Setting Off On The Right Foot

Young Author

I don’t recognize this guy.

A kind, sweet friend sent me the photograph you see to the left of this text. I don’t recognize the man behind the oh-so-mod cranberry shades, but my friend assures me that he holds the same last name as I. Maybe, then, he’s a distant cousin. Certainly, as his surname indicates, he’s another highly intelligent and creative Sicilian artist.

This stud’s sveldt form and creamy smooth face lead me to believe that he is chronologically at that point along the rainbow spectrum that we often refer to as the prime of life. His salt-sprayed coiffure says to me that this artist to the stars has been around long enough to have acquired a wee bit of wisdom. Yet his relaxed, confident stance makes me wonder if he thinks he knows a whole lot more about the world than any one person can know. I mean, look at that lip-pursed whistle aimed at the camera (and for whom was this prideful young man posing?), as if he’s blowing away any tidbit of doubt about himself. Now combine that faux kiss aimed at the photographer with the non-chalant crossing of his arms. If I weren’t such an old, wise man, so fair and considerate of all my brothers and sisters, I’d be tempted to name this nubile namesake of mi famiglia an arrogant kid, wet behind his green ears, and so soon bound for a crash of great proportions.

But that kind of rude judgement would damage my current reputation as a man who offers a hug to everyone he meets. And yes, I admit that my Hug Line is oftentimes long. In consequence, I always carry with me a sporty, red, white and green plastic bottle of organic water. As well, I tuck into the pockets of my slacks a few All Natural energy bars.

In any event, I hope the whistling Sicilian survives his crash and then some, if for no other reason than that he carries a surname that is itself burdened with a great sense of responsibility to the world, at least to the part of the world known as Sicilia.

MorningRock

I saw Morro rock shine golden this morning.

****

As usual, I’m sorry to say that, although I intended the meat — the filet — of this article to be about the importance of starting one’s day by setting off on the right foot, I began by writing about a mysterious man’s questionable personality and most assured fate.

****

So now to the setting, and to the right foot. I have no idea why one’s right foot should be associated with positivity, as opposed to one’s left foot. So, feel free to take your first morning step with your sinister foot. After all, so much of the military marches not to the tune of I had a good home and I right. That would sound silly.

Yesterday, I began my experiment with donning a positive attitude. This is not at all an easy suit for me to wear. I tend to see the gray sky of a cloudy day as an omen of grayer times to come. I have my reasons, most having to do with the frequent appearance of uninvited evil into my young life. I once in a while succumb to self-pity, close my eyes, and see the deepest shade of blue behind my lids.

If, after your journey, either foot hurts, travel Morro Bay Blvd.

If, after your journey, either foot hurts, travel Morro Bay Blvd.

Yet, of late I learned that once a person surrenders to the reality that he is not alone with the experience of suffering, that in fact he is a member of the human race, every member of which suffers to one degree or another, at one time or another in life. . . Rather, I should say that once I surrendered to that reality, I gained the ability to connect with other people. Not so much by talking about how much each of us suffers, although friendships often involve such sharing, but most of the time by talking about how, when and where each of us experiences joy. Joy is contagious. Joy buoys us.

Joy and suffering; one does not negate the other. And so today I continue to practice setting off on whichever foot will lead me to enjoy the warmth, beauty and joy inherent in most days. If I manage to see this practice through, I suspect that I’ll be better able to handle the bad times in my life, if only then to remind myself that I, along with my friends and lovers, have been the benefactor of this grand, mysterious gift we call life.

candycanemarch

Candy Cane March

 

****

So how did I fare today?

Well, I began my morning at 6:30 by visiting the Vampire Clinic, there to have blood sucked from my veins and sent to Transylvania for analysis. Usually, I moan and complain to the air about the necessity of this journey. Today, instead, I reminded myself that the medicine men are fiddling with my blood so as to keep me alive. I then entered the chamber that smells of chemicals and chatted with the phlebotomist about her plans for Christmas. She always, by way of her smiling personality, makes my visits as pleasant as possible. (And please, don’t tell the world that she’s cute, because I never notice such things.)

Next, I attended a 7:00 AM meeting of friends, friends who — as I mentioned before — know their fair share of suffering and equal share of happiness. We spoke a bit about both, but most of all we laughed. I’ve always agreed with the research experts who tell us that laughter is good for the soul. I left that meeting with a smile on my face and a determination to write this article somewhere residing inside the heart of me.

The weather report for today calls for showers at some point during the afternoon, and certainly tonight. This kind of forecast usually settles itself inside that somber side of my mind. At 8:00 AM our meeting ended, and I almost decided to walk home. “No,” I told myself. “Take your machine to your favorite coffee shop, and there write this article.” I knew that if I traveled home immediately after that meeting, I’d head straight to my bed for an old-man nap. Old-man naps are healthy, perhaps even necessary. But old-man naps can, as well, quick become habitual excuses for accomplishing nothing on any particular day.

Before I retired from my career, tired or not, I each day remained awake and focused sufficiently to accomplish the work I was assigned. Sure, I was a younger man for most of those years. I no longer am able to maintain such long hours at an optimal level of energy.

Still, I’m not so old that I have nothing to offer to others each day. I write to please myself and to communicate with at least one reader.

So today I count myself successful. Should I credit my left or right foot?

One final photographic gift for today:

GoofyMoose

 

 

Positive Attitude On A Rainy Day

 

orangewind1500

Flowers pay homage to the force of wind. One complements the other.

I awoke this morning at 4:30 AM. This is my common practice. Maja, my fluffy, feline companion, sits close to the foot of my bed about then and begins to shiver her neck, left to right in rapid fashion. This exercise sets her three metal tags to jangling. An insistent eight bars’ worth of jangling means, “Get up and feed me, Pop. I can’t open these dang cans on my own. You should know that by now.”

Now, I love my cat. Too many, although not all, muscled men say they can’t abide cats, and that they far prefer dogs. They further tell us that dogs communicate with men as friends-to-friends, whereas cats don’t give a hoot about anything but their food. I refuse to enter that conversational boxing ring, that figurative battle that can never be won. But I will say that I suspect that most men who drive dusty pickup trucks believe that a little cat sitting back in the bed would look far less than representative of their tough, tattooed owners, and even further less like friendly bodyguards. That statement might actually result in a sudden climb in hits to this website, as the battle rages on.

But to climb back onto the track my pretty cat travels. She’s black and sleek and oftentimes an accommodating, sweet puff of comfort. (e.g. She remains close by my side whenever I’m feeling lonesome or ill.) And, what the heck, I don’t mind rising from my bed at the early hour of 4:30 AM. After all, I’m retired. I can always return to bed, pull the straw blankets over my head and pretend to be a child for an hour or more.

garden011500

A rock garden thrives on the water that falls her way.

But this day being Monday — I had to squint my eyes and look to my newfangled mobile phone to note the day and time — I decided to take a friend’s advice and don a positive attitude, and as my friend tells it, thereby ensuring that I make the most of my day. Now I admit that I know precious little about what folks mean when they say, “It’s all about attitude.”

Sure enough, if you’re standing on the wallflower sidelines of a barn dance, and gorgeous, sumptuous, delicious Becky Sue Patroni is standing nearby flicking her eyelashes in your direction. And your friend Bobby Joe Bataglia whispers that fact into your ear. And all you can say, over and over and maybe even over again, is “Aw shucks now, Bobby Joe. Becky? Everybody loves Becky Sue. She’d just tell me no, thank you, and then leave me all alone and sadder than before I asked.”

