Thursday, December 27, 2012

Music of 2012 (and the year in review)

   I already talked about books from the past year, but what about music? And what about real life for that matter? Way back in January I didn't make a series of resolutions, but rather a list of hopes, forecasts and a look back at the year gone by. Some of my forecasts and hopes came to fruition while others did not. Above all else I had my fair share of adventure. I lived in Ecuador for two and a half months where I braved high altitudes, ancient Inca ruins, murky puddles, salty waves, stray dogs, and rain forests. I blogged about it and the best part was that people read it: family, friends, and acquaintances and that meant a lot to me. So thank you.

   My cousin had a wedding out in Gettysburg, it was the first of the weddings for that side of the family and a happy occasion to be sure. We got to see the whole family make wonderful fools of themselves on the dance floor which included a conga line to "Call Me Maybe"(so much fun). We got temporary cousin tattoos to prove that we were cousins for life. We saw re-enactments of regiments long gone and took a tour of where the ghosts appear from time to time, though I didn't spot any. Maybe the ghosts were off for the night.

  I learned this year that I am very much still afraid of haunted houses. I thought that was something that would fade with age, but it hasn't yet. This discovery came courtesy of a trip to Cedar Points's Halloweekends one cold grey Sunday in October. Apart from the terror it was a great time, we made it on almost every ride and I rode two roller coasters that I never had before which is always cool. The zoo had a summer party with open bars and cover bands and most of the usual animals. We went and it was a blast. Also during the summer I went night kite-flying with an emerald kite. It was spectacularly windy and a storm was coming on which meant that it was just a tad frightening and epic as well.

   I learned this year that people honestly still do play spin the bottle at parties. And it is a lot of fun, but that is a story for another time. I continued to play Pokemon this year and I am not ashamed of that fact nor is there reason that I should be. Last winter I had a class on war that was equal parts saddening, eye-opening, and interesting. Every Monday evening we would gather in a mid-sized lecture hall to have heartfelt discussions that some weeks got a bit overheated, but were never mean spirited. I took a political science course that gave me insights into the international policy making process and further changed the way I see the world.

    Hurricane Sandy struck in early November. We only caught the tail end of Sandy's wrath, but we survived nonetheless. It was scary at times and surreal and I cannot even begin to imagine what people on the East coast had to go through. I went through another notebook and a half this year and as many blogposts. Some days I struggle to get anything onto paper and other days I'm overflowing with crazy thoughts to put down.

   With the end of school I rediscovered what loneliness truly means. At times it can be wonderful for peace or piece (I realized it could really be either way) of mind and productivity, but damn can it be painful too. Last winter I braved a town besieged by ice that covered every inch of ground to see some friends and now Ohio is hit not with quite as much ice but with a blizzard of white snow. Both winter snow storms were beautiful in their own way, but at least this time there's less ice to fall from.

   It was a year full of anything and everything, just as most years are. It was full of city-bus rides, ice-cream, long walks, drunk nights, fire works, writing, reading, and too many movies. And there was music, but not nearly enough of it. There's never truly enough music, this year especially as I felt I didn't nearly listen to my quota of brilliant melodies. But perhaps that was good as I got to see how silence can be too. Either way here are some songs, artists, and albums that I enjoyed this year:

                                                             Lord Huron
          Their music sounds like a spaghetti western turned to sound waves with heroes dragging their shadowy pasts into the future. Some songs sound like dreams, the type of dreams you might have at the seaside during an afternoon siesta. You can practically hear the soft crashing waves of that dreamscape in "Mighty" which starts soft, but grows quickly to a thrush of jubilation. On the whole the singer sounds urgent, like a man who has been away for a long time and is desperate to hear a familiar voice over the telephone line. The lyrics are both regretful and hopeful.

Lord Huron


               Electronic mixing with a bit of sparse guitar and drums thrown in, with a touch of piano at times. Even though I've listened to some of the songs from Alt-J dozens of times, the vocals are always slightly surprising to me or unexpected maybe. Sometimes the lyrics are spoken and sometimes he sings perfectly melodically, but almost always I find his voice haunting. If Lord Huron is a beautiful dream or spaghetti western then Alt-J might be a trip through an abandoned house where anything might be waiting in the apprehensive dark, but there's something reassuring about that darkness. Its a spooky sound without being quite scary, somehow Alt-J finds a balance there

Something Good


                                                           Bad Books
        Not illiterate, cheap books, but maybe more the type of bad books that would smoke and drink under bleachers and talk about existential problems. The kind of bad books that have awesome beards and a few tattoos and are just a smidgen cooler than you'll ever be. The band is one of the side projects of Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra along with Kevin Devine. They play simple indie rock with a few guitars and keyboards and a bit of heavy drums. Their songs are pretty catchy and one of them is called "Forest Whitaker" and although its not really about the actor at all I think that's pretty neat.

Bad Books
It Never Stops


                                   Andrew Bird - Break it Yourself
   Expert lyricism, whistling, and violins are everywhere on this album as per usual with Mr. Bird. After I picked up a copy of "Break it Yourself" it has had a heavy rotation in my car's CD player putting a certain toe-tapping, swaying ambiance to my drives. The album talks about the frustrations of breaking up, loneliness, and the bittersweet joy of a near death experience which leads to "dancing like cancer survivors/grateful simply to be alive". At times whimsical, playful and other times slightly dark, its a good trip.

Andrew Bird
Near Death Experience Experience


                                                 Youth Lagoon
          Trevor Powers is billed under the name Youth Lagoon. His music is minimalist and hypnotic. Youth Lagoon reminds me of the band Beach House a bit, although I'm not sure how much they're actually similar. Both bands create music that I find to be quite soothing, so there's that. The lyrics from his debut album "The Year of Hibernation" evoke growing up, especially on 17 with "When I was 17/my mother said to me/don't stop imagining/the day that you do/is the day that you die". Youth Lagoon sounds like finding a younger version of yourself and telling him or her a few things.

Youth Lagoon


                                               Hot Chip - In Our Heads
    One of my favourite british electronic bands came out with a new album this year. It was called "In Our Heads". And it does sink into your head with complex beats that drive into your blood until you find yourself dancing to the multiple synths and bass flowing out of the speakers. The album feels BIG. That is partly because a few of the songs are over 7 minutes long and also because it feels at times as if you could sail a space-ship through the middle of the songs.

Hot Chip
These Chains

Sunday, December 23, 2012

52 Books in a Year

      This year I decided a bit late that I would participate in Reddit's 52 book challenge on /r/52book. When I decided to join the challenge it was already the end of March or maybe mid April. The object is to read 52 books in the 52 weeks of the year, a book a week essentially. Simple enough, but I had handicapped myself by starting late. I began week 13 or 14, I was behind by 7 or 8 books. It meant starting a race already in progress, the simple task became an uphill battle. It was fun, I got to take a few road trips across the united states, cast magic spells, see the tragedy of war, visit old worlds, pull a con or two, go down down a rabbit-hole, run miles and miles, and travel through history.   Here's a list of the books I made it through and also a short list of the books that were especially enjoyable or noteworthy.

1) Achilles in Vietnam - Jonathan Shay
2) The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
3) Night - Eli Wiesel
4) Stories - various authors, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sorento
5) Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk
6) The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
7) Love is a Mixed Tape - Rob Sheffield
8) The Gunslinger - Stephen King
9) Killing Yourself to Live - Chuck Klosterman
10) The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie
11) Slaughterhouse V - Kurt Vonnegut
12) Different Seasons - Stephen King
13) 9 Stories - JD Salinger
14) Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs - Chuck Klosterman
15) The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King
16) The Waste Lands - Stephen King
17) The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done - Sandra Newman
18) What is this Thing Called Love? - Gene Wilder
19) The Visible Man - Chuck Klosterman
20) On the Road - Jack Kerouac
21) I was told there'd be cake - Sloane Crossly
22) Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
23) Big Fish - Daniel Wallace
24) Rotters - Daniel Kraus
25) Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
26) Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami
27) The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
28) Wolves of the Calla - Stephen King
29) The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
30) Song of Susannah - Stephen King
31) How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe - Charles Yu
32) Bossypants - Tina Fey
33) The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
34) A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
35) Princess Bride - William Goldman
36) The Family Fang - Kevin Wilson
37) This Must be the Place - Anna Winger
38) The Dark Tower - Stephen King
39) Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt
40) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling
41) Redshirts - John Scalzi
42) Best American Non-Required Reading 2011 - Edited by Dave Eggers
43) We Are What We Pretend to Be - Kurt Vonnegut
44) What I talk about when I talk about Running - Haruki Murakami
45) Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
46) The 100-Year-Old Man - Jonas Jonasson
47) The Broken Lands - Kate Milford
48) How to be Alone - Jonathan Franzen
49) IV - Chuck Klosterman
50) A Working Theory of Love - Scott Hutchins
51) Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris
52) Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
53) The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
54) Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

                                       The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
            A saga told in seven parts, The Dark Tower series could be said to be King's crowning achievement. Inspired equally in parts by the Lord of the Rings and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, it is a series that is epic if not anything else. It was my cornerstone through the year as each part was longer than the one before it, I would read a volume then take a break for a week or two, eating up smaller books in the meantime. The seven books that compose the series are as follows: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower. I had never read anything by Stephen King up until this year since I had always thought that everything by him was too scary or twisted, I found out that at least in this series that isn't the case the whole time.

