Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blind Witness to Some Wishes Unearned

She had long taken heed of the shallower implications of her aging.   So much so, that these new circumstances... her widowhood, her isolation, her dependence on the few she wished, frankly, she didn't have to talk to at all... struck her, mostly, in their scale, more so than their substance.  "Here I am, " she thought, as she always knew she would.  The ugly formica paneling of a waiting room.  The caustic uncertainty with no one to soothe its burning.  The plain, unforgivable fact that she not only could have predicted this all, but long ago looked upon these prosaic objects that were in fact all that remained, and said to herself, "this is what it will look like."  She had never looked away.  And now things looked just as she had thought.

"Mrs. Auburn, your sisters nearly done," said the very nice nurse.  And it was certainly good to be forewarned.  She used to flush with anger at the unexpected phone call, back when weeks would pass without incident.  Back when life, her life, was what anyone would recognize as normal.  Today though, Dilly was never surprising in any way at all.  Never surprisingly thoughtful. Never surprisingly lucid.  Never surprisingly resilient.  Well... she had never been resilient at all.  So, no surprise.

Dilly did come through the door, looking pretty and composed.  She was telling the nurse something about somewhere she'd never been.  It all sounded perfectly plausible.  The nurse clearly recognized which was the life of the party.  Anne hated partys.  The nurse wouldn't hate parties she realized.  And surely, like so many people, the nurse could not imagine hating Dilly.

As Dilly looked into her eyes, with the subtle triumph in her eyes that reflected her pretensions had fooled them all again, Anne knew she would say nothing to contradict her sister.  "Are you hungry?" were the only words she could even think of.  And, of course, they had the benefit of having something to do with her own circumstance.

"I don't know," said Dilly.  "We should go to a movie... what do you think?"

As always, "I think I'm hungry," said Anne, while they moved into the bright and ceaseless sunlight of the parking lot, to the car.

"We could eat popcorn, you know," said Dilly.  "You love popcorn."

Anne loved popcorn, yes.  But hadn't been able to stomach it in some years.  And, yes, she knew that old hunger for a movie and popcorn.  For a good time, just the two of them.

"We should go to the pharmacist.  And I have things I need to get done.  Though one of them is off the list," Anne said.

"You need a worry board," said Dilly. "You should ask Bill to make you one.  He'd love to give you a gift."  Dilly smiled at this in the old way.  And, as always, Anne nearly blushed.

Closing the vehicles door she couldn't deny her sister, "I could probably use something to calm me, true.  And yes, he has never hidden his feelings.  I'm the one with that problem."

"If wishes were horses, you still couldn't accept him, Anne.  And he won't go begging forever.  Just say yes!  Isn't that the  magic of a man?"  Dilly looked over the Hospital building, as if canvassing a crowd of breach bronzed body builders, nearly shivering at the thought.

"The fact that you are right, does not change my feelings, Dill," she said to her sister, pulling out into the street, toward no theatre, no popcorn, and remaining, therefore, upon the the path she had seen already, long ago.  At the signal she stopped, it's color being red.  And she noticed, with the peculiar senses she had always been burdened by, that her sister had nothing else to say, and it satisfied her, this confluence of conversation and the obedient traffic.

Things certainly had grown complicated since Dilly's husband, Joseph, had died.  Joseph had never been someone Anne looked forward to seeing or spending time with when they were young.  His tastes extended to all manner of exotica, and Dilly was only one of the pleasures he'd taken as his birthright, being a man, and being indifferent to refinement of any sort.  It might have bothered Dilly to some extent, Anne surmised, very early on, with Dad and Mom and the Hoidays, in all the expected ways.  But Anne knew that once Dilly had recognized her fears of retribution from the family were never going to be realized, now that she was married, she completely quit thinking about it at all.  It was a friend that suggested to her that Dilly's lack of concern might actually be the rational response to her marriages tension with her family.  Like a half resolved, cloud covered spot of light on the horizon, Anne could imagine there being something virtuous, and heartfelt about that perspective, but there was never going to be a question as to whether their had been a betrayal or not.  Dilly walked away, from the family, and whatever her rationale, could not subsist simultaneously as a completely accepted member of their tribe, and a wife to Joseph.  They drank excessively. They cared nothing for principles, either generally recognized, or potentially held by strangers.  They offended, loudly.  They brought children into not only a dangerous world, but the heavily consequential orbit of their own worldview.  Were they train wrecks, these resulting memories, Anne would ask herself?  No, a train wreck would not be seen, predicted, and so much the fruit of causality.  A train wreck was a tragedy.  Jo and Dill's family were precisely what you'd expect them to be.  The phone calls were distressing, but there were never any questions to ask.  Only, "What can I do?"  Dill had certainly been interested.  Dill could not have comprehended that it wasn't a question, either.

As the years had passed, though, the callouses did thicken.  And there were times, Anne had marveled, where Jo seemed like nothing so much as a brother in law, and a predictable one in the end.  His pleasures, even he'd confide, had their costs.  Their marriage, they seemed to enjoy, like a foam mat upon deep, dark waters.  One side, in the sun.  The other, what? Out of mind?   After decades, and funerals, and troubles faded by time, the whole imposition of thier union in the face of that old fiction of a once so hopeful youth, had replaced the implacable old boundaries.  It was surprising certainly, to witness.  Though so oddly comforting.

There was Josephs treatment of Dad, for example.  Dad who sought to offend no one; Dad who had accepted this son in law, somehow.  Joseph delighted in the composure of her father, realized Anne.  Joseph certainly knew he had no desire to compromise his freedoms with his family, for the father of his wife.  But Dad had, in the ripeness of time seen something in his son in law.  Perhaps it was simply that way with men.  A lacking maliciousness proving some irrational bonhomie?  She'd been grateful in the end to Jo.  He shrugged off Dad's illness the way he shrugged off all mysteries, apparently.  He had strange riches of time to spend with Dad.  It seemed, often, they talked more to one another, near the end of Dad's life, than anyone else.  It helped Dad.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ashes to Ashes

"Maybe when a kids screaming, they're just the only one allowed to speak their mind."

