Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Long Before You Are Forgotten?

Not many of us will write the greatest novel, win the game, paint a masterpiece, or wind up in the history books. Like everyone else, we will have our time, raise another generation and perhaps make a mark, but soon will be forgotten.

If you follow your genealogy path, it doesn't take long before you look at names and know nothing about them. I can only go back one generation before the names, occupations, religious and political beliefs, kind deeds and mishaps are all lost. Dusty old photos only show strangers gathered at the beach or in front of a church.

But if we do well or give away a lot of money, a building may be named after you. Even that may be fleeting to be renamed or torn down for another building with another name.

Of course government records will have the place of birth, marriages, deaths and with today's social and global access, the locations of our lives and preferences are written for all to see, even if they don't care. Huge and ever expanding databases are filled with this information to be goggled, bu will any of it be remembered?

Interesting "Sunday Morning" just had a report about a family who puts flags on veteran's graves for Memorial Day. They check their database to find the location of the headstone, then say the name of the resident out loud, before pressing the small flag into the ground. The name is said out loud to show respect, but the kicker was the name probably had not been spoken in some time.

I wear with pride a silver identification bracelet around my right wrist. It is the navy ID bracelet given to me by an uncle. The inscription reads "C. D. McIver". The other side reads: "Ensign, U.S.N.A". This was my uncle's brother. This was the one brother that did not come home from World War II. This is the man I don't remember, but was named after.

So after all the flags have faded and the headstones sit alone, Clifford Davis McIver will be remembered everyday.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dawn's Early Light

It's 3:30 AM and the newspaper just hit the door. The birds are starting to wake one another taking note of locations. The city is asleep.

This is a strange time.

If you walk the streets there is no one around. A few porch lights speckle the darkness. It is eerily quiet. The rows of mobile machines sit quietly next to the cement curb. Each one filled with highly flammable liquid like silent metal bombs balanced on rubber.

This is the time when dreams turn into reality. Thoughts of the past days experience and future days adventures blend. Wiping away too many details and confusing the plans.

A quiet time of retrospect or space in the millennium to organize the mind's intentions.

This morning's thoughts were about emotions. Those inner feelings that can change a logical person into a pile of mush.

I worked in a field where the story was to find an emotion that would trigger consumption. Laughter, joy, anger, fear and greed could and if presently correctly provide the emotion with the desire to covet an idea or item and demand the possession of it.

Emotions were not prevalent in my family, so perhaps that is why I could touch on others. I still find it amazing to see a picture or hear a phrase which will quell up a lump in the throat.

I was lucky enough to rediscover the feelings I missed when I was a teenager. I'm sure I felt them then, but put them aside or forgot. The utter jubilation making the entire day appear light and happy. The shear depth of depression creating physical pain and despair. And being of a rational mind, understanding the emotion and studying it's reaction on me.

It's now 4:00 AM, so I will try to go back into the darkness and toss and turn some more until the rest of the birds deliver the light.

A fly is still in the kitchen. He probably came in while the doors were open yesterday and is seeking a way out. He buzzes up to the florescent tube lighting the window, pounding the glass trying to escape, while overhead a spider waits......patiently.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Evening Ride

After a successful day of another check off and renewed energy, I decided to go out for an evening ride.

The clouds were orange, meaning a breeze coming in from the east (old sailors note) and rain would be here soon (old weather report).

Down the slope and enjoying the fresh air, a turn right onto Peace drive. The mobile machines are back in place, much like they were when I took an early morning ride.

I watched the doors to the little boxes open and men and women walked determined to their mobile boxes in casual garb to face the Monday chore. Young men leaving early to impress the business of how many hours could be wasted in Izod apparel only assigned to the yachting crowd with a light sweater arms wrapped around the neck, now representative of the Richmond elite. Women hurried their children to keep the schedule and seemed all too stressed for such an early hour. I could almost hear the alarm clocks going off forcing the weekend to be over.

To my glee the bunnies still munched on the clover, not surprised as I silently passed. The usual characters in their gray fuzzy coats scampered about under the diving acrobatics singers. Even a wildly raccoon was scurrying into a drain while the sun was up.

Just as I was deciding whether to go on as the darkness grew, the sprinkle of rain fell, making the decision much easier.

After a productive day of installing porch lights, ceiling fans, taking down walls, cleaning pond pumps and a relaxing ride, sleep will gather strength for another mission tomorrow.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Tiki Bar

This morning was suppose to be humid and hot, but the cool breeze reminded me of another place and another time.