                                       Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
         Simultaneously a trip through the past and the future and video games. The story starts 30 years in the future with a billionaire starting a competition to find an Easter egg hidden in the immersive virtual reality program that nearly everyone is a part of. The clues to the puzzle remained locked away within 80's pop culture and trivia. It is an action-packed, clever, and a treat for fans of video games, nostalgia or just geek culture.

                                 A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 
            I had always been reluctant to try something by Hemingway, I think because I was under the impression that all of his work dealt with depressive topics and wars. A friend of mine leant me a copy of A Moveable Feast saying I would love it, and I did. It was a portrait of life in 1920's Paris with other famous artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and others. It was magical, like looking through a spyglass into another age. Also Hemingway talks about the process of writing and gives some good insights.

                             Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
               A coming of age story with a bit of a twist. About a girl growing up in the 80's during the emergence of the AIDs epidemic that her Uncle has just died from. Its a love-story, a tale of self discovery and of loss. Plus the title is irrelevantly awesome which I can appreciate.

                                     The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
        A dysfunction family driven by the parents' desire to create situation art in public and create a reaction. Its whimsical, dark, and reads like a Wes Anderson film.

                                This Must be the Place by Anna Winger
         The title comes from a talking heads song; always a good place to start. Its a quiet story of two people lost in the world and in their lives. One is an American woman adjusting to a new life in Berlin, the other is a German man going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. Displacement and loneliness through different lenses.

                              Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
         This was one of the last books I read this year and I would have to say it was definitely one of my favorites. In 1974 Phillip Petit strung a steel-cable between tops of the World Trade Center towers and then proceeded to walk between them. This is his story, but at the same time it's not.  The book is made up of short stories that follow different people in New York city. They are all effected by the tightrope walker in some way. Through each story McCann depicts a snap shot of New York in that year that is gritty at times and full of unbelievable beauty. The characters are broken, and beautiful, and very alive.

                                       Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
       Really a challenge isn't a challenge without a roadblock; this was mine. I fought with this book, I gave up and walked away only to come back months later and finish. Cloud Atlas and I had a tumultuous relationship, like two people that fall in love too fast and realize that the they're not sure if they really know each other beyond their lips. I had to take a step back and look inside myself while the book and cast of characters did the same. Okay, but really, the Cloud Atlas is told in 6 parts, each except for the last are cut in half. You get to read the first half of each story, the full sixth, then the second half of each, now in descending order. I think the thing that gave me the most trouble with it was that as I would get invested in a set of characters and style of writing, bam, that bit would be over and it was onto the next part leaving you hanging as to what happened next. I found that incredibly frustrating. It is written exceedingly well and asks big questions and small questions about what it means to be free and what it means to be alive. But if you too have problems here's something I recommend, read up til the sixth part, watch the movie adapted by the Wachowski siblings (it was phenomenal) let it digest in your mind for a month or so, then come back to the novel and give it another go.

                                                    YA Books
                  I read a handful of young adult novels this year. Here is what I thought of them:

                                        Rotters by Daniel Krauss
     This was my horror pick for the year and I'm not much of a fan for horror books or movies as I'm a scaredy cat when it comes to such things. Rotters is about a boy who's mother has just passed away and is sent to live with his estranged father and learn about the under ground society of grave robbers. I'll give away no more than that, but it is an electrifying ride.

                                   Broken Lands by Kate Milford
               Brooklyn, the 1870's, the civil war has recently ended and the Brooklyn bridge is nearing the end of construction. New York is a cross roads for change, for control between good and evil. It is a race bettween a young card shark who plays on the boardwalk, a chinese girl with a magnificent talent for fireworks, and inhuman creatures, all for control of the crossroads.

                              The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
          A mysterious circus pops up in the dead of night to put on breath-taking performances. No one knows when the circus will appear or when it will leave, but when it arrives it is a joy to behold. The Night Circus is a magical book to be sure. My problem with the book was her use of present tense which I thought got in the way of the narrative at times making things unnecessarily clunky. Other than that it was quite good.

                          Book to skip: Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
   This is one of the extremely rare cases where I would say skip the book and watch the movie instead. Its a story of distinguishing between a father's tall-tales and the truth hidden in the stories. Its a fun story, but I think Tim Burton's version makes the tall tales seem a bit taller and blurs the line between fantasy and reality even better.

   I enjoyed pretty much the entirety of the books I read this year, but these were some of the more notable ones from the list. Oh, and here's some music if you're still here after all that:

Benjamin Gibbard with Trio Ellas on Conan
Something's Rattling(Cowpoke)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On a Low Ledge, Gazing Out

     One day you might find yourself sitting atop a low ledge or small cliff if you prefer. The ledge looked too high to climb up from below, but now sitting on top, you realize it would be quite easy to jump down from. The sun is rising on the horizon, the landscape is lit up beautifully as if the land itself is waking up with the rising sun.

   You decide this might be the perfect place to stop for breakfast. You call over your friends, your traveling companions that you originally mislabeled "monsters". But the word monster denotes something that by its nature is scary, misshapen, or evil.  Not one of those words could truthfully describe your friends. They are great majestic creatures with forms ranging from a giant moth, a small many-tailed fox with fiery prowess, an animated boulder, a tortoise with a tree growing from its shell, and an armored bird. Each one is an individual with different concerns. They are inquisitive, foolhardy, brash, secretive, vain.

  Together you're all a family.  They protect you and you care for them. You think how far you've traveled from home to reach this small ledge. You distribute sandwiches and think of the challenges you've surpassed. Each one was tougher, but you learned about yourself and your friends with time.

  You crossed rivers and oceans, meeting people and creatures at every turn. You scaled mountains and explored caverns full of treasures unseen. Some days you played the part of the hero, some days you were just another traveler. Oh, how you traveled! to think you'd see so many countries, towns and cities when you grew up in seclusion.

   The sun is getting ever higher in the sky, chasing away the last of the dawn's reluctant shadows. To get to the next town by lunchtime you need to leave soon. There's going to be some sort of competition there held after 2, and if its a competition then you're definitely ready to give it a try. At worst it'll be a fun diversion for the afternoon. At best you could win some prize money to cover the cost of tonight's hostel. "Everybody ready?", You ask your friends. They growl, roar, squawk, and nod their approval. "All right then, let's go!" Together you all vault the ledge and begin the trek to the next adventure.

  the other part of this story is here: Into the Tall Grass


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jumping Jackal Fish

I was working
the third shift
at the late-night
out on Severance Boulevard

The night had been uneventful,
with only a
few stragglers
here and there
and drifters coming in
to seek refuge
from the darkness

She came in,
a heat-seeking missile
homing straight for the counter
asking, "Do you have any serious fiction?"

I directed her
towards the
 self help section,
luckily she laughed,
but she still called me an ass


Some coming attractions here at Muffin Puddles: I participated in the 52 book challenge which is basically reading 52 books in 1 year. That's wrapping up, so I'm going to try to write a list of what I've read and what the stand outs were. Also I'm working on a story or two, so that's coming up, and I might throw together an "end of the year" mix. Its been a pretty stellar year all things considered and thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What We do to Feel Less Alone

  For the record I'm not using the royal "we" here to count myself as multiple people. Rather I mean to include everyone, which isn't really possible at all, but I'll do my best. This is a list of distractions, a list of art, of solitude, of whimsy, and anything there between.