Born of a mind
To take down the world
As long as my dogs in the fight
I wiped every tear
And  patched every hole in sight

I didn't need........ a flag or a name
Pieces of  pleasure
Or beautiful things
All those shadows
Just abstracts and
Art in my eyes

The long nights of living
In places where knowledge
Could kill time
Put me straight in the arms of
Souls just as hungry for dreams

And wouldn't you know
That the love and the wine
Brought fertile flowers
That  knew how to climb
To, honey
this future of
Your mama and me

Baby you're born
And daddy's too late
To dwell on things that might never change
So what
Maybe that worlds out of sight

I'm just a fool
Born in a small town
Shakin' off dust
For the future I'm bound
I 'spose
Rubbin my neck and my eyes

Still up in the sky
The future glows
From the pastures
Of of plenty
That everyone knows
Yeah, we're dust
But don't we look pretty tonight?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Strange World

So... I've been playing around with this blog more.  Under "Stats" on my blog I can look up all kinds of info about where my readership is coming from.  Right now most of the people who normally read my blog have joined collective blogs and websites to which I sometimes contribute, but I continue with this blog since I find it the best way to express and access my thoughts and feelings, through a distance of time and geography.  Carrying a journal can't really compare.  And try sharing it!

Google traces people reading my blog from 43 countries.  The vast majority of the people who have visited did so accidentally.  How do I know?  Because, creepy as it sounds, Google can show me their words in the search bar of the page in which they searched.  For example:  someone in the last week, I don't know who, searched on Google for the words "how to make snow come."  The second hit, on the list of results Google gave her, was exactly wrong.  It was my song, three or four posts back from here, "When the Snow Comes and Falls in the South."  Kinda hilarious.  My song has nothing to do with making snow come.  Moreover, who searches with such a fascinating patois as "make snow come."  That word "come" fascinates me.  Was it demanded by the obvious trouble that simply asking how to make snow my generate?  Some people might be inclined to instruct one in snow making by shaving ice.  Others would demand that reverse sublimation, as in Nature, be reflected.  The nerdiest would be frustrated when the resulting snow didn't limit itself to six sided crystals.  "That snow is crappy... it's just unreal!"

Dare I search "how to make authentic snow?"  What song might that generate?  Probably a Head and Shoulders jingle.

Another person searched "  "aunt.peg" + (swallowing or swallows or swallow)"   "

Well, I don't know whether it makes me more uncomfortable that I have an Aunt Peg, or that someone found me while looking for whatever that is!

Lets see where I come in when I search for that:  (I search, and read a few pages of hits....) Hmmm... someone must of had a long night.  Apparently "Aunt Peg" doesn't refer to the Aunt Peg I mention in my blog, my Mom's Aunt.  But rather, a very busy pornstar who is either frequently "swallowing" or sometimes "swallows" or has been known on occasion to "swallow."  Kudos to the searcher for leaving no stone unturned.  And.... I didn't have the patience to wade through all the hits until I found a small mention of my Aunt Peg, by myself, in my blog, from a post I wrote a year ago.  I hope Aunt Peg never searches for herself, on Google.  Bottoms up!

Someone searched for "andy coffey blog."  Now we're talking.  The only problem is the number of Andy Coffey's out there.  Boy oh boy.... there's a ton.  Most of them in and around Louisville and the Midwest.  Journalists and TV personalities, and lots and lots of dead people.  I can assume the dead people didn't blog.... to an extent.  There must be an Andy Coffey somewhere about to die... I hope it isn't me.  My mourners would be searching for my blog.... gee wiz, let's just hope someone was looking for me, this blog, and found it.  Good for you.

Somebody in Britain looks me up frequently.  Someone in New York City.  Obviously people in Sweden and Denmark.  There's a couple of instances an Ipad was used in New Mexico..... hmm..  Now what would someone out in the blasted Desert be doing with one of those things?  Who knows?

You wouldn't believe what Google will tell you if you simply ask.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Encounter Down From Morton And Lime

I leave my door every single day
With my small cloth satchel underarm
Sometimes to the Church, to confess or pray
Sometimes to the dance hall to be charmed

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

As the light in the sky, still so early fades
You'd not be too surprised if you could see
The figure of a woman, walking just your way
In the dim light passing by it would be me

"In the Sweet By and By" above me play the bells
My mind is nearly taken by the tune
Though just before they're done the music swells
Through yellow light that I am walking through

 But not in celebration of enduring pain
It comes from where I walk across the street
For the fiddle and guitars make a different claim
And I'm smiling for the friends I'm there to greet

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

The crowd grows restless that they've yet to dance
In pairs they walk to the center of the room
When twinning fiddles have their way with darkness chance
What hearts of those assembled will refuse?

I took the hand of one named Johnny Bland
A sheepish sort of look on my face lies
As a witness from the window can see us dance
Out of four there is no blinking of our eyes

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

Some of the songs call to twist and spin
I hold and trust from him I'll never fly
Some of the songs switch me to other men
And they're clearly not unhappy in my eyes

Then the waltz comes at last and some people sit
While I look for someone that I've never seen
And who should approach but the perfect fit
For a girl who doesn't mind the touch of dreams

He'd seen me coming with his kind and gentle look
Sadness drained from his dark and tender eyes
He offered his hand which I gladly took
And I shivered at the other on my side

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

From a people that had searched over seas and hope
The fiddles found my footsteps in their sighs
I simply fell where led by the dark eyed bloke
With the light of every pilgrim in my eyes

It is difficult I knew, even then, to awaken
And meet, alone, the troubles of my day
The journey in the arms with him I'd taken
I feared would end when the fiddles ceased to play

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

The fears of every mortal being far from wrong
The dancing ended as the sun will take a dream
The players of the instruments meant me no harm
When tradition broke the heart of Harmonie

I pulled my new beau to the side of the floor
A place I'd never had a reason yet to be
And as entwined the hands of other boys and girls
I asked the dark eyed stranger who was he?

He said, "Since there we danced, I can hardly dismiss
The sad and watchful man I came here as.
My name is Billy Faren, and it's a pleasure, Miss,
To meet and dance, but might we make it more than that?"

"Harmonie Jennings," is my name dear man,
The answers, yes I'll walk with you tonight"
So we passed through the sound of the fiddles and the band
To a starlit street before the town folks eyes

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

We walked for a time that neither could discern
Amidst the woodsmoke, and other scents of life
So many dreams and yet what could we hope to learn
Whilst holding, there, each other in the night

We stopped beneath the lamp at Benders lane
And from his pocket he took his other hand
"Need I even tell you for what I pray?"
When with a touch and kiss he hoped I'd understand

"This is the house within which I was born"
Said Billy, sadly, to the shadows in the night,
"There's something I have yet to inform...."
But I kissed him then again beneath the light.

