different rules promises little. Playing a different game altogether? Perhaps priceless.

Paper, Scissors, Stone
by Tom Wayman

An executive's salary for working with paper
beats the wage in a metal shop operating shears
which beats what a gardener earns arranging stone.

But the pay for a surgeon's use of scissors
is larger than that of a heavy equipment driver removing stone
which in turn beats a secretary's cheque for handling paper.

Completed over here: Link

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The White Collar Recession

The whole series now resides here.

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Second Order Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I take a break from the Covenant series today to reflect on change. I know, I know, change has been so done, we're sick to death of it. The endless strategies for inducing it, for enforcing it, for managing it. But today, I want to reflect on a different kind of change. Second Order Change.

Some background: Google Second Order Change and you'll get something like 132 million hits, most of the resulting links guide you to indecipherable pages. (One notable exception here.) Bergquist knows his stuff, but few seem to be able to explain, describe, or coherently define second order change.

Let me add to that body of obfuscation! Slip over here for more ...

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Inspiration

Spindly thin, devoid of splatter;
Certain something’s
not the matter!
Still, lethargic, dragging heels,
Don’t dare ask how this one feels!

Me, I’ve tried—maybe not THAT hard—
to build my tenuous house of cards
with rains and winds, my chief assistants,
confused if this defines what isn’t.

Me, I’m dangling from bare threads,
turning on nonexistent treads,
hatless here on weathered ground,
mere threadbare glove without a hand. Slip over here for more ...

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The Illicit Smell ...

John Updike died this week.

I remember most warmly an Updike story the New Yorker published in the eighties. In it, he described a New England weekend trip. Several apparently successful couples sharing a large country house. In the morning, he captured the tenuous space between the professional and the deeply personal by describing how, in spite of every doctor's best advice (at least one of these vacationers was, I seem to remember, a doctor), the house was filled with the illicit smell of bacon. Slip over here for more ...

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Crime Scene

Five and a half years ago, when the departing administration was, it turns out, just getting started, I traveled to Washington DC to do some research in the Library of Congress. The purpose of that trip, it turns out, was not the library research, but something else. Call it a full immersion experience. I post this story here today in remembrance of those days and in deep gratitude for the days to follow. However we traveled, we ended up here! Cheers! Slip over here for more ...

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Good Citizenship

I’ve never been much of a flag-waver, but I am passionate about good citizenship. By citizenship, I do not intend to imply anything about country of origin, immigration status, or political belief. I speak instead to what any thriving society requires of its citizens, people like you and me.

Slip over here for more ...

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Eighty Six

Today would have been my father's 86th birthday. The first one I've ever known him to miss. But then he 86ed in September.

I've been working to clean out the old family place these last few weeks. Organizing for an uncertain future. I honor his memory today and the context he created, and the one I'll leave behind. Slip over here for more ...

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Hold On Tight

I'm no better at predicting the future than the next guy. Probably much worse than some. Marginally better than some others. But I don't believe that life depends upon anyone's ability to accurately predict the future. We humans remain interested in prediction even though it's kind of an anti-life occupation.

There's probably no better way to undermine the present than to stick your head far into the future. Time spent focusing upon there is necessarily time spent not being present here. We live only in the present. Slip over here for more ...

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The Dismal Science

Whoever labeled economics 'The Dismal Science' was right on the money. Maybe even right on the money supply. But probably not right about anything else. Economists specialize in counting uncountable things, gathering statistics that serve as 'indicators', and posing future scenarios based upon schools of thought. Dismal. Slip over here for more ...
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MnM

Chuck Spinney is at it again. This time, he unwraps what might well be the strategy behind Obama's remarkable election victory (although I did hear a Faux News commentator yesterday wondering why he only won by such a narrow popular vote margin---had his strategy been mindless, he suggested, he should have won by a much greater margin...). Anyway, this explanation (the one linked to below, not the Faux commentator's) is interesting, even if it isn't really explaining anything remarkable. Slip over here for more ...
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Election Day

Just before election day in 1968, a fellow in advertising who worked for Nixon wrote a newspaper ad that began,
"It will be quiet on Tuesday. No speeches. No motorcades. No paid political announcements. It's a very special day, just for grown-ups. America votes Tuesday…and . . . on Tuesday, the shouting and the begging and the threatening and the heckling will be silenced. It's very quiet in a voting booth. And nobody's going to help you make up your mind. So - just for that instant - you'll know what the man you're voting for will do a thousand times a day for the next four years. Now it's your turn." (from Bill Moyers Journal October 31, 2008 essay)

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Throw Out Da Bums!

The road to best practice seems twisty, bumpy, and fog-shrouded. The most frequently overheard phrase throughout my career? "We tried that once and it didn't work."

Once? You tried it once? Then concluded that it never would work?

Well, it wasn't just them saying this, I've said it myself.

What happened to "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again?"

