Friday, June 25, 2004


There must be a wide world outside this study. Maybe I'll open the door and look out.

He opens the door and looks out. The rain is falling straight down in sheets. There's a kid running up and down the streets with a joy, joy, joy look on his face. (Imagine Snoopy in one of his feet-flapping dances.)

Without shutting the door, he returns to the study. He logs out, turns off the power, and unplugs all the hardware.

Be back soooon!

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About to Begin

There's a pile of black and white photos in an envelope on the desk right here. And under them, there are some papers. And under them, some books I pulled off the shelf many months ago to read.

And there's a pile of papers and pamphlets and CDs in the corner of the desk that I don't know if I need. And in another corner, a basket of bills being handled by the accountant of the house.

There's a suitcase that needs to be packed, maybe two. There are backpacks that need to be found.

There are timers that need to be set. Computer equipment that needs to be unplugged. Plants that need to get a good soaking before they are left in the hands of the neighbors.

The dog knows that something is up. Who knows what the cat thinks.

A distant journey is about to begin.

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 Thursday, June 24, 2004

This Early

There's flashing from behind the blinds in the house across the street. Someone must be watching TV after their alarm went off.

There's a rolling song in the oak trees overhead. Some early bird is at it, starting before the sun comes up.

The sound of crickets is diminishing.

The leaves of the ivy glisten.

The dog barks.

The cat sits.

Trudy has left for work. The boy is surfing. And I'm sitting here nursing a second cup of coffee trying to make the stiffness go away.

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 Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday's Dawn

Before the daytime came but before the nighttime left, the wind picked up and stirred the leaves in the trees. The sound of thunder rolled across the sky. And a small break in the clouds opened somewhere on the eastern horizon, letting sneak thru a glimpse of dawn.

The darkness fled. The sky turned pink. The trees and grass, the sidewalks and streets were red. A pastel light hung in the air. And thunder rolled across the sky.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the break in the clouds closed and turned off that glowing light. The air was still. The hint of dawn disappeared. Black clouds filled the sky. And the sound of thunder rolled again across the sky.

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 Monday, June 21, 2004

Time Shifting

It's summer. True summer. The longest day of the year. Daylight all day long. The solstice.

So why did we get up at 4am in the deep dark of night? And why are we going to bed at 8:30 with dusk yet to fall?

Do we really need to do this?

Preparing for a distant journey.

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 Sunday, June 20, 2004

Waiting for 10:00

It is Fathers' Day. It is 6am in the morning on Fathers' Day.

The streetlight is glowing orange outside the window. The paper man just drove by tossing rolled-up Sunday morning newspapers from the window of his car.

It is Fathers' Day, and there's a reservation across town for us for brunch at 10am. It's a long-running annual tradition, and I am fortunate to be on the receiving end of it.

We've been shifting our schedules now for two days. We go to bed and wake up a half-hour earlier each day in preparation for our flight over the Atlantic in six days. By the time we leave, we will have shifted three hours, hopefully enough to lessen the shock of the time difference between here and there.

So it is very early on Sunday morning, and the sky is only now beginning to show some hint of daylight, and Trudy and I and the boy (although his resistance is great) are up.

Trudy has just fetched the paper from where it landed in the front yard. The boy is (his resistance is great) still in bed. And here I am at the computer in the predawn light.

She walks into the doorway trying to conceal a guilty conscience.

I am having a bowl of cereal, she says.

She waits briefly for a reaction from me and then continues, because 10:00 is so far away.

I nod my head and smile.

She squints, knowing that I saw the guilt in her eyes, and then she turns and walks off to the kitchen.

So it is Fathers' Day. It is very early on Fathers' Day. And 10:00am is indeed a very long way off.

I think I'll have some cereal, too.


Happy Fathers' Day, dads.

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 Friday, June 18, 2004

Imitating Marvin

I spoke in the best Marvin the Martian voice I could summon.

I don't remember now precisely what it was I said, but it was (marginally) relevant, and the voice was (I humbly submit) a darned good imitation.

The boys looked at me, and then my son rolled his eyes and turned his head. But I caught a glimpse of a smile.

Oh, good bye boys, I said again in the same voice only a little louder. Don't stay up too late.

Trudy laughed. The boys walked off, promising not to stay up too late.

He was embarrassed, she chuckled.

He wasn't embarrassed, I said. He loved it.

She agreed.

No one has a dad that can imitate Marvin quite like that.

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 Wednesday, June 16, 2004

There and Here

I don't usually rock in the rocking chair. Heck, I don't usually sit in it. I'm usually in this room doing this, not in that room doing that.