Well, even these days, when I admit to being the old Italian guy who lives down the street, and inside a house that smells like provolone and pepperoni. Even nowadays I know better than to hold such a negative attitude as I held that night at the barn dance. I sure lost a lot of Italian loving that way. I hear tell that Becky Sue Patroni moved from the marshlands of South Jersey, from where we all hail, and straight into the Big City of Trenton. Today, yes this very Monday, right smack dab in the center of that metropolis sits Patroni’s Pizzeria. Someday, maybe I’ll wander up that way and try a slice. Sure enough, I’ll have to ask Bobby Joe if he’d drive, because I never got my driver’s license. Don’t much need one unless you’re planning to move from The Land of Reeds and Mosquitoes.

Like I said at the head of this article. Here’s how best I thought I might don a positive attitude today. First, I cooked a hearty breakfast of scrambled egg whites, one slice of unbuttered toast, one scoop of tasteless yogurt plopped over one-half of a sliced banana. Not the same as your traditional South Jersey morning meal of eggs cooked in bacon grease poured from an old coffee can, fried potatoes, two fat links of fried sausage, and a side of buckwheat flapjacks. Certainly not that hearty, no. But, you see, I’m diabetic, so salt and anything carbohydrate — turns fast to sugar — is taboo. Oh woe is I! I should move to Sicily; my ancestors know how to eat and stay healthy longer.

yellowdaisies1500

Yellow flowers that look like stars live just around the corner.

When I was a little kid of seven or eight — a skinny, brainy runt of a human being, I remember a rainy day when Dad and I took a bus to visit my Grandmom’s house. There my Dad and I congregated with my Sicilian aunts and uncles. I sat in an overstuffed chair that smelled of the sweat of laborers. Across the room was a staircase that led to the house’s second floor. Hanging all along that staircase’s railing were pairs of my aunt’s under panties. Today I realize that back on that stormy day in 1957, an aunt couldn’t expect her lacy garments to dry outside. Gas dryers weren’t yet a reality, at least not for poor Sicilians.

I climbed this hill! I'm growing stronger.

I climbed this hill! I’m growing stronger.

I clenched my fists around the mahogany arms of the stuffed chair where I sat, and with my fingernails I scraped off years’ worth of wax applied one coat on top of another. I squeezed and scraped because my nerves buzzed and spit fire through my neck and upper back, then down through my arms and legs. My grand famiglia was busy shouting, and this upset my little boy emotional equilibrium. Uncle Johnnie, always a cigar stub between his lips, raised his voice higher than that of his wife, Rosa. Rosa wept and begged someone, anyone, to lend her a handkerchief. Johnnie, I decided, acted as if the more air you shot from your lungs when you spoke, the more righteous your statement must be.

In the meantime, my Uncle Antonio, one of my namesakes they told me, screeched his opinion of President Eisenhower at my Dad, Rosario. Antonio’s spit flew through the air so far and fast that it hit one of my aunt’s pair of panties. I didn’t think my aunt would notice, but I jumped up from my chair, held my tiny fists high, approached Uncle Antonio and challenged him to a fight. Of course, I was defending my Dad, but somewhere deep inside my underdeveloped mind I understood that by being around this famiglia sostenendo, I was becoming one of them.

Sun glows through the marine layer, to create blush-colored hills.

Sun glows through the marine layer, to create blush-colored hills.

All the boisterous voices became too much to bear for me. And it wasn’t just the volume that offended me and hurt my ears. Not at all, because at that young time in my life, I understood my famiglia’s native tongue. I knew who was insulting whom and in what manner. I didn’t yet know the word jugular. But I knew that their words felt like knife stabs between relatives. When my Dad asked me to come with him to visit Grandmom, I said yes, and I felt excited by the prospect. Even the most lonely child realizes that family should be a place where a positive attitude is shared by all.

I still cherish many of the memories I today associate with mi famiglia. I can even chuckle at the distant sound of their shouting matches. Letting off steam, Sicilian style.

But I don’t enjoy that kind of behavior today. Too much negativity became a part of me as I was a part of them. I did not become a screamer, but I did become — for a long while — a believer in the notion that every argument must be won. These days, I try to avoid seeing differences between me and another person. Instead, I try to see the things we hold in common. That’s how friendships are built.

As usual, I’ve veered off the straightaway and turned deep into a tangent. So, let’s return to my proposed positive attitude.

I told you that this morning I arose early and fed my baby cat. I hoped that after a 7:00 AM meeting, I’d be able to take a walk, and along the way snap some pictures. My hope was dashed, and so too was my pre-determined insistence on maintaining a positive attitude. The weather report informed me that rain would fall, beginning late this afternoon. For a while, I sulked. But this time not for long. Instead, I cleaned myself into a presentable state, picked up my camera, and walked through the gray clouds, and eventually through the beginning sprinkles. My goal: To find a and snap photos of beauty common in my neighborhood on a rainy day. I found plenty, and through the process of looking for and finding beauty, I acquired a more than positive attitude. I feel grateful to have had this day. Grateful for this rainy day.

Ciao, Ciao,

Anthony

Home to write this article.

Home to write this article.

 

 

 

 

I Am As Green As My World

WildGreenery

The world is green again, and so am I.

I’m here again, at The Poet’s Hall of Fame. Quite a few authors, masters of the craft, once sat inside this eclectically decorated room and penned soon-to-be-published books. The name of today’s most popular, talented and successful such author to have written his masterpiece here is oftentimes whispered by members of the international literati.

But today not one master of the craft is here. Today is Saturday, so the crowd includes a few older folks. Weekdays bring a throng of university students, dressed to impress and equipped with flashing laptop computer screens that turn The Hall of Fame into a distorted image of one of the houses of congress, minus the pressed suits and gridlocked conversations.

Today’s group of wise and earnest senior citizens, however, earlier this morning swallowed their prescribed pills and vitamins to the tune of fresh-squeezed, organic orange juice. That much is apparent by way of the peachy pink flush that colors their soft, lined cheeks. They next pulled out from their closets plaid flannel shirts, faded 501 jeans, and fatigue jackets with frayed cuffs. Add a few pair of wire-rimmed glasses and gray beards (including my own), and there you have us.

Sipping bitter coffee. Munching on vegan muffins that no doubt contain great spoonfuls of granulated sugar that will send our glucose levels into the stratosphere. But what the heck, if you can’t cheat on Saturday, then when can you cheat?

Some of us cheat and eat while studying old-fashioned, paper newspapers. Which habit taunts us till we begin to spout and spit political philosophy. Yes, the tall man sitting at the table in front of me — I know his frequent presence here well enough to understand that he’s a lawyer. A suave-mannered lawyer whose wife must listen to his wisdom born of white hair and long exposure to the fumes emitted by oak-panelled courtrooms. I sometimes stretch my elephant ears beyond their normal limits, and thus intrude in silence on their one-sided conversation. My goal: to count the number of times a female voice joins the conversation. That number, it turns out, is statistically insignificant. Frequent, though, are female head nods, which may indicate either constant agreement or represent a non-verbal way of saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Just because there's snow on the roof, doesn't mean there's no fire in the furnace.

Just because there’s snow on the roof, doesn’t mean there’s no fire in the furnace.

And so I feel embarrassed, because I own the same insulting habit. Even when I was a young child, just out of diapers, I scoped out the least little breathing break in a conversation, and then dived into that slip of air to tell you what little AVT thought. After all, I was impressed by my articulate opinion, so it stood to reason — to my reason, that is — that my opinion would impress you. I ignored the wrinkled noses and wayward glances that oftentimes came as responses to my speeches.

 

Somewhere, a long time ago, I read that writers are not the talkative type, that most of them prefer to express themselves on the page. So either I’m not a writer, or the adage is flawed. Or I’m an example of a flaw in an otherwise reliable adage? Could that type of flaw be yet another medical condition common to the old and frail? I’ll have to ask one of my nine doctors. Likely is the need for an additional bottle of giant pills, another set of visits to the Vampire Clinic to have more blood sucked from my sagging veins. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have to buy a ticket for another exciting ride through the scan the damned body tube. We’ll see. Like my Philadelphia friend reminds me, “Whataya gonna do?”

