Tuesday, November 28, 2006

High Desert Sonata

“If you could just snap your fingers and make it happen, where would you like to be right now, Trib?” Louie “Panchito” Escovar took another long pull from the rapidly depleting bottle of Ripple Port and smacked his lips, savoring the rot-gut as though it were an exquisite vintage 1985 Chateau Lafitte Rothschild claret; which, of course, he wouldn’t know from a clarinet.

“Oh, hell, Louie, I don’t know…” John ‘Trib’ Banker replied, still staring at the stars, “probably on some tropical beach with my head parked between Sharon Stone’s legs, nuzzlin’ that cute little muff of hers and listenin’ to her beg me to let her ride the pork pony again—for the eighth or ninth time that night. Damn, I’ll bet she’s a maniac when she gets that motor runnin’.”

Reaching to his right, Trib grabbed the bottle from Louie, and drained it in one swallow. Belching loudly, he repositioned his pack under his head and crossed his legs. Their little section of the Sonora Desert southeast of Tucson offered clear skies, a crescent moon and the promise of a chilly night. “How about you? Would you like to be back in your Motherland drinking cactus juice, eatin’ chili and sneaking around the backroom of the local mancebía?”

Without any further hesitation, the small Chicano turned his head toward his much larger tormenter. “Sí, señor,” he began, faking an extreme Mexican accent, “sounds muy gránde… want me to see if I can convince your mama to come home with me for twenty pesos?”

Neither man spoke for a few seconds, staring straight up at the stars, as if time would magically swallow the insult if Trib ignored it. Then, feeling Louie’s eyes burrowing into his right temple, he extended his right index finger toward him, close enough that he could see it, but not so close that Louie might swat it away. Louie began to snicker, under his breath at first, then progressing into a full-bore horselaugh.

Then it was Trib’s turn to join in, filling the night air with the glorious sounds of two homeless men, each enjoying the satisfaction of being blessed with the other’s company.

Rolling on his side, facing away from Louie, Trib Banker pulled his jacket over him as a ward against the cold. “Fuck you, idiot… see if I let you have Sharon’s sloppy seconds.”

“That’s okay, puta…” Louie quipped, “as long as I got your mama, I’ll be okay.”

The men had neither beach nor cantina to warm them tonight, but with the richness of companionship they shared, they wanted for little.

Snot Haikus

Nose nuggets peek out
not yet quite ready to fall
get help from finger.

Not-quite-yellow stream
waits patient midst the pressure
soon to stain his shirt.

Mucus filled with germs
flies through air with swirling grace

and lands on her cheek.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thy X Commandments for Everyday Life

by Geoffrey Chaucer

I. Thou shalt exalt in the presence of thy chosen handmaiden, and having done so, thou shalt not tarry, lest thou should be held bound by thy betrothed, rendering sundry welts upon thy countenance before seeking the counsel of barristers.

II. Thou shalt find pleasure in partaking of the fruit of the grape, and the malt and barley of the fields, and all libations which froth, even when chilled, except to the excess which doth arouse the ire of thy betrothed, lest thou shalt be grandly scorned and subjected to much misery.

III. Thou shalt be wary of the house of thy betrothed, not setting thyself in the presence of her glory during periods of cleaning, nor periods of unchosen words streaming from her lips, nor any periods which would put thee in path of flighted artifacts flung forthwith from her displeasure.

IV. Thou shalt take caution when gaining company of thy friends, thy acquaintances, and thy wagermonger, unless thy betrothed has not knowledge of thy activities.

V. Thou shalt not refer to thy betrothed, bespeaking condemnation of her cuisine, saying that her fare is not worthy of consumption by swine, lest thou shalt gain residence among their number.

VI. In the event that thy betrothed should look appealing to thee after a fortnight of revelry, thou shalt not break wind and force the bedsheets over her head, expecting her to share thy laughter.

VII. Thou shalt not remind thy betrothed that she is gaining voluptuous proportion, unless thy desire for the mysteries of the after-life beckons you, and then only if thou art prepared to suffer mightily before shuffling off this mortal coil.

