Thursday, July 21, 2005

James Montgomery Doohan - 1920 - 2005

I grew up watching the original Star Trek series. While my hero was Captain Kirk, my namesake was "Scotty." My first Star Trek prop was a replica of Scotty's red shirt... I think he was the only wearer of a red shirt who didn't get killed on an away mission...

Rest in Peace, Jimmy Doohan.

"Here's to ya, lad."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"The Paper Boys"

I'm in a mood today.

So here's a stream-of-consciousness piece I started writing some time ago while outlining a possible novel idea. It's a little rough, but I hope you can look through the grammatical and syntax errors and connect with the burgeoning story...

* * * * *

The Paper Boys

The crickets sing to me.

Thirty generations ago, their ancestors sang me to sleep with the very same song. Like lake water lapping or the surrogate hum of an electric fan, the crickets' summer lullaby was the white noise of my youth. Many nights I lay atop our garage, staring into the twinkling solemnity of the night sky; the crickets were the incidental music, playing to me softly, rhythmically, hypnotically erasing the troubles of my day. Their's was the sonatta that bid me escape.

I'll never kill a cricket.

I sit here tonight on the grassy hillock just across the street from the corner house where I grew up. I've been still long enough that the crickets closest to me have begun chirping again. This very spot used to be our neighbor's front yard, or at least a part of it. Now it's a small steep slope running up to the barrier that separates my old street from the new freeway.

The moon wanes and the bright crispness of the stars belies the warm weather, foretelling the coming of autumn. Midnight dew has left a fine sheen of wetness along the tips of the grass, and I don't care that the seat of my suit pants are probably indelibly grass stained.

Burgundy has replaced the avacado green trim, but the body of the house is still painted white.

My house.

I never owned it, never made a single mortagage payment on the place, I do not live there now - nor have I in some twenty-five years, but I claim it as my own. Parts of me are still in there. And sitting here tonight, I wonder if there is ever a way to reclaim the lost and missing pieces of my childhood locked inside those walls. It is said that places can take on the charcter of the people who lived there and loved it. A chill runs up the back of my neck on the tail of that thought.

It's one A.M.

My pipe has long since gone cold. I tap out the ashen tobacco against the side of my brown wing tips. The crickets go silent. In habit, I raise the bowl to my lips and blow a quick, susinct puff of air into the cavity, then run my little finger along the inside, checking for any stray ash. A pipe, of all things. Who'd've thought that I would be a pipe-smoker? "The little kid without a dad grows up all distinguished," says nobody.

I'd smoke a cigar like the rest of the guys down at the club, but I really hate the taste. The pipe, though, is different. How many thirty-something businessmen smoke a pipe? Not many. To me it lends an air of...singularity, individuality. No - legibility. All intellectuals smoke pipes, right? I'm not really trying to be something I'm not, but I do have to keep telling myself that it makes me look studiously elegant. Aloof yet readable. When I first bought it I stood in front of the mirror and worked at just the right way to hold the thing in my teeth. Ahh... vanity is still alive and well! All that's needed to complete the facade is a cardigan and some argyle socks.

With a wry smile to myself I return the pipe to it's place inside the pocket of the suitcoat I left lying in a clumsy bundle on the grass. I'm not a smoker. Not really. But I like the picture it makes. Were my pipe a woman, it would chide me for not taking it out more often.

They do that a lot. Women - not pipes. The nurturing gender are expert at doling out grief. With the slightest provocation they lash out. Then leave. I can almost believe that they care of nothing other than self, feigning love and faking orgasms. Thespians all. Wives and mothers; mothers and wives. They act out their daily routines as dutiful domestics and coddling moms, all the while, deep down inside, hidden out of site, is their well-laid-out plan of escape. Apathy and abandonment.

A distant siren shakes me out of my reverie. "My God! Listen to the bile coming out of me!" I say out loud. And I stand and brush the loose grass off my ass, disgusted by my own mental gymnastics.

A car slowly comes up the street and rounds the corner. I quickly sit back down so I won't look like some strange guy wandering around their neighborhood - as if sitting here will look any better. I clasp my hands around one knee, and nod to reassure them of my harmlessness as the headlights pass over me. After all, this is my neighborhood, my house. But they aren't my neighbors. I'm an outsider to them. An alien.

