jumpingfish
 Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Taste of Strawberries

Do you remember the taste of strawberries? Wild strawberries growing along the two rut road at the edge of the field. Do you remember bending over in the sun and picking those tiny berries and eating them there on the spot? Can you remember the taste of just one exploding in your mouth and overwhelming your senses?

Do you remember them? You took me there. We walked along the dusty road in the deep shade of the Maples and Oaks until we came to that sunny spot of greenery. I remember it like yesterday, and I remember the the taste of those strawberries.

---
Credits:

  • The first sentence is Sam to Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom in The Return of the King movie. (In Tolkien's book it was the taste of rabbit stew.)
  • The phrase, sunny spots of greenery is from: Coleridge's Kubla Khan.
  • Twenty years ago last August, my grandmother showed me were the wild strawberries grew.


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 Monday, December 29, 2003

Dude!

What's a grown man like you doing using language like that?

Language like what?

Dude! You know what I'm talking about.

No I don't. What do you... Oh. Right.

Did you really say Dude?

So what if I did?

It makes you sound like a kid. And anyway: Dude!, kids don't talk that way anymore. It makes you sound, like, old.

Like, old?

Dude!


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 Sunday, December 28, 2003

Waiting For The Figures

The salesman sat in a chair with his laptop on his lap. A couple sat across the coffee table from him, holding hands on the couch.

He was selling sun rooms, and he had just quoted a price for the large floor plan. He knew they were price sensitive -- the husband had confessed to being a cheapskate. So the salesman was also running the numbers for a smaller plan. While he entered the data, he talked about taking a previous client to a satisfied customer's home.

My boss told me not to do it, he said. We sold them that sun room six years ago.

The couple on the couch sat still and continued to listen.

Six years old, but the sun room was in great shape. In that time, the house had aged a lot, and the best thing about the place was our sun room!

The woman on the couch fidgeted. She looked at her husband out of the corner of her eye. Her husband let go ofher hand and moved forward on the couch. He opened his mouth, but he did not speak.

He did not speak, but words came immediately to mind, and he had to hold them back. Dude. Turn around and look at that Onkyo receiver on the shelf. Look at those Advent speakers on the floor. They are twenty-six years old. I'm not impressed.

But he did not speak, and the three of them waited for the second set of figures in silence.


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 Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Water's Edge

You spend too much time by the river.

What on earth do you mean?

I have read the words you write, those emails you send, those things you post online. You always write about the water.

I always write about the water!?

I think you spend too much time there.

The two of them sat silently for a moment with the grandfather clock ticking on the staircase landing behind them. Each waited for the other to speak.

Do you mean down by the water's edge?

Yes. That's what you are always writing about.

And the cattails there?

Yes.

And the yellow iris swaying in the waves?

Yes, that's it.

And the smell of mint growing in the sand by the shore? Or the tangle of roots at the swampy base of the Cypress tree?

Yes. See my point?

I suppose I do.


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 Friday, December 26, 2003

IP, Agriculture and Corporate Welfare

Lessig writes about our hypocrisy with respect the free trade of intellectual property and the free trade of agricultural products.

[Lessig/Taste of Our Own Poison]: While the US sings the virtues of free trade to defend maximalist intellectual property regulation, we poison the free trade that developing nations care about most - agriculture - by subsidizing farming in the industrialized world to the tune of $300 billion annually. Rhetoric about family farmers aside, most of that money passes quickly to agribusiness. This is not Adam Smith; it is corporate welfare par excellence.


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Vortices

Will you wear that BookPeople T-shirt? I asked Ben. It was one of the presents we gave him yesterday.

Of course! Ben answered immediately, his arms extended above his head and a smile beaming from his face.

Because it's not very colorful. The only other color was black, and black isn't a very practical color for T-shirts down here.

Trudy added And black isn't very good for teenagers, anyway.

Ben looked perplexed.

Don't want to encourage you to get sucked into the Vortex of Goth. I said, guessing at what she meant.

Trudy nodded.

Ben laughed glibly and said, I'm not getting sucked into any vortex.


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 Thursday, December 25, 2003

Reasons For Celebration

I do not celebrate this day for the right reasons, not for the one reason after which the day is named. But still I celebrate.

I celebrate a hug and a kiss from my wife.
I celebrate a smile and a hug from my son.
I celebrate the sound of music from children learning to play.
I celebrate the sound of saxophones in a big jazz band.

I celebrate the memory of a Michigan boy in Iowa long ago.
I celebrate the girl he married from Newfoundland.
I celebrate their children.
I celebrate their grandchildren.
I celebrate family gatherings where I learned honesty, where I learned humility, where I learned happiness, where I learned love.