VIII. Thou shalt, after encountering the wrath of thy spouse, accomplish all manner of penance necessary to maintain thy accustomed life position, at least while in her presence, groveling lowly and humiliatingly, beseeching her forgiveness and good graces.

IX. Should it come to pass that thy illicit nocturnal dalliances become aired before thy spouse, make thee not the mistake of returning home before the sun rises and sets twice; and then only to pick up thy clothing and golf clubs from the front lawn.

X. In the event that ye consider thyself of great courage and choose to ignore Numeral IX and return to thy abode while still possessing the aroma and lipstick smears of thy bawdygirl, cease all other ministrations of apology, calmly bend over and kiss thy ass goodbye.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Festooned Marg-- er... Serial Killers

In lieu of evidence to the contrary readily attainable, I have no other choice but to assume you are reasonably sane or at the very least, only marginally dangerous to yourself and others. Or at least, such is my assumption. So, if you are a serial killer, child molester, or any other form of social miscreant unfit for association with other humans, you are not welcome here. Please leave this site right now and I'll try to forget you were ever here. It would trouble me greatly to think that my little insignificant blog was inspirational to the likes of John Wayne Gacey, Theodore Bundy and/or Jeffery Dahmer.

When I think of those people (and I use the word loosely in deference to their parents and my desire not to insult non-human creatures by calling them animals), I wish we had the power to bring them back to life so that we could execute them again, and again, and again... We could sell tickets and give the money to the families of all those they whacked. I'd pay to see Jeff get the needle. I might even start a 'fan club' of sorts, an assemblage of other geeks and weird-o's who had the ticket stubs to prove that they'd witnessed every execution of Ted Bundy.

Now look what I've done. I'm totally off topic. Originally, I had intended to offer a discussion of my love for words, especially those that don't command common usage, such as festoon and margent, playing with them a little in my feeble attempt to educate.

Damn... I got nothin'. Sorry... my bad.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rock on...

I’m extremely disappointed, if not totally crushed. As I wandered through some of the more remote and cavernous recesses of my mind, in search for something of value (anything, really) to write about, a singular word presented itself again and again.



Chalcedony… Oh, how magnificent a luster it offered, as I envisioned it placed in lavish trial sentences, its beautiful melody gracing each offering. Certainly it must be of noble origin, an evocative predisposition perhaps, or a preeminent condition. Lacking the exact meaning, I felt free to experiment with structure.

The brazen queen, her voice resonating with chalcedony, commanded the messenger to his knees.

Chalcedonic shadows issued flawlessly amidst the grayness of protracted winter.

The warriors, drunk on power and insane with chalcedonous bloodlust, stormed the hill, vowing to take no prisoners.

Yea, one of those choices most certainly had to be the true meaning.

So, not wishing to perpetrate a persiflagate fraud, I decided to consult the dictionary. Immediately, regret streamed into my frontal lobes with the power of Hoover Dam breaking. Dam you, Merriam-Webster!

Turns out that my beautiful expression of power, grace, greed and all fashions of perceived glory is, in actuality, a rock.

A freakin' rock...

I fear there is no room in my head for more rocks, even if they happen to be precious stones of rhombohedral cleavage, tetrahedral crystal, conchoidal fracture and commonly pale blue or gray color with nearly wax-like luster.

I had such great hopes…

You Write...

From time to time, I get an e-mail inquiring why a reader can’t find my name on any volumes at Barnes & Nobles. After a reasonable time spent composing myself after I fall into a fit of convulsive laughter, I try to explain why, indeed, no such volumes exist. The exercise begins with the best of intentions, my explanation centering on this or that anomaly in my style, the politics of celebrity (or the lack thereof), my inability to attract a reputable agent, etc., etc., and at some point, my patience now ebbing at a rate challenging the speed of light and seeking a merciful end, I blurt out, “…and I just ain’t good enough!”

There… I said it. So, if you’re not an agent with a contract to offer me, you can stop e-mailing me with your thoughts on the subject of publication. I appreciate the thoughts, I really do, and I’m grateful that anyone reads my stuff, so, by all means, continue to let me know whether or not you enjoy reading my work. Hell, I’ll even take any criticisms you’re apt to levy; Lord knows I’m willing to take a look. Of course, I can’t make any guarantees that I’ll employ (or even understand) your suggestions, as my reserve of cranial mush is inclined to arbitrarily accept or reject input at its discretion, exclusive of my wishes. Just know that there is no greater joy for a writer than hearing from a reader who appreciates or connects with his/her work.

