Posts Tagged ‘family / friends / personal’

After a harrowing walk among the fair weather hordes Friday near midday, I stayed in Saturday, and left the apartment by 6 am on Sunday, the time rabbits still nibble on grasses with little wariness and squirrels just begin to scamper.

A warm day already, so it was clear people would be abroad in force, but from 6 to 7, sheer heaven for the solitary walker. Very few people to pass, and very few cars to interfere with walking in the middle of the road anyway. I walked the back and side streets, then up one of the usually busier but now deserted shop streets all with the same bliss.


Morning light.

The air was warming and the birds were quietly going about their business, apart from a couple of Ring-billed Gulls that stood on the edge of usually crowded street lustily disputing a roll of bread. Chimney Swifts silently soared way above, but wait, those must be their chitters I hear, littering the air. A couple of Mourning Doves shot by, a Starling browsing an alley, House Sparrows up to their usual noise and springtime strutting, Pigeons aflutter, ubiquitous Robins seeking their breakfasts on the bits of grass and mud.

Unknown warblers sang above, requiring much patience and binoculars, the latter of which I certainly did not have. But the feeling of spring pervaded thanks to this and all the green and warmth and anticipation in the early morning air. Undercurrent to it, I kept thinking of Rebels & Redcoats, an old historical board game I used to play.


Maybe it was on warm spring like this, I used to go a suburb or two away, to Prosek’s greenhouse and game shop, once I was an older kid and could drive and the shops at the mall Kroch’s and Brentano’s and Hobbytown (or whatever it was called) dried up for board wargames. My mind’s turn to it made me wonder if it was a hint, that that time was the summit of my experience, quietly and excitedly browsing through all of the shrinkwrapped games with their historical enticements and images of maps and tiny square cardboard pieces representing the violent valor of ages past. Despite the mundaneness and evil of war, had there really ever been anything better than the imagination stirred by this intent browsing? I think of a René Magritte painting, Homesickness, when I think of the pride and futility of so much of what humans get up to, and how our better natures turn our backs on such things, but there was still that pull from Rebels & Redcoats and that shop in those early days of my life and that hobby.

I live now in a neighborhood with its own lovely garden center, complete with greenhouse for that luxurious smell of peat and loam or whatever it is, and an appended shop, in this case more a fancy gift shop than wargame and miniatures shop with a war vet guy sitting at the counter wearing a plaid shirt and breathing through tubes attached to an oxygen machine. I remember him telling me he’d game in the evenings, miniature soldiers laid out on lush green tables full of terrain, re-enacting Borodino, Gettysburg, The Bulgethe three battles he said any wargamer worth their salt had simulated.

As I walked down my street home, I found myself singing the chorus of De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson’s “Thank Your Father,” a female Cardinal perused a space of sidewalk, and quite surprising, a pair of Blue Jays with their whistling noise dashed high overhead. I can’t remember seeing Blue Jays around here.


Corot sky and trees, with that lovely sfumato.

When I got to my side street, where my car resides, another toss of a peanut, and a Crow welcoming and taking. Later that day, peering into the garden next door now and then, and the next morning walking out again, Common Yellowthroat, Hermit Thrush, Chickadee singing loudly, House Wren tittering it up and finally being spied when it flew across the street to another shrub. So many, the various summits of our experience.



Read Full Post »

Well, it happened, and it had been such a long time since it had happened.

A couple of weeks ago, our current malaise brought me out into Google street views to walk around old neighborhoods I’d lived in and visitedincluding Australia, where I once took a fateful trip. Although there was a lot of nostalgia in the air during all of those virtual street visits, the feeling didn’t come to me with full force at that time.

The other day, though, I put on Temple of Low Men by Crowded House, and lay down to stretch, or was I standing to play air guitar? “I could feel you underneath my skin / as the wind rushed in, / sent the kitchen table crashing / she said nobody move.”


But it happened. “I Feel Possessed” came on, its pulsing, quavering opening. And by the time I got to the third song, “Into Temptation,” the feeling had settled in and stayed with me for the whole album. Images from my trip to Oz, with my special welcoming committee of one “crazy Aussie/Indo rep” waiting the other side of the customs gauntlet. I’ve never felt that way before or since; no poems written since the aftermath of that era played itself out.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It might have been, “You opened up your door / I couldn’t believe my luck / you in your new blue dress / taking away my breath” that really drove it home, zapped me from above and within. “Into your wide open arms  / no way to break this spell.” The warmth I felt then from her, and the warmth I gave her.


