jumpingfish
 Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Zombies in the Parking Lot

We wound thru the parking lot back toward the freeway. We rolled along slowly, because people were converging, zombie-like, on the store from all directions.

Their eyes were glazed, their faces fixed on the doors of the store and the electronics that lay just inside. They left their air conditioned vehicles and made the treacherous walk to the air conditioned aisles, sweat dripping from their foreheads, seemingly staggering in the summer heat. (In truth, the rains had cooled things off substantially.)

I hate this, I muttered.

Trudy thought I was talking about the crowded parking lot. I wasn't.

This didn't have to be a Fry's. It could have been a Best Buy. It could have been a Wal-Mart. It could have been a shopping mall. You know the places — big boxes sitting on the far side of big concrete parking lots to hold all the cars that bring all the people who throw away their money on things they don't need and won't use and will break before they've served any useful purpose.

I hate this, I muttered, thinking that this is what we have come to.


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 Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Under the Oaks and Maples and Pines

He took his pop-up trailer to the woods. He parked it where his cousin said. In the woods. Under the Oaks and Maples and Pines.

It was chilly up there. But he swam anyway and then drank hot coffee with the neighbors. In the woods. Under the Oaks and Maples and Pines.

And he took some big nails for our cousin to use. He might need big nails. In the woods. Under the Oaks and Maples and Pines.

That was a chilly night several nights ago, and although he's now somewhere far away, the pop-up trailer and nails remain. Up there in the woods. Under the Oaks and Maples and Pines.

---
From an email message from my brother to my mom. The words are mostly his.


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 Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two Words

At first they won't tell you about it. And if someone else does, they'll label her a traitor and start monitoring the cell phone calls of anyone she might have talked to and anyone else who might be interested in the story. And when the story still spreads instead of going away, they will claim that whatever they did was fully within the law, except they won't tell you what that means. And when someone sues them in court, they'll claim Official Secrets, and the courts will roll over, because there's nothing you can do to enforce the laws when official secrets are claimed.

We have a word for this, two words, but if I said them I'd catch it for not appreciating what I have, which is more than anyone else anywhere else, and I'd catch it for not understanding the new reality, but that doesn't change the fact that the two words still apply when no one watches the watchers and the watchers are on a roll.


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 Monday, May 22, 2006

Over and Over

Why all this about the fireflies descending and the golden sun setting? Over and over. Why all this about the blue sky and the blooming blossoms? Can you not move along? Have you nothing else to say?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Right now the sun and the sky and the colors of spring come mainly to mind. A gloom lurks beneath those colors sometimes, but perhaps it is just as well unspoken. So let me please leave those things to tomorrow. The fireflies and flowers are sufficient for today.

And anyway, there is a place where I go sometimes where driveby slices and narrow skyforms and wired skies and the seasons changing as they play upon the forest are a regular theme. Over and over. Sufficient unto themselves. They never grow old.

So humor me if you will. Daisies blooming in the springtime sun. Lantana trailing along the ground. Bees buzzing in the Salvia. Over and over. For now.


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Gilliard on Salter on Rohe on McCain

Steve Gilliard on McCain's Chief of Staff, Mark Salter, and his comments about Jean Rohe's speech at The New School commencement...

[Gilliard/Dumber than a Box of Rocks]: Sir, your statement to a fellow American is disrespectful, and an embarrassment to your character and standing as a human being. Never mind the fact you call yourself an American. Ughh, I am disgusted with your arrogant and naive view of the populace of this great country. You sir have no business in serving the public.

What you have just taught me, through your arrogant and naive attack upon an honest American, is that I will not stand for this any longer! I will not bow down, as your Employer did, to the pressures of the political elite. I will not stand by ideally as you attack the citizens and the articles upon which this nation is built upon.


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 Sunday, May 21, 2006

Moments of Solitude

So here I am again sitting watching the treetops lit by the setting sun, listening to the Mourning Doves and the Bluejays and the Sparrows and the Grackles and some dogs barking down the street. (The Wrens and Cardinals are quiet now, and the noise of children doesn't ring thru suburban neighborhoods, anymore.)

With the cat lying under the red blossoms of the Autumn Sage, I sit here doing nothing. Thinking of nothing. Leaving worrying for tomorrow.

And as the western sky fades and dusk comes and goes, as nighttime descends and the fireflies hover in the air, to have such moments of solitude is an amazing thing.


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 Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Fourth

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What a naive way to view the world. The homeland is under attack, after all. This is the time for true patriots to show their colors and whiners to sit down.


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This Is What Alone Should Be

I sat in the boat with the oars extended -- drifting with the current.

The flotsam of recent rains knocked against the hull. The sun was setting, and I was in the shadow of the cliffs that line the south side of the river just downstream of Redbud Island. A waterfall cascaded down the rocks, hidden behind trees and vines and ferns.

I bent forward to stretch.

When I sat up and began to pull again on the oars, a hawk landed on a crag near the top of the cliff. I watched it for a moment as I rowed but began to lose my balance and returned my gaze to water level.

Along the north shore, five Green Herons flew upstream. Their unmistakable squawks echoed off the cliff walls beside me.

This is a good place to be alone. Drifting with the current. Gazing at the sky. Feeling the coolness in the late afternoon shade under the cliffs. Watching hawks and swallows and wood ducks and herons. Listening to the periodic splash of a jumping fish.