They drive on.

So why am I so drawn to them... to women, that is? Why am I so distraught over the loss of another one? It's obvious I don't believe my own misogynistic words. They're just the machinations of a hurt, bitter mind. I love women, I just don't know how to make them want to stay.

I stand again, throw my suitcoat over my shoulder and step into the empty street. The warm yellow glow of the humming street lamp illuminates a circle around me, reminding me of refuge.

The breeze stirs, resurrecting another sound from my childhood, this one long forgotten. The leaves of the twin poplars in my front yard dance and rustle on the moving air. The thought occurs to me that I've never seen a poplar since I moved away from this house when I was thirteen. Funny.

I stand here in the middle of the quiet street and close my eyes, listening to the leaves. You can almost imagine the sound of a gentle surf or the prattling of a hard, straight rain on a mid-summer sidewalk. The sound is dissimilar to, yet mimicks the dulcient undertone decible of a bagpipe echoing in some distant glen.

A little boy lying on a garage roof; the stars; the crickets; poplar leaves on the breeze. It's like a layered canvas. Oil upon oil, color upon color, building a translucient picture. Creating a place I want to be. A place I wish I could run to. A Yeatsian wattle and daub cottage.

I open my eyes. Reality.

The pebbly asphalt crinkles under the soles of my shoes, amplified in the quiet of the wee hours. Ever notice how sound echoes more at night? At this moment and in this place, it intensifies both the emptiness of the street, and the welcomness of the nostalgic grassy yard before me. I want to take off my shoes and socks and run through my old lawn.

I exercise better judgement.

All my life I've been running somewhere. Driven to escape. From what I don't know. Wherever I run, it all comes with me. It's a part of me. There is no escape, there is only acceptance and resolution. Absense of pain is the core of denial.

I'm standing in front of my old house in search of something. It is so buried that I can't get my fingers on it. It is out of reach, hiding in the dark.

I don't even know why I'm here.

I turn away from the yard and round the corner, heading back to the neighborhood park a block away where I left my car. At least I got the car. Well, it was mine before the marriage. And I got the stereo. Isn't that all a guy needs anyway? A car, and a stereo? Oh...and a bed...?

Up ahead, my old Mercedes stands out in the dark. It just now occurs to me that it was manufactured the same year I moved away from my old house. The Germans painted their iconoclastic automobiles some pretty wild colors that year. My '74 is a light yet luminescent sky blue, almost white. As I make my way up the street it beacons me back to the present.

The deja' vu here is nearly overwhelming.

Standing on the street-side of the car, I shove my hands in my pockets and gaze over the roof and across the field to the playground where I spent so much time while growing up. Rain or shine, summer or winter my friends and I would meet almost daily at Bellvue Park. Park Board sports and activities in the summer months kept us busy and out of our mothers' hair. An ice rink and warming house during the frigid Minnesota winters kept us from getting cabin fever. Two slides, a jungle gym, a swingset and two sandboxes were the park's compliment.

Along the western perimeter of Bellvue ran an eight-foot-tall chain link fence dividing the park from what we kids called, "The Woods." The Woods, was in actuality, a triple city lot that up to the mid-seventies, despite it's urban location, had survived development. It had one old boarded-up turquoise-colored house in the middle that we all considered haunted, therefore unapproachable. Today there are three modern homes on the site.

When I was a kid, there were dirt paths running through the Woods. We'd sail through there on our bikes with the banana seats, avoiding the path that took us closest the old haunted house, and come flying out where the Woods met the park's chain link fence. In order to miss the fence, the dirt path veered out onto the street, which was relatively quiet, and relatively safe. But one day a kid came flying out of the Woods and into an oncoming car.

Looking down at the pavement below my feet, I realize I'm standing on the exact spot where Billy Hornschemeier passed into cold eternity.

I shake off the chill and utter a brief silent prayer for the anonymous woman who sat weeping in shock in her big black car that afternoon. All of us kids gathered around and silently watched Billy's face turn grey, and his eyes turn to glass. It was the first time I had seen death up close.