So I'm in that room, rocking in this chair. I mean really rocking, with the donkey bag swinging behind me, slapping the back of the chair kinda loud.

I'm in that room, and so are they.

He is sprawled out on the couch, like only a teenager can, bare feet kicking the throw pillow, elbows propping him up as he reads Greek myths. And she's hunched over the Capital Metro bus routes and schedules, scowling at the maps, wondering if it's cutting it too close to arrive one minute before the transfer bus leaves.

I was in there.

But now I'm in here, and that was that.

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 Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Daily Drive

He drives down that street every day. Between the Junipers and Live Oaks and Cedar Elms and Texas Persimmons, the street winds along. It's the closest thing to a woods at this end of his daily drive. But there are apartments and office complexes and restaurants hidden between the greenery. And parking lots.

Still, there are those Junipers and oaks and elms. And persimmons. And there is the pond with the cattails and lilypads and the trail that goes around, where he ran once on a hot afternoon when the yellow flowers were blazing. And there is that winding street between the wannabe woods with a wide median full of trees and shrubs.

Even though it's far from a woods, it's good enough for the daily drive.

And today, there is this man in the shade on the sidewalk. There's a stroller nearby -- an empty stroller. And the man is carrying something. It's a boy, a little boy, with his arms flailing and his legs kicking and his face smiling. Clearly his dad chased him up the sidewalk a ways, both of them leaving the stoller abandoned for a moment. Just look at their smiles as the cars drive by.

Even though it's far from a woods, it's good enough for the daily drive.

And then, there is this woman in the sun on the corner on the sidewalk. There's no stroller in sight. She's carrying her boy piggyback. She's looking both ways, and he's got his arms around her neck. And his legs are wagging. And his face is smiling. And hers is, too. Just look at those smiles as the cars drive by.

Even though it's far from a woods, it'll do just fine for the daily drive.

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 Monday, June 14, 2004


Spinning in the cold, black void. Bruised and battered by the passing flotsam and jetsam of space. Pounded and pummeled. Pockmarked and cratered. Illuminated by the sun. The face of Phoebe is beamed back by a lone passing observer.

When the crust explodes from an impact and dust flies skyward into the perpetual night, when boulders are thrown over the gray horizons, there is no one there to hear.

But it happens anyway.

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 Saturday, June 12, 2004

Apple Cores

What do you suppose it means that I have three apple cores sitting on the desk in front of me?

I'll tell you what it means: you're a slob.

No. I mean at a more basic level, what does the presence of those apple cores say about who I am.

That you're a slob.

Come on. Step out of the box for a minute. I'm trying to have a philosophical conversation, here. At root, what do those three apple cores really represent.

They represent the fact that you're a slob, and that you're waiting for me to throw them out for you.


Now this conversation never happened.

I've never had THREE apple cores sitting on my desk, although I've had two, and there is in fact one sitting here right now. And I certainly don't know anyone who would call me a slob (to my face).

So take this dialog for what it is: a symbolic presentation of the juxtaposition of a big-picture way of seeing the world and a no-nonsense one. (Got that?)

Aside from the question of apple cores and slovenly living, this imagined conversation was probably healthy for me to have with myself. I think I'll throw away my one (real) apple core, now.

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There was a time when we thought in terms of motion forward. A time when progress dominated our worldview. There was a time when optimism born of the enlightenment and advancements brought by science and discovery made us dare to dream of an ever-improving world.

We learned to fly. We learned to fight disease. We landed on the moon. We built tall buildings and long-spanned bridges. Our farms produced with great abundance. Our economy crept ever upwards. The Wall tumbled. The Cold War melted. We fought for civil rights. We thought peace had a chance.

Our eyes were on the mountain top, and we looked back at the past confident that we were headed into the light. The dark ages were behind us.

But today that dream is fading.


Our airplanes have become weapons of mass destruction. Our medicines breed super germs. Our astronauts have never left Earth orbit again. Our tall buildings crumble. Our highways decay and rot, and where they do not they expand without bound.

Our farms are corporate factories. The farmers are all flocking to the cities, where the meager pieces of our economy remain, mainly dedicated to increasing corporate profits while living standards and real income fall. We've replaced the wall with fences of our own built of wire and tortured legal reasoning.

The post Cold War peace dividend has all been spent, and now we are running historical deficits again. The race-based divisions between us are being replaced by growing class disparities. The draft is returning. Peace now seems to have no chance.


