Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Love Poem

The Yoke

I watch you beside me
still pulling within the yoke we share,
despite increasing mud, steeper hills,
and additional weight.

We forgive each other for doubts,
for derisive snorts at the word
printed boldly on the yoke - "love."

Remember when its velvet pads
were thick and soft on our shoulders
when we gladly slipped it on,
before they wore thin with time
and hardened oak now cuts the skin.

We forgive each other for wondering
why we remain in stays
when we each hold keys that could set us free.
And wonder at ambiguous words
printed in script on the keys - "love."

Why don't you or why don't I
with a simple click,
run free away to greener fields
identified, again, somehow as "love."

I can see myself standing in a pasture
of clover, warm, relaxed,
but watching with unexpected discomfort
as wagons struggle slowly away
in the distance.

I watch you beside me
and catch your eye. 
I want to ask if you have
any better idea than I
what means this driving word -

Monday, August 29, 2011

Poetry Jam - Looking Up

Unless I've lost track of days or weeks, this week's Monday Poetry Jam is on the theme of  "Looking Up."    I didn't think I would make it this week but a very rough idea came to me this morning while walking the dogs.  It's  really probably more of a disseration but I broke the lines up so it would look like a poem.  


Up is one of those immutable songs,
source of water, source of light. 
It's direction never changes
for the passionate even in despair,
although some of us in throes of science
claim it is as meaningless as a flat Earth.
I will not be misled by space;
up is always up, no matter what.


Looking up, however, is never constant,
fragments of psalms and surprise.
It is a matter of degrees of attitude,
free will, and effort, particularly in despair.
Like any skill, it builds with regular practice
which seems to be easier for those of us
who live in holes than for those
who live on mountain tops. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friday Photo Shootout -- High and Low

"What's Bagman doing on the floor?" I ask when arriving for this week's shoot preparation.

BAGMAN:  "Shooting from a low angle!"

BUTLER:  "Typical for Bagman...low life.   Probably used to the floor."


BUTLER: "While you down there, can you get the dustballs from under the old icebox?"

BAGMAN:  "Go fly a kite!"


"By the way," I mention, changing the subject, "Have I told you boys how happier I am since I retired.  I feel much more high about life.   And I remember the last photo I took as I was leaving Charleston Center heading down the back stairs."


BUTLER: "You weren't changing the subject.  You were just trying to find a segway to that photograph.   And it was a real stretch.  You don't need to be cute ALL the time, you know."

"You're probably right," I admit. "I probably don't have to try and find something cute to say about the highs and lows of military life. 

The Highs of the Air Force

The Lows of the Navy

BUTLER: "No, you don't have to try and reach for cute captions.  Besides, it's not a real submarine coming out of the grass at Patriot's Point.  It's just a memorial.  And not only that but if you remember, those planes were the Blue Angels -- Navy and not Air Force."

BAGMAN:  "Picky picky!  Let him play!  Hey!  I found a dead bug under the couch!"
I'm a little irritated at Bagman's revelation that I'm confusing branches of the Armed Services.  "Here's a real Air Force plane."

BUTLER: "I've seen you do better work with Photoshop.  I never really liked that one.  It lacks subtlety."

"Okay.  Okay.  Let's switch to the highs and lows of nature."



BAGMAN:  "Hey!!  When I lie on my back and can shoot the ceiling fan!"

BUTLER:  "If you are lying on the floor which is low and shooting the ceiling fan which is high, is the result high or low?"

I start to ponder this conundrum...

BUTLER:  "It's not a conundrum.  A conundrum is a play on words.  This is more of a logical question about perspective."

Okay, so I start to ponder this logical question about perspective but I'm interrupted by my wife who calls out to Bagman, "While you're down there, can you vacuum under the refrigerator?"

That's not much fun at all but since I'm so handy around the house, I leave the studio to go find the vacuum cleaner.  I start to ponder about whether why anyone needs to clean vacuums. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dance like nobody's watching

Even if they are supposed to be watching...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fungushenge, Charlie Sheen, and God

A juxtaposition of digressions

(NOTE): I wrote this over the weekend and then had second thoughts about posting it.  I'm not sure I understand why, but for some reason, talking about God is a good way to alienate people.  But - what the heck.  Since I missed doing something for the Poetry Jam, I might as well hit the send button and hope I don't offend anyone.  

Hmmm...and on the other hand, why am I worried about offending anyone?  Am I that compulsive about being liked?   Anyhow - here is the blog:

So I've been walking the dogs past these mushrooms in my neighbor's yard and realizing I know nothing about fungi.  Like I know they are not plants that grow roots and stems and stuff from seeds that carry whatever DNA messages they need.  And I think (need to Google this) that the mushroom stalk just serves as a way of getting the rest of the fungus off the ground so it can drop spores.  So how do these spores create shapes? 