  - We surf the internet endlessly. We are humble explorers, excited for the advent of a new discovery. We are pioneers in space shuttles, our phasers are mouse-clicks, our exploratory vessels are blog-posts jettisoned into the ether.

 - We brew tea and coffee and espresso, each with its own unique ceremony. Tea has flavorful herbs and leaves that need to be steeped and there's water that needs to be boiled until the pot whistles impatiently. Coffee has rich hearty beans and a slow drip of the coffee machine like an IV with a slow morphine drip. And then there's espresso with its miniature cups, ultra ground beans and industrially steamed caffeine goodness.

 - We watch movies. Sometimes the same films over and over, either when we're paying attention or when we just need some background noise. We watch those same movies until we know every single word of dialogue, creak of a door frame or surprise gunshot that we still jump at.  Or we watch a new and different one every night, trying to catalog them all in the library of our minds.

 - We dance around like absolute fools to music blasting way too loud. When they say, "Dance like no one's watching" this is what they're referring to. There's no one to judge, you can bob your head or head-bang, do the worm, do the twist, or flail as if your body were possessed and if its the ghost of Fred Astaire who's doing the possessing, don't be afraid to tap dance on the ceiling.

 - We bake and cook fantastic dishes. Simple ones or seven course meals depending on our moods. As we cook we pretend to have our own cooking show with our own catchphrases like, "That'll give it a snap!". Every course is beautifully arranged, baked, broiled and seared to perfection. We take a bow and eat after saying "Bon apetit!"

 - We take midnight walks under the stars and kid ourselves that we're real tough, that we'd never be afraid of a fight. Perhaps we don't wear a jacket even though its a bit chilly, because when you're truly tough you don't bother with things as trivial as a bit of cold. And really that's just a bit of false bravery to take your mind off the fact you're alone in the dark of the night.

 - We read books because books can take us to far away lands or two towns over. They give a taste of adventure or the mundane, or both molded together. More than anything books give us a chance to live a thousand times, to experience everything outside ourselves.

 - We build fortresses out of pillows and blankets and chairs and couch cushions. We drag any and all amenities and pets into the safety of the fortified walls of comfort. What's that you say? Building forts is only for children? Tell that to our fore-fathers who settled into wild lands with the safety of a fort. There is nothing more manly and courageous than the construction of a fort.

 - We play video games. We play online with friends unseen but caring. We play solo in lands populated with NPCs. In video games the player is important, the player is the hero endlessly saving the princess/prince from evil. IN a video game we are never truly alone, even if our only company is made of bits and bytes.

 - We work out doing push-ups and sit-ups and squats and thrusts. We sprint and jog and sweat. Sometimes we peddle bikes, sometimes those bikes are stationary. We tone muscles and hone our bodies into machines.

 - We write love letters with abandon. Which are then torn up and discarded into the trash. Then we write more letters and the cycle repeats.

 - We organize vinyl records. First by genre, second alphabetically, third chronologically, fourth by preference, and fifth by a system that would make no sense to anyone save ourselves.

 - We build model train sets. The landscapes are groomed obsessively. Each car is hand-painted. Some cars are named, some are not. Conductor's caps are worn proudly and whistles are blown as each train crosses the station and chugs mightily along.

 - We teach ourselves foreign languages. Romance languages like French, Spanish, or maybe Italian. Languages from far, far away like Japanese or Mandarin or the native language of the Maori. We whisper simple, yet exotic words to see how they feel on our tongues. Using each syllable to plan out future trips across oceans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ohio's Bound to Boomerang

  One thing I miss from my time in Ecuador (I miss many, many things and people and places) is the weather. In Ecuador the weather was, above all else, predictable. Imagine your ideal of a perfect Spring day. Sun shining in the sky with a few scattered clouds, green grass abound, flowers blooming, and temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. Your ideal day might be a little different, but it probably falls within that range. Ecuador resides right in the middle of the globe. This means that they get a clean cut of 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness or thereabouts. The mornings start out a bit chilly, maybe in the low 50's. By noon the sun would be cranking at full power, which would mean that it was time to shuck off the sweatshirt that was necessary in the morning. This wonderful heat would stay until about four in the afternoon then it would start to lessen a bit as the sun made its descent.

  You could count on the daylight and the warmth but also one other thing: the rain. Almost everyday between 10 in the morning and 5 in the evening or so there would be a storm or shower. Usually it was over just as quickly as it started and most of the time it was refreshing. I miss taking mid-afternoon naps while the rain tapped on the roofs outside.

  But here in Ohio the only predictability in the weather is that it is bound to be inconsistent. Yesterday it was unseasonably warm outside, today it rained all day and the temperature plummeted. Tomorrow it could very well snow, or just as easily it could be as warm as a summer afternoon. Its all within the realm of possibility here.

  All of October and November it went from warm to wet to cold to warm to snowing to wet and back to cold. Going outside on any given day in Ohio, or in the Midwest for that matter, is like jumping into a game of ping pong that starts and stops of its own volition. You never know if its your turn to serve or return a volley. The weather here plays by its own rules and no one else's. And sure the erratic nature of the weather is due in part to global warming, but to give climate change the whole blame is unfair.

  As long as I can remember its been like this here. The snow might start in October and go through March. Though during that time its never consistently snowy. There's just as much of a chance of snow tomorrow as there is in March, but also of it being warm like Spring today or in January. Ohio's bound to boomerang as far as the weather is concerned. And while I enjoy the chaos and mystery of going outside each morning, some days I miss the clockwork predictability of Ecuador.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brave Little Melody

I heard you hummin'
sweetly in the pale moonlight,
just a yellow sliver in the sky 
and your melody
floating so softly

You were a ghastly sight,
beautifully illuminated
by the piccolo vibrations
floating from your 
rosy cheeks

I thought life would be just lovely
so full and complete
if there was a banjo 
to accompany you,
oh, how heavenly that'd be

But I did not have a banjo
on that night, so I did the next best thing,
as we got closer,
moving our separate ways
in the pale moonlight,
I sang along to your 
brave little melody.

You were surprised, 
then your cheeks grew redder with embarrassment, 
then we both smiled at each other and continued 
our separate ways,
carrying the song
with my voice and
your humming

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The East Side of the City

   Loneliness and disparation are fiends that can strike at any time. They sank their fangs deep into me while I was sitting in a café one evening, surrounded by friends, warm drinks, and pastries. I was struck by the fact that I could not sit there one moment longer. I put my share of the bill on the table and departed and just kept walking. Happy stories don't always have substance, sad ones don't always have reason. Sometimes its hard to tell the difference.

  I walked with purpose, but without direction. Unconsciously I walked towards the Eastern side of the city, looking for something, maybe a release of some kind. I walked and walked, foot after foot on the pavement, earbuds in my ears dutifully playing music. In the distance the sun was beginning its descent below the mountain ranges that surrounded the city. Without warning I came upon a stone obelisk stretching towards the sky. It was surrounded by a playground. I decided to sit beside the obelisk and take a break. I think I switched artists or songs on my ipod, but I cannot remember whom from or to. I sat there, trying to catch my breath, trying to decide if the loneliness had abated at all or the restless anger that had become my shadow since leaving the café. I looked out at the city and inward at myself and still felt lonely and angry so I continued onward. The streets continued at an upward slant with concrete staircases snugly fit between alleyways. I saw a wooden vantage point overlooking the city and decided that would be my goal.

  Before arriving at the vantage point I stopped at the tienda to buy a large bottle of water. The shopkeeper was a very nice woman, she had been talking to a man just outside the shop as I approached. I asked her for a water and as she went to find it, the man outside the store put out his hand and introduced himself. I told him my name and where I was from when he asked. He seemed to be having a slight bit of trouble standing as he swayed back and forth, but for a moment he steadied himself as best as he could and clapped a hand on my shoulder and pointed between his eyes and mine and said to me in Spanish, "Remember this". Then he held out his hand to shake again, which I did. It was a strange and singular encounter. I took my water and waved to the man and the shopkeeper.

  I reached the vantage point and looked out at the stretching city with its endless array of houses, buinesses, bakeries with fresh breads, and beautiful churches. Down the road from where I was standing a large school was letting out and parents were picking up children carrying dioramas and colorful projects. I felt okay. I felt less lonely.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Autumn Evening in November

   Sitting at the coffee shop I had a unique moment or maybe it was very normal, but either way it actually occurred. I sat down to a table by the window so I could watch the cars go by and the sun finish setting, leaving the sky dark blue and full of clouds. The coffee shop was maybe half full, at best. Behind me sat a few high school girls talking about high school things. They seemed to be enjoying each other's company, telling little stories and laughing intermittently. A thin middle aged man came to the counter and ordered a tea for a his sore throat. He said he hoped it would help since he was on his way to coach high school varsity basketball so he needed his voice at full power.