I celebrate memories of crackling fires in a clearing in the woods.
I celebrate the smell of pine needles on the sand in the sun.
I celebrate canoe paddles slipping thru the glass-still water.
I celebrate red winged blackbirds in the cattails by the water's edge.
I celebrate sunsets turning the blue sky pink.
I celebrate shadows that gather beneath the Hemlock trees.
I celebrate the twinkle of starlight at night.
I celebrate the coming of another day.

I celebrate all these things and the force that makes them move. And even though these things are not the right things in the minds of some, and even though celebrating them brands me as a heathen or an infidel, even though mine are the wrong reasons, I celebrate nonetheless.

Merry Christmas.


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 Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Leaves By The Door

I kind of like the ash leaves by the door. Once golden now dark brown, there is something reassuring about their crunch underfoot when we come home.

It's not that I don't rake -- take a look at the leaf pile in the backyard. And you should have been here last night when, in response to a spousal request to take the potted plants back outside, I chose to rake two new piles of those once golden now brown ash leaves, leaves that were now joined by once red now brown oak leaves from the tree next door.

No. It's not that I don't like to rake. Rather it's that I like those leaves on the ground by the door. So I think I'll leave them there a while longer.


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 Monday, December 22, 2003

That Beguiling Smile

A withered apple core sits on the desk, leaning to the side, looking less like an apple now and more like a raisin. It has been there for days.

She comes into the room and sits beside me in the other chair, as she often does in the evening, rolling to just behind my left shoulder, radiating a smile that I can see without turning my head. I continue typing.

How long are you going to let that apple sit there? she asks.

I am ashamed, but I hide it behind a smile and some smart alec comment that hearing it makes me realize just where my son comes by his smarty-pantsishness. We chuckle.

I chuckle. She chuckles. I smile. And so does she. But who knows what thoughts lurk behind that beguiling smile of hers.


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 Sunday, December 21, 2003

Winter Solstice

It is late. It is dark. It is winter now, and the cold air of the night is creeping up his legs while his fingers type away.

It is dark, but a twinkling light on the tree outside catches the corner of his eye. Or was it a truck backing out of the driveway across the street? Or was it the streetlight?

It doesn't really matter. He lets the light twinkle. He finishes what he is doing. It doesn't matter, because it is cold and dark and late on this the longest nighttime of the year, and because his eyes cannot stay open any longer, and because his spouse will beat him to bed if he doesn't go right now.


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There Once Was a Girl

Maybe you won't know what I am talking about. Or maybe you will. Like Sheila did. Like Chuqui did after her.

I can hear the echos in the stairways off to the side of the stage where we sat and we talked while others acted out their parts. And I can hear her words, and I remember her eyes and how she listened to what I said and how I craved that attention.

She had a non-speaking part. I had a non-speaking part. So we didn't have any lines to forget, no fear, no stress. But we sang, and we danced. She: Puerto Rico, you lovely island.... Me: a Shark dashing out onto a platform extending into the audience, chased by Jets.

We sang our hearts out. We dripped with sweat from the dancing. The simplicity of innocence. The joy of youth. Simplicity and joy from the vantage point of 30 years later. So although I can hear her words and remember her eyes, although I still sing the songs and treasure the memory of the dancing on stage, it is very good to be here now and not there then.


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 Saturday, December 20, 2003

RIAA v. Verizon decision

Groklaw talks about RIAA's recent wing-clipping:

[Groklaw/RIAA v. Verizon]: Decisions are sometimes disapointing, but now and then, a judge stands up and says: we have a rule of law here, and no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter how powerful your friends are, here in my courtroom, the law is applied fairly and without partiality. When you see it happen, it's a beautiful sight.


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Is This The Way It Is?

There was a time when I dreamed a lot. Often I would go to the same places in my dreams, places that I recognized both as a character in the dreams and as the dreamer on the outside.

There was a place in a clearing in the woods. It was underground, beneath a hill with an entrance on one side and some other secret ways. And there was this bear, not a frightening bear, but one that nevertheless made the hill a useful refuge.

Year after year I returned to this place in my dreams. It became a home far away from home, a familiar place.

That was long ago. Today, I don't seem to dream anymore. Or if I do it is not the same, for I don't remember dreaming, and I certainly do not have any familiar places I go.

Is this the way it is? Is this the beginning of the end? As our faculties begin to leave bit by bit, does it start with dreams long before we notice anything else?

Or am I just sleeping better?


