407. Not… now… Forever…Granpa Wine

Image result for champagne and shrimp picturesThings run their course for one reason or another. What we enjoy and anticipate doing wears off over time. That’s the human condition. We get bored of the same thing over and over no matter how good it is. Call it sedition. Shrimp and champagne were great yesterday but not so soon again today. Steak and beer? Sure. Ice cream and pretzels. Not again. Not right now. Still, some things are eternal.

[My first draft was about this being my last entry, but as I wrote about my feelings, they changed. Like Otis Redding singing, “Stop this pain in my heart”, the more I said and wrote about quitting, the less I wanted to quit. Too much desire on this side of the keyboard to stop, but enough static to think about it.]

Springsteen is great, but not again right now. Santana too. My ears are sound burned, perhaps because my mind is unspunked. Put the records away for now. Marvin, Clapton, Hendrix, give me a rest, just for now. Hmmm, you know Johnny Cash sounded so good near his death. Eternity sang harmony with his rough hewn voice, sanding away any false sentiments. Potent as formaldehyde with a whiskey chaser.

Smoked a pack a day back in the day. Never again. Nicotine is anxiety’s best bad friend.Image result for loose cigarette picturesThirty five years ago my pregnant wife asked me to smoke outside where it was 5o degrees below zero. I smoked one and concluded that the entire habit was stupid. It was one of my top ten decisions in life, below following God, marrying my wife, and having kids, doing therapy, oh, and quitting teaching.

Image result for green pepper plant picturesGardening was once a tender joy for me, watching a pepper plant stand tall and bear fruit once filled me with wonder. I still like gardening, but not as much. The fertile magic diminished as the work increased. Other good things came knocking on the same door, but the man behind it grew tired.

Golf was a cool thing briefly. Maybe I’ll go back to it when I’m retired for the second time. Oh what a fight, though, just to be average. Like chess, you can learn a lot about a buddy over 18 holes. How men handle failure tells you a lot about their character. Golf rewards the man who has efficiently done the least work.Image result for golf pictures

I had a phase when I liked to play with tiles, finding wholeness in broken things. There is untapped potential in a good dumpster, my friends. Finding mosaic beauty is a noble cause. The whole gives meaning to each disparate piece. My writing is similarly mosaic, lacking meaning in the particulars. If you fuzz your mind, you might find some value in the whole. Then again you might find nothing more than rubbish. I guess it depends on what you went looking for.

Image result for artistic mosaic tiles images

Used to run seriously. Seriously, I was slow but steady for 3, 5 or 7 miles. Felt so good and alive to find that runner’s zone of zen outside myself. A body in space obeying gravity and healthy guidelines. But the joints jabbered in pain and my back joined in the chorus.

Then I drew and did water color cards, little pictures that held a  wordless story I somehow needed to tell. When I stopped that practice, I realized it was my way of unloading daily anxiety onto paper with lines and shapes and colors. Each card was a 90 minute journey away from the lion’s jaws.Image result for watercolor paintings

Hunting tickled something in me I did not know was there till it was gone. Primal, visceral, powerful, and essential. You need a license, though, and some planning. After you pull the trigger, it’s all work. Unlikely to go there again.

Chess has always been a faithful friend, however, always fun. Look out retirement village. I’ll be check mating till my foolscap matures into full blown dementia.

Now it’s ballroom dancing with my bride. Maybe the best of all endeavors I’ve ever sampled. The zen of twoness puts a smile on my face when we mirror one another successfully. Mates, take my worn down soles advice: dance with your woman while you both can still move.

Image result for wine bottle picturesBrewing beer or making wine has that same sort of appeal for me, though I’ve never done either. On the way to work this morning I began to ruminate about making figurative “Grandpa Wine”. I was talking to my beloved granddaughter by phone yesterday, promising to nibble her toes off in my dinosaur voice, which she loves to rebuke in her three year old squeal. “No, Granpa. Don’t eat me!”

“Why not?”

“I made my bed.”

“Oh, I’m so proud of you. Good girl.”

“I made mommy and daddy’s bed too.”

“Whoa! You sure are a good big sister.”