Okay, enough. Back to Saturday and another race with sobriety to see who reaches sundown first.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nolo Contendere

The Thought Police picked me up today. I knew I was risking the ire of certain Administration officials who weren’t exactly pleased with the outcome of the Midterm elections, but I never dreamed that something so innocent could be punishable.

The bailiff brought me, still cuffed, into the courtroom where I was to be arraigned before the Honorable Judge Whitney Baird, magistrate for the Third District of All That Is Holy. A tall, gaunt, stern-looking man, he emanated condescension as he sat down and called the court into session. I had the feeling that I’d seen him before, but I couldn’t remember exactly where or when.

The prosecutor, a dark, swarthy man of a certain age (who closely resembled Alberto Gonzalez), stood and called criminal after criminal forward for his or her case to be heard. The offenses varied in gravity, from theft of a previously-happily married woman’s heart to the immoral electioneering charge against the campaign manager of the newest Democratic senator from the state of Missouri. I watched as one after another the charges were read, a plea was offered and each was found guilty and sentenced without any further discussion of the matter.

When the court clerk finally called my name, the bailiff jerked me to my feet.

“Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, his face now contorted into a pained expression, “Mr. Church is charged with violation of Article 38-A of the Personal Offenses Code, possession of an illegal smile with intent to distribute, a class B felony carrying a maximum penalty of two years in Purgatory.”

Judge Baird continued to look at the sworn complaint in front of him until, after a few seconds, he looked over the top rim of his bifocals and scowled at me. “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?”

“Guilty, Your Honor!” I offered, in a voice unnecessarily loud and perhaps a bit more joyous than good sense might dictate under the circumstances.

“You disgust me…” he said, anger crawling out from between his clenched teeth with each word, like roaches who realized that the lights just went out, “How do you plead?”

“Guilty again, Your Honor!” I repeated, a smile representative of the exact offense for which I was being charged now plastered from ear to ear like a half-wit ten-year-old who’s just been told, screw the cavities, it’s Christmas and he could have more candy.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t throw the book at you,” he challenged, his face now twisted into a sneer worthy of Jimmy Cagney during his portrayal of the young tough in The Public Enemy.

Suddenly, I remember where I’d seen him! He was the guy I’d seen Tiffany Trim get into the cab with on Fifth Avenue, after she left my apartment. Quickly, I put two and two together.

“Well, Judge, may I approach the bench… alone?” My smile persisted.

A quick motion of his finger and the bailiff released me from his grasp. “I think a man of your great compassion might be inclined to reconsider a penalty if a certain defendant knew where his wife really spends each Tuesday evening from five to nine p.m. and was willing to inform the whole court of her, um, love of French culture.”

I swear the man’s face turned seven different shades of crimson before all color disappeared. “Step back…and not another word, do you understand?” he growled, his eyes suddenly looking very sad and a bit teary.

Standing up, he declared, “Mr. Prosecutor, this is not an illegal smile! Have you never before seen a shit-eating grin? You are free to go, sir, with the apologies of this court.” The gavel slam was of sufficient ferocity to cause several spectators to jump. “Case dismissed!”

Never again will I question Karma’s ability to protect the clueless or punish the haughty… another reason why this smile will last until next election when the job is finished.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Festivus, Quimbus and Other Latin Nonsense

Since today is the 384th anniversary of our holiday called Thanksgiving (although we didn’t celebrate it on the third Thursday of November every year until F.D.R. made it official), it made me think about holidays in general. In contemporary America, it would appear that all our holidays are becoming mere opportunities to market our bounty of crap more often than they’re observed in the manner originally intended.