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 Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Holiday Has Started

From 26 year-old Advent speakers in the living room, Ottmar's guitar sings for figgy pudding.

Outside on the Monterey Oak, newly installed lights shine (green, green, pink, yellow, blue) with a periodic blink when the the leaves rustle in the breeze.

And back inside, the boy is under his loft curled up with a book, Trudy has gone to bed likely taking the dog with her (for the time being), and a candle burns on the mantle.

I guess the holiday has started.


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 Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Knowing His Father

I think sometimes when I read the next morning what you wrote the night before... She looked over at him with a sad look in her eyes, but she didn't finish her sentence.

You think what? he asked her.

I think that I should be there when you write those things that sound like you are gazing lonely out the window. I think that you want someone to talk with when you are up writing, but I am long asleep.

No, he said without really even thinking about it. It's not so much that those are thoughts I need to talk about. When I sit and gaze I don't really think them, but when I sit down to write, the words come together on their own.

She didn't seem to understand. Neither, really, did he. But she nodded her head and seemed to feel better. And he gazed off into space.

And he reflected on how his thoughts only coalesce into words when he actually starts to type them or write them (more often type than write, these days). He thought how otherwise the words never form in the first place. It occurred to him how much of his thinking is really more like wandering in a formless void. Not until he opens his mouth or lifts his pen or types at the keyboard does the mist lift.

And in thinking that, he pictured a man from years ago sitting in the yellow glow of an incandescent lamp in the corner of a living room. A man staring out the picture window, sitting still except for a sometime wiggling toe. Staring into the void.

And he thought perhaps he knew his father better now than he did before.


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 Monday, December 15, 2003

What Will Happen?

What do you think will happen? she asks.

He stands behind her staring at the headlines on the computer screen.

I don't know, he mumbles.


It really doesn't matter, does it? That they caught this man, this Kurd-gassing, swamp-draining butcher from Tikrit? Maybe his capture will lead to others. Perhaps it will not. Maybe the violence will subside. Maybe it will not. But even if it does, what difference will it really make? The world is a different place. Unchecked hatred is ascendant.


It is a blustery night. The wind is gusting outside the window. The fallen Ash leaves that were golden on the lawn just days ago are now dry and brown. The air is cold.

We cannot go back.


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 Sunday, December 14, 2003

My Very Smart Friend

My friend, he is rich. He has a lot of money. You know, to spend on things.

He is a smart man, my friend. He knows how to make money. He never gambles. He only makes investments.

Once a week my friend buys a lottery ticket. He says if he is not in the game then he cannot win. My friend is a very smart man.


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 Friday, December 12, 2003

If That Comes To Pass

If we can't make it work now, if we can't make it work here, then it won't work anywhere ever.

And if that is the case (if we can't make it work) then history will look back in harsh judgement at our being so sure of our manifest destiny and the absolute purity of our self-evident truths -- so full of certainty but so unable to make it so.

And if it does (if history looks back on our failure), it will perhaps conclude that we were just as blind as those fallen communists whose demise we hold so dear today.

And if that comes to pass (if we can't make it work here and now and if history holds us in contempt), the future will be so grim that I cannot imagine. And I don't think I want to. And I envy my grandparents who won't have to.

If that comes to pass.


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 Thursday, December 11, 2003

She Was Not Alone

Margie was 90 years old on Sunday. She came to church, as she has for many years, and sat near the front. She sat quietly near the front in a bright purple blouse.

When they asked her to come forward she walked slowly from her seat near the front and stepped onto the dais. She stood there in her purple blouse and her white hair and looked out at the rest of us, holding the hand of the man who had walked with her from her seat near the front.

The piano began to play. The man beside her began to sing, and the congregation sang, too. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday to Margie.

It was hard to tell, but I think she had tears in her eyes, too. And she was not alone.


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 Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Slow and Fast

Why is it that the first two miles go so slow? I drag myself around the track, step by step by step, and the end doesn't seem to get any nearer. Each lap is an eternity. One. Two. Sometimes I lose count. Two. Three.

And why is it that the last two miles always go so fast? With a shadow from the mostly-full moon overhead. By myself in lane 3. Around the far corner where the track comes close the edge of the woods. The last two laps are done before I've even had a chance to lose count.

Sitting steaming in the cold night air. Stretching at the end of the straightaway. Watching a bunch of guys play soccer in a partially lit field. Thinking it is time to go home.


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 Monday, December 8, 2003

Running Lights

Westerly pinkful glow beneath wisps of white hanging over the hills. Going, going, gone. And night is here before we've even had time to blink.