Not in the modern corporation, thank yew. Not in my backyard, either. There, the phrase is , "if at first you don't succeed, you've failed." Utterly. Supported by, "We tried that once and it didn't work." Slip over here for more ...

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Brush Up Your Shakespeare!



We were doing an extended engagement in NYC a few years ago and, as we often do when working there, we played what we call Broadway Roulette. Show up at Duffy Square a half hour before curtain time and see what tickets are left, buy a couple and head off to a show. We happened one evening on the revival of Kiss Me, Kate, and were delighted. This one piece (in the above YouTube video)
, where two hoodlums, backstage to shakedown the male lead for gambling debts "accidently" wander on stage during a performance, was the highlight of the show for me, because it reminded me that whatever truth we might nudge out at the client's shop, we needed to respect their traditions, or, more to the point, Brush Up Our Shakespeare. Slip over here for more ...
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The Price Of Gas ... ...

The real looting started back in the Reagan years, when installment credit interest was suddenly disallowed as a tax deduction. Then, age-old usury laws fell out of fashion, and states went into the business of chasing each other to the bottom, promising “pay NO taxes, penalties, or fees, and charge your poorest customers whatever-the-heck you please.” There just had to be a prosperous underbelly down there somewhere. Slip over here for more ...
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The Last Day of Summer

The Last Day of Summer smelled like Fall
Rain had slipped in overnight, soaking the half-scraped wall
But I still tacked the tarpaulins over the coldframe and
climbed that clammy scaffolding to stand and scrape and sand.

It was Easter when we'd moved the poles and bracing down the wall
and all through May I watched each day usher in the fall.
For I was working some other walls while this one stood half-scraped
Though I hoped I could get back to here before this summer escaped Slip over here for more ...

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Almost Down To Sturm and Back

I delivered this eulogy for my father today:

My father was a gentleman,

A gentle man.

A Republican.

He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

He was a soft touch;

He loaned much but borrowed little.



My father was a noble man,

A nobleman,

An able man.

He wasn’t handy, but he was persistent!

He persevered much

And gave so freely, he seemed rich.

Slip over here for more ...

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Mantis

True Story:

The evening before my dad died, a praying Mantis landed on the front screen door. Mother recalled that a mantis takes up temporary residence on that porch this time every year.

Slip over here for more ...

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Life Intruding On My Plans

Robert C. (Bob) Schmaltz, of 1015 Pleasant Street, died peacefully at home on Wednesday, September 3, 2008, aged 85 years. We celebrate his life at Central Christian Church on Monday, September 8 at 10 a.m.



Bob was born January 15, 1923 in Mt. Angel, Oregon, to Nicholas D. Schmaltz and Caroline P. Bounds. He was raised in Mt. Angel, Scotts Mills, Yachats and Waldport, Oregon, attending Waldport High School. He married Bonnie M. Wallace on October 28, 1945 in Condon, Oregon, where he served with the volunteer fire department, played on the town baseball team, worked with the county road crew, and began his long career with the US Postal Service. Bob moved his family to Walla Walla in 1952, continuing his Postal Service career, retiring in 1978 after 30 years service. Bob and Bonnie raised five children in their Pleasant Street home. After retirement, Bob and Bonnie traveled the country in their motor home, visiting family and friends until ill health intervened.

Bob was an avid reader, enthusiastic baseball fan, resonant singer, and quiet-spoken storyteller. Bob was a member of the Central Christian Church and the local Parkinson's Support Group. He was the primary caregiver for Bonnie for the last fifteen years. Slip over here for more ...

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Peg-legging


This
will be a brief, peg-legged posting. I have been peg-legging for some time, working around a curious feature. A few weeks ago, my space bar and delete key started working intermittently. Just here and there would I noticethatwhatIhadjusttypedcameoutasonevery,verylongword. Wait a minute or two, and the problem would fix itself. Slip over here for more ...
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More On Relational Work Manifesto

Earlier this year, I posted a start of a sticky idea to mixed comments. I've been considering what I said there. I can spend a lot of time in consideration sometimes. Here's the link back to the earlier piece: Link Back

Slip over here for more ...

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"See What?"

What's the most common phrase heard at the scene of traffic accidents? "I didn't even see him!" Why didn't I see him? Perhaps I was too busy looking at traffic control signs. I hadn't noticed until I read this piece (Distracting Miss Daisy) how traffic signs in this country encourage the driver to look away from their real job (watching the road). Obviously, if I'm looking at signs, I'm not looking at the car coming into the intersection in front of me.

Slip over here for more ...

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What's Really Going On?

At eight thirty this morning, the phone rang. My mom. Five blocks away. My dad, diagnosed two months ago with terminal cancer, was having trouble breathing. Can I come over and rummage around in the basement to find that extension tubing, so he can move around the house while connected to his oxygen-generating machine? Had they called hospice? Nope. Yea, I'll be right over. Slip over here for more ...
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