261. New Year Yanging

The morning ice is melting, kids are off school and sauntering about town as Outside becomes more bearable than the Inside of their breathless grimy abodes. It feels like Russia, and I like an overly dramatic Dostoevsky in my wretched office hovel.  Tom Waits is wistfully singing a dreadful song about a murdered woman on Pandora. Crime and Punishment comes to mind. And I’m here (Raskolnikov) looking for inspiration or redemption or both. A bad version of Elvis comes on next.  “I can’t help falling in love with you”, live with an orchestra and 27 backup singers.  Sad work, Elvis. Someone sold you Vegas and stole your Memphis mojo. Tragic. I keep trolling for the right feel…Over the Rhine, yes, an old melancholy sound like treated paint being spatulaed off gorgeous ancient wood. A woman’s velvet skirt voice swooshes low near the floor. That’s it. Deep swirling grain embedded with lacquer and pale green lead paint from the 50’s is revealed. Yeah, now it’s  right. The wood beneath must be superb to bother with the stripping away, but it’s an itch that must be scratched with a wire brush on this dismal and forgettable day. Penndot trucks memorialize the moment with burial mounds of dirty snow and ice. Modern yellow overtakers. I feel like spray painting palm trees against the snow banks just for the irony of it. It’s good that I don’t drink liquor. I can imagine guzzling a two finger tumbler of scotch right now. But I need to clear my own snow covered neural pathways.

But I don’t so I won’t, drink that is. Instead I need to find a warm dry nest to settle into as winter consolidates its gains. Pull the extremities in closer to conserve body heat– finger to finger, hand to armpit, foot to thigh like some energy efficient yoga master. Snuggle with other mammals too. Maybe a bear. Layers of fat help. Then again dancing with my wife in our living room raises the temperature and blood pressure to alarming levels. But that’s too up tempo and hopefully yinny. I am in a yanging mood here. Let me explain.

“Yang 陽 or 阳 Bound morpheme ① [Chinese philosophy] positive/active/male principle in nature ②the sun ③ male genitals ④ in relief ⑤ open; overt ⑥ belonging to this world ⑦ [linguistics] masculine ⑧ south side of a hill ⑨ north bank of a river”  Wikipedia, the foremost authority on everything.

I hope that clears it up. To yang is to be bright (unyinny) but male and overtly worldly while acting like a north bound relief penis in a river below a south facing hillside. Picture that, a cargoless but macho canoe adrift on a sun speckled river.  “Don’t use the binoculars, Claire! Just take my word for it.” Wait a minute, I hear Vin Scully’s voice, “It’s the bottom of the ninth, with the tying run on first and the winner at the plate. Time to go to the bullpen for that new Korean reliever, Lee Yang.”

It’s a complex palette of emotions and sensations that can only be explained by clever use of metaphors and symbols. Straight forward language fails to capture the yangness of the word and its world. It’s the difference between beef and Angus beef for the unenlightened.

Sometimes it’s considered vulgar or crude to yang about.

In the Orient, I have this from good sources, NO YANGING signs are not uncommon in Bejing and Hong Kong. In Laundromats in Saigon, I am told, “No Loitering, Littering or Yanging” signs are everywhere. The exception in Asia is, of course, North Korea, where yanging is punishable by death. Public yanging often results in whole families being executed and their ancestors being exhumed, shot, and neatly reburied. It is never allowed to yang in Pyongyang. They will not hesitate to pyong you if you are so bold to pyang in front of one of their militarized pyungs.

“Read the charges, comrade bailiff Sung.”

“American spy was pyanging forbiddenly in public near our most revered militarized pying. Law say he must be pyonged right away, honorable Comrade Judge.”

“Let it be written. Let it be pyonged.” The bailiff paddles American spy with ping pong paddle until he cry.

They have a saying in North Korea that is punishable by hanging if uttered aloud… “better to be pyonged off than pyanged on”.  Shhhhhh. Their soldiers wear hats that are made from repurposed Chrysler Imperial hubcaps. Huge saucers held in place by subcutaneous magnets. Look at how the magnetic field actually pulls this soldier’s lips into a scowl. He’s never yanged in public in his short miserable life. Not allowed. He chomps at his inner lips as if they are Imperialist Yangers.

 Here is where literary skill comes in, my two faithful blog readers. I’ve written myself into an exitless corner. I’ve typed myself into Oblivion’s oblivion. My spell checker is cursing at me with the pulsing cursor. And I bravely peck on, undaunted, bloviating about nothing.
 What to do, what to do? I must pull this together in the next 100 words, yang it all! I need a reason to finish so that you don’t feel deceived and get all yanged off.
So here’s what we’re gonna do. You are going to walk out backwards, my friend, close the laptop and forget we ever came here. Got it?
Cause I know what you’re thinking: Did he fire six yangs or only five?  Well, to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a twisted up blog entry that could blow your head clean off, you gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, Pyunk?