The room was full of shadows from the setting sun. Shuttered windows wide open catching the last rays of light. The constant breeze blowing sand upon the floor was warm, yet hitting the shadows became refreshing. Ceiling fans continued to mix the air of sunshine, sand, smoke, and an air of an unknown place.

Every round wooden table was filled with separate parties, but a group atmosphere brought them to this place like members of a club. The sounds of muffled conversation and clinking glasses created a soundtrack for this comfortable setting.

In one corner were dark characters sullen and hunched over their drinks looking deeply into one another as if a secret mission was being discussed. Another table was filled with laughter and slapping each other recognizing the jokes. Some figures sat staring into their glasses without a word, while others grew louder as the drinks continued.

A long bamboo bar stretch the length of the room filled with multi-colored bottles and a busy bartender sliding between chrome bar stools filled with patrons oblivious to the rest of the room.

Suddenly the room went silent.

A shapely woman stood in the doorway. The summer breeze blew her flowered wrap around dress showing long legs as she surveyed the room. Shaking her hair to the side she gathered herself and walked up to the bar being followed by all the eyes.

The bartender stopped his previous action and immediately step up asking "What can I do for you lovely lady?"

She stared at him then turned to the room, shutting the stares. Turning back to the white shirted smiling man with a little drool dripping off his lip, she started to talk when....

The bartender was shoved aside by a short man in a flowered shirt and straw hat with a contagious smile. As the bartender cowered off to the corner the young lady was asked, "What can I get you lovely lady?"

She looked at the descending bartender , then turning to this new request answered, " I'll have a Japanese Plum Wine."

The hum of the room began to build again as everyone seated at the bar stared at the lady and then the man in the flowered shirt to see what the response would be.

The man behind the bar tipped his straw hat at the request, turned and reached under a shelf. Out came a golden bottle covered in dust. He blew off the dust, opened the cork and poured the contents into a liquor glass. Sliding a napkin under the sunshine liquid he presented it to the attention of the room.

"I think this may satisfy you." he smiled.

She slowly looked down at the glass then to the man who was still smiling like a cat. She reached the glass with two finger and threw back in a single gulp. There was a audible gasp as she licked her lips.

"That will do. Give me another." she responded slamming the glass back on the bar.

The new bartender took off his straw hat while filling another glass . "And do you have a name pretty lady?"

Her head whipped back to the mirror behind the bar and staring at the drink maker asked, " Why should I tell you?"

Without a blink, he outstretched his arms with a welcoming hug and a broader grin saying, " I'm Rusty and this is my Tiki Bar and Fictioneering Factory."

She sipped the glass, then finished it off, sliding it back to the response asking for another.

"Fictioneering Factory?" she asked looking at the empty glass being refilled quickly.

"I'm also a writer. I observe what goes on in my bar and write fiction about it." Rusty explained with the third glass being emptied.

"You have a nice place here," she said whipping her hair aside to another gasp in the room. She had become the entertainment for the evening.

A group of pirates in the darkened corner began to laugh in a low unknowing manner as if harm was about to be had. Another group back from fishing off the coast talked quietly about mermaids and seahorses. A table full of leather clad men in chaps and eye patches downed their pitcher and wiped their lips.

She turned back for her next glass looking at the proprietor in the eye and said, "Ginger....Ginger Bonneau."

"Pretty name for a pretty lady." Rusty responded with light in his eyes. "Ready for another?" he asked raising the bottle, but a shadow ran across his face. The light left his eyes and he stood a fixed to the doorway as another figure appeared in silence.

A tall man in a white double breasted tuxedo scanned the room then moved toward the bar. Sauntering up next to the damsel, he smile at her, then with a serious almost fearful stare looked at Rusty. "I'll have a black and tan."

Rusty looked shaken as his attempt to make an effort to the woman had been shattered, "Yes..yes sir." he stammered.

"Where have you been?" the man asked the woman as she sipped yet another glass of the golden liquid.

"Ike, you are such a..." she started but was interrupted by Rusty.

"Here you go sir. You folks know each other?" he questioned trying to make small talk and calm his nerves.

The man grabbed his bottle and tapped her almost empty glass with a nod. "Yes, we go way back."

"So where are you headed?" Rusty asked feeling relieved the moment was over.

Ike looked at Ginger and they both grinned. In unison they turned back to Rusty and said, "The Enigma Club."