Nowadays, in the winter of my life (as Frankie S. might say), I try to curb my interjections. My tongue is stippled with teethmarks to prove my assertion. Still, I’ve discovered that the best way to avoid committing this mortal sin is to make myself scarce when such conversations occur. To do otherwise requires frequent trips to the confessional. That proposition unsettles me, because as a serial interrupter I suspect that God must have imposed a limit on such transgressions, after which absolution must be refused.

****

Interruption #1: Baby Girl, Please Remain Young

A healthy bit of innocent comic relief in the form of a baby girl now attends this time-honored gathering of weathered hippies. Complicated, multi-syllabic, poly-paragraphed apologies for the twisted state of global politics fly around her pink-cheeked head. Yet, she walks back and forth from her parents’ table to the corner bookshelf, each trip choosing a different book to deliver to Mommy, who reads the story with her. Eventually, baby girl appears to tire of walking, and so she gets down on all fours and crawls the round-trip distance from Mommy to bookshelf. I smile to myself and wonder why we old folks at some time, and for some odd reason, decided that it was more noble to walk, even when our legs cramp and our feet burn, than it would be to crawl and thus gain greater mobility and muscular relief. Society’s rules are sometimes a matter of nothing more than false pride.

Nature'sArchways

Refreshing green at The Poet’s Hall of Fame

****

Interruption #2: So What’s The Point Of This Lengthy, Wrinkled Whine?

Older folks, as in the group to which I belong while holding on to the tail end of my youthful years inside my dreams. 

I cannot yet settle with this new reality — new for me, that is — of being old. At what precise point in my life did I become old? On what day, month, and year did my deterioration begin?

1981: I remember driving one of those bullet-shaped Toyota tanks westward, along a nighttime Venice Boulevard in Southern California. For most of the east end of that highway, the streetlamps and vehicle headlights sprayed a white, diffused light, offering just enough illumination to allow a driver to negotiate traffic.

But when I reached the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Lincoln, the traffic signal turned red in front of me. I stopped and noticed that all four corners of this intersection were so brightly lit by billboard advertisements, fast-food lollipop signs, and gasoline station fluorescence that I needed to squint my eyes. Seeking a slither of darker air, I stared into my car’s rearview mirror. There I noticed that I had a bad case of dandruff. Not an uncommon occurence back then; my hair was full and thick. I reached my right hand up to the top of my head and began to use my fist as a hairbrush, desperate to whick away most of the dandruff before I reached my friend’s beachside cottage.

Long story, made shorter:

I repeated this redlight fist-brushing exercise at each of several successive intersections, only in gradual fashion admitting to my arrogant self that dandruff was neither inside my rearview mirror, nor in my bushy hair.

I had acquired a broad speckled spray of white hair, that speckle just beginning to mingle with my darker bush, but bound eventually to overtake and conquer what for so many years had been my Samson’s pride.

I mark that night in 1981 as the first time I took note of my mortality. Yes, I am strange. But I think I’m not alone.

****

I’ve been coming to this Poet’s Hall of Fame to write since the days when my hair was brown and my hopes were high for one day publishing a book that would make me feel relevant. Of course, because I was young and not a genius, I found out soon enough that my goal might not be reached for many years, or might never be reached. I was a green writer. Back then, I thought too much about how fast my writing would mature.

Well, this year is 2014. I never, when I was a young buck run through by copious amounts of testosterone, thought I’d live to see the year 2000, much less 2014. As well, I never imagined the truth about AVT the scribbler. Although I’m old, gnarled and withered, as a writer I am still green. And green, my friends, is to me a refreshing color.

Someone Gave Me The Mike Again

Old Writers Can Be Cool.

Old Writers Can Be Cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last evening, I stood behind a lecturn, a microphone clutched in my right hand, and I read one of my stories to an audience of writers.

These days I work hard to discourage my ego from leading me by my substantial nose. That mode of travel has landed me in a great deal of trouble, particularly during the past five years. Sin can feel like fun when a person is young to the party. Once your gut begins to tie itself into permanent knots, and your brain slows to a coward’s crawl, however, you leave the party, either on your own two feet or on your back. That kind of fatal flirtation with the unassailable limits of the human body will one day slam you down to the ground and then dig you deeper into the loamy home of wet worms and tangled roots. Unless . . . unless you first raise a white flag, retreat, regroup and reform.

So nowadays, humbled and humiliated by the price I continue to pay for my foolish sins, I am hesitant to allow my ego to fulfill its craven need to grab the spotlight.

****

But last evening, my shy doppelganger, you must admit that I, EgoVT, grabbed the knobs and flipped the switches that first overloaded and then overrode your not-so-timid soul’s impulse control panel. I stood behind you at that lecturn, disguised as a dark shadow that blended well with your funereal outfit.

And we noticed the sweet cherub who sat front and center giggling, her cheeks blushing till they resembled a ripe peach. We knew her reason for chuckling, didn’t we, AVT? After all, we had dressed ourselves head-to-toe in black, complete with a dark cap that passed for a beret. I chose that silly outfit for us, the self-absorbed poet’s trite uniform that in turn entertained the cherub and turned her into a hot peach.

Now don’t look at me that way. For Pete’s sake and for mine, AVT, do not sulk. We of the EGO master race find displays of self-pity and feigned embarrassment to be examples of crass and tawdry behavior.

No need to pretend otherwise. You required me to perform my duty last night. So proud you were. So convinced that your tiny tale was a masterpiece bound to impress even the most sensitive artist present. Yep, once again you allowed your sinister side, your EgoVT to exude enough heat to expand and swell your mind.

****

My most harmful assumption as a young man was to believe that I was, and always would be, in total control of my life. I thought I could dance with wild grace forever, from dawn till dusk, and then again from dusk till dawn.  Back then my legs were muscular and strong. I thought they always would be.

One of my favorite memories, though today it’s tinged with the doleful color of reality and regret, takes me back to any number of similar summer nights in Venice, California. Early mornings, really. Two in the AM, after the bars and dance clubs had locked their doors.

The year was 1979.  I’d just moved from Philadelphia, PA. One-way plane ticket to the land of cantaloupe sunsets and bottlebrush plants. Seven hundred dollars tucked into my suitcase, between my knee-high sweat socks and my Fruit-of-The-Loom jockeys.

A free man, AVT. A happy man. Better to say more than happy. Joyful. Ecstatic. Ready for pleasure, and still young enough to expect the same to arrive in short time and in plentiful amounts. Such heady expectations can sometimes act as magnets, drawing wishes close, then closer, then close enough to touch and smell. That’s what happened to me. No, that’s what happened for me, because I wanted and needed it to happen.

Sunshine peeks through today's clouds.

Sunsets led me to beachside dance halls.

I was house sitting for a woman who told me that she planned to roam around Europe for a couple of months. I stared through her living room’s wide window each evening. I watched the sun begin to set. The setting sun became my signal to open the house’s front door and begin the five-mile walk to the beachside dance halls. I let the failing yellow, then glowing orange light lead me westward, toward the ocean that to me looked like a lake and smelled like decomposing plants.

Yes, AVT, I can take it from here. You entered one dance hall after another, where you abandoned your mind and body to the music. You held several pretty women, by their hands and around their backs. The combined aroma of soapy perspiration and faint perfume awakened your hunger for sex. The joy you earlier mentioned shaped your mouth into a wide smile that joined the sparkle inside your eyes and created a dance step all its own.

Am I being fair to you? I think so. Fair in terms of sensitivity, yes, yet not completely honest. Because, I, your shadow, ask you these important questions: Was it you or I who danced with and loved all those pretty women? Whose arms spread like wings? Whose clever feet slid with grace between a perfumed partner’s legs? Whose arms wrapped themselves around moist and tender backs? Did AVT fall in love with each of those women, or did I, EgoVT, seek to impress them and use them to fill empty spaces inside your heart? Were you and I any different last evening than we were back in the summer of 1979? Last question, AVT: Who read that story last night? What was he, or I, expecting to attract? Another dance partner to control?