 The real gem of the evening were the three elderly seniors talking by the fireplace. I'm not sure if they were three old friends, or a small club or three people who had fallen to the fate of Rip Van Winkle and were trying their best to piece together how the world had changed. The slightly portly gentleman and the gray haired-smiling woman sat in adjacent armchairs and the taller man with an arching forehead sat on the edge of the fireplace holding council over their little gathering.

  The taller man would say something like, "Now canned goods, that's the real ticket. With cans there's no expiration date, or if there is, it doesn't come for a long, long time. Saves you a lot of time worrying if something's gone bad or not. Mhmm, cans are real good, least that's what I say."

  Then the others would nod or murmur in agreement. The more portly gentleman might have added, "My favorite is Cream of Mushroom soup because its one of the few things I can still stand to put pepper on. I've always liked a bit of pepper from time to time."

  "Oh pepper! That's a real fine thing.", the taller man might reply, "You ever make yourself eggs? Maybe on a Sunday morning? Add a little pepper there; that's real nice"

  The portly man mumbled that he did enjoy eggs, but his stomach couldn't handle pepper on them anymore.

"Sometimes the hardest thing is eating healthy these days", The gray haired woman said from her armchair.

  "I hardly ever drink soda, you know.", boasted the man sitting on the fireplace.

"Because it doesn't taste very good?"

     "No, that's not it at all! Have you had a soda recently? Wow, they sure are tasty! But they're just carbonated water and sugar, that can't be healthy."

Again they all nodded and said, "That sure is true."

  The man with the high forehead, sitting by the fireplace continued, "Well to be honest, my real weak spot is cream cheese. My, oh my, it sure is good. I can go through a whole pound of cream cheese before the expiration date, I sure can. That date comes fast too! Somthing like five days after you buy it, but when I buy cream cheese, its always gone by that date. You know what, tonight when I go home I think I might have some cream cheese on crackers for dinner."

  "Just crackers and cream cheese and nothing else?", the gray haired woman asked

"Yep, just crackers and the cream cheese."

    "No preparation there at least.", the gray haired woman ventured.

They probably talked about some other things, but they didn't stay much longer. I thought the three of them were just great. Sitting there, somberly, happily talking about such little things as if discovering them for the first time and discussing the merits of these simple things.

The Tallest Man On Earth
Love is All

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Straight Into the Water

You dropped me
straight into the water,
you left me
in the middle of the sea,
'Fore you left me
you said
"Don't talk to the otters:
you said,
"just don't touch them ponies"

Or that's what I thought
I heard,
but it might have
 been something like
blub blub,
blub blub blub blub,
It was hard to hear
 your voice from
  beneath the waves

Now if you did say
ponies in fact,
I have to say,
I don't quite
know what you meant
All the sea-horses are
downright cordial
and the small ones
seem to be made
 of nothing but pure whimsy

Maybe you said Hippos
instead of ponies
now the hippo on the other hand get downright moody
and some days
they're more than a little angsty.
A Hippo tantrum
is no small load to bear

The otters, though
sly and playful,
have never once
led me astray

You dropped me
straight into the water
you left me,
but perhaps
I should be glad

Walk the Moon

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bucket of Productivity

"Simon...I think you know why we're here having this little chat. You don't want to be here-"

   Simon made a move to object.

    "-No, no its fine. You have things you'd rather be doing with your time and so do I. Simon, Simon, Simon...just what are we going to do with you? These past few months your productivity was, how shall we say this? To be blunt it was not good Simon. It makes me sad, because you see, I like to think of our little operation here as a tightly run ship. When one of us isn't pulling their weight that ship isn't quite as tightly run anymore, is it?"

                  Simon shook his head.

  "Good. We both want this 'ship' of ours to run smoothly. Now how 'bout we make ourselves a deal?"

"Mom, how about you lay off Simon a little?", said Simon's older sister Liz from the kitchen where she was cooking, "I get that he's been a bit irresponsible lately, but the mobster schtick isn't doing anyone any good. He's ten years old, lighten up."

  Simon, who had been utterly downcast and withdrawn like a sulky cat left out in the rain overnight, sparked up just a little at his sister's words of defense.

 Their mother cleared her throat sheepishly, "I'm sorry Simon, sometimes it just seems hard to get through to you. Maybe your father and I watched the Sopranos and The Godfather series too many times when the two of you were little instead of reading parenting books. Where was I? Oh right, well we still need to do something to try to get you back on track. I've got an idea for a rewards system we can try. We'll take this bucket here." She motioned to her left.

   "It's a sand-pail, Mom.", Simon ventured.

"Ah, so it is! Okay we'll take this sand-pail then and every time you do something good we'll put a quarter in the pail. If you come to dinner the first time I call or brush your teeth before bed, that's a quarter."

   "Only a quarter for everything? What about if I do something really good?"

His mother smiled, "Now you're thinking Simon. If you do something outstanding, like getting an A on a project or test then we'll add a dollar to the pail. But if you slip up, that will be a deduction of 50¢ from the pail. How's this sound?"

   "Sounds good Mom!"

"Okay then, we'll put the pail on the side table here. Now why don't you go see if your sister will be nice enough to make you a sandwich."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Five Dresses

Tried on five dresses
'fore you threw em
to the ground
Tried on five dresses
but they don't fit you no more

It's okay
cuz you lost weight
at least that's what
you said

I'm gonna drive out west
and start a band
soon as I find
a beat to break my heart

I'm just a legend
that forgot how to cry
I'm just a legend
running out of time

Tried on five dresses
'fore you threw em
to the ground
Tried on five dresses
But they don't fit no more

I'm just an imaginary friend
that you forgot about
but still believe in somehow

Hot Chip
How Do You Do?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Misshapen Words

My ears, Oh, my ears are ringing
my ears, they're red
so red from all
the bloody things
that you've said

I'm worried sick about you
my honey dear, 
because I love you
and I just want you safe
But they are going
to take you away

My ears, oh! they're ringing
from top to lobe
my ears are so red
from all these
bloody and dangerous
words you've been saying

Can't you see that I'm scared?
I want you here with me, 
and I know they're gonna
take away your sweet
righteous voice,
gonna take you away

But what exactly does
safety mean anymore?
You ask me
when we're living like this
through thin walls and underground
barely alive, but still breathing
what does safety mean anymore?

My ears are red
from all the things 
all the stupidly 
dangerous things
that I never had
the courage to say

Where, oh where are you now,
my honey dear?
Have they taken you away?
I do not know
All I have left
is this ringing
in my oh so red ears...

Two notes, a) I wrote the above with in mind a soulful/bluesy Otis Redding type beat in mind. b) the video below by Walk Off the Earth was shot in one take, but then edited so that we are seeing things slightly out of order. I think I'm doing a bad job of explaining it, but its a really cool video, check it out.

Walk Off the Earth
Red Hands

Monday, November 5, 2012


  There are gunshots ringing out from the churchyard and certainly not for the first time this week, nor the last. Benjamin the grave-keeper has been vigilant since the 22nd, since the day the shamblin' started. When the dead come back their muscles have atrophied a good deal so they walk like a man with his legs asleep getting out of a car on a long road trip. They shamble, that's what we've decided to call it and so then they are Shamblers.

  Half the town has left in search of some unblighted paradise, but really they're only kidding themselves. It is happening here and it is sure as hell happening everywhere else. All the major media conglomerates are off the air. Some have left up scrawled placards that say "Hope to resume broadcasting soon!", or "Stay Safe, Crush the Shamblers!" as if we were all just rooting against a hated sporting team. But in a strange way perhaps that's exactly what it is like. Perhaps our culture of rivalry in the sports arena has prepared us for this more than anything else..