Lying back listening, standing up singing along, my mind drifting during the lesser songs that make the excellence of the album even greater sometimes. As it played, there were a bunch of thoughts and feelings, but what predominates is loveit was a pure feeling of love for this person and that time, all happening to me at that moment, and that’s not a bad thing. “Not asking for anything / I just want to be there when it happens again.”


“As I turn to go / you looked at me for half a second.”

More photos here.

Read Full Post »

These days, the mind has time to range every which way in time, and my thoughts recently turned to those who influenced my taste in music. Here are the major ones, all well before I graduated from college.

First must be my dad, who used to strum his acoustic guitar and sing for us from his Sing Out! magazines of folk music. “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “Reuben James,” “The Wabash Cannonball,” “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream,” and all of that great stuff. He also spun a lot of Beatles records and turned us on to classical music.

sing out reprints

My elementary school music teacher, Mrs. H, with her wide eyes, also stirred classical imaginings in us. Portraits of the great composers graced the wall she stood in front of while she taught us to play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder and xylophone, or guided us on the most atmospheric of experiences, the “Danse Macabre” of Saint-Saëns, which we played out every Halloween.

There were her Christmas/Holiday Programs, where each class took their turn on the risers performing a holiday classic, or something new. We sang “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” complete with top hats and white gloves. And in 5th grade, we sang an original composition that started with, “The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay…”. There were feature songs where my clarinet-ing was even allowed; they conjured up images of winter and Hanukkah. After each class performed their song, they filed over to the holiday tree and placed ornaments we’d made in Mrs. S’s art class. Oh the glitter and the glue!

We had songs in our textbooks too, going back to first and second grades, “I’m gonna put put put on my walking shoes / I’m gonna but but button up my coat / I’m gonna walk right across the land there’s lots of things to see / And if you want to you can walk with me / Walk with me, walk with me, walk with………me!”

Classical also benefitted from the Hooked on Classics record series. I had no idea this guy was the conductor and arranger for ELO’s orchestral elements! Melodies still pop into my head and segue into the melodies they segued into on those records, often having no idea what the pieces are. They’re just stamped on my brain.

My mom had her share of influence too, driving us as the did on various errands throughout the day. It was 70s and early 80s radioCarly Simon, Kool & The Gang, Ambrosia, &c.that was soundtrack to trips to soccer and tennis lessons, Jewel-Osco, Nichols Library, the Y. Imagine something like this.

We’d stay at my grandparents’ in Ohio, and eventually one got to spinning the records stored indoors or in my grandpa’s workshop attached to the garage. My grandpa might have suggested Louis Armstrong, and he had a few brittle Big Band 78s I still possess, but it was more the records left behind by my aunt and unclesChad & Jeremy, Marianne Faithfull, Paul Mauriat, The Kingston Trio that scintillated my ears.


Beautiful cover from the U.S. release of her first album (from discogs.com)

There was also a great double album Glenn Miller memorial collection, opening the way for Big Band music galore a little down the road.

Somehow or another I got to buying 45s and LP records too, gleaned from radio listening. I remember mowing the lawn with my Walkman headphones on my ears, listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown. Early MTV had its place too. 104.3 and its oldies; 94.3 and its even olders. The cassettes I recorded direct from radio with songs like “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs and “Cinnamon” by Derek!

Just as important, my friends BB and DH, who got me into rap in a big way. That first tentative buy of Raising Hell by Run-DMC, the sophomoric sonic boom of License To Ill, scouring record shops for discs by spray-paint-scrawl Techno Hop records and the endless appreciation for record scratching, including trying to imitate it. Cool creations by Mantronix. Public Enemy. Some conventionality arose as well, as someone kept playing Milli Vanilli and such things.


One of a few great Techno Hop records (from discogs.com)

Later, as high school ended, a new awakening. Alternative music groups too many to even begin naming. Two seminal, immortal “miscellany” tapes from MD, different schools of thought embodied by EJ, RJ, GU, and the rest. My sister’s equally immortal mix tapes, she and her best friend lending me tapes, copying music for me.


A smattering of tapes from the time

What heady Curefriend days those were! This carried forward into college, accentuated by school breaks and dozens of letters and little packages sent back and forth. And I can’t forget the colorful reference books I inhaled, on British beat groups of the 60s, on alternative rock. I’d just roll the names of the groups and songs over in my head time and again, and sometime was even able to listen to the actual music. A trek to Woodfield Mall to buy (and hear) my first Jam album was one such incident.

