Thursday, November 30, 2006

Open Mike

We missed the last three open mikes. I felt I had to go this last one. All three Canaries performed separately.

As we entered, Blowhard was greeted like a rock star. He played "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." Billy C
played Frank Zappa's "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?" after the first tune.

Each act now gets only 5 minutes, so I only sang Curtis Eller's
"Buster Keaton." People liked the song. I actually pluck instead of strum on this one.

There is an invitational open mike in December. Some folk grumbled about not being invited--and I agree that there is something un-open about an invitational open mike. We got an invite, so what the hey?

I'm not sure when we're going to get to rehearse.

On a sad note: While my first day back after Thanksgiving break was a good one, it ended on a very sad note. My colleague informed me at the end of the day that he had learned that a former student of ours had lost her mother and father in a collision with a drunk driver. She and her sister (also a former student of mine) were riding in the car.

What can you say?

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I've gone around and read all of my friends' blogs and most of them talk about their Thanksgivings and it made me think. Sure, Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones--but try a Thanksgiving without food. In most cases, every attendee must bring food. And it's not enough just to bring a dish, you've got to bring one of your PREMIERE dishes.

They have got to be colorful. They have got to be tasty. They must beckon you to come back for more. And there always has to be too much for one night so you can have leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, my Sil makes this breakfast hash the morning after where she just dumps almost everything into a skittle and heats it up and it tastes yummy.

Then, after you have gorged yourself, sometime during the long weekend, you have to tell everyone what you ate. You have got to describe the dishes--how they looked, what went into them, how they tasted.

Then, we exchange recipes and/or discuss our own variations.

It's as if stuffing our bellies is not enough, we have to stuff our imaginations as well.

I'm not knocking any of this. It's just interesting to me. If I knew anything about how to do it, I'd start up a site called, where friends could invite friends to be their friends just for the sole purpose of sharing Turkey Day menus.

A Poem from the Taos Summer Writers' Conference


Wednesday night.

You go in, pay your dollar,
take a fishing pole,
and enter the sanctuary
lined with neon sculptures—
each depicting a scene from the scriptures.
Searchlights dance around the stage
where showgirls with swan legs strut, their sequins afire.

Parishioners sit in booths
and order diet cokes and communion wafers
from waitresses in short skirts.

The stage floor opens
and the minister ascends
tied to a post—
the sin of the week
nailed above his head.

He asks the congregation to rise.

Each member clutches a fishing pole
and casts his or her line at the minister
while the pipe organ blasts “Just as I Am.”

Most people miss
but those who hook the minister’s flesh
give it a good yank
and are forgiven the sin of the week.

This goes on for ten minutes or so.

Some say this is hard on the minister—
that we should hire a homeless guy to stand in for him.

But most think that we shouldn’t mess with tradition.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Useful Info about Opossums

The two most interesting things I found out about possums:

1. "Playing possum" isn't a choice, it's a reflex triggered by extreme fear. Also, pretty much every one of their defense mechanisms involves disgusting bodily functions.

2. They can get rabies, but rarely do because their body temperature is too low to make the rabies virus comfy enough to thrive.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Would You Care for Some Salt with Your Sodium?

Billy C and I are both trying to watch our blood pressure and, therefore, are trying to watch our salt intake. So I can speak for both of us when I say we approached last night's Thanksgiving Banquet at the Tower (the assisted living facility where she now lives)with trepidation. At the tower, the spice des jour is salt--I guess in part because the "chef" has never heard of lemon grass or saffron.

All of the westside version of Mama C's family was there: Billy C, Vivage, Emily C, Blowhard C, his girlfriend, Princess C, and myself. We repasted on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and this stuff the color of mashed sweet potatoes but of baby food consistency--all smothered in gravy. And of course, well-salted.

For Billy C and I, it was kind of a kamikaze banquet. We dined out of loyalty to Mama C, but knew it couldn't be very good for us.

Most of the young people barely touched their food, except for the pie, which also tasted a little salty to me.

As we dined, the music of the Janet Goeske Singers wafted around the room. Janet Goeske used to be a local activist for the aged. They sang a mixture of holiday and show tunes. During a rendition of "The Impossible Dream," the held up posters of scenes from the fighting in Iraq. Fortunately, they weren't too graphic--although there was one that showed to soldiers under fire--one hunkered down behind a sand dune and one who looked like he may have been hit. They followed this song with "Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me."

Oh, and Dickey De Loss, another local treasure known as a tap-dancing realtor, tap danced. She doesn't walk very well anymore, so she tapped from her chair.

You gotta admire that, in a way.

I suggested to Billy C that we volunteer the Canaries for the Christmas banquet. We could certainly entertain these folks as well as the Goeske Singers. And it would give Mama C a chance to show us off.

I have started writing our own version of "Impossible Dream":

To impeach the impossible dunce,
To indict his Vice President too...

That's as far as I've gotten.

WE sat very close to the entertainment, but next time, we need to make sure that Mama C sits facing it. She kept looking around to see the show, which made it impossible for her to eat. I also noticed that she had trouble with the turkey. I asked if she wanted it cut. She said yes and I cut it up into bite-sized pieces--with mixed feelings because I'm not always sure whether I should make her do things like this for herself, since any task she performs herself may help her retain motor skills, or just do them for her, because it helps her eat in public without being self-consciousness.

We stayed in the lobby as Blowhard C and his girlfriend took off to a friend's house with one of my ukuleles, Emily C left to go pack for a flight back home to spend her holiday with her parents Pamela and David C and the twins Laura and Boogie C, and Princess C disappeared to Mama C's pad to watch her fave TV show.

The elder C's all stayed in the lobby for awhile and visited for about an hour.

It was about 8:30 when we strolled out to our cars. Billy C, Princess C, and I stopped and chatted briefly, when Princess shouted "Oh my God! Look at that!"

I turned and there, amid the shadows and the rose bushes, crouched the biggest possum I have ever seen. It was as big as a mid-sized dog. It stood there frozen. Billy suggested that I rush it to see if it would play possum.

I do not fear possums, but I respect any animal that looks like it could do harm if it decided to act against type upon my person.

It did run away as I took steps to my car.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sated, but not Bloated

My sister flew out from PA to help us get Mama C's house ready for an estate sale and rental. Mom needs the extra income to help pay the rent at the assisted living facility, as well as give her some spending money.

This is the home we grew up in. These days, when I go there, I am overwhelmed by so many of the events of my younger life. Each room holds shelves with boxes full of memories. Open a box and they pour out. Some of them aren't even my memories, but the memories of my grandparents, great grandparents--any distant relative who folded them, packed them away, and moved on to some other moment of life and forgot them. As I open each box, I can only see a hint of the adventure that produced the photo or piece of paper I hold in my hand.

One box I opened had three American flags in it. Each fold had either been unfolded, or just lost their folds with the jostling of sitting in that box and being moved from room to room over the decades. Two of them had 48 stars. I refolded each as best my fading boy scout training could remember. One was so old that it had become frayed at the end that had flapped in the wind a long time ago.

I know that protocol would have a worn flag destroyed, but I new it held some unknown history in its threads. So I folded it as well.

I found one metal box and found my grandfather's "Order of Neptune" certificate, commemorating his crossing of the equator while serving in the Navy during World War I. Also, the certificate that gave my father Power of Attorney over my grandmother's affairs shortly after Grandpa died. She had MS and couldn't do much for herself. I was a third-grader during this time and I remember coming home from school sometimes and greeting my bed-ridden grandmother and one of the women from the neighborhood who would come and sit with her on days where my mother had to work.