* * *

...and that's about it for now...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"As Iron Sharpens Iron"

I have been working on my book for about six years, now. I originally wrote the thing when my, now, ex-wife went into alcoholic in-patient treatment several years ago. At that time, I had sent the one written chapter off to 150 potential literary agents. Sam Fleishman of Literary Artists Representatives in NYC was the one who rose to the top of the heap.

Today, after six-plus years and many set backs in completion, I am ready to forward the finished manuscript and illustrations to Sam. He insists we will have a multiple-book deal, and a sizeable contract within a few short weeks. He encouraged me by reminding me it took J.K. Rowling six years to complete and publish her first harry Potter novel - and then, it only garnered a contract that gave her $4000. A year later, Art Levine of Scholastica saw the small book on a shelf in a local shop in England, took it home to New York, bought the rights, and the rest is history.

"I could only hope," I told Sam. My fingers and toes are crossed.

Last week, my good friend, Carr, sat with me over a few drinks and "let me have it." He started by telling me what an incredible talent I was, then proceeded to tear me apart in the way that only a good, caring friend would. The net result was that he challenged and motivated me to action in several areas of my life. Spurring a friend to do better is what a friend is supposed to do. Placating, coddling, sychophancy is the stuff of enabling acquaintances; prodding and exhorting to good deeds and betterment is the stuff of true friendship.

"As iron sharpens iron, so is a man to his friend," said Solomon in the Proverbs. And he goes on to say, "Faithful and true are the wounds inflicted by a friend."

One is rarely ever moved to excellence without the harsh criticism of a true friend. Thanks, Carr. Your words mean a lot to me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"A Nipple By Any Other name...."

Why do men have nipples?


I have been plagued by this question a lot of late.

Recently, I was in the company of some friends at a local Irish pub that I have grown to call my own, staring blankly into my fifth Guinness as they all talked amongst themselves. In my inebric solemnity - and to no one in particular - I blurted out my question. The room grew silent, and I looked up, wondering why everyone had stopped talking.

Kelly Jo was the first to speak: "Well, you obviously haven't been with the *right* woman, Scotty." Then everyone started to laugh and went back to their conversations, dismissing me like yesterdays coffee grounds.

Yet, the question still remains. What the hell are my nipples for, anyway? I am a man, right? Will I ever nurse a child? Nooo... will people look at my shirt as I walk through the frozen foods section of my local grocer and say, "Wow! Look at the highbeams on that one!" I dare say, not. Are my nipples here for the sole purpose of having something to pierce and dangle a chain from... hardly... not into that whole self-mutilation thing.

Darwin might confide that he belives men's nipples are the evolutionary residual of some primordial past when the genders were combined. Darwin was sucking up waaaay too much Galapagos ganja.

I even tried the whole cutting glass thing, and couldn't figure out why the hell that ever became a popular phrase. All it did for me was give me a tile pattern on my knees while I knealt on the bathroom countertop smudging my mirror.

I posed my question to the janitor at my old office building late one night. He was a dissident Tibetan monk sojourning here in America after fleeing the cruelty of the Chinese government. Contemplating my query, he placed his palms together and looked me in the eye, his face filled with the peace of many past lives. "Why do men have nipples? It is because despite the slow grinding of the oxen, the earth remains patient."


I was going to ask him to comment on the areola, but my better judgement o'ertook me.

So I pose my question to you, my friends, compatriots and allies.... why DO men have nipples. Release me from my quandry, free me from my consternation, help me sleep at night.....

Nippling out in my air conditioning...

p.s. Scotch... need more Scotch...........

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Is There a WILL in the House...?"

The character of love has been on my mind a lot lately - my BIG mind, not my little mind (uhmm... nevermind). Anyway, not "character" as in a persona, per sé, but the stuff that comprises the thing.

Love is most certainly
not an emotion. Sure, it can involve emotions when it takes on a more passionate, sensual or erotic form, or even the sort of love for people and things you hold dear, such as the fondness I have for my great aunt or my sister's dog (not to compare the two), but that is not the thing I am thinking about right now.

If love were an Emotion it would most certainly pass away the moment my feelings changed. If I were angry one day, that could easily suplant the emotion of love, for emotions and feelings are highly shifting things that blow around on the breezes of stimulai and cause & effect.

What I am considering is that love, the
Real Love, is that thing that is made up of choice and will. It is the stuff that endures despite changing emotions and malleable feelings, survival modes and toothpaste tubes squeezed from the top. It is, I think, in it's truest sense, an act of my Will. I cognitively CHOOSE to Love rather than succumb to the forces that influence and affect me.

Hmmm... this requires more thought.....

Friday, July 08, 2005

"Late Night Talk Radio with My Brother..."

I was sitting on the phone the other night with my brother Lan - well, Lan isn't REALLY my "brother," not in the flesh-and-blood sense, but in every other way - spiritually, emotionally, mentally - he is more than my own brother to me.

Anyway, as we do most nights, we sat chatting on the phone around 2:00am - not quite the
"witching hour," and not quite early enough to be called "civil," just somewhere inbetween; that time of day between sunset and sunrise when we have our most productive communications. The topic hardly ever matters... politics, family, sex, metaphysics, rocket science, polygamy, porn... we just enjoy the sound of each other's voice and the deep bond of friendship between us as we meld the events of our days into a steady stream of cognitive repartee. In a very real sense, we conduct our own late night talk radio show.

Generally speaking, the only things that bring our conversations to an abrupt end are excessive drunkeness (ie: "passing out"), or Lan's nakedly trapsing wife, Taira... and I
must add at this point, otherwise suffer the consequences of my recalcitrance, that Taira is not just a drop dead, gorgeous babe, but an Incredible Intellect and worthy adversary in any philosophical debate (that one's for you, Taira), and she has this mystical power over Lan when she is nekkid. Go figure.

Among our topics of discussion is Lan's new talk radio show,
Overnight AM with Lan Lamphere. He bounces ideas off of me, and we talk about stuff that is of general interest to him as he develops topics for his show. My brother, Lan Lamphere, is one of those friends who comes along only once in a lifetime - or perhaps several. Lan and I have had our problems and knock-down-drag-outs, but there is real love and a deep caring for each other and each other's families. Life is too short to not have a friend you can "love closer than a brother."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Two Presrequisites"

I am convinced that there are two things that make a lasting relationship:
Thing #1: Compromise
Thing #2: Vulnerability

Without these, any relationship is doomed before it begins.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"Ode to Cremation"

Y'know - and here's some phenomenal profundidty - I am not as young as I used to be.

I am on that delicate cusp between youth and encroaching old age; teetering ever so precariously along the edge of middle-age-dom, one foot raised and poised for the next step into that great vacuous space before me, the other so daintily balanced upon a banana peel. I look in the mirror in the morning and wonder what happened to the lithe youth who used to appear there, sans white temples and burgeoning man boobs.

I flash a grimacing smile at myself and look at my teeth, wondering if some future archaeologist will uncover my skull in what he would describe as a
"late twentieth, perhaps early twenty-first century B.C.E. burial pit containing the singular remains of an elderly homo-sapien who we can deduce, by the wear on his incisors and rear molars, to have been a man of Northern Eurpoean descent who lived, primarily, on a steady diet of Captain Crunch with Crunchberries and broccoli..."

Gadzooks! Think of what distant future conclusions would be drawn by the condition of your earthly bodily leave-behinds. Yikes.

And then there's drinking. I used to be able to drink like a fish. Now, after a beer or two and six shots of a well-aged single malt highland scotch, I feel somewhat unstable in the morning. I think I need to cut back to no more than three shots per sitting.....

Coffee... where's my coffee....?

Monday, July 04, 2005

"Acquired Wisdom....."

I've been told that I have lived 39 past lives. When I do the math - calculating each of my past lives as having had a somewhat average lifespan - I figure I am somewhere between 1500 and 2200 years old. Soul-wise, that is.

Of course, my figuring is based on the assumption that those past lives were chronologically consecutive. What if they weren't...? What if there were gaps between lives, some great, some small. Couldn't that provide room for a much greater soul-span?? Hell, my soul could have been here for the duration. Wow!! What an incredible amount of acquired wisdom must be bouncing around in my noggin!! Then again, who's to say there isn't a shitter-load of accumulated baggage screaming around inside my soul, tossing me about like a kharmic rag doll. Could explain a lot. Hmmm... damn Bhuddists.

Note to Self: This whole Past Life Thing needs research....)