EgoVT, I confess this much. I knew you stood behind me while I read. You’re always there pretending to be a shadow. And yes, I allowed you to choose my “man in black” outfit, topped off with a cap that passed for a beret. I thought the costume was fun to wear. I further confess that I need you sometimes.

But . . . you, my prideful doppelganger, did not write the story I read last evening. I, not you, loved dancing with those young women way back when. I enjoyed the way they felt and smelled. I danced with those women, and they danced with me. We did not control each other, and you did not control me. You were there, and you served a purpose. Pride in one’s abilities is a good quality, so long as pride does not lead the dance.

My smiles, the ones I wore on the 1979 dance floors, did indeed reflect pure joy. The same brand of joy I felt after I, not you, finished writing and rewriting my story. The same flavor of joy I, not you, tasted as I read my story to my fellow writers.

You, EgoVT, are a part of me. I’m glad that you’re there — behind me — always ready to follow my lead and enjoy the accomplishments of the part of me that labors.

****

Other people who write might tell a different story regarding the role their egos play.

 

 

An Uphill Pleasure

coffee shop

A friendly place. No false chic.

Friends,

No poetic prose this time round. Just plain talking with my keyboard. I am, and always have been, more a talker than a writer. I do, though, enjoy the company of writers. So I sometimes hang out with such pretty people. I once thought that the writer crowd’s instinct for prettiness would invade my soul by way of miraculous osmosis. But it doesn’t work that way. Pretty poets are born pretty poets. They work damned hard, yes. But they work with what they have inside, and what they have inside is a special gift.

****

There exist so many rules for writers who maintain blogs and who hope to publish a story or a book. I used to read those rules, at least those written by people who owned deep experience with the always changing publishing industry. I’d read, and along about Rule #3 some acidic liquid that originated inside my stomach would boil, curdle and climb through my wet, bubbling tubes on a tortuous path that led, in record time, to my mind. There, within the first accessible lobe of the curlicue glob of gushy gray we name a brain, an order was written up and sent to my mouth.

“Flap that angry tongue!” shouted my gut-bound drill sergeant. “Tell these gurus that their rules are counter to the long-held and precious dictum that there are no rules where writing is concerned.”

Rule #3, by the way, usually informed us scribblers that our blogs might one day be considered by publishers to be our “platforms.” Therefore, went — and still goes — the wisdom, we should not use our blogs as personal diaries.

Once in a while, like just about every time my cud curdled, I obeyed my drill sergeant’s command. I stuck my tongue out at least as far as my cat can extend hers, and I flapped away. My intention, although at the time I would not admit to said intention, was to flap and slap — right through the cable line — the bearer of such unbearable wisdom.

Unbearable to me, favorable to most other blog-keeping writers whose intention was one day to publish a story or a book.

Yes, folks. Before you have a chance to tell me, I’ll tell you. I made a fool of myself. I, or rather my out-of-control mental tongue, surrendered to impulse and moved my fingers so as to tap something snappy and sarcastic inside one of those narrow slots we call a comment box.

It’s taken me a long while to admit that back then my mouth opened itself too wide and spit too soon. Acting on impulse might save lives when a fire breaks out, but if time permits a second thought before taking action, then please think first.

So what is my truth about all of this rule stuff? Why does my face acquire more sags and wrinkles when I read Rule #3?

The truth according to AVT is that Rule #3 is wise and righteous for those blog scribblers who hope someday to publish a story or a book. For me, this blog is just an avenue along which I travel. This way and that. Right here, or over there. I am free to write whatever comes to mind. I don’t expect ever to publish a story or a book.

****

And so speaking of today:

BayTheatre

I’m sitting inside a coffee shop in downtown Morro Bay, CA. I love this small town.

I grew up in South Jersey. I was born in Atlantic City, when AC stood for strolls on the boardwalk, suntans acquired while sitting on the sandy beach, close to a jetty, from which position one could watch the Steel Pier horse diving from the top of a sliding board and landing in a tub filled with salty Atlantic Ocean waves.

Once tanned to the complexion of a true Sicilian, lunchtime meant a short walk back up to the boards and into a pizza shop. Twenty-five cents a slice, each slice served by a gorgeous girl. I confess to learned shyness. Women frightened me when I was so young. They still frighten me, but don’t tell them that.

ArtCenter

Long days, and even longer years, have passed since my Jersey days, although Jersey remains inside the heart of me. I refuse to surrender her, or Philadelphia, PA, to California.

Still, here I am today in California. And yes, I’m happy today.

First stop when I arrived in the land of palm tree sunsets, way back when, was Venice Beach. That tale is, to me, an exciting one, even a sexy one. But it’s a story that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tell. I was then a dancer, a smile-spun playboy and a sometime cad. I had my reasons, most all of them selfish. In any event, I’d have to change the names of the main characters in order to protect my innocent self from the perhaps still vengeful.

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Los Angeles proper was my next stop, and she presented gracious gifts. But I aged there. Aged, not grew. No longer young, and working in a challenging part of town, I grew first tired, then pessimistic, and at the last discouraged.

As well, I began to miss the small size of my New Jersey town. I began to conjure up memories long buried.

I’m in third grade. Short, even for my age, tight, curly hair. Sicilian nose competing with Pinnochio’s schnoz. An academic nerd who relished what he, in arrogant fashion, fancied was his hyper-intelligence. Disgusting kid, really. But he owned an angel’s voice. He, of course, realized his vocal talent. So did his teacher, a sweet but strict lady named Mrs. Henry.

We classmates are sitting on a bus, rolling along from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, there to visit the famous first zoo in the USA.

“Anthony, would you like to come to the front of the bus and sing our State Song for us?” said Mrs. Henry.

Would I? Well, Mrs. Henry held a microphone in her hand, a microphone offered to little, kinky-haired, angelic me. I figured that I couldn’t disappoint this favorite teacher. After all, this wise talent scout obviously knew her business. So I accepted, and I sang. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now sure how the audience responded to my aria. But I loved my performance. Today, I remember only the final few lines:

****

My Garden State,

I’ll sing your praises evermore.

I want to live and die

In dear old Jersey,

On the blue Atlantic shore.

****

Sounds better in person, voice accompanied by the gooey, adhesive sound of bus tires peeling along an asphalt highway.

Tattoos

So long, Mrs. Henry. Till later, Atlantic City. I love you forever, Philly. You’re always inside my mind and elsewhere, Venice Beach. Los Angeles, you’re even more sinful than I could handle.

Today, I’m pleased to be a citizen, although not what you might call an upstanding citizen, of Morro Bay, CA.

I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. Sure enough, I lived in dear old Jersey, but chances look slim for dying there. Maybe right here. Not, that is, inside this comfy coffee shop; just here, at home.

This morning I set a goal for myself. I told a few of my friends what I hoped to accomplish. My goal will likely sound silly to some, especially to the young. (I’m not young.)

I walked from my house to this coffee shop. Along the way, I snapped some photographs, which I include with this article. My trek from there to here was all downhill. I estimate the distance to be something longer than a mile.

Reaching this cafe means that I accomplished one half of my goal.

My close friends know that I underwent major surgery almost a year and a half ago. I am fortunate to be alive. I am grateful to many people. Still, for the past year and a half since the surgery, and for three and a half years before the operation, I have been physically too weak to walk the uphill distance from this favored shop back to my home. Today I intend to defy that limitation.

Slow, small steps. Frequent stops. Searching, along the way, for beauty unaware of its own preciousness.

When I’m home a while from now, I’ll open this little machine again, and add a sentence or two to tell anyone who might be reading that I made it, that I accomplished my goal. If, on the other hand, I’m forced to call for a ride, I’ll count myself optimistic at least for today.

