Thursday, January 31, 2008

You Say Tomato


This one case I’ve got is making me squeamish.

I’m carrying extra magazines and keeping a long gun up in the front seat and changing my route to work and driving around the block a couple of times before I park anywhere and checking my mirrors and keeping my head on a swivel.

The funny thing about this is how alive it makes me feel.

Everything is sparkly and bright and vivid. I see everything. I am awake in a way that a therapist would call hyper alert but that I just call being careful.

Condition Yellow.

I like it.

And I am almost one hundred percent certain that I have nothing to fear. But you never know. And really, I should be “all up ons” all the time. The list of people who might be a little bit unhappy with me is long. Something about me rubs a certain type of person the wrong way. All I have to do is just be in the room or something and they can develop a life-long, intense hatred for me. So, yeah, I should probably be careful.

But it’s kind of fun wondering if that car is slowing down for a reason.

Like being in a suspense movie.

The Bourne Redundancy.

Then I think about my wife and kid, and I don’t like it at all anymore. I want to be a dentist or a librarian. I was watching that new show on HBO, In Treatment. Gabriel Burns is this shaggy-haired, craggy-faced, sweet, old wise man who helps broken people. Anyway, I was watching him sitting in his well-worn leather chair, a pile of books behind him, little model sailboats all around, and someone talking to him quietly, and for a second I thought that’s the way to be.



Helping, but in a quiet, peaceful way. Fifty minutes at a time.

I mean, when he drives around a parking lot for five minutes, he’s looking for a place to park.


Ah, who am I trying to kid?

It ain’t me, babe.

Another funny thing is this reminds me of my dad. Years ago he was involved in a shooting. He killed this guy who was a member of, say, a kind of a club. An association of people with similar interests. And they hatched a plot to kill my dad that got busted up. Long story. Anyway, for about a year my old man was pretty worried. He had to take a lot of precautions and it was ugly and bad and not fun at all. My situation isn’t anything like that, not by a long shot, but it does sort of remind me in a very tangible way that what I do for a living has consequences for the people who love me.

That sucks very, very much.

No, thank you.


“Open wide. This isn’t going to hurt at all. You may feel a slight pressure.”

Dentists, man.

Fuck that.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Arkansas State Prison


These folks inhabit my dreamworld. Be careful before you go look. They will not let go of you.


Last night we dined on King Crab legs and Penn Cove mussels and whore's pasta. We tried a bottle of Cameron Hughes lot 48 (disappointing) and fell back on our old standby, Opolo Zinfindel. 

Sometimes you just say fuck it, lets party.


Today garlic is seeping from my pores. 


Today is one of those days where it rains loud and hard and the wind whips everything around and sends the lawn chairs skittering over the bricks and the sun shines like mad the whole time. 

Everything is alive.


I keep feeling sad about Heath Ledger. 


It's not like his death is any kind of tragedy compared with the rest of the shit going down every day. Maybe I have only a small, Heath Ledger sized compassion. It gets overwhelmed so easily. But the death of a single young man in his prime for no reason, that's kind of bite-sized enough.

I dunno.


My wife and I are taking a ceramics class. An entire semester. The next seventeen saturdays spoken for from 9:30 to 3:30. 

We will make pinch pots. 

We will explore primitive firing techniques.

We will wedge clay and we will keep the white clay separate from the red.

We will stand in front of kilns that are taller than us and use up enough gas to heat our house for a year in something like three minutes. 

We will hang out with little eighteen year olds in knit caps and designer jeans and slouches and clear faces innocent of any marks or scars and we will nudge each other and smile at their heartbreaking fragility and cluelessness and we will get tired and dirty and I know I will break a bunch of stuff and it will be fun, yes.


Did you know we are having a hell of a time getting ammunition for our guns? Not just the DA's office, but the Sheriff's department, the local PD's, everyone. 

It's the war. 

The military is buying all of the bullets.

Just think about that for a minute. 


They already used up all theirs?




Hope you are having a sweet and peaceful Sunday and do yourself a favor and go splurge on something really, really good for dinner. And for god's sake, don't forget the wine.




Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Three Difficulties


In many ways, the path will seek to confuse you.


If it is worthy. If you have found it with difficulty, with fits and starts, if you have lost it and then regained it. 

If the you feel it as a thing with thorns and nectar.

If, when you are sleeping, the path calls to you.

If it is not a thing chosen, but something which cannot be denied.

If you curse it.

If you bless it.


It is a thing unto itself, but without you, it is only a way in the woods.

Nothing more.


I have been struggling with this concept of the limitedness of perspective, of our human perspective, and how crippling it is. When I was in high school I remember studying Drosophila Melanogaster and thinking about their truncated life cycles and how odd it must be to be born in the morning and be dead twenty-four hours later. If it is raining that day, then it has always been raining and always will be. If dry, dry. If sunny. If windy. Cold. Humid. If an earthquake. If an eclipse. 

How limited.