There was a time when we saw our world in a positive light and dared to think that we could extrapolate to an ever better one. But that time in the twentieth century was an anomaly, a brief spike in the data, a mere blip on the radar screen. We can think that way no more.

The dark ages are not only behind us; they are before us, too.

Voici le deluge.

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 Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Rainy Day

In which the events surrounding an afternoon run on a rainy day are enumerated in such detail as to possibly waste the reader's precious time.

1. Shall we run?

It was black outside. Pitch black. In the middle of the day. A torrential rain was coming down. A column of water as thick as a middle-aged Live Oak was pouring off the roof outside.

He came in and looked out the window.

Still raining, he said. Then he walked out.

Shall we run anyway? I asked loudly.

Sure! he shouted back.

2. Freeway looking like a parking lot.

At 4:30, we got dressed and got into his car. But leaving early didn't help.

Everyone had the same idea, and we all converged on that ribbon of concrete within minutes of each other.

And then the sky turned even darker, and the clouds descended even lower, and the rain came down even harder than before.

And we sat there in traffic.

3. Crossing the bridge.

With the rain coming down, there was no sense putting off the inevitable.

I put on my hat. He started his watch. We started across the pedestrian bridge crossing the river. A comfortable breeze rolled down the river. The freeway overhead sheltered us. Below us, muddy creek waters poured into the gently flowing current of the river.

There were only a few more steps to the end of the bridge. We had only a few steps more to stay dry.

4. The last mile.

We had one mile left.

And when we came to the kayak launch where a stream was flowing down a concrete creek bed, our careful steps thru the rushing waters must have upset someone, for the skies opened up.

But it was too late to make any difference. The trail was sheltered by Cypress trees, and the euphoria had kicked in. Our pace accelerated.

Now, the shallowness of the puddles didn't matter. As we came up to one and then another, we ran straight thru. Keeping a bee line. Maintaining our pace. Feeling the burn. And struggling to keep our conversation going.

We were smokin'.

5. Sitting around afterwards.

Afterwards, we sat around and talked for a while, as we usually do.

And as if it hadn't rained hard enough already, the skies darkened again, and the clouds descended again, and thunder rolled, and the rain came down yet harder.

A nearby creek rushed and boomed as it crashed over final rocks to join the river. The far shore disappeared in the deluge. The traffic on the freeway came to a standstill.

Water poured off the overpasses in great white spouts that smashed to the ground and splashed into the river. The wind pushed the spouts, bending them slightly eastward in equal angles. From the sides of each overpass, twenty or more spouts of angled, crashing water receded into the distant haze of rain like columns extending down the nave of some gothic cathedral or banners decorating the walls of some vaulted banquet hall.

"That is absolutely beautiful," he said.

6. Goodbye, Hello.

Then he looked at his watch.

"It's ok," I said. "She'll be here soon. I'll see you tomorrow."

We walked back to his car. I got my duffel bag. He drove off reluctantly. I changed into a dry shirt gladly.

She arrived in a matter of minutes and honked and waved and pulled over under the overpass out of the rain. I got in. And we went to eat nearby.

7. The Greenbelt.

By the time we got on the road again, the rain had stopped, and the traffic was moving.

"Will there be any parked cars?" I asked as we came down the hill to the Greenbelt.

"I don't know," she said, her eyes concentrating on the road and not on the frontage road that serves as a parking lot for hikers and bikers.

"There'll be two cars," I guessed.

It was a radical statement. That there would be anybody there after those rains was doubtful. But there was. One car. One car parked all the way at the end, just where the frontage road turns under the freeway to U-turn back to the north.

One car. Who is that? What on earth are they doing down there!?

And with that, the Greenbelt was behind us.

8. Sunset

Night tried to come early. The dark clouds blotted out the light of the descending sun.

But in a small, final victory, as it settled on the horizon, the sun burst thru. Far to the west, a sliver of cloudless sky was visible. And the sun found it.

The early night receded. Gray turned to white. White turned to pink. Pink to yellow. And suddenly the grass was glowing and the leaves were shining and the drops of water falling all around were glistening.

And people came out of their houses to look to the east. Up and down the block, men and women and children came out into the street and gazed at the sky.

With their backs to the sun peeking under the clouds from that sliver of sky in the west, they gazed jaws agape at a brilliant double rainbow extending in a 180-degree arc across the cloud-covered sky.

And then, day was done.

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 Tuesday, June 8, 2004

A Full Recycle Bin

We have a full recycle bin. At least we did have yesterday morning. Bottles and cans and plastic containers were piled up and mounding over the top of the cobalt blue container.

What a sight to see, it was. I have long longed for a mounding recycle bin. They have one across the street at least once a month. The guys at the end of the street have one frequently, too. This was our first. And it made me proud.

Enjoy the good life all ye who visit here, it seemed to say. Have Orangina! Have chocolate flavored Yoohoo! This is a hopping place, you know. Have canned pears!

What a sight to see, it was. Everyone up and down the street must know by now.

But let's keep it quiet how many of those cans and bottles were picked up litter from the neighborhood. And let's not point out that the bulk of the mound was trash from a many-person camping trip.

We'll just keep those details quiet. Let the neighbors think what they must be thinking. This is a hopping place!

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 Monday, June 7, 2004

Clouds, Toads and Dogs

A white cloud drifts by, barely clearing the tree tops. It is night. The overcast sky is dark. The low-flying cloud glows in the light of the distant city lights.

Does the dog notice this? He does not.

A big toad hops by, barely visible against the puddles on the ground. It is night. The ground is dark. The evening rain has drawn toads out from their hiding places.

Does he notice them? He does not.

Of course not. Dogs don't see clouds, and dogs don't see toads. They reside in parallel universes: clouds, dogs and toads. They drift, hop, and sniff across each others' paths with nary a notice.

It is only I, who stands at the intersection of these worlds.

I stand here in the dark, in the cool air after the rain. I stand here with a foot in each universe and watch the cloud, the toads, and the dog.

And then we go home.

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 Sunday, June 6, 2004

Haven't Got the Hang of It

The seconds fly by. The minutes. The hours. I don't even know what time it is.

The days fly by. The weeks. The month. I don't even know what date it is.

The years fly by. He's in a basinette. He's in diapers. He's a teenager catching the bus to go to the mall with friends.

Time is a funny thing. I haven't quite got the hang of it, yet.

(He'd better be back in time for dinner.)

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 Friday, June 4, 2004

That Jazzy Album

We were on our way home. Our bellies were full of enchiladas and quesadillas and flaquitos. Smiles were on our faces. The sun was going down. The heat was dissipating.

Dad. Can you play that jazzy album when we get home? Ben asked, and he sang a few bars.

He sang a few bars, and the album he wanted was clear. He sang a few bars, and I picked right up where he left off.

Is it a CD or an album? he asked.

I was still singing.

An album, I said.

An album indeed. One that I've kept for 31 years. One that has been silent while the Dual 506 was packed away and the albums gradually moved to a distant corner of the garage.

But the Dual has resumed its place in the living room again, connected to an Onkyo and two Advent-1s. And the albums are out, too.

Yes. I will play that album when we get home. Yes, I will.

Maynard Ferguson, MF Horn 3

A gift in 1973 from a great senior high school trumpet player to a mediocre freshman. And a gift to him 31 years later when his trombone-playing son asks to hear it a second time.

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Know Thy Enemy

In an article in Capitol Hill Blue, in which he quotes an unnamed GOP political consultant, Doug Thompson talks about the current mood in the White House.

[Thompson/Captiol Hill Blue/Erratic Behavior]: In this administration, you don't have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President.
Linked by [Drum/Political Animal/Just Like Nixon].

Update:See the end of the Drum article above for reasons why you might want to treat this quote as suspect.

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 Thursday, June 3, 2004

What Shall I Say?

What shall I talk about today?

Shall I speak of politics? Of rats jumping a sinking ship? Of the selection of middle eastern creeps to positions of power? Of energy traders laughing and cussing over the phone as they hatch new schemes?

Shall I speak of the economy? Of jobs that will never return and others that flee? Of debt that no one seems to want to talk about? Of politicians on both sides that are creeps in their own ways?

Shall I speak of the view outside my window? Of the glowing green grass in the dusky light? Of the Coreopsis and daisies still blooming yellow even in this heat? Of green leaves hanging still on the branches of the trees in the stillness of the summer air?

What shall I talk about today? What shall I say that doesn't make me ill?

I think the yellow blossoms in the evening light win again.

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 Tuesday, June 1, 2004

The Blink of an Eye

One moment the sky was blue and the sun was beating down as the cars sat on the freeway, inching their way home.

Another moment, I was sitting dripping with sweat after a run in that sun, and great clouds rose up out of the east.

Another moment, the limestone terrace outside the window was glowing pink from setting sunlight sneaking out thru a gap in the clouds somewhere.

And then it was dark night.

They go by so fast, these days. One moment the sky is blue. The next moment it is black. And in a blink of an eye, it's time to start all over again.

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