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm.
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

Billy walked me gently in the darkness of the night
 Past an ending dance, where a last waltz sadly played
Past the steeple where the bells hid out of sight
Arm and arm to where it was my fate to stay

To part would be as silent as it was hard
So I simply turned from Billy to my home
There would be tears eventually even were we not to part
For till the morning... I  must now be alone

Wither my memory of sadness and pain
Banish my concern for my own harm
Passing by the church, I beg today
Can you see me to a young man's arms?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whispering Your Name, Not Another

 If you been around, can't blame the seasons,
The waters gonna rise, and the rains gotta fall
 Mother nature's just as fickle with her reasons
 As any womens gonna be with me at all

 I just pulled in here, guess I'm a lucky sucker
Even the best of luck wouldn't give me the right....
 Will you dance with an old cross country trucker?
And give me touch of your body tonight?

Tasting Cuervo and Salt, Angostura bitters
Touching nearly as much as a drunk can reach
Whispering your name (I hope) and not another
Passed out in the sheets from that Sex on The Beach

I used to have a wife and two small children
Sometimes just buying groceries, we'd have a ball
I could catch the girls there lookin and lookin
And point them out to my woman, who'd turn red and smile

Anytime you feel just a little bit normal
That's just about the time your going to need to get drunk
So despite my record when I'd get informal
There finally came a day when I could do what I want.

Tasting Cuervo and Salt, Angostura bitters
Touching nearly as much as a drunk can reach
Whispering your name (I hope) and not another
Passed out in the sheets from that Sex on The Beach

Sally Huesen's brothers had a need for cushions
To catch the growing asses of American men.
Problem was the factory was somewhere in Houston
So she naturally asked if I could haul them in.

There were six good bars between Indy and Texas
 But the borders so far from Matagorda Bay,
Back in that grocery I never reached for Mclellans
Could you guess the first thing I did in Oyster Lake?

Tasting Cuervo and Salt, Angostura bitters
Touching nearly as much as a drunk can reach
Whispering your name (I hope) and not anothers
Passed out in the sheets from that Sex on The Beach

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mama Said

Mama said, "Don't let the door, hit that lady in the ass,"
I swear to you, those were the words she cried,
So baby, don't, let that wooden door hit your rear end as you pass
To fall for someone with the apron strings untied,

Mama said, "She's younger than, she's cute, if you ask me,"
I'm serious, that was her take on you,
I swear upon, my own Mom, if you won't believe
She sorta thinks, in her mind, you're kind of cute.

Mama said, "She'll leave you, but, then come and beg for more,"
She looked surprised when I started, then, to laugh,
"I'm just a guy, she's just a girl, and Mama, that's the truth"
 She said, "For now there's one of you, in the world."

Mama said, "Hold the door, and tell her that you love her,
It's pathetic, but, that's all a man can do,
A woman's work is never done, but your marriage is in reverse
Should your wife ever have to hold the door for you."

I never guessed just what she meant
Till long past the day she'd tell
And one day I was so dog gone spent
With my woman and wouldn't listen well

Jess, my wife, was crying over something
I now, can't report
"Not now," I told her, "I just can't make the time,"
It took ten months, before I was to learn how I didn't hold the door
God, how I'd love change that damn fool's mind

A friend of hers
Whom she loved so young
Even now it fills her eyes
Had that day, finally, after eight months
Lost his life.

Mama said, "You dropped the ball, and cut the roast before it was time!"
I said, "Mixed metaphors and you're yelling at your son!"
Mama said, "You musn't live your life like your only five!,"
I said, "If I do, than it's from what you've said and done."

The lie sat there between us, like the state of age and youth
A figure formed of anger, fear and pride
And I could see the twist of the face of a pretty woman abused
And could hardly believe the shame that bloomed inside.

"Mama" I said, "You told me always, to tell the honest truth,"
Well, today, I'm so sorry that I just lied,
In a world of pain and suffering, my mother tended every bruise
Without you I'll never have a shot at being wise.

Mama said, "I know that, I'm your mother, you goon,"
"You can't fool me, I always know you've lied"
But thanks anyway for the really nice words, they made me feel real good,
Now go right home and talk to your pretty wife."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Till The Snow Comes and Falls In the South

Tell me truth
On this pain
If on the roof
Of your mouth

Tell me truth
I'll be laying
In the night

Tell me truth
On this pain
It's not enough
For me to doubt

Tell me truth
Till the snow
Comes and falls
In the South

Oh this deaf dumb mind
Heart broken sails flap untight
Tell me blues
Spoke and cog
Of the night

Tell me truth
On this shame
On the roof
Of your house

Tell me truth
I'm here waiting
In the night

Tell me truth
On this shame
It's not love
For me to shout

Tell me truth
Till the snow
Comes and falls
In the South

Till the snow
Comes and falls
In the South

Till the snow
Comes and falls
In the South

Owed To Anna Nicole

Darling, it's a ruined trip
Bruises up my smile
To look upon the empty seat
And see your face awhile

Pulling down the miles again
Catching 46 for the line
How many times I've missed this bend
With you upon my mind?

I can see you're still fine as then
Cool your heels with mine
On the banks in Madison
I'm gonna lose my mind

Your Papa he's a big big man
Got screwed there
Back in a foreign land
Took his vengeance, I understand
By growing you up in Madison

Some things fly like a church bell's hymns
I'd die so damn happy then...
Some girls lie with unjust men
Baby drown me in Madison

You'll see things you'd never know
Could flow so soft in your eye
The silver flow of entire oaks
In the Ohio's flanks tonight

I didn't mean to bring to mind
So many cruel things
It's just this towns so filled with signs
Of old desire and pain

She smiled and something
Like a hundred things
Fell in blue waters washed
From brown eyes in Madison.

Darling it's a ruined trip
Bruises up my smile
To look upon an empty seat
And see your face awhile

Pulling down the miles again
Catching 46 for the line
How many times I've missed this bend
With you upon my mind?

How many times I've missed this bend
With you upon my mind?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Were the presence of your life
Somehow to awaken...
I'd be crying just to mind
All the bruising, here, you'd taken

For you turned this pain
To Gold, and you promised
What I was given
Were the presence of your life
Proof that I'd be soon forgiven

Pleading, pleading
Justified by nothing, were my mind
The one you're reading

And heeding, yes, heeding
Heeding little that you told me
So, now, I'm pleading

In the seams of dark black coal
Far from mind of golden rings
Live the white lies that I've told
Dreaming hard on bigger things

And though few have fallen near
As fast as I used to do
That beastly miner, fear
Pays this Cancer all her dues

Pleading, pleading
Justified by lucre, here's a book
I'm glad your reading

And heeding, yes, heeding
Heeding nothing that you told me
So, now, I'm pleading

Out the gate the bulls come hard
On the heels of foolish guests
Though it might seem so bizarre
They're neither punished, nor are blessed

For while we'll fight in sight of bruises
And stoop to foolishness for gain
It's great sport for one who loses
Half his balls at this parade

Pleading, pleading
Justified by nothing, here's a prayer
For your receiving...

And heeding, yeah, heeding
Heeding nothing that you taught me
So, here, I'm pleading.

Heeding nothing that you taught me
So, here, I'm pleading.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A (Bad) Suit Against The Reaper

Ten years ago I was sitting on a grassy hill, over looking 9th St. Park, here in Bloomington.  Beside me was an old friend, and we sat and talked about this and that. At some point he confessed that he thought we, as a culture, and a people of the world, might live forever.  I remember feeling kind of irritated, and confused by this, but also somewhat compassionate.

I could understand how anyone would desire such a thing.  The art I had seen my whole life has depicted such a yearning.  The science fiction I had read (including the Old Testament of the Bible, no joke) had enjoyed the fantasy of extremely long lived beings.  Many movies, stories, and mythologies dealt with vaguely fantastic God like ancients, inevitably making a mess of their endless largess... as writers of the books I read on writing narrative would have it, "rarely is it a good idea, in a story, to give the protagonist the appearance of having satisfied his or her desires."  Unless, of course, it's at the beginning... after which, the fun begins in earnest.

Was ever a story told, where the character desires something.... then, bang, gets it?  Of course... it's just that hardly anyone could find reason to read it.  The techne of writing and reading (the learned effort, the hidden machinery of your mind, experience, and spirit) is in fact very costly.  Costly to the individual to obtain... costly to the culture to earn (in schooling and the over arching social infrastructure)... costly in the basic economics of time management: cost/ benefit costly.  The story that speaks to the character getting what they desire, without complication, is not a story at all, of course: it's an aphorism.  Could a fable be constructed in such a manner?  No.  Grandma and Grandpa tell "stories" that they can only sell to their unconditionally loving family for the very good reason that they aren't stories at all:  they are life lessons, with most of the true consequences of experience butchered carefully for ingestion.  And we should be glad.  Real stories, told well, cause discomfort and terror.  Such stories are best left to the faceless devices that are presented to the seeker in all of us at the cinema, bookstore, and other purveyors of narrative.  A lot of bad movies are intentionally bland conversation pieces, for the large majority of any society which is lonely, and nervous, and needs something to talk about that doesn't create confrontation, ect.

So, the God-like characters I read about and saw depicted in stories and narratives on my childhood landscape HAD to have problems, so as to avoid being mistaken for a grandparent (though some of them were that as well!)  And, among the Greek and Roman myths, the simple satisfaction of earnest desires, can hardly be found.  The same can be said about the plays of most cultures, the literature, the opera, and indeed the politics. 

"Why can't the politicians just be good?"  you sometimes hear people ask.  After these paragraphs above I need not say more than the obvious fact that, this is a very nice question.  The answer lies to its seeker, beneath a thick carpet of dust, a few yards away from the spanking clean computers donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, at your local library.  To be fair... the computers have tons of answers as well, with very diverting pictures of cleavage, undyingly clickable right next to the mostly earnest fare of your disposition.  In any case, the answer is old, and bloody obvious, should you know the purpose of a politician, the power of narrative, and the ultimate willingness on your part to meddle in what is sometimes mistakenly presented as your representation.  It's the politicians fault, of course.

It's probably true, as these old stories (or one might say, reminders) seem to obsess over, that there is something riveting about having all the problems you have today: forever.  Who wouldn't want to wonder when the current war will end, for centuries?  Who wouldn't want to change their mind so many times over that they stop even relating to themselves?  Surely such a thing should only happen once, or twice in a life!

As the hilarious, and more than a little intelligent "film reviewer" Chrissreviews, put it, in her YouTube review of the Twilight New Moon sequel to the blockbuster series: (I paraphrase for fear of losing my attention by actually looking at this beautiful intelligent blond say these words again) "I mean, if I could live forever [as the vampires in Twilight do], wouldn't I want to spend the entire time in high school?" Of course you would... what else is there to do with life?

In some ways, depending on one's perspective (possibly, completely depending on one's perspective) we already live forever.  By which I mean we have many years, as humans, before the responsibility of family obligation and childbirth to orient ourselves with the world, or universe.  And, usually, we have some number of years beyond our family obligations to orient ourselves some more.  Isn't it interesting how utopian that sounds?  Surely, no one would be naive enough to really think that's how it works.  Somehow, such a simple minded description of a life neglects the undeniable impacts of heavy involvement and attachment to the loved ones and places of our life.  As long as we remain with, or are preparing for this attachment, we are far from the cosmic orientation that should be allowed from a merely technical perspective, to a lifespan of seventy to eighty years.  It is both too bad and gloriously helpful that this is the case.  Welcome to the humane riddle of humankind's largess. 

So... it's settled.  In a sense you kinda live forever, but can't practically appreciate (or enjoy) this, so really your lifespan is quite short, which everybody, who's anybody, knows only too well.  Right?  Your basic spiritual types, who are actually spiritual, versus the "of course I'm a spiritual" type of person (who, you know, needs a job, or kid, or whatever) will say that we all have more than enough time to address the truly important things.  While this is undeniable, like, say, one's proper body weight, it has a lot in common with the same.  Being told you should eat your vegetables is an unpleasant form of discourse.  Besides, most folks (a hell of a metric, don't you think) do not agree.  They want to go back, Our Town style. They want MORE time, not better time.  This is due to the fact that youth is a time of extremely stupid behavior, and valorization.   It's what...? Oh, yes.... Wasted. On. The. Young.   While we wouldn't put our money on this statement, say, while playing with the grandkids, it is absolutely crucial to our dignity, should we reach back to the choices we have made.  So... we can all agree, we didn't use the time we had properly, which leaves us in the unenviable position of admitting that yes, while we wish we had known better, we COULD use more time.  It's not what you'd like to be saying... but there you go.  Your old enough, now, for the truth (and man, you weren't back then, eh?)

So, back on that hill, at 9th St Park, with my friend, I hadn't really thought about a lot of this.  For one thing, I was in my twenties, my early twenties.  I knew I could yet make a lot of mistakes, and still get married to the wrong woman, and yet find a truer (though never, really, true) love, and some serenity.  A number of wonderful friends of mine reveal this to me today.  People who have lived; have loss that they lived through.  This loss is instructive.  Back at that park I had noticed a bit of this, but wasn't focused on it, even when the subject of life extension and immortality was brought up.

What I thought about at the time was: why don't we have a greater hunger for the lives being lived right now?  The lives that have been lived already?  The life we live today? 

I didn't know, just then, the excuses and explanations that help to destroy all of that, and render the stone and grass graveyard so much less than even a pretension of it's categorical nomenclature.  The deadest "memory" in the ugliest "garden" imaginable.  And The History Channel says you were meant to picnic at the cemetery!  It's the sort of fact that would appeal to a teen-ager who's lost no one.  God bless 'em.

I whistle beside it all.  And humbly miss my dead, kid. 

And, I guess, in the language of my Southern Hoosier brethren, I hope you're long for the world.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Darkness Knows

Here's a song I've been playing around with a few years.  The version you hear at the top of the player at left, was my original improvisation.  Somehow it just came to me at Elm Heights.  Hence my preoccupation at the time with "reasons for believing in ghosts."

Darkness Knows

Give it up to windblown days
The nighttime just glows
For it’s tailor made
To the things that Darkness knows

Driven out by the nimble ways
Dark houses blow cold
For it’s love that bades
Goodbye to what Darkness knows

Now I don’t believe in Ghosts
Though I usually say hello
And ask the reason
For their stay

Any given sinner has
A lifetime of reasons to pray,
But the reasons for believing
In ghosts, never go away

Little kid comes in your room
And wants to know
‘Cus he’s so afraid
When the lights get turned down low.

Say, “Kid, get up in my bed.
Where you won’t be cold.
And we’ll both try to guess
What the Darkness really knows.

The liars all will boast
That the bad things go away
And the nighttime rumors
Just can’t help themselves

But it’s getting on eight o clock
And the creatures are getting bold
Like in the olden days
All the things that Darkness knows

Monday, October 11, 2010

One of Two New Songs

Sixteenth Street, an asbestos shack
Always has enough for this all night game
By the eyes of my customers, they're coming back
Nothing else can help them to ease their pain

And I, walk that plank of shame
As I, say, "Please, come again."
I walk that plank of shame

Always had a thing for the easy load
Trimmed all my possesions to this jet black frame
And tonight while I rumble on the open road
My daughter ships out to the fiery gates

And I, walk that plank of shame
As I, pray for her again.
I walk that plank of shame.

My little boy you're bundled to your daddy's hopes
Waiting to be watered by the future's rain
Though the doctors words were a terrible blow
They were nothing like the look upon our neighbors face

And I, walk that plank of shame
As they, walk their kids away,
I walk that plank of shame

Sixteenth Street, an asbestos shack
Always has enough for this all night game
By the eyes of my customers, they're coming back
Nothing else can help them to ease their pain

And I, walk that plank of shame
As I, say, "Please, come again,"
I walk that plank of shame

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unposted Last Spring

Here's something that went unposted, in drafts last Spring.

The last sun strewn day I remember from 2009 was at the Green’s.  On my knees assembling their greenhouse, in the low southerning sun of the last days of autumn.  The feeling was as if you were beneath a giant, warm spotlight.  Your every action caught and amplified. The morning’s frost sublimating wispily off your very shadow.  I doubt, like many instances of my memory, I will ever forget that day. 

Yesterday, I was invited to dinner by my friend Marty.  A historian by training, and PhD, he makes for interesting company to say the least.  But in the end it is his character that is most intriguing.  Something about him moves with an easy, yet stalwart, character.  Perfectly reasonable foibles, and blindness, seem to give Marty wide berth, who, like a linebacker on decency’s team, receives little truck from either the devil or his lieutenants.  As for myself, as Brian Wilson might say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’  

Marty invited me to a somewhat new Indian restaurant.  I arrived fashionably early, perhaps due to having stood him up accidentally on a prior occasion.  Or was the reason due to the fact that it was in the sixties degrees F, and as sun strewn as the Green’s valley last fall, to which I could compare no other somatic experience since.  I stood their against a wall, and simply felt… the warmth and breeze, and the coming conversation with my friend all conspiring to fool me into thinking there was something fundamentally new in the world.  And wouldn’t that be nice?  I suppose I should not comment…

Marty came, perhaps thirty seconds late by my watch, which, of course, I pointed out.  We hugged and walked hungrily to the patio of the restaurant.  Sitting at the patio, and eating truly delicious food, I was reminded of nothing… I sat there, outside, in the first weeks of March.  Knowing Winter remained, but was strangely impotent just now, Marty must have seen the look on my face, for he said, “I consider this the second day of Spring… yesterday was the first.”

“For some reason, I make a big fuss about the twenty first, regardless of the weather.  But yes, sitting here, the grass and crocus… it more than resembles spring.”

We finished the delicious meal (we asked for extra helpings of rice… and groaned beneath the task, with pleasure) and as per usual, I got a decaf coffee to go from a nearby café.

Marty asked, “is this the church run café?” 

“I’m  not sure,” I told him, “I guess I supposed it was a non profit, not a church.” 

“I think it’s a church project that funds their work,” he said.

“I’m sure your right.  What’s the difference?” I asked, revealing the difference between us, with startling naivete. 

While walking past a “church” on Washington, which had the words “Jesus Is Lord” in foot and a half letters across its face, Marty quietly confessed a refusal to support organized religion. 

His conviction seemed simultaneously one not shared by me, and admirable (unless you detest coffee.)  It amused me that I’d brought him there. 

I walked through our beautiful towns neighborhoods with Marty, in the remnants of a winter that was rumored to be longer than most.  The fact that in most of North America winter was far from over, didn’t disturb our walk through the quiet, faintly firesmoke incensed air.  Not a molecule of springs perfume had been released, so the season seemed to sleep before it wakes to the soft caresses of it’s subjects morning lovemaking, and fevered dreams.  People were halfway through their doors, speaking to someone on their phones, as if suspended in disbelief that the space beneath their transom was one again of pleasure and bore nothing to brace against.  The pitch and tremble of their voices carried their delight… and of course the fact that they are people, an oftentimes delightful category, still close to twilight.

Stopping by Marty’s I consented to his offer of his restroom (he knows me well) and embracing him in farewell, turned back into the night, toward the coming blessings of the season, warmed still slightly by Hoagy Carmichael’s sun soaked Stardust “garden walls.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Been Awhile

It's been awhile since I've posted, and I'm not even sure why exactly.  In any case... I thought I'd return with some thoughts, and read some stuff others have shared in the last ten odd months.  Thanks to those of you who have communicated interest via email, Facebook, and in other ways.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Good Person

Four or five years ago I was casting about for meaning in my life, living somewhat nihilistically, but feeling hopeful, and grateful even, for my life.  It was an oddly lonely, but rich time of musing. Perhaps I was healing from some subtle wound... or not so subtle wound, I can't really say.  I lived more or less in my head, reading and watching the natural world.  Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset: as Broadway might put it.