At forty-three, I am starting to figure out that my life cycle is not really any longer. Certainly no more significant. And this is not to say that the life of a fruit fly is insignificant. Nor my life. 

Just that it is terrifically limited.

I'm reading this book by Michio Kaku on the physics of multi-dimensional universes- four, six, ten, etc. Mathematically it makes some sense, but you can't really get an intuitive grasp of it. It does illustrate, however, the point that the universe seems to be intent on making a big show of for me right now, and that is that WE JUST DON'T GET IT.

Why is this?

Well, for one, its because of this whole limited perspective. Short life span, so geological processes take generations and generations to figure out, and even then we don't really believe them because they take so damn long to happen. Never mind the cosmological. I mean, fuck. Gimme a break. Only a fraction of the light spectrum is visible to us. And everything, everything has to be in-processed by a five channel system that is designed to filter out probably eighty or ninety percent of the available data, which it then flips upside down, or interpolates, or transforms into electrical or chemical data because, face it, if we got it pure and unadulterated we would be, what, gazing at the naked face of god and be turned into a pillar of salt just like Lot's wife.


But there are guys like Einstein and Feynman and all those sharp-minded motherfuckers who can taste a crumb or look at a little broken off piece of something and see the eight-layer wedding cake or the giant cathedral from which it came.

Fucking miracle, that.


Ah, but the path doesn't care about all of that. The path will lead you to where you are destined, in a day or in eighty years or in ten or in ten thousand. 

Perhaps it is the same for all of us. Despite the surface variations. 


Today I am grateful for my small intellect and my medium-large heart and, as always, for my strong back and strong arms for as long as they last. 

Despite the gifts you give me, I am hungry always for more. 

Grateful, but hungry.


Seems a good way to move down the path.




Saturday, January 19, 2008

Beginner's Mind


More unregulated bliss admixed with angst. More gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, more anointing of feet with oil, more baths in rose water, more love and more anger, more bitter loveliness and sweet despair. More art. More vodka. 


blue sky day that makes you ache to look on it. 


A hunger you can live with.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knock, knock.


Look, I know it ain't right. I know it.

I do.

But I fucking love to kick in a door.


We were down in a "major metropolitan area" yesterday. Bunch of local guys, some FBI guys, me. Working on tying up the back end of an investigation that led down there. So we got to be tourists for the day.

Really bad tourists.


We made some folks pretty mad. We really did.


Thing I love about my job, sometimes I get to drive somewhere I don't know, get up at four in the AM, meet up in some hotel lobby or Wal-Mart parking lot or local PD briefing room with twenty, or forty, or a hundred cops. Bunch of hard nuts, those. Funny, grab-assing, goofballs that turn into balls-to-the-wall tigers in the blink of an eye. Lots of ropey forearms and wide backs and short hair and black tee shirts on the tactical guys, and long hair and soul-patches and goats and bald domes and tats and flannels and pot-bellies and red eyes on the dope cops and those are the women dope cops I'm talking about. The guys are worse. The folks we take to jail look better. God love 'em.

Coffee and photocopied stacks of handouts with pictures of our bad guys and pictures of the houses and rap sheets and vehicle plates and tactical plans and assignments and chalk-talks and walkthroughs and questions and questions and ironing out the last minute changes and getting the latest scoop from the teams that are eyes on and then it's out to the parking lot and gearing up in the dark, standing by your open trunk and putting on vests and carriers and thigh rigs and slinging long guns and checking magazines and flashlights and gloves and flex-ties and pens and lock and load and load up and caravan out. A long parade of three year old white or silver or tan sedans ghosting slow down a city street just before the sun comes up.

Once you pull to the curb and step out, it gets juicy. For me it used to be all jangly and wired and razor sharp but now it's mellowed into something fine. Quiet, still, serious. All lines up. All systems on full alert. It's still adrenaline, it's still full-tilt-boogie, but mostly it just feels good.

So you trot up to a wall on the side of the house or a hedge in front and you stick up and you make your approach. Knock and notice and a wait that seems like forever and then some ape is swinging the ram and in you go. Then it really is all assholes and elbows for two minutes. Some guys like to yell and scream and shout and order this and order that, but I much prefer a little bit of peace and quiet. Normal tone of voice. Lie down now. Put your hands out to the side. Is anybody else in the house? Any kids? Any bad dogs? If they aren't total fuckwads this usually works pretty good and it tends to calm things down in a hurry.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes you gotta yell and shout to get a motherfucker to do what's right, and sometimes you got to do a lot more than that.

But if you don't have to?

Quiet's better.


So, anyway, that's my crack pipe.


Used to be, I thought I could get to perfect. Eradicate my negative views. My faults and shortcomings and lumps and warts and misshapen parts.

Know what though. Cain't do it. Not meant to be.


Sometimes its best to just embrace the ugly. Give it a big ol' smack on the lips and a squeeze on the tush and buy it a goddamn beer. Shit, it's gonna be around long as you are, might as well try to get on with it.