198. ‘SNowhere to go

It’s snowing joylessly again in central Pa. The little snowflakes are not dancing; they are sad  and lame and guilt ridden. They don’t want to be here either. You can see it on their little faces.  Yeah, like us they are held hostage by polar forces too strong to argue with. Slippery roads and a house fire or two. Shoveling and salting driveways. Cold, wet feet below, high utility bills above.  Let’s get right to it– this sucks. I’ve never been to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or Maine or Minnesota or Montana, but I get the sense that this vaguely grey, slushy, sunless snowscape is what they endure every winter without whining. Also, these states all start with “M”, which is the only non vowel a frozen mouth can make. (Take a minute and try this mouth experiment at home. I’ll wait.) I mean, I’m watching the Winter Olympics in Russia, RUSSIA!!!, with weather envy. I know, be strong like Lance Armstrong, but I’m not that strong. I’m whining without access to the illegal dope he took. God, forgive me, I’m sick of this snowy stuff and I’m turning to my blog nationals for help.

Friends of ours are traveling to Arizona and dutifully sending back pics on Facebook. I feel like a starving man standing outside a gourmet restaurant when I look at their snaps of New Mexico and Arizona. “Feed me! Give me some sunshine and warmth!! Take my down trodden and hopeless down jacket and make a soft downy pillow with it.” Nation, we need a Statue of Liberty in the Southwest that beckons old farts like me. Just set her up around San Antonio; super size her so people in Dallas can see her at night. Write the original sonnet on Miss Liberty’s shins big and bold.

New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,     With conquering limbs astride from land to land;   [No]

Here at our sea-washed shore, sunset gates shall stand     A mighty woman with a torch,  [Yea, Baby, Burn!!]

whose flame     Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name     Mother of Exiles.  [on Main Street]

From her beacon-hand     Glows world-wide welcome;       [like a Motel 6 sign that’s always on]

her mild eyes command     The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.     [Brooklyn counts, folks]

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she     With silent lips.          [how does that work? ventriloquism]

[here’s the money line]

“Give me your tired, your poor,     Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,   [your asthmatics in the attics]

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.                                                                       [i.e. shrimp shells and plastic bags]

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,                                                              [or a tossed salad with house dressing]

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  Emma Lazarus  [Go girl]                                 [would you like a window seat?]

Sounds very liberal and big government to me, but that was a long time ago, doncha’ know? We have tightened immigration reforms in the meantime. Oh no, I mean we were gonna do that, but six or eight administrations later we haven’t.

Well, that welcome poem was pretty dramatic. Not so sure we still embrace that attitude these days. However, I am not here today to speak to immigration but to simple migration. The birds do it annually and no one calls them weak willed weanies or jilted Jennies. It just makes sense to me to go where the warmth is. Birds do it; bees do it; even upscale fleas do it. In my case that warm world would be Tucson, Arizona. It’s where Jo Jo lived before he bought some California grass, and got back, got back, got back to where he once belonged with Lance Armstrong. Days are long and sunny, dry and livable there. Yes, I know the  summer sun will sauté my brains by 10 a.m., but I’m willing to trade my heavy down comforter for a piece of cool shade.

I’ll put on some Doug Sahm records and dance western swing with my ageless bride… in four years on a smoothly worn tile floor. Outside our humble adobe abode will be cacti and stone and metal arranged whimsically but artistically in our tidy yard.  Lizards will scamper about and birds I don’t know will perch on tenacious tree limbs. The tenacious aspericus is any dang tree that can grow in a desert. Like most desert plants they have spikes or razor wire adaptations to keep desperate animals from eating them in hopes of slaking their endless thirst. Yeah, that’s where I want to be. Also my granddaughter lives there. I could walk with her any winter day in a simple shirt, maybe a sweater in the mornings. She’ll be five by then.

My people emigrated from Ireland in two different waves. My father’s people came over early; my mom’s people came at the turn of the last century. The thing is this– someone from both families left an intolerable land behind and risked a great deal for a better life. Usually it’s a young studly guy who risks all to go for his fortune or fame across the seas. I don’t think that has changed much in the last few centuries. It’s not as common for an older couple to pull up stakes and relocate well into their sixties. But that’s what we’re fixin’ to do, pardners. Yup, mebbe join up with a cattle drive out of Pittsburgh once spring gets here. If they’re out of cows, I’ll herd goats or pigs or Shetland ponies, I don’t really care. Cross the mighty Mississippi where it’s shallow, and ride on into the wild west later, ahead of the bad weather. (We’ll take the bridge if I wind up with pigs.)

Of course, I need a few things before I migrate west with my little hunny bunny.  Boots, nice embroidered leather cowboy boots with silver spurs. And a horse. I’ve never ridden a real horse, so I’d better get some lessons while I’m at it. Rope for tying stuff down. And most importantly I’ll need a cool cowboy hat that’s broken in. I don’t want no western local to say I’m all hat and no cattle or pigs. I might have to plug him with my other essential, a big old .45 pistol. Oh, and sunscreen, and some sunglasses. Gum, I am not chewing tobacco– no where, no how. I’ll also need a map of all good coffee shops along the way and pet friendly motels. I am not sleeping on the ground.