Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Even Superheroes Get Hungry

It was a dinner for veterans. Of course, he was a warrior, but hadn't ever had time for tactical combat and military warfare. No, Captain America's battles had mostly been fought in larger arenas, good versus evil, saving mankind and America and a few damsels in distress in his downtime. that kind of ting. But no-one seemed to question his right to be there, breaking bread with former marines, sailors and soldiers. He seemed to fit in just fine, cape and all. Afterall, the crowd seemed to be saying, even superheroes need a hot meal sometimes. Still, he was alone at the table. Heroism is a lonely business.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


One of these happy young men 
Can you see it?

One of these happy, bright young men will not make it. He will put a gun to his head and end his suffering and joy. But you couldn't have known that on this day. Could you?

Couldn't have known about the gun? Didn't even know about the wife. The son. The ranch on the hill.

Scan the picture and look for it. Is there anything you can see? A smile that doesn't scan? A shadow over the eyes? Can you tell?

If you knew him then, would you have told him to stay out of the barn? Would you tell him that you know the day will come but that he will need to fight it. That it is ok. That love and success and is enough. Has to be enough. Because if it isn't, then nothing is. Could you have known that fine day?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three foot buffer zone

I am in the Volkswagen. This is not unusual. I am always in the Volkswagen. Taking side streets and thinking about the chores. Trader Joes. Vacuuming. Did I pick up the dry cleaning? Email.
The usual background buzz in my head.

Then I look up and see him on his bike. Just some guy. Some guy with long hair and wrinkled clothes on a bike riding in the road ahead of me. So I pull my foot off the accelerator, slow the car and watch him. At first, I am paying attention to his direction and his wobble to be sure I don't get too close. LA has that 3-foot cyclist space rule and anyway, I am a big fan of personal space. But now I am enjoying the three feet of perspective and the view of his too-long hair as it catches the wind and takes to the air behind him.

Steven Speilberg had the milk crate
bike basket idea years ago. 
Because of all this looking, I notice he has a milk crate on the back of his bike, strapped onto the rear fender like a basket. Resourceful, I think.

And then I see that the milk crate has a big black leather bag in it. Maybe he is the kind of guy who carries a purse. As I am watching from my respectful 3-foot distance, I see him reach behind him without turning his head. He feels around for the flap to open his purse (now I am wondering if he calls it a murse or thinks of it as a satchel) and he puts his hand in, reaching for something that he needs right then and there.

And all at once, I feel poised on a precipice. In the next instant his fingers will close around an apple. Or a cell phone. Or his bike lock. A pipe bomb. Maybe he will check to see if he brought his wallet. Or maybe he needs to reassure himself that his sole remaining worldly possessions are still in that bag. Or his screenplay. For a second. Less. A fraction of a second, time is suspended and I can feel the day open up before me like the whole world is holding its breath. It could be anything. Nothing. It doesn't matter. It is a perfect weightless moment and I know the raw random power of my life.

I close my eyes for as long as I dare and accelerate quickly by him, careful not to see what he has in his hand.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Boy on the Beach

Gray skies and seas.
on the sand.

The image of the boy on the beach summoned
easily and endlessly by the simple mapping of bleak colour
You thought you had steeled yourself for the image.
But your stomach lurches still.
But that is nothing still. There must have been more.
Get ready for the sounds of that less-than-bucolic beach
crude shore of stunned silence and disbelieving wailing,
Brace yourself for a lungful of crisp seaside air
tinged with the scent of despair and the acid mouthful of bile.

These are no tourists
collecting their dead and discarded
dreams of nothing more than to breath another day
gone, all gone,
This is no vacation resort town that mocks
those who would dare
risk that they love the most
to at grab thin threads of a lifeline
only to earn a thousand nights of uneasy rest and
unrelenting dreams of a child's grasp failing in the waves.

It was supposed to be better.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Travelling Light

The wedding donut? Maple Bacon
He tells me that he is travelling light, but he has some pretty heavy reading in his hands and some weighty thoughts on his mind as he begins his multi-leg, long layover, leap-frog, budget flight from Portland to London.

He is alone, heading home 36 hours after getting married in a Portland donut shop--Voodoo Donuts, of course, but not the original one which he declared a "little grotty for that kind of thing."

His bride waits stateside for the visa that a marriage to a Briton might afford. He says he feels lucky he can afford the legal fees and visa processing charges and thinks that he can hack the lonely six-month wait for his Voodoo Donut bride to join him in their new life. He hopes to be a barrister by then, someone who will work on issues to better society. He likes the pomp of being a barrister, wig, robes and all.

He realises his choices aren't for everybody; knows he is not the norm. A boarding student from the age of 15 with a family posted on another continent, he learned to rely on himself.  In law school, he marvelled that his university cohorts struggled with laundry, groceries and other realities of being an adult. He had long since learned to separate colours and pre-treat stains.

His mother initially refused to attend the wedding (If you think I am going to watch my only son get married in a donut shop...)  but eventually was talked into a gold sari to step into her son's made-for-Portland wedding. Her friends convinced her that she might not want her only son to get married without her.

His new sister-in-law refused to come. It wasn't, she thought, spiritually safe to get married at Voodoo Donuts.

Nothing like  Herman Hess to weigh down a newlywed

Saturday, August 29, 2015


My mother's childhood home in NB - backyard
This house is at once nicer and worse than I remembered.

My mother grew up in this house along with her 10 siblings. A noisy, Irish family.  When I first encountered the house it was quiet, with just one of the original 11 living in the walls that sheltered a clan. A quiet man with his wife, both sad, at least in my memories.

I have harboured an idea that behind this clapboard was a dungeon from which my mother was rescued. There were dragons behind those walls. Those ordinary, tired walls.

This house is a mere 3 blocks from a beautiful river that I did not remember ever having seen. Three blocks away, but absent in my recollections, which clearly cannot be trusted. Sizes, locations, beauty, dinginess, joy, despair, love, security, danger...  all of it shimmery mirages in the desert distances of my memory.

Last week, I stood in front of this house, with a lovely river clearly visible over my right shoulder and swiftly, unexpectedly, lost sight of everything I thought I thought I knew that also relied on the shoddy memory that had erased the mighty Miramachi river.