  The White House has started a bizarre campaign of rounding up all the cellphone numbers and workable land line numbers they have on record and calling people up. They aren't using prerecorded messages either, its genuine, honest to god people talking to each and every one of us. Its certainly refreshing. They are telling each person that they are doing everything in their now slightly more limited power to help the nation right now. The White House is saying that training centers are being set-up in city centers. And these training centers are actually quite effective. They teach you how to make a home generator from salvageable parts. They're teaching cooking and knitting and various household tasks. They're showing every way known to man of how to purify water. And everyone who comes in is given a brief tutorial on hand-to-hand combat as well as marksmanship with everything from throwing knives to bows. The government has also restarted the ancient use of a Pony Express, they are men and women riding on horseback from town to city to village checking on the statuses of everyone. The idea here was that horses would be cheap to fuel and so long as they don't get spooked they can outrun most threats.

   But I have to reiterate, here Benjamin is doing a phenomenal job containing the outbreaks and we've been able to take care of any remainders that shamble into town. We still have some power, we have hope, right now its a preparation and waiting game.

Of Monsters and Men
Mountain Sound

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Absurdity and Laughter

I broke down
onto the floor of your room
I let the tears
fall freely from my eyes until
I heard you say:

Who the Hell are you?
Why are you in my home?
Get the fuck outta here!

I looked up
to see you weren't Mary
I must have
let myself into
the wrong apartment

And so I ran
I beat the pavement,
I made no try at an explanation
As I got outside
I realized this
wasn't even the right block

I ran from the absurdity,
peels of laughter
following my footfalls

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Aftermath of Sandy

  On Monday night the winds and rains of Hurricane Sandy's wrath took their toll on the Cleveland area, leaving us without power for about 28 hours and without cable and internet for three days. Living without these everyday amenities was an adventure: my mother and I broke out every flashlight and scented candle we could find. We played scrabble in the near dark while sipping wine and whiskey and coke. The winds howled all through the night, like a pack of baying dogs or a masked man in a horror flick banging to gain entry. I was awoken at 4:40 in the morning, maybe the storm was lonely playing outside alone.

   Tuesday morning looked like another world. Sandy had gotten her claws into the neighbors'pine tree and ripped it out of the ground. The tip of the tree now lay on the ground pointing to the street-sign that had fallen from its home atop the stop sign. We took the dog for a walk and he was ecstatic about the weather outside, we couldn't understand it as he's usually scared of thunder storms and loud things. Well, there was no thunder and he is a Bearded Collie, and they were bred to watch the sheep in inclimate weather of the highlands, so I guess it makes sense. We went to Chipotle for lunch and ate in the car since we brought the dog so he  could enjoy the heat of the car with us. It was a nice field trip, but when we got back the house seemed twice as cold as when we had left. I bundled up in a nest of blankets and took a nap only to wake up with the power still out. My mom informed me that it had jolted on for five minutes, but went off again after a loud pop from down the street.

 We were about to lose hope for sustained warmth when the power came back on. I have rarely cherished heat so much. We "suffered" through another day and a half without cable or internet. I was overjoyed when the internet and cable came back, but I realized maybe I was happier in their absence. And really we were lucky, some people in the area still don't have power back on yet.

Dig Your Own Hole

and yes I still like Gotye

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spooky Song: Cruel

I realized that if I wait for me to finish writing the story or two that I'm working on, then I won't get to more songs. I have more Halloween/spooky videos than I have story ideas, so I should at least post something before the month ends, right? So here is a song by St. Vincent otherwise known as Annie Clark. This video does show some stuff that's genuinely creepy, but at the same time there's a kind of strange funny aspect since Ms. Clark has this air of resignation and apathy to her circumstance.

St. Vincent

Friday, October 26, 2012

Graveyard Shortcuts

You keep giving me directions
that take me through
these places that
I don't really want to go

You keep giving me directions
and each step
is taking me,
through haunted graveyards
and over people's fences

I try to tell you
how I've been
on the right side
of the law
for quite some time

You just shake your head
and smile faintly in the dark
you say, its not the law
we're hiding from,
gotta trust me
on this one

You keep giving me directions
they're leading me
through back alleys,
down burrows,
up sticky pine trees,
but who knows
where it will end?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Many Forms of Loneliness

I would venture to say that one of the worst parts about feeling lonely is a secure knowledge that you are absolutely alone in the unique way that you feel alone. I am writing this to break that security. If nothing else, after reading this you can know that you are a little less alone because someone is, or has or will feel the way that you are right now. I think that little bit of solidarity is something substantial to hold onto.

 -There's the loneliness you feel when you're a refugee and you no longer have a home to return to. You spend each day on unfamiliar ground surrounded by paranoia, longing for a place that doesn't exist anymore. You can't return to your house because its not safe or there is no house there any longer.

 -When you're little and don't have many or possibly any friends. This leads to creating wonderful imaginary friends. But the creation of imaginary friends leads to later in life the wistful loneliness for those bygone imaginary friends. You sit wondering, "what did they look like? Were they nice or mean? What are they doing these days?"

-There's the loneliness that comes from all your friends moving away and you're the last one left in town. Do you set off as well or stick around and try to make the new situation work?

-Or on the other hand there's the opposite situation when you have a new career, or school or something else that takes you some place completely different from everyone you know. This means starting from scratch. It means finding new restaurants to go to, making new friends, finding things to do. It means missing all those people you left behind that you keep in your heart. It means calling them in the middle of the night, but hanging up before they answer because you don't want to seem needy.

 - And then there's the loneliness that comes from a rainy day that words can't quite describe. It might be similar to the feeling of missing someone or something that you've never known.

-When you live alone and you burn yourself on the stove, but since you live in solitude there is no one to call you an idiot for burning yourself. So what do you do? You then admonish yourself for being dumb, you knew the stove was hot, you know what heat is, you're not four years old, how could you do this?

-When you are a crazy cat lady. Okay maybe you're arguing that you don't feel lonely at all because you've replaced all your friends with felines. And okay maybe you say you understand cats better than people, which really is understandable, people are crazy. But we both know you were more comfortable at 7-9 cats and now you're up to 15. There are literally cats on top of cats and where are Muffin and Jo-Jo? They've been missing for days now...

-When you're sick as an adult. There isn't anyone to take care of you if you stay home and no one to take pity on you when you're acting pitiful. Except for the most die-hard of firends, no one is going to want to spend time with you while you're sick. That means its just going to be you, a cup of tea, a bowl of soup and any sappy movie you choose since there's no one to veto it.

- The strong arrow of loneliness that strikes straight through the heart when a friend lets it slip that you missed an awesome outing. How dare they all hang out without you? Couldn't they have at least texted?

-The loneliness when you are half a gallon of milk that never got completely drank. You sit in the fridge in denial of your soon to be fate thinking, pleading, "No! Please! Don't pour me down the drain. I'm okay for consumption, I swear. Ignore the smell I'm alright!"

-There's the loneliness when you have a secret crush. You think that person is the coolest in the room/world, but who knows if they even know you're name. You sit each day, four desks away pining for that special someone and the way they wear their hair/skirt/tie/shoes or tell such good jokes or just that thing about them.

-The loneliness of sitting at a table of friends and realizing that after all this time you have nothing in common, or maybe you just feel inexplicably alone. Which is dumb right? To feel alone while surrounded by people, but there you are, lonely all the same.

And to almost all of these scenarios I say, pick up the phone call a friend. It just might turn your day around. Also here's a video that's a little more relevant than usual.

Doctor Dog

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tumblin through the Ash

There is a boy
looking back at me
what happened to
 that man from yesterday?
   that man I used to know
      I used to know

Do you feel the wind?
Its coming in strong
  from the Northwest
Its coming in Fierce
  Oh, man its so loud
I can't hear the
  words from your mouth

What is that look?
  That one I see
   in your eyes,
  I used to know
  you like a book,
    but not so much
anymore, no not anymore

I dare you to look away
  just to try to forget
anything and everything
I dare you to let go
  and fly away
      just fly away

Lord Huron
Time to Run

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Subcutaneous Bubbles in the Moonlight

  He walked into the bar on a Thursday night, his tail between his legs. His right eye was bruised and blooming like an onion. He was wearing a wool scarf around his neck to hide the swelling, despite the heat. Half-limping, half-staggering he made his way to the stool at the end of the bar well away from everyone else. He said to the bartender, "Gimme a shot of something strong enough to be called medicine, then two pints of your bitterest beer, please and thank you."

  He downed the liquor and beer methodically, he didn't seem to take in the flavor at all. After a few moments he finished the second beer and set it down on the bar with exaggerated care. He sauntered over to the jukebox and flipped through the selections until sighing with an, "Ahh, there it is." He fed the machine several quarters and hit B12. Out of the speakers came a series of horns, trumpeting joyfully into the smoky haze of the bar. The brunette in a subtle red dress felt a tap on her shoulder. He stood behind her with his hand offered.