Sending out good thoughts your way. Seriously. Not just saying that. I am actually doing it.

Right now.


Pay attention, now...

Did you get them?


Friday, January 11, 2008

Bad Weather


The man has gone down into the root cellar.
A black animal stands near the fence line,
stares at the farmhouse, 
or seems to.

A deerfly lights on the woman’s arm.
She slaps it dead before it can bite then flicks
the smeared corpse into the grass.
The sky takes on a specific shade of green.

The woman takes a drag off her cigarette.
More flies loop around her,
their noise like tiny gasoline engines.
She can’t say if its hot or cold. It’s full,
is what it feels like. A caged thing
itching to bust out.

Maybe the hem of her dress gets caught
on the metal frame of the lawn chair-
it clatters over as she stands,
then spins and leaps away in a gust of wind
that sweeps in over the corn field.

One of the cellar doors lifts with a sigh then slams back.
The man is still down in there. The woman says this to herself.
The lawn chair collapses in the grass and the black
animal trots off toward the pole barn, distress in her low voice,
new moon flare of white in her eye.

The woman tastes metal and the tiny hairs
on her arms and legs stiffen. She wants to lie down
she feels so tired. Her tea-colored dress
is patterned with small red flowers
and the dress moves against her skin and against
the agitated hairs.

When she was a girl she had a fever dream where she flew
up over the farm house and her mother and father called out
to her but the wind carried their voices away.

She near died of the fever. She remembers how they set her
in a tub of ice water to keep her brain from cooking.

Behind her the house glows white and whiter.

If it would just rain she thinks.

If he would when I turn and look just
be standing there.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rooster Cap


Went out to the jail today to kinda babysit this guy. We need to keep him "settled down" so he can testify
at trial against some folks that need to go to prison for a long, long time. He's ascared because they are going to really try hard to keep him from doing just that.

He's in a bit of a hard spot.


I'm talking to him, this and that, kind of propping him up and soothing him and I can see the anguish in his face and hear the fear and doubt in his voice and I am just a thousand, thousand miles away.

It isn't anything I can really do for him.


Who knows how it will all shake out?

Not me.


I went back out to where I used to work. Some of the same guys are still there, a lot of them. Some new faces. Same old bad, bad energy. I sat at my old desk and shot the shit with the guys for an hour.

I felt like the one that got away. Made something of himself. Lit out for the big old world and shook the dust of that place off my shoes.


Sometimes you get to see the world you left behind, like it was an alternate life for you had you not done what you did to get out, and that is a blessing. In this case it was.


Spent last night in the ER with my kid again. Another fun filled IV bag of antibiotics, steroids, pain meds. We're old hands there now. I know where they keep the warm blankets and the ice water and the extra chairs and who is mostly cool and who is mostly hard-edged and who to steer clear of and who to be grateful for.

Thank god it's only a small thing and nothing serious. My god, though. When it's my turn in ernest seriousness to die in a long, protracted way I don't know. I don't know how much time I could do in there.

I guess you get used to just about anything.


Lately I feel like I'm in quicksand all the time.

It's branches all around me though.

Any time I want, I just grab on.


How bad can it be?


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tiny Bear Goes To The Fair


Happy New Year!


Again, so long absent. Again, so many neglected responsibilities.

Ah, tant pis.

Non, je ne regret riens.



Voici la language de lamour.

Ecoute. Ecoute.

Ecoute moi.


What has happened. I got sick with the flu. My kid, she has been to the emergency five times in the last two months. She has got the peritonsilar abcess again and again. The tonsils, they must out. They must. It's not negotiable.

She have a boyfriend. He is a very nice boy. He seems.

They are love each other very much.

They are kiss alot.


Today my wife made a purple sweater. She saved twenty dollar by make the buttons herself. From fimo of purple color. And polish them with the drimmel tool to shine.

Only one arm is too long and one is too short. Or the other way around.

But very chic.



This month at work we have so many bank robbers. I feel like I am in some heist caper movie all the time. I am in black and white. I sit on the edge of the desk and shine a bright light into the eyes of the bad guy. I smoke a lot and I offer him one, but when I try to hand it to him, I drop it. When he bends to pick it up, SLAM! I smash my palm against the table! Like a gunshot!

He leaps back and I laugh. I apologize and pick up the cigarette myself, put it in his mouth, light it.

He eyes me with suspicion.

"Relax." I say. "We're all friends here."

He's on edge.

"Listen, you want some coffee? Something to drink?"

He shrugs.


It goes on and on like that.


Lately I am obsessed with the idea that we only have this tiny sliver of awareness. We see a tiny sliver of the light spectrum. We hear only a sliver. And our brains whittle down what little we do intake to less and less and less so it makes some kind of sense to us. And we only have a tiny sliver of the universe and only a tiny sliver of the earth and only a paper-thin whisper of the vast ocean of time and even less of less and less and less.

ah, it's enough to make one laugh.


Hope you are well. I am grateful for your kind thoughts.


Let us now regard the bears.