Grandma would always smile and tell me how much she loved me and then remind me that my grandpa loved me too. He was an alcoholic. I only remember him making one cruel remark to me when he first moved in with us. I was quite young. I'm sure Grandma only meant to repair the damage.

So, how do you pack up a life?

You call a couple of older ladies, friends of your mother, and tell them they can have anything they want.

These two ladies are old friends of my mother's and came to collect some of her old arts and crafts stuff. It took them about an hour to sort out what they wanted, organize what we should sell, and throw the junk out, all the while visiting with Mom, who had come with us this day. The three of them had a grand time and accomplished more in that hour than any of us ever could in a day.

Roberta from across the street also came over to sort through some of the craftsy items. She's a nurse. She is also the neighbor who came and helped my mother 15 years ago when my dad had his coronary thrombosis. She and Mom sat in the room where Dad had collapsed years ago, looking through water color supplies. There, Roberta found buried under miscellaneous paints and notebooks several of Mom's watercolor paintings. Mom kept remarking that they weren't very good. But Roberta made it a point to show them to us and offered to frame them.

They might not be great art, but they're at least a little sacred.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Yardbird by Any Other Name, Part Two

I found myself with some unexpected free time this evening, so I drove to Redlands for the meditation class. Lately, I find it quiets my mind so I can sleep at night, what with all the thoughts in my head arguing with me at the end of the day.

Rest easy. I'm not hearing voices. It's just the various issues of family and work and unresolvable problems keeping me up.

I usually go to the class in Rio Nada, but I teach Thursday nights this semester and discovered that the same teacher teaches another class on Wednesdays.

During the drive there, I listened to the new Who CD. I like it a lot, although I admit that I have trouble getting past "Man in a Purple Dress." I keep replaying it.

This CD made me re-visit what I will call "The Yardbird Question." As you may some guy named An Opinionated Old Bastard chastised me for questioning whether or not the new Yardbirds had the right to call themselves the Yardbirds.

This new Who CD has convinced me that anyone who was in the Yardbirds or the Who, unless legally prohibited from doing so, probably has the right. I get the feeling that some of these bands, especially when they reach their sixties, certainly have a legit need to re-visit themselves.

This CD comes with a bonus CD and DVD of the two remaining Who guys, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, performing at Lyon, France (I got this at Best Buy for . Roger doesn't swing the mike as wildly as he did, and Pete's guitar theatrics aren't as constant, but the passion is still there. Zak Starkey, Ringo's son, is a mighty fine drummer too.

It reminded me of the Pay-Per-View event of some years ago where the then three surviving members performed Tommy, with a cast of guest performers. I got to see it free because I was living at the Gribble house and my landlord-sometime-roomate had a pirate cable box.

These guys also kicked ass at the concert Paul McCartney organized after 9-11.

Not too long ago, when my mother still lived in her house and we'd all visit for Sunday dinner, I found my nephew in her bedroom listening to a CD of Tommy. This room was my bedroom at one time, and I told him that,in that very same bedroom, I heard Tommy for the first time.

This didn't impress him, but it made me feel like I was a part of some great spiritual continuum.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

William Styron

William Styron died today at the age of 81. Doc Koon, my favorite professor when I went through my Masters prgogram often referred to him as a "Golden God."

I have read three of his books,all of which I just relished: The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, and Darkness Visible. Each of them reads like the writer is on a mission from God.

The Confessions of Nat Turner examined a slave revolt in the Sotuh before the Civil War. It was a work of fiction, imagining much of the story it told, but it was brilliant.

Sophie's Choise of course told a multi-layered story about a Polish death camp survivor. Just when you thought Sophie's story couldn't get worse, Styron would clobber you with another smack-to-the-head moment.

Darkness Visible told Styron's story of his own battles with depression. A very short book, it also discussed several other writers and celebrities who suffered--and succumbed--to the illness.

One of my pompous-ass theories is that most great writers have one great book in them. Rarely do they have more. There are exceptions, of course. Styron was one of them.