Again the room was silent as if someone had yelled "Fire" in a movie theater.

Rusty's face went flush as he stammered, "Enig..Enigma Club? No one looks for the Enigma Club. It's just a myth.... a rumor."

Ike and Ginger looked back to one another and smiled.

What did you say?

On my usual morning ride, I was greeted by Sheryl, Russel, and Counting until their large black bodies were chased by the cat birds and robins. It's OK, they'll be chasing the hawks later.

I roll up to a corner next to a woman pushing a stroller. She is facing the baby and holding two pacifiers. "Do you want the blue one or the green one?" she says out loud.

As I push on I think about that image. A young neatly dressed mother pushing a fairly expensive stroller so I must assume there is some wealth and education associated with this family, at least in my neighborhood.

Who was she talking too? What was she saying?

She is asking a baby who is too young to tell the difference between gaa-gaa- and goo-goo, to choose between two pacifiers based on color and size.

Did she hear herself say it? Was it just speaking to the air? Did she really think the baby would speak out like those weird YouTube videos?

It's the same phenomena that we have when we speak to animals. We usually question the animal in a high pitched voice, as if the same pitch babies must respond to is good for animals.

In my travels I hear more and more private conversations of people walking around holding their ear. Do they really want me to hear them? Do they just want to hear themselves?

The other night while having dinner with a couple, I realized I don't talk to people very much. A brief statement to the cashier at the grocery store or a quick "Morning" to a passing jogger. I have found myself talking out loud to the television set when something ridiculous happens or a great sports play, but I catch myself wondering who is listening. Without being in a social setting, like an office, where people surrounded by others are forced to converse, even if the conversation is about what the television show was last night or how the game ended. It is still verbalizing to others.

So as I rambled on at dinner, I noticed the couple started yawning. Here I was boring them with trite phrases which was a accumulation of life's events not related to anyone else in several weeks.

Since I usually don't "think" before I speak, whatever my first thoughts are what rolls off the tongue.

In the future I will try to fathom "what I say" before I say it, then I will realize no one is listening.

Friday, May 21, 2010


A person sent me a comment of my not paying for electricity (due to over payments) and stated I was expanding my "camping mode".

I laughed, and then thought about it.

I am in "camping mode".

Camping. Taking only the necessities and surviving off the land.

I realize I do not mind some of the inconveniences of camping.

Dirt, bugs, wearing the same clothes day after day, not bathing until your eyes water, and adjusting to nature with heat, snow and rain.

I camped out some when I was growing up. The scouts provided the beginning training of dealing with the wilderness, then sailing camp was a month of survival with others. A friend of mine camped with his family. This was totally amazing to me. Not only were they a "family", but they went into the wilderness together, depending on each other to provide the basic elements of life.

So maybe she was right. I am camping.

There are four walls around and the basic necessaries of water, light and food are accessible. The rain is kept out and the limited warmth is kept in.

And every day the sun arises to awake me and sets to put me asleep.

That is all that is needed.

I've had the silk sheets, cool breezes and warm waters, but it is not necessary to live.

More work to be done, but the "camping mode" is comfortable and until the maid service arrives, this will be way of life.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mother Died Today

Well, not really. That would just be too ironic.

This is a line I wrote down several years ago when she did die.

After receiving the call from my brother, I walked outside and sat in the yard for several hours watching the night clouds wash the sky and wondered: “What should I be feeling?”

Last night, bored by the television and playing guitar, I sat out on the porch and watched the light filtered through the dancing leaves. It made me think of that night and the woman I called “Mom”.

It wasn’t anything I expected. This was the woman who bore me. This was the woman who took care of me and talked to me and filled in when all seemed lost. She made sure I was fed and clothed and tried to teach me the proper things to make a better citizen of my self (not so sure I learned all that).
She was 33 when I was conceived in February. I always thought I was a mistake since there were 5 ½ years between my brother and myself. I knew who my dad was because I looked just like him.

Anyway, there I was being taken care of by a woman who named me after her brother who went missing in the war only three years over.

Since my father and I had little in common, other than looks, my mother was the communicator. She would take me to the hospital after being bitten by a dog, but only after talking to the census taker. She would put the trashcan next to the bed when I came home drunk, but never discussed her own drinking problems.

My mother had come from a small town and had been swept up in the fame and glitter of the big band era. She had modeled in Chicago and sang in the bright lights of the ballrooms.
I wondered if I might have another brother (or sister?) by her first marriage she never talked about. I reviewed her life after my brother and I created a 50’s family for these two rock stars of the time who wanted to stay close to the limelight but was only hire help at that point.