Ciao, Ciao,

Anthony

P.S.

Small steps. A slow pace. Frequent stops to breathe deep along the way. One restful bench to sit upon. But here I am, back home inside my study. Goal accomplished. Call this a good day. I’m grateful to my friends.

SelfHome

Chapter 3: Our Hero Changes His Names And His Careers

Our hero, whom we now know was oftentimes called the Pinch Hitter of the longwinded home-run, petunia-scented sentences that soon enough disappeared behind Heaven’s Rickety Gate, along with many a conjured stadium where they grew and flew with the imaginary breezes he created with his sharpened, wooden bats and the quick twist of his manly macho torso (of which he was inordinately proud, inordinate, he thought, only because on a recent Wednesday afternoon in summertime his bathroom mirror cracked as the result of so many close-inclined visitations by one or the other of P.H.’s muscled shoulders.)

Of course, he was named P.H. by the haughty, as yet only semi-successful, self-published, yet ever-struggling in their own minds to become accomplished artists, artists especially of The Fast Food Fanciers Who Love Their Minds and So Let Their Bodies Go movement nowadays popular in the Pine Barren campsites that pepper South Jersey.

Linguistic artists, all — they said they were, anyway – that is to say that they repeated such praiseworthy mantras only after healthy, gulped doses of poisonous wine, and while gathered among others of their skillful acquaintance who shared their general level of inebriation and sober incompetence, incompetence borne of imitation, that imitation itself borne of too many critique group competitions. “If you’d follow my rules, the current rules that is, for constructing not just sentences, but also for creating the overall arc of your story, well then you’re bound to become just as popular as I am, no more and no less, of course.”

After hearing too many of these self-absorbed and arrogant training sessions – he was after all P.H. of the flappy eared variety, so no important, or even self-important opinions of the self-appointed experts escaped the range of his hearing.

After hearing all of that and more, P.H., exhausted and sickened by such behavior, sat down on a bench in the woods.

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There, surrounded by the side of Nature that excludes the chickety chick chatter of vacuous human beings scraping gravel from the bottom of a birdcage, our hero decided for a time to rename himself AVT, perhaps because that was a name his mother gave him. An evil woman, she was, who beat him while naked, with straps, sticks, and pancake turners; and who bit him with her rat-sharp teeth until she broke skin and drew streams of blood.

One such chewy tooth time that he remembers as if it might happen again tomorrow involved his never guilty beast of a mother who sat across the pink Formica table from his young self. She growled and roared, and thus explained in grumbled and fractured excuses for words that she despised Baby AVT, that she wished she’d never got fat and painful with his crawling carcass.

And then, as if to emphasize and conclude this hateful eulogy prepared ahead of the proper ceremony, she bared her fangs, grabbed his hand, and ripped into the tender web between thumb and index finger.

Baby AVT stared at his bloodied hand and thought to himself, “Oh good, Dad will come home after his day of hard labor and finally, at last he will see evidence of how she wounds me on the outside.” The inner wounds, figured our future hero of the baseball field, the stage and the page, might well take years to pound into his cowardly father’s head.

But she, the wolf beast, continually rubbed Noxzema Cream on his wound. Whenever AVT surreptitiously wiped off the burning white ointment, his Mother, who was meant never to care for children, slapped another sloppy slab back onto the wound. Blood continued to run, turning the cream into whipped strawberry pudding

Dad came home, yanked off and dumped creosote-stained overalls down the cellar steps,  then walked into the kitchen where beast and hero sat.

“He fell and scratched himself on our cement sidewalk. I’m treating him with a healing cream.”

A scant glance between cowardly Dad and his little boy. Tears poured down and burned our baby hero’s cheeks. Please, Dad, he said in silence, through the breath that heaved and twisted like a tornado inside his chest.

“Good thing your Mother was here to help you, son,” he said.

Dad would repeat similar sentences throughout his lifetime, and so throughout AVT’s young life of torture. Young AVT, like so many others, was robbed of his childhood. But not just neglected by a runaway parent or parents. No, his child was not neglected and not, dear God, not “abused.” That word, “abused” has been employed so many times throughout the years since baseball hero AVT grew old and stubborn, and determined never to forgive the wolf, that it has been softened into an almost acceptable form of criminality.

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A somewhat younger adult version of AVT, hero of the imaginary baseball field that replaced for a while the torture of his putative childhood years, responded to an impulse to become responsible for his own fate; that notion, itself a contradiction. He applied for and gained employment in a chic coffee shop that sported a hidden dirty kitchen. He worked there hard and loyal for perhaps the better part of a derelict month. But while he labored there, his flappy, linguistically inclined ears heard the pips and pops of puffed-up conversations more than they heard the percolations of twice-brewed coffee. He grinned at customer and colleague alike, but his smiles – even he realized – were empty of empathy. So, before his manager, kind Caroline Varelli, whom he wanted to fuck — with love, of course, always at the center of his urge — before Caroline could damage what remained of his feelings by firing him, he quit.

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***

For a few months afterward, AVT visited a lush hillside in California. Cool water that appeared to be blue when the sunlight struck its surface at an exact angle.

AVT enjoyed the solitude there, but California never was his home. Hillsides were a foreign anomaly when compared to the flatland landscape of South Jersey. And so, after a few bored weeks, AVT changed his name a second time. In actual fact, he reassumed the name he’d always known belonged to him, that of Tex Buffalino. Tex took up residence far from the overblown beauty of California. He came to live inside a muddy, Jersey marsh, protected by the reeds, plenty of food growing and roaming for the taking.

Meadowlands

And instead of flapping and flopping around with pretty women who could not appreciate his earshot linguistic talents, Tex Buffalino wed a muskrat, his closest and most loyal friend.

muskrat

The End

Chapter 2: Our Hero Craves The Outdoors

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AVT speaks with flowers, and they answer him.

We met our hero, the depressed, imaginary baseball player with a receding hairline, in the last chapter of this end-of-life saga, the chapter titled “The Final Game.” This same man, who sometimes hits home run sentences that fall on backyard brown grass, or onto oily asphalt alleyways, decided that today he would venture outdoors. The dull pattern of swirled flowers on his bedroom’s wallpaper has entered and pasted itself onto the inner walls of his skull, so that his thoughts flittered through the mad bouquets and there confused themselves with the faint aroma of purple petunias that he remembered from his childhood.

His long-ago next door neighbor, Irma Kaiser, grew petunias all along the borderline between her pink house and his almost unpainted one. Mrs. Kaiser’s white hair was powdered with a topical dye of faded blue. Our hero loved her for that, and for the stewed tomatoes she sometimes brought to his mother’s madhouse, there to share with our hero and his three tortured brothers. A slab of butter placed in the center of a steaming, bubbling bowl of homegrown Jersey tomatoes, and the boys enjoyed a few minutes of neighbor-induced recess until the next motherly hysterical fit and consequent beatings. Our now old hero’s mother despised him by the time he was a few months old. Blood was spilled over the years, always the blood of a baseball hero. He has, however, learned to cope with the resultant anger, and as well to use the experience to see the same kind of pain in other people’s eyes, and so perhaps to offer them a small measure of relief.

So now back to this twenty-first century morning. Our hero rose from his mess of a bed and promised himself that he would that morning venture outdoors. Outdoors, yes, but only to places where he might avoid all but the distant chattering noise that crowds of people always produce, as if to reassure themselves that they were yet alive and never to die.