Of course, this made me think of alternatives. The first concept that sprung to mind was Festivus, that wonderful holiday observed only by George Costanza’s family, with a few notable guests including Cosmo Kramer. Seinfeld blazed new ground in its satire of Christmas, due in part, I think, to the Jewish heritage of Seinfeld himself and most of the writers, including the genius of Larry David. Who can forget the aluminum pole erected in the living room to replace the Christmas tree on December 23rd, and the wonderful Festivus traditions of ‘The Airing of Grievances’, the opportunity for all to vent their hostilities, and after dinner, ‘The Feats of Strength’ are observed. Festivus is over when the head of household is wrestled to the floor and pinned. Then, at the very end, the celebratory rendition of the traditional slogan, “A Festivus for the rest of us!”

Someone please get me a hankie, I think I’m tearing up.

My father hated all holidays because of their commercial aspects. He invented a holiday called “Quimbus”, that we celebrated on the third Sunday of July. He hung a dead Christmas tree (left over from the previous December) upside down from the rafters of our garage, and required each of us to pay him for the privilege of witnessing it. He invited all our relatives and friends and the adults spent the day drinking heavily and bitching about rich people, taxes and the government in general. It was called “Quimbus” because once, at a Yuletide gathering, he tried to actually say “Christmas” and “Quimbus” emerged. Mom never let him forget it, God rest her soul.

Happy Day, Turkeys! Relax and enjoy your day, hopefully with family and/or friends. You could do worse… trust me.


One of my writer friends (who shall remain nameless lest I incur her wrath for insulting her native state with impunity) lives at the merging of three major rivers, all of which have received Native American names, specifically, the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio. Now, I’m neither geographer nor historian, but I think the early settlers of the area missed a hell of a chance when they didn’t re-channel the flow of the Susquehanna and Lackawanna Rivers as well, forming a five-river confluence instead of the much more pedestrian three.

Had they the foresight and perspicacity to do so, instead of the perfectly adequate but decidedly Anglo ‘Pittsburgh’, they might have created Allacksusmohio, a tribute to both the land and the progenitors thereof. Now, I’m sure Fort Pitt was a fine military installation deserving of recognition for its accomplishments in the realm of defending the countryside against foreign invaders, but does that deem it worthy of having a great city named for it? Had others followed the same protocol, Lawton, Oklahoma may have become Silltown, Oceanside, California might be Pendletonville, and El Paso, Texas could be Blisstown. All wonderful places, I’m sure, I mean no disrespect, but you have to admit the names hold less by way of excitement.

Allacksusmohio… now there’s a name with some panache! Can you imagine some of the conversations? “Hi, Mom… guess what? Alex has been transferred to Allack—Allacksus—Allsusmo—that big city in western Pennsylvania where all the rivers come together!” or “Hey, Chad, are you going to go to the game this weekend down at Five Rivers Stadium? Denver is playing Alla—Allack—Allaquamista—oh, hell, the Steelers.”

The Allacksusmohio Steelers… the Allacksusmohio Pirates… the Allacksusmohio Penguins… just sorta roll right off your lips, don’t they?

Well, I’ll end this now… I need to write a letter to the Governor, asking him to sponsor a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature re-naming Pittsburgh, Allacksusmohio. Of course, then there’ll be the task of getting the money together to re-direct the river flow to legitimize the name change.
If you’d like to see some beautiful photos of the area, visit my friend’s blog. She’s a great poet and an even better photographer, even is she does live in a city with a name that’s not all it could be. I like her work so much I linked her to my blog, an act that she feared may be considered 'dirty', and I'm loathe to dispel her fears lest she think me unworthy of my reputation as the dirtiest old man in Randolph County.

I give you: http://jojanoski.wordpress.com/

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Maundy Sunday

I spent some time last night (after some serious ‘attitude readjustment’ time with Mrs. Walker’s best little boy, Black Johnny) rummaging through my Hall of Skulls room in the basement. As I ran my fingers over the placards identifying each and every one, it occurred to me that there’s little satisfaction in being king if there’s no one around to lord it over.

No matter… I no longer have time to spend with friends anyway. My blockbuster manuscript has been accepted for publication, pending final edits from my publisher. He feels there are too many clichés present in the text. At first, I thought he didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground and I refused to make the changes, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that two wrongs don’t make a right and there’s no point in crying over spilt milk, so I decided to be one of those guys who gets along by going along…all’s well that ends well. He assures me that all my blood, sweat and tears will be rewarded when my book is welcomed as a challenging and important work by cryptographers around the world. Can you feel my chest swelling?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Once Upon A Saturday Morning...

Good morning, kiddies, I trust that you all slept well and awoke to the dawning of our new era of hope predicated by the recent midterm elections. Moreover, a quick look at the headlines offered by my browser’s affiliations with Reuters, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and various other news-gathering agencies would support that hypothesis (Fox notwithstanding, of course), on a general basis. Oh, there are still the national and local murders and scandals to address, after all, we are human… but, by and large the tone of the news seems suddenly more conciliatory and, dare I say it, hopeful.

It’s as though world karma were suddenly, magically, appeased. The morning orange juice tastes a bit fresher, the next-door neighbor now waits until 7:30 a.m. before starting his 700-horsepower diesel-powered chain saw, and you’ve even decided to try the green tea your wife has been urging you to drink for the last six years but you’ve steadfastly resisted due to your disillusionment with national politics and its inherent, all-consuming general torpor.

Yes, it’s true that the war in Iraq rages on, and that the current administration has asked Congress for another $175 billion to fund it while our seniors see their Medicare benefits diminish and our kids score lower and lower on their SAT math tests because we can’t seem to find a way to fund their schools properly, but our perceptions, as a nation, have changed. Our national psyche has been awakened and we now realize that it is not enough to wave Old Glory and stand on a battleship and proclaim victory two years before a war is even close to being over. If the midterm elections proved nothing else, they showed that the American people, even if slow to act and apathetic to politics, cannot and will not allow scoundrels to prevail forever.

In the Seventies, an old hippie buddy of mine used to tell me that times of dope and no money were better than times of money and no dope. Then, he’d grin and giggle, pleased by his ability to produce profundity in the face of dementia. It was no longer a value judgment question of whether he should or shouldn’t be indulging in his romance with cannabis, it became a position statement regarding quality of life and his response to everyday stimuli based on his analysis of the world. Are we so different? Aren’t we all grinning and giggling in the face of a national dementia?

Just a thought...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

No Story Today

I’d like to write something… I want to write something. Trouble is, I don’t trust myself to start a story because it would risk exposing the bitterness and resentment I feel towards a world that no longer holds any value in the most basic of principles held as paradigms of all civilized nations. The concepts of tolerance and acceptance in an atmosphere of non-belief, once hallmarks of our society’s quest for justice for all, gain no more than hollow recognition saved for pulpit benedictions and political stump speeches. Those who don’t accept our political and social views are now enemies when once they might have been candidates for change.

You’re either with us or against us, and if you aren’t with us, get the hell out has become our standard for both domestic and international diplomacy. The thin vernix of détente long covering our relations with the world has been pierced and a new child has emerged; a large, mewling creature with a disproportionately large mouth, healthy lungs and a nasty attitude towards anything it can’t immediately identify as a clone of itself.

How did we get here? I can remember only one event that qualifies as significant enough to change an entire nation’s outlook on the world and us: The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It represents the single most momentous event since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. On that day, our society exercised fundamental shifts in all aspects of our lives, be they political, religious, fiscal or social.

In our shock and horror, we watched as our nation tried to formulate a response. On September 30, 2001, I wrote an article called “Nineteen Days”, that contained the following passages:

Rage… frustration… grief…all emotions born of atrocity. Our ability to react within the acceptable parameters of statesmanship will determine our ultimate success as we try to unite the world against the true enemy, terrorism. If we allow ourselves to give in to our desire for retribution and vengeance, are we really any different than those who attacked us?

The definition of ‘appropriate response’ will define us as a nation. We will be judged by the powerful and the weak alike, and millions will formulate their perception of us based entirely on our ability to disseminate justice founded in humanity. Last night on CNN, I watched as the truest weapon of civilization of was unloaded in Afghanistan—thousands of bags of wheat with USA emblazoned in red, white and blue. Maybe it’s not enough, or maybe it’s merely a token or a ploy. Lord knows the cynic in me thought of that possibility. But, for the first time in nineteen days, I’m able to accept the hope of a peaceful solution. Isn’t that what, in our collective heart of hearts, we all truly desire?