  "May I have this dance?"

           She blushed, "I'm flattered but I can't dance."

"Sure you can, I'll waltz us around. Your feet will follow, they're good at that. We'll feel like we're floating, trust me. "

 And with that he swept her up right into a spin, her dress flourishing with the movement. She blushed again. They glided through the open spaces in the bar. He was surprisingly graceful, she had taken him for a mongrel drunk with a penchant for fighting. Perhaps she'd been wrong. Out of the speakers the band from another age was building up as the horns and bass traded off - doot - doot - doot - thrum - doot - thrum - thrum - doot - the singer broke in with a hook, "feel the moonlight/tap-dance on your skin/As you hold her close tonight" - doot - doot - thrum - thrum...

 With the hook he dipped her low. She came up with a kick that would have made a Rockette proud and she took his hand to give him a spin. It was a beautiful spin so she decided why not twice? and went for a double. As the band crescendo-d he lost his footing and slipped from her hand. He fell, not gracefully, but rather in a heap against the wall where he laid crumpled and motionless. In the process of spinning and falling his scarf came unfurled to reveal a neck that looked as if there was a sheet of bubble wrap just beneath the surface. She gasped and covered her moth with her hand. "I'm sorry! Was that my fault? I'm so sorry. Do you need an ambulance? I'll call for one."

  She got out her phone hoping this wasn't a busy night for emergencies. From the wall the man murmured, then spoke quietly, "When they get here, tell them I"m a diver. That should speed things up. Thank you for the song, you're a wonderful dancer." He closed his eyes and then either passed out or fell asleep. A ragged smile played across his lips.

David Guetta
She Wolf (Falling to Pieces) feat Sia

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spooky Songs 'n' Stories

  There's something about the crisp air in October that signals so many things. That crisp air demands to be accompanied by hot apple cider or tea. It cordially requests that you bake cookies and loafs and pies of pumpkin. The air in October let's you know that its time for jeans and fleeces and flannels and maybe even scarfs at night. And when you get back home its the time of year when the light switches get set to a quarter dim for the optimum amount of coziness. The wind whistles and the orange leaves crunch. The music gets softer or more suspense-filled and jumpy-just like the movies.

  So curl up under a warm blanket, grab something warm to sip and let's watch and listen to few spooky songs and videos this month. There might even be a scary story or two thrown in, who knows.

  First up is Kimbra with a video that takes the cute kiwi and shows her dark and demented and more than a little funky side. Enjoy.

Come Into My Head

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Further Down the Road

  After a long couple weeks on the road I set to drinking the exhaustion and loneliness from my bones. But each sip only summoned up old memories from years ago to rain down on me like dreams in a fever. I remembered when we were six and our moms took us to the zoo together. You were always enamored with the flamingos and the graceful way they could stand on one leg for hours on end. I always thought the tigers were cooler. Though I told you that if I were a tiger I would protect the flamingos from harm, you stuck your chin up and informed me flamingos needed no protecting: they can fly!

  I remembered all those summer nights, running through the park. Or first year of high school with our class trip to the aquarium. We snuck off from the rest of the group to go make faces at the manta rays and kiss by the electric eels. We got back to the group before lunch had started and Mr. Elgrim never noticed we were gone.

  I remember two years later when your baby brother died. You were torn to shreds. I took you to Sebastian's party three weeks later to try to take your mind off things. It was a good party, I think I might have seen you smile near the start. I lost you for awhile only to find you hiding, curled up in the bathtub, drinking gin straight from the bottle. I sat beside you in the tub. I remember kissing you on the cheek, taking in the sweet sickly scent of pine needles from your breath. I took the bottle from your shaking hand and patted your back. You cried, "Its not fair!"

    "I know", I murmured back

 "He was only seven! Why him? Why not me?", You sobbed, "He was so innocent. Look at me, I'm hopeless. It should have been me. It should have been me. Not him...Not Frankie."

   "Shhh..You're not hopeless at all, you're right, it wasn't fair though."

I remember how we drifted apart over the following year before graduation. I ended up going away to school, you stayed. You thought that way your parents would have some stability and a chance to put yourself back together. We said we'd visit each other, you'd come see me at school and that I'd come home every chance. And we did, for awhile, but the distance took its toll. I met new people and you changed bit by bit. You kept saying how you wanted to travel out West to see everything. I wonder if you actually ever did.

  I'm sitting in the kitchen, drinking gin straight from the bottle with these old memories swirling in my head like wild djinn. In my stupor I realize I still have your number, the new mobile you got a few years ago. I think about calling you and hearing your voice...and then the phone's already ringing, held up against my ear. I hope you don't answer in time, hope for the grace of you answering machine. What the hell would I say if you were to ---

  "Steven? Is it really you? How are you?  Its been too long!"

  "Cassie! I wasn't sure if this was still your number. I'm good, my life's not too interesting these days. Honestly  its not. Mostly I spend every other week doing sales-calls across the country. If I have to drive through Delaware one more time I sear I'll drive straight into a brick wall. Other than that I am good, peachy even. How're you doing these days? Did you ever make it out of our hometown?"

  "Well at least you're traveling. I bet you meet some interesting people too. Two years after you left for school, when we stopped talking as much, I decided I had grieved long enough and that it was time to go or I'd never be able to move on. I packed a bag, threw it over my shoulder and took the first bus out of town."

  "Where did you go?"

 "Everywhere. I took buses, hitch-hiked and walked. I made it across the country and back about three or four times..erm no definitely three. I saw Phoenix, New Orleans, Austin, Denver, San Francisco - oh man, Frisco was the best! and farther down the coast I spent way too much time in Santa Fe, have you ever been?"

  I admitted I'd never made it as far West as California, let alone Santa Fe.

 "What?", you gasped, "Steven, you need to see the boardwalk in Santa Fe. Its brilliant, totally not hokey or touristy, just genuine, you know? And you need to see the Redwoods. Its like, try to imagine the biggest tree you've ever seen, then imagine a dinosaur and then the love child of the giant tree and dino had a baby tree; that would be almost in the ballpark of what its like to see a Redwood."

  I laughed, "That sounds wonderful. Is that where you're living now? In a giant tree in California?"

 You laugh, I didn't realize how much I had missed your laugh. You tell me that although you did try living in a tree once, it just wasn't worth not having running water. You tell me that you ended up in Minneapolis and never realized how beautiful winter could be. You decided to stay. Now you're a long-term substitute teacher with a love for ice fishing. You seem happy, which makes me smile.

 I consider telling you how much I miss you, I consider asking you why we let each other slip away. I want to ask if you met anyone. Instead I make up a lie about having to run, having to take a roast our of the oven, having to save a pack of kittens from a burning tree, having to sleep, having to call the wife I don't have. You're disappointed and say we should talk again soon and that I should see the Redwoods. Then you're gone and its just me and the bottle of gin.

Porcelain Raft
Drifting In and Out

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Headphones

My headphones are
an escape
from my thoughts
and all the surrounding distractions
of everyday life

My headphones are
the only way
I can
semi successfully
feign deafness

My headphones are
a place to
every where
and when
I've ever been

My headphones are
a waking dream
that Salvador Dali
used to have,
where everyone's
a rhino

My headphones are
a way to
look occupied
as if,
my occupation
was to listen
to wonderful sounds

My headphones are
my best friend
when everyone else
seems unreasonable,
when my strut
needs a little more spice

My headphones are
broken, and now,
the bass is too loud,
and the vocals
are too soft,
the percussion
is uneven
and doesn't
count time no more

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Watch out for
the stingrays
in the night,
they glide
through the seas

They guard the waters,
from all intruding fiends
when the sun
the sea

You're not safe,
You're not safe,
not at midnight,
not in the water

Watch out for
the stingrays,
they strike without warning,
they kill
without mercy
though they hold only
peace in their hearts
and love for the water

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Perfect Spot

   I'm still looking for the perfect spot. A perfect spot where I can relax, and read, and write, and think. Trying to find it only makes me miss Ecuador more, where every step sparked a thought and every bench or hilltop was perfect for sitting and thinking about life. What kinds of thoughts were sparked you ask? While I was in Ecuador I put out somewhere between 35 and 40 posts between two blogs. I wrote some things that I am extremely proud of like "Postcards from Venus", "Just Ring the Bell", and "Into the Tall Grass". And a lot of the story ideas came to me from just walking around. What's surprising to me is that I found time enough to write anything down during our time there when in retrospect it seems as if we were so constantly busy with class and homework and trips and activities. Maybe what I miss most is the ability to take walks and have every turn take me some place I had never seen before.