---
Town Lake
Austin, Texas


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 Thursday, May 11, 2006

Because of Salvia Greggii

The meeting was over. The sun had set. The sky was dark. There was a coolness in the air. A nearly full moon looked down on the city, and a twin engine propeller plane passed in front of the Big Dipper on its final approach. I got in the car and drove home.

Trudy's wasn't home, but the front door was unlocked, and a light was on in the living room. The boy and the dog looked up as I walked in, the boy with homework in his lap, the dog wagging his tail. Dark Side of the Moon was playing on the stereo.

I've raised him right, I guess, for him to play Pink Floyd while he's doing his biology. In front of him arrayed in three rows on the coffee table were cuttings from flowers and shrubs and trees. We had walked around the yard in the afternoon collecting them for his assignment. He needed fifteen. We barely made it around the corner of the house before we hit the limit.

So his leaf collection was laid out, and one by one he was writing down names and classifying according to shape. He had a book of native plants next to him, and from the names I had given him earlier, he was looking up scientific names. What's the scientific name for Autumn Sage, Dad?

Was he testing me on such an easy one? I think he expected me to go to the computer. I turned to him and quoted genus and species, Salvia Greggii. He grabbed his pencil and quickly wrote it down. Why wasn't that in the book, I wondered, and I went into the study.

You're the greatest, Dad.

The sun had set. It was dark outside. A coolness was in the air. Pink Floyd was playing on the stereo. And a sprig of Salvia Greggii with a crimson blossom on top made me a hero.


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 Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Last Concorde

I sat and watched the last Concorde take off from New York that morning in October, 2003. Although it was dark in Texas (I had just been gazing at the cloudless, starry sky a few moments before), the sun was coming up there.

The long-nosed, delta-wing jet sat at the end of the runway, scheduled to leave at 7:35 ET. The CNN news anchor started cracking jokes ("It's not going so fast now, is it?") as the time came and went. With a crass looking, well-that-didn't-work-so-well grin on her face, she turned it over to the stock market weather report.

They sit in their studios under the bright lights, behind cameras, caked in makeup, reading their scripts, and they really seem to think that the world runs on their schedules. And when things are off by a minute or so (it took off fewer than 200 seconds later), it's evidently entertaining enough to them that they think they need to share their smug comments with us.

So I sat and watched the last Concorde take off on time that morning. The television camera followed it rolling down the runway, followed it as the long nose began to point skyward, followed it as it climbed into the air, as it banked left over the water, as the city passed underneath its wings.

Then they broke for a commercial.


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 Sunday, May 7, 2006

We Went Inside As Evening Came

Outside as the daylight faded, the silhouettes of Ash tree leaves against the grey sky became dim. Fireflies ascended from the lawn, their yellow-green lights blinking all around. The last Morning Dove went to sleep, and the silence of night descended. Crickets began to sing. In the darkness under the Redbud tree, a toad hopped across the ground in tentative leaps.

Alas, the mosquitos came out too, and after a while, we got up and went inside.


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 Saturday, May 6, 2006

Heaven and Hell

James Wolcott on heaven and hell:
[Wolcott/Beelzebub's BBQ pit]: [...] the truth is, I just can't bring myself to believe in Hell, or find it a suitable venue for revenge fantasies. And I don't believe others do either. I think they're just mouthing.

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 Thursday, May 4, 2006

What The Boy Said

My mom and my dad... he said, talking to a friend on the phone. ...and my step mom and step dad...

His voice dropped for a sentence or two. Then I heard, ...and Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela...

What on earth are they talking about!?


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 Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Down At The Dock

I walked up to the booth.

Hey Summers, I'd like to take out a boat.

A boat. A boat. He looked at me and waited for me to say what kind of boat (one person, two, four, kayak, canoe). I looked back at him helplessly.

An Aero? he suggested.

That's it, I said. I started to explain how I was thinking Athena, but he was already telling me that there was an Aero available down at the dock.

I got a pair of oars from the boat house and walked to the boat. Summers was helping someone at the other end of the dock. Wait. Summers was up in the booth. Wait. That wasn't Summers in the booth; that was Joe. I just cooked chicken fajitas with Joe last weekend. I know Joe. Why did I call him Summers!?

I set down my oars and went back up to the Booth. Joe watched me as I approached.

I called you Summers, I said. He looked confused. Joe, I called you Summers a minute ago. I don't know what I was thinking.

Oh that's ok. I didn't even hear it. He said.

And so I went out on the lake.

It was a windy day. The turtles didn't mind it, nor did the male wood duck lit by the late afternoon sun that flew by me as I rowed by the cliffs just downstream of Redbud Island. But getting back to the dock was an interesting exercise in balance as the wind at my back the waves slapping against the side of the sculling shell suggested it was time for a swim. Still, I made it back -- dry.

As I tied on, Joe and Summers walked up.

Hey, Robert. How was the row? Joe asked.

I looked up at them. Joe's face betrayed nothing.

David, I said.

He laughed and apologized. Summers smiled.


These guys either have the same memory challenges I do[*], or they have a good sense of humor. In either case, I think I'm going to like it here.

---
Texas Rowing Center, Austin TX

[*] This statement is unfair for two reasons: (1) People stream thru the rowing center all day long. My challenge is remembering two names. Theirs is remembering hundreds. (2) Summers is very good with names. The last two times I've shown up, he has remembered me immediately.


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 Monday, May 1, 2006

One Hundred Dollars

So we'll get back to our sleeping and return to our shopping,
So we'll ignore the great train wreck that they drove us right into,
They offer us one hundred dollars.


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