Of course we must show the world that such hideous crimes will not be tolerated, and of course we must demonstrate our determination to hunt down and eliminate the criminals responsible. But don’t we also have the responsibility to show the world that we are capable of measured response? Literally, the future of the world may hinge on our next move. When the international community views an action, they will see the same televised accounts we see, and they’ll judge us, because perception is often more important than reality. If we skew the world’s perception of righteous indignation, our support could quickly erode into a scenario based on the World War II historical bunker mentality that pits Europe and America against the entire Third World. If that happens, God help us all.

It gives me no pleasure to say it, but I was right. We failed to bring the responsible parties to justice so we substituted a military response in a nation that shared only peripheral accountability, if any at all. Now, over five years later, we are the society that has changed, not ‘them’. By indicting an entire culture, we succeeded only in polarizing our allies and ourselves from the rest of the world. In 2001, we had no national debt and it is now over $3 trillion. Our GNP is weakened, we’ve become a debtor nation, and we’re mired in a no-win war in Iraq-- a war that no longer has the support of the American people, a war for which our leaders have no identifiable exit strategy. Our ‘all-or-nothing, win-at-all-costs’ posturing has forced our politicians into obstinate, pig-headed positions that have resulted in victories by the majority party with no cooperation among our representatives. The enmity and resentment currently present in the halls of Congress is palatable as well as reprehensible and sad.

We are a nation divided in all aspects of our existence and I see no solutions on the horizon. Maybe that’s why there’ll be no story today.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Affair

I’ll blow a bubble the best I can and perhaps more than one, who knows... The bus stinks and I’m trying to avoid making eye contact with the old lady sitting across from me. It's hard to do because she has those eyes that don’t focus on the same point. One eye is staring intently at the empty seat next to me and the other is vaguely pointed at me. Her legs are spread in the casual manner 'Hey, it’s comfortable and I’m old, so if you feel you have to look up my dress go ahead, I won’t make a scene or try to stop you. Maybe she’s staring at me because she knows I can’t stop myself from looking at her or perhaps she's receiving some vicarious ego stroke in the knowledge that, for whatever reason, someone is still willing to look at her legs. Just above her knees, I can see the clasps of her ancient garter belts holding up her nylons and when her legs open slightly, suddenly I want someone to gouge my eyes out with an icepick. She could be the lady lying on the ground next to a car wreck before the ambulance comes, dying and there’s nothing you can do for her, and she looks up with eyes askew and grins... and still you can’t avoid looking at her. So I’ll look away, blow a bubble the best I can and try to avoid the impulse to cover her with a blanket.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Enough is enough...

I’ve decided to stop watching television. Last evening, while stretched out on the couch with my feet resting on the ottoman, it occurred to me that even though the volume was adequate for me to hear the dialogue clearly, I felt like a dog watching a magician perform a card trick— I was mesmerized by the movements, but I had no idea what the words meant. I just kept hoping that someone would throw me a biscuit or whistle for me and open the back door so I can walk outside and take a leak.

Be they dramas or situation comedies, the ‘stories’ are a series of six-minute segments, each a story within a story that stops immediately before the climax, designed to tweak the audience’s admittedly declining attention span long enough to keep their fingers off the remote buttons. The message is clear: ‘Don’t change that channel or you’ll miss Misty’s confession to Chad that she’s having Brett’s baby’. I’m convinced that the Nielson people now monitor not only the shows that are most often being watched, but also the commercials. Since producers can’t serve two masters, the advertisers win, the viewing public loses and the story becomes mere filler to support the plentiful two-minute commercials.

Even sporting events are affected, with ‘tv-timeouts’ and other orchestrated game stoppages designed to allow Budweiser to sell us some more beer. God forbid that a player gets hurt bad enough to require a cart to haul him off the field, because there’d be time for an entire infomercial endorsing the benefits of colonic irrigation or no-money-down real estate investment. By the time the game resumes, I’ve either now forgotten or no longer care what teams are playing, much less the outcome.

So, you lost me, Madison Avenue. I know you don’t care because there are millions to replace me, but they’re not stupid either, they just have a higher pain threshold. Eventually, they’ll quit you, too, and then you’ll have to find another way to gouge us.