Problem was — and there must always arise a problem early on in any adventure story; this the experts tell me, although I usually ignore them — but the problem, or point of conflict if you prefer — was that our hero writer-baseball player — sometimes revealed as sporting the acronym AVT and oftentimes photographed wearing a few chains of gold around his Sicilian neck — owns a pair of winged earflaps, his left ear pointing east, while his right ear points west. These perverse directional ears own flaps and lobes that move like radio-controlled satellites toward the most secretive, whispered conversation taking place inside a booth buried in a distant corner of any chic nightclub. A heightened sense of hearing is what his physician, Dr. God, calls this malady whenever he speaks to AVT. He says so, no doubt, just to make AVT feel a wee bit better about dying of kidney failure brought on by a lifetime of both venial and mortal sins. When hero AVT was young, spry, dark and intelligibly talkative — an oral poet of the first order — so many young ladies exclaimed while in his presence that he was a man with a silver tongue. Yes, back then he entertained scores of women while ensconced in just such elegant nightclub restaurants. Most of these almost amorous encounters quick transformed themselves into arguments about the suspicious speeches AVT’s soft-skinned, strong-hearted women found they had to endure.

Coffee was his fuel that fearful day.

Coffee was his fuel that fearful day.

Whatever AVT heard from across the cliched crowded room, he endeavored to strike up a counter argument to the unaware, chattering crowd. “Did you hear her say that all men are lying jerks? Well, sure enough, my sweet love, I admit to a white lie now and then. But I do not represent all men.” Next, our hero would lean across the curved table and slide his arm around his delicious guest’s shoulder. Needless to say — or is it more than obvious that the saying is unnecesary?– our hero hardly ever made it into bed with his feminine companion. Instead, he remained horny and all alone to take care of his craven need in the deepest dark of night. Poor baseball bat swinging hero. A sin, indeed, to have to swing his own bat before the game had begun.

Yet, AVT made such a lonesome state a matter of logical necessity to himself, and thus he devised a steely defense for remaining alone throughout most of the randiest chapters of his life. “Who needs their perfumed comfort inside my comfortable bed?” he told himself, “When I am by nature forced to listen to so much nonsensical repetition, to hear in tedious detail so many foolhardy plans conceived by old men and grey women who will most likely never see their plans come to fruition, at least not so for the majority of the ancient men who acted as if they might live forever. No matter their couplings, man to woman, woman to woman, man to man; the march toward presumed eternity showed itself as a fierce impulse living inside the hearts of old people who were soon to suffer a malady similar to our hero’s own.”

Another example of such futile silliness oftentimes struck his flappy ears. Two people selling new houses in order to purchase even newer castles, castles for only themselves, yet castles large enough to accommodate a platoon of soldiers. Still, said our hero to himself, so much empty space is perfect space for only the loneliest people. Could it be possible that others suffer as much loneliness as he?

As he left one such posh eating establishment back in November of 2014, he strolled alone through a park that featured a gazebo at its center. There positioned on a gazebo bench lay two young boys, their half-naked bodies twisted round each other, lovers entwined as the romantic poets might have it. Our hero witnessed so much giggling, kissing and fondling by the young boys, boys who would one day become hairier men, men who one day would come to see how much romance changes and soon enough becomes a matter of practical, financial arrangements. “Ah, but let the young take their turns,” he told himself. Our hero, being an undeveloped poet, a wannabe in fact, this night found himself rejected once again, alone and wandering, pondering his fate; and so he decided that he was a liberal thinker. “Only liberal thinkers suffer and write with such suffering at the heart of their prose,” he mumbled to no one but himself.

Of course, when nighttime tears threatened to roll down and scald his whiskered cheeks, our hero, bat swinger and wannabe poet AVT attempted to exhume his dreams of last night and through them regain courage, but not so much courage that he could toss aside his doubt regarding his masculinity.

His hot tears came in spite of his tightened effort to appear as a man who always could endure. He cried because he recalled his most painful paragraph from yesterday’s chapter:

Real men write action stories that shine a fluorescent light on the confused mess of random thoughts and ideas that our bat-swinging hero occasionally commits to computer disk, then prints to paper, then sometimes dares to show to just a few people whom he considers artists. Perhaps, he oftentimes tells himself, perhaps someone, someday afterward, some real man will come upon a recorded explanation of my sad career. Maybe he will decide that my flirtation with the keyboard was an expenditure of time worth quite a bit more than my affair with the umpires who whisked away my orange dust from the home plate I never reached.

Can I ever create Chapter Three?

Ciao,

AVT

Chapter1: The Final Game

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UNNECCESSARY, BUT BRIEF PREFACE

I am depressed these days. I am pressed down, compressed and shrunken by force of the weight that lives inside my mind. Doctors’ reports can, and I suspect oftentimes do, ruin a man’s spirit. This year’s rising holiday wind offers me no reason for gratitude, and even less reason for celebration.

I feel lonely, but not because I am alone. Loneliness hides itself inside a crowd of people. I do not want the company of even a small crowd. Crowds of friends require explanations, and explanations dampen otherwise shared good spirits.

I feel lonely, yes, and yet I want and need to be alone. Alone in order to digest the news of the latest failures of my body. Alone to peruse the bindings of the thousands of books I’ll own no time to read. Alone in order to allow my weakened body to rest upon my bed and inside the memories I own of healthier days.

And yet, and yet, and still again, my urge to write remains strong, even at this time, although my ability to write fast becomes as feeble as my limbs.

And so . . .

THE BEGINNING OF A NON-STORY

Please do not expect any of the usual pinch hitter’s timid eloquence that oftentimes lingers here, snuggled within the comfort of the fiddling first paragraph, wavering from one prosaic, syllabic foot to the other more poetic one, nervous about standing on deck, unsure about how next to swing his pen or his bat in order to please this evening’s audience.

If, that is, if perchance such an audience should fill even a few seats of this amphitheater stadium. If the imaginary they should occupy those plastic seats in order to fulfill their expectations for either child-like fun, or for the sight of blood that gladiators are sure to shed.

He, our forever amateur pinch hitter, is, of course, in time forced by a summer’s sandy wind that his mind kicks roundabout to tickle his neck, and coerced again by the throaty rumble of a crowd that’s visible only to him, either to move his body up toward batting position, or else to run from the field and back into the dugout he last night created with the tunnel of blankets on his bed.

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Today, however, he is commanded in one direction. He is not in control of his own actions. For whatever nonsensical reasons, a god whom he doubts exists has ordered him to create a plan, a plan that will see this game through to its yet unimagined ending. Most of this divine spirit’s reasons for playing feel to our hero needful and therefore weak. Still, for all of that and maybe more, he decides to push his body and his mind closer to the masked umpire who will judge his ability to mumble and mangle manly words and then to swing his wooden bat with the power of a professional.

He, this unsteady player, is my hero; and so he is, by way of his own imagination, your hopeful home run hitter. Hopeful, yes. He tells himself that he still somewhere inside entertains hope, although Death, he knows, is about to defy all hope for him.

Today, however, today if he fails to show that he is a player, a professional, a writer, a muscled man worth someone’s – anyone’s – time and attention; if he fails, then he realizes that dissatisfied fans will leave the stadium before the ninth inning even begins, much less ends. This game, after all, is of his own design. He wants, with a child’s sense of desperation, to see the end of the ninth. He wants to hear and smell his own breath as he slides into and dies at home plate.

And so, perhaps because of the doubts that live at ocean’s bottom, beneath the salty water that he imagines is drowning his soul as he swallows its poison, the hero hesitates beside the plate. He pulls the brim of his plastic hat, first up and backward, just far enough to display his receding hairline – as if to suck sympathy from his court of fans. Next, he yanks his cap forward and down, far enough to cover his eyes; this move is a secretive gesture that he long ago copied from players more macho than himself. Easier to dream with one’s eyes closed tight, to dream that today he is a real man.

Real men write action stories that shine a fluorescent light on the confused mess of random thoughts and ideas that our bat-swinging hero occasionally commits to computer disk, then prints to paper, then sometimes dares to show to just a few people whom he considers artists. Perhaps, he oftentimes tells himself, perhaps someone, someday afterward, some real man will come upon a recorded explanation of my sad career. Maybe he will decide that my flirtation with the keyboard was an expenditure of time worth quite a bit more than my affair with the umpires who whisked away my orange dust from the home plate I never reached.