Maybe it is not that weird.  How do bees create hexagonal honeycombs?  How do humans leave artifacts like Stonehenge or fly to the moon in order to leave a flag there? 

I get into slippery territory here because the word that comes to my mind during thought excursions like this is "God."  

Because, despite years of trying, I have failed to disbelieve in God and, in fact, have come to have a deep belief in God.  But when I say "deep," I mean at a level below linguistics.  The more faith I develop in a God of the Universe -- a God of fungi as much as man -- the less patience I have with preachers who try and define Him/Her/It.  

God is on our side?  Does God really take sides.  Does God really prefer the Dallas Cowboys over the Washington Redskins, Christians over Muslims, Straight people over gays?   Does God prefer yamakas over bhurkas or dark suits over pushup bras?  Is God bothered more by stoning adulterers or Charlie Sheen?   Whenever we speak for God we limit God (I want to use a pronoun here but Him/Her/It has more letters than the word God itself). 

I also have trouble assigning a pronoun to God because it seems to me that God is more of a verb than a noun anyhow.  And somewhere around here, the word "love" slips into my mind.  "Love each other as I have loved you."   Love - now there's another really slippery word. 

I kind of like the Alcoholics Anonymous approach in the 11th step: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him."  I know.  Bill Wilson didn't have a problem with assigning the pronoun.  I'm just glad the 11th step didn't say: "Sought through a copious study of religion to improve our ability to use God to rationalize ourselves."  

My grandfather used to tell me that there was one God but that different people had different words to describe him.   I know - my grandfather also didn't have a problem assigning the pronoun.  Him.  Her.  Does God really prefer cigars to high heels? 

I look at the mushrooms, I look at the stars, and try not to think in words and sometimes I sense a kind of swelling within me.  I could say that I'm practicing practicing running, or loving.  Why can't I use it as a verb?   I got up today and godded for awhile.   I don't know.  Sounds kind of weird, even to me.

And frankly, I enjoy watching the philandering Charlie Sheen on Two and Half Men even though my wife thinks he's sexist.  Ah, sex -- another slippery word.  And is it really more sexist than stoning an adulterous woman?

I'll bet the mushrooms in my neighbor's yard never lose sleep over any of these questions. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday hometown shootout

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Shootout - Quotations

First of all, I got my days mixed up. (But at least I have my post already done for next week.

Secondly, I found myself unable to identify a favorite quotes although my head was full of old maxims -- A penny saved is a penny earned or the early bird gets the worm (although I often wondered if that translated into "the early worm gets eaten by the bird?")....

But Friday is already half over but I'll come in late. Better late than never. Hey! That's a quote!

And trying to find a quote and match a picture with it....anyhow, I did the reverse....found some old pictures that illustrated one aspect of Charleston -- re-enacting the Civil War.

Personally, I think all wars suck. What kind of species tries to annihilate other members of its species because of collective self-righteousness. No matter which side of whatever war you look at, there are "leaders" at the top who are blinded by their own interpretation of truth. Oops! I'm on a soapbox.

But while I'm on the soapbox, I should risk offending my fellow South Carolinians and mention that I'm not really all that fond of Civil War Re-enactments either. But they are very popular in Charleston -- at least among the white folk. All the re-enactors claim loudly in newspaper editorials that they are only honoring history. But somehow I think that at least some of them wish that they could re-enact it with a different outcome.

And most of them, I think, just enjoy running around and playing with guns.

And yet, I've attended a few re-enactments to shoot pictures because they offer lots of unusual photo opportunities. And probably, if I had to look deeper into the darker recesses of my soul, for the same reason that I crane my head to see what I can see when I drive past an automobile accident.

Anyhow - I did find some quotes I like to go along with them:


Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace. ~Charles Sumner

War does not determine who is right - only who is left. ~Bertrand Russell

It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~Author unknown, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, "Mother, what was war?" ~Eve Merriam


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Ninja Cat Burglar Meets His Match

FIRST A NOTE TO FRIDAY SHOOTERS -- I have just removed my Friday shootout which I posted too early and then realized I was a whole week too early.  So I'll work on a Match It for tomorrow and repost the Work Shootout next week.  Some of you, I realize, have already seen it.  Oh well. 


"In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it's too hard to cross"

                        Billy Joel

Wandering at night is not quite that deep or philosophical or dramatic with me.  I just wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and realize that I'm probably not going to go back to sleep until sometime later in the day when I can sneak in a long nap.  (Which may be one of the reasons I wake up in the first place.)