  I want to climb to the top of a hill and sit until the sun goes down. I want to hike through the woods where the birdsong turns the air warm and friendly. I want to swim into that Great Lake, just to know that I still can. I want a fresh thought and a hand to hold. I'm gonna cook brunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, waffles, bacon and eggs, and biscuits and gravy. I'm gonna relearn to stand on my head.

  I'm looking for the perfect spot where its the first day of Spring and yet at the same time always Autumn. the air there tastes like cinnamon and pumpkin spice. There's always a familiar face just around the bend. There the future is never bleak.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Silly Smile

  Though I like you, oh I really do, I can never tell if you are being naive or simply joking around. You've always got that silly smile, a secret joke you won't tell anyone. And then there was that day I found you underneath the cherry tree, sipping iced tea with a bow in your hair and wearing a festive summer dress. You were reading Kafka, or maybe Moby Dick, something that didn't match at all. I laughed aloud thinking the combination was quite grand. I sat down beside you underneath the tree and asked how the book was.

    "Thrilling!" You replied with a wink and again that silly smile played across your lips.

Blue Roses
I Am Leaving

Monday, September 17, 2012

Almost Not Quite 2

Hello again, its time for another installment of "Almost Not Quite". This time I'd like to take a look at Passion Pit's video for their song "Take a Walk". Okay first of all let's start with things that I think the video/song does well. The song itself tells the story of a man who goes from fresh off the boat immigrant to Wall Street inside trader, it shows a ruthless progression, but also conveys hope throughout. Its a fun song, jangly and polished and relevant to our world today.

 The video shows us a sort of tour of America from the point of a bouncing blue rubber ball. I enjoy the slices of life and nature and happenings we're shown in the video, but nothing is really shown for any significant length of time to get any context to the situation at hand. We see a car accident, but how did it happen? Did the driver see the bouncing ball coming from the heavens and miss the bicyclist in front of him? Or there's a girl who spills her papers in an alley, did some ruffian harass this nice woman? Sadly we will never know the truth. I think my biggest problem with the video is that we are given the point of view of a bouncing blue rubber ball, but yet to me, the bouncing mechanics do not seem to have the right feel to them at all. Did they examine how a ball bounces at all before making the video? I understand they needed to cover hundreds of miles at a time, okay fine, but at times we the camera/ball seem to just sail in these awkward arcs that seem as if the ball has grown wings. That's all I have to say, give it a watch for yourself.

Passion Pit
Take a Walk

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crossed My Heart

I made you
a promise on that night
crossed my heart
hoped to die
as we ate
powdered donuts
under the pale moonlight

I promised I would
follow you,
join you
down the road,
come to remove
the isolation and loneliness

But though I fought
to keep my word
in the end
I failed.
and our promise was broken

There's no pain
or guilt
quite like
breaking a promise
with a great friend

You had gone your way
I went mine
we grew up
and the pain faded
with time

And now I don't
cross my heart,
most assuredly
no more hoping to die
I still try my best,
but I don't give
my word
So I won't have
to break it

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tiger Salad

   Did I ever tell you about Bartholomew? Did I ever tell you about good old Bart? Back when I used to go to the corner bar, you know the one on East St. Peter? He'd always sit off to himself in one of the back booths, usually the one with the flickering light overhead. From afar, from the door maybe, Bart seemed like any other lonely loner at the bar. Up close though...there was something in the air around his booth, a scent sweet like honey and yet spicy like New Orleans in the Fall. He looked like a cross between a washed-up punk waiting for a revolution and a businessman with tremendous style. He'd wear rip torn jeans with ratty converse with fitted shirts with a tie or a silk cravat. His hair was spiky and sometimes dyed reddish-blue.

  The first night we met, I thought he looked like a guy that could use some company so I came over to his booth and asked,"Mind if I-"

   Before I could finish he cut me off with, "Its about time! I've been waiting all evening. Now are you going to have your usual or something different tonight?"

 "Huh..buh...Excuse me, I...we haven't met before, I think you have me confused.", I tried, sure that this man was clearly crazy.

  "No, no, no. You're Mark, yes?", I admitted that I was, "Good, I'm Bartholomew, better known as Bart, but never Barth. Now, your usual?"

  "Sure", I submitted, realizing at this point I was out of my depth. Was he crazy or was I? Did I have amnesia? No that couldn't be. But that was the effect Bart had on people, he made you think that you were the crazy one.

  My "usual" turned out to be a very red drink topped with white foam. I asked him what it was exactly, to which he replied cheerfully, "Red beer! Have a sip!" It was delicious, and beer-like, and red-like. Of course it was "red beer", what else could it have been?

 After taking the sip Bart looked up at me and said just this: "Wednesdays, Fridays and Sunday afternoons"

"Your favourite days of the week?"

   "That's when I'll be here"


     Sunday afternoons turned out to be Karaoke, which I wouldn't have expected Bart to be a fan of. I learned that he sang every week, either "Let's Dance" by David Bowie or "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison. One Sunday I came in, but didn't see him yet, so I wrote him into the queue and walked into the bathroom where I found Bart contemplating the mirror. He said, "You know, I don't believe in reflections. I believe its just an alternate dimension lining up perfectly." Bart paused staring at himself in the dirty mirror then lapsed back into speech after a moment, "I think if I wait long enough, he might leave before I do, but the chances of that happening are very, very slim."

  I told him it was his turn to sing in a moment. He looked at me as if just realizing I was there. "Oh...oh." He left, but for about half a second maybe, his reflection didn't. I swear that's what I saw anyway.


    One evening we were sitting at the booth, me with a red beer, him with his scotch and cigarillo when he said, "Einstein almost got it right, but not quite."

    "With what?"

"His famous theory of relativity. He was close, but he missed the bit about ghosts."

Bart looked as if he wasn't going to say anything more on the subject so I let it go at that, but I was definitely scratching my head through the next few days.

 I tried bringing a few of my friends around to meet Bart after describing him to them. They would say, "Mark, this guy can't be as strange as you're making him sound." And then I would introduce them and without fail a few things would happen: a) Bart would be closer to normal than usual, a little eccentric perhaps but normal and always a perfect gentleman. b) Though he would start some stories at the middle instead of the beginning he always seemed much more lucid than usual. c) my friends would always leave the bar with me commenting, "Bart was wonderful! I don't know why you didn't bring us around sooner!" d) a few days later they would call me on the phone saying, "You might be right...something was off the other night. But I can't quite place my finger on what.."

  And I think the biggest thing that was off in those encounters with Bart was that he wasn't being himself. They got this dialed down version, this other version of a person that they had only heard stories about and their subconscious probably catches it. I mean if you've ever had a friend acting any way other than natural, you know right away. Though if you aren't as close to that person it might take some time to realize that person was wearing a facade at that particular time.

 Or there was the time I joined him at the booth and he was surrounded by a thicker than usual cloud of smoke. I asked what he was up to, he said, "Trying to blow the perfect smoke ring and then replicate it enough times intertwining to create a smoke sphere."

  I liked the idea of it even if it didn't seem entirely possible. I asked him how his progress was so far, he replied, "Not too well, but I'm having a hell of a time. I feel like Edison or maybe Tesla on the verge of a discovery." We sat for awhile like that, him blowing ring after ring and me drinking a red beer. The thing was, Bart actually was making progress with the crazy idea, he managed to link 4 rings of smoke before he ran out of breath and the first ring lost its shape.

  When he regained his breath he put his cigarette in the ash tray to take a break and looked at me with red tinged eyes from all the smoke. After considering for a moment he asked, "Have you seen that new billboard out on highway 34?"

    "No, is for a new restaurant?"

Bart looked a bit disappointed that I hadn't seen, "No nothing like that......They're asking about time travel....."

    "Who's asking about time travel?"

"I don't know, but I want to find out..."


Ladies and Gentlemen, this marks my 300th blogpost, thank you very much for reading. Rock on!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Leaving but Never Arrived

  In the distance I can hear the faint klaxons of the approaching ambulance. I say a prayer that it will arrive in time. Your breathing is shallow and ragged as you lay on the floor broken. I want to do something, do anything, save you if I could...but I can't, there's nothing to do but hold your hand and wait. Each second folds into the next, though the ambulance never seems to get any closer. I'm terrified of what comes next, knowing they won't be fast enough, knowing that you'll be leaving me. The fear washes over me, the horrible certainty and I begin to bawl like a child knowing the world can never be put right again.