“I uh, I uh, uh I want you to be a dinosaur again and chase me.”

“Aarrrgggh.”

“Weeeeee. No, Granpa. don’t eat me.”


Image result for grandpa with granddaughter pictures

“I can’t, Honey, you are holding mommy’s phone. Just give it to her if you get scared.”

“Okay, be a dinosaur again. EEEEh!!

These little moments are super sugar-saturated grapes that drop from life’s vine

Only to be squeezed into wonderful Granpa wine

Sweet whispered breaths and wisps of hair

Giggles and laughs, smiles and smirks we share

All go into the batch

We jump around and flop

on all these things And  try to catch

every dropImage result for wine stomping pictures

Explosions of joy spring out of her soul

While to keep up I crawl

She sings and poses

Bows in the kitchen to pick up imaginary roses

Heavy and plump these grapes on the vineImage result for grape vine pictures

Only to be squeezed into Granpa wine.

Funnel the juice in magnum bottles to the max

Seal with crisp Corks covered in wax

And store horizontally for a long,long timeImage result for wine cellar pictures

Break out a bottle on Thanksgiving

To toast our fun loving and living

Share old times as your eyes shine

And a familiar warmth runs up your spine

Image result for smiling three year old girl face

So, Leah,

Before my funeral bells chime

Sip and savor this Granpa wine

Note the bouquet of wild berries and stale Cheetos

And just a hint of nibbled off toes.

It must age as the flavors unfold,

But Granpa wine will never grow old.

 

 

 

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398. Sanguine in Sedona

Nothing surprises me anymore. Here I am checking my blog traffic in the lobby of  the hotel in Sedona and “Play that Funky Music Whiteboy” is on the muzak soundtrack. I suppose it all has to do with the cosmic confluence of energies and vortexes that New Age folks in this town blather about. If you want your soul’s aura mapped, hey, no problem. Consider it done. Need your energy balanced?  Boom, level as a bevel. Raki and yoga are also available across a vast spectrum so that you can get your inner chakras aligned with the great Giver Bear’s liver.  Crystals and readings are omnipresent for whatever ails a weary spirit. You can get a quinoa enema with jasmine highlights at bedtime or snort gluten free steel cut oatmeal for breakfast. Okay, I am making some of this up, but it’s like the Grateful Dead’s tour bus blew a tire here and never left. Hipsters, dipsters, whipsters, and post-menopausal slipsters all chug about in their karmic glory.At any moment Vishnu could sit next to you at the organic deli.

“Is anyone sitting here?” says Vish.
“Dude, you should know that one.”
“Sir, I do indeed know all, but I do not vish to be so conceited as you.”
“Okay, sorry. What are you ordering?”
“I love the hot bean curd.”
At the next table…

“So, like, I was in Glastonbury, you know, and it was, like, such energy, you know, and I was buzzing with it in my lower spine. Don’t know what that means, but it was sooo coooool. Better than an iced colonic.  My aura was pulsing. I could feel it moving… you know?”

“Totally. Glastonbury vibes with Stonehenge and other alien sites where crop circles just erupt from the earth mother like pimples on a teenager’s face cuz the earth is going through adolescence. Sedona is so like that, man. All these canyons vibrate with past and future spirits that course through them with the monsoon rains. And it all comes to oneness in the vast random non-uniformity of nature. The Flow is where the power rolls, the current, the frequency, the quirky quarkiness of it all.” Blather, blather said the big guy who needed deodorant a year ago last winter. Arrogantly grandiose, he carried on without taking a breath while his two disciples breathed in every stinky molecule of his wizzdum. I’ve run into folks like this on a few occasions in my life, but they were on their way to psych wards.

The waitress takes their orders. “We’ll share an unsweetened iced colonic with spearmint and lemon in a recyclable paper cup that was not used in experiments on animals.”

“Great choice. We are the world. What’s inside is out, and what’s outside is in.”

Seriously? Even Jerry would hurl at such b.s.