3:30 am is usually my cutoff point.  If it is earlier than 3:30, it's worth doing one of my "fall back to sleep exercises."   My favorite one is to lie in bed and compose a poem.   I've written some of my best poetry during those times; unfortunately, I can never remember any of them.

If it is after 3:30 am, I grab a Coke from the fridge and go up to my office to check email, look at the overseas stock markets and futures prices, play with Photoshop, or just randomly browse the Internet for weirdness.

In order to go from the bedroom to the kitchen and then up to the office without waking up the rest of the household, I transform myself into a ninja cat burglar.   With three adults, two children, two dogs, and two cats in the house, stealth becomes my middle name.  
I'm extremely adept at finding my way through the dark house. I've lived here long enough to be able to move through the house with my eyes closed. This will be a valuable skill if I'm ever afflicted with blindness. I may not know that my shirt clashes with my pants but, at least, I'll be able to find the bathroom.

The dogs are the number one challenge.  There's no telling where in the house they have decided to sleep.  I'm not even sure they make a conscious decision.  Our dogs sometimes just walk along, get bored, and fall asleep wherever they happen to be.   But if they wake up in almost total darkness and realize there is a human in the room with them, they assume it actually is a ninja cat burglar and dutifully begin barking although in their case it is more like yipping.  

If that doesn't wake the neighborhood, I make it worse by shouting quietly (which is a trick in itself), "Annabelle, Daisy, it's me!  Be quiet!  It's only me!"  

The cats are the number two challenge.  I've come to the conclusion that our cats never sleep unless they are lying on top of me.  (Which may be another reason I wake up in the first place.)

The cats don't care if it's me or a genuine cat burglar.  They just assume that somebody has entered the room in order to scratch them behind the ears.  So they meow with impatient anticipation.   And our cats are very accomplished meowers.  I've even considered having Bill, the huge white Himalayan,  try out for the Metropolitan Opera.  I'm sure he could project to the back of the hall.

The last, but certainly not least, challenge comes from the grandchildren.  They set booby-traps everywhere.  Even blind, I know the location of every single squeaky floorboard in the house.  But I do not know where they have left their toys. 
And nothing spoils a good nocturnal sneak like avoiding the squeaking stair but then stepping barefoot on a small plastic triceratops.  

"In the middle of the night
I go crashing down the stairs
through a mountain of toys
To the barking dogs lair.

I must be looking for something
A can of Coke that I lost
Now I've wakened up the household
And they're bound to be cross"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just a brief note

Watching the grandchildren today...flying solo.  I am, of course, completely outnumbered.  But we are determined to have fun all day.   Thankfully, my Friday Shoot is done -- although I ended up having a huge debate with Butler and Bagman regarding whether I know anything at all about work anymore.   So, as usual, it ran a bit long.   Next week the kids start day care.  What will we all do with our time?  

Oops.  Got to go.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Poetry Jam - Evening

Evening Calls

Ephemeral friend
smoother than day
softer than night
middle sister
so often missed
between the passions of sunset
and sensibility of the stars.

I never know just where you begin
or where you end
but when I find I'm with you
I want to slow dance forever.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photo Shootout - Rusty

Yes, I agree with myself as I walk into the B&B studio for the weekly shoot, my photography skills are becoming a little bit rusty.

BUTLER:  "Of course you agree with yourself.  How can you not agree with yourself?"

"I do it all the time," I protest.  "I argue with myself constantly."

BUTLER:  "Sure.  But you agree with yourself that you don't know something and are debating about it.  So it may seem like you are disagreeing with yourself but you are really agreeing that you are confused."

And I thought this was going to be easy.   Rust, rust, beautiful rust....

I was even thinking of dressing up like the Tin Woodsman of Oz who was immobile with rust until Dorothy came along.  And I figured that Bagman and Butler could dress up like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.

BUTLER:  "My colleague, Bagman would make a good Scarecrow.  After all, he does lack a brain."

BAGMAN:  "I got a brain!  I just use it on more interesting stuff than you!"

Nobody responds.  I look around and decide that all three of us are probably tired.   The economy and the hot weather seem to be doing that to us.   Maybe my sense of humor is getting rusty as well.  I guess I'll just post some pictures.  

Fixture in a jail cell at Alcatraz

BAGMAN:  "I'll be a lot guys got rusty in there back before it became a tourist attraction."

BUTLER:  "Is that rust or paint?"

"I don't know.  I can't agree with myself on the answer.  I just shot it and posted it."

BUTLER:  "This shoot is making me very uncomfortable.  I'm going to go and get my cleaning supplies and see if I can get rid of some of that rust.   Rust is indicative of very sloppy maintenance practices."

The old steel factory in nearby Georgetown

A rusty water bird

A rusty crane that I found abandonned in Myrtle Beach

And here is a sign inside the cabin of the crane.  Apparently someone at the Bucyrus Heavy Equipment manufacturing company had precognition.  

BAGMAN (beginning to sing):  "Rust on, Bucyrus, rust on!  Abandonned in the rain.  You've got nothing more to gain.  So rust on, Bucyrus, rust on!"

Is that all there is, I think morosely.  I'm not really very satisfied with this week's shoot.  As I shuffle out of the B&B studio, I pass Butler coming back in with cleaning supplies. 

BUTLER: "Have you seen my Brillo pads?"

I ignore him.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Poetry Jam - Elegy

Elegy for the Actress
Strange I can't recall her name
so much in love I was

at sixteen in black and white
flickering screen, wet underwear at night.
Even as a married man, an L.A. business trip
a guilty affair on bended knees
to  kiss her star on Hollywood Boulevard
dreaming she would be driving by
notice my act and take me home. 

In last week's obits, I saw she had died
after a long illness.  They listed her credits.
Stunned.  Speechless.  Confused.
I thought she had died years ago.

Or maybe it was another one
whose name I can't recall. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Shooter's Choice

The theme for this week's Hometown Shootout is "Shooter's Choice."   So I am totally discouraged when I slump into the B&B studio.   I hate having to choose.  Way too much responsibility!   If I upload a picture, it means I actually chose it!  I can't joke my way out of it.  I much prefer themes that give me grist for playing around.  I just hope that Bagman and Butler can help me out.

BAGMAN and BUTLER (in unison, as I open the door):  "Nope!  You're on your own, Boss!"

"Come on, Baggie," I whine.  "Don't you want me to post something risque?"

BAGMAN: "Not my call this week."

"Butler!  Help me out here!  Something kind Mondrian?"

BUTLER: "I'm staying out of this one too."

I think for a long time.  Thinking like this hurts.  For a long time.  I can't make up m mind.  Kind of like Congress except I can't blame anybody else.  On the other hand, if I don't do anything the world economy won't fall apart either.  "Absolute idiots!" I mutter loudly.

BAGMAN and BUTLER (in unison again, oddly enough): "Are you calling us 'idiots'?"

"No," I reply.  "I'm calling politicians 'idiots'."

BAGMAN: "Well, duh."

BUTLER:  "How does one manage to mutter loudly?"

Well, I might as well get this over, so I go ahead and post a couple that I feel comfortable actually liking.  And they are near enough my hometown so they kind of qualify in the geographical sense.

BUTLER: "Hey! Wait a minute!  Those are over two years old and you've posted them at least twice before already!"

"I thought you were staying out of it," I mutter in a not-loud, appropriately mutterful tone.

BAGMAN: "Stop thinking!  Throw in some of your weird Photoshoppy stuff.  Just post something and shut up! 

"Most people don't like weird stuff."

BUTLER: "People who don't at least tolerate weird stuff aren't reading your blog anyhow."

I figure he has a point, so I pull out a picture I took last week in Myrtle Beach when my grandchildren were throwing bread in the lagoon at Broadway on the Beach to feed the fish.

No fish were harmed while filming this picture
although they did exhibit poor table manners

BUTLER:  "Hmmm.  Maybe I stand corrected.  That looks a little like Hieronymus Bosch.  Yuck."

BAGMAN:  "I love Bosch!"

BUTLER:  "Georgia O'Keefe?"

BAGMAN: "Manet! Monet? However he spelled his name!"

BUTLER:  "Two different artists, my animalistic friend.  Probably a bit more Monet, maybe mixed in with some Seurat."

BAGMAN:  "I know this one!!! Salvador Dali!"

BUTLER:  "I hate that one!  Everyone hates that one."

"I agree," I agree, "Karen hates that one.  But it was shooter's choice and you were going to stay out of it, remember?"

BUTLER:  "What kind of writer uses the verb 'agree' to quote the quote 'I agree?"

"What kind of editor uses the phrase 'to quote the quote'?"

Last picture

BAGMAN: "Hot chick.  Why didn't you wait until she came out of the water so I could appreciate her better?"

BUTLER:  "Because he was shooting abstracts!"

At that, I left the studio for another week.  I didn't want them to know that I actually shot her underwater because I didn't want her to think I was a dirty old man.  But it was also true that I really was shooting abstracts.