Now watch your hero and mine with an eye and a prayer toward poetic perfection. Watch as he commits first a few preparatory swings that slap the hot wind, and then as he lets loose with his most honest swing. The bat, he oftentimes spoke of his bat to the few curious interviewers whom he conjured inside his more pleasant nightmares, that bat — a wooden bat because he long ago became an old man who favored the old-fashioned – was only a tool. The stories he wrote, as well as those he failed to write, were the hardballs he hit or missed.

Now, again, watch our self-created player. He hesitates. He backs away from the plate, hangs his head forward, then tilts it backward, far enough to ask the clouds a question. Ask yourselves, “Is he a macho hero? Why does he pray to the clouds that only he perceives? Can this man commit? Will he swing? Will his swing connect, or sail through the breeze? Will we hear the snap of wind and crack of pinewood that provokes a rush of adrenalin, a rush that encourages us for a second to believe that we will live forever?

We, we who are he, watch, as our folklore hero hangs on the edge of a cliff that never surrenders sand, there eventually to fall and die. We watch as he fakes bravery and curls his wooden bat behind his right shoulder and then swings it all way around toward the back of his left side. The snap and crack arrive, because he and God planned it that way.

While still ninety feet from first base, after realizing that he’s swung and struck his first impactful word, he hesitates again. He looks up toward the sky, as if to search and follow that word, to see how high and far the one word spins, until that word hits and clicks itself together with another, and then another, until altogether the sentence rises higher yet, and at last falls over the home run fence.

The crowd roars, as crowds are wont to do.

And then the crowd disappears, along with the umpire and the rest of the stadium.

Our hero, that evening, returns to his bed. He climbs, then curls into and inside his blanket tunnels. And there he gives his final interview.

And there he returns to truer memories of better days, days when he trusted that more were to come.

And there he plans to lie beside his long-ago relatives.

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Ciao,

AVT

Dust To Dust: Regrets

LcarpetTo all but an elite group of artists and wannabe artists who live not far from me, the floral pattern that decorates this text might be the soft-brushed, abstract vision of a rush toward Heaven and Hell. A sorting out of winners and losers, with streams of blood staining both the angels and the devils.

I consider that no one ever wins this imaginary battle. Yet, the fire-inspired homilies that speak with spirit to such divisions among us incite rushes of adrenalin that lead to fervor and then create a group-sculpted, fear-infused slimy creature that crawls up one’s legs, tickles the crotch in just the right spot, instigates the hips to dance as if ready for lust, and then slithers through eyes, ears and nostrils, to accomplish its ultimate goal of seeping into each member of the congregation’s frightened brain. “We believe!”

“Call our beliefs fear-based if you will. Yes, we feared there existed no supreme, ineffable Dr. God. But now we know that he is handsome to some, while to others she is pure (ooooh, a virgin!), yes, pure, and tempting by way of her purity. Still, she is never to be touched by whatever now touches us as we congregate, gyrate and undulate. Yes, now we believe.”

And, I, AVT, suspect that WE is good wherever WE is based on love (and a helping of lust sounds delicious). As well, I know that WE belief systems can, and do, sometimes turn toward evil. WE can quick become an immoveable monolith composed of brainwashed drones.

All of the paragraphs that preceded this one were written without edit. The writers’ cognoscenti who live “out there,” a regular cabal of all that is literary (including candlelit, clandestine caucuses held inside deep, dark caves), would have me delete that kind of foreplay. But I won’t this time, because it might be entertaining for any folks who read this to criticize, deconstruct, or even demolish that unnecessary prologue.

SIDE NOTE # 1: Many writers, published and not, will recognize that feathery battle graphic (above) for what it is. Perhaps they’ll tell us.

One famous author, in particular, a man we all love for his dedication not just to writing books that might well save lives, but dedication also to touring the globe (and beyond?) to hear from and talk with the young people of whom he writes. This author once told us that he wrote a great chunk of his first – now famous – novel quite near to where this tapestry lives. Speak up, sir.

Me141104This afternoon, I sit in the same hallowed hall where once sat poets of high renown. A friend drove me here, and left me to scribble notes that go nowhere but where my mind travels. I am not able to travel on my own anymore; so thank you friend; you are a dear, dear human being.

You might conclude from the photo that adorns this bit of text that this old and scruffy version of AVT, though persistent in the sense that he visits this Poets Hall of Fame in hopes of breathing in a whiff of their creative perfume, is well beyond his black beret days. You would be right to draw that conclusion. I am an old man with a good brain but without the kind of imagination necessary to create a story that doesn’t involve me.

Speaking of that stranger, me, AVT:

Yesterday I visited my new General Practitioner (GP). He is thorough. He is approachable if not warm. He is direct.

I beg your indulgence while I repeat myself. A little more than a year ago, I underwent major surgery. The surgery had nothing to do with my spine, but as a result of this surgery my spine was further damaged. A few of you who read me know the nature of my operation. The doctors were good. Doctor God stood guard. My life was extended.

But extended for what purpose? The pain, physical and mental, has never let up since being “saved.”

Yesterday, my GP looked at my latest blood test results and told me that my kidneys are failing, and that I’m an eventual – if not sooner – candidate for dialysis (two or three times a week, five hours each time). Doctor GP will soon send me to a nephrologist.

To me, that kind of life is no life at all. No, sir, not even for you, Doctor God. Not for anyone will I live like that. I’ve come close once. I know what close feels like. No. I will not “live” like that. I’d rather die writing. All alone and writing.

But I must first fill my eyes with the sun, moon and sky.

So today I decided to beg a ride from someone who dropped me off and then allowed me a few hours of precious solitude.

As a youngster, I stayed to myself so other children wouldn’t see my scars (they did anyway). As a young man, I taught myself to “be sociable” (i.e. ask people questions, then listen to their answers). I think I developed fair social skills over the course of many years.

slo02But at the end of any social gathering, even in the company of people I love so much as to consider them family, I can just about wait to leave and when back home, enter my den of solitude. (Pseudo-Superman becomes Clark-The-Dark Kent.)

Yet, whenever I am alone, I try my best to look toward the pretty parts of this world of which I’ve been a member.

So, along the short walk from my friend’s car to The Poets Hall of Fame, I snapped a few photographs, photographs that added some color to my sometimes dark-shadowed life.

I’ve never been able to meditate. I’ve tried several to many recommended methods. But each method suggested that I toss away my thoughts in favor of being present in the “here and now.” That’s a nonsense notion to me. I am always in the here and now, even when I’m busy recounting or regretting my past. After all, I don’t time travel back to the 1950s and while there occupy myself with regrets I don’t yet know about. Oh, poofadiddle!

My cameras – I’ve owned many over the course of my lifetime – allow me to focus on the present moment.

So perhaps you’ll enjoy, along with me, some of the prettiness that surrounds all of us when we look for it.

Time is indeed limited, but for the short length of one human being’s life, the sun, the moon, the stars and the breezes that cleanse all wounds are limitless.

slo01When I was young, I didn’t know the brutal limits imposed on beauty and on a lifetime. Inside that ignorance live all of my regrets.

Ciao, my friends,

AVT

Forgive My Rambling. I Am A Gnarly Oak.

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I’m going to ramble here today. I’ll switch subjects often, which is likely considered even more of a sin for a writer than switching points of view in a way that confuses readers.

But then, I’ve always been more of a rambler than a writer. Writers make up stories. I just talk with a keyboard. Most of what I scribble is not fiction. Twirled and rearranged to suit a more balanced overall structure, yes. But it’s all me inside here, trying to escape the bounds of tangled branches and insufficient words.