   Right then your eyes flutter open halfway. You croak, "Shut up you big dope, its okay. Everything's okay." you squeeze my hand. "I can't do this without you." I argue, "You've been keeping me sane for so long. I'm scared. And I know that's not even fair to you, I should be brave right now for you." Another tear drips down my face. "Hey, I know I would be just as scared if you were the one on the floor right now." You smile reassuringly somehow, "Just take it day by day. Do that for me, please. And tell the drivers that I'm sorry for wasting their time."

   I hear two more ragged breaths and then I know that you're gone. The sirens get louder and louder still, but they never arrive. The whole kitchen starts to fade bit by bit and then I'm covered in sweat in my bed, without you beside me. Its always bittersweet waking up. In real life you faded so quickly, you were practically gone as I hung up from calling for help. These dreams let me believe you're still there somehow, watching me, protecting me, that everything will actually be okay.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Weight of Air

  The sweet guitar melody drifted lazily up through the eaves to reach our ears on our third floor balcony in our hostel in Naples, Italy. We were practicing card tricks and cheats, laughing and drinking ouzo while waiting for Maria. She had gone shopping in the market, looking for some gifts for friends and picking up some bread for us. Up on the balcony we sat with our shoes off, letting our blistered feet rest. We had hiked all afternoon. It had been and continued to be a near perfect day. I sipped my ouzo and complimented Darryl on his Sleeve-slip trick.

   Over the Cathedral I saw a hawk circling. Mid-circle he fell out of the air into a dive, swiftly plucking a pigeon from a rooftop who had been cooing. Surprisingly then the hawk rose once more pigeon in toe and released it. The pigeon did a series of flips which the hawk duplicated, then they each swooped out of the somersaults in opposite directions. It was amazing. It was an impromptu acrobatics show. I turned back to our table,"Did anyone else see that just now?"

    "See what?" asked Darryl

          "My flawless Ace-Queen swap?" pondered Roy

                    "Did you fall out of your chair? If so, sadly we missed it", said Sarah ever so sardonically

                             "Me sauntering up the avenue?", Maria asked from the doorway, a bag of fresh bread and pastries in her arms.

   "Maria!", we all cried, excited to see her at last

"No to all of those, well except Maria, I spied you coming up the block looking quite fine. The other thing I spied was a hawk doing an acrobatics show with a pigeon above the cathedral. It was amazing."

  "Sure Daniel, sure. I think hunger and imagination got the best of you again.",  Maria said handing me a chunk of bread


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Almost, Not Quite

  In my time as a blogger and music lover I have viewed countless music videos. A dizzying amount to be sure. I have seen ones that I love and ones that I hate. There are videos that simply are so original and breath-taking that they are a wonder to behold aside from even the music that the video was made to accompany. There are also the dismal videos that don't seem to make any sense or are just plain weird or not enjoyable. But, there are also the ones that fall between the two markers, they are music videos that are almost, but not quite awesome, or also almost but not quite horrible. These valiant vids lie in limbo, and from this limbo I will show you a few of the videos that I think could be a bit better or worse.

  In this first installment of this segment, let's take a look at one of the latest videos from Metric for their song "Youth Without Youth". I think its a pretty good song, but the problem with the video is that it doesn't seem to know what it wants. The song is a bit dark and a bit edgy with heavy guitar and dark synths sailing throughout the song. The video on the other hand seems to have an odd gimmick of stacking things, contrasts of black and white and light tones, and a highly anti-climatic use of slow motion. Its artsy, sure, but to what end?

Youth Without Youth

Monday, August 20, 2012

Package Up Your Melancholy

Package up your melancholy
into a box
seal it tight,
walk it to
the nearest shoreline
be it big or small,
and leave that box of sadness
 for some other fool to find

And I know
sometimes it takes all your 
strength, just to survive,
just to stay alive

But now its time to let go
its time to begin anew
let your flowers bloom
let your strength grow
I'll be by your side 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Billboard of Time

  Beside the road on Highway 34 there was a new billboard bravely asking,

                                             "Do you believe in Time Travel?"

 There was no accompanying information, just those words in white font on a stock black background. A few miles before it sat an advertisement for a premium malt beverage, after lay one for a local insurance company.

 If you weren't paying attention you'd dismiss it without a thought, letting it sink into the scenery. If you were reading intently you might wonder about the text for a bit, then write the message off as an odd prank or an art installation. But what if, just hypothetically, you took the strange message to be completely sincere?

     Would you keep driving 'til you came to a cyber-café where you could investigate who had paid for the time-travel billboard? Would you track them down for the chance to possible use their time machine? Or would you just smile quietly to yourself as you passed the billboard and as you exited the highway, your car dissolving into thin air only to reappear in 2514.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fourth Anniversary and Green Day

  Today is my fourth year anniversary of this blog. It has been a joy writing and having you all read, I sincerely hope it continues for another 4 years if not more. It has kept me sane and I hoped its entertained in some small way, if it has, that makes me quite happy. For my anniversary here's some new music from Green Day, because I try my best to bring new music and music videos that I think are quite cool. And this new Green Day song off their upcoming album is fun and sounds like almost a throw-back to their old days. I hope you enjoy.

Green Day
Oh Love

Monday, August 6, 2012

Booms of Pizza

With enough manufactured
to feed a small nation,
we set out
to light every industrial oven in sight

we fired them up
with ancient clangs
and booms

into each cavernous
a pie was thrust

timers were set,
we ran outside
into the sunshine.
To fly kites
through clouds
of soapy blown bubbles

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When They Clip Your Wings

   It began in October, it evaporated in December. The whole thing ended. We were ka-put, finit, terminated. It was the end of the story, except it wasn't and it never is. It was a temporary pause, a freeze in story-time, an electric crackle in the air. We continued on, just in our own separate ways.

   Back in the Fall I saw you at the crowded corner bar. You bought me a drink and winked one of your sapphire-blue eyes. You said, "Babe, you're too damn beautiful for a place like this. Let's get the heck out of Dodge!"

  I rolled my eyes, but melted internally. The line was cheesy, sure, but those eyes could drive a girl crazy. I downed the drink and said, "Alright, Romeo" We drove off into the night in his red corvette, the engine thrummed with delight.

   For a dozen weeks or so we thrummed with delight ourselves. Like hawks taken by heat thermals we spiraled higher and higher. But with every spiral comes a fall. And boy, when we fell, we fell hard. Just a short set of words on that flurried December night and you cut my heart free. I wandered off to the river to watch the snow fall and feel my emotions evaporate through my skin only to freeze upon hitting the air.  When they clip your wings, you fall and you fall hard.

  With my new found apathy and numbness I left. I got out of this other "Dodge" we had created for ourselves. This time more literally, I didn't stop the car once 'til I had hit the Nebraska state-line with its rolling amber fields of grain.  From afar it looks as if you could swim through those fields just as easily as the ocean. I felt at peace, or started to anyway. The question I posed to myself was, "After finding what I'd unknowingly been searching for, what then?"

  I got back in the car and smiled, let's start with and Iced tea and a hot slice of pie and go from there. And so I did, stopping at the first Mom and Pop diner I came to. The Pop of the diner looked like he could have been my grandpa, or at least someone's grandpa. He welcomed me in out of the heat and told me he thought I should know I was beautiful. I blushed, especially since an old man's compliments tend to be the most sincere. What reason is there to be insincere about anything when you're old? None. I thanked him and ordered a sweet tea and whatever pie they had fresh, the Pop said they had just baked one full of wild blue-berries, I said that sounded just fine.

Mark Foster, A-trak, and Kimbra

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July ain't over til....

July ain't over til
that cigarette
dangling between
your lips has been
with the last match-stick
in my book

July ain't over til
I've seen you blow
smoke carelessly,
freely through
the falling burnt dusk sky

July ain't over til
those astral trails
of the day's clouds
float up,
only to obscure,
the perfect
golden moon
hanging from a thread

July ain't over til
we've lain
 on that blanket
up on
Killow's Knee,
that jutting, grassy,
over-looking everything

July ain't over til
I've seen your
disappear from sight,
while the music rings
in my ears
from all those concerts