What a wonderful time. No wonder my heart and mind still return to it, and all of those that went before.

Oh, and have you voted in the Signac puzzle piece poll yet?

Read Full Post »

Delight in blindness.— “My thoughts,” said the wanderer to his shadow, “should show me where I stand; but they should not betray to me where I am going. I love my ignorance of the future and do not wish to perish of impatience and of tasting promised things ahead of time.” (Niet.)

It has been an unusual year or two, and as 2018 turned to 2019, when faced with a choice, I have decided to pare away, to strip down what I was doing to what I, in fact, wanted to do. My conservation work, although tedious in role at times, has been fulfilling and some camaraderie has arisen. Most else has been pretty much nil, but being close to my family and haunts is always satisfying. I rejuvenated a former working passion of mine and it might lead finally to a bit of recompense. If I were not so stubborn, I might have fled this place and find it happier by now, but I am always looking around here, trying to extract blood from a stone, whether it be a bird in a forest I’ve known my whole life, or finding a way of life here.

There is a tremendous beauty in this falling to nothingness, ignored by the hiring world, not pursuing unrequited friendships, rejuvenating my tasks and goals. Past great loves of mine have finally been let go, and the boxes storing those memories have dwindled to one. I sometimes feel a pang of regret in part of me. I wish what is now behind well. I cannot look back for long, for any longer.

And the past came to me these past couple of years in force. A college reunion in 2018 led to long conversations with people I’d respected then, but didn’t know well at all. On the other hand, a close friend or two from that time is no longer close. A couple of the very few cards I sent out this December to people from that time have gone unanswered.

And in 2019, high school took its turn, an even more obscure reunion for me, who had barely scratched my brain to think of that time in a decade or two. The nooks of the school were familiar again as we toured, and I found I had a single happy flash of recollection about almost everyone I met. It is benign, almost happy to meet people again who you barely knew then. The couple of formerly close friends I spent time with were fun to see as well. The others were small things: “I remember her, overhearing her commenting that she loved saxophone music as the girl behind me kept staring at and seemingly trying to steal my eyelashes.” “This woman wrote a different binomial equation in every yearbook she signed.” “This person lived so close to me, but being a block out of the range of where I ran around with my friends, I never got to know her.” Such happenstance smoothed over with age.

Someone I thought I might wish to meet again was at a concert. I had not imagined this context, and she with her husband, and it was pure revulsion after a moment of initial stun. In another context, maybe not revulsion, but it’s done and now revulsion is the default and so it will remain. I wash my hands of that wish.

I found someone recently who I had searched for off and on for years, ever since she’d said goodbye at the end of a school year way back then. No reply; could she forget me?. Or was it an odd juxtaposition for her, not worth it? I can let these things go now; I have tried, and the past is not much for our present⁠—it truly does end.

The world is indifferent, I know this, but experiencing it with such force in the world of standard human endeavor of these days⁠—finding work, finding love⁠—this indifference I had not quite experienced in the same way, with the same endurance, although I have found I can endure it pretty well. I refuse to refuse myself, to contort myself, to comport myself. And I am the better for it. After nothing most likely will come something.

And again, there is the delight in nothing, lost but still possibly on the verge of being found, but not relying on it, not trying to pave deliberate some way for it. Tonight, the delight of the epiphany is here with us now; my world has fallen to nothing; I am saved from strife. “Then the tempo of life slows down and becomes thick like honeyeven to the point of long fermata, of the faith in long fermata.” (Niet.) The earlier holidays’ powdered-sugared Pandoro is now parti-colored Rosca de Reyes.

I imagine most would say I have held the fermata too long, and yes I think of my former band teachers. Say it has been too long a pause in my indecision, confusion, stubborn refusal, seeking self again. I can let this long, sweet pause go like I have much else. Now it is time for achievement, compromise to scrape together a living and maybe loving. I look at the pair of Stiphodon gobies that have the 29-gallon fish tank beside me all to themselves and think of my being alone, and of the old line of mine in my head: “I await one ere I seal my tomb.” It holds true, and though it was written with a wife in mind, it can also apply to paying work. But even now, these do not compare to the satisfaction in this nothing, knowing myself as I stand. Now it is time, with minimal compromise, and as the celebrated musical advised, to Follow Thru and fulfill what I am.


Nancy Carroll in Follow Thru ©1930, Paramount Pictures

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts