Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Cold Case Blues


Sometimes not knowing is ok, even preferable. You don’t need the Pythagorean Theorem to cut pizza into triangles, nor the unwelcome ridicule of the bathroom scale after eating most of them.

In other cases, missing answers are a torturous burden to those asking the questions, elusive as God. Why haven’t they called back for an interview? Where the hell did that lottery ticket go… Didn’t anyone see who she left with?

In this age of relentless informational bombardment, so many aching mysteries remain.

: - | >

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cocktail Chic


Substance and style rarely come in equal measure. My mother's sister is as sophisticated as she is fun, as genuine as she is refined. Uses adjectives like "fabulous" and "smashing" without a hint of pretentiousness. There isn't space enough in her bookshelf-lined home to contain all she's read―and the couple she's written―but her closet was just as full of dancing shoes back in the day. 

She loved to dance. One of my early memories is being held, bounced, and whirled around by aunt Joan as The Beatles' "Come Together" turned against the needle, which would skip when we carried on too forcefully. Riding horses made her happier still, another sort of dancing.

Naturally, I've always known the older woman (she was in her thirties by the time I was born), but I also like to imagine her before that: in the 1960s sipping highballs at a Nina Simone concert, as the anecdote goes. The gravity of the music, the tricolored stage lights casting a soulful surreality over the room...  

The way her luminous life force and encouraging love have shined on me.

: - | >

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Face


Faces are the hardest to describe and reproduce. The basic components are simple enough, like the exposition at the start of a fugue. But just as an increasingly varied musical theme gets harder to hum amidst the unfolding counterpoint, one's facial expression is a complex, dynamic intersection of physical and metaphysical attributes elusive to capture. There are no identical twins.

In novels, characters' faces are always blurriest in my mind's eye, the descriptions like molded plaster that won't stick to its subject. It's the same in nonfiction: police sketches never fully resemble the perp because the profiling software can't render the narrative behind the eyes, the life that led to the likeness. For that revelation, you need to meet someone's gaze directly.  When you do, you see a vivid page from an autobiography in progress.

So many sets of eyes, noses, and mouths, and the stories to go with them. Billions―collectively the same, individually distinct.  Past faces, living faces, and all those yet to come... 

: - |  >

Friday, February 2, 2018

Beard Power


I grew my first chin beard in tenth grade. Not the pinecone that it is today, a half-inch at most, but enough to change the game. Less emasculating sarcasm from peers. More attention from girls. Feeling closer to adulthood than childhood, seeing that manly little outgrowth in the side-view mirror as I cruised along with a newly acquired driver's license.

The hair and its effect have been growing ever since.

On a three-week road trip from Philly to L.A., my friends and I ended up along the same route as 50,000 hogs headed for the 60th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Everywhere we went it was bikes, beer, and badasses. On the outside, from the neck up at least, I blended in and earned us a little cred in a subculture not known for its warmth (on the inside I'm too anxious to ride a ten-speed through town). Some years later I was in the Uygur city of Kashgar, where the Muslim men greeted my uncut bushiness with nods of approval, perhaps thinking that I was with Allah (when in fact I'm "spiritual but not religious," as my online dating profile would say). After that I took a teaching job at an urban Maryland high school, in which being a goat-like caricature of myself fast-tracked classroom rapport and greatly increased the number of completed homework assignments. 

Impressive, how a tuft of facial pubes can alter so many outcomes. How differently might events have unfolded had I shaved? Which triggered conversations and resulting relationships would never have occurred? Which ones would have in their place? Maybe I get carjacked or miss meeting the love of my life in the beardless version.

If nothing else, against my baldheadedness, it keeps me from looking like a crazed volleyball.

 : - | >>>

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I Was On My Way...


The last leg of a journey is often most precarious, especially on the important trips.

That's when you run out of gas, twist your ankle, and lose faith. It's the round where the finalist chokes, the stage at which the pilgrims start eating each other.

Almost there, just miles of inches to go...

The finish line reserved for the most determined good or the most relentless evil.

: - | >

Friday, November 3, 2017

Out


From a great enough distance, any exclusive club looks absurd.

: - | >

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Eighty Proof Overflow


A potent ingredient can enable or destroy the recipe. 

By the tenth hot wing, pepper turns to pain. Leftover rainwater in an overturned tire teems with microscopic life while somewhere else an entire community drowns in a monsoon. A little confidence inspires a first date; too much and you’re a sociopath. The cleanest, most efficient means of keeping our trillion devices running uninterruptedly is nuclear—until a seal breaks or the wrong person gets the codes, and then Earth is a charred, radiated husk.

Sitting here at the bar, the right number of Jack and Cokes have delivered me to this line. Time to close my tab before the writing and its author sink to regrettable depths.

: - / >