I will ramble and twirl, yes. But I will not, however, apologize for my sometimes unpopular opinions. In late life, I discovered the value of being unpopular. Polite people have — and need to express — their opinions, even their unpopular ones, but they might best do so without employing mealy-mouthed prefaces, or subterranean apologies.

The gnarled oak trees you see decorating this loose excuse for an article never apologize for becoming bent over, never close their knotted holes in shame as they grasp for each other’s company, only to become entangled and unsteady in their final years. If I watch and listen to those twisted oak trees, I take away the lesson they offer. We are brothers.

So if I confuse or upset you, please stop reading. You might even next leave me a comment, telling me that my rambling style today turned you toward the kitchen, there to make Italian meatballs fit for throwing at me. I’d feel uplifted and uber-grateful even for such a garlicky comment. I’d attempt, of course, to catch those meatballs to eat for a late-night snack. Sicilians do not waste food, we eat it. Just as Sicilians do not get mad, we get even.

At least then I wouldn’t feel so all alone. You see . . .

I’ve been confined to my bed most of the time these past few weeks. I’m not complaining, just stating facts. My bed is comfortable.

My spine is slowly crumbling. The vertebrae began to fall apart some years ago. I lived a risky, foolish life, one that led toward misery and failure.

My risks cost me greatly. Among other parts of my body that I destroyed, I caused my already osteoporotic bones to deteriorate fast. Major surgery a little over a year ago meant that the surgeons had to split me wide open and pull my rib cage till some of my vertebrae began to weep, crackle and fall in upon themselves. This left me shorter even than I was before the surgery. Consequently, I avoid the company of those friends I love. Difficult enough to look up to them in a figurative sense (most are far better writers than I). But looking up to them by craning and cracking my cervical bones seems just too much to bear.

So, rambling back to the nature and purpose of beds; many other people are today and tonight sleeping on cardboard beds laid down in smelly alleyways. If I owned an extra bed, I’d give it to someone who needed a softer spot on which to sleep and there to dream of ways to help himself out of Hell. There are plenty of people who want to leave Hell and would do so with some help (not just cash). There are homeless people who want to and would rise again if given a proper lift. There are, as well, mental patients on the streets, there because our mental care facilities are too few, too inefficient, overwhelmed and ineffective when faced with the large population of people who suffer mental diseases.

But I’m not here today to argue in favor of the nonsensical suspicion that all people who sleep on cardboard beds laid down in malodorous alleys, want to improve their situations. For some, owning a home is considered a needless burden. I understand that idea. I hate having to call repairmen and then to pay them exorbitant rates. For the love of Mike, I wish I could hit a nail straight into a board, or connect two pipes together so the total drainage system wouldn’t leak. But I’m not masculine that way. Most women I’ve known – I’m heterosexual, not that that fact matters much at my age – they expect a male partner to be at least an amateur repairman. I can repair computers, but the last time I tried to hammer a nail, instead I hit my left index finger. I broke the last phalange of that finger. She now points westward, no matter the direction the rest of my body travels.

Side Note Interruption  #1: (I told you I’d ramble): While growing up – and dodging the beatings my mother dispensed each and every day – I oftentimes heard my dad, when he was frustrated with my crazy mother, utter the phrase, “FuhDuhLuvUh Mike!” A few days ago, for whatever mysterious reason, I wondered, Who the hell was Mike? I ran a simple search and discovered where Dad acquired the phrase. Interesting bit of history. You might want to run that same search. Or not.

So, rambling back to the homeless person’s plight; whatever a homeless person’s sad circumstance, I admit that I’m just the kind of old fart who wants a roof over his head anytime snow or rain might wet my wrinkled face or seep down my shirt collar, there to freeze my sagging tits. Old age has turned me soft. I lived a bad man’s life, one filled with events that encouraged and made my body highly susceptible to infections.

As well, I witnessed miracles. When I was young, I camped with only a pup tent and a sleeping bag somewhere on the Outer Banks off of Carolina’s coast. While there, I once watched the sun rise in the east, over the watery bed of an imaginary horizon formed at the non-existent edge of the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean. Today, I miss The Atlantic. I wish someday to own good enough health to return, maybe even to end my life there.

The major surgery I underwent a little over a year ago, extended my life for however long a period of time the uplifting, yet tremulous and doubtful, notion of a merciful god who guided my surgeons’ hands and now guides my depressed spirit decides to allow. That merciful god has in my mind completed medical school, served his time in internship Hell, and has then earned the full title of Doctor. Doctor God.

Doctor God roams somewhere within the fog-brained cloud of side effects my brain incurs by swallowing my prescribed pills each morning and evening. Together Doctor God and those now digested medications demand that I rise from my mattress, forget the pain induced by my crumbling spine and the weave of nerve cells that remain caught between pieces of bone. Together they demand that I rise and hobble toward the bathroom in order to save myself the kind of embarrassment usually reserved for babies’ diapers. I touch walls and bookshelves that help me keep my balance while I walk first to the toilet and then back to my bed. Holding on and touching, I feel almost as if my gait were sure and steady. Thank you bookshelves. Thank you steady walls.

Back sitting in bed, I try to re-read portions of books I once loved, but I give up when a series of pages disappoints me. Occasionally I pull my laptop up to a pillow that rests on my own lap, and like today, I tap tap tap here, or I scribble onto a scrap of paper. I scribble or tap whatever thoughts arise from my drug-stimulated nightmares (i.e. prescribed drugs only).

Side Note Interruption #2: This day lives near the end of an election season in the USA. So I posted the following few paragraphs on one of today’s favorite Social Networks just this morning. Many folks seem to consider voting a “civic duty.” In my mind, jury duty is a civic duty, because refusal to take part in a jury pool is against the law. But voting? Not so. At least not yet. It is my right as a USA citizen to vote. But it is, as well, my right not to vote. Below, I suggest that in today’s oligarchic political climate, voting has little effect on the direction our country’s leaders choose to travel, dragging us citizens behind them.

I understand and respect those many who hold different opinions. Below are mine.

NoVoteI Didn’t Vote, And I Will Not

IGNORE THIS POST if mention of political realities offends you. My intention is to state my beliefs during this election season in the USA. Up until recent times, I prefaced every statement I made in order to please those who might be offended by my sometimes unpopular opinions. Now that I’m old, I’ve learned that being unpopular is sometimes okay. Needless apologies (if I’ve done someone wrong, I apologize) strip a person of dignity. The silent sycophant gathers around himself people with whom he cannot be honest.

Rather than reading further, you may either pass this post by, yell a flag-waving retort, “unfriend” my rebel self, or look at the photo of me at 2 years of age. I was, even back then, a rebel.

I did not vote this year, and I *will* not. I reserve my right, as a USA citizen, not to vote. The USA, the country I love, has become a corporate oligarchy. The cash these mega-corporations wield in congress supersedes our votes.

Many years ago, another time arose in this country, a time when a citizen’s voice in opposition to our government’s policies had *no* effect on the decisions our rulers made. I should say *many* citizens’ voices.

A war expanded, and so more people were maimed and died. A war that had nothing to do with protecting our borders, but had much to do with protecting our economic interests and the international balance of power. I was young and strong enough back then to participate in the actions necessary to restore power to the people. We — many of our groups’ members were veterans of the unjustified war we sought to end — we went to the streets. We challenged authority in a direct way. We had more of an effect there than inside the voting booths. J. Edgar’s shiny-shoed foot soldiers kept a file on me and on many of my friends.

I am today too old, too weak, and far too ill to challenge authority in such a bold and physical way, but many other citizens are healthy enough and willing enough. The Occupy movement was just a beginning.

Meanwhile, I refuse to take part in what has become a charade. Let them vote, say the CEOs and the politicians who depend on their money to remain in office. Voting will no doubt make them feel better and therefore feel encouraged to forget about the topsy-turvy nature of our economy.

Love back atcha all,

AVT

AVTat2

AVT didn’t dare move from that chair for fear of a beating.

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