I worked at a Courtyard hotel in Bloomington, which the day before I quit, to become a construction worker, I tried to explain to my friend A.J.

"I think quitting is rash, Andy," calmly intoned A.J.

"I am a server, A.J.  The funny thing is, I serve a buffet.  How exactly can you be a buffet server, A.J?  I guess the truth is I serve coffee.  Wow.... can you imagine the pride I feel.  (I swagger here, and act like I'm on the make) 'Actually, Miss, I am sort of like a humanoid airpot.'"

"You make decent money,"

"For the poor, you have that right."

A.J. has an infectious laugh that is really a form of deep generosity.  People who love to bear their souls are attracted to the hospitality industry.  And I think it's telling that such a huge margin of the American economy is comprised of people serving others.  It's looked down on (like a lot of wonderful stuff) but many, many people wake up every day to love others in a formalized fashion, for very little money.

A.J. couldn't persuade me not to leave, so I put a one month notice in.  And I was scared to death, for I only had a very little bit of work in construction so far, and what I was doing was motivated by emotions, not common sense.  In the end, it was an act of self esteem, or, crazy love for my idea of myself.  But it was the wrong way to go about the right thing.  Like a lot of things I've done.  Oh, well.

To this day I enjoy the company of many of that hotels employees: they were like family to me;  another feature of most peoples work: you literally love your coworkers.  Is this the baseline of human social endeavor? We cannot be together without love?

One night I was working in the lounge, a euphemism for the breakfast bar, with some bottles exposed in cabinetry above.  My usual habit was to go to this two dollar bookstore, buy a few books, and pour over them in the "lounge" while I waited for some poor soul to come and buy a beer or chardonnay.  Needless to say, even making eight dollars an hour (plus "tips") reading and occasionally watching Book TV, isn't painful (people would walk in the lounge, and see Book TV on and ask me, "What's that!?"  "It's football in drag," I'd joke, while changing the channel to something unwatchable.)

One night a customer walked in the bar, who like many customers, happened to be beautiful.  I didn't think anything of it, as I had worked for the public for a rather long time, and your evening being punctuated by pretty women, is more or less a fair description of any person not hiding in their house.  In any case, this woman, who's name, it turned out was Deborah, sat down in the lounge, sort of took a glance at her surrounding, and sighed as if resigned to be, yet again, young and bored.

"Wonderin', like me, I suppose, what the heck you're doing here?" I asked her.

"Oh," she looked at me, faking surprise, as if a man would rather be looking at his toes than her. "I just wish I had a cigarette."

"Well," I told her, "I don't really smoke enough to keep a humidor in my pocket, but this being America and all, there is a pack of cigarettes available rather near at hand."

"Where would that be?  And could I have a beer?" she asked, and asked.

"What's your pleasure?" She told me: a watery, insipid, low carb franken-beer, that we very much did stock.

With her "beer" in hand I said, "Here you go, and just sit tight, before you're halfway done with this so called beer, I'll have your...what, let me guess, Marlboro Lights?  (For some reason a lot of fashionable women smoked Marlboro Lights in Southern Indiana... go figure.)"

"You don't have to do that," she said with an edge of real anger.

"You'd be surprised the reason why that isn't true," I told her while leaving.

Rocket science is oftentimes a few block affair (especially in terms of human sentiment.)  The best bartender in the world, is probably the one who can serve ten drinks a second without breaking a sweat (or a glass) but, hey, I was not the best bartender in the world.  I was just a thoughtful midwestern service worker who had to do things, sometimes.  And it surprised even me, what I sometimes had to do.

Returning with the cigarettes, I noticed her beer was nearly gone, and her eyes had that subtle sheen that a humans take on when you start to go from detached from the notion of having a drink, to somewhat more compelled to continue with the intoxicants.  An ex girlfriend of mine used to term this state of being, "sparkly."  Sadly, she learned to distinguish such stations off the cross from her father, a expansive lush.  My customer took a Marlboro Light from it's pack, and flicked her Bic.

"I suppose I don't need to tell you, Maam, that smoking is not legal within public buildings in this town.  We have, being a Courtyard, a lovely hibiscus scented courtyard, which I'd love to show you, should you wish to smoke."

"You can't even smoke in bars?"  she said.

"I've afraid the health of the average Bloomington alcoholic has markedly improved.  Who knew?"

"That's ridiculous."

"When I'm a few beers into tipsy, I will usually agree.  But, as a so called bartender, I enjoy being able to  smell the musty remnants of yesterdays wine."

As we walked to the courtyard, she wrinkled her nose.  For the first time, I looked at her face, and its unique beauty, mixed with her personality, which due to a surprising arousal within me, seemed less grating, and contentious, and more a product of some strange heartfelt discernment; a kind of taste, or aesthetics.  Need I admit I felt this attractive?

I opened the door for her, exaggerating my intent with a small bow, as if I were Sir Galahad.

"Please," she groaned, though a very slight smile passed her face, as any clown intends.  "Wow, it is nice out here.  Can we sit at this table?"

"Ah... " I said, groaning inwardly, possibly that I had confused her.  "Come on, I thought you needed a place to smoke a cigarette.  This is the prettiest ashtray in the whole world.  Sort of..."

"What, Andy, eager to get back to that pile of worn out books?"  she was smiling now in a manner not common to strangers.

"I'm not eager, no, though there is nothing wrong with those books."

"Just sit with me," she said, with the strange flowing ardent confidence of someone who rarely admits to, but knows things will come to them.

"Well, since you asked nicely, I suppose Daniel will attend to my typical lack off expertise at this bartending thing," I said, sitting down.

"Just because your work doesn't usually involve doing anything, doesn't mean your bad at it."


"Jesus, said to the Pharisees, 'as to rules, there are only two: Love God as no other, and love others as you would have them love you.'"

"Yes, I like that quote.  And like me, if memory serves me, like me, in the Scriptures, He was more or less always in the red." I said.

"You like to joke about Jesus Christ?" she said, with feeling.

"And everyone else I admire."

"I doubt your mockery is in earnest, if you are a Christian."

"My, ah, jest, is no mockery, and I am not a Christian." I told her.


"You heard me.  And I like Jesus words... I can't imagine my life without a Christ.  And let's face it, humanism, while reviled by so called Christians, is more or less a body at an impasse with Jesus' infectious sentiments.  He represented us to the world ruled by power, and seems to have provided a different reason for living.  I'm grateful for that."

"So grateful, huh," she said, "that you deny his sacrifice, and refuse to believe.  Thanks for your testament, Andy."

"I am not a believer, Deborah.  Yet, I see reason to believe and smile upon his compassionate example.  I cannot fathom explaining the Golden Rule to a people who believe in agency and power alone.  Much less can I imagine compassion from a people who believe that through belief alone, they might claim it.  Belief is a worthless fashion to me.  It may come and go.  But compassion is desperately difficult to pin down, and seems to me to be owed, by my people, mostly to Jesus Christ.  We should be grateful, but even that, seems separate from belief."

She grabbed my hand, and bent forward, full bore, protestant evangelic mirth.  "You are a lovely soul, Andy, and Jesus knows this.  He works within you whether you know it or not.  I know that you can feel Him, as I do.  Why are you afraid of your feelings?"

"It is true, Deborah, that I am afraid of my feelings." How amusing to say this, just then, but such is the plight of any man, most places but the privation of his own home.  "It is not true, however, Deborah, that I have a problem with the concept of an active, present Jesus Christ.  It is only that I believe his active presence to be socially constructed, and a critical part of a world formed of many, many different perspectives: none particularly dominant, but all in service to compassion.  It is an old joke to imagine Jesus on earth today, and I think that joke has its power in the difference between the way we live and the way we wish we could."

"You're just afraid... and that's it."

"No, I'm not afraid.  For example, I would dearly love for you and I to be subject in some obvious fashion to His demands.  For the dice playing dipshits of the world to have their scams revealed for what they are.  For the folks in line at the gas station to feel Him and throw their lottery tickets on the ground, say nothing of the whole enterprise of "winning."  You ever won, Deborah? Was it compassion that had your fist in the air?"

"This would be a good time for another beer," she said.

"In deference to the chains of modernity, with humility, I concede," I said, and exited briefly the humid, but lovely heavy breeze of the courtyard's evenings yellow light.

As I entered the hotel, I encountered my manager, Daniel.

"I can see some customers are always right," quipped Daniel.

"If confidence is being with the truth, Daniel, far be it from me from dissuading her."

"Oh, I'm confident you'll screw this up, Andy."

"Thanks," I said, and found another bottle of grain alcohol and water, masquerading as beer.

As I returned to the courtyard door, Daniel was still standing there.  "I see your interested in what's out there, I told him.  "Being Filipino you could give her a chance at a two hour conversion, for her corn fed cause."

"Even with my girlfriend back home, Andy, I still know what I like to look at. Are you looking very hard?  Should you need a leave of absence for an evening, I'm sure your record will save you should I be so swamped with customers, that your leaving gets found out.  Though it won't."

"My, er, customer, is thirsty, sir.  I bear water... and thanks for the offer."

"Holler if you need a wingman!"

"She just needs someone to talk to, Daniel, and I guess I would like that as well."

"Yeah, right."

Deborah was exhaling another Marlboro light into the air.  She looked as relaxed, and comfortable as an aunt or grandmother upon my return.

"I don't get it," she said, "you respect, and understand the importance of Jesus, and compassion, but don't  believe He died for your sins."

"Yes, I think that more or less describes the arrogant secular humanist.  I've never met one that thinks Jesus is a joke.  But what does your belief animate?  A better world?  You hold Him responsible to the evils you cause? Do you beg His forgiveness, or take it for granted, in a shell game of so called 'faith'?"

"I never take Him for granted, and screw you for even saying that.  My belief helps to carry His gospel.  Surely that's in His stead, not in my own.  His relationship with me changes my life, and molds it to help me be less like myself.  I'm not playing a game.  I was born a girl and became a woman, and now I have choices.  I can't imagine making them without Jesus in my life.  And I don't beg anything of Him... His forgiveness: it's been there since long before I was even a glimmer in my mothers eye."

"Look, Deborah, I think you are an earnest and caring woman. I don't doubt like most of us extremely, almost pathetically, lucky winners in the world, you don't wish the world was a better place. I just think it's a little odd, that at the very moment in this world when our lives are probably more capable of bringing agency and light, and love and mercy to the entire world, we choose to very publicly fall into meditation on such abstractions as "belief."  We could be working for commonsense good.  Working, giving, and living outside the construction of our nationality.  One group of people in the world, all deserving the blessing of all those who came before us to make us richer than even they could have ever guessed.  You hear all the time: the economy is doing great!  But what are we, and what is this economy next to the obvious admission that the economy cannot touch those very many souls who are not doing great?  I'm happy to celebrate Jesus Christ.  I'm just allergic to the notion that our greatness is somehow due to our thinking of Him and us contractually.  We can live more to His example, without borrowing it, at virtually no cost, as a kind of entitlement. Nobody can deserve Jesus, least of all the Christian who should know better.  You know, Amazing Grace!  What's amazing?  Our bored liturgy would have you believe it's anything but.  You, Deborah can be found, but I don't think we can "find" it.   It is our fallen nature to always be lost. And it is as good a description of the world we live in, as I can imagine, that you and I, at this hotel, over a drink, should see ourselves as anything but deliverers of a confusion: never an answer."

"If we are lucky," she said, leaning close to me and placing her hand around my neck, "then that is a gift from God, don't you think?"

I couldn't argue, in a physical or verbal sense with this iron trap argument.  So I nodded.

"I agree, Andy, that I am lucky.  I love the way you deny credit for the sacrifice of Jesus.  I suppose I hadn't thought of it that way, so thank you." And she embraced me, in a manner not common among strangers, even touchy feely one's like me.

We "parted" to a degree limited by the dictates of the term.  Our hands still upon one another, her hand on my shoulder and one on my bald head.  It felt warm, and wonderful in a manner known to all.  My hands her upon her shoulder blades.  My eyes fixed to the contours that a plastic surgeon must study to have any purchase in the vagaries of her field.  For once I was convinced of the genius of such a fetish.

"You dwell on things to take them apart.  But does it ultimately do others the good you wish for them, Andy?"

"No," I told her, resigned that a lie would be revealed through any other choice of words.

"What can we dwell upon, tonight, then..."

My hands approached the fullness of her question.  My thumbs stroked the full ellipse of their degree of motion.  My mind released the potion of sentiment and principle, to take up the entirety of a new mystery that was this person: beyond the capacity of it's usual hope, and "understanding."  Our steady breath beneath the undying yellow sodium light.  

There was so much that I could have said.  So very much I would have liked to.  But even for this silly man, it was obvious that I had abandoned my obligation to my ridiculous job.  And truly: if something was passing between me and this woman, could it not stay for a sober day of reflection?  Was it as enduring as the truths it pretended?  It was, I knew, my curse to wish to discover as much.

I enwrapped my arms about a woman who I could no longer so much as see, but feel.  I think I saw her briefly through eyes that she had probably been trying to conjure for me anyway.  As if in winking appraisal of such a poltergeist, I stepped between fate, and ourselves, with a few words as naked as they were unwise.

"You are a good person, Deborah.  And I wish I knew why."

And with that I released her.  To turn to the stupid vagaries that did not include a long night of discovery.

"What?" she said, with surprise, and confusion.

I touched my nose to hers, and as her chin swept to an acceptance that was as heartbreaking as it was doomed I told her the same.

"I'm sorry, did you say, 'You are a good person'?"

"It's a hard habit to break, honey."

"Can't we just go somewhere?"

"Well... are you any good at washing glasswear?"

"You're joking."

"Only on Wednesday, when I'm on the clock."

"Come on.  I'm not so serious about what I said.  We were having fun."

"I don't know how to thank you, save what I'd very much like to do.  That said, I'm gonna probably wish I was dead when I reach the cold embrace of my bed tonight.  So you can comfort yourself with that image for the rest of your life."  I slid my hands around her one last time and told her again that she was a good person.  I could just tell.

The next morning I was serving breakfast, or coffee rather, in a fantastic improvisation of a human airpot.  At some point a beautiful woman, probably comparable to most who pass through the hotel on any given day, came up to me.

"Andy?"  she said.

"Deborah, good morning.  I hope you had sweet dreams."

"Well, my best memory was long before I fell asleep."

"I admit some trouble with my bed as well."

She smiled, ruefully, and retrieved a folded note from her smart suit blazer.

"Should I wait till you are gone to look at this?" I asked her.

"No.  You can look at it now."

I opened the note, and scrawled in the maddingly gorgeous calligraphy of her well practiced hand was her name address and phone number.  "I was hoping this would be of some use, to such a lost soul as yourself."

"Thanks," I told her, and gave her a hug.  Which was nothing unusual in my business.

"One last thing... I thought about it for some time, last night, but I have to ask?"

"What's that?" I said.

"Did you tell me I was a good person, last night?"

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Thao grew up in southern Vietnam... her parents what could be considered middle class for their time (she was careful to mention, things have really changed.)  She went to public schools of course, private one's being more than out of reach.  She used to really like math she mentioned casually, when trying late in our coversation on a flight to Dallas from Albuquerque, to weigh the benefits of a job she enjoyed as a Chemical Engineer, in Corpus Christi, with the diminishment of an old joy, now used, like a childs stuffed animal, beyond recognition.

That said, she had a confrontational look, mixed with an incredibly ingratiating demeanor, that had a man believe she could slice you and dice you with plus signs, and multiplication one's too.  And don't even get her started about making a difference (she'd make a difference outa you.)  She had been merely hiinting in the manner that long conversation, that rambles the mansions of two strangers hearts, can provide an instance of small false confessions... if only to prove to herself, and with a certain squint of her eyes... myself... that what she believed, and what she said, weren't separate matters but dynamic all across the equal sign of our time together.

And it wasn't long... maybe one and one half hours.

So growing up she'd done well enough in school not to be ejected from the unnatural selection process that provided that few with what the many desperately needed: opportunity, a future, and dearest of all: security.  Food for the table from a hand that could be counted to provide it.  Thao was careful to point out that such a thing was almost unheard of: and going hungry all too common.  Even though, she was, as it were, middle class.

Her mother worked full time and came home to cook her three meals a day. "I was terribly spoiled.  But you know, I never would say, 'I love you mom,' and she wouldn't say that to me either.  In Vietnam the family is everything, and it goes without saying that you do what you must for your family without thanks, or words of love.  My brother is a PHD candidate in a Paris suburb, and the moment he received a grant for his Masters degree, he sent me nearly all the money, so I could leave Vietnam and attend college in the US.  Were it not for my brother I would not be here.  I had the tuition, but I could never have eaten, or paid my rent."

"How did you come to Albuquerque?" I asked her, now confused by this timeline that seemed to include college in New Mexico for a few years, and some period of time, from what she had casually mentioned, in Fargo, North Dakota.

"So did you see the movie, Fargo?" I asked.  "Was it like that?  I've never been there."

 "Oh," she said, "it's exactly like that!"

"Murder and mayhem in a white wedding winter?" I asked.

 "Well.... " she said, "definitely a white wedding winter.  Not so much murder... its was winter that was killing me.")

"But why, New Mexico? I'm an American, and I really had no idea what New Mexico was until my parents moved here, from Indiana.  I thought it was more or less cactus with a hispanic accent, or something, you know?"

"I was hosted by a family in an exchange program in high school.  Cultural exchange.  They were such wonderul people, I called them Mama and Papa.  They took me all over New Mexico, to California.  I remember seeing, with them, the Grand Canyon for the first time!  Can you imagine?  From Vietnam to the Grand Canyon!  They became new parents.  So I came to them this Christmas."

"Your Mama and Papa?  Here in Albuquerque?"

"Yes.  I left Fargo, to attend the University of New Mexico for the remainder of my undergraduate studies.  I have no intention of doing graduate work in Chemical Engineering!"

"Sounds like you have a tendency to make wise decisions!"

"Things are going well."

"So, your Mama and Papa, where did, or do they live now?"

"Are you aware of the mountains east of Albuquerque... The East Mountains?"

"Well, I wasn't until my parents moved to Sandia Park."

"Your kidding? Sandia Park... your parents live in Sandia Park... that's where I lived."


"That's where my exchange program was.  With Mama and Papa."

What a lovely woman to talk with on the way home.  After we exited the place, Thao asked if I would walk with her to the next gate, the predictably insane distance.  We got on a train together, and stood their chatting.  She with an almost sterling silver can do positive attitude, and I my usual sarcastic, gee whizz self.  In some ways two stereotypes... ambition and jaded indifference.  

My stop came first.  We clasped each others hand goodbye, and the longing in a strangers eyes, after connection, came to me once again.  The roads so endless, and the crowd so many.

I stepped from the train, and looked back to see her looking upon this last moment with a man she only knew as Andy.  Then Thao was rushed to the future in which she so fiercely seemed to believe.

(Though, in all fairness, it can't be that difficult to find a Thao, Chemical Engineer in Corpus Christi.  Something tells me she leaves an impression, wherever one might find her.)