She tried to make something out of me by introducing me to daughters of politicians and corporate giants at club dances and fancy gatherings. She treated me to camps where the wealthy sent their kids for summer relief to learn the skills of sailing, archery, shooting rifles and short sheeting beds. She bought me the closest trendy fashions so I would fit in with the upper crust.

I read somewhere the youngest child is rebellious; so all her hard work did not fit my path, particularly when I found sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

She never tried to persuade me to follow a dream I did not believe in. She listened to the most awful noise made by four boys in the living room and said, “Some of that didn’t sound too bad.”
I found out much later she tried to guide girls I would bring over to the house for long hours of pressing lips under a 3 watt blue light to stay away from me.

She always provided, even when she had to dip into her secret money stash she was keeping from my father.

But when my father died, it all changed.

I was the only family around to take care of her. Long hours of craziness, watching the person called “Mom” fall apart. Late night phone calls, endless house cleanings, family’s conferences with everyone turning away from the problems, and the realization I could not fix it.

After several hospital stays and arrest records, a permanent solution was decided and “Mom” was placed in a facility providing meals, room and medical treatment if necessary. She called it "being put in jail".

That’s when my mother died.

She actually gave up several years later, but it had already been over.

All the years of raising me and taking care of me had been paid back.

On my ride this morning, I was thinking about "Mother's Day" and still wondering what I felt about this woman.

Then I saw a couple cross the street. Talking at a fast pace I could not hear the conversation, but I heard her look at him and laugh. A joyful laugh as a child in wonder or a girl appreciating the attention and responding in a pleasant manner.

"That's where it starts." I thought to myself. Further along on the ride I spied a couple slowly walking down the street hand-in-hand. "Won't be long now," I thought "before they are parents."

Someone asked me why I didn’t have children.

Without a pause I answered, “Because I’ve never found the right mother.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Neighbors

The neighbors behind me had left last week in a truck way to small for four people without a goodbye. The yard was free of the tools and play items. Only empty trashcans and dark windows. I guess the twins were getting to school age.

The sign in front of the house had stated "under contract", but I hadn't seen any action for a week.

During my morning travels this morning, I noticed a large flatbed truck parked in front of the empty house. On the back of the truck were large, uniform, wood crates.

Blankets were being laid on the yard by professional movers in blue shirts.

I didn't see anyone else but I figured since the front door was open, these crates and their contents were moving in.

I've never seen personal belongings crated and shipped in such a manner. These crates were the size used for museum pieces.

Perhaps they were works of art? Perhaps they were filled with high tech computer gear? Maybe these crates were full of delicate medical equipment or possibly the world's biggest television screen.

Who are the people who will be living so close to me? Another family with small children and a dog? Another single guy who has a massive amount of electronic equipment used in his secret top security lab? Perhaps an older couple with years of collected treasures?

I guess my wish for Swedish stewardess or college cheerleaders is out, but it will be interesting to see new people in the neighborhood.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eating Alone

Eating, a requirement for survival. To fuel the body and maintain existence.

But eating is more than consumption, it is a social activity.

To prepare and cook food is a creative process, but cooking for one is not rewarding.

The past year I have rid the house of cookbooks, appliances, plates, utensils, and other devices of the preparation of food, thinking I would not use them and someone else could appreciate and utilize them.

Then I went through all of my favorite fantasies as a little kid in a candy shop. Ice cream and cake, cookies, exotic dishes, old favorites, variations of staples and untried recipes, only to find none were as tasty as I thought they were.

The preparation took time and made a mess that had to be cleaned up. The amount of food was overwhelming and had to be stored. And though I realized I could eat the same thing everyday, I became bored with the whole process.

My palate had become simplified to bland food spiced with hot spices and washed down by water. A meal had to be easy, requiring one cup or bowl or plate. To make the portions seem larger, using small child size utensils I found made the meal last longer.

Even the take out fast food stops became a bore. I even went to a restaurant and ate a meal by myself. That was pitiful.

Eating should be done others. Sharing the experience is more than filling the stomach, it is tasting and complimenting and enjoying of the company of food and fellowship.

What did you do today?

After dragging myself out of bed, making a cup of coffee, picking up the newspaper (still not read) and turning on the television to "Sunday Morning". I plopped down in a chair and took a view at the day.

