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Defining Man

Man, the tool maker.

Great apes, dolphins, sea otters, crows, jays, octopuses: Dude, get a grip.

Man, the user of language.

Dolphins (again), orcas, bats: Um… what now?

Man, the animal that grieves.

Elephants, dolphins (yet again), giraffes, jays: Seriously?

Man, the animal that farms its food.

Ants, damselfish, wood beetles: Hey, get off my lawn!

Man, um, the … jeez … the animal that cooks its food.

Dragons: Hold my beer.


k

Thursday: Barbarians at the gate

Riders, sir! Enemy advancing! Portcullis down! Drawbridge up! All able bodies to the walls! Defend the city! Heaven help us, they’ve breached our defenses. We’re being overrun!

Friday: Auto-da-fé

Muscles are seared by heat. Every joint creaks. Be strong! Don’t give in. Tell them nothing! But the fire, it burns. It burns!

Saturday: Eye of the Storm

The fire is out. My lungs pop and snap with the sound of distant firecrackers, only to explode in fits of coughing that tear my throat. My muscles have the strength of cooked ramen. I get aerobic just standing up. This thing, it has my wife, now; she is following my trail, and today she burns in Torquemada’s fire.

Sunday: Clever Girl

The virus spent two days in my chest and has fully colonized me. Now it climbs to its launch pad: my head. Chest rattling, nose dammed, the hacking coughs are joined by hook-ended sneezes that tear off little bits of lung in their explosive exit. My eyes weep tears of acid, burning, bringing more toxic tears. I am a seeping, spasmodic mass of flesh. The yellow jack flies high.

Monday: The Land of the Vocal Fry

My voice has dropped below Barry White level and shudders like an ill-tuned Harley. Every miserable exhalation is accompanied by a crushed-gravel moan, but not from pain; it’s a comfort. To hear my voice, damaged as it is, is to confirm that I’m still alive.

Tuesday: End Game

Expectations are low. Stamina is limited. We return to work (from home … we don’t want to give this to anyone else), but will continue to rest, repair, and recoup our spent reserves.

k

Disclaimer:
I do not often get colds. Usually, I fight them off. This is the first time I’ve been brought low in about two years. My wife — a woman who always gives me straight answers to direct questions — assures me that rather than being a man-baby about it, I’m pretty much a Stoic, refusing to succumb even when rest would do me more good. This time, I had little choice. Surrender was my only option.

We have changed, she and I.

The slender, vibrant creatures of decades past are gone. The bright, idealistic hearts of youth have faded.

Our eyes are dimmer, our skin more slack. The hair we brush is thin, dull. Our waists are thick. Our steps less spry. Our knees creak as we climb the stairs. We can feel in our joints a coming storm. Night comes early, and rarely now are we awake to hear the chimes at midnight.

Others look at us and see: an older couple, a bit odd perhaps, a bit retrograde in tastes and attitudes, middle-aged, greying, but pleasant. We are faded echoes of a beauty long past its prime. That is what they see, and they are not wrong but…

…I see us differently.

I see two souls in a long, entwined dance, an Arthur Murray diagram stretching back through time and space. I see two bodies, traveling together, paired by love’s gravity, swinging each other through the cosmos. I see the whole of us, from our separate births through our unlikely meeting, a shared past gyring toward an unknown hoped-for future.

We’ve seen decades. We’ve learned from life. We know that nothing lasts forever — only the earth and the mountains — but beauty resides within us still.

The beauty of our history.

The beauty of our past.

The beauty of our one life built together.

To us.

k

It’s been a full month since we dropped our cable and land-line package to become a primarily streaming household, and I think we can say that the results are in.

As with any paradigm shift, behaviors and attitudes have changed. What surprised me, though, was the speed with which the changes were made and some of the more counter-intuitive outcomes.

Our viewing habits changed immediately, of course, as some shows weren’t available to us anymore and other opportunities opened up. But it was the changes in attitude that I found most unexpected. I found that I really didn’t miss some of those “lost” shows, which says a lot about how we were watching them more out of habit than cognizant decision. Moreover, I discovered a heightened discernment in our viewing deliberations. Before, our selections were based mostly on ads and hype, whereas now, our decisions are based on referrals, reviews, previews, and a trial run of an episode or two. We’re also no longer ruled by the tyranny of the DVR. No more “Gotta watch that show to make room for the next episode!” Continue Reading »

7 1/2

GodfatherLast week, I stood out in the rain.

On purpose.

Last week was a stay-cation, and I spent many hours out in the elements, reclaiming the gardens after a couple of years’ worth of accumulated neglect. It being February — and one of the wettest on record, to boot — more of those “elements” were liquid than usual, and most of those hours were spent in the rain.

Luckily, I had a new hat.

I was born at the sunset of the Hat Era, a time when everyone — men and women alike — wore hats in public. Hats were already passé when I was born, and by the time I was a lad, the only men who wore hats were fishermen, cowboys, and men in uniform. Alas.

I’ve always liked hats. Real hats, that is. Hats with brims that go all the way around. A hat has a purpose — to keep the sun out of your eyes, to keep your head warm, and to keep rain off your head and neck. Caps generally only do one of those things, and not well, either, not when compared to a real hat.

The hats I preferred were those of my movie icons — Bogie, Stewart, Fonda — hats with character, hats with style. No baseball caps for those guys. No urban-cowboy Stetsons. No no no.

The Fedora ruled with those men. Sometimes they wore a Homburg or a wide-brimmed Tyrolean. Or, if they were in a Western, a slouch.

The slouch hat has always been a favorite of mine. A felt hat with a flat, wide brim that slouches down over nape and brow, preferably with a creased crown for ease of tipping to passersby. Aussies tie up one side of theirs. So did the Rough Riders. The slouch has tons of character and is a top-notch performer in all things a hat is supposed to do.

But, as I’ve never considered myself as a guy who looks good in hats, I was a bit self-conscious, standing out in my suburban garden, rain pelting down, fat droplets pattering off the wide brim of my new slouch hat. I mean, it’s a big hat, by modern stylistic standards. It’s felted mix of wool and buffalo hair, black as night, with a slight curl on the back and sides of the 4 ½” brim, and a silver-buckled strip of leather around the crown. My wife assured me though that, contrary to my instincts, the hat suits me, and since she generally doesn’t like me to look the fool any more than I do myself, I trusted her assessment, and wore it most of the week.

A quality felt hat is almost a living thing. New, it never fits well, despite proper measurement. It must be worn to fit properly, and if possible, worn in the rain. You wear it, let it get wet, and then continue to wear it as it dries. The moisture loosens up the felted fibers and when they dry, they shrink up to fit your skull. If you don’t like the brim or the crown, you can steam it over a kettle and reshape it to your liking, which I did to remove the curl on the front.  After four days spending several hours out in the rain, getting the hat wet and letting it dry, it now is a perfect fit to the bony, pearish ovoid that houses my brain.

I still don’t feel like it’s my “style,” but I like it, so I’m going to fake it until it feels right.

k

Typewriter

PS. I was thoroughly puzzled by the relationship between hat sizes and head measurements. A 22-inch skull is a U.S. hat size 7, which is a difference of 15; but a 23 ½ inch skull (like mine) is a U.S. hat size 7 ½, a difference of 16. What gives?

Turns out, the relationship between your head size and your U.S. hat size is, believe it or not, π.

Yup. Just as circumference/π = diameter, so Your Head Measurement (in inches)/π =  U.S. Hat Size.

I just love that.

k

Bogie and Bacall

Le crayon rougeOops. Sorry.

By “writing to the market” I didn’t mean “gearing your work-in-progress to match current market trends” (which, I feel compelled to add, unless you are a spectacularly fast writer with a very good agent, is a fool’s game).

I mean “writing to the market’ as in writing copy for marketing. Which is what I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.

You see, my wife opened a business. Continue Reading »

Lupine Hi-Rise“Why don’t you do something with your life?”

Such an awful question.
So packed with disdain and condescension.
So dismissive.
You can hear the curled lip in the words.
You can taste the bile.

“You had such potential.

Sharp words.
Words designed to hurt, flay, maim.
Words heated in a smith’s forge, hammered into blades, honed to an edge, and thrown with piercing accuracy.

Useless words. Utterly useless. Continue Reading »

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