 

I’m thinking we should never have come to this vegan garden of vectors and vicissitudes, but my wife and daughter were salivating over the menu of organic, gluten free, flavor free offerings from the Vedic beyond, imagining all their special dietary needs would be soothingly and enthusiastically  accommodated. So I drove over there in a psychological headlock, feeling like a virgin on prom night in a frat house. Nothing good was going to come of this adventure. My pessimism was not disappointed. (Is that a triple negative? What ever happened to Heidi the goat herding virgin? She got sick in the low valley as I recall.)

I was also thinking that a cheeseburger would be good, but we were immersed in a meat free/ preservative free/ hormone free / neo- Fascist food zone. I feared that the truly unwashed crowd might turn on me if I dared to suggest anything carnivorous. I ordered the Sedona Burrito. It seemed the least offensive thing on the limited menu. Beans, sprouts, quinoa, kale, and various other death defying ingredients. I washed it down  with a vodka/Pepto Bismal shake. Very proactive but to no avail. Nasty is what nasty does. It was nasty, lemme tell ya.

It was the worst meal I’ve ever paid for, even surpassing old Leroy’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken that I had on a local adventure years before. It’s hard to ruin barbequed chicken, but Leroy met that challenge before he died. And until this excursion to vegan land I thought I’d come to the end of Gastronomical Nightmare Lane. But I was wrong. This vegan burrito tasted like a dirty sock taken off a death row prison inmate and then dragged cell by cell through prison soup de jour until it dripped no more. Laid out on an unadorned white plate, even the flies would not land on this thing. In perfect hindsight I should have just eaten the plate.

My wife and daughter choked down salad somethings. I wondered if this was really a training camp for sadistic chefs and masochistic diners. No one could serve this sort of slop daily and stay in business, unless, unless every other customer were stoned out of his/her brain. Hmmmm, then even dirt would be palatable and full of cosmic vibes. It was my fault for coming here sober with taste buds that were not hobbled by psychedelics. If only I’d known and smoked up a bunch of Hawaiian herbs, I could have been in the vortex with the others instead of standing outside the party separated by plate glass. A stranger in the great ape house.

The next day we were all suffering buyers’ remorse. Immodium was coveted by all. I’ll skip the sensory details.

“Wow, I feel so freed up, unbound from intestinal fortitude but chained to the porcelain bowl.”

“We are never eating crap like that again. And don’t even say ‘I told  you so'”.

“How about ‘So, I told you’?”

“Don’t make it worse with your verbal incontinence.”

“Okay. But you know what I’d like right now?”

“Surprise me.”

“That milky chalk solution you have to drink before an MRI. It gags you and you think you’ll explode if you have one more sip, on top of Johnnie’s new dog food…”

“Shut up!”

Thank God it’s so beautiful.

 

249. Dye to Self

Yesterday my wife overdyed her hair, which she can pull off, by the way, cuz she’s a looker, which begs the question, “Was it too much or not?”. It was darker brown than she had hoped for, okay? Not wanting to be mistaken as her father, I decided to strike out on my own hairdressing trail.  Her bottle reminded me that I  had another box of hair dye, REAL BLACK is what the label said. It was the old kind I noticed as I unpacked the base and color bottles and the plastic gloves. I had been using the premixed stuff with the little comb applicator for the past couple of limpid years, but I forged ahead with this old technology. I worked the goopy cream in, following the directions, assuming that it would simply darken my gray from a light ash to medium charcoal. But when I finished my shower, I toweled off and looked in the mirror. It was ELVIS black. No!! Wayne Newton even!! I had not a single gray or white hair to be seen. Too much of a good thing looks creepy. Even Mitt Romney knew this.

I put on a hat when we went out to lunch later and I did some shopping. I was hoping not to see anyone who knew me well. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the new look. Not quite as bad as having a face tattoo or a bone piercing my nose, but a bit off my usual stride. Something had to give soon. I’m just too dark. My wife said I looked 15 years younger. I wish. No, I was sure I looked like the 80 year old letch with shoe polish hair who asks young women to dance through his loose dentures. I did not want to be that age spotted guy with suspenders holding his saggy pants up, revealing white socks above high gloss black shoes. What a nightmare.

After consulting Google for undying hair recipes, I washed my hair again twice with baking soda and shampoo. Nothing. We went to our usual Saturday dance and the world did not end. It was dark. People drank moderately and focused on their dance steps. We survived. The tough group would be the church crowd the next day under fluorescent lights. To complicate matters, we had to turn the clocks back this very night. I was not so much worried about the bad dye job but about having no good verbal responses to those who might comment on my time warp hair color.

In the morning I realized that I had one decent response. I imagined a congenial congregant commenting.

“Did you color your hair?”  To which I would reply…

“Actually I turned the clocks back last night and BAM! It was 1999 again. I got up this morning and BOOM! My  hair was dark again. How about that?”  No one noticed, which was a little disappointing. Perhaps if I go to church naked next week…no. Once you ring a bell, be it in church or the courthouse, you cannot unring it. Just like this dye job, I’d just have to outgrow it.

When I was teaching years ago, I had to be careful whenever I put color in my hair. Seventh graders don’t miss any opportunity to expound on anything out of the ordinary. I was careful to only color my hair over breaks or vacations, and then with semitransparent color. Even with such diligence on my part, I would inevitably be outed.

“Mr. Burrito, did you dye your hair?”

Now a bigger man might have resorted to honesty, but I concocted a thin fable to confound the immature questioners.

“You won’t believe me. It was sort of miraculous what occurred, but never mind…”

“Sure we will. What happened?”

“Well, I was walking down the beach this summer when a storm came up. There was wind and lightning, but I walked on unafraid.”

“You shouldn’t do that. You could be hit by lightning.”

“Exactly. That’s what happened. I was hit directly by what the EMT’s estimated was a 2 million watt bolt of lightning.”

“Really? No, you’re lying.”

“I can’t force you to believe. But when I was recovering in the Emergency Room, I noticed that my hair was a shade darker. I mentioned this to the doctors. They told me that sometimes this happens to victims of severe lightning strikes– it’s a reverse aging process due to the extreme ionization of the carbon particles commonly found in hair.  They assured me this would stop over time and I’d go back to the regular aging curve within six months.”

“So what does that mean?”

“It means that my hair is unnaturally darker than it should be for a man my age. So to answer your original question, Yes, I do color my hair by adding a touch of gray to it. Cuz it’s just creepy looking to have jet black hair when you’re in my demographic.”

“Nooo… Really?”

Like I said, they were not a tough crowd to fool.

So, after the sermon was preached in church, we went to Sunday School class where I was certain Jerry or DJ would bust my shady look. Not a peep. I was ready with the turn back time line and a bad Cher impersonation.

Nope. Completely Unnecessary. And then I had a spiritual comment come to me while I meditated on my personal vanity.

“Did you dye your hair?”

“Actually, I dyed to self, just beginning with my hair. I am beginning a daily devotional and a journal for my hairdressing journey.”

“I’m sorry I asked.”

“Oh, I’m not. I’m grateful that someone noticed and that I was fully prepared to give my testimony.”

“You know the actual verb is ‘die’ in that verse, ‘die to self” don’t you?”

“Yeah, okay. And your point?”

“…and you are making this all about your self, right?”

“Yeah, Uh, but, um, aren’t you being a bit self righteous?”

“Dude, I’m bald. It’s over for me. You need help.”

“Thanks, man.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

245. Jackie Wilson said…

I remember Van Morrison’s song “Jackie Wilson said…” from way back in my life. I think  I  was 17 and bought his very blue tinted “Saint Dominic’s Preview” album. Loved it then and now. The sub title, “I’m in heaven when you smile”, is so simple and sweet. There’s just not that much more to it, folks.  The rest of the song is rhythm and rhyme and energy that makes your whole body move. I love the line, “And when you walk across the room, you make my heart go boom, boom, boom.”  Ahh yeah, it’s basic and vital, written by a young man for young folks. Ebullient. There’s a word for you, blogniks, to boil over with enthusiasm, to bubble. Van had that magic then and the humility to give credit where it was due.

Van scholars claim the song was a tribute to Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite”. “Gotta love you baby, knock me off my feet.” Do you know it?  Go ahead and Google it… “sheee’s aaaaaalright.” Another simple song with interesting vocal tricks and horns thrown in. A great beat with lots of emotional tingle and pop. Simple, uncontroversial stuff. No sex or drugs or politics, just cleverly articulated infatuated young male passion. That’s what Jackie Wilson said. What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, I’m back in Tucson again, visiting a very verbal granddaughter of 20 months. I had to get the calculator out to figure that I am 703 months old now. It’s been a blurry few days with her at the center of the blender. She whirls around in the living room singing  broken bits of “London Bridge is falling down” and “Ring around the Rosey”. So simple and reet petite. And when little Leah walks across the room, she makes my heart go boom, boom, boom. Let it all hang out.  There is no wonder why I’m in heaven when she smiles. Why is it that the wondrous joys of childhood are drained off as we become homogenized adults? And where do those heavy cream days go, my blogworshippers?  Do we make ice cream out of them that is served to God? Do we ever get to eat of that ambrosia again?

As  my wife and I think more concretely about relocating to Arizona, I keep looking at the landscape and lifestyle with flaming match heads of lust in my heart. I want it… the dependable sun, the flat valley, the dinosaur spine ridges on the east and west. This landscape whispers to me like no other. I love the beach, but I also know that I tire of the relentless surf and the ever changing windy weather. I love the mountains and valleys, but they are high maintenance that I am not interested in pursuing.  Here it’s still as a basking lizard and just as wild.  The other day as I biked alongside the Rillito River wash I watched a pair of coyotes wandering about. I called to them and they regarded me very lightly and went back to their foraging. It was 11:00 a.m. No worries. Later a wild dog sprinted out from under a low hanging mesquite tree as the coyotes approached it. No collar or leash on these canines just a few hundred yards from busy neighborhoods. I find that live edge of undomesticated animals living just outside the concrete walls to be thrilling. This environment has not been and will not be tamed. It can’t be. Like cultivating the moon, son. It ain’t happening.

Over the western ridge of Tucson is the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. What a jewel! The drive alone is worthy of filming as you meander across a 3,000 foot mountain gap called Gates Pass. We spent yesterday there under the brilliant October sun, which registered in the high 90’s. Still, it was glorious. Like the state flag that features red and yellow wedges of sunlight powering off a half sun, man, it just permeates you if you let it in. Walking around the various exhibits, I felt as if gravity were stronger somehow. Perhaps it’s the sun over-magnetizing you as you walk from javalinas to coyotes, from rattlesnakes to butterflies and hummingbirds. Maybe it’s that heavy cream re-surfacing from earliest childhood, wordlessly asserting itself, telling your old body to slow down and soak in this expiring moment.

The basic purity, the simplicity is hypnotic. This desert, early rock and roll, my toddler granddaughter. All good and unpolluted. I have seen the end of some lives already in my 58 years. I can see the end of mine, sort of. I know how much of it will turn out. And this awareness makes the moment sweeter, more poignant. Just for the heck of it I stopped and picked a prickle pear from a cactus this morning. Its invisible thorns were like thistles, but I could not see them with my sunglasses on in the bright sunlight. I could feel them in my fingers and thumb as I rubbed the fine hair defenses off the fruit. I tasted it for the simple reason that I wanted to know its flavor. Unspectacular but interesting. Maybe you can make wine out of such things. It was a childish thing to do and I reveled in it. Talking to a coyote is just as fanciful as tweeting with a hummingbird or grunting at a javalina. But it’s a natural reaction to raw beauty staring you eyeball to eyeball unblinking. Don’t miss this moment. Dance it out. Revel in the wonder of it all.

Jackie Wilson collapsed on stage while singing “Lonely Teardrops” in 1975. Trust me on this one. Don’t Wikipedia me behind my back, blogglers. He sang, “My heart is crying…” as his literal heart went into arrest mode. What a way to go. He lingered in a coma for nine more years, dying at age 49.  His time in the sun was long over. Mr. Excitement was dead. Sort of. Technically his wonderful voice lives on in his many recordings and we’ll all have to make do with that… what Jackie Wilson said.