"Whatcha' gonna to do?"

After a couple of swigs of coffee and some mindless television, I turned off the electronics and dressed for the morning ride.

The next door neighbor was already outside working on the yard as I fed the fish. The yard was quiet and becoming warm for this time of the morning.

As I prepare, I look at Bianci covered in the yellow pollen, but not today. Even the little bowl of fruit did not pump me up for the Sunday ride, but I checked the sky and moved on.

Fewer people on the streets today, perhaps they are attending worship services or the museum. The joggers red faces seemed to be straining. I know they will soon stop, but I peddle on.

The Libbie hill was typical but not hurtful. The glide back to Patterson followed a trail in the street. Something had leaked out on the street. I hoped it was a water truck and not some toxic poison that was splashing in my face. I can ride around it as it vaporizes from the concrete unlike those at the gulf coast.

I glance at the cars moving about in the parking lot of an old bank and listen to the shouts of people directing each other. Across the street is the Grill restaurant which I have not tried. It was a redneck bar with signs on the ceiling, but looks more upscale now.

Breaking by the library on the long slope down to the Willow Drive and it's usual bumps, then enjoying the climb back up the hill draped in ivy.

Slowing again next to churches, knowing the communion has other thoughts than driving. I slow at other locations along the way wanting to stop but there is no reason.

Around the loop at the triangle park with the red and orange signs announcing the upcoming "Strawberry St. Festival". The return streets are filled with cars stopped to empty riders. Some seem to be a night hook up reviving their left vehicle and others appear to be leftovers from a previous gathering.

The newly reopened VMFA appeared quiet and has gated the back entrance. I'll go there next week after the crowds thin. One of the gifts of having free time during the week.

Climbing the Malvern hill was a challenge in the increasing heat but the accomplishment felt good. I thought of the houses in the neighborhood of people I knew while passing. Bobby, the elementary school bully, Mary, my elementary school friend who became my college roommate for a year girl friend, Curley, that strange girl with the wild laugh, and Art's dark house are all landmarks along the Sunday venture.

Arriving home to a van parked in the alley and a baby robin not fearful or shy but with it's baby face on.

After cooling and checking electronic messages, and finishing filling three trash cans with lumber and sticks, I decided to wander into another inspirational journey.

The crowds were as thick and complaining as the day before, I locked up and began my slow stroll through the booths. The jewelry and pottery didn't impress me so I moved pass them quickly. The whimsical made me smile, the photos looked too familiar, and much of the crafts were focused for second homes on the water.

The paintings and some of the frames impressed me. Juxtaposition of illustrations and use of empty space caught my imagination.

One artist explained her work for a magazine. I responded by seeing her print and water color and was inspired. She seemed to appreciate why I was viewing her art. Another artist guided me through his booth and explained he was a retired art teacher. I commented on his pencil drawings and enjoyed his free motion of line. After some conversation, he shook my hand before we parted. Another young woman told me she was teaching art and had just gotten her masters. I asked if she had a website and she handed me a card. I suggested she look for publishing illustrations, such as her fire paintings for the local fire twirlers. She seems excited by the idea.

Some art was typical, some was extraordinary, and all appeared to appreciate the viewing.

After three hours in the hot sun, I was ready to return home to a cold drink in front of a fan. The yard was beaming with critters running amok as my mind tried to saturate all I had seen and heard

Will all this motivate me? There are no excuses.

What did you do today?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

You Can Make It

You can make it
(Repeat) You can make it
If you try
If you try
If you fall out
If you fall out
You will die
You will die
Don't fall out
Don't fall out

This was the chant by 30-40 students jogging around the track at my old high school this morning.
You can make it
At my usual watering stop, I see this group, blowing whistles, banging drum sticks and chanting to keep the pace as the tight packed moved slowly around the gravel path.
If you try
A man in a small brown car pulled over and also enjoyed the show.
If you fall out
As some of the joggers would drop back, a person with a whistle and a baton would drop back and cheer them on to return to the others. The chanting was hypnotic.
You will die
Much like an Orleans funeral march, the whistles kept a beat for the chanters to follow. Hand clapping kept the pace and the upbeat voices, almost laughter, drove the group forward.
Don't fall out
A wonderful cheerful celebration on a warm spring day.
Don't fall out
As I started off again, I smiled at the man in the brown car who had also been watching this specticule. He looked more bewildered than enthralled in the pageantry.

Perhaps he had already fallen out.