Darkness spreads beneath the trees. Evening creeps across the water. Shadows deepen.

A full moon rises from behind downtown where holiday decorations on lampposts along Congress Avenue shine. The city throws its reflections into the water.

Mars is overhead. Venus chases the sun that left us so soon. And across the river on top of the hill, the Zilker Tree is aglow.

Sometimes it's a drag, this running in the dark of winter evening. And then sometimes it's not.


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 Friday, December 5, 2003

Pictures on the Wall

He walked thru the doorway and came into the room. There were many people there. He had to turn sideways to find a place to stand. As he turned, he faced the wall.

There were pictures on the white wall in front of him, just as on the walls of the room behind and the one before that. But he gasped as he looked at these. He gasped out loud, and hearing himself he briefly turned away, slowly taking one or two steps and then turning back around.

And as he turned and saw the painting nearest the door thru which he had just come, his eyes filled with tears. Pine trees. In varied browns and many greens. In simple strokes. Pine trees bursting from the rocks and climbing into the sky. Pine trees he had never seen before.

Looking back, he saw an open spot on a bench. He sat down and stared at the pictures on the wall and gave the tears some time to go away.

---
The Heroic Century, Travelling MOMA Exhibition
Museum of Fine Arts/Houston
November 2003


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 Thursday, December 4, 2003

Dads Know the Darndest Things

The chili was finished. The tamales were gone. He came into the study (Please, sir...) and asked for something more. We went to the pantry, and his eyes lit up at the sight of a can of cream of mushroom soup.

Later, with a steaming bowl of soup in front of him and little bread crackers floating on top, he sat in silence, a spoon in his right hand and The Count of Monte Cristo in his left.

He didn't take his eyes off the book as he ate. He was on page 82.

So what is it about? I asked.

It's about a sailor, he said. I'll give you the short summary.

Five minutes later, his summary was not yet complete.

How do you know all this? I asked. You're only on page 82!

It's a famous book, Dad.

We were briefly quiet. He might have been looking at me, but I was looking at the placemat in front of me.

I know how you know, I said looking up.

How? he asked.

From Wishbone.

He stared at me with wide eyes.

How did you know?

I smiled.

It's mom's book, he continued. She read it. She could have told me.

She has also read Lonesome Dove, I responded.

Read what? he asked.

That's my point.

Dads know the darndest things.


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 Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Night Is Here

I had three books, when I was young, whose covers would make a single picture when places side by side. The picture was a drawing of a fading day, with a pink glow in the west, light blue sky above the pink, darker blue above it, and finally deep dark blue in the east.

Those blues that ran into each other from west to east left a flavor on your tongue. They left a smell in your nose. They were the kinds of blues that each must have a name (turquoise, aquamarine, azure, indigo) but I did not know them. Still, they left their mark deeply.

There were mountains and fantastic shaped trees and bats or birds wheeling over a castle. There were gardens and sinuous rills. There were strange creatures crawling the earth. But the dominating feel of the picture was the gradual shift in hue from that pink glow to that deep dark blue.

Outside my window right now, I can see the same sky -- or part of it. As I look east I can see a hint of pink peeking out from behind the house across the street. I know behind the house the sky must be aglow. And above the pink: light blue. And above the light blue, the sky gets darker and darker.

There are no bats wheeling in the night (although I have seen them out there before). And there are no crawling things (although there are albino geckos that hang out sometimes on my screen). And as I have written this, the pinkish west has turned light blue. And the light blue has turned dark. And the dark blue has given way to night. And I know Venus is out there somewhere behind the branches of the trees, and the moon and Mars are walking hand in hand at the top of the heavens.

And so, night is here.


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 Monday, December 1, 2003

December First

The leaves have fallen. Yellow and brown, they are all over the lawn.

It's December 1st, and the leaves have fallen, and the sun glints in a cold-looking autumn sky thru the barren branches of the elms and oaks leaving stripes of light on my desk.

December 1st. My heavens, how did it get to be December 1st already? Summer has just passed. Mars was only recently ablaze in the evening sky. The Red Oak leaves never turned red. How is it already winter time!?

We know that time speeds up as we get more years under our belts. It must be an "everything is relative" kind of thing, a question of percentages. The more years you've logged, the smaller is one day as a percentage of your total lifetime. So the more years you've logged, the less significant is one day.

The days scream by, faster and faster in an increasing blur. I wonder, then, how fast a day must pass for my grandmother, her eyes closed most of the time, her mind turned inward, oblivious to the passing of time which must pass so fast that night is day and day is night and time has no meaning.

And before